Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited Tries to Solve Pathfinder’s Wordspell

It was not long after the first offerings of Role-Playing publishers to the gaming community, that some gamers in that community took a deep hard look at the newly created game systems, and then decided to house-rule them to hell and back.

The house-ruling of RPG systems is a sacred right that many gamers partake of with great enthusiasm, no doubt inspired by The Great Gygax’s quip that “the secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules.” Invariably, house-rules usually remain within the purview of a particular GM and his regular gaming group, although some gamemasters have shared their variations on rules with others in the magazines of old, and now online in social media.


But Dale C. McCoy, Jr. has taken his aspirations on reworking official rules a step further than most game fans. Jon Brazer Enterprises has recently published Mr. McCoy’s revamp of the spell system variant found in Pathfinders’ Ultimate Magic. Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited offers a rules variant of the alternative wordspell magic system, and is a pack of new house-rules intended to make the offshoot magic system work better than its original rules.

Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited

  • Designers: Dale C. McCoy, Jr.
  • Illustrators: Lightworker, Butch Mapa
  • Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (10 pages)
  • Price: $2.99 (Available from RPGNow)

Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited
is a supplement for Pathfinder RPG offering as an alternative and logical approach to the alternative magic system found in the Ultimate Magic sourcebook. Energy wordspells include those effects consisting of Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire, and Sonic, and there are 8 different effects for each wordspell, instead of the 3-6 effects offered in Ultimate Magic.


Production Quality

The production quality of Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited is good overall, with sharp rules writing, and a logical layout. The new and revisited wordspells follow the stat block of official Pathfinder works, so they will be readily usable by PF gamers.

The Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited has only PDF bookmarks, but the spell effects are alphabetically listed, which makes for easy navigation throughout the contents. There was one error in the bookmarks however, naming the cover page as the previous wordspell product – Undead Words. But this error does not really affect the usefulness of this product, unless you really feel a need to flip to the cover page on a regular basis.

The artwork is very sparse in this book, with only two interior pieces and the cover to mention here. The cover is in “tome-style”, but it’s rather plain and simple in its design. The two interior pieces, on the other hand, are actually quite nifty looking inked sketches – one depicts a very scary-looking warlock in robes, while the other is of a scantily clad sorcerous creating a destructive energy ball between her hands. Very good representations of wordspell practitioners – but a couple more original sketches in the supplement would have been nicer.


Reworking the Wordspells

As previously mentioned, the wordpells “overhauled” in this book are for Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire, and Sonic effects. The author felt that the current rules for the Ultimate Magic variant “make no sense without the Vancian magic system.”

So for the most part, the wordspells damage remains the same for the various levels listed in Ultimate Magic. However, in some instances, the level at which a class can use a particular wordspell has been changed to reflect the level that a normal spell of similar damage would be available. For instance, 1st Level Sorcerers and Wizards typically do 1d4 per level (max 5d4) with the energy wordspells, matching up to Magic Missile damage.

But what the author did, as well, was to add new levels of damage between the existing wordspells, normalizing the level to spells do the same effects. As an example, if you look at the Cold wordspells in Ultimate Magic, you find that there are 4 for the sorcerer/wizard with levels of 0th, 2nd, 4th, and 8th. In Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited, they add an additional level and follow the same progression pattern as a Vancian sorcerer/wizard – Levels 0th, 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th – and also using the damage progression similar to that of Vancian spells.

And the author also observed that there needed to be a “necessary change” to deal with the fact that “almost all of the damaging words have instantaneous durations, which means that these words can never be paired with a word that inflicts a condition.” So as another feature added here in Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited is the inclusion of a second set of wordspells for each energy effect that does damage over time, instead of just instantaneous damage. The damage is slightly less than instantaneous durations by level, but is quite nasty when the damage is delivered over the duration of 1 round per caster level.

One of the more disappointing overhauls in the Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited wordspell alternate magic system was the naming scheme. In Ultimate Magic, wordspells were given some nifty “fluffy” names like Shock, Shock Arc, and Lightning Blast from the Electricity words list. But in Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited, the ‘words for instantaneous damage in the Electricity wordspells list are merely Electricity I to Electricity VI, and for damage over time there is Electric Arc I to Electric Arc IV. The author is definitely “crunch” heavy, but it appears that “fluff” has been tossed by the wayside.

One last note, which may or may not be a positive in Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited, is that the author has edited the classes and levels of those who can use these wordspells - kicking out some and adding others. I guess it would be up to individual GMs using this supplement as to whether to follow the class changes proposed by the author, or just adhere to the lists in Ultimate Magic. It really comes down to personal preference, author vs. official rules vs. GM, so it really isn’t going to be a factor in the final scoring of the supplement.


Overall Score: 3.6 out of 5.0


Conclusions

Overall, I really liked how the Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited supplement offered a well-thought out and balanced approach to overhauling the spell system alternative offered in Ultimate Magic. The author clearly stated his concerns about the variant rules, did the research, and came up with solutions which solve those concerns quite well. The changes to class levels were logical, and the addition of some classes to the wordspell lists appear to be thoughtful decisions which could be overruled by any GM, and still have a useful variant of a variant.

However, the stripping of the meager “fluff” found in the official wordspells and the lack of illustrations were definitely low points for the supplement. But as the price of the PDF falls into the super-affordable range, so the Book of Words: Energy Words Revisited is well worth a look-see, especially if the wordspell magic system is a part of your campaign’s lore!

Editorial Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.0
  • - Design: 3.5 (Solid rules writing; easy to read layout; PDF bookmarks are useful here)
  • - Illustrations: 2.5 (Cover art uninspiring; interior artwork is very nice - just wish there was more!)
  • Content: 2.75
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Very crunchy rules variation of a rules variation; author achieved level of consistency)
  • - Fluff: 1.0 (Disappointing lack of fluff; fluff in official rules variant was stripped out of this new variant)
  • Value: 5.0 (Very inexpensive supplement to check out if you’re using wordspells in your PF campaign!)
 

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