Grimoire Tempestus, Enamoris, Cognitas and Repartus

Hej everybody,

today I’ll take a look at Dreadfox Games’ other Grimoires, starting with

 

Grimoire Tempestus

This pdf is 38 pages long,  1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s check this one out!

 

This installment of Dreadfox Games’ Grimoire-series deals with a vast selection of evocation-spells. After 7 pages of spell-lists covering all the core-classes, APG-classes and the magus, we dive headlong into a selection of evocation spells, so do they do anything but blandly blowing up things?

 

Now, evocations are essentially mechanically not too exciting – and this pdf somewhat strives to change that. Take the very first extract, Alchemist’s Revenge: Almost impossible to force down the throat of a foe, this extract burns away his nerves, dealing massive attribute damage. It also forces the subjected victim to vomit forth bile and finally detonate in an explosion of fire, acid and bile. Disturbing and, surprisingly, mechanically interesting with some story-telling potential.

 

On the other side of the equation, we actually get a spell that is rather genius and has a lot of uses: Arcane Extraction. On a  successful caster-level check, it allows a caster to destroy items and transform a part of the item’s value into arcane dust that can be used to cover costs of magic item creation. Speaking of cool ideas: Arcane Surge grants you a +5 bonus to overcome spell resistance, but the spell lasts 11 rounds and every round, the bonus is lowered by 1, thus resulting in a penalty in later levels. Cool spell with some interesting tactical decisions. Magi, Wizards and Sorcerors may now emit a blast of cylindrical electricity, fire or coldness they can continuously emit. Those caught by the blast and fail the save will be up for even more damage if the continuously try to block the blast. Can you see the tough-as-nail dwarf struggling towards the caster while getting progressively more and more blasted? The Blizzard-spell at 9th level is also rather interesting not in its raw damage output, but also since it actually conveys vulnerability to cold, comes with air-control effects and even the option to pin foes beneath ice. I’m also a big fan of the ranger-spell burning caltrops, which actually provides us with a valid caltrop option at higher levels.

 

Among the decidedly lame spells herein are Chain Lightning, least and Chain Lightning, lesser, at 2nd and 4th level, which cap at 5d6 and 10d6, respectively. Boring. There also is a spell that is essentially a variant of a fire shield and a really cool witch-spell:  Curse Elements, a level 9 spell, which gives each elemental spell (through strangely not those with the [acid]-descriptor) a 40%+1% per caster level to blow up in the face of the caster. There are also 4 different elemental primer spells, which allow you to lace yourself with an elemental current, dealing 1d6 damage, but enhancing the next corresponding elemental spell, but also risking having to save against the added effect if you take a lot of damage. There also are explosive spells that e.g. emit a lightning bolt which detonates afterwards. The level 9 explosive reprimand counterspell not only counters spells and deals damage to the casters – unless the spell in question is an abjuration, in which case, the spell backfires on the caster. Nice! Frigid Chrysalis is another interesting spell, encasing the target in a cocoon of ice which, while dealing minimal ice damage, also provides a layer of rigid protection. Surely a spell that takes some thinking to properly use, but I consider it an interesting concept.

Speaking of interesting concept: Jarl Spear grants you a magical weapon, which actually improves if you have a title and are recognized by the populace as a leader. Cool concept that links magic and roleplaying achievements. The witch-cantrip “Lips of Darkness” is also interesting, blowing out an unprotected flame with a whisper, providing us with some interesting iconic options for witches.

 

Bards also get 3 interesting spells, the songs of fire, ice and storms, which can be prolonged by expending bardic performances and succeeding a performance check. Nice synergy of class-abilities and spells. On the slightly less interesting side, we also get the “Soul of…”-spells (Fire, Ice and Thunder), which help against detrimental temperature effects and can be canceled by appropriate damage dealt to you. There also are spells to conjure a fox of ice and snow, a thunder hawk ad similar elemental quasi-sentient beings that you can direct and send through foes. Ok, I guess, but not too exciting.

 

What I really enjoyed were the 4 wind-spells: From the refreshing rain brought by the Eastern Wind to the elemental-enhancing properties of the northern wind, these spells not only are interesting, they also come with a rather cool idea: If you provide an expensive component, you can actually store the respective wind in a bag, suspending the spell until you open it. A neat idea straight from classic fairy-tales and implemented rather well.

DriveThruRPG.com

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ 2-column b/w-standard with its vine-borders. The pdf has no artworks apart from the one on the cover and comes with extensive nested bookmarks. I fully expected to be underwhelmed by Grimoire Tempestus – after all, evocations are those flashy damage-dealers that don’t make for too interesting spells. Dreadfox Games have managed to do something unexpected here,  that is there actually are some rather interesting spells herein: The synergy between class features and spells is fun and there are some spells here that require some clever thinking to properly use – which is nice indeed! However, there also are a couple of script-spells that mechanically feel a bit bloated. There also are a couple of spells I’d consider at best filler, the lesser variants of chain lightning being prime examples. Nevertheless, generally, the spells felt rather interesting. The pdf is not exactly cheap, coming sans artworks, which constitutes another minor detrimental factor.  All in all, I found this installment of the Grimoire-series enjoyable, though it does not rise to the brilliance of the Mutamateria or Illusionatus-installments, not due to balance-issues this time around, but due to there being some spells herein that can be considered as fillers. Since the majority is rather well-crafted, though, and since there’s not much filler, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

 

Grimoire Enamoris

The fifth of Dreadfox Games’ Grimoires is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 27 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

 

After 6.5 pages of spell-lists, we are introduced to a wide array of new enchantment-spells. Due to not wanting to cover each spell separately,  I’ll instead give you an overview of spells I consider remarkable in one way or another.

 

All right, let’s start with some spells I have problems with: Arcane Compulsion lets you declare one spell or spell-like ability and forces the target8s) to use it at the next possible opportunity – per se not a bad spell, but it relies utterly on metagame-knowledge, something I try to keep to a minimum in my campaign. depending on the style of your gameplay, you might also be annoyed by that one. The arrow of compassion/disdain spells for the ranger are also peculiar in that they enchant an arrow to make the hit target of the projectile feel compassion or disdain towards a designated target. While you might think about Cupid/an agent of strife, the arrow deals regular damage, making it hard for me to think about a situation in which this makes sense – you’re not going to be nice to the person who just shot you, after all…

 

The Compulsive Riddle spell is cool per se: You create a compulsion and pose a riddle to the target, who becomes immediately obsessed with solving the riddle – any correct answer will do, btw. The example given “What common word has 3 consecutive sets of double letters?” and its two answer-examples are rather neat: “Bookkeeper” is correct, as would be “woollen”. Gotta remember that if I ever get to DM for an English-speaking group.  Speaking of compelling spells: “Compel Draft” returns a subject’s eyes milky white and force them to reproduce  any texts or written symbols they have recently seen – the options for investigations and espionage are awesome. Another spell with quite an interesting potential is listener’s coercion – it forces the person to actually do what they say – sounds boring? Add the twist that the spell ignores negations and you’re in for a fun tool to trick foes and create convoluted, dastardly plots.

 

Speaking of convoluted situations: Memory Void lets the subject forget the last 10 minutes, enabling you to retry e.g. a social check and eliminating the casting of the spell from the recipient’s memory. Now the fun begins as soon as the spell ends, for full knowledge of the prior 10 minutes resumes, creating essentially a creature that has two sets of memories of reacting towards a specific circumstance. Now think on how players can use that and how it can be used against them – neat, isn’t it? Mindstorm is a mechanically interesting spell: Taking the mechanics of power words (your HD vs. the targets HD, no save), this lvl 9 spell has different effects on its targets depending on the difference between their intelligence and yours, potentially even resulting in permanent int drain.

 

And then there are my two favorite spell in this book: Overwhelming presence grants everyone but you total concealment against the target creature until the spell ends or if they attack the foe, making this a great diversion-for-infiltration spell, while reflective compulsion may be one of the most complex, yet incredibly cool spells I’ve seen done for the enchantment-school: You and the subject must declare which direction you are facing at the casting of this spell – the subject is compelled to do what you do, but you are also compelled to reflect the subject’s actions. Now, there is vast tactical potential in this spell and even if you don’t want to use it yourself, I can see myself designing a mirror-dungeon and linking the PC-group with adversaries via this spell – may the fun begin! (*hint to all 3pp-authors out there: Want to try that? I’d love to see such a  dungeon!*)

 

The final winners I’d like to comment on are the 3 “Vicarious…”-spells.  The first is rather harmless: Any alcoholic drink you consume affects all watching you as if they had drunk it themselves – Cayden is grinning. Where the series starts to get nasty is “Vicarious Poison” – this one affects all creatures with the poison you drink. Yes, you have to drink poison, but so what, there are spells that make you immune… Nasty! Finally, the most versatile and high-level spell does the same with potions. And there are some nasty potions out there – since this is also available for the alchemist, we’re having an interesting gamut of options here, albeit one whose potential for abuse is hard to judge. The horribly unbalanced “Kiss of Death” has also gotten a similar spell “Kiss of Slumber”, which thankfully grants a will-save – at 24 hours sleep, that’s necessary! Good to see the Dreadfoxes’ design continues to improve.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ two-column, printer-friendly, thorn-bordered standard and there are no artworks. What I noticed more often than in other publications is that there are more spell-headers at the bottom of the page, with the spell description on the next – nothing to truly complain about, but not too pleasant either. The pdf has no artworks, but comes fully bookmarked.

 

I’ve written in my review of the last Grimoire and I’ll gladly repeat it here – it takes quite a bit to impress me with spells these days. And on the plus-side, Grimoire Enamoris does have a couple of spells that can be considered innovative, cool and smart. On the downside, though, none of the spells herein impressed me as much as a lot of the ones featured in “Grimoire Mutamateria” did. In fact, a lot of the spells herein unfortunately didn’t feel exciting or too compelling (haha!) to me – I guess I made my will-save. Kidding aside, there are stellar spells herein, but also ones I’d consider to be filler at best. Spells to help haggling? Come on, regular compulsions and charms/dominates can do that as well and there are spells that let you suppress “fatigue and grant +2 to Str and Dex” for a minute. Exciting is different. What I’m trying to say here is that the gulf between utter awesomeness like “Reflective Compulsion” and aforementioned boring buffs (Surge of Enthusiasm, btw.) is rather wide.

That being said, in contrast to the first two Grimoires I did not encounter a spell with which I had massive balance concerns – thus, while not as awesome as the last two Grimoires (Illusionatus and Mutamateria), this is still a good pdf, albeit at the upper price-range. My final verdict will thus be 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since the pdf can still be considered a good purchase that does not deserve being called average.

 

 

Grimoire Cognitas 

This installment of the Grimoire-series is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s check out Dreadfox Games’ take of Divination-spells!

 

After 7 pages of spell-lists by class, we immediately dive into the new spells, so what exactly do we get? Well, one of the first spells we get, Cartograph, is rather cool in concept: Not only does it allow you to immediately escape a maze-spell, it also creates a detailed map of your surroundings, allowing for a good reason for the DM to hand out maps. However, I do have one gripe with the spell: While it specifies that it does not show non-stationary terrain or doors, the limits of the spell are hard to judge: A manmade complex with doors for example wouldn’t show doors, but potentially secret rooms. Or would it? There also are spells herein that allow the caster to attack a foe with a touch attack, temporarily emulating the senses of the being touched. Collective currents makes for an interesting divination spell that can be very helpful regarding investigations and plots: Coming in 3 variant effects, the spell can either determine the most knowledgeable subject in sight, in a large radius or on your plane regarding a specific topic. Among the detect spells, detect word makes for a truly interesting spell since it allows you to determine a word and hear the word as well as the subsequent 20 words uttered by someone in the radius. Now, this might seem broken and destined to ruin any mystery – but it doesn’t. If the word is uttered in too rapid a succession, the echoes might stun you or send you into unconsciousness, requiring careful deliberation on behalf of players to properly use the spell.

 

Among the more common spells, we also get some that allow targets a bonus to linguistics and knowledge-checks – ok, I guess, but not particularly exciting. Foretell Destiny is a problematic spell in my book, determining the aura of an unborn, predicting whether an unborn will become good or evil. The whole nurture vs. nature-discussion immediately springs to mind and while the spell is supposed to be hard to interpret, the problem here is that the spell lacks a comprehensive list of aura-color, relegating this spell down to essentially a DM-fiat. Good design is something different. On the other hand, hypothetical vision is cool, essentially allowing you “Sherlock Holmes”-vision, i.e. a mental simulation of a creature’s reaction to something you do/say etc. It’s also rather cool to see that the spell can be used in conversation since its verbal component is rather subtle. Read Intentions does something very similar, but on a much higher level and more generally and needs a competing skill-check to work – slightly repetitive. On the unpleasant side, the Insightful Sacrament-spell is for example a spell that enchants a liquid and allows those that partake in it to see auras as per both detect evil and detect good. Both base-spells are lame and a combination of both is no better, even with the liquid-fluff. Now there also are some spells herein that should be considered interesting like the witch spell “Map of Fetishes” which allows you to attune objects and a map. The creature to last touch the object can be tracked on the map – cool. For each such cool spell, though, we also get ones that are rather bland like momentary discovery/favored ranger, which temporarily grant access to the respective class abilities.

 

Rules-wise, there also are multiple spells that hit a minor pet-peeve of mine: Multiple d20-rolls. Navigate Realities (and its greater version) allow you to roll 3d20 (or 5d20s) respectively and substitute checks you make subsequently with the predetermined results. Per se ok for 6th and 9th level,  but the spell allows you to influence ANY d20-roll within 30 feet of you thus. Even with the drawback of staggering you, the spells feel rather powerful to me, but, as mentioned, that’s a pet-peeve of mine and something I felt the need to address, but not something that will adversely influence my final verdict. I mentioned the Sherlock Holmes-style prescience and there’s also a combat-centric spell doing something like this: Perceptive Deflection allows you to add your perception skill modifier to AC for one attack. Speaking of senses: Summoners and eidolons may now also merge their senses, granting supernatural senses depending on combined perception modifiers. Perfect Recall and its mass version work somehow like the recalling ability of the modify memory spell, making the powers feel like lesser versions of said spell.

 

There also are weird Planar Sweep-spells for aberrations, animals and outsiders, which allow the caster to look for a respective being and subsequently summon it via the respective monster spells. The spells require a minimum skill rank to work respectively. What’s weird, though, is that their text always refers to “Planar Vision” instead of “Planar Sweep”. There is also a  spell granting a druid the option to add half your wis-modifier to your physical attributes when wildshaping. There are also 3 interconnected spells that I really consider interesting mechanics-wise. Prophetic Trace allows the caster to create a glyph that can then be used with the prophetic call-spell to make a prophetic encounter (a 3rd spell), which essentially is an incorporeal outline of the subject that can communicate with the callers. Nice!

 

Also rather cool (to find keys, for example), is Scavenger’s Dweomer, which alerts you to the presence of a specified object. And then there’s a spell I’d consider utterly, completely broken: Spellsight allows you to discern ALL limited use spells and spell-like abilities with a DC lower than your Spellcraft-check. Worse, the subject can only impose a -10 penalty and exclude 3 on a failed save and there’s not even a spell-resistance. This spell sucks. It makes concealed and disguised people obvious, while giving the players a massive advantage and since there are evil spells, the spell may also wreck a LOT of plots. Never gonna happen in my game, especially not at the paltry spell level of 3. There’s also yet another teleport tracing spell – lame. On the cool side, Transcendent Luck is rather interesting: It negates a hit or critical hit, but when attacked by the same foe within 3 rounds, the next hit is an automatic critical hit. There also are two variant true seeing spells, which land on my “lame”-list, while waking dreams rocks hard: The spell allows you to invade a target’s perception while sleeping, though the creature may pass your perception on to other willing creatures. Druids may now also use winds to communicate at 60 mph and even draw wind maps in the sand – again, neat!

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect  – I noticed some minor glitches and here and there, some clarification regarding how spells work are in order. Layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ 2-column thorn-lined standard and comes sans artworks. The pdf does have extensive bookmarks, though. Divinations are my favorite spells. Divinations are my most hated spells. Why? Because adventure-writers often have a bad grasp of what can be done with divinations and fail to address their impact on mysteries and investigations. When used properly, they can greatly enhance awesome plots and prevent dead-ends. But e.g. detect spells tend to be annoying, especially when not properly limited. That being said, divination may not be flashy, but in my opinion can be absolutely mind-bogglingly cool.

Unfortunately, though, this installment of the Grimoire-series falls slightly short of this potential: There are quite a bunch of boring filler-spells herein as well as spells that need clarification, have been done before. Generally, when compared to other installments of the Grimoire-series, the rules herein are just not that innovative, instead mostly relying on types of spells that, while cool, fail to evoke the sense of wonder evoked by Mutamateria or Illusionatus. Dreadfox Games’ spells are best when they are pushing the boundaries of how spells work and what to do with them and this pdf simply failed to truly surprise me with any of its component spells. The ideas are not bad, in fact, there are some great spells here, but overall,  the grimoire feels slightly uninspired and filled with more filler-spells, variants of existing ones etc. The pdf is also not exactly cheap for the amount of content provided. In the end, this pdf feels like one of the weakest installments of the series so far: Yes, it has something to offer for you, but I can’t really pronounce an all-out recommendation for this pdf. My final verdict will thus be 3 stars.

 

 

Grimoire Repartus 

 

The last installment of Dreadfox Games’ Grimoire-series is 33 pages long,  1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s check out their take on abjuration-spells!

 

After about 7 pages of spell-lists by character-classes, we delve into the respective spells, kicking of with the Aegis of Energy-spell, which adds temporary hit points to curing effects via positive or negative energy effects. The very second spell this pdf offers, Aerial Mantle, makes AoOs automatically miss the target and depending on the strength of the wind surrounding the target, have their attacks rebounded on them with a bonus depending on wind strength. Druids get an significantly-enhanced spell duration, which is nice. What isn’t nice at all is that the spell is essentially ruined by the fact that it does not specify whether it needs aforementioned, at least “strong” winds, to work at all or whether it conjures the storm winds up as a partial effect of the casting. In the end, we don’t know and in my humble opinion, such a limiting factor would be necessary, since without it an auto-miss for ALL AoOs is overpowered. Rather interesting and cool is Arcane Gravity: A spell that lets you temporarily seal whole spell-levels off: If you chose to e.g. seal of level 3, you can’t cast level 1, 2 or 3 spells. As a trade-off, your effective HD for purposes of spells like cloudkill etc., is increased by the value of the highest spell-level you chose to seal off. VERY cool!

 

Not so cool: Axis of Resistance: The subject’s SR is increased by +2 for every source of SR he/she/it has in excess of 1. Stacking SR via a spell, even if it is such a minor stacking, is a design-decision I can’t really get behind. While probably at the top-most a bonus of +6 or 8 will be achieved, it’s a typical powergaming-enhancing type of design. Corpus Examinus  is a witch-spell of unique iconicity and ranks among the best I’ve seen in a while: It allows you to painlessly sever parts of your body to control them as separated entities with Hp you determine, abilities depending on the body part you chose to extract. A table e.g. lists options to use evil eye via extracted eyes etc. Better yet: The options of regeneration etc. and the interaction with the spell are taken into account. Unfortunately, there are also problematic spells: The cantrip (elven) sobriety eliminates the effects of alcohol. I’ve seen that one before, in Rite Publishing’s 101 0-level spells, and I already hated the idea there – an end of the hangover plots, of drinking contests and a major detriment to grittiness and the results of alcohol consumption. Violent drunken guy heading your way? Just cantrip him! An ok idea with problematic repercussions for a campaign-world’s internal logic.

 

Field of Disintegration, on the other hand, is rather smart: You conjure a field that is very detrimental towards weapons that hit it, resulting in a lot of broken weapons and damage for those employing natural weapons – but before you start screaming unbalanced: With some sharpening after combat, the negative effects of this spell can actually be negated, which is rather neat! Hand of Rescue would be anotehr winner: Reducing the weight of the target creature, it even allows you to potentially throw the respective character a short distance, acting as a crunchy representation of the iconic rescuing catch of an almost-plunging-to-death-comrade. Luminore’s Refractive Shell would be another interesting spell that eliminates invisibility and blurring effects in a small area, but cannot be used offensively – interesting, clever, neat! There also are two rather nice spells that allow you to create a reservoir of positive or negative energy respectively, acting as a kind of limited battery of the energy by foregoing healing by the energy. Repel Malignancy makes for yet another interesting idea, creating an impassable barrier that cannot be crossed by anyone who uttered any negative word to you in the last 24 hours, even if the words were meant as a form of criticism. There is also an interesting ritual herein, like the antipaladin’s royal impunity, which sacrifices a virgin over 12 hours and sells one’s soul to a fiend, but grants immunity to infernal powers exerted by non-noble fiends.

 

Two spells also are interesting in that their respective powers are tied to the time of the day, which is interesting, even though it requires some tracking on the player’s part. There also are spells in here to suppress magical traps temporarily and a smart capstone level 9 druid-spell that makes one transmutation film essentially impossible to dispel, but inflicting damage on you if the spell in question would otherwise be dispelled.  Speaking of cool interaction with transmutation: There’s also a spell that potentially  adds harmless transmutation effects to other creatures beyond the primary target.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. layout adheres to Dreadfox Games’ two-column standard with its thorny borders and parchment-style background. There are no artworks herein, but the pdf is extensively bookmarked.

This collection of abjuration spells is interesting once again – displaying DFG’s creativity with far-out spell concepts, the content herein is often bold in mechanics and imaginative in design. Not always, though: Some spells, as with many of the Grimoire-books, are variations of already existing ones. And in others, creativity backfires and can potentially create logic bugs in your setting – handling these with care is of tantamount importance. That being said, the majority of the content herein is interesting and should enrich a spellcaster’s arsenal or a DM’s creative arsenal to use and spin tales from. While not reaching the peak of genius of Grimoire Mutamateria or Grimoire Illusionatus, this pdf is actually one of the better installments of the series. Thus, I’ll remain with a final verdict of 4 stars and a recommendation to everyone who is looking for some truly different abjurations.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

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Reviewer without a cause