Compelete Arcane


Complete Arcane

Author: Richard Baker
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Publish Date: 11/2004
ISBN: 0-7869-3435-2
Pages: 192
Rating: 9 out of 10
Retail Price: $29.95


After reading through Complete Psionic, I was a little hesitant to read Complete Arcane. While I liked the other books in the Complete series, I was worried I would be in for another disappointment. Fortunately, my fears weren’t realized.

As is always the case with Complete books, this book begins with a chapter on new classes. In this case, the classes were the warlock, war mage and wu-jen. I’ve heard a lot about the warlock since this book came out, so I was eager to see what all the hype was about. As it turns out, the warlock is basically a caster that doesn’t learn spells as we know them, but instead has the ability to fire off magical attacks at will. I didn’t see a lot wrong with the class, and I think that it might replace the wizard and sorcerer in games where arcane magic has a different flavor, but I’m not overly eager to add the warlock to my own game. It seems somewhat overcomplicated and to be honest, given that its magic comes from spell-like abilities rather than spells, the write-up seemed a little like an exercise in semantics. The war mage was basically a cross between a sorcerer and a fighter, which is exactly what I expected. The benefit of this class rather than a multiclass build is that the war mage learns how to cast spells while wearing armor, much like a bard does. Finally, there was the wu-jen, a wizard-like oriental arcane caster that utilizes the Chinese elements of earth, fire, metal, water and wood. This class reminds me a little bit of the psion class, due to the fact that a wu-jen chooses one element to specialize in and he gains a bonus on spells with that element descriptor. I have nothing against the wu-jen, but given the nature of many of the class’s spells, I think it might have been more interesting had it been written to replace the druid rather than the wizard.

Next was a chapter full of prestige classes. On the whole, this chapter was average. There were a few good prestige classes (I was quite pleased to see that the alienist was included), a few bad (such as the green star adept, which seemed to have little to do with arcane magic and more to do with turning oneself into an intelligent construct) but most were straddling the fence of mediocrity.

The next chapter dealt with feats. There was a short blurb at the beginning about how to deal with feats that require a specific caster level and the warlock, which seems to back up my theory that the class is more effort than I’d be willing to put into it. The larger part of the feats in this chapter were actually pretty good, which is a definite deviation from most of the books Wizards of the Coast produces. A handful of them grant the use of specific spell-like abilities. I was pleased to see so many new metamagic feats, including the “sudden” metamagic feats, which allow you to apply metamagic to a spell once per day without changing the casting time or spell level. I was disappointed, though, to see only one new item creation feat.

As is to be expected, the new spells chapter in Complete Arcane was very large... fifty one full pages! I was actually quite impressed with several of the spells included in this chapter. Even though I don’t intend to use the wu-jen in my own game, I will definitely consider porting more than a few of the wu-jen’s spells over to be used by wizards and sorcerers (and a few could be ported over to the druid as well). The list of warlock invocations was also found in this chapter, none of which seemed to be overpowered or out of place.

Next was the requisite chapter about magic items that anyone should expect to find in a book about arcane magic. The actual items listed weren’t bad, but where the chapter really shined was the description about alternate types of magic item. Some examples given were potions in the form of tiles that can be broken instead of ingested and scrolls that are actually a series of macramé knots instead of ink on paper. Another point of interest in this chapter was a three-page description about spellbooks, what they’re made from and how they can be protected.

The sixth chapter was rather short, and dealt with new monsters. Except for the effigy, a creature that is basically a robotic version of an existing creature (a dire lion is used as the example), I thought the monsters were very well-designed. I was extremely pleased to see an updated version of the pseudonatural creature template.

The final chapter was dedicated to discussions about how to include arcane casters into a campaign. There is a lengthy discussion about each of the types of arcane caster, including each type of specialist wizard. I thought that was very thoughtful. Some discussion was given to how the DM should handle spells that could potentially ruin all of the DM’s hard work, such as charm monster and fly. The chapter also featured a section about how to perform arcane spell duels, though to be honest, that seemed like a lot more work than it was worth. The last major section of the chapter dealt with a few arcane organizations and colleges. Most of these lead back to a prestige class from chapter 2, and would be pretty helpful to a DM that had a PC with levels in such a class.

I was much more impressed with Complete Arcane than I have been with some of Wizards of the Coast’s other work. The book might have benefited a bit from a discussion about elements, since the medieval European and Chinese element structures were both used and the subject has the potential to get a bit confusing. Aside from that, I don’t have any major gripes about the book.