Game: Book of Eldritch Might II: Songs and Souls of Power
Publisher: Malhavoc Press
Review Dated: 14th, February 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 23
Average Score: 5.75
I liked the download enough to persuade me to save my pennies and buy the paperback version of Eldritch Might I. It’s a pretty download, a nice blend of colourful borders and black and white pictures. There’s going to be a third too. The Book of Eldritch Might III: The Nexus.
Once you’ve got your copy downloaded – and it’s a big download, it’ll take a while – it’s worth making use of the bookmarks to find your way around. Press F5, you’ll see you can jump to all of the chapters. I recently saw a Bastion Press download where the ability to jump straight to a page was “hyperlinked” into the actual contents page but given Malhavoc’s enthusiasm for pdfs I’m sure they’ll get that flashy soon enough.
Songs and Souls of Power really is a RPG supplement with songs in it. Magical songs. Bring on the Bards! Monte Cook, co-author of the core rules, presents a Bard variant as the introductory feature in the book. It worked. It really only deals with the way Bards cast their magic – through spellnotes, spellchords and spellmelodies – rather than trying to solve some of the Bard multiclassing problems but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the change really does give the class panache and something of a unique feel. You get the class presented to you as if you hadn’t really seen the Bard before. That is to say you’re not bought off with a simple list of rules to change or ignore, you’re actually presented with the information as if it was a whole new class. Four whole pages, which is more than it sounds.
The Sorcerer variant gets six pages. The extra pages come because the book reprints a whole new Sorcerer levelled spell list. The list presents the spells in a more sensible order of achievement for the Sorcerer style. Spells that require time and study and the sort of faffing around which Sorcerers don’t really bother with loose out and those spells that are quick and snacky do well. If you’re fed up with your Sorcerer’s being “like wizards but different” then I suspect this variant might tickle you in the nice way. On the other hand, the change does tend to veer towards high fantasy elements rather than lurking in the nitty-gritty of low fantasy settings.
Feats. Feats and Eldritch Feats. They’re generally pretty high-powered stuff. As a rule of thumb your characters will need to have very good ability scores to qualify and your GM will probably need to be using Eldritch Might rules. Nicely, many of the new feats are Sonic in nature and therefore particularly good for the new Bard variant and the new sonic spells. I normally try and berate the author in someway whenever I see so many new feats, I often get to nitpick why there would or should be such a feat or whether the general concept behind feats has been adhered to. I guess Mr Cook’s immune to this – not because of his background but simply because his mechanics are as good as you would expect them to be.
There are Prestige Classes. You knew there would be Prestige Classes. There are always Prestige Classes. When you introduce two core class variants, two new spell styles (songs and souls) and the whole eldritch shtick then you’ve got reason enough to offer up some prestige classes as well. That’s what you’ll get here, classes that are evolutions of the new rules. I thought the Diplomancer was an especially cunning idea. A diplomatic-cum-bard who makes sly use of the new sonic magic. I’ve seen attempts to make extremely well educated or persuasive people into prestige classes already and I’ve always sniggered at the suggestion that after X level the character can fast talk to such an extend that it actually dazes people, or speak so eloquently that their effective charisma rises (rather than the DC of the diplomatic challenge lowering). Monte Cook pushes aside my scepticism with five simple words; “This is a supernatural ability”. When you’re dealing with magic-using prestige classes then it can be. You get the Diplomancer, Eldritch Warrior, Knight of the Chord and Song Mage. There’s several pages dedicated to each.
Soul magic is scary stuff. It’s supposed to be. I really like the idea. The premise is simple enough – spells with intelligence of their own, even with personality of their own. Imagine a fireball that just wants to be cast. Imagine not being able to resist it’s will. There is a cost for Soul magic, it takes ages, costs lots of gold unless you want to wait weeks or even years per level of spell and worse still, you need to dedicate a portion of your soul to create the spell. Discouraged? You, as the spell’s creator, cannot cast it. A second soul is required for that. It’s a wonderful plot-building feature. There are suggestions that your characters might find themselves questing for a particularly rare soul spell in order to achieve a magical effect that would not normally be possible. In game terms your soul is represented by experience points – at least, that’s the implication. The game mechanics eat up your XP to reflect the “soul cost” of the spell’s creation. I don’t really think a third-level Cleric has a smaller soul than a eighth-level Wizard, and I certainly don’t think a character can attempt to rebuild the missing parts of his soul by going out and killing a few dragons (think of the xp, man!) … but it is just a game mechanic and it’s one I’m willing to live with.
I was beginning to wonder whether the Bards would, despite all the changes to class, simply end up squeezing the current spell set into their spellnote, spellchord and spellmelodies slots. No, of course not, a slap on my wrist for doubting. Right after the Soul Magic section you’ll find a long list of Spellsongs. There’s enough there to use in your long running campaign. It must be awful sitting down and trying to think up so many spells and effects but I’m glad someone did it because it would be next to impossible to use the new Bard class in a campaign with only a skimpy list. There’s a spell sound that allows your Bard to move quietly. I guess that’s a bit like the solar powered torch in that it seems silly at first but after reflection you can think of a few ways in which it might work. If a Bard offers to you show his Vivid Discharge – say no, but you’d guessed that already.
The Book of Eldritch Might is, in game, a spell book. It comes as no surprise to see that this, the second download, has even more spells. Dozens of them. The spells are broken up with comments from Malhavoc (a npc who had the book for a while) and I found they’re always worth reading. Then there are magic items, armour and weapons too. In fact, you can find rules for the actual Book of Eldritch Might in your copy of The Book of Eldritch Might.
Chapter eight starts at page 59 out of the 65 page book. That leaves 5 pages for new Eldritch style monsters and one for the License. The amount of detail in the book is impressive. The extra amount of information is certainly worth the slightly higher price of this download than others. The section of monsters – like the rather cool Eye Golem – is just bonus icing on a rather plump cake.
You get a free text file with the pdf download. A plain text copy of the book itself is provided as the printer friendly option. If you can’t stand e-documents then I’m sure the book will see print shortly.