Today I'm once again taking a look at a piece of stellar crunch:
SGG presents The Vile Magic of Argonax the Mad
This pdf is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving a whopping 42 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Who or what is Argonax? Essentially, Argonax is a pretense for the DM to introduce rather interesting and dubious magic (items) to his/her campaign, but the mad archwizard can be so much more: Argonax is a driven individual that is on the verge of transcending any pretense of mortality - the archwizard's final goal is to unearth the secret of artifact creation and in order to claim that knowledge, he has lived many a life: For Argonax has developed a cunning plan, his college obscura: After having died for the first time, he started to learn from the perished masters, only to have himself rebirthed into another race. More importantly, this new incarnation takes up a new class and does not recall its true identity. Starting off as a regular being, the memories of countless lives and the amoral consciousness inexorably resurface and squash the wizard's latest incarnation's personality to add the accumulated knowledge to Argonax's own. His spellbooks, works and feats have been published by myriad versions and may in and of themselves make for the final goals of quests - for while major artifact creation still eludes the wizard, he has succeeded in a plethora of break-through, one of which would be the creation of so-called curios of Argonax:
Essentially, Argonax has devised multiple rather intriguing magical items and special magic properties that can be utilized by those aware of them and able to replicate them via his notes, but said items also result in rather intriguing side-effects that range from mildly disturbing changes of appearance and skill bonuses to rather severe consequences that range from the mundane sex-change to rather unpleasant psychosis and cannibalistic healing. While this may sound as if the craft of Argonax is "vile" in a 3.5 BoVD-style, it really is not: Both Argonax and his craft is rather depicted as amoral and indeed, depending on your world, his fractured cults (the so-called Harbingers of Argonax, who believe he is to become a new deity) do have something in favor of their mad prophet: Since Argonax is reincarnating through just about every species imaginable, he and his cult are utterly without prejudice. If your campaign setting features "Dark" themes like racism and shades of grey-mentality, this makes for a rather interesting take and could easily see the PCs, at least temporarily work for such a cult. Don't get that in the wrong way, though: Argonax is essentially the quintessential amoral, detached magical scientist and should not be confused with a pleasant archmage from next door.
But back to the curios: We get a list of a whopping (and rather cool) 100 of these side-effects and 19 different new shield and armor qualities that include firing armor spikes and even an armor that protects you from name-based spells, rituals etc. 10 new magical weapon qualities are also included, as are 6 signature specific rings. And then there's an item-class you might remember from the 3.5 days of old, the eldritch lense. These lenses let you convert your spells, much like a cleric's spontaneous heal-spell conversion, into the spell(s) contained in the respective eldritch lense.6 sample lenses as well as all the rules you'd need to create your own eldritch lenses are provided in this section - nice to see these interesting pieces of loot resurface, especially with the fluffy Argonax-angle!
I already mentioned Argonax's ultimate goal of creating major artifacts and that his efforts have been crowned with limited success - thus, we get e.g. the Cyclopean Helm of Argonax as a sample minor artifact - and yes, that's the awesome pyramid-head-style helm on the cover. In order to craft something like that, Argonaxhas also devised 15 new feats that go beyond what you'd usually expect of regular feats: Blood Reaping for example enhances your level-checks and checks if you've hurt the foe. The metamagic feats introduced in this section adds negative conditions like blindness and impeded movement to your spells and even regain expended spell-slots, fuelled by the dying breath of your adversaries. of course, feats for the creation of curios and minor artifacts are included and especially the latter is AWESOME. Crafting an artifact is HARD and the rules impose harsh restrictions on the crafting process and a steep personal cost of creating such items - not enough to deter PCs from trying, but it's hard enough to keep them from trying to make too many.
The spell-section includes lists for alchemists, antipaladins and the magus and, what can I say, the spells rock as hard as one would expect from SGG-releases - Want to alter e.g. a poison to affect another mental or physical attribute? There's a spell for that in here. Want to punish your foes by having their blood develop mouths that try to bite those trying to heal the wounds you inflicted? There's a spell for that! Panic foes by changing the terrain into a gore-splattered nightmare? Yep, and there's also a higher-level invisibility and the ability to prevent extradimensional access by your foes and further punish foes that have succumbed to your hexes. The spell he uses for his own returns is also part of the deal, as is the option to transform one's limbs into grotesquely elongated things and permanently make foes pariahs to those encountered. Especially fans of the witch-class practically have to check this pdf out for the spells, for one of Argonax current incarnations was a witch...
Finally, there are 3 sample harbingers of Argonax (all witches) at CR 5, 11 and 17.
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, they were few and far in-between and did not deter from my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard, the b/w-interior artworks are nice and the pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks. The cover-artwork is plain AWESOME, but I don't get why we don't get a version of it without the text/borders - I so want to show this cover to my players! The content herein is top-notch and offers the rock-solid mechanics one would expect from crunch-grandmaster Owen K.C. Stephens. This pdf does something different, though: Free of the restraints of SGG's usual format, this pdf also showcases Owen's VERY interesting and talented capabilities to write intriguing fluff that is not only captivating in its prose, but also ensures due to its concept that just about every world should find a niche for Argonax and its creations - I'm hard-pressed to envision a DM that has any trouble integrating the content herein and indeed, Argonax might make for a whole campaign arc or just a side-note in your PC's career. I wholeheartedly applaud this first offering of SGG's new line of products and look forward to seeing more of these far-out concepts that go beyond usual product lines being realized. So, the writing is stellar and the ideas cool, the mechanics solid, what do you want more? Personally, I would have loved to see some sample incarnations of Argonax stated out and a no-text version of the STUNNING cover-artwork. Thus, I'm going to settle for a final verdict of 5 Rudii, just short of the seal of approval - an excellent, cool pdf that hopefully means we'll see more fluff in SGG-releases, at least in this line of products.
All right, that's it for now - next time, I'm going to take a look at one or two creepy adventures!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,