Arcane Power at Your Fingertips
Every sentient creature is born with some potential to work magic. However, true mastery of arcane magic requires skill, practice, and power beyond the reach of common folk - specifically, the power to harness raw magic and shape it into a desired effect. You are among those gifted few who have learned to channel arcane magic, shaping it to serve your creative or destructive whims.
This D&D supplement is intended for players and Dungeon Masters. In addition to providing the definitive treatise on arcane magic, it expands the character options available to users of arcane magic, including bards, sorcerers, wizards, assassins, warlocks, and wu jen. Herein you'll find never-before-seen prestige classes, spells and invocations, magic items, alchemical items, heritage feats, and reserve feats (a new type of feat that grants special abilities to those who remain charged with magical power). Alternative class features give other character classes - from the barbarian to the rogue - a little taste of what it's like to be an arcanist without sacrificing their core identities.
For use with these Dungeons & Dragons core books: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual.
Complete Mage (2006), by Skip Williams, Penny Williams, Ari Marmell, and Kolja Raven Liquette, is one of the best of the Complete books for 3.5 D&D. It delves into the nature of magic, outlines arcane archetypes, gives alternative class features, and provides a variety of new spells and prestige classes for customizing arcane heroes. This is one of those books that does a superb job of covering its bases - from new magical adventuring locations to allowing a truly unique spellcaster, it provides vast customization for spellcasters.
Overall, this is a book well worth owning. It's solid and fun to read from start to finish, full of good advice and imaginative arcane options.
What Archetype? One of the things I particularly like about Complete Mage is its method of giving you archetypes that you can then play off of, or play against, as you see fit. Spellcasters in D&D have a tremendous amount of variability and options. It's useful for players to be able to say, "I want to play a blaster" or "I want my character to be a great spy," and then have details listed for the most appropriate (and worst) feats, spells, classes, and prestige classes. This sort of knowledge brings new players up the learning curve quickly, helping them find fun and effective characters without needing to research every existing supplement.
What's Your Alternative? It's also worth mentioning how useful alternative class features are. These swap out existing class features for balanced options. If you want a ranger who hunts wizards instead of giants, a swashbuckler who can make magically enhanced leaps, or a rogue who can literally reflect spells back at their caster, these options are intrinsically well balanced and make the game more fun.
As expected, there's a slew of new feats. These focus on Heritage feats (granting a power due to a hero's ancestry), Reserve feats (requiring an uncast spell to be held in reserve in order to gain a spell-like benefit), and Tactical feats (opening up powerful options in relatively unusual or rare situations). Of course, Metamagic feats abound. It's interesting in particular, for those who like such things, to note that Reserve feats simulate the at-will casting of warlocks or 4e D&D casters for arcane casters in 3.5 D&D.
Spells, Prestige Classes, and Arcane Items. Eleven prestige classes are presented herein, and it's interesting that not all are intended for traditional spellcasters. The abjurant champion is meant for warriors who dabble in protective magics, for instance, but it will provide a tempting dip class for wizards who wish to be more martial. The unseen seer gives stealthy heroes some divination magic. And I'm pleased to say that the occasionally neglected bard receives some love with the lyric thaumaturge prestige class, although this PrC's flavor text suggests that it was originally intended for bard/arcane caster multiclass characters.
There are a tremendous number of new spells included, with every arcane class represented: assassins, bards, hexblades, rangers, wu jen, warlocks, sorcerers, and wizards. Even clerics and druids get some unexpected love. Spells are generally flavorful (deadly sunstroke, transcend mortality, storm of needles, nightmare terrain, and the delightfully named great worm of the earth come to mind), but naturally not all the spell names are perfect - finger of agony sounds more like a bad hospital injury, truth be told. Then again, spells like Otto's imperative ambulation or boiling blood make up for any shortfalls. If you particularly hate rust monsters, you'll want a scroll with rebirth of iron, your new rewind button for destroyed equipment.
The arcane items are also intriguing. There are some balance issues here, particularly with regard to the low cost of several extremely useful items such as Heward's fortifying bedroll, but the vast majority of items are both flavorful and interesting. This chapter focuses on the classic arcane implements: wands, staves, and rods.
One Hundred Good Ideas. The chapter "Arcane Adventuring" leads with a vast list of adventure hooks. I love this sort of tool: It's the kind of thing that makes brainstorming or last-minute adventure design both fast and easy. The magical locations that round out this chapter are equally memorable. A DM can grab any one of these and build a fast adventure around it with little difficulty; their ability to act essentially as treasure, granting a temporary spelllike ability, is just a nice bonus.
About the Creators. Skip Williams, one of the first employees at TSR, is a tremendously experienced designer who helped write the 3e D&D core rules.
Penny Williams has worked on classic supplements and adventures such as Shining South and Return to White Plume Mountain.
Ari Marmell is a prolific designer and well-known fantasy author.
Kolja Raven Liquette has helped design such books as Monster Manual IV, Weapons of Legacy, and Races of the Dragon.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.