Review – Advance Arcana and Advanced Arcana II

16 December, 2012

Advanced Arcana and Advanced Arcana, Vol II are a pair of spell and magic related sourcebooks for Pathfinder published by Necromancers of the Northwest.  The majority of both books is new spells, including new types of spells, with support material of various sorts for those who use spells.  Both are good resources for a Pathfinder GM but all choices should be reviewed before adding them to a campaign.

Advanced Arcana begins with an in-character introduction before talking about the new sort of spell included, namely the segmented spell, which is very powerful spell that requires multiple spell slots and castings to activate.  There are also a variety of spells that allow the caster to recall expended spells which is an interesting design choice allowing for some interesting options, and quick spells whose effects vary based on how much time is used to cast them, also an intriguing design choice.  Many of the new spells, almost a third, are 7th level or higher which -to my mind- rather restricts their utility and two of the 1st level spells have their duration based concentration which drastically restricts their usefulness.  While, like most spell lists, they are mainly combat focused there are a few non-combat spells in the mix as well.

Advanced Arcana really shines for me in its supplementary material: Eight new clerical domains, while Force was unneeded, the domains of Creation and Vermin are full of possibilities.  Four new Sorcerer bloodlines, one for each of the classic D&D genii types (Dao, Djinn, Efreet and Marid in case you have forgotten).  Eight new Focused Wizards schools allow for further specialization, though the choice of Idiocy (for wizards who can inflict Intelligence loss at higher levels) as a school name is a bit odd.  Lastly, there are eight new familiars including animated objects, newts, skeletons and bonsai!  All quite fun and could lead to some very interesting interactions.

There are a lot of useful tools here for GM and player alike, but it seems unlikely that you will want to use all of the options available here.

Advanced Arcana, Vol II expands on the segment spell idea and adds conditional spells (that are more powerful if certain environmental conditions are met), model spells (that can be cast in more than one mode) and a variety of spells that affect age.  V2 also includes spell lists for the new classes introduced in the later Pathfinder books (alchemist, inquisitor, magus, summoner, witch) and includes a discussion of introducing new spells into a campaign.

The spells cover a wide range though the majority are, as is usual, combat focused.  The segmented spell concept is refined and made more usable here.  Several spells have variable effects based on the age of the caster or of the target, which is a new twist to magic.  Though the 1st level spell that provides effective immortality and immunity to aging-based magic is a bit problematic to say the least.

Many of the spells in this collection tagged with their creator’s name and each of these creators is given a brief biography in the first appendix.  Appendix 2 deals with spellbooks: covers and what they are made from, pages in the same manner and lastly the inks used to scribe the spells.  A lot of potential for customization there and some fun ideas, the idea of ink made from various distilled energies is particularly fun.  Appendix 3 adds more familairs, these are rather outre including swarms, oozes and goldfish, use with caution.  Appendix 4 add alternate arcane bonds for wizards.  The final appendix lists material components that can add extra bonuses, mostly small, when expended during the casting of a spell.

Advanced Arcana v2 presents a wide selection of new opinions and variants to play with, it will prove to be especially useful for GM wishing to expand the variety of magic in their campaign.

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