Arcane Archetypes is another edition of archetype packages from the good folks at Super Genius Games. Like the last batch of archetypes I reviewed, these are alternate takes on a theme that can be used in place of some of the normal class features characters gain. This time, however, it’s magic, not archery.
Due to the magical nature of these archetypes, and the class features sacrificed to use them, these archetypes could swing anywhere on the balance board with some combinations of archetypes and classes being utterly horrible and others may crack the game in half. Due to the amount of content I don’t want to spoil, and my desire to discuss some of the more powerful or interesting archetypes, I’m not going to cover them all in depth, but I’ll hit the highlights.
First off, some of the archetypes are limited to only casters or only noncasters. This is a key balancing feature and a good flavor limitation as well. The big brainy wizard is not likely to need the Pact Scion archetype because he already gets spells. The rogue might not back-alley deal with Cthulhu in order to get some mojo. I really like the Pact Scion archetype in that it represents making a deal with a higher power for magical aptitude in exchange for gold . . . or worse. In this case “or worse” is a small bit of subdual damage, but this combined with having to sacrifice some of your class features means that the character using this archetype may end up weaker than he would be without it, unless he was very wealthy.
An interesting choice was the Shadow Master archetype. It’s spellcasters only, but that’s probably a good thing, seeing as Shadow Masters can cast any spell, by making it count as a higher spell level, and praying your target doesn’t disbelieve the spell. A Shadow Master’s power comes from people not knowing what they’re dealing with, and once they pass the will save to disbelieve, the spell only does 1/5 of whatever it was supposed to. This gives Shadow Masters ridiculous versatility, but makes them less likely to succeed when they actually do cast. This is an interesting choice, and one that I would need to see on the battlefield before I could pass judgment on balance. I might have my resident power gamer try to break it later, but I’d test it in a one shot adventure before I allow it in a full campaign.
Sigil Mage is possibly my favorite archetype. It’s pretty much a wizard whose spell book is on their body. That’s flavorly cool, and so is the ability to sacrifice one of their higher level spell slots to prepare two lower level ones. Sadly, you only get to cast one of those prepared spells, but having more options is good for the utility spell caster for the group, and sigil based sorcerers get access to more spells this way. The down side is that these spells can be erased with touch attacks from the Erase spell and any loss of limbs will cut off your access to the spells on that arm. I’d play this class without the benefits just for the tattoo mage flavor.
Now this brings me to the archetype I’m most worried about, Spellbaze. The Spellblaze only gets one ability, to fire off blasts of energy that deal 1d8+1/2 class level and gaining another d8 every five levels. This one I could see the noncaster classes looking at pretty hard. I don’t know if the blast is worth the few feats the Fighter would give up for it, but I suspect it may be worth some sneak attack damage to a Rogue for a few blasts a day. I suppose 1d8 isn’t too over powered, but I think I’d take this over the Monk’s ki pool every time. Yes, I know high jump, beating DR and all that, I got amulets of mighty fists and monk robes to handle that. I just want to Hadouken.
The Warder is an archetype that allows people to counterspell, that would not normally be able to. It’s nice, but I’m not sure it’s worth the tradeoffs unless you really want to shut down some enemy casters. Maybe if your DM really likes big evil wizards everywhere you might want it.
A lot of these don’t seem like they’d be worth the losses, but I could see a Shadow Master or Spell Blaze running around, depending on what class they’re attached to.
Arcane Archetypes is available from RPGNow in PDF form.