I first became interested in Deep Magic for 13th Age, from Kobold Press, when I was looking for forms of Blood Magic for 13th Age. The Deep Magic spellbook was originally created for Pathfinder’s system, but Ash Law proposed adapting it to 13th Age. And that’s what it is, an adaptation, not a literal translation. Some of the spells may have the same effects, but the mechanisms of 13th Age (feats, etc.) made for a unique book.
The book contains 555 spells, 30 schools of magic, and a handful of campaign frames.
Things I really liked…
…the narrative variety of the schools.
This isn’t just a catalog of spells. It has narrative "schools" which could become a part of a character’s background. The schools determine the set of spells a character would know and give the character a place in the world. More importantly, the schools aren’t limited to just wizards qua wizards. There are plenty of places for a spellcasting assassin or a magical warrior to join in.
Want to be part of a group of prismatic rainbow warriors? There’s a school and a spell list. Prefer to join hags or beauty goddesses or technically-not-Death-Eaters-probably-not-from-Slytherin or Dishonored-esque thief/assassins or C.S. Lewis & Tolkien gone awry or eldritch casters or quasi-vikings? These and more are available. There are a wealth of hooks and ideas here, the only problem is picking a school.
There are instructions for creating your own school, of course.
…the variety of spells.
While 555 should necessitate variety, I’ve run across plenty of boring supplemental material which makes me skeptical each time. I was impressed with the wide range of approaches and effects which the original Deep Magic team and Ash Law came up with here.
I didn’t do an in-depth mechanical analysis and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some mechanical overlap in base spells. But I was floored with the variety of feats available to augment the spells. You couldn’t end up with two people playing, mechanically, the same character.
Beyond that, the spells are rich with description. Dragonskin and Circle of Wind both give +1 to AC, but Dragonskin has more varieties at more levels and Circle of Wind also gives +1 to PD plus having feats that, at champion level, include flying. The visuals on both are quite different as well. Then there’s the really creepy stuff, likeable to create fear effects by appearing to be covered in maggots…which is almost as badass as the Champion Feat of being able to turn a swarm of maggots into a giant maggot you can ride like a horse. I see at least a few of you horror-types getting ideas…
There are pure spells and twisted spells, spells to fit every alignment and type of icon relationship. And everything about the spells themselves feels like they could have been pulled from the core book or one of its Pelgrane-published supplements.
The Other Stuff…
None of this reflects on the quality of the book or the spells therein, but there are just two things that keep me from a full-on rave over the book.
…it’s definitely for the magic users among us.
It’s not just for wizards and other spell-casting types, but if your campaign is stronger on rogues/barbarians/fighters/etc. who just aren’t interested in magical augmentation, you may not get as much out of it. If you have traditionally non-magical characters who are interested in fleshing out their characters, then it might be just the thing.
…it’s not the Dragon Empire.
While the spells have been very well-adapted to fit in with the other 13th Age spells (including feats, doing similar types/levels of damage, etc), this isn’t actually set in the Dragon Empire, it’s set in the Kobold Press-specific world of Midgard. I’m sure this is a licensing/world-control related thing. Kobold Press has their awesome world and Pelgrane Press has theirs. Kobold wants to augment theirs and, I’m guessing, Pelgrane wants to restrict what kind of canon people are writing.
If I could’ve done one tie-in thing, it would’ve been an appendix suggesting some kind of icon/city tie-in for each of the schools. Not big, one or two lines per school for 30 schools, but it would’ve been great for people playing in the Dragon Empire. For example, the Faceless League must have some kind of relationship with the Prince of Shadows. Maybe they work for him. Or maybe they used to work for him and broke off. Perhaps the Forlorn Elementalists live in the Moonwreck realm.
This other note is very much a Ruth thing, not an everyone thing, but when I saw references to the Lich Queen or the Orc King, it made me wince a little. This one’s also probably my not knowing enough about the Midgard setting. But I’m so used to "Lich King" and "Orc Lord," that it gave me the kind of mental tic a wrong-note in a song does. (I’m totally into the Lich Queen as an alternative icon, btw, I have a little brain thing about all-female icons but that’s another post/another life.)
If you want to play a kickass spellcaster and your GM has given you permission to branch out, you want this book. And if you want to do blood magic, you really want this book. Really. It has: blood armor, doom of blood, sanguine horror (blood elemental), St. Carnessa’s wicker man, weapon of blood, bloodshot, caustic blood, exsanguinating blood, blood and steel, blood spoor, cruor of visions, fiery blood, final combustion, red dragonfly swarm, and vampiric fog. Seriously. Why wouldn’t you want those?
I’m not into 100% of the spells I read, but I’m into at least 90% and I wish I were playing a 13th Age game right now, because I want to join the Cult of Ouroboros. Maybe this is a full-on rave. It’s good stuff.
Disclaimer: The Illuminerdy was provided with a review copy of this book.