With a weight of 15 pages (cover and OGL eating two of those) this PDF starts us out with an absolutely gorgeous cover piece of art from Lin Bo. The iconography of this cover piece definitely convey the sense of ancient secrets of power. Internally, the artwork is B&W, with pieces ranging from good to OK. This PDF continues a new look from the SGG camp for layout, going with a full page cover and dual column with embedded artwork formatting approach. Editing and spelling both appeared to be excellent, nothing really jumped out and caught my attention.
Building an entirely new game mechanic, and form of magic, from three spells essentially would be daunting to say the least. It’s not like there was truly a lot there to establish a ground work to build on, nothing established and accepted anyway. And yet, that’s exactly what has been done here, and done in a logical, clear and understandable manner. The flow of thought behind the choices make sense, utilizing what could easily have been a game unbalancing element with an impressive precision, a more scalpel approach as opposed to the sword. What we end up with is essentially the first spoken language holding within the sound of the words the power of perfection, in that these are the terms that originally defined the universe, and all within it, before the many races and beings diluted the language down into their own tongues. An entire language that reverberated with power through those who spoke it. As time marched on this language lost a great deal of its inner power due to it no longer being the pinnacle of definition for reality, but it still operates perfectly as a form of channeling mystic powers into a clear and precise singular thought.
Introducing 7 new feats all tied to the concept of learning and exploring more of the First Language, we are given:
First Language Syntax – increasing the hp categories of your power words by a percentage, and a Greater variety of same feat.
Heighten Power Word – increase the effective level of your Power Word spells, thereby increasing the hp maximums.
Lore of the First Language – read magic at will as well as communicate in any language.
Master of the First Language – Swap prepared spells for power word spellslingers
Speaker of the First Language – power word spell as a spell like ability
Split Word – two targets with one power word spell, splitting the effect between them.
What book on a new avenue of magic to explore would be complete without new spells, Owen was kind enough to give us 20 within this collection, and I personally am hoping to see a Bullet Point at least giving us a few more. Bards, the Magus, Sorcerers, Wizards, and Witches all see new spells added to their lists with this set, with a great deal of overlap (obviously). Not wanting to go through the entire list and ruin the book for you, we’ll pick out a few choice samples, such as Power Word Mute, Frighten, Combust, Inspire and Bleed. The mechanics for each operate as the original three, targeting a specific range determined by the targets current hp total at the casting of the spell. And yes, we now have Power Word options all the way down to level 1 spells, with Dazzle, Fascinate and Hesitate. Spells are presented in standard class listings followed by full definitions. Contained within the spell descriptions is a ¾ page discussion on the issue of balance, and what had to be considered and weighed with the design of these spells, as the issue of balancing a body of spells with no saves is a concern, and done wrong, could destroy a game. I’ll tell you this much, the argument put forth within this discussion makes some very good points that put the power word spells in a different light by comparing them to the spells they share levels with, and the circumstances under which they must be used or simply not have the desired effects.
Finishing out with a new treat for clerical types, the Logos Domain draws upon the primal power of the First Language, with a domain spell list taken from the collection of twenty new spells. Along with the spell list, Logos followers receive three domain powers (based upon level) such as bonus languages from Wisdom as well as Intelligence, with no limit on languages to choose from. Voice of Power allows for a swift action casting of a power word spell, and Power Word Command – acting as a the command spell. It should be noted that only through this domain do clerical types have any access to these additional power word spells.
Final thoughts, this is the type of book I love to see design wise. Taking something small, but iconic, from the accepted collective that we all know and have fond memories of utilizing and being victimized by throughout the years, and expanding it to allow for so much more. The idea of specialists comes to mind instantly, and I can only hope the Geniuses are contemplating along those very same lines (if not someone else…hint..hint). Is there potential for mass abuse and game breaking mechanics? Sure. There was in Ultimate Combat and the APG also. Any playgroup can tear down the system if you let them, which is why it is up to a GM to control the flow of new material, and take the initiative to introduce ideas properly. This is one of those ideas that is worth that introduction, as there are some truly cool ideas contained within the simplicity of the power words. And besides, who doesn’t want to field a spell chucker with an arsenal of power that requires not but one word to unleash?
Final rating can be no less than a 5 for this, as my only complaint is that I want more. An archetype, more spells, perhaps even a bloodline…there is so much here to work with.