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A Magical Review of Arcane Power

Written by Janna - Published on April 28, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

Spellcaster of the Arcane
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!

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Written by Janna

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Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.



9 Responses to “A Magical Review of Arcane Power”
  1. toord says:

    og og og …. they just didn’t make my sorcerer more powers … oh no they didn’t!

    I wonder if the DM can roll a small Eberron campaign (with 4e tweaks) see if I can duo it with a sorc and a battle cleric :)

  2. Felonius says:

    Personally… I don’t think they did enough for the Wizard… The class has begun to lag a bit behind the other classes, and isn’t really good at what they’re supposed to be good at. Or, at least, not as good as some of the other classes out there. Implement Mastery and Cantrips are poor condolences for lack of effectiveness. Once upon a time, when the first book came out, they were *the* minion control. They had a decent cover of actual battlefield control, but they were the only class capable of dealing with numerous enemies. With the release of the PHB2, Wizards are going to be back-burnered. Shamans, with the summoning of the spirit, and its opportunity actions, is more effective at controlling the battlefield, and has the potential to take out minions like nobody’s business. The thing is virtually untouchable, needing at least 10 points of damage in a single attack to kill. The Sorcerer has the area at-wills necessary to handle minion control, and even has a few battlefield control type spells. They even do more damage, by a fair amount, than a wizard does.

    I had hoped that Arcane Power would do a little remedy that (perhaps something implement mastery related), but it seems to have only widened the gap. All of the Wizard’s summon powers are Dailies, and none of the new powers seemed to do much to bring them on par as controllers with even Shamans, who are “only” Leaders.

    Maybe that’s just my take on it? Unfortunately, the only place Wizards even slightly outshine anyone is with Rituals… Cantrips, while useful, aren’t enough to make up for the other weaknesses. The only type of campaign I can see them shine in is a heavy RP game, where Rituals and Cantrips may come up a little more often than the standard combat-heavy D&D.

    As usual, your mileage may vary…

  3. Nicholas says:

    @Felonius: I’ve never seen a shaman in play so I can’t really compare, however wizards do get some tasty boons in this book. I love illusionists but in role-playing games they are almost universally underpowered or left up to the GM’s discretion. It is nice to see an illusionist that is actually well defined and looks fun to play. I’m still in the middle of reading Arcane Power so I hope that there are new feats which juice up the old builds of wizards. I agree that they have been outclassed by the new shiner options. I do quite like their cantrips but they are easy enough to get as a gnome or through magic items.

  4. Steve V says:

    I’m definitely looking forward to obtaining this book. I have been looking forward to this book for a while now and glad to read that they have made the wizard better. Now all that is left to wait for is Devine Power and my 2 favorite classes will be covered in supplemental books.

  5. gull2112 says:

    I think this book is great! My Wizard has no problems controlling the battlefield. What I was most excited about getting were rules for familiars and this the book delivers on. I would recommend this book on that alone, but of course there is so much more. I don’t know about the Wizard being outclassed, I guess mt gaming style is different. My wizard feels wizardy and he can lay the smack down when necessary, nuff said….

  6. Kevlar says:

    Of all the power books I think this one is (and will remain – once Divine Power comes out) my favorite book in the series. Wizard stuff looks great.

    A little lacking on swordmage stuff though, my favorite class to play. :(

  7. gull2112 says:

    Although he likes Arcane Power, the wizard player in my campaign was a little disappointed in the heroic level wizard options, I think he was hoping for cool and varied spells, but he likes the paragon stuff and is thinking of multi-classing into Swordmage with the new aegis of ensnarement build because it works really well with his character concept.

  8. Wolf-Shifter Druid says:

    @ Felonius: the wizard in one of the games I play in OUTCLASSES everyone else with the power he can and willingly(if not lovingly) abuse. He uses his cantrips for everything, even stealing right of the enemy’s belts. He even used the floating disk ritual so that he could sit on it and float around casting his Room-Killers(spells he hits everything in the room with and near kills them all). Now that’s epic, and he’s only in the heroic tier(he’s been doing this kind of stuff since lvl1 and is now lvl8(Ithink))

    I love this book and all of it’s glory and options. What I really love is that you can get the Swordmage’s sword bond feature(awesome for avengers and the like) with a muti-class feat, wich then lets you get a familiar. wich is what I’m going to do…If my guy lives that long…

  9. Elder God of Doom(-i-ness) says:

    Personally would like to say good to see that they aren’t leaving 3.5 classes in the dust (no not only core classes) but i mean the 3 classes from tome of magic (personally my favourite 3.5 book) have all now been included
    the truenamer is just a refluff of the bard (one i m very very looking forward to playing)
    The shadowcaster (sorry have forgotten the exact name) Dark Pact Warlock
    the Binder (favourite 3.5 class) Vestiege Pact Warlock

    BRAVO Wizards more and more impress by 4e each day

    P.s. would like to state that Dungeon Delve is like 20-20 cricket … its like cricket but more exciting and everyone knows its not quite cricket
    one shots are one days (all of the enjoyment in a reasonable length of time)
    and Test matches are campagins the full cricket (in this case dnd) experience

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