Game: Encyclopaedia Arcane: Conjuration
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 21st, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
I tend to read supplements twice before attempting to review them. The first time through Encyclopaedia Arcane: Conjuration I thought the book did well enough, it would make the “does what it needs to do” mark and settle about there. Certain things from the book, new types of spells, observations and quirks in the prestige classes, stayed with me through out the day, lingering in the back of my thoughts. The second reading had me revise upwards my impressions of the book. Why? On the first read I saw the glass as half empty, on the second read the glass was half full and so I think its safe to label this supplement as something of a grower.
The usual formula applies here: new spells, prestige classes and feats. Things are a little different though, there is more discussion on the nature of Conjuration magic than is typical and there are certainly no extrapolations from this just for the sake of introducing a new game mechanic. There’s more help for the GM and players too. Conjuration is full of tricky choices; what should the GM do if the players insist on conjuring giant diamonds? Which magic school should be sacrificed if you want to play a specialised conjurer? One suggestion is that you take a level in Sorcerer to get access at spells otherwise… ack, no, bad, bad! Stop it! I suppose the book has to cater to all flavours of roleplaying.
Why can’t a summoned creature be killed? Why can’t a summoned creature summon others? The answer to the latter question is one of game mechanics but I’d love to see some inspirational campaign world answers for it. By Bell, Book and Candle (EA: Conjuration’s moniker) proffers some campaign neutral answers. That’s a good example of how, at first, I saw the glass half empty and was disappointed there wasn’t game meal to be had there. On the second time round, perhaps after the rest of the book had had a chance to impress me, the glass was half full and I saw the safety of a defensively neutral explanation as a strength.
Game meal is the opposite of crunch. It’s always nice to find some game meal in a supplement like an Encyclopaedia Arcane. Give your summoned creature a name, turn it into a NPC and it’ll be an interesting pseudo-player controlled NPC. This is a great idea to push forward. I wonder if anyone’s ever played in a duel world’s campaign where the characters could summon each other from the two different worlds.
All the prestige classes in By Bell, Book and Candle are all 10 level. This is unusual for a Mongoose product but it’s not unwelcome. It was only recently that I was looking at a book from Mongoose Publishing that had clean but decorative class level tables, nice alternative shading, compact but entirely readable. The class level tables in Encyclopaedia Arcane: Conjuration are simple black and white wire frames. Prestige classes are the Dragonchilde, the Force Mage, the Soulbinder, and Spiritcaller. Yes, Dragonchilde really do have dragon blood (but might not know it), the Force Mage specialises in the Force descriptor, Soulbinders summon the tricky stuff and Spiritcallers call spirits. They’re a collection of suitably named classes.
Summoning is a key part of Conjuration and this isn’t forgotten by the book. The extra mechanics offered to support this are potent but simple. Improve the summoning circle and enhance the spell. For an additional spellcraft check and gold pieces cost the conjurer could, for example, summon their creature already enjoying the benefits of an Aid spell. The conjurer could ensure the summoned creature remembers nothing of its encounter. They could grant themselves the ability to invoke a Symbol of Pain once per hour on the captive. I like this system because it adds a little more of the arcane ritual planning back into the summoning.
Feats are ten a penny but there are still some good finds in the feat chapter. What about Wrathful Conjuration? It requires the Barbarian Rage as a class ability and although it reduces the level of the summoning spell it gives the summoned creature the rage ability. You might enjoy a Celestial Focus or scare people with your Fiendish Focus. The other feat to stand out is Blood of the Beast which gives the character a mixed up heritage and allows her to cast spells on their ‘beast type’ (Outsider, for example) that wouldn’t normally affect them.
The new Conjuration spells are all well and good. They’re what you’d expect from a book like this. It’s the new descriptors that catch my attention: Prime and Hanging. Prime spells only work on the Prime plane and must be cast by a corporeal creature. These restrictions are especially interesting, in a game meal sense, when combined with the fact that summoned creatures can’t cat summoning spells. I had bemoaned the fact that Encyclopaedia Arcane: Conjuration didn’t exploit the game mechanics for plot benefits but with this new descriptor they’ve given us both new game balance and further potential campaign world twists. The Hanging domain isn’t as morbid as it sounds. Spells that hang can only be cast just when you replenish you spellslots, either at the prep or regain stage. After being cast they “hang” around until a single word activates them. The weakness here is that they’re especially vulnerable to being dispelled during this stage and if their spell slot is refilled before the day’s out then they’re wasted. The strength is obvious, being able to bring in a powerful game effect with just one word. In Echoing Call we see how this special activation word can be included into a single summon spell as a way to summon (over time) multiple creatures.
By Bell, Book and Candle doesn’t have a wow factor. It has an insidious success though. It’s one of those safe but sound products that does what it needs to do at first glance and that will be able to move forward and mature as the campaign they’re supporting does. Encyclopaedia Arcane: Conjuration might not inspire you to use Conjuration magic in your game – but it doesn’t need to – conjuration make is already there. EA: Conjuration helps you smooth off the rough edges and get the most out of the popular school of magic. In short, it’s hard to go wrong with this latest Encyclopaedia Arcane and it’s easy to do right with it.