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Kobold Press’ DEEP MAGIC Will Revolutionize Your View of Pathfinder RPG Spellcasting… Forever!

It's doubtful that the many fans of the Fantasy genre that would deny that MAGIC is what makes Fantasy what it is! The sense of awe and wonder in the genre is derived not merely from the mythological-style entities which populate fantasy stories, but from the mystery and power that comes from the magic that they possess. So whether one is dealing with an all-powerful sorcerer, or a evil witch, or a fairy princess, it is their powers that set them apart - and predominantly, in fantasy, this power is called magic.

Therefore It follows that fantasy role-playing games must embrace some sort of magic system in their rules to fit into the genre, with options for players to create characters who can wield that awesome power. And the nature of a magic system tends to affect the very essence of the campaign, defining the awe and wonder the players experience as they role-play.

Just last summer, Kobold Press and Open Design conspired with a few dozen game designers (such as Jason Bulmahn, Ed Greenwood, Owen K.C. Stephens, Jim Groves, Amber E. Scott, Stephen Radney-MacFarland) to create even more ways to put the awe and wonder of magic into the Pathfinder RPG. Backed by a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign which garnered enough backers to hit almost 50 stretch goals, a massive tome called DEEP MAGIC was conceived and written - and it's now available in PDF and hardbound formats!

DEEP MAGIC (for Pathfinder RPG)

  • Designers: Wolfgang Baur, Tom Benton, Creighton Broadhurst, Jason Buhlman, Ross Byers, Charles Lee Carrier, Tim Connors, Adam Daigle, Jonathan Drain, Mike Franke, Ed Greenwood, Frank Gori, Jim Groves, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Sam Harris, Brandon Hodge, Phillip Larwood, Jeff Lee, John Ling Jr., Chris Lozaga, Ben McFarland, Nicholas Malasich, Carlos Ovalle, Richard Pett, Marc Radle, Stephen Radley-MacFarland, Wade Rocket, Stephen Rowe, Adam Roy, Amber E Scott, Neil Spicer, Owen K.C. Stephens, Joshua Stevens, Christina Stiles, Matt Stinson, Stefen Styrsky, Dan Voyce, and Mike Welham
  • Illustrators: Marcel Marcado (cover); (interior) Stefano Azzalin, Brom, Michael E. Burns, Emile Denis, Tony Di’Terliazzi, Frank Garza, Michael Jaecks, Guido Kuip, Pat Loboyko, Eric Lofgreen, Marcel Marcado, Corwin Paradinha, Hugo Solis, Nakarin Sukontakorn, Christopher Swal, Brian Syme, Leanna TenEycke, Piya Wannachaiwong, and Ben Wootten
  • Short Story: Ed Greenwood
  • Publisher: Kobold Press / Open Design LLC
  • Year: 2014
  • Media: PDF or Hardcover (376 pages)
  • Price: $24.99 (Available from RPGNow in PDF format or from the Paizo Store for the Hardcover edition)

DEEP MAGIC
is a magic sourcebook and supplement from Kobold Press for use with Pathfinder RPG. The book contains more than 700 arcane and divine spells and new types of magic including elemental-tinged, dragon magic, ley line magic, and spells for mythic heroes. DEEP MAGIC introduces 31 new glyphs and runes, plus rules for creating a wide array of magical symbols, 19 new sorcerer bloodlines, and 8 oracle mysteries, and 11 new incantations granting powerful magic options to non-casters. This magic sourcebook presents more than a dozen new archetypes, new magical specialties, new curses, new sub-schools and much more.

Production Quality
The production quality of DEEP MAGIC is exceptional, with top-notch writing from veteran authors and game designers, coupled with a graphical layout that is easy-to-read and stunning to behold. It's clear that the publishers set out to give the reader a luxe experience for their patronage when purchasing the hardbound version of this book.

The individual pages in DEEP MAGIC create an illusion of reading an old tome: sepia-colored text and graphics overlay parchment toned pages, with watermarks that suggest wrinkles and mostly erased runes. The paper quality is fairly heavy with a nicely tactile feeling of roughness under the fingertips, and a strong square binding. The front and back covers are quite solid, and have a glossy smooth finish - the book arrived for review fully shrink-wrapped to protect the covers during shipping.

The book is well-organized, possessing a nicely detailed table of contents, and clear distinctions between chapters and sub-sections. The chapter's number and title is also noted along the edge of right-handed pages for ease of reference. Special notes and commentary are located in shaded and bordered boxes scattered throughout the book.

The artwork and illustrations in DEEP MAGIC are as fantastic as the production quality of this book. The cover art is colorful and yet darkly mysterious, which can certainly be apt descriptions for many of the interior illustrations for this sourcebook. Each chapter is headed by a full-color illustration, with plenty of additional art scattered throughout the book. The artwork is quite appropriate for the subject matter, and some of the spells, bloodlines, and NPC characters have their own unique illustrations. The page-to-illustration ratio is quite decent throughout most of the book, although it is a little sparse in the spell section. Given that this section covers over seven hundred spells spanned across nearly two-hundred pages, a little bit of wall-of-text feeling here and there is quite forgivable.


Show me the MAGIC!!!

The DEEP MAGIC sourcebook for Pathfinder RPG is divided up into eight chapters, with each one covering a different facet of magic content for use in the game. Preceding the main contents of the book is a charming foreword by Margaret Weis, a short essay entitled "Rediscover Your Sense of Wonder" by Amanda Hamon Kunz, and very enjoyable short shortstory by Ed Greenwood called "Awakening the Deep Magic". All this serves as a pleasant introduction to ready the Reader for what content lies beyond in the subsequent chapters.

The first chapter of DEEP MAGIC offers a host of New Magic Options for characters, presenting over thirty magical traditions for use with Pathfinder RPG. These traditions represent different styles and types of magic, such as Blood Magic, Illuminaton Magic, and Time Magic, as well as traditons from various races like Dragon, Drake, and Dragonkin Magic or classes like Mountain Druid Magic. And as with other Kobold Press works, this book does reference the Midgard Campaign Setting, and presents Clockwork Magic and Kobold Magic - both strong key elements in that setting. Each tradition or type of magic is presented with a short introduction about the style and nature of the tradition, along new spells and feats associated with the practice of the magic. In most cases, there is an associated book or tome which contains the theory and new spells of the tradition, which can be introduced into a campaign as a magical treasure. And some of the traditions come with magical powers and random effects, such as in the cases of Chaos and Wonder Magic, Ley Line Magic, and Saints' Magic. There's even a section on creating a tradition of Living Spellbooks, with features very much like an NPC character.

The second chapter of DEEP MAGIC covers New Spells for use in Pathfinder, and this is by far the largest chapter in the book, spanning almost 200 pages. The chapter opens with spell lists by class, and appears to cover most of the classes and archetypes available in Pathfinder RPG - this section of lists alone is 36 pages long! The remainder of the chapter consists of spell descriptions, which are presented in standard format, with occasional sidebars discussing diverse topics such as spells defined as Dwarven Magic or an interesting NPC or creature such as the wizard in Zobeck known as Illemak, the Scheming Scoundrel. The spells are too numerous to even considering listing in a review, however, it can be said that they represent some very interesting and diverse design features - as to whether they are balanced or not probably depends on the preferences of individual GMs.

After the huge section on spells, DEEP MAGIC turns to other forms of arcane power in Chapter 3: Symbolic Magic. Here are presented two traditions which not based so much on casting spells as releasing the power held with in Glyphs and Runes. Each glyph or rune has its own powers and abilities to unlock for those who master that particular writing, and choosing certain traits and feats from this section allow a character to practice this magic. It should be noted that the glyphs are associated with aboleths, and mastery of this magic often carries with it a dark bloodline or a taint of the aberrant.

Chapter 4 in DEEP MAGIC concerns itself with Words and Incantations, offering a ritualistic form of magic and a magic based upon Words of Power. As with glyph and rune magical systems, Incantations come with a selection of rituals that can be used by characters, along with associated feats allowing for the practice and even creation of new incantations. Tables and instructions are provided to guide in creting new incantations for a campaign. The section on Words of Power offers some variations and customizations to the magic system released in the Pathfinder RPG supplement, Ultimate Magic. This section also includes new words to add to a practitioners vocabulary, offering quite a few new ways to use this magic system.

Bloodlines & Mysteries are presented in Chapter 5, with nearly a score of new bloodlines for sorcerers and seven new mysteries for oracles. Some of the bloodlines are quite creepy types, such as aboleth, ooze, or the Realms Beyond, but there are more mundane and equally interesting ones such as Green, Hyperborean, and Ocean. And there is the ubiquitous reference to the famous gearforged of Midgard with a Mechanical bloodline, and there is even a new mystery for those who favor the Clockwork aspect of things.

There are about a dozen new Archetypes described in the sixth chapter of DEEP MAGIC, and these include several which match traditions presented in this book. Examples here include the Blood Mage, Clockworker, Iounmancer, and Vril Adept, and the archetypes are presented in a standard format for Pathfinder RPG.

Chapter 7 in DEEP MAGIC introduces a wealth of new content for creating Magical Constructs. Here you can find out all about the creation of a homonculus, dangerous leastlings, and crafting different types of undead. There are various feats associated with creature creation here as well, and a short little section with a sample of magic items for familiars.

Finally, the last chapter of DEEP MAGIC contains a host of Sample Spellcasters - a pack of NPCs all designed from the content of this supplement. These NPCs are very well designed, each with his or her (or its) own illustration, full stat block, and in some cases, accompanied by new magic items. There is a full history and background with each NPC as well, and some roleplaying suggestions for use in a campaign. These spellcasters range in level from CR5 to CR20, and can be used as an ally, foe, or plot device in a Pathfinder RPG campaign.

Overall Score: 4.6 out of 5.0


Conclusions

DEEP MAGIC
is one of those supplements that comes along that makes a gamer want to run amok, gathering books and dice to start rolling up a brand new character! And for players who have become jaded with running a spellcaster in too many Pathfinder campaigns, this book is guaranteed to pique the interest those gamers who love a character slinging spells around.

For some GMs, this book also represents an opportunity to breathe new life into an existing campaign with new magical spells and practices. Or it could be the chance to create a whole new campaign setting with one or more magic systems presented in this supplement.

The book is fairly priced for a typical hardbound role-playing game supplement - but given DEEP MAGIC's look, feel, and overall massive contents, some gamers might well be tempted to say "Just shut up and take my money!" For those more frugal RPers, the PDF is bargain priced given the quality of the material inside, and quite convenient for laptop and use in a portable device. But whichever form is chosen, owning a copy of DEEP MAGIC will likely change how a gamer plays spellcasters in Pathfinder RPG forever!


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

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 4.75
  • - Design: 5.0 (Fantastic design; lovely layout; great writing and design!)
  • - Illustrations: 4.5 (Gorgeous art; great artistic talent at work; would like to have seen more!)
  • Content: 4.5
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Stupendously crunchy! Great new content and magic systems!)
  • - Fluff: 4.5 (Awesome fluff! Solid material here to use in campaigns and character creation)
  • Value: 4.5 (It's a big pretty book with tons of magic stuff crammed in it for only 50 bux! And if that's too steep, the PDF is still a steal!!!)
 

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