The second in Wizard’s series of books that expand upon their power sources was released earlier this week for the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Arcane Power follows very much in the footsteps of Martial Power except this time providing expanded options for all of the arcane spellcasting classes currently in the game. This book will appeal most to the current player of an Arcane character (including Bards, Sorcerers, Swordmages, Warlocks, and Wizards), providing a slew of new options, powers, feats, paragon paths, and epic destinies for each and every one of those classes. Arcane Power feels very much on the same level as Martial Power in terms of the quality of its content, and I would definitely recommend picking it up if your D&D characters have anything to do with the magical arts.
It seems like the primary content provided in these power source supplements is the new class builds. While Martial Power introduced us to the much anticipated Beastmaster Ranger, none of the arcane builds seem like they were as hotly sought after. The new Prescient Bard is in the same group as the mace-wielding Rogue as options that I’d never really thought about before, so I find them equally confusing and intriguing at the same time. The Sorcerer class actually gets two new spell sources, Storm Magic and Cosmic Magic, which both read like entirely different builds but I’m not sure the mechanics are there to really back them up. Also in the sub-par options is the new Ensnarement Swordmage build, which doesn’t seem much of a benefit to the class either. On the other hand, the Warlock now has the Vestige Pact option which incorporates similar daily-power based mechanic to the Warden class from the PHB2. Unlike the new Sorcerer builds, the Warlock’s vestige options are actually more appealing and interesting with how they’re written. The Wizard also gains some great new options with the addition of Tomes as implements and a strong focus on Illusionist and Summoner Wizards.
Now you’re probably thinking that the book isn’t all that worth it based on the builds, but where it really started to catch me was when I looked deeper and started investigating some of the new powers. Wow! Not only does it provide a ton of new spells for each class, but most of them jump off the page as powers I immediately want to try out. Most of the Bard’s new spells inflict named status effects upon an enemy such as “ill luck” or “showering sparks” which consist of several hindrances in one, not to mention a strong focus on the classes ranged abilities and useful boosts to allies like increased crit chances. The new spells for the Sorcerer seem to match right up with and add on to all of their base spells, including many random-effect spells and culminating in the level 29 daily power that lets you assume the form of a huge dragon for the rest of the encounter! The Swordmage seems to gain a handful more ranged and close burst powers than they had before, which just adds to the class’ versatility and ability to handle pretty much any situation thrown at it. Most of the Warlock’s new daily powers play off of the vestige pact mechanics, but from a quick glance through most of the powers seem like great additions to the existing powers available with equally hilarious / sinister names. The Wizard gains perhaps the most with the new selection of spells, which effectively give the class two new build options on their own by providing plentiful new choices of illusion and summoning spells, in addition to the new summoning rules for 4th Edition.
All of the paragon paths presented in the book seem to match up in awesomeness to other paths we’ve seen. Some of the stand outs include the Primordial Channeler wild magic Sorcerer path that gets a level 20 attack that is Close Blast 2d6, the Sigil Carver shielding Swordmage build that grants all adjacent allies a +2 to all defenses (always), and the Bonded Summoner wizard path that gives your summoned creatures regeneration. Even better are the Epic Destinies that also seem to continue the consistent awesomeness of previous Destinies, including the Archlich destiny that lets you become a lich, the fey-origin based destiny Feyliege, or the Lord of Fate destiny where you must be unaligned. All of them provide a character with just as much backstory to consider as mechanics to play with, and as usual all of them involve seriously breaking the rules in ridiculously fun ways!
Arcane Power also introduces a lot of new feats, most of which focus on specific race and class combinations or enhancing one aspect of certain class builds. If you look carefully, you’ll even notice a few old friends back to play! Combat Casting is now a feat exclusively for the Swordmage class, and Enlarge Spell is now a wizard only feat that allows you to sacrifice damage on a blast/burst attack to increase the size. Something else I’m very happy to see is the Gnome Phantasmist feat, which gives gnome wizard bonuses to damage with illusion spells, it’s always good to see the Gnome Illusionist getting some love! I’m actually not a very big fan about many of the race+class feats because I feel it ends up discouraging players of other races, but I do like some of the emergent themes that are created by them such as humans always having durable/adaptable abilities. Another feat that caught my eye is Dual Implement Spellcaster, which allows a character to gain an enhancement bonus from two implements if they are wielding one in each hand. This may seem a bit silly at first, but I imagine playing an epic-level wand-slinging sorcerer would feel pretty damn badass!
Possibly the best addition to 4th Edition we see in Arcane Power is the return of arcane class familiars. Now they are obtained entirely through feats, and modified with further Familiar feats which also add to the defense of your familiar so the more you take the tougher it gets. The customization rules for them are robust, and the basic templates given in the book cover almost every common type you hear of from Owls, Imps, Demons and Bats to Dragonlings, Ravens, Snakes and Cats. They function in two different modes, passive and active, where passive means they are on your shoulder or otherwise hidden on your person and unable to be targeted and active mode means they act as a tiny companion that you can command. Depending on which type of Familiar you choose grants you a constant bonus (usually to one or two skills) while in passive mode as well as certain bonuses or attacks when they are in active mode.
Last but not least is a short list of new magical Tomes to fill in the new Implement ability for Wizards and handful of new rituals at the end of the book. Your typical tome acts exactly like any other implement, except three out of the six special kinds of tomes actually store two additional daily spells within them that you can also add to your spellbook. Finally, with the addition of tomes and familiars the 4th Edition Wizard (and all of the arcane classes) are beginning to feel more like their previous edition counterparts as the weak but versatile torrents of awesomeness that they should be! In the back of the book is a page of recommendations for arcane focused backgrounds to use in conjunction with the background rules in the PHB2 (or Forgotten Realms), which I think is a nice addition but feels a little bit like an afterthought tucked in at the very end. Also I do have to say that I feel like I’ve spotted an excessive number of typos and misprints in this book even compared to the rest of the 4th Edition line, I feel like one more round of editting/proofing would really put a polish on the book and make it nearly perfect.
So really, if you’re playing a character that has anything to do with Arcane magic and you haven’t bought Arcane Power yet, what are you waiting for?!