||The poor, misunderstood bard. He doesn't get much love...or respect. He's a support class without much support, and I'm always glad to see new bard related supplements.
To this end, The Le Games gives the bard their ?17? treatment, which usually means that the book in question contains more than 17 of whatever it offers. In this case, however, the precedent has been broken. 17 Bard Spells actually contains 17 Bard Spells. As with the rest of The Le's products, these new rules come at a very inexpensive price. This book is also one of the better looking products I've seen from this publisher. A lot of the art looks like clip art, but its GOOD clip art. The layout is simple but clear, with nice bookmarking throughout.
17 Bard Spells presents its new spells as part of an item called ?the manual of the minstrel.? This is a spellbook with a very clever illusion-based security feature. There is also a magical journal hidden in the back of the book where previous owners have detailed their exploits. These are neat ideas, but one obvious question comes to mind: what use do bards, who are spontaneous casters, have for a spell book? The rules answer this by giving characters that possess the book a number of bonus spells per day. Not bad, but it still doesn't fully answer the problem that bards can't really learn spells from books. Finally, the book grants a HUGE experience award to anyone that reads it, making it somewhat on par (though not quite) with a minor artifact. That's not a flaw, but it does make the book harder to drop into any given campaign.
I'm either hot or cold on most of the spells. Spells like Switch (which allows the caster to magically swap the contents of two containers) and Perfect Addiction aren't overtly powerful, but they could certainly be put to good use by a clever player.
Other spells seem too close to existing core spells. Silent Sneak, for example, is probably workable, but it fills a niche already covered by Silence. Seductive Kiss, as far as I can tell, is just Charm Person with a flavorful descriptor.
There are also a few spells that are either too powerful or just oddly designed. Honesty Aura is way too powerful for a 1st level spell. It basically grants the bard an 85% chance of succeeding at every Bluff check for a number of minutes, regardless of the skill ranks of the bard or his targets. It is a clunky spell, and it doesn't work within the standard d20 rules at all.
Improvised Spell is a good idea, but it lacks mechanics. Basically, it allows you to just make a spell up on the spot, without giving much instruction on how to adjudicate this. A secondary effect allows the bard to cast this spell to duplicate the effects of a lower level spell.
Overall, though, there are some clever spells in this book. Like the bard itself, these bard spells are not overly powerful, but they offer a creative player a lot of options.
LIKED: With 17 spells at a mere $2 and change, 17 Bard Spells is certainly worth the download. Creative players and GMs will find a couple spells usable right out of the box, and the rest should work fine with a little tweaking. Even the poorest of the spells in this collection should serve as inspiration for a GM looking to make some homebrew bard spells.
DISLIKED: The Ley continues to play fast and loose with d20 rules. A few of these spells are just poorly designed. Thankfully, these are in the minority.
QUALITY: Very Good
[3 of 5 Stars!]