Tuesday, 20th April, 2010, 08:57 PM #1
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Incantations from the Other Side: Spirit Magic
Incantations from the Other Side: Spirit magic is a great subsystem for adding theurgy-- or the magic of summoning spirits in order to compel or barter with them to cast magic for the summoner-- to your game. This book could be slipped into a d20/Pathfinder modern or grim and gritty game, providing a magic option or easily incorporated into a standard or high fantasy game as an alternative or indigenous magic option. (Rituals from the Other Side is the 4E version of this book.)
The book-- and I refer to one book, because while the mechanics of each version are appropriate to the system, the flavor and descriptive text is largely identical. The landscape layout is great for online reading, the intended format for this product. It helps with the flow of the material and lends itself well to fullscreen mode. The art is a combination of old black and white, strange diagrams, and solid color pieces. With the exception of one large, blocky symbol, they all flowed quite well, adding to the theme and mood of the material. There's even a short index, which seems to be a rarity in shorter supplements lately. This one's sorted by diseases, spell s, groups, and spirits-- a very intuitive manner.
After a short introduction to spirit magic, the voudou section is the first mechanical system presented. This is a great starting point, because these are the most friendly, most social magic. presented as a possible pseudo-religion or cult addition. There's a strong performance aspect which has the added benefit of giving a bit more punch to bardic casters or socially oriented villains who often require a sorcerous secondary. This portion also introduces us to both the costs for simply summoning the spirits (a possible adventure in itself) and for failing to summon them *well enough.* For added flavor, there are two varieties of spirits to choose from, one decidedly more dangerous and a bit more powerful than the other.
The nature spirits constitute the second section. Drawn heavily from slavic and russian mythology, this chapter provides the classic fairy tale source for those groups looking to commune with nature or seek "the wisdom of the land." There are options for establishing a tribal totemic hero or unleashing a furious spirit of destruction against an encroaching horde. These spirits have less of a "performance" aspect and more of a "beseeching" tone. Don't be fooled, though. These spirits still demand a price from their summoners, but there are ways to soften the blow.
Finally, there are the spirits from beyond-- the madness-inducing inscrutable beings capable of granting fantastic powers and knowledge. This part of the book is a great way to incorporate those Lovecraftian cults we all love to emulate in games. The methods used to invoke the presence of these strange creatures are great and full of flavor, presenting a fitting third option for this supplement. Clinton Boomer's handiwork is quite evident, in the vivid descriptions and outstandingly appropriate names.
Overall, I think this book is a great purchase. It has material that players will be tempted to use (if given access), exotic and unusual magic to spice up settings and stories, and great magic that works great for villains or heroes without some kind of alignment bias. Even better than that, this material is functional in worlds where magic should be nonexistant or very weak-- because the characters are never responsible for the effects, all the magical power comes from the summoned spirits. You want to put a little lost magic in a d20 Modern or Future game without unbalancing the world or adding a whole set of mechanics? This book provides a great way to do so and keep your setting in balance.
Great art, good material and mechanics, interesting flavor, and a professional implementation earn Rituals/Incantations a 5-star rating! You'll be glad you picked this up!
Last edited by terraleon; Tuesday, 20th April, 2010 at 09:14 PM. Reason: Focused introductory paragraph.
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