Crystalmancy: The Powers of Gems is, simply put, a sourcebook on crystal magic. Overall, I thought this book was great. It was simple, to the point, and refreshing. One of the big selling points is that the zip file includes both a color and a black-and-white copy, just in case you don’t have access to a color printer. Just a note to those who print this out – be sure to print as ‘landscape’, rather than ‘portrait’. At first, it looks a bit odd in a 3-ring binder, but I think that adds to the charm.
Chapter One is about the Crystalmancer, a new base class modeled after the Player’s Handbook wizard. Scribe Scroll is replaced with a Spellcrystal ability, and the bonus feats are replaced by various Crystal Mastery abilities. What unbalances this class, though, is that it adds several trinkets at every even level, some of which are near equivalents of metamagic feats.
Don’t want to add a new base class to your campaign? No problem! One can always use the variant Crystalmancer prestige class instead. This is, unfortunately, the only prestige class in the book. I would have liked to see more. Perhaps something akin to the Crystal Proselyte in Malhavoc’s Mindscapes.
This chapter ends with two new feats (Craft Spellcrystal and Create Crystal Familiar), and a Knowledge (Gemology) skill, as well as a sidebar on spellcrystals. This section could have been better labeled, and would benefit from some touch-up layout work. It isn’t clearly labeled otherwise.
Chapter Two is Magic of the Gems, a guide to all sorts of new spells. What I like about this chapter is that it not only has a sorcerer/wizard/crystalmancer spell list, it also has one for bards, clerics, and druids as well. In other words, one can be nearly any spellcasting class (save for paladin and ranger) and be able to use crystalmancy spells. There’s tons of great spells in this chapter, including a particular nasty called Crystallize Blood. That one sends shivers up my spine.
Chapter Three is Crystal Items. This provides an assortment of magical weapons, armor, and other items, including some artifacts as well.
Chapter Four is Locations and Personalities. This chapter includes the Plane of Crystal, a place similar to our world, but made of crystal. There’s a map, as well as various places of interest. Meet Tresmril, Lord of the Crystal Realm while you’re there. Plus, there’s some adventure hooks. There’s also a group of Crystal Keepers, various Crystal Lords, and even a nifty language called Crystil. The alphabet corresponds to the English alphabet, which makes for a fun tool for game masters to add flavor.
Chapter Five is Gem Beasts. This has several new monsters, including a Crystal Creature template and sample Crystal Worg. There’s various other monsters, including a gem dragon. One can even play the Berylis as a player character race.
Overall, this book was a great read, and a lot of fun. Most of my criticisms are nitpicks (i.e. layout on the skill-and-feats areas), and the only real area of concern is game balance for the Crystalmancer base class. I would have liked to see more prestige classes, and it may have been nice as well to delve into the relationship of crystalmancers and psions, especially on how they each use crystal. This is not really necessary, though.
This book was simple, to the point, and covered what it intended to cover (the magic of crystals) quite well.
THE GOOD: I found this book to be quite fun and refreshing. It’s hard to find new ways to keep spellcasters fresh, but this book does it well. There’s an underlying thoughtfulness for those who buy this, not only for player options but for the color and black-and-white versions.
THE BAD: This book could stand a bit of touch-up on layout (and that’s really a nitpick), and could stand to have more prestige classes. It may have been nice as well to delve into the relationship of crystalmancers and psions, especially on how they each use crystal.