This installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 44 pages,1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Knowledge is power. This sentence has become a bit of a cliché. Okay, it *IS* a huge cliché. It is true nonetheless. From Latin to runes, language as a means of transporting knowledge in a written form is exceedingly powerful and ideas, ultimately, are the most powerful weapons of all.
As has become the tradition with the Call to Arms-series, we thus begin the pdf with a complex array of ruminations on the nature of text, its functions and components, not shirking e.g. the issues of copying and translation. (And anyone who has ever compare e.g. Shakespeare, Baudelaire or Goethe translations with the original will certainly attest a cringe-worthy quality that can result here…) In a fantastic context, the concept is similarly important, if not even more so: The pdf does mention Chambers’ classic The King in Yellow, which may well have provided an initial spark for Lovecraft and others…as often, the idea cuts deep.
One of my central gripes with Pathfinder as a system has always been the fact that tomes basically suffer from a rather niche existence; when compared to e.g. the Witcher games, where knowledge is the most valuable good you can have in combat with the weird creatures of the earth, it is significantly less important in our games and has less mechanical repercussions…and this one tries to fix that. The pdf collates, collects and expands the mundane tomes released so far, introducing arcane school reference books, chronicles etc. – rules-wise, these generally grant bonuses to associated checks when referencing the book or studying it. 3 new types of spellbooks (and two classics) can be found within these pages as well. The pdf also features two spellbooks with preparation rituals. (one for magus and one for the investigator.)
Beyond that, the pdf also collects all types of intriguing books herein – from the golem manuals to the summoning extenders and manuals that increase your attributes, grant combat feats. Very cool for sorcerors: Pages of Spell Knowledge. These pages contain a single spell; prepared casters may expend a spell slot of the appropriate spell slot to cast the spell on the page. A writ allows for instant atonement benefits, but requires longer hours of studying to maintain the benefits. As always in the series, we get a cursed tome and an intelligent item: The latter being A Young Person’s Phantasmagorical Primer, which contains fairy tales and allows persons featuring only NPC classes to gain the training required for PC classes and the book’s illusory realms are interesting, to say the least. Beyond that, we also get a total of 3 mythic books, one of which enhances a character’s capabilities when dealing with extraplanar creatures and another nets cruel jokes. Finally, another book allows for reincarnate. The book also contains 3 artifacts – the classic book of infinite spells, the codex of the lower planes and a take on the mother of all evil books, the intelligent necronomicon, including an advanced soul eater that may come for you. (CR 15, just fyi.) And yes, the book is cursed.
The pdf does contain two different spells, one that translates a book perfectly into ancient dwarven and one that animates a quill to copy writing. As always, though, we do receive a couple of variant rules, the first of which would be modifications for Linguistics to account for time-related changes in dialects, handwriting, translation qualities, if applicable, etc.
More importantly, the pdf does feature rules for forbidden knowledge – studiyng texts like this may result in corruption and the more thorough you study the texts, the harder it will be to resist the nasty effects of the respective tomes. Certain actions will trigger corruption saves and on a failure, the character gains a corruption point – all pretty simple. Here’s the cool thing, though: Tehse points can be used as either mythic power, hero points, as sanity…or a combination of them all, depending simply on your own tae on the subject matter, with proper synergy with the much-anticipated new Shadows over Vathak campaign setting book. A total of 3 such tainted tomes end this installment of Call to Arms on a high note.
Editing and formatting are good; while I noticed a couple of typo level glitches and would have loved slightly modified wording here and there, as a whole, the rules-language remains sufficiently precise to not result in any issues. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf has some neat full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Richard D. Bennett’s revised take on Tomes of Power is a fun offering, with in particular the variant rules herein being an inspired array of modifications. The book, as a whole, is a fun offering and delivers what it promises. In contrast to some of the other Call to Arms-books, though, it does feel a tad bit less evocative: A lot of the options here in the book are pretty conservative in the items represented – the more powerful items, for example, are either classic in concepts or, in the case of the mythic books, pretty weak. Apart from the evocative intelligent book and the awesome forbidden tomes, I simply wasn’t as blown away here, since I already knew a lot of the concepts here. This does not make the pdf bad, mind you, but it does deprive it of a place amid the best of these books. In the end, this is a good book – and well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.
You can get this neat book here on OBS!