Picture by Simon Gurr
Spellcasters, rejoice! Arcane Power is here, and it’s an exciting book that’s chock full of nastiness that will keep anyone, anywhere, from ever picking on nerdy little spellcasters again. I usually look at ‘expansion’ books with a skeptical eye, but Arcane Power, like Martial Power before it, impressed me with its cool and useful content.
Do you want a familiar? Arcane Power tells you how to get one. Need help coming up with a character background? This book provides helpful background summaries to get you started. Want to be an Archlich? Now you can! Let’s take a look at the inner workings of Arcane Power, a book of options for bards, sorcerers, swordmages, warlocks, and wizards.
First introduced in the Player’s Handbook 2, bards are performers who weave heroic tales of virtue through their magic. Bards project those virtues onto their allies: cunning bards make allies more cunning, and valorous bards make them braver. Arcane Power introduces us to another bardic virtue: prescience. This mystical virtue is embodied in a new build, the Prescient Bard.
Prescient Bards can manipulate luck. They can also gain insights into the immediate future, giving them plenty of interrupt actions. They are ranged fighters who use their art to create holes in an enemy’s defense. Once exposed, these weaknesses can be exploited by the bard and his allies.
Arcane Power presents us with six new paragon paths for the bard, including the deceptive Cunning Prevaricator (who seems to be tailor-made for gnomes and other fey tricksters), and the deadly Grave Caller (who uses deathmarks to hasten an enemy’s demise – or just make them wish they were dead).
The sorcerer class has two shiny new arcane power sources to choose from: storm magic and cosmic magic. There are two new sorcerer builds to go along with those power sources. The first, the storm sorcerer, internalizes the fury of a storm, and then releases that devastating power on his enemies. They get a bonus to their arcane powers equal to their Dex modifier.
The cosmic sorcerer draws power from the cycles of nature – the rotation of seasons, stars, etc. After a rest, the cosmic sorcerer can choose which phase they draw their benefits from: sun, moon, or stars. When the sorcerer is bloodied, they are pushed into the next higher phase. They can also choose to enter the next phase after using a daily power.
Like the bard, sorcerers get six new paragon paths to choose from. Some of the more noteworthy paths include the draconic Dragon Guardian, the chaotic Primordial Channeler, and the Essence Mage, who can turn their body into an insubstantial manifestation of pure magic.
Swordmages get a new build option and a new aegis that specializes in controlling an enemy’s movement. Meet the Ensnaring Swordmage and the Aegis of Ensnarement. This build allows the swordmage to teleport enemies into range and thwart their movement attempts by knocking them prone, slowing them down, and immobilizing them.
Two of the six new swordmage paragon paths are designed to work with the new Ensnaring build. These are the Arcane Hunter, who recognizes an enemy’s vulnerabilities and capitalizes on them; and the Sage of Fate’s Bonds, who marks enemies (yes, plural) with Aegis of Ensnarement and jolts them with lightning or teleports them away from their targets.
There is a new eldritch pact, and it’s quite unlike any we’ve seen before. The warlock’s new Vestige Pact allows the spellcaster to draw on the lingering energy of fallen kings and dead entities of supreme power.
Vestige warlocks can only be under the influence of one vestige at a time. There are two primary vestiges: the defensive vestige of King Elidyr and the offensive vestige of Zutwa. By using daily attack powers, the warlock can temporarily access other vestiges, granting him different pact boons and effects while the new vestige is active.
There are eight new warlock paragon paths in Arcane Power. There is one path apiece for the fey, infernal, star, and dark pacts. The hypnotic Entrancing Mystic and the eerie Hexer are open to warlocks of any stripe. The Sea Tyrant Oracle and the God Fragment make use of the new vestige pact.
Wizards are arguably the class that gets the most cool new stuff in Arcane Power. First, we have two new class builds: the Illusionist Wizard and the Summoner Wizard. We are also introduced to the Orb of Deception, a new implement for illusionists that lets them take another stab at a failed illusion against a new target.
Summoner wizards get a new implement choice as well: the tome. Tomes are very useful. The Tome of Binding is great for summoners; once per encounter, it helps the wizard summon creatures with damage bonuses equal to the wizard’s Con modifier. The Tome of Readiness allows wizards to store a spell for later use.
The wizards section also contains a list of rules for summoned creatures. There are six new paragon paths for wizards, all of which can be used by wizards of any build.
Other Arcane Goodness
Arcane Power includes hundreds of new class powers and arcane feats – including feats that allow you to gain a familiar, and feats that let your familiar grant cool advantages. Nine epic destinies await you, including the Archlich destiny. (Yes, you too can be an undying wizard of vast power, phylactery and all. Vecna would be proud.)
We also get detailed entries on eight new magical tomes, an assortment of new rituals, and five full-fledged arcane backgrounds you can use for your PC. If the goal of this book was to ramp up arcane characters to a whole new level of awesomeness, the contributors succeeded admirably.
Fluff and Stuff
There is a pleasantly surprising amount of fluff in Arcane Power. The class entries contain advice for getting into your character’s head, racial considerations, and even a few pieces of fiction to set the tone. The section for familiars includes tips for customizing their appearance and personality – which has no real bearing on the rules, but makes for a fun and detailed addition to the game. And, finally, the arcane backgrounds section is almost totally RP-based. I was glad to see such a solid balance between game mechanics and character development.
The Bottom Line
Arcane Power has 159 pages and retails for $29.95. It also made me desperately want to play an arcane spellcaster. (I’ll have to queue one up after my paladin… avenger… barbarian… druid… man, I’m going to be playing D&D forever.) Its content makes it well worth the purchase price.
Are you going to buy Arcane Power? Let us know what you think in the comments section!