Reviews of 'Towers of High Sorcery'
Reviews of 'Towers of High Sorcery'
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I must say, Sovereign Press' products just keep getting better and better. I think the quality is getting better and (more importantly, I believe) the content is getting better. (Although I'm still quite partial to the Bestiary of Krynn...it remains favorite.)
I'll do a quick chapter by chapter review.
Chapter 1: Wizards of Ansalon
This was an interesting chapter. There was a little bit about the background of wizards and a few set of stats for some of the more well known wizards (Antimodes and a young Level 1 Raistlin). I very much applaud the guts of Sovereign Press for making Raistlin 1st level. Given that the following products are going to show him at more powerful stages in his life, I thought this was an interesting choice that I agree with (and is probably a bit of a controversial choice, as well). More importantly, this chapter details the races and their views and aptitude toward the focused arcane energies. Also, there are many superb PrCs and errata to previous PrCs (War Mage, WoHS). Being the advocate of PrCs that I am (probably because of my SAGA days with all the Roles) I liked seeing the PrCs such as the Renegade Hunter, Winternorn, and my personal favorite, the Sylvan Mage. (Finally, an "in world" game answer on the nature of Bram diThon!)
Chapter 2: Spells & Magical Objects
Another excellent section. There are all sorts of new spells (I'm fairly certain there are new spells for every level) from Timereaver to the charms for the Groves, this chapters has everything you could want from DL specific spells. Ever wondered how Raistlin, a wizard of the Black Robes, could heal Tasslehoff? It's in here. What about Raistlin's fire that destroyed the plague ridden village? Yep, that's here, too.
There are many magical items and artifacts in this chapter as well, from the message bottle of The Companions to the Gauntlet of Ventyr from Defenders of Magic...this chapter is full of them. Magical books that increase your intelligence and XP, the Portals, the dragonorbs, Dragonlance specific power items (excellent for gifts after passing a "Soulforge" Test), all grace these pages. There are many mundane items too...including the bracelet of foresight from Wanderlust.
The true gem of this chapter is the table called A Magical Lexicon and Glossary. Basically it's a Magius-to-English translation for basic terms. Absolutely brilliant! It is a must for all wizards who love to roleplay and freak out their fellow PCs.
Chapter 3: Gods and the Orders
Another excellent chapter. This takes information that has only been hinted at in past products and expands upon it. Essentially it is a section on the history of the Orders and their connection to the gods. There's a lot of good information here including Fistandantilus, Magius, and the Master of the Tower template. This is not a template for the Master, the one that showed up in the 5th Age (they get to his origins in Chapter 4). I mean a generic template a character receives when they become a Master of one of the five Towers.
Chapter 4: The Towers
Well...what can I say; this is the one spot where the book falls short for me. Was it because I was expecting too much? Perhaps hoping for more than I got? I don't know. Either way, I felt there were many missed opportunities for this section to be great...and it just fell short. Aside from being mostly a re-write (read: retcon) of the history of the towers (how they came to be, why they are where they are, who the first sorcerers were) and the orders, on many accounts, it contradicts many points in Chapter 3. It is too bad, there's a ton of great new information in here (like a lot of history of the Orders early on...and the full story on who the enigmatic Master of the Tower is). If perhaps they'd taken what existed before and just expanded upon it (as opposed to re-writing it) I think I would have liked this chapter a lot more.
Aside from the towers, it also details a few "magical strongholds." A lot of them are interesting, but again I feel there was a missed opportunity to discuss the Lost Citadel and it's protector, Bastion. However, being the fan of the Defenders of Magic series that I am, I'm probably just a little biased.
Oh, also...no maps. Not that I needed floor by floor map outs of the entire towers...but cut away schematics (ala The Atlas of Krynn) would have been very nice.
Chapter 5: The Test
This is the absolute star of the book. I don't know what else to say about it...it's a chapter about running the Test. It's great! It's set up in a similar (if not the same) way as it is in The Last Tower: The Legacy of Raistlin, but it is revamped for wizards, and updated for D&D 3.5e. Not to mention, it changes the rules slightly so that it doesn't matter the course the PC takes, any Test can still be a Soulforge if the PC is willing to risk it all in every section.
Chapter 6: Creatures
Interesting chapter. There are some neat monsters. The Huldrefolk is quite good...and the art is appropriately freaky. Also, I do quite like the Remnant. I can see things building up to an interesting revelation in the upcoming book based off of Legends.
The only thing I'd say about this chapter is that it is lacking in art. There are a few pieces, but not many. Chapter 1 falls a little short in this department as well. All new creatures, races, PrCs, or classes in sourcebooks need art. That's the bare minimum, I think.
Chapter 7: Rivals
Well...this chapter was a little weak. It discusses the Thorn Knights and sorcerers in general, as well as Renegades. A few even have stats (where's Galan Dracos, though?) Essentially, at four pages in length...it just seems a bit sparse.
So, there you have it...the good and the bad (in my opinion) of the Towers of High Sorcery. I thought it was lacking a bit in art, and I felt there were some missed opportunities for greatness in Chapter 4. I was also hoping for either a fixed Moon Tracking Chart or at least an erratum for the one in the Dragonlance Campaign Sourcebook. That being said, however, this is an absolutely great book. If your character's a wizard...or if you're just interested in Dragonlance wizards in general, this book is a must have as far as I'm concerned.
Towers of High Sorcery is the definitive Dragonlance sourcebook on the Wizards of High Sorcery. This book is a testament to the improved quality of Dragonlance books by Sovereign Press. Despite the improved quality, there are a few areas where it could have been better. Overall, though, a solid book.
I should probably mention that I did some review work for this book prior to its publication. However, I was not one of the designers on this particular book, and will endeavor to give as unbiased of a review as possible.
The following is a chapter-by-chapter review.
Chapter One: Wizards of Ansalon
This chapter sets the ground for the life path of a wizard, including the discovery of magical talent, early education, and some notes on the Test. It is interesting to see 1st-level stats for Raistlin Majere in this section, including a piece of art showing him as a young student, prior to his physical transformation in the Test.
This chapter continues with a section on races and wizardry, which is a handy tool for people wanting to play wizards who aren't human. This section does well by delving into the subraces as well.
Shortly afterwards, the book goes into a reprint of the Wizard of High Sorcery prestige class. This class has had a minor revision with the Arcane Focus ability, which replaces Enhanced Specialization. Now a Wizard of High Sorcery can either start out specialized, not specialize until they take the Test, or remain a generalist wizard. This is an improvement over the prior version in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting. My one disappointment was that there were not expanded order secrets.
Also included is errata on the war mage prestige class from Age of Mortals, which may have been better suited for this book (as well as the Solamnic Auxiliary mage). Afterwards, there are some new prestige classes: dark dwarf savant, dreamshaper, griffon wizard, renegade hunter, sea mage, spell broker, sylvan mage, and winternorn. All of these classes are well designed, and go into existing concepts in Dragonlance for wizard characters. None of the prestige classes are done just for the sake of having more prestige classes. Unfortunately, there's not much art in this section, leaving us with pictures only of the dreamshaper and renegade hunter.
This chapter could have easily been split into two chapters – one as the life path of a mage, the other as a player's section with the new prestige classes.
Chapter Two: Spells and Magical Objects
The name of the chapter sums it up nicely. There's a variety of new spells, including the spells that allows a person to pass throughout each of the towers' groves. Classic spells from Dragonlance Adventures are included as well. The one spell that has an error that I caught was Timereaver, which lists it as a sorcerer/wizard spell yet is supposedly only known to the masters of the towers. I imagine that it should be a wizard only spell. While not many of those exist, this would definitely count.
I was quite pleased with the magic items in this chapter, which give a number that are for the Wizards of High Sorcery only. That's a nice flavorful touch. I was disappointed in the Charm of Animal Transformation. I had hoped they would have mentioned specific versions, such as Tasslehoff's Magic Mouse Ring.
I was also disappointed that Bupu's Emerald would now be called Gully Dwarf's Emerald, although they at least mention the prior name in the description. Likewise, Mantooth misses an opportunity by not going into its history, instead only detailing its magic power.
I know that's a bit of nitpicking, but in Dragonlance, there needs to be more unique magic items and magic items with their own history, as seen in Dragonlance Adventures.
Chapter Three: Gods and the Orders
Chapter three begins with a discussion of the gods of magic, the other gods, and how they all work with magic. Following is a section on the history of High Sorcery. This section is pretty good, and has a great picture of a scion and a Jennifer Meyer pic of Mistress Jenna. The one flaw, though, is that the "mysterious young wizard" who helps Dalamar and Jenna reform the new Conclave wasn't named at all, and there are no stats for her.
Next up is the structure and rules of the Conclave. Within this section, as well, is a Master of the Tower template (for the head of a tower, not the Master of the Tower himself).
I will say that I was extremely happy with the stats of Magius presented in this section. His status as the "wizard of all robes and none" is clearly defined with these stats, giving him extra wizard levels to show his renegade status, and only two Wizard of High Sorcery levels, which is just shy of being able to gain order secrets. Plus, he has levels as a war mage.
Chapter Four: The Towers
This chapter has its ups and downs. It's great in that there are pictures of all the towers. My personal favorites are the Tower of Daltigoth and the Tower of Losarcum. I was disappointed by the Tower of Istar, as it didn't appear to be a bloody-fingered-hand to me.
The big let-down of this chapter is that there were no maps of the towers. A cut-away view at the very least would have been nice.
History for each tower is given, although there are a couple of continuity errors in this section. The nice part is that the story of the Master of the Tower is given in full detail. More characters are detailed in this chapter, and I'm glad to see details on the groves.
There are a few magical fortresses detailed as well. I like the idea of Towerstone's Hope, and think it makes for a nice addition to the setting.
Chapter Five: The Test
Quite simply, this chapter details the Test of High Sorcery. This is a great tool for dungeon masters, and even provides a flowchart for how a Test should proceed. Certainly, this has been one of the most asked for items in Dragonlance.
Chapter Six: Creatures
This chapter begins with a short section on familiars, which I felt could have been expanded. I would have liked to see notes on what types of familiars each order prefers, as well as preferred familiars for some of the prestige classes. Do Solamnic Auxiliary mages (from Age of Mortals) have kingfishers as familiars? Do black robe wizards prefer ravens or lizards?
There are several neat monsters in this chapter, including a dread beast template. In some ways, I would have preferred the traditional dreadwolf from The Legend of Huma, but using it as a template allows for a variation on a theme. The best part is that this creature type is now open to other wizards beyond Galan Dracos (and where are his stats in this book?).
Overall, a good chapter, although lacking a bit in art. Most of the art in this chapter is quite good, though.
Chapter Seven: Rivals
This chapter goes into rival groups to the Wizards of High Sorcery. Sorcerers are mentioned, as are the Knights of the Thorn. Renegades, clerics, and mystics all are mentioned as well.
There's not much to say on this chapter, as there's not much to this chapter. It comes in at roughly four pages. Certainly, I would think that an entire section could have been given to Galan Dracos and his renegades (perhaps with a prestige class also).
One of the high points of this book is the eye-catching cover art by Larry Elmore depicting Raistlin and Dalamar in the laboratory in the Tower of High Sorcery at Palanthas.
I was also enamored of the prestige classes. These were not gratuitous prestige classes thrown in just to have them. They are all drawn from characters and concepts within the Dragonlance setting. Not only could you play a Wizard of High Sorcery, you could now shape the wizard to come up with various results.
The low point of this book is its incompleteness. The book should have been coordinated better with the novel side to incorporate stats for Coryn, a unified perspective on sorcerers between Towers of High Sorcery and Wizards' Conclave, and the appendix of Amber and Ashes should have been included as well.
The other low point is that there are not maps for the various towers. While the art is good, especially for the Tower of Losarcum, DMs will still have to create maps if characters ever wish to adventure in any of the towers.
Also, I think that the characters deserve their own section, as they did in War of the Lance. There's a few notable mages missing from these pages as well, including Justarius.
Overall, this is a good book, and a must-have for any Dragonlance fan. While it is a good book, though, it is not a great book. It generally feels incomplete, especially with the current state of affairs with wizards.
Despite that feeling, there's tons of useful material in this book for players and dungeon masters alike. It is well-written and is visually appealing.
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