The Gaming Den Forum Index The Gaming Den
Welcome to the Gaming Den.
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Google
 Search WWW   Search tgdmb.com 
OSSR: Tome of Magic (3.5)
Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Gaming Den Forum Index -> In My Humble Opinion...
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:38 am    Post subject: OSSR: Tome of Magic (3.5) Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Tome of Magic
Pact, Shadow, and Truename Magic


Unfortunately, not this.


Not that either.


Nope.


Sigh. There we go.

The year is 2006. 4th edition D&D is busily being designed, but Orcus has already been scrapped. New resource management systems are being considered, so long as they retain some semblance of daily attrition. And during this process, Tome of Magic is released.

FrankT:

Tome of Magic was a shameless attempt to sell people a playtesting document and collect focus group feedback for fourth edition in a manner that covered the costs. It's basically like charging people to be D&D Insiders, but it involved actual books being sent back and forth.

Tome of Magic is written by Matthew Sernett, Ari Marmell, David Noonan, and Robert Schwalb. David Noonan was a designer on this book while he was simultaneously in charge of designing 4th edition playtests, just in case you weren't already convinced that this book literally was a public playtest. Robert Schwalb is best known as the guy who was tirelessly cranking out articles for the DDI stuff when 4th edition was collapsing and no one else could be fucked to do their damn content generation jobs. Matthew Sernett was a former Dragon Magazine editor who did design work for D&D and Magic the Gathering. Ari Marmell is best known for an astroturfing sockpuppet scandal, where it turns out that he was a tireless booster for 4th edition posting on message boards under the name “Mousferatu” without revealing his financial connection to the product – and for being besties with the poster Massawyrm, who was also being a tireless booster of 4th edition online without revealing his close association with one of the designers (both posed as plebian fans who had been reluctantly won over by 4th edition's great mechanics). Good times were had by all.

AncientH:

Your initial desire when you look at this book is to compare it to Magic of Incarnum, because they're both aftermarket tack-ons that should have been basic systems and were obviously geared as prototypes for the edition to come. But the truth is that this particular ugly baby has more than one immediate precursor, with chunks of it reaching back as far as College of Wizardry in AD&D, and there are a lot of weird siblings scattered about the D&D 3.0/3.5 experiment - classes like the Dragon Shaman and the Marshal, the Divine Mind and the Soulknife, the Chameleon prestige class (and later, in 2007, the Factotum), etc. - which were generally trying to present alternate mechanics and character concepts with a desire to nudge the game toward a different dynamic - away from static dinosaur classes like Fighter and Wizard, and toward classes which had a smaller pool of options that they could use more often.

Of course, they failed.

FrankT:

For a book with four writers “designers,” there are indeed a lot of chiefs for the number of braves. Five people on the development team, three people on the editing team, five managers (editing, design, development, and two production managers), and a director. There are not only more managers than writers, there are more levels of management than there are writers. It's kind of ridiculous. But of course, that kind of overhead makes more sense on a book like this which is intended to gather feedback and direct company policy for the following ten years than it does for most WotC books whose credits look like this.

AncientH:

The fine print on the credits page is worth reading. The book borrows material from a pair of articles in Dragon Magazine #322, is based on the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and contains absolutely no Open Game Content - the bloom was definitely off that rose, although I'm less sure that it was the d20 boom and bust that killed the OGL than the sneaking suspicion by the beancounters that it was costing them money somewhere along the line.

The Dragon Magazine article references are interesting, because of all the Dragon articles I would have thought the designers had stolen from, those two did not cross my radar. But we'll get into that in a bit.

FrankT:

Basically, the book has three sections, which were each intended as a focus test for a different system of handling resources. All three are sketchily designed and far more cumbersome than they needed to be, so I don't know what meaningful feedback they were intending to get with this shit. “Do something like this, but less terrible” people might say.


Motivational, perhaps. Helpful? Not particularly.

The actual book is a jumbled mess. Despite three editors and an editing manager, this bad boy clocks in at 285 pages. Jeesh.

AncientH:

A large part of that is deliberate page-bloat. Aside from the different mechanics, WotC also took the opportunity to try a different layout, distancing ToM from the framed white page and pencil-lines familiar from the Complete series (and most everything else), for a darker, more cluttered layout. If they'd had some better artists it might even have worked, but as it is they had the B-team on the art too and it looks like B-grade on DeviantArt.

FrankT:

So what we're gonna do is run through each of these magic types in a single post. I'll be drinking heavily, I assume that Ancient History will not be. Each piece will necessarily not go into detail on all the things that are stupid because each post will be covering over ninety pages of claptrap.

AncientH:

There are times I regret being a teetotal, but if one gamebook caused me to drink I'd never have a good enough reason to stop. Neither of us actually care greatly for the material, because this was such a blatant fucking ploy and such a pile of monkey crap that neither of us could muster much liver to give a fuck about it at the time - I mean, let's be honest, the only reason this book was even a thing was the surprising success of Tome of Battle - Book of Nine Swords, and the Powers What Is at WotC didn't learn anything from that either.

But we feel a completely amateur pride in giving you a thorough and appropriately caustic review as possible.


_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com


Last edited by Ancient History on Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:40 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Antariuk
Master


Joined: 07 May 2010
Posts: 296

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I salute your suffering for the greater good. Or something.

Note: Honestly, you guys are going the whole nine yards, yes? I mean, what's next, Complete Warrior? Cityscape? Monster Manual V? The horror...
_________________
"No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style." - Steven Brust
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That depends.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


I mean, honestly I'd probably have a better time reviewing Tome of Magic (2nd edition).
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
NineInchNall
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 1214

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

... Tome of Magic predates Tome of Battle. I like your narrative better, despite not fitting with publication dates.
_________________
Current pet peeves:
Misuse of "per se". It means "[in] itself", not "precisely". Learn English.
Malformed singular possessives. It's almost always supposed to be 's.


Last edited by NineInchNall on Tue Jan 07, 2014 8:22 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

<looks up dates> You are right, I am an idiot. March (ToM) and August (ToB) 2006.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
TarkisFlux
Duke


Joined: 22 Jun 2008
Posts: 1142
Location: Magic Mountain, CA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You missed another (recentish) magic styles book up there:


_________________
The wiki you should be linking to when you need a wiki link - http://www.dnd-wiki.org

Fectin: "Ant, what is best in life?"
Ant: "Ethically, a task well-completed for the good of the colony. Experientially, endorphins."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

AncientH:

Technically there's a couple lead-in pages that's an introduction to the book and gives advice to players and gamemasters, which are basically just there to take up space since they specifically tell you to go read the fucking chapters, and an entire fucking half page is devoted to swift and immediate actions, which are remnants of the Miniatures Handbook and Expanded Psionics Handbook respectively - and honestly, new action types should have been crammed into the main rulebook, not scattered about optional supplements, especially since they're basically the same fucking thing. Honestly, swift and immediate actions read like somebody was trying to tie Magic: the Gathering style pacing on a D&D minis game, and that was not a good idea.

Pact Magic


Wat.

FrankT:

At some point when designing the new system, someone obviously came up with the bright idea of letting people prepare power suites rather than individual spells. Like, instead of preparing fireball and then eight other things, you'd prepare “fire magic” and like two other things. And by taking “fire magic” as one of your prepared magics, you'd get some use limited fire explosions and also some at-will fire effects and it would all stay level appropriate and be rainbows and unicorns. Especially if you prepared sparkle magic.



Of course, like all good ideas, this one had to be fed through the chipper shredder that is multi-layer committee structures before being fed to the C team to whip up a prototype for the public playtesters to fuck around with.

AncientH:

From very early on in its lifecycle, D&D has wanted characters to express magical abilities gained via a pact with some supernatural entities. In oD&D, this is basically how the witch got her spells, and it's the general basis for the moderately popular Warlock class and most of the Book of Vile Darkness prestige classes. The problem is, the execution has never quite sat right with people. While Faustian bargains sound cool in principle, in practice they represent a nonlinear disjunction in power - PCs or NPCs are supposed to go from where they were to some markedly higher level, probably with their soul to pay - but in practice sudden jumps in power are frowned upon. This is arguably why your abilities (and the cost of) the pact, at least for PCs, are generally much more modest in play.

However, it almost must needs be said that there are lots of ways to make pacts in D&D, from taking a level in Warlock or Binder to spells like Death Pact and Zealot Pact and even special abilities possessed by some monsters. None of these are regulated in anyway, and most of the mechanics for them fall far short of the literary equivalents of Faustian bargains, and that's leaving out wish spells and the like. So the Binder is just another ingredient in a Pact D&D Gumbo, and not a particularly flavorful one - like a stale, raw potato thrown into the soup rather late before the bowls come out.

FrankT:

Clocking in at 102 pages, Pact Magic is the longest section in the book. Also the first. This might be because the writers had more confidence in it, but it also might just be random. The book was basically an attempt to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, so I doubt many of the writers found a lot of their stuff on the cutting room floor. It probably comes first in the book because “P” comes before S or T in the alphabet.

AncientH:

Arguably, Pact Magic is the most original of the three sections, at least mechanically, which is why they gave it more space.

Artistically, the sigils that make up a lot of the art in this part of the book are based on actual seals representing demons and other spirits of the goetia, from medieval grimoires like the Lesser Key of Solomon.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)




So there is sort of a real-life inspiration to Binders, which shows they put more thought into it than the other sections, but really it's to do with stuff that D&D normally handles with summon planar ally spells and the like.

FrankT:

It is historical reality that shortly after Tome of Magic came out, that they dropped the 4e Swashbuckler and replaced him with the 4e Warlock and pretty much used the Binder pact nomenclature mostly as-is. The Pact Magic mechanics discussed here pretty much all got binned, but someone decided that all that “pact” nomenclature was cool and popular enough to reuse. It's important to also remember that the Warlock mechanics they did make in the big rewrite went to print unfinished – there aren't even a full set of Star Pact powers to get a starlock through the first level tier of the game.

That was probably the opposite of the pitch for the book. The book wasn't there to test fluff, it was there to focus group mechanics. The whole system of preparing magic that then gives you a mix of at-will and use-limited powers was probably intended as a replacement for spell preparation. Which means that in its earliest conception it was supposed to fit into one of the basic eight classes they had at the time – probably the Wizard or Cleric or both. There are enough places to stash roleplaying restrictions that I'm going to go out on a limb and say this was the Cleric. All this crap about pacts and vestiges was a last minute reskinning to present these ideas to the unwitting playtest audience.

AncientH:

A large part of the movement to D&D 4e, and this can be seen easily in retrospect, was moving away from not just Vancian spellcasting, but any spellcasting at all. Sorcerers had fewer known spells than wizards. Psions had fewer known powers than wizards had spells. Monks used ki-use as an alt-economy with class features and feats. Warlocks got fewer invocations than Sorcerers got spells and had the at-will eldritch blast ability. However, they could never quite kill spellcasting in 3.5, for the same reason they couldn't drop the Fighter from the main rulebook. I think they really did decide they needed the break of a new edition to completely eliminate the older choices that they felt were breaking the game.

FrankT:

Where you can most easily see the dickings of the development committee is the vast array of overlapping usage systems in place here. Clearly, various cooks suggested various different methods of restricting power usage at various stages of development. And rather than settling on one or trying to make a couple of them work together somehow, they just crammed all the different ideas in sideways. So... pacts have a “Vestige Level” that goes from 1 to 8 and you have a maximum vestige level of pact you can prepare that is extremely irregularly based on your class level. Also, when you prepare your powers you have to make a level-modified Charisma check against a wholly arbitrary DC, where failure lets the DM dick you over from a role playing standpoint. Even if you succeed, there is an arbitrary list of taboos associated with each power where failing to live up to it causes you minor morale penalties. Having access to your powers gives you physical signs that are mostly bad. And there are additional arbitrary limits on selecting some (but not all of) the power lists which are written in their descriptions and not in the class (yes, this involves a lot of page flipping). You get one power list at a time, but at higher levels you get more. Magic preparation takes a few minutes but can't be changed until a day has passed, unless you take a feat that allows you to reset your power preparation more often in which case you can do that. In addition, you get a very slow and totally irregular progression of minor magic buffs (called “pact augmentations” but actually they have nothing to do with any particular pacts or augmenting them, and were thus clearly originally intended as a general replacement for spells slots for buff spells).

Clearly, this was all more complicated than it needed to be. What they should have done is to segregate the different ideas they had for power usage frameworks into different classes and then try to tease out which of the different frameworks people actually thought were good. As is, there was just a single piece that was a jumbled incoherent mass of mechanics that few people could honestly understand. By delivering a kitchen sink of disparate, contradictory ideas, they pretty much ensured that few people who read this fucking thing would be able to make heads or tails of it. The bottom line is certainly that I don't see how they intended to get any meaningful feedback from this thing at all. if you want the people to tell you which things are good and which things are not, you put them up side by side – you don't jumble them all into a pile and hope that you can figure out which pieces people liked and didn't like after the fact.



AncientH:

You can tell that the writers were sort of warming up to the subject because there's a couple of pages of intro and background before you get to the main event, which is the actual Binder class. Also, for reasons that make okay thematic sense but terrible game mechanics, they made sure there were lots of conditions on how and when you could actually use your powers - there's a whole ritual for drawing out the seal and making a pact which isn't terrible useful if you need some power right fucking now. Likewise, vestiges are locked in for 24 hours unless you buy the extra add-on package at the dealership. So really, you want Dial H for Hero or Power Rangers, and you get the experience of re-negotiating a wireless cellphone plan.

FrankT:

Each of the vestiges provides power sets that are basically lol-random. And the drawbacks on each vestige are equally lol-random. Keep in mind that the original concept was probably something relatively simple and clean like “people prepare spells and associated reserve feat effects at the same time so they have fewer spells to prepare and at-will access to their weaker powers.” But for reasons that I absolutely don't understand, someone thought it would produce reasonable player feedback to drop every single possible change on that into the class and ability lists so that the playtesters (that is, the people who bought this book for actual money) could comb through it and tell them which ideas were good and which were bad. So you got vestiges that give you use-limited powers, you have vestiges that only give you passive powers. The use limited powers might be on a 5 round cool-down, others have limited uses per day or other timeframe restrictions. Some are on continuously, others require an action to benefit from. You have vestiges that have costs to
prepare and you have ones that don't. You have vestiges that have role playing limitations on being able to prepare them, and ones that don't. You have vestiges that screw you hard if you fail the level check to have that not happen, and ones that don't. The DC mostly scales by the power level of the vestige, but in some cases it doesn't. Some vestiges scale to your level, and others don't.

The power level on these fucking things is all over the place. So is the theme. But of course, no one fucking cared about the theme or the power level of this class, because the only relevant information was which of the variant usage restrictions people actually liked. The goal was to find out whether people would rather prepare a daily super move, a passive, and two at-wills; or a once-per-battle supermove, two passives, and a single at-will; or what. However, real people cherry pick vestiges that do good things, rather than pick what their favorite assortment of resource management systems and role playing limitations are. People weren't picking or not picking vestiges because of the resource management systems they come with, just as they obviously weren't going to, so the actual mechanism by which WotC hoped to refine their development through fan feedback seems rather opaque.

AncientH:

The vestiges are mainly drawn from the obscure corners of D&D lore - Acerack the Lich was the big-bad in an old-school D&D module called Tomb of Horrors (and it's various sidequals and sequels) you might have heard of; Karsus was a failed-god/author-insert NPC from the Forgotten Realms; Tenebrous was the god-name of Orcus back when he was an undead god...all shit that nobody really gives a crap about, and that's before you get to the real gods/demons they appropriated and mislabeled. Honestly, they could have filled the list with dead gods from real world mythology and Cthulhu Mythos entities and people would have been happier.

Most of the granted abilities kind of needlessly complicated. For example, Dantalion lets you read thoughts at will - but they didn't just make this a simple read thoughts (sp) - at will, they wrote out an entire fucking paragraph detailing the effect which is already basically an existing spell.

FrankT:

There are actually only 32 vestiges, which when you realize that 7/8ths of them are reserved for higher level characters gives a pretty relentless sameness to all Binders. Certainly, there wasn't a lot of replayability in the class. Not that the designers gave a fuck, because it was their intention to scrap the entire edition in two years. so they were really only interested in a “first playthrough” experience. Replayability wasn't even a goal.

Nevertheless, the 32 vestiges manage to be fit into 31 pages – barely more than one vestige per page. This is because each vestige is given an almost unbelievable amount of padding. There's a little diagram for preparing the power set, there's a pointless fluff story, and of course wild ruminations about the various sundry roleplaying limitations that may or may not actually screw you. The diagrams, by the way, look about the same as the fake alchemy symbols in Promethean, and are just as dumb.


One of these is the alchemical mark of the Tammuz and the other is a bonus vestige from the web article.

AncientH:

So, just to recap: if you chose to play a Binder at level 1, you've got four different level 1 vestiges you could bind, each of which requires a Binding DC of 15 (or 20 in the case of Amon), leaving out any special requirements, and some of these vestiges don't play well with others - not that it matters, since you can only host 1 at a time until you're 8th level. So if you don't bind a vestige first thing in the morning, you're about as useful as a psion without any power points or a cleric without any spells - less, considering your armor and weapon proficiencies suck - and when you do bind a vestige, you're lack the adaptability of an actual spellcaster or psion, or the combat ability of even a moderately combat-capable class. There's never really a time the Binder isn't outclassed.

FrankT:

There are also, you know, prestige classes and shit. These go on for a long, long time. Mostly because the book lets its page wasting flag fly by just having rambling fluff text. Twenty two pages covers 5 PrCs. Yes, really. That right there is pretty much the thing that had gone wrong with 3.5 books. Somewhere along the line, they stopped promising more prestige classes and started promising more pages of prestige classes. And then we had four and a half pages devoted to one class. It was weird and offensive. And yet, somehow the WotC design team not only thought this bullshit was OK, but that it was an appropriate direction to go in. The 4th edition Fighter class is 14 fucking pages long, and isn't even the longest class in the book.

AncientH:

The first major issue with Binder and prestige classes is that your Binder levels don't count for purposes of spellcasting. So while it would be cool and appropriate to be an Acolyte of the Skin or something, that's not something a single-classed binder can ever really aspire to. Then again, being a Binder sucks so much that most of the prestige classes are geared towards the idea that you are not a single-classed Binder - you're a character that dabbled in binding just long enough to pick up the entry requirements for a class like Anima Mage, which gives you full spellcasting and soulbinding for 10 levels, sort of like the various Theurge classes but with more extras to make up for the levels you lost as a binder.

Of the five PrCs, two are explicitly cross-class, two require specific vestiges (one is both!), one is a generic binder/melee-type, and the fifth is an anti-Binder class called the Witch Slayer which is basically there for Mister Cavern to fuck with you if you actually get this binding stuff to work.

A special shout-out goes to the Tenebrous Apostate, which is supposed to go to a Binder/Cleric of Tenebrous - which, given that Tenebrous is a vestige and no longer a deity should be impossible, and they tell you that, but they also tell you to shut the fuck up because it works and you get your spells anyway. One has to wonder what happens if you're a Disciple of Orcus on top of all that crap.

Because this chapter doesn't have enough fluff already, they provide the first-level spell detect vestige. Given that Binders themselves can't really detect vestiges, this is perhaps a bit unfair.

FrankT:

The importance of the feats in this book is not all the filler feats. There are a lot of them. Would you like to pay a feat to get +1 insight bonus to-hit and damage against enemies with a supernatural ability? Of course you wouldn't, but it's written here anyway to take up space. The purpose of this section was obviously the feats that change the pact binding system in various ways. If people started posting on message boards that binders were no fun with or unplayable without Ignore Special Requires or Expel Vestige, then you might be able to infer that the restrictions those feats sidestepped were importantly good or bad. Honestly, this is the only part of the playtest that seems like it could actually have given real information. But would the 4e development team have really listened to a clear story told by the feedback? Probably not.

Moving forward into 4e, the only thing they seemed to have learned about feat tax feats was that lots of people took them. They appear to have somehow misinterpreted this to mean that feats like this were popular and that they should print more of them. It certainly says something about how out of touch the 4e developers were on this subject that even the 4vengers were ragging on them for the proliferation of feat taxes.

AncientH:

Like the Blue Magic book, half the point of ToM was to enable players to dabble in these new sources of power. This is actually a quite venerable practice dating back to (at least) the Wild Talent and Hidden Talent feats in the Psionics Handbook, and continued on in many books since...although never spellcasting. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of feats that let you have spell-like abilities, but they never had a feat set up so that you actually became a 1st level spellcaster in all but name, able to memorize and cast spells at your whim.

A big deal is made throughout this chapter that vestige powers are supernatural abilities, which means that they can be affected by antimagic but cannot be dispelled. It also means there are a bunch of feats for improving supernatural abilities, which are mostly based on similar or identical feats from various monster books previously in the line. Shit like Empower Supernatural Ability, which really should be much better than it is since it's basically applying a metamagic feat once a day and you're paying an entire feat for that.

After the feats are a handful of magic items. Somewhere along the lines D&D3.+ went away from the condensed magic item format for these page-eating monsters, so what might have taken up a single page in the DMG gets four pages here - and it's all bullshit because you'd have to be dual-classed to make any of these anyway. It's trash treasure on every level, and your MC would be a dick to include it in any adventure because unless you're a binder you can't really use most of it. However, special mention goes to the Teeth of Dahlver-Nar, an oD&D artifact resurrected just for this book - it basically gives you one vestige permanently if you hammer the thing into your gums. If that sounds like a poor man's Eye of Vecna, well, you're not wrong.



FrankT:



For no particular reason, Path Magic comes with a short monster list. Above is the Roving Mauler. It is in here because when someone was looking for vestige names, they busted out the list of Goetic Demons and used Buer as one of the vestige options. Buer of course, is iconically a sun symbol with a lion's head and five legs sticking out in all directions. That image was weird and cool enough that they decided to turn it into a D&D monster separate and distinct from the actual dude who inspired it in the first place. That's the folk process at work, so I'm not complaining.


The original symbol they were obviously working from.

AncientH:

The monsters are pretty weak, and even the Deathshead (a small, decapititated, undead head) is acknowledged to only maybe be the work of a Binder/Necromancer, establishing once and for all that on their own Binders are useless. None of the monsters don't even have anything to do with binding per se, they're just tied into the backstory of one or more of the vestiges - you have Karsites, descendants of Karsus (somehow) which might make the most grognardiest Forgotten Realms fans happy (if they hadn't already established incarnum as heavy magic!), a swarm template for crows (Murder), a couple aberrations that might get play in...ask me about it later...and a couple other beasts.

Finishing up the chapter are Pact Magic organizations, which you either can't join or don't want to, and a pair of Pact Magic Adventure Sites based off of them which don't have anything to do with Pact Magic.

Which, really, is the essential problem with Pact Magic and Binders - they don't really have a lot of effect on the world. They're less powerful than your average dragonmarked Fighter from Eberron and nothing they do generally has any lasting impact - hypothetically a 20th-level Binder should be able to throw down with a dragon, but really none of the Binder abilities are good enough on their own to keep pace with most of the other classes. There are a couple decent abilities buried in there, but by the time you get them you're already behind the power curve, and most of them have little utility outside of combat. The Binder is a class that was designed with multiclassing almost as a requirement, but that brings to mind the question of what the fuck you're leveling up in it for - certainly rogues might like the Death Attack ability, but there are a hell of a lot better prestige classes than Binder to go after something like that.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Seerow
Duke


Joined: 03 Apr 2011
Posts: 1098

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Personally, the only use I've found for the Binder is the 4 round cooldown Smite Evil+Turn Undead you can get from the classes.

It basically lets a character with binder level 8 be the Paladin that the Paladin always wanted to be, with basically at will access to most divine feats and never running out of smites.

Still gets outclassed like hell by any sort of caster, but it's still fun.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Kaelik
ArchDemon of Rage


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 12105

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I personally find these reviews much better when you go into the more explicit stupid instead of talking about it in vague terms. Not that you need to go over every feat and talk about how shit it is, but the namedropping particularly stupid or bad vestiges would probably improve the review.

EDIT: The only uses I have ever gotten out of the Binder class are:

1) The online supplement one that gives you Summon Monster at will with 5 round cooldown.

2) Not taking a single level of the class, and using just feats to qualify for Anima Mage.
_________________
"DSMatticus" wrote:
Kaelik gonna kaelik. Whatcha gonna do?
That's libertarians for you - anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


Last edited by Kaelik on Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
Koumei
Serious Badass


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 12823
Location: South Ausfailia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Kaelik wrote:

2) Not taking a single level of the class, and using just feats to qualify for Anima Mage.


Yeah, did that. Not actually sure it was a particularly strong choice, I think it's more just a statement of how shit the Binder is.
_________________
Count Arioch the 28th wrote:
There is NOTHING better than lesbians. Lesbians make everything better.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Seerow
Duke


Joined: 03 Apr 2011
Posts: 1098

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 2:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Kaelik wrote:


2) Not taking a single level of the class, and using just feats to qualify for Anima Mage.


Huh somehow I missed that. The only prestige class I used out of the book (Knight of the Sacred Seal. Like I said, was making a paladin knockoff) closed that off by specifically requiring the pact binding class feature. Anima Mage being able to get in for the price of two feats instead of levels in binder is actually a really good deal (Of course if I understand it right those two feats get lit on fire the second you take the class, because the feat to get the shitty half vestiges instantly become useless if you actually gain the ability to use real vestiges). Looking through the other handful of classes, Anima Mage is the only one that is possible with. Figures.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Koumei
Serious Badass


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 12823
Location: South Ausfailia

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've gained use of other stuff from the book, but never by taking levels of the base classes. There's a Shadowcaster/Cleric theurge (or possibly /Wizard), I can't remember if it requires levels of Shadowcaster. If not, it's basically "spend some feats, get a prestige class that advances all your casting and gives you something else at all". And the Fiendbinder is really awesome - as a Cleric or Archivist or Warlock, you get to be a Pokemaster for Fiends, and it requires you use your actions ordering them about so you don't take ten turns per round. And it lets you have a bunch of succubi and run your own harem anime.

Oh and I suppose you could use one level of Binder for the X 1/Cleric 2 entry into the ghost summoner from (Heroes of Horror or Libris Mortis, pick one). You could also use Hexblade or something, though.
_________________
Count Arioch the 28th wrote:
There is NOTHING better than lesbians. Lesbians make everything better.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
NineInchNall
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 1214

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The only things I've used from the Pact magic section are Anima Mage (without Binder levels) and a one-level dip into Binder for the always-take-10-on-Diplo-&-make-rushed-checks-with-half-the-usual-penalty ability. Ah, Diplomancy, how you reward ludicrous class combinations.
_________________
Current pet peeves:
Misuse of "per se". It means "[in] itself", not "precisely". Learn English.
Malformed singular possessives. It's almost always supposed to be 's.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Shadow Magic


You're supposed to cast magic missile at the darkness.

AncientH:

I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: to emphasize the thematic differences between these styles, Wizards chose to change the background layout styles for each of the chapters. So what was an off-beige hide-colored thing full of glowy sigils has become a pale marbled gothic punk diary full of watermarks and "cracks" that look like the paper was crumpled and smoothed out again.

FrankT:

Recreating the initial pitch for the Shadowcaster is not terribly difficult. Obviously, someone came up with two ideas:
  • What if spells from lower levels got easier to cast and you could use them more frequently? and
  • What if your spell choices now affected what spells you got in the future?




Now, that suggestion is relatively uncontroversial. And by that I mean that pretty much everyone agrees with it. A Fire Mage gets fire bolt and later on gets fireball, and when he gets fireball the use restrictions on fire bolt could be lessened. Or the same thing with precise shot and multishot. Or whatever. It's basically exactly what the doctor ordered for a level based game. As you level up, you get new abilities within your character's idiom, and you stop rationing the old high end abilities because they are now low level bullshit. This suggestion really could have been for any class, or every class. It's tempting to think this was the original 4e Wizard, because the people in charge of reskinning really aren't that creative – but it seriously could have been anything.

It's frankly such an obviously good idea that you might be tempted to ask why it wasn't ultimately used for 4e. You don't ever get extra uses of your 1st level daily powers in 4th edition. Why not? Why isn't your 17th level Exacting Strike an at-will when you're 25th level? The answer is, seemingly, that the prototype they wrote up as the Shadowcaster completely crashed and burned. This entire idea, which I remind you was an obviously good idea got buried because the people who wrote it up in this book were really bad at their jobs and made a bizarre clusterfuck instead of a playable class.

AncientH:

My guess is that the Powers-What-Is in the overloaded editing squad though that it was actually too powerful and nerfed it, effectively aborting the Shadowcaster before it got a chance to do anything. So even though this looks like the natural evolution of power chains and getting caster-types to lock themselves into a single easily-defined powerset, the whole thing was gimped from on high.

From a fluff/aesthetic viewpoint, Shadow Magic has some weird immediate precursors, and I'm not talking about the Lasombra.


No one ever expects the Spanish Obtenebration.

Early shadow magic was an outgrowth of the Illusion school of spells, which had these crazy-all purpose spells like shadow evocation where you could fake-cast any evocation spell, except it was an illusion and only did like 20% of the damage - but it still meant that you could prepare this one spell and have about sixty different effects you could pull out of your ass. It was one of the more popular exploits for Illusion in AD&D, with various little power-ups and loopholes hidden here and there, and it was carried on into D&D3. This got tied into the whole Plane of Shadow (originally the Demiplane of Shadow, let's skip the history lesson.)

Then, in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for 3e they came up with another kind of magic: Shadow Weave Magic. This was sort of built into the setting material, but the basic idea was that instead of getting your magic from the regular source (governed by Mystra, goddess of magic), you got your magic from a different source (powered by the Plane of Shadow and governed by the goddess of shadows). Shadow Weave Magic worked almost exactly like regular magic, except...fuck, I'll just copypasta:

Quote:
From now on, your spells tap the Shadow Weave instead of the Weave. You also can activate magic items that use the Shadow Weave without taking damage. Add a +1 bonus to the DC for all saving throws of spells you cast from the schools of Enchantment, Illusion, and Necromancy, and spells with the darkness descriptor. You get a +1 bonus on caster level checks to overcome spell resistance for these schools and spells. The Shadow Weave proves less than optimal for effects involving energy or matter. Your effective caster level for spells you cast from the schools of Evocation or Transmutation (except spells with the darkness descriptor) is reduced by one. (First-level Shadow Weave users cannot cast spells from these schools.) The reduced caster level affects the spell's range, duration, damage, and any other level-dependent variables the spell might have, including dispel checks against you. You can no longer cast spells with the light descriptor, no matter _ what your level is. Such spells automatically fail. Your ability to use magic items that produce light effects is also limited--you cannot invoke an item's light power if the item's activation method is spell trigger or spell completion. From now on, any magic item you create is a Shadow Weave item -(see Chapter 2: Magic).

SPECIAL: Knowledge of the Shadow Weave has a price. When you acquire this feat, your Wisdom score is immediately reduced by 2 points. If this loss or any future Wisdom loss reduces your Wisdom score to less than 13, you still have the feat. (This is an exception to the general rule governing feats with prerequisites.) Restorative spells (such as restoration or greater restoration) do not reverse the Wisdom loss. You can, however, strike a deal with Shar, the goddess who holds sway over the Shadow Weave, to regain your lost Wisdom. You must receive an atonement spell from a cleric of Shar. Sharran clerics require the subject to complete a dangerous quest before receiving the atonement, and afterward you must choose her as your patron. (The usual quest is to destroy a follower of Selűne whose level is at least as high as yours.) If you later change your patron, you immediately suffer the Wisdom loss. If you take Shar back again as your patron deity, it is not regained.


It was a craptacular feat because that it required enabled two other crappy feats to use, on top of the bonuses/penalties involved with using the Shadow Weave itself, but it had some other minor benefits as far as being useful in areas of dead magic and stuff like that. It was actually so popular (?) that they made a psionic version of it called subpsionics, which makes me feel stupider just for writing that.

But the point is that even going into this chapter, you've got the Shadowcaster competing against shadow evocation, Shadow Weave Magic, and prestige classes like the Shadowdancer.


I'm back, bitches!

Of course, you could potentially combine or reconcile some of those things, but that sounds like work. So the first couple pages of this chapter actually do mention these things, calling them "Lesser Shadow Magic." They mention the Shadow Weave, but don't actually mention the feat involved with using it, which is bad.

FrankT:

The Shadowcaster never got a fair shake anywhere. Because while really complicated things happened in later levels when things came in paths and your uses per day increased in the lower level paths and all that shit, at the beginning it wasn't complicated at all. You got a single first level spell each day, and your list of available 1st level spells was short and didn't have anything really awesome in it. It was embarrassing and terrible. People could go ahead and not understand what the hell was supposed to happen at 7th level (when all the uses per day went crazy), it was damned obvious what happened at first level: You didn't have anything to contribute so you weren't getting to 2nd level. That is what fucking happened.

So while Shadowcasters had the same “too many chiefs making too many weird demands” problem that the Binders did, it didn't actually matter. Because all the weird shit came into its own after you already failed to level up as a starting character.

AncientH:

At first level, you get 3 supernatural abilities called "fundamentals" (read: cantrip) you can use 3/day, and you get one 1st-level mystery (read: spell/invocation/power), which you select from among the Apprentice paths. Even on paper, this looks iffy: a Sorcerer starts out able to cast 5 cantrips and 3 1st-level spells per day, and they know 4 cantrips and 2 1st-level spells. So while a Shadowcaster has the potential to cast nine cantrips in a day, she has a smaller pool to choose from, and already at level 1 she's behind the Sorcerer both on the number of 1st-level spells she knows and can cast in a day.

And, honestly, the transition from spells to spell-like to supernatural ability sounds okay, but as written is flawed on a couple levels. The idea is that as you advance in level, the powers become more ingrained and you can stop mucking about with material components, somatic components, verbal components, etc. Realistically, you have different feats governing each of those things, so there are times where having your spell-like abilities suddenly become supernatural abilities will mean that those abilities become weaker, depending on how you've spent your feats, and metamagic feats apply as if you were a sorcerer casting them. If you've invested in Enlarge Spell-Like Ability as a feat, for example, having your sp move to an su makes you sol.

They get around this by combining the worst of both works and giving you Metashadow feats, which are like metamagic but apply to any of your mysteries. Except that when I say "like metamagic" I mean "like those crappy Empower Supernatural Ability" and equivalent feats, which only work 1/day. So whereas the Sorcerer or Wizard can fill their slots with metamagic'd spells, your metamagic is really fire-and-forget. Although theoretically you could take Metashadow feats and crap like Empower Supernatural Ability, but why?

Well, since you asked, there is Quicken Spell-Like Ability. This feat lets you pick one spell-like ability and cast it quickened 3/day. That's already three times better than the Quicken Mystery feat, and you can take it more than once. So potentially if you get up there in levels you could be one of the speediest damn casters in the game...well, except that most of your spells are crap and you have relatively fewer of them.

FrankT:


There are a lot of shadow magics and shadow worlds and planes of shadow and glooms and mirror worlds and negative planes and crap in D&D. Rarely if ever does anyone who wants to bring out some darkness themed stuff bother to reuse some of the shadowy crap that already populates the D&D multiverse. So it's really no surprise at all that this shadow magic is different from all the others. But it also wasn't much work to reskin this magic as “shadow” magic. And boy did they not spend very much work on this reskin.

The “mysteries” are all basically Wizard spells. But you know, shadowy. Also, terrible. That's the thing that really stands out about these things: they are actually really awful. In general, the theme here is to take one mediocre to terrible standard spell like mage armor or darkness and give it a modest rider effect and call it done. Which would be pretty boss if we were talking about Wizards who start at 1st level with three or more spells per day. But we're not. We're talking about a character who literally has only one spell per day – so having it be gaining a modest AC bonus that stacks with neither armor nor shields for 10 minutes doesn't fucking cut it. You could literally be an NPC class, have medium armor proficiency, and simply have better armor than that. At first level. It's not even a thing.

AncientH:

From a designer standpoint, I am offended because this chapter goes straight from the main class (Shadowcaster) into the prestige classes. At bear minimum I'd have squeezed the Mysteries and feats in between them, preferably in that order, because this is a new system and much page-flipping is to be expected as you try to master the intricacies of shadow magic.

Case in point, part of the power-chain thing is that to get a mystery from a higher level, the Shadowcaster has to a) have at least two mysteries of a lower level, and b) have all the lower mysteries in that Path. This is fairly intuitive once you get into it, because the paths are short (3 powers). So there's seven Apprentice Paths (levels 1-3), and so to get a Level 2 Mystery you need a Level 1 Mystery from two different Paths, and to get a Level 3 Mystery you need a Level 2 Mystery from two different Paths. Which means yes, you could potentially fuck up and not meet the requirements to get your appropriate-level Mystery at the appropriate level, although given the low number of mysteries you would have to pretty much willingly chose to suck even harder, maybe in an effort to become a black hole that would consume the entire game and everything in it.

One of the things this chapter doesn't do is offer an easy "in" to shadowcasting like the other two do - there's no feat that lets a dabbler come in and start fiddling with mysteries in the way that they could mess with psionics, essentia, vestiges, truenaming, maneuvers, etc. What they do have is easy-transition-multiclassing, an option they call "Creeping Darkness." Basically, when you're already a Sorcerer or Wizard (other spellcasters can fuck off) and you multiclass into Shadowcaster, you have the option of giving up an additional level of Sorcerer or Wizard in exchange for a level of Shadowcaster.

So let's say you're a 6th-level Sorcerer named Dobby, and you decide to pick up a level of Shadowcaster. You could become a 6th-level Sorcerer/1st-level Shadowcaster, or you could become a 5th-level Sorcerer/2nd-level Shadowcaster. (Also, you lose any abilities of that level, even substitution level abilities, spells known, etc., and some of your feats might be lost or converted over). No word on what happens when you lose your last level, but I imagine the shadows eat your familiar.

The benefit is that this allows a PC (or NPC, who knows) to quickly transition from Sorcerer/Wizard to Shadowcaster. It is, as you imagine, not a great bargain however - you're trading those desperately-needed higher-level spell slots for a smaller number of spell-like and supernatural abilities. While it might be useful to quickly qualify for a prestige class, you still feel like you're losing when you do it. I mean, at best it means you can limp along for two levels until you qualify for the Noctumancer prestige class, which is another Theurge but with some improved countermagic abilities.

Clerics need not apply. Actually, clerics need not apply for a lot of this book.

FrankT:




Art in this chapter looks better than art in the other chapters. I think it's just fundamentally not that difficult to make swirling tendrils of darkness look pretty cool. Which is not to say that there aren't some clunkers, because there totally are:



But the bottom line here is that what we had was a resource system that people were predisposed to like because it was everything that they had been asking for since forever, and it was reskinned with something that takes no great talent to look pretty cool. Fuck, I can draw a pretty menacing looking claw of darkness – it's fucking darkness so I only need one color! The only thing that could have sunk this chapter was really atrociously bad writing and design. Which of course, is exactly what we got. People on line actually tried to use this chapter less even than the other two. Because the writing and design is atrociously bad. Even the Shadowcaster “guides” such as they are come out and say that this class is a dog with fleas, and get hardly any replies because no one seriously thinks this subsystem works as written.

The Shadowcaster Guide wrote:
There have been many suggested fixes for the shadowcaster. The
creator of the class, Ari Marmell, has freely admitted that the class was not properly playtested, and suggested the following fixes:

Note that among his suggested fixes are simply ditching the thing where you advance within paths altogether – which considering that that was one of the two fucking design principles he was supposed to write around, is a pretty fucking big concession. Note also: given his history of misrepresenting himself online, there is no particular reason to believe Ari Marmell was actually “the creator” of the Shadowcaster, so much as “a guy who worked on” the Shadowcaster.

AncientH:

The one good thing I'll say about Shadowcasters is that as a "caster", it at least qualifies for any feat or prestige class that requires a Caster Level or ability to cast Xth-level spells, and it benefits from "+1 level of existing caster class."

There's the usual fluffing of the chapter with "the Shadowcaster in the game" and "shadowcaster lore" and sample characters and all that crap that no one wants or cares about. This gets especially egregious with the Prestige Classes, of which there are many. Part of the reason they are so many is that in many cases the entrance requirements are expanded so that a lot of the "lesser shadow magic" qualifies.

One notable class is the Shadowsmith, which in any just world probably should be the Shadow Weave equivalent of the Artificer. The whole schtick of the Shadowsmith is that they can reach into a nearby shadow and make a shadow-item, like a sword or crowbar or hammer, and use it for a bit and then you put it back or fades away, and as you advance you can create bigger stuff and make it temporarily enchanted and whatnot and you get access to a few mysteries. Now, of course this being a prestige class it's gimped to hell and back (BAB +5 to enter? Fuck you.) There's some niggling hint that this was maybe meant to be kindof a drow thing, based on the artwork and the sample character ("first mate of the Fourth Dragon"), but either someone chickened out or just plain didn't feel like making it that culture-specific.

FrankT:

The actual implementation of the Shadowcaster is senselessly convoluted. Each power you get, including your cantrips, is on its own track of daily charges. As you go up in level, you get one new power each level. Your powers come in three power tracks, where you can't take them in order once you start in on one. After six levels, you get to start with power tracks that have more powerful stuff in them. So in the first six levels, you will pick up two of the first tier of tracks, which will get you two first powers, two second powers, and two third powers. From levels 7 to 12 you will get two more tracks which will be from the second tier tracks, which will be basically two 4th levels, two 5th levels, and two 6th levels. During all of this, your lower level abilities pick up extra uses per day – though this happens excruciatingly slowly and with amazing unevenness. There's an incredible jump at level 7 where you get your first 4th level spell equivalent, and also all six of your lower level powers get an extra use per day – taking you from 6 spells per day to 13 in one level. Also, at 7th level, all your old spells become spell-like abilities and you can cast them without somatic components. Most classes weren't properly considered, let alone tested, at high levels. The Shadowcaster is unique in that apparently no one once considered how fucking terrible they are before 7th level. It's pretty weird.

Anyway, I'm giving you the simple version, where you do the thing that actually makes sense. The rules give you a bunch of ways to fuck yourself over by taking the same powers twice instead of advancing your paths, or starting new paths (again, instead of advancing paths). It dangles out bonus feats and crap for fucking yourself over in that way, but this is terrible and shouldn't be considered an option. I would say this class dedicates almost half a page to describing various trap options that you can pursue instead of getting higher level powers. Bonus points for the bonus feats talking about gaining Metamagic feats (which you can't use) when they presumably mean Item Creation feats (which you can).



AncientH:

You can technically use Metamagic feats on your mysteries that you cast like arcane spells, but then again you have no slots, so you have close to zero options. Energy Substitution, I suppose, so you could turn your [Cold] mysteries into [Fire] or [Acid] or [Sonic]. Likewise, general feats like Eschew Materials and Shadow Weave Magic are technically usable, but you get less use out of them than other characters.

FrankT:

Unlike the Binder, where feats serve to modify core assumptions of the class' resource management system and thus hopefully get better feedback, here they are just taking up space. There's a whole branch of Metashadow feats that operate just like the Sudden Metamagic feats but they work for the Shadowcaster instead of not doing that. See, the Shadowcaster doesn't have leveled slots, so he can't use a higher level slot to do anything. Each power gets its own slots, and because of that, they just aren't allowed to use metamagic at all. But the Sudden Metamagic line would work fine, which is why they have something that is
exactly like Sudden Metamagics but called something different.


Yes. Yes it is.

AncientH:

It's worth saying, the Mysteries themselves are not great shakes. You do get the occasional fun stuff like the Level 9 Mystery Consume Essence, which is save-or-die...and if the target dies, they come back to life for a round with the Dark Creature template under your command for 1 round/level, and then die again. It's a good spell that lets you kill an enemy twice with it.

Props where props are due, the Shadowcaster does get access to shadow evocation and related spells, and they get it sooner than the others and cast it lower...which is good or bad, depending on how you look at it.

Mostly though, the spells are all so shadow/cold/death-y that they lack a lot of utility outside of sneaking or combat. Even those that are patently better than most of their counterparts at the same level - Dark Air or Water (5th level mystery), which lets you mimic control winds (Druid 5) or control water (Cleric 4, Sor/Wiz 6) - you have to remember that you both have fewer spells available, and fewer to cast.

The real issue, of course, is that I don't think anyone ever made any more mysteries for these guys outside this book - and the continuing tide of new material has long been something of an attraction for players of D&D. Hell, the Forgotten Realms was built on PCs looking for the new, power-gamey spells in each book.

FrankT:

There are of course things used to use up page count. As mentioned earlier, I doubt that any submissions were actually cut out of this book. Any suggestion no matter how lame was just sort of thrown into the blob. It's a playtest document, not really a final playable product. But this chapter doesn't get to 82 pages just by being overly long winded or just by including irrelevant crap – it does both. At the same time.

So for example: there's a weapon enhancement that bypasses all DR. It's like a version of a Ruin weapon that doesn't penetrate hardness. It's a +3 enhancement equivalent, which means you will never use it. It uses up almost half a page. Seriously. Just that thing you don't care about because it's overpriced and shitty, almost half a page. See, they feel the need to tell you how long it takes for it to stop counting as something that penetrates the DR of the last thing it hit. This is not something that could possibly matter, because it acquires whatever DR negating properties it needs when it hits each and every thing it hits. So it doesn't matter how long it stays penetrating silver DR when it's not hitting a werewolf, because if you stab a werewolf with it, it will penetrate silver DR whether it had that property left over or not.

Little things like that really get to me. It isn't just that the magic in here is terrible. It is terrible of course, but the thing that really gets to me is the casual lack of understanding of the rules that goes into making this chapter.

AncientH:

Most of the magic items are unspectacular. You've got Mystery-oriented versions of common arcane spellcaster items, a few generic shadow-related items, and something that conjures Shadow Elementals, which just go to show that D&D really has run out of ideas. I'm amazed we didn't get a ring of shadow elemental command out of the deal; I know I'd have written one in.

FrankT:

Each section has its own monsters of course. I want to talk a bit about the Dark Creature template. And not just because it has a god damned sidebar that tells the gentle reader that the template is designed to be simple, while the actual book takes literally three and a half pages to describe it and the rules aren't even complete. I actually want to talk about it because there's totally already a template that does this called the Shadow template, and this book calls attention to the fact that they have already printed this fucking template in at least two other books.


Also, this book has a lot of lions. I don't have any point to make there, I just think it's weird.

AncientH:

The Shadow Magic chapter also takes a lot of sidebars to give general rules that don't belong here, like a new status called immobilized, and a deeper reiteration of the rules for light and fighting in the dark when your enemies are a bunch of shadow-critters.

The rest of the monsters are pretty blah - a tentacled aberration that hides in shadows, a shadow-genie, the shadow elementals...and that's it.

Actually, I think I've read this whole fucking chapter and not read one mention of the Shadar-Kai, which were one of the early iconic critters of 3e.


"I smolder with generic rage."

FrankT:

The organizations in this book are so generic that I have difficulty overstating their lack of utility or originality. But I think the biggest offender is probably the Tenebrous Cabal. Tenebrous is literally the name of one of the vestiges (where you draw power from the period when Orcus had eaten the yellow ring and was called Parallax*) in this fucking book. They are completely unrelated. If there could be a better proof that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was wanking when this book went down, I don't know what it is. The cult of Tenebrous and the cabal of Tenebrous are not only different organizations, they have nothing whatever to do with each other. The two chapters just happen to use the same word in their half-assed reskinning project.

    *: I may be conflating some of the details of the Dead Gods adventure with other events I don't care about.


AncientH:

There's a sidebar on p.168, in the organizations chapter, about the Lich Mystery User. It is worth examining:

Quote:
Mystery users do not truly cast spells, and are thus incapable of becoming standard liches.

Fuck you you fucking fucks. What the fuck do you mean they're not spells!? You spent the entire fucking chapter going on about how they're cast as spells, and now you say "Oh, they're not really spells." Well fuck you. Fuck you twice. From behind. NO LUBE.

Okay, so everything I wrote about metamagic feats might be wrong, but I'll be fucked twice if I go back and edit it. Fuck you mister sidebar man, fuck you.

Anyway, the sidebar goes on to say that instead of the regular lich template this is a shadow lich, which no-one could be arsed to create a proper template for and stick it in the monster chapter, because that would resemble work. Not that it matters, because aside from using mysteries they exactly resemble normal liches in all mechanical respects. SO WHY THE FUCK DID YOU MENTION IT, DICKHEAD.

Page 173 is in the middle of talking about Shadow Magic Organization #3, the Votaries of Vecna.

This is their symbol. Notice the little skeletal hand giving you a finger? That's a reference to this:

This is from the Tomb of Horrors. There was no ice cream. No ice cream at all. In fact, there was also no Vecna. The lich in that tomb was Acererak! Same asshole as from last chapter!


After the "Shadow Magic Locations," this image ends the chapter. The official caption reads: The Black Spire rises jaggedly from the turmoil of the Darklands., but I think it's just giving us all the giant finger.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com


Last edited by Ancient History on Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:27 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Prak
Serious Badass


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 16186

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Assuming one gutted these concepts and gave them working mechanics, there could be an interesting campaign exploring things like the esoteric connections of Tenebrous and the Tenebrous Cabal.
_________________
Dean, on Paranoia wrote:
The book is a hardbound liars paradox.


Winnah wrote:
No, No. 'Prak' is actually a Thri Kreen impersonating a human and roleplaying himself as a D&D character. All hail our hidden insect overlords.


FrankTrollman wrote:
In Soviet Russia, cosmic horror is the default state.

You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
OgreBattle
King


Joined: 03 Sep 2011
Posts: 5126

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
It's frankly such an obviously good idea that you might be tempted to ask why it wasn't ultimately used for 4e.


Before I learned the rules, that's how I thought 4e would play. It would've been cool.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Starmaker
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 2333
Location: Redmonton

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
It was a craptacular feat because it required two other feats to use, on top of the bonuses/penalties involved with using the Shadow Weave itself, but it had some other minor benefits as far as being useful in areas of dead magic and stuff like that. It was actually so popular (?) that they made a psionic version of it called subpsionics, which makes me feel stupider just for writing that.

Flavor. Not being Elminster's girlfriend's bitch is worth ALL THE FEATS. *That's* the lesson they should have learned.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Zaranthan
Knight


Joined: 29 May 2012
Posts: 373

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Starmaker wrote:
Not being Elminster's girlfriend's bitch is worth ALL THE FEATS.


I'd take all of them over the weapon focus line any day.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
name_here
Prince


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 3341

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Also, if you use the Shadow Weave, your spells still work if Mystra gets shanked, which is particularly critical for continuous effects and items because they won't come back online when magic gets sorted out. This was actually a key plot point in Neverwinter Nights 2.
_________________
DSMatticus wrote:
It's not just that everything you say is stupid, but that they are Gordian knots of stupid that leave me completely bewildered as to where to even begin. After hearing you speak Alexander the Great would stab you and triumphantly declare the puzzle solved.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Starmaker
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 2333
Location: Redmonton

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zaranthan wrote:
Starmaker wrote:
Not being Elminster's girlfriend's bitch is worth ALL THE FEATS.


I'd take all of them over the weapon focus line any day.

Everyone I know who played an explicitly arcane caster in FR took them after that book came out. I hate those feats for the same reason Stronghold Builder's Guide sometimes shows up as #1 on the lists of worst 3.x books evar: they put a price tag on something that should have been available for free.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Truename Magic



"It is a bitter and unrewarding chapter."
- Frank Trollman

AncientH:

The idea of a magical language, and the importance of names is older than dirt, and underlies a fair chunk of Western occultism back to at least the Sumerians. It's a concept which has been expressed in thousands of different ways and systems in fantasy stories (fuck, even the Dune movie), and Dungeons & Dragons was no stranger to trying it's hands at it. D&D had always had the power word spells and whatnot, and the first real attempt at a cohesive metamagic system in the game was College of Wizardry, based entirely around a magical language. 3e got into the act with the Dark Speech in Book of Vile Darkness, the Words of Creation in Book of Exalted Deeds, various spells and invocations based off of those languages, feats expanding on the use of Draconic in Races of the Dragon, the Illumians of Races of Destiny, and I've undoubtedly forgotten quite a few more here and there. The point being that D&D already had at least three or four magical languages implemented different ways, so why did it need another one?

FrankT:

Don't forget Quells, the incorporeal undead that really hate clerics and have special dark words of power floating around their heads to cockblock clerics with. Not to mention explosive runes, sepia snake sygils, and so on and so forth. D&D has had really a lot of different kinds of magic words. When you think about it, the justification for magic scrolls is pretty much that magic runes have powers of their own. What it really doesn't have is “true” names. That's just not a thing that people do in D&D land. Which is kind of a shame, really. True names wasn't just cool in Earthsea (although it was), it was cool in lots of stories, and it's a thing in a lot of magical traditions. Perhaps more importantly, if true names was a thing you could meaningfully distinguish people in your party from others, something that D&D has been struggling with for some time.

AncientH:

You might recall that at the beginning of the book, I was surprised they had included references to some Dragon magazine articles (which, if I had ever read them, I have totally blanked on) - but I was more surprised by what they left out, namely an article in Dragon Magazine #317 called "Truenames and Fetishes: the Power and the Peril" by Phillip M. Greeley. Now, this is very patently not the same system at all as truenaming in Tome of Magic, and obviously Mr. Greeley's article didn't exactly set the world on fire...but it's really curious that they didn't at least give it a nod, and I can't shake the feeling that the designers at least read it and determined which parts seemed to almost work and which didn't.

FrankT:

The thing about the Truename Magic section here is that unlike the previous two chapters that were based on good ideas but designed incompetently, Truename Magic is based on an idea that is actually terrible. The concept is “What if spellcasting was a skill, and being more skillful at casting made you better able to cast spells?” That's the kind of thing that sounds good enough that they tried it in True20, Epic Level Handbook, FantasyCraft, Iron Heroes, and a fuck tonne of other d20 hacks. But it's completely incompatible with a level-based system. It's completely incompatible with a level-based system in the specific manner that 3e D&D handles skills, but it's important to remember that it is also incompatible with a level-based system using every other skill system it is possible to have.

See, any skill system it is possible to have is either going to have a 1:1 correspondence with level or it isn't. Those are literally the only two options. And if your skill system is exactly the same as levels, shifting spellcasting from level to skill is pointless. While if your skill system isn't exactly the same as levels, then setting spellcasting to “not levels” makes it broken. There's no middle ground possible. The Truename Magic was fucked from a conceptual level long before they handed it to C-listers to try (and fail) to make something out of.

AncientH:

You can basically see the point Frank is making already when you consider Spellcraft checks, but I digress.

The introduction, which is nominally supposed to talk about truenames in the game and how to incorporate them at your table, is laughably bad. For example, here are some honest directives they give:

When you use a truename, actually use a truename.

"Fancy Man of Cornwood!"

Aside from the difficulty of real tongue-twisters, this just gets down to the level of telling people how to roleplay, which is not a good thing.

Consider being a multilingual translator and spokesman.


Yes, because having points in one skill means that you're a natural for throwing your points into other, unrelated skills.

Know how object saving throws work.

That's just mean.

Unlike the other chapters, whose new terms basically ended at "binding" and "vestige", and "mystery" and "shadowcaster", Truenaming is complicated enough that they gave an entire mini-glossary, defining such D&D-specific terms as Lexicon, Truespeak, Truenamer, Truename Spell, Truename, Personal Truename, and Utterance.

FrankT:

The Truename Magic section is kind of gonzo. I don't know if the authors realized that they had been handed a directive that couldn't possibly work, but they don't really take their job very seriously here.

Tome of Magic, Truename Magic wrote:
Saying “I daze the orc with my utterance; it's DC 18,” is a pretty ordinary thing – and you picked truename magic to set yourself apart from the ordinary. Exclaiming “I disrupt thee, khedalaévaurümihauî!” is something more appropriate for a truenamer.

Go ahead and spout cool-sounding mystic gibberish, and don't be worried if you can't replicate it.

Seriously. It says that. Basically, the subsystem doesn't really work and the authors tell you to just let your freak flag fly and go crazy. Yeah, the numbers might not add up, but you'll have fun trolling the people in your group, so whatever. 

This is less encouraging.

The suggestions for playing the class are pretty nod-and-wink all around. They come right out and say that as a Truenamer people will expect you to be good at languages and diplomacy even though the class doesn't actually do that, just because you have powers that are skinned as “language powers” and it would be totally weird to the other players if you couldn't solve mundane language problems like translating Orcish or speaking to guards. The chapter is punctuated with “famous quotes” from truenamers, which are all unpronounceable gibberish. After two rambling chapters that squandered good ideas with terrible writing and design, it's kind of refreshing to see a chapter where the author knows he's been given an impossible task and has risen to the occasion by simply trolling the development committee as hard as possible.

AncientH:

The sample truenames appear to be a meaningless collector of letters and apostrophes, indicating that truespeak is a dialect of R'lyehian.

Quote:
“Xenshenasha-prietokana’hazhulakhan!”
—Reversed utterance of essence of lifespark, a common execution technique for High Inquisitor Phar-Noghrio



"The High Inquisitor is in his study, and demands total silence, as well as a glass of milk and a plate of cookies."

FrankT:

There was a half-assed attempt to make personal true names be a thing, but it didn't really pan out. That kind of thing really has to be hardwired into the code of the game. There's even some attempts in the core rules (see: gate, planar binding, trap the soul) to make personal names be a thing, but without any consistent application it just doesn't work. If there isn't any part of the game where people choose a secret name for their characters, you can't add a minigame to ferret out the secret name people have later. It just doesn't work.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


This chapter comes up with various ways to hide and protect your true name, which is all pointless, because no one has any fucking true names to begin with! Just as not putting your important files online is the ultimate protection from having Russian hackers steal your files over the interwebs, simply not having a true name is pretty much ironclad protection from people finding out what yours is.


It's not a tumor!

As alluded to earlier, I think that the game would be better if it actually did have true names. It could explain why the king being dead might be an actual problem even though you're high enough level to raise the dead. It could formalize demon binding into the thing everyone actually wants. It could solve a lot of problems, actually. But it has to be ground floor. And the half assed excuse of “people totally have true names, but they don't know what they are and only true name casters actually care” thing this book tries doesn't work at all.

AncientH:

Agreeing with Frank here, the idea of Truenaming (and magical language in general) is obviously present in D&D long before ToM came out, and the game was running off sort of understood principles related to that long before this specific execution - the problem is, these Truename rules suck as written, and as Frank will go into in greater detail, in conceptual design as well. Honestly, I could probably fix Binding and Shadowcasting so that they were at least viable on the table (and only occupying at most one-third of their current space), but Truenaming is something that really needs to be implemented in the game at some level right from the beginning - not tacked on as an afterthought.

FrankT:

The central problem of Truename Magic is that it runs off a skill test in 3.5 D&D. Skill tests in 3.5 D&D have a lot of different bonuses that they may or may not get. The central level-based bonus is ranks, which in the march from 1st level to 20th level increase by +19. The RNG is 20 numbers long, so without access to other bonuses, a test that a 20th level character has a 5% chance of failing is a test that a starting character has a 5% chance of succeeding. So in the time it takes other classes to go from fighting sewer rats with a stick to having screaming laser duels with evil gods, the skill system hasn't left the realm of the possible at all. But the other, more optional bonuses break the RNG in half. There are insight bonuses, luck bonuses, morale bonuses, enhancement divine bonuses, and others more obscure. But the big one, the one that completely skullfucks this premise all by itself, is the competence bonus that you get for having magic crap on your body that improves skills. Those go up to +30. That's not a joke or a misprint. The difference between having a skill boost doohickey on your hand and not having one can be large as 50% more than the entire RNG by itself.


Honestly, it doesn't really matter how skilled she is.

So the difficulty for using this magic is set crazy high. Without bullshitting your skill bonuses, you basically aren't going to be able to do it. The difficulty of affecting anything with your words (including yourself!) goes up by 2 every level. But as previously noted, your rank bonus only goes up by 1 every level. So if you don't get bullshit bonuses from somewhere, truespeaking starts not working very often and works less and less often as you go up in level. Of course, what actually happens is that if you even tried to use this system, job one would be breaking the bonus structure in half, and then the skill roll (and indeed, your character's nominal personal skill) would be mostly a formality.

AncientH:

We mentioned before that Vestiges and Essentia were basically designed so you didn't have to invest in a class to try them out, but Mysteries required a bit of dedication in that you actually had to level up in one of the two shitty classes that give access to Mysteries. Truenaming manages to do the worst of both of those worlds; Truenaming is just a skill that anybody can be trained in (although cross-class ranks makes it laughable that you'll do anything), but to actually do much of anything with it you're really going to need the Truenamer class. In keeping with the other two "core" 20-level classes in that book, the Truenamer gives you fewer overall schticks in fewer categories of schticks, while charging you the same price.

So where your Level 1 Binder can bind one of four vestiges to get crappy powers for the day, and the Level 1 Shadowcaster can use three cantrips three times a day each and a single spell once a day, the Level 1 Truenamer gets one utterance at first level, which you can select from a list of five. That's supposed to be good because you can technically try to use that utterance as many times as you make skillchecks, but looking over the utterances it's hard not to feel insulted - Defensive Edge: Grant ally +1 AC, or an enemy -1 AC and Knight's Puissance: Ally gains +2 on attack rolls, or enemy gains -2 on attack rolls stand out to me especially.

And the class never really gels at higher levels, even if you get to them. You'd think they'd at least try to incorporate some of the "lesser truename" magic, give you some 1/day power words or a free language-magic feet like Dark Speech or Words of Creation. Hell, if they just gave bonus Recitation feats like a wizard gets bonus feats, that would be an improvement over the crappy basic Truenamer abilities "Knowledge Focus" and "Truenamer Research."

FrankT:

Truespeaking is divided into three categories, and every truespeaker gets to use the things that are basically spells at a level appropriate level in one of the categories. Then you start at 1st level in the other two categories when you get to higher level, which means you never ever get level-appropriate anything in the other two categories. This is really weird to me. It's really weird to me in that this is almost exactly the Iron Heroes Arcanist. It fails in almost exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason as the Iron Heroes Arcanist. It doesn't do the explosion fumbles of Iron Heroes, and it doesn't do Iron Heroes' warmed over feces version of spell seeds, but the caster skill check and the non-level-appropriate secondary and tertiary paths are straight Iron Heroes. They were garbage in Iron Heroes, and they are only slightly better here.

The thing that makes this really weird to me is that this is a Mike Mearls design. He made the Iron Heroes Arcanist, and he made it badly. The Truenamer is much cleaned up, but it's the same fucking thing. Mike Mearls didn't write this book! He's not credited anywhere. He got to lead the project to break down the Orcus Fighter, Paladin, and Swashbuckler into Tome of Battle, but this is an earlier book testing different resource systems. He's not credited anywhere on Tome of Magic, but the truenamer is obviously descended from a thing he wrote that was terrible. And the truenamer is still terrible. I have no idea what the connection is. Did Mike Mearls tell Andy Collins about the problems he was having with the Arcanist? Did Mike Mearls get hired in the first place because the Arcanist was too similar to a bad idea that they were working on in-house? I don't know. But the Arcanist came out a year before the Truenamer and is obviously the same thing and mostly fails for the same reasons.

AncientH:

Nobody cares about truenamers in the world, so I'll just mention that this chapter has what is maybe the worst art in the book so far. The background is all faded out dwarf runes on the edges, every single piece of art is subpar, and somebody set the wayback machine to 1992 and stole a bottle of the red-brown ink they used to make Pages from the Mages.

The Prestige Classes are about what you might expect, once you'd come to expect them. Despite Truenaming being a skill and everything, it's only really of any fucking use whatesover if you're a spellcaster or a truenamer, and there's no version of Eldritch Knight or Spellsword for truenaming.

Worse, somebody seems not to have gotten the memo that the entire benefit of being a truenamer is using your utterances pretty much as many times as you can, so there's a Law of Resistance where using the same skillcheck-based spell-like abilities gets harder to use the more you use them.



Again, let's just check this against the Sorcerer: he has slots, and he can cast any spell he knows as long as he has slots to cast them. No hassle. The Truenamer can potentially cast more utterances, but each time he tries to use one it gets harder to do it again - which means that your Level 1 Truenamer is likely to fail after one or two, unless they've already broken the RNG.

The Bereft is a character class dedicated to gaining the power to completely remove an entity from existence. Sounds good! But wait, there's a catch. First, it's a 5 level PrC. Second, it only works on a subject that's already dead (no, undead don't count). Third, each use costs 100 XP. Presumably even if you fail the Truename check. Fourth, there's still a fucking way to bring the asshole back. So while it might be half-decent from a storytelling standpoint, from a player's perspective you're better off scoping out the nearest volcano. MUCH more productive use of your time.

Brimstone Speaker is for good and/or Fire! divine casters who flunked the entrance exam for Thaumaturgist school. For 10 levels, you get a 8 levels of divine spellcasting, the ability to summon monster some critters you should already have on your list if you care about them, and caps off with a skillcheck-based 8d6 breath weapon which, again, gets harder to use each time after the first.

Disciples of the Word are a Monk/Truenaming PrC, designed for studious monks to graduate into instead of taking a terrible level in Truenamer. It lets them to continue to advance at hitting things while not gaining any utterances. It's unique in that it lets Monks waste ki points Stunning Fist attempts on Truenaming skillchecks to do stuff. This is especially bizarre in that some of the abilities replicate what you'd get if you stayed single-class Monk, so you have even less reason to pursue this PrC. Indeed, the only real benefit of the class is that if you have spammed the Truespeak skillcheck, you can use these abilities (and Stunning Fist uses) to swap out a skillcheck for a Reflex save or counter a spell - but then if you've done that you're still stuck in a sub-par unarmed caster against somebody that probably has more spells than you have Stunning Fist uses per day. The ultimate power is a DC 50 check (and daily use!) to gain an additional move action during a round. Whoo.

Fiendbinders are the PrC everyone cares about, because their signature ability is relatively open-ended - you can use Truenaming to bind fiends. Literally, this is what the planar ally spells probably should have been, but if you've cheated the RNG enough that you can swing a DC 50, you're pretty much set to play an old-school demonologist, summoning up demons and devils and ordering them to do whatever the fuck you want them to do, by the power of their name.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


There are no Bard/truenaming PrCs, and I don't fucking care.

FrankT:

Tome of Magic, Truename magic wrote:
Successfully making the recitation dispels any fear, rage, despair, or other emotion-based effects on you. If you're frightened or panicked, this recitation won't help you because you won't be able to take the full-round action required to make the recitation.



Lots of defenses and counters that require actions in D&D are actually useless for this exact reason. But this chapter is so self aware about how shitty it is that it actually specifically calls that out.

AncientH:

Truename Feats are the same specialized category of metamagic trash as you had to deal with in the other sections; you'd think that after writing the third Empower XXX feat somebody would have figured out this was not a productive use of pagespace.

Around level 2, Truenamers can start picking up Recitation feats, of which Frank just provided an example. Honestly, I don't really see the point of these things because they're just effects that should be utterances, and you should get more of them. Really, when you take this chapter apart, it doesn't matter if you get the ability to do <stuff> from a prestige class or an utterance or a feat, because what is boils down to is "Okay, now you can make a skillcheck to do this too." The source is completely unimportant; it's not even got the basic distinguishing factor between spell-like or supernatural abilities.

FrankT:

The first category of things that are basically spells in the truename section are all reversible. Which means that you can use them either as a buff or as a debuff. So you could have defensive edge which can be cast on a friend to give them +1 AC for five rounds, or cast in reverse on an enemy to give them -1 AC for 5 rounds. I'm not actually exaggerating there, the utterance really is that bullshit. In fact, most of the utterances are extremely bullshit. At fourth level, you can learn to spend an action to make a roll to double the threat range of a weapon for five rounds. Not five hours. Not even five minutes. Five rounds. The book really seems to expect us to spend a whole round in the middle of combat putting up a buff that only affects one in twenty die rolls and only lasts five rounds. That's a thing that they keep offering in various forms. They can't really expect us to use shit like that, can they?


Well. That makes more sense.

AncientH:

At this point, everyone who is meditating on Truenaming should be asking: "But Frank, Ancient one, what about silence?" The book answers this in a section called The Universe Hears You. Long story short, while all your spell-like abilities have a verbal component and can be defeated by antimagic and dead magic, you can still use Truenaming in an area of magicla silence because the universe is listening (however, you still have a 20% chance of failing anyway).

The lesson there being that if you see someone trying to rap out a truename, gag them.



FrankT:

One of the central ideas here is the idea that you can voluntarily roll against a larger DC to get a better effect. Sometimes this is as simple as letting you cast twice a turn if you can beat the normal difficulty by 20. You'll note of course, that 20 points is literally the entire RNG, so if it is even possible for you to make that check you can't possibly fail the unaugmented one. In order to break the RNG that badly, you have to be pulling bonus fuckery on a rather epic scale, so this book is pretty much assuming that you are basically cheating if you intend to play this class at all. If you read class guides for this heap, everyone else is making that assumption as well.

The Truenamer doesn't have traditional usage limits per day. Every time they succeed in casting one of their nearly spell thingies, the DC to use it again goes up by 2 during the day. So breaking the skill RNG by bonus whoring not only lets you do bigger things with your spellish doodads, it also gives you more uses per day.

Also, when you first use your utterances, you'll be able to reliably augment them to do whatever they can be augmented to do, and after you've used them a bunch of times, you'll be forced to use them at the basic level. So you are actually required by law to lead with your best effects and then dribble out bullshit later in the day.

And this would all be extremely broken on first principles and we'd be super angry if the spell-list itself wasn't ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. Which it is. At 15th level you finally get access to a mighty word of making... that lets you change what metal a weapon counts as for short periods of time. I think that's a 2nd level Cleric spell that all Clerics just ambiently know automatically and don't care because even as a 3rd level character that shit isn't important. At character level 15 it's a joke.

AncientH:

After the lexicon, there's a list of Truename Spells. These are spells with a Truename component, which means you could well be making a Spellcraft, Truenaming, and Concentration check, and not always against the same DC. Most of these aren't particularly special, and some are just re-treads of spells or powers from older books - the 9th-level cleric spell Word of Genesis for example just creates a demiplane, and is based on an arcane spell from Manual of the Planes with an added fiddly Truename component.

The most important spells are probably Expunge the Supernatural - which, for a price, lets you permanently strip away one of a critter's supernatural abilities - and Ritual of Renaming, which basically shits over you if you have a truename memorized. Sorcerers and Wizards get the best selection of the lot, including the 9th level spell Unname which is like that 5th-level PrC ability, except it works on living and undead critters so it is much more useful.

Also included here are the Truename Binding spells, which are basically slightly shittier versions of the Fiendbinder class feature...but only slightly. Remember kids, arcane spellcasters rule D&D3.+ for a reason: everything you can do, they can do too - and probably better.

Truename Magic Items are another bag of shit. You can probably stat the no-brainer one out in your sleep: enhancement bonus to Truespeak check. You'd expect something that gave you free utterances or free metamagic on utterances, but those are lacking. Instead, you get some vague guidelines on making potions based on utterances, and being told that your spells and wands based on utterances and truenames only work against the specific truename you used when you cast the spell. Man, that's some really bad vendor trash.

The first artifact is the book of true binds, which sounds like it should be a crossover item with the Binder/vestiges, but really is just a book of infinite spells that replaces "spells" with "specific critters and greater true binding effect." Sort of a Pokedex.

The second (and last) artifact is a book that reveals to the reader their truename. Whoo.



Amazingly, the chapter still isn't over, because we get a couple Truename-based critters. Unlike the critters in the first two sections, these actually have abilities related to truenaming and are in what by this point in the devcycle was the standard format, with little subheaders about using them in Eberron and the Forgotten Realms.

Then there are the organizations. For our sins. I'm going to point out one of the "benefits" listed to belonging to one of them:

Quote:
the Collectors pay a bounty on newly discovered collections of truename lore, usually 50% of its value, but sometimes up to 75%.

This is an economics point that has irked many a player: not getting list value for stuff. Partially, it's because you're dealing with merchants, and they need to make a profit too - so if the list price is 10 gold, they can't really buy it from you for 10 gold unless they turn around and sell it for 12 gold, and then they're over market value. So I don't mind selling horses and armor and shit to merchants for half list value. Less then half? Go fuck yourself.

But these guys here - they're the end user. It's like ebay, where you're selling direct to the consumer. You EXPECT them to pay the list price, maybe even play it up for a premium. If Mister Cavern says your Big Bumper Book of Truename Jokes is worth 500gp, you're damn well not going to be happy getting 250 gp for it - it's not like there's a lot of demand for that thing now is there?

There are some "truename sites," but my DOGAS is at an end, and some of the stats on the monsters look decidedly pencilled-in. I'm pretty sure there are no stats for non-golem "Crystal Statues" anywhere in the MM.

The actually did an errata page for this book, but it didn't really address any of the many mechanical faults.

And that's the book.

FrankT:

I think my biggest complaint about the theme here is that all the words of power are basically level-based. It seems like the kind of thing that you'd be running around learning during your adventures and collecting like Pokemon or Blue Mage powers. But it's not. These are just powers you get for leveling up. There is really no attempt made to tie the “learning secret words” skinning to the power accumulation process. If you thought there was one type of caster who deserved to be able to learn new powers by finding and reading an old book – this would be the one. But you can't. Because fuck this book.

All told, I can't help thinking that this chapter was written to troll the development committee. Someone pulled the short straw and had to design around an idea that honestly could not possibly work. And they produced a chapter that is actually hilarious. I really hope that this is intentional comedy aimed at demonstrating what a fucked concept this is rather than the unintentional comedy of someone whose design skills are so poor that the things they think are cool read like parody.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
name_here
Prince


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 3341

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
And the half assed excuse of “people totally have true names, but they don't know what they are and only true name casters actually care” thing this book tries doesn't work at all.


And they didn't declare that most people just use their true names as their actual names why?

Quote:
The second (and last) artifact is a book that reveals to the reader their truename. Whoo.


That is just terrible. It's an artifact and is totally permitted to be super-powerful, it should tell you other people's true names.

Also, how does all this work in combat time? The general standard with this sort of system seems to be that everything has a true name, so if you don't know some random dude's true name you can just say the true name of some rocks and bury him alive but if you want to fuck with his head you need his name. Do they do something like that?
_________________
DSMatticus wrote:
It's not just that everything you say is stupid, but that they are Gordian knots of stupid that leave me completely bewildered as to where to even begin. After hearing you speak Alexander the Great would stab you and triumphantly declare the puzzle solved.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 11399

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

For most utterances (and other things), you don't need the personal truename of your target, but if you have it then your utterance is more powerful. Not like, a lot more powerful or anything - we're talking weeks of research and thousands of gp to get a +2 DC and +2 caster level - but personal truenames are also needed for certain truename spells and crap.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
darkmaster
Knight-Baron


Joined: 29 Apr 2011
Posts: 906

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Since every time you move you are an enemy moving out of a square adjacent to yourself, don't you trigger an attack of opportunity against yourself by yourself every time you move?

Is there a way to actually use that?

-Frank


The answer to your question is to find a way to convert your damage to positive energy and get the ability to make multiple AoOs and then never need to surge again.

Also, is the picture below bumblebee Bender supposed to be an ad for iFastNet?
_________________
Kaelik wrote:
darkmaster wrote:
Tgdmb.moe, like the gaming den, but we all yell at eachother about wich lucky star character is the cutest.


Fuck you Haruhi is clearly the best moe anime, and we will argue about how Haruhi and Nagato are OP and um... that girl with blond hair? is for shitters.

If you like Lucky Star then I will explain in great detail why Lucky Star is the a shitty shitty anime for shitty shitty people, and how the characters have no interesting abilities at all, and everything is poorly designed especially the skill challenges.


Last edited by darkmaster on Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:30 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Starmaker
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 2333
Location: Redmonton

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

True names in D&D for everyone are a failed idea on first principles. They require (1) foreshadowing of character development, and (2) a not-awesome baseline.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Gaming Den Forum Index -> In My Humble Opinion... All times are GMT
Goto page 1, 2, 3  Next
Page 1 of 3

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum




Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group