By White Wolf, £12.99/$19.95, $9.98 PDF
Oh look, the magic users manual…
It could so easily have been just that, the White-Wolf guide to spellcasters, a book of spells for munchkins to trot out everytime they want to play a maxed out Tremere character. Fortunately, though this book falls into a few traps, it is still a worthwhile read. It’s going to be of most use to the Storyteller, as a lot of the information and disciplines in here are better used sparingly. Fortunately most of the new powers here aren’t so much grotesquely powerful, as different and interesting.
The book starts with a good deal of information about the history of Thaumaturgy, who used it first, who made key discoveries, and why the Tremere dominate the art. Lots of nice background reading that helps fill out the World of Darkness. There’s also a chapter detailing how the Tremere look at magic, and how they use this information to their advantage when creating new paths and rituals. This is nicely detailed, and helps visualise the Tremere’s attitude to magic a bit better than before. The concepts of Identity, sympathy, contagation and inherency, help to flesh out thaumaturgy from the ” point and go bang!” discipline to something a bit more cerebral. They also allow you to flesh out any in character training a Tremere character might do, and help guide you with regards to dealing with thaumaturgical research. The sections of Tremere apprenticeships is nice enough, but should have been left for Clanbook Tremere, I felt.
The book has a huge amount of new powers, as well as revised versions of older paths from Vampire 2nd Ed and Darkages. Most are well thought out, and aren’t actually any more powerful than existing paths, they just do different things. Biothaumaturgy is an arcane blend of science and genetics. Alchemy allows the creation of platonic ideals of elements, the hearth path is for defending a haven, Oneiromancy deals with dreams, and is significantly different from the old path of morpheus, having a more prophetic outlook. Some of the more obscure paths like path of the Bloods Curse (which plays on vampires inherent weaknesses), offer real possibilities for NPC villains, but could be game breaking in the hands of a munchkin. Most revolve around a consistent theme and have nicely thought out powers.
There’s a huge lot of rituals here as well, ranging form the sublime to the pointless and every point in between. Many have previously appeared in other books, some are new, most have nice concepts. Some, like the level 8, Blade of the Forbidden Flower (which creates a magic sword using the soul of a vampire), seem slightly out of place. Some are superfluous, being already covered by other powers (notably many psychic ones, which already have comparable powers in Auspex). They also include optional rules for learning rituals, which anybody involved in a long term chronicle will be thankful of. There are also suggestions for how to characters can create their own rituals, and how to balance this.
The most interesting part of the book looks at other forms of kindred magic. This section deals with Giovanni Necromancy, Voodoo, Assamite viziers, Setite sorcery and, my favourite, Tzimisce Koldumic Sorcery. These had been hinted at in previous books, but now get a complete run down. The Giovanni get a brief section with some new rituals, all of which seem particularly pointless. The samedi and Voodoo get a nice piece of background. The Setite and Assamite sorceries stand out from the crowd as being, well thought out noticeably different variants on Thaumaturgy, which work well with the respective clans themes. Koldunic sorcery finally gets explained properly, the paths are mostly well thought out, being far more elemental than Tremere magic. The spirit ways suffer from being too dull and the fire ways suffer from being cool, but a tad ridiculous (summoning magma is a nice twist, I’m just not sure it’s a good idea…….). It also suffers from a lack of rituals.
Overall: All in all, if you are a fan of Thaumaturgy as a discipline, then you’ll enjoy this book. It gives you a good background overview and many new powers to play with. If you dislike the inherent power of Thaumaturgy, when compared to other disciplines, you may find it slightly annoying.