Conjuration: By Bell, Book and Candle



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Conjuration: By Bell, Book and Candle

Author: August Hahn
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Publish Date: 2003
ISBN: 1-904577-09-1
Pages: 64
Rating: 4 out of 10
Retail Price: $19.95

 

Conjuration is one of my favorite spell schools.Not only can it bring into existence something that wasn’t there before, but it has spells that can rival the damage-dealing ability of the evocation school without being as flashy.Conjuration: By Bell, Book and Candle is the sixteenth book in Mongoose Publishing’s Encyclopedia Arcane series, which I’ve seen good things from in the past.

 

The first part of this book is a general overview of what conjuration magic is exactly.It doesn’t deal with mechanical aspects of the game, and is somewhat opinionated about conjurers.I don’t hold this against the author, though, since I’ve often wondered if monsters summoned by spellcasters hold their temporary servitude against the caster and seek revenge.Apparently, so does the author.

 

The next section of the book begins to reach into new game mechanics, and is fairly hit-and-miss.Something I thought was really cool was a good-sized list of diagrams that can be added to a magic circle that will be used for spells like planar binding.As per Player’s Handbook, this mechanic already exists, but the only option offered lets the caster combine magic circle with dimensional anchor.This new list builds on the same mechanic, but offers other options, such as the ability to cause the bound creature severe pain if it displeases you or grant the called creature bonuses to spell-like ability DCs or make it later forget the summoning experience entirely.This section also touches on what should and shouldn’t be possible with spells like major creation with regards to fine work (the example given was the creation of a key to fit a specific lock), and it ties the spellcasting in fairly well with the Craft skill.

 

This section takes a turn for the worst, however, when it offers up new prestige classes.The first one, the dragonchilde, has very little to do with conjuration at all.It literally turns the spellcaster into a dragon.A loose justification for its inclusion is offered in the idea that dragons somehow exist simultaneously on many planes and can therefore be conjured.I don’t buy it.The second class, the Force Mage was a bit better.It focuses specifically on the conjuration effect of mage armor.While I think this is a good idea, it’s extremely powerful.The Force Mage can use mage armor at will and gains a bonus to the AC it provides equal to class level, which is pretty powerful in and of itself.On top of that, however, the Force Mage can create a force weapon similar to that of the Soulknife, can add the [Force] descriptor to any energy-based spell he casts, can deal up to 10d10 points of force damage with a ranged touch attack and can summon a steed made of pure force.This is obviously a significantly overpowered class.Another new class, the Soulbinder, does what most people probably envision when they think of a conjurer.The Soulbinder is a master of diagram creation and has a good chance of intimidating or convincing the creatures he summons to help him.I actually thought this was a fairly-designed class.The final class, the Spiritcaller, is based somewhat on the idea of a transcendent plane where the spirits of the recently-deceased go before moving on to their final destination.The Spiritcaller essentially conjures creatures from this place, allowing him to call incorporeal versions of summoned creatures (more appropriately, he applies the ghost template to creatures he summons), and eventually allows him to escape true death in the form of a ceremony that ensures that he does not age and that if he dies, his sprit rises as a ghost.This class seems like it might be a lot of extra paperwork, and I’m not too fond of the flavor (seems more like necromancy than conjuration).

 

The next section dealt with new feats.There wasn’t anything specifically wrong with the feats offered, but nothing leapt out as particularly inspired.There were many pencil drawings of scantly-clad women in this section, perhaps placed there specifically to make an uninteresting section look more interesting.After this came new conjuration spells.This section introduces two new spell descriptors, [Prime] and [Hanging].The [Prime] descriptor does little more than limit the spell to being successfully cast only on the Prime Material plane by a corporeal caster.I see little reason for its inclusion.The [Hanging] descriptor signifies a spell that is actually cast when the spellcaster prepares his spells.None of the spells offered have any immediate effects of [Hanging], and it mostly seems to be a justification for spells that increase the ability of other spells as they are cast.For example, the book offers a series of spells called echoing call I-III.Basically, if you have one of these spells prepared, then when you cast a summon monster spell, on the second round, the same number and type of creatures appear, then again on the third and forth rounds as well, effectively quadrupling the number of creatures one can summon.My dislike for this particular spell aside, I’m not fond of the [Hanging] descriptor.It seems like a cheap end run around the use of the contingency spell and the Quicken Spell feat.Most of the spells themselves seem uninspired.There’s a whole line of power word spells that do little more than duplicate the effects of other spell schools.The majority of this section is taken up by instances of numbered spells (such as bind guardian I-X).

 

The next section focuses on new magic items.There were a few such items that should have been written up as magical enhancements rather than specific items.That aside, there were a handful of items in this chapter I feel are pretty good.There’s eternal balm, which is an expensive oil that makes anything created with minor creation or major creation permanent.Then there’s the slate of remembrance, which records the true name of the most recent outsider to attack you.Finally, there are the vile tokens, which are one-use items that are broken to cause a caster’s summoned creatures to go insane and begin attacking their summoner.Nothing else in this section jumped out at me.

 

The final section of this book deals with conjuration from the DM’s point of view.The DM has enough on his plate just running NPCs and combat, and conjuration magic can quickly heap more on him than he might be prepared for.This section gives tips and the DM and any players that focus on conjuration for helping to manage things.Mostly, it advises the same things you’d get from any D&D message board, stats on index cards and the like.Economic issues are touched on briefly, since a conjurer eventually becomes capable of summoning valuable items like gems and gold, selling them and then making a hasty retreat before the spell duration ends and the item disappears.Unfortunately, while I think it’s good that this issue is touched on, what’s given by this book pretty much breaks down to “selling conjured items is bad, mkaay?”Last, the issue of planar revenge is touched on again.Not much is said, but a warning is given to the players of conjurers (and at the same time, the seed of an idea is given the DMs) that while the creatures brought into existence by a summon monster I spell probably aren’t going to pose any issues when they’re gone, creatures powerful enough to warrant a planar binding spell may very well have the resources to take revenge for being summoned against their will.

 

All in all, this book wasn’t terrible, but I expected more.I’d hoped for a great deal more.