Category Archives: RPG Books

Review: Arcane Power

Okay, I’m not the internet wizard I thought I was.  I just got back from a vacation (to Disney World!) and none of my posts auto-posted to the future.  So, I’ll be posting them over the next few days.  Sorry about that!

First off, I’ll be reviewing Wizard on the Coast’s Arcane Power, their second power source supplement.  If you’ve read Martial Power, then you know exactly what you’re getting into – builds and powers, paragon paths and epic destinies.  All good stuff in this one, though the power creep is starting to… creep.

My first beef is the presence of the bard in the book.  I mean, I get why and how and so forth, but when a book presents new options to a class that was introduced a mere month before, I kinda feel like I’m being taken for a ride.  That being said, I’ve always felt like playing Wizards’ games was a ticket to a very glossy ride anyway, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.  Not only that, but the bard’s pictured in the book don’t seem to have any instruments.  I mean, unless a giant flaming sword and a bow and arrow are now musical instruments, in which case there’s a band I need to form.  And many of the bard’s powers have little to nothing to do with… barding.  Firemetal Shot, Wall of Anguish, and Arrow of Destiny all sound like kickass powers… for my ranger. And as for the other powers…  adding the word “cadence” or “euphonic” do not make it bardy, they just make you a tool.  But the Half-Elf Emissary seems pretty sweet – the Gambit power, partnered with 4E’s new minions mean that those bonuses are going to be huge.

The sorcerer gets some new gizmos, and I like ’em.  Storm Magic is simple yet awesome, much like the thunder and lightning upon which the class build draws its theme.  I like it.  The Cosmic Magic build seems cool, but seems a little… catch-all for my tastes.  But some people who fancy themselves to be cosmic and deep will probably love it.  Moon Cage seems nice.

I can’t really speak to the swordmage, because I haven’t really gone through my copy of 4E Forgotten Realms yet, and haven’t run a Storm Mage, so… YMMV.

The warlock is where the shit hits the fan.  The Vestige Pact seems… begging to be broken.  Basically, your benefits are always changing, but seem to be about as powerful as the other pacts.  So, instead of 1 pact, you get dozens, depending on what you need.  (Well, you start with the choice of two, but you can get more with powers.  The whole Augment seems to be the veritable definition of creep.)

The new builds for the wizard are great.  After a decade of hating the Illusionist (it was meant as an example people, not the only school specialist), I have to admit I’m glad to see them come back.  And a Summoner?  Hell yeah.  Getting “Summon Fire Warrior” as an ability at 1st level just screams at me to be picked.

The arcane options are pretty… creepily fantastic as well.  I’m particularly fond of “Phantom Echoes,” which allows an Illusionist (or any wizard) to maintain combat advantage against an opponent for… well, pretty much ever.  Familiars are back, and in a big way.  I’m worried 4E familiars are going to creep up, but so far, with only four feats (one required to get the familiar), we’re probably safe for a while.  I feel like Wizards is listening to the complaints about the lack of fluff – little bits like the “Familiar Quirks” table seem to be a response to this.

The Epic Destinies seem to be getting a little more specific, with the awesome “Archspell” going all the way to letting you focus on one spell.  (Though, getting to use a Daily Power as an Encounter Power is pretty nice.)

Overall, Arcane Power is exactly what you expect – if you’re playing an Arcane-based class, you’re going to need to pick this up to keep up, but nothing too radical.

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Dreamwalker Revised

Via the Consonant Dude, I took a peak at Peter C Spahn’s new Dreamwalker Revised. And let me say, I liked it. I didn’t love it, but I liked it.

I can’t speak to the game’s production value, since I’ve only read the free online version, which is missing a lot of the artwork. That being said, the game still has a lot more artwork than many other free or not-free digital rpgs I’ve seen lately. Clocking in at over 200 pages and less than $0.01 to purchase, there’s really no reason not to go peak at it. I am rather fond of the inclusion of incredibly pertinent and apropos quotations at the top of the chapter headings, from Aliens to It to the Dark Tower.

Dreamwalker Revised Cover

Spahn says that one reviewer described it as “. . .one part The Matrix, one part The Cell, and two parts Quantum Leap with a healthy dose of Stephen King sprinkled over the top!” I would say that thematically, that’s pretty accurate. Unfortunately, structurally, the expansion to D20 Modern feels like it might have been written by Kevin Siembeda.

Spahn’s world is one where dreams can come alive, and it feels a lot like the World of Darkness (or of the Matrix), in that a select few are in the know, and the rest of the world stumbles along blindly, unaware of the war being fought in their backyards. Spahn has deftly created a universe where any number of genres can be effortlessly pillaged for extra value. The game obviously lends itself to a cyberpunk/gothic horror mythos, but since the backdrop of the game is dreams, your characters can enter a dream on the Starship Enterprise or the Land of Mordor with ease.

Once, when I was in middle school, first getting into D&D and role playing, a friend of mine (friend of a friend, really, but I was a nerd and couldn’t be picky) wanted me to fight a Turask. You know what I’m talking about. In the end, so that he didn’t kill my character (whom I loved more than my parents), it was all a dream. It was a really stupid idea. In Dreamwalker, it would have been nothing more than a poorly structured adventure.

Of special note is the Denouement, a rather insightful creation on Spahn’s part. Every adventure, in theory, has a point. Group of Heroes intends to accomplish Goal by overcoming Obstacle. (Okay, in middle school, I may be been on, and run, a few pointless adventures. See above.) Spahn has incorporated this goal into the Dreamwalker Cosmology – the Denouement is the dreamer’s intent, and the players frequently have to assist, or occasionally thwart, this goal. It’s a very nice piece of work, and something of which Spahn should be proud.

The Brood, the Taenia Spiritus, are the villains. It feels a little heavy handed, but it’s a good construction. It makes the game a little black and white for my tastes, but I’m sure it’s right up the alley for some. The different Broodlings are all well described, though their ephemeral nature as dream-kind seems to leave a lot of work up to the DM to design them.

The organizations in Dreamwalker Revised are solid. The Sword of Gaia and Project Dreamwalker are modeled perfectly on the Platonic Ideas of templars and government agencies. The Lost City of Revead is fantastic, feeling a lot like Sigil. And the Kingdom of Malice… kind of speaks for itself.

My one complaint is some of the more mechanical aspects. My main complaint is with the “advanced classes,” also known as prestige classes. Many of them feel a little… extraneous. I’m looking at you, “Government Agent.” The Government Agent class really doesn’t feel like it’s needed. I admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time with D20 Modern, but I’ve spent enough, and I don’t feel like the Government Agent adds anything that a bunch of feats couldn’t do. The Influence Memory ability might need to be broken down into two feats, but otherwise, there aren’t really any awesome abilities in the class.

The other prestige classes aren’t that awesome, either. The Tomb Raider (yes, that Tomb Raider) is a class that has almost nothing to do with the Dreamwalker mythos. Certainly nothing to do with the world of dreams mechanically. The Paranormal Investigator seems hackneyed at best. The Totemist and Arcanist are both interesting classes, but really don’t feel like they belong in the Dreamwalker Revised book.

Part of this is my problem with prestige classes in general. I feel like the entire concept creates a Palladium like atmosphere, where each book necessitates the addition of new classes, each more unique and powerful than the last, until the entire concept is relatively meaningless. Some of Dreamwalker Revised’s prestige classes really work, like the Dream Weaver and the Dream Warrior. Others, like the Brood Hunter and the Brood Slayer, feel like overused tropes that have to be included and tailored to this specific setting.

But enough. Over all, the supplement is fantastic. If you run D20 Modern campaigns, or any kind of “paranormal” campaign, then I highly recommend you go out and shell out for the full version of this game. Buy it and support it. If you don’t run those kind of games, download the free version and steal one or two idea for your next adventure.

Overall – 9 out of 13 stars.


PS238

If you’re into roleplaying underwear perverts, but you like ’em with a twist, then I would highly recommend you go out and buy PS238, from HERO Games. Based on Aaron Williams hilarious comic about the school for child metaprodigies of the same name, PS238 is HERO Games’ first licensed product, and while a review shall be forthcoming, it is awesome, and I highly recommend it.