Game: Encyclopaedia Arcane: Enchantment
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 24th, September 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Oh dear. I’ll always remember Enchantment: Fire in the Mind for the absolutely dreadful exchange of letters between a master Enchanter and an apprentice which run throughout this Encyclopaedia Arcane.
The book itself certainly isn’t awful and as it turns out, after a twist, that the exchange of letters is only half as awful as it first appears but the association is there.
Enchantment: Fire in the Mind is like its fellow Encyclopaedia Arcane in that it takes a type of magic, often one of the basic schools of spells from the core rules and builds on it.
However, unlike others in the series, this Encyclopaedia Arcane isn’t so sure of its chosen school.
Typically the Encyclopaedia Arcane (or even a Divine cousin) could be summarised as “it might be hard along the way but this is how you go about becoming a powerful force by mastering this form of magic” whereas Fire in the Mind is quick to urge the apprentice to learn the basics of combat and running away as the first step on the road to becoming an Enchanter so they’ve something to fall back on when enchantment invariably fails them.
This Encyclopaedia Arcane is a 64-paged softback book and at $14.95 it’s safely priced. There’s a good use of space, the text isn’t huge, there are a lot of illustrations but the inside covers are used.
The back inside cover has the template for Thralls and the inside front cover as this rather Jedi-esq image of an enchanter simply willing aside some unlucky warrior. Actually the “inside cover picture” is much better than the one on the outside. Although the main cover picture is technically impressive I can only chuckle at the strange green bubbles floating out from the heads of the young men in the picture.
As you would expect with a book of this sort there are plenty of new spells. There are nearly 15 pages of new spells. They’re good stuff. Mongoose typically has the game balance down just right and this true here.
There’s a wide range of new spells too, it’s not just very high or very low levels of spells that are introduced. Needless to say, these new spells are of the “enchantment” school but rather annoying they’re without their descriptors, you can’t tell an “Enchantment (Compulsion) [Mind-Effecting]” from your “Enchantment (Charm) [Mind-Effecting]” since all you have is simple “Enchantment”.
It’s the prestige classes that stand out in this book. It’s the prestige classes that stop Fire in the Mind falling too far behind most of the others in the Encyclopaedia Arcane series in terms of quality and innovation.
There are four prestige classes in the book and they’re all detailed through ten levels of character advancement. At a glance, none of the four seems particularly remarkable or original but they’re all worth reading because there are some brave notions that I believe pay off.
The Empath: As you would guess this prestige class is particularly good at detecting emotions but there’s a catch. Here’s the quote from the book “A rare few among empaths discover an ultimate truth to their style of spellcasting.
At a certain point, the line between the mind and the body begins to blur.” The empath also develops a Striking Appearance as she advances in level but this isn’t a physical one but a supernatural ability of suggestion.
The Puppeteer: This is the least original of the four prestige classes but one with lots of extra work. After the prestige classes and later on in the book there’s additional text on Thralls and those affected by the Puppeteer and other powerful Enchanters.
The Mindmender: A realm of healing that’s not dominated by the clerics? Nearly. There’s a new special ability at every level for the mindmender and not just a better version of the ability earned earlier on either. The mindmender has access to such abilities as “Dream Warrior”, “Sense Charm” and “Word of Kindness”.
I skipped one and saved it for last.
The Dark Temptress: It has been a while since I’ve seen a prestige class that broke the mould. The Dark Temptress is that sort of Enchanter who muddles the minds of her targets through seduction and sly manipulation.
It’s also a lot more. This time the prestige class is an actual in-game path. It’s a deal with a dark power. As the Dark Temptress progresses in level she completes more detailed and demanding packs with these powers.
There’s always a problem with tying in-game events into the meta-game XP mechanic but there are some safety checks in place for the Dark Temptress in that the new level simply gives her the right to perform the Pact rituals.
At the last stage if the Dark Temptress fails she is dragged into the lower planes and becomes a succubus but if she succeeds then she gains access to the last levels of power from the prestige class.
A glance at the rules for success and failure initially suggested to me that the author must give out buckets of XP if he expects players to have much of a chance for success and then it struck me, there’s isn’t supposed to be that much of a chance of success.
The dark powers want the Dark Temptress to fail, become the succubus and in a touch of irony a victim of her own corrupt temptation.
There’s a big typo in the Dark Temptress section as well but it’s rather funny. A grey box of flavour text is a little too long and includes some game mechanics too. It’s funny because the Dark Temptress is just saying farewell to her thrall but also ends up explaining she’ll lose all her class abilities for her failure.
There are new feats too; some of which are rather complex hand have a page or so of text and explanation all to themselves. These longer feats tend actually to be more interesting than the usual short power-ups that feats all too easily become. Magical items with an Enchantment bent can also be found.
The Help for Games Masters section is larger than it some times is in similar books. It can be tricky to get the balance of enchantment right – too much willpower can destroy it entirely and it can wreck a game to have a PC poorly enchanted. The pages in this last chapter of the book are fairly helpful.
The last pages of the book are taken up with charts and summaries of the rules.
It looks slightly cluttered but it pays off. If you’re buying the book then it’ll probably be for the extra game mechanics rather than the discussion on the nature of Enchantment.
Busy GMs know how much more preferable it is to flick straight to an important chart or table rather than have to pause the action and search through page after page.
Fire in the Mind is a perfectly acceptable addition to the Encyclopaedia Arcane series. It’s not nearly as good as the exciting Encyclopaedia Divine: Shamans or as helpful as Encyclopaedia Arcane: Necromancy but it’s a solid study and expansion on the school of Enchantment nonetheless.
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