Jul 262016
 

Gunfighter Class (5e)

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This pdf clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons. The review is based on V.1 of the pdf.

 

We begin this class with a brief, concise introduction to the subject matter at hand, including advice on creating a gunfighter and quick-build information. Gunfighters begin play with the option to create ammo and the like, with a nice, suggested alternate rule based on Intelligence modifier. In a minor nitpick, the material cost and maintenance-section of the item mentions $1.00 of the item’s market value – a conversion rate of $1 = 5 gp is provided, but generally, considering the setting-agnostic nature of the class, this may be perceived as a needless complication by some. I won’t penalize the pdf for it, but it is something to keep in mind. If a PC is not using at least 1 hour in a long rest to clean the guns he owns, natural 1s and 2s result in the broken condition for the weapon. A gunfighter can keep a number of firearms in good repair like this equal to his Intelligence modifier. At 13th level, you may craft twice your Intelligence modifier bullets during a long rest.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the gun-rules required here: Ammo can’t be salvaged (check!), broken condition requires an Intelligence saving throw on critical misses to avoid (no auto-blow-up). Focus is important – these weapons require steadying – as an action, movement is reduced to 0 ft. and, on the next turn, the gun can be fired. Guns are loud and can be heard FAR away and reloading is an action. Firearms with spread deal AoE-damage, but allow for Dex-saves based on you Intelligence modifier and proficiency bonus to negate.

 

The pdf provides 4 such weapons: Single action revolvers, repeating rifles, shotguns and buffalo rifles, with the latter being the only one requiring focus – and it better should, considering 4d10 piercing base damage, as opposed to 2d6 for the revolver.

 

The class gets 1d10 HD, simple weapon and firearm proficiency, vehicle (land) ans smith’s tools as well as Dex- and Int-save proficiency and their choice of Animal Handling, Deception, Insight, Investigation (called “Investigate” here), Perception, Sleight of Hand and Stealth regarding skill proficiency. The starting equipment contains a revolver and a horse and includes notes on costs of animals in the Wild West. Gunfighters begin play with a gunfighting style that includes melee-shotgun-using sans disadvantage or double pistol fighting. The latter is somewhat awkwardly phrased “You can treat the weapons as light, and take advantage of two weapon fighting with them.” Does this mean the style grants advantage on attack rolls when dual-wielding? I *assume* no, but wording wise, the use of “advantage” isn’t too great. Duel specialists add Intelligence modifier to atk and damage when one-handing guns. Long-distance shooters don’t suffer disadvantage at long range and add Intelligence modifier to attack rolls. Fast draw specialists have advantage on their first attack each combat and can’t be surprised.

 

2nd level provides an action surge for +1 action, but only once per rest-interval as well as advantage on Dexterity saving throws versus effects you can see coming – like traps, spells, etc. Ability score improvements are gained at 3th, 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th and 19th level. 11th level allows you to attack twice instead of once.

At 5th level, you may reload one firearm as a bonus action and 6th level allows you to ranged disarm foes once per rest-interval.

 

Starting at 9th level, you may infuse cold, fire or acid damage into up to 12 of your bullets. 17th level nets you evasion and 20th level allows you to add Wisdom modifier either to attack or damage rolls…which feels a bit odd, considering that the base chassis of the class is otherwise themed around Intelligence and Dexterity.

 

As you may have figured, the gunfighter does gain the obligatory archetype-selection, this time around called gunfighter path. A total of 3 such paths are included and they net abilities at 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th and 18th level. The first of these paths would be the bounty hunter, who can choose creatures as their mark, gaining advantage on Intelligence (Investigate[sic!] – should be Investigation) and Wisdom (Perception) checks, gaining +2 to attacks versus them…but they can only have Intelligence modifier marks a day, with long rests resetting the timer. They also deal bonus damage versus marks and at 10th level, heal minor wounds once per rest-interval. 15th level nets a potentially paralyzing shot. 18th level, allows for special double damage shots – oddly, the pdf refers to being affected by “Wing ’em” – which I suppose was a WIP-name for the mark. Still, slightly confusing.

 

Desperados gain cunning action at 3rd level, 7th level sneak attack (scaling up to +4d6 at 19th level), uncanny dodge at 10th level and vanish at 15th. 18th level lets NO attack roll against you have advantage….which is pretty OP, imho. Somewhat odd: “If you are hit, you may take a reaction to make an Attack against the attack that hit you” – I think, some text is missing here…or the wording’s a bit odd. You can target an attack, okay…what happens if you hit the attack? Do you shoot a missile out of the air? Do you sunder an axe? Or should that be attacker? No idea.

 

Finally, the Lone Ranger is the outdoorsman and gains advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) and 7th level nets crits on 19s and 20s. 10th level “Adds another fighting style” – which should probably refer to “gunfighting style” instead and 15th nets you a stunning shot, while 18th level allows you perform 1 level of exhaustion causing shots 1/day. Pretty cool.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good, though, oddly, the final pages seem to drop a bit regarding their precision. Rules-language similarly is mostly precise and well-crafted, with some minor hiccups. The pdf comes with great, thematically fitting photography-style artworks and the pdf has no bookmarks, but at 6 pages, that’s still okay. Layout adheres to Tribality’s two-column full-color standard and is clean and concise, though the upper and lower borders are pretty broad.

 

Michael Long’s gunfighter is per se a damn cool class – and for the most part, it is precise and well-crafted, with the first couple of pages only featuring very minor hiccups like “Investigate” instead of “Investigation” or the aforementioned unfortunate wording choice pertaining advantage being good examples. The gunfighter paths have somewhat more glitches and unfortunately, the pdf does have some glitches that influence the rules-language. While the gunfighter is functional and elegant and appropriate for new players due to the relatively easy to grasp rules and low complexity, it is the collection of these minor hiccups that makes it impossible for me to rate this as high as I’d like to. The gunfighter certainly is no funfighter; the gunfighter is a cool class for its low, and more than fair, price point. While not perfect, it certainly deserves a final verdict of 4 stars – if you expect no perfection, you’ll probably love this class as an easy to use, fun Western-class.

 

You can get this neat class here on OBS!

 

You can directly support Tribality Publishing making 5e material here on patreon!
Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 262016
 

Occult Character Codex: Spiritualists

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This installment of Legendary Games’ collection of Occult Adventures pre-built NPCs clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of how to use/introduction to the subject matter, 1 page ToC, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Okay, it has been a while since I covered one of these, so let’s recapitualte: The Occult Character Codex-series basically provides NPC-codex style entries for the respective class, utilizing automatic bonus progression as introduced in Pathfinder Unchained as well as buffing featured in the respective statblocks. The statblocks themselves feature a pre-buffing section where applicable and, for ease of reference, save DCs come with F, R, and W as shorthand for the saves in the respective spell etc. entries, allowing for an easy reference.

 

CR-wise, the NPCs herein range from CR 1/2 to CR 19, covering the whole breadth. The respective spiritualist builds, obviously, feature their respective phantom pet, rendering the overall statblock density of the book relatively high. The builds in the series do try to depict organically grown characters, i.e. the NPCs herein, while being efficient, also feature capabilities that ground them in the respective world, a decision I generally applaud.

 

As has become the tradition with the series, the NPCs featured herein diverge in their respective focus – while we do have some classic, CORE-races using spiritualists in the book, there also are samsarans and even grippli to be found among the builds. The onmyoji archetype is used in a few of the builds as well – so racial diversity’s here; archetype-wise, the book could sport a bit more diversity.

 

Regarding the emotional focus of the respective phantoms, the pdf does provide a sufficient array of diverse options, with the foci generally fitting well the theme of the respective phantoms. The same can’t be said about all of the spell-selections certain themes in spells can be readily identified – granted, there is diversity here, but it could have been a tad bit more pronounced. On the plus-side, while a similar observation can be made pertaining some feats, the overall breadth of strategies via builds is significantly broader. Kudos!

 

That being said, unlike the other OCC’s I’ve covered, there is something I need to mention – the phantoms have some glitches in central abilities; unfortunately, these glitches tend to be rather crucial ones – slam damage is incorrect in some cases, correct in some and does not progress properly, extending the issue to the respective damage caused; similarly, DR-scaling of the phantoms is not accurate. The frustrating component here is that there are quite a few of the entries that work out well, but still, those are pretty central components in the respective build.

 

Does this make the book unusable? No. But it does limit its appeal.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good, though this time around, the uncharacteristic glitches in he builds do somewhat limit the book’s appeal. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork-wise, we get some classic LG-artworks as well as the cool cover artwork.

 

Julian Neale’s spiritualists are the weakest entry in the series and were a rather odd experience for me, reviewing-wise. Why? Because I happen to have the build-notes for them and while these also have hiccups here and there, they are other hiccups – while e.g. the DR in the build-notes for the level 20 NPC isn’t correct, the slam attack base damage actually is. My theory is that: Something went wrong in layout/dev. Some of the glitches obviously are cut-copy-paste hiccups. That being said, there is still value to be drawn from this pdf – the builds themselves are pretty complex and even with their glitches, the pdf still represents some seriously spared time. The glitches mentioned can be relatively easily purged and while the pdf thus can’t be considered to be the high-point of the series, neither does it deserve being dismissed. What’s here, generally, is cool and GMs willing to invest a bit of work to fix the glitches get some complex builds out of this one. Still, the pdf could also have employed more in the archetype discipline.

 

In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars; if you’re in it for flawless statblocks, round down; if you want the majority of grunt work done for you, you’ll still find use for this. My official final verdict will round up due to in dubio pro reo.

 

You can get this pdf here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 262016
 

Deadly Gardens Player Companion: Verids

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This pdf clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page SRD, leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Verids are, as you may have surmised, a new plat-race intended for use as PCs – originally of extraterrestrial origin, they have several unique spins on the established tropes: Beyond looking a bit like plant-like versions of grey men, they seem to have a grudging respect for dwarves (!!!) for their mining prowess, but consider other races to be deviations from the natural order. While personally, I like this spin on the tropes and a GM could rationalize it by them having a somewhat odd or skewed perspective on “natural order”, the fact remains that dwarves, in most campaigns tend to hearken closer to the tropes of scions of civilization and industry, so that may be something to look out for.

 

Racial trait-wise, they get +2 Wis and Con, -2 Str, are Small, have a slow speed, get +2 natural AC, +2 to Stealth and Knowledge (nature) and require the sun as nourishment – failure to spend 4 hours in the sun results in decreased natural healing. 3/day, they can, as a swift action, extend their arms by 5 feet, increasing reach. Additionally, they replace animal companions with plant companions and can Con-mod times per day (minimum 1) release a 10-foot spore burst as a standard action. This burst sickens targets via a poison effect for 5 rounds on a failed save. Additionally, they get the full array of plant-traits.

 

Alternate trait-wise, there is an option to replace the photosynthetic drawback with the requirement to use a modified blood drain (that applies to HP instead) to consume blood. Such verids can replace natural armor with limited healing for drinking blood. Instead of the stretchy arms, they can have mildly toxic spores or spores that affect plants. A daily, limited fast healing while the feet are submerged in water can be traded in for the Stealth bonus and the arms. 1/day goodberry and plant growth as SPs are also there, though this one fails to specify which trait it replaces. The natural AC and temporary stretching arms can be replaced with 10 ft. permanent reach (OUCH!) and constant speak with plants can also be found. Finally, spores can be replaced with the ability to grow an object from wood 1/day. As a nitpick, this replaces “spore bur[sic!].”

 

Okay, so as a whole: Full-blown plant-immunities PLUS all the bonuses…looks like overkill to me. unless you’re already using several very powerful races, the verids end up a bit too strong. Similarly, permanent 10-foot reach is significantly better than the traits it replaces. The primary balance-issue, though, is simply the full array of plant-traits that is not offset by significant drawbacks. Compare that to Rite Publishing’s In the Company of Treants, where even the powerful iterations of the race do not get the full array…there’s a reason for that. Similarly, the skill bonuses are imho a bit bloaty and simply not required for the race.

 

The pdf also provides favored class options that vary in potency. Alchemists can add +1/2 to the DC of their spore cloud. You know, the Con-mod/day thingy. Ähm…nope. Okay, you can take a feat for +2 daily uses…but seriously, not more? That’s a wasted feat. And the FCO is similarly wasted – why not go for spore clouds in bombs?? Then again, there are some cool ones. Limited fast healing for cavalier mounts in sunlight? Mesmerist stares versus plants? Pretty cool. (Yes, this has Occult Adventures-support!)

 

The pdf also features the terraformer kineticist archetype: As a move action, these guys can transform plants and minerals in a 20-foot radius for 1 round; if he uses a full-round action, the transformation instead lasts for 1 round per level. While in this terrain, the terraformer reduces burn cost of blast wild talents by 1. If the terraformer does so, he can extend the duration of the terrain as a move action to 1 minute per level. However, as soon as he takes damage, he must succeed a concentration check or accept 1 point of burn as the terraforming area collapses. Okay, I’ll play…so how does this interact with the maximum burn accepted per round? Does the reduction apply before it’s counted against it? What if the duration elapses? Does the burn apply then as the terrain collapses or does it just fade? The question is: Is this robbing Peter for paying Paul with a gambit that you can rob Peter multiple times or not? I *really* like the idea here as a variant to gathering power, but the wording requires some serious clarification.

 

In particular since 3rd level and every 5 thereafter provide favored terrains, which FURTHER allow the character to reduce burn AND apply the bonus to the DC of blasts, infusions as well as CL-checks. The DC-increase seems overkill to me (kineticist blasts can already be pretty lethal!) – in favored terrain +4, that means reduction of burn by a whopping 4 points…so yeah, this is arguably MUCH better than gather power AND it does not require the crucial action economy expenditure that is one of the central balancing mechanisms of gather power. Ouch.

 

At 6th level, terraformers may increase the reach of terraform by 10 feet per level for “each point of burn it spends.” Okay, I don’t get what this is supposed to do. Usually, you “accept” burn and there is the burn cost of blasts etc…but “spending” it? Don’t get it. Is that meant to imply “for each point of burn accepted”? If so, before or after the reduction via terraforming? This is just a mess. It gets worse, since the 11th level ability is basically an “only in terraformed terrain” version of supercharge…which makes the whole burn management of the class even more of a clusterf***.

 

All in all, great concept, non-functional execution. On a more positive note, there are three different equipment pieces: The first would be an interstellar beacon that lets you use interplanetary teleport…and only costs 2,5 GP to create, which seems underpriced for such a cool, powerful option. Spore collectors allow verids to collect their spores as splash weapons…cool…but does e.g. the alchemist’s FCO-bonus apply to the collected spores? I assume so. Spore Launchers can propel these collected spore bombs at a longer range…but its format as a regular item as opposed to as a weapon seems odd to me: Why not codify the spore bombs and launcher as weapons?

 

I already mentioned one of the three new feats. The others let you add plant shape I – III to your spell list and the final one, Mi-Go Technologist, which allows you to create Mi-Go Technology based on two item creation feats whose minimum level prereq you fulfill, using Heal as the crafting skill and needing twice the GP to make the items. Very circumstantial, expensive…I don’t think we’ll see many PCs with that one.

 

The pdf also sports 4 new spells, with verdiform and mass verdiform being very precise buffs: They allow the targets to become somewhat plant-y, specifying the type of natural attacks they net, note deviations from the default damage-die sizes of these attacks, etc. Kudos! Corrupt Plants makes plants poisonous and bloated (neat idea!) and Alien Landscape affects an area, temporarily shaping it into a verid-friendly iteration of nature, which penalizes non-verid casters. That being said, the fact that the spell also renders the air impossible to breathe makes it VERY dangerous for the 5th level it is; suffocation rules are pretty nasty. Personally, I probably would have moved this spell up to 7th level.

 

The pdf also features 4 of the aforementioned plant companions: Living Topiary, Mushzoom[sic!] (yes, that’s intentional – 50 ft. base speed!), phantom fungus and shambler – these guys are powerful, but also pretty cool…so yeah. The pdf closes with a sample verid ranger 3. (It should also be noted that Deadly Garden 4’s Deadly Gardener-feat is reprinted for your convenience – a feat required to teach tricks to plant companions…which brings me to the final issue with this book: The racial trait of the verids that exchanges animal companions for plant companions does not specify that the verid gains the ability to teach tricks and Handle them…so do they have a semi-hidden feat-tax here…or should they gain this feat as a bonus feat?

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good – there are some typo-level glitches, but not too many. On a rules-level, though, the rules-language could have used some serious help. Layout adheres to Rusted Iron Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports awesome, original pieces of full-color artwork and is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

Jacob W. Michaels’ Verids are an intriguing race and I *really* like their premise, the way they stand apart from all the other plant-races. But oh boy, the pdf needs serious fixing. The race itself is VERY strong and not suitable for any but the more high-powered games, clocking in beyond aasimars and tieflings in potency. The crunch itself varies in quality – the ideas are awesome, but the value of the pieces of crunch is swingy: From the alternate racial traits to the FCOs and the undervalued feats (+2 uses of racial 1/day ability that is pretty weak for a feat?), the rules-language and balancing of options could have used a capable developer. The kineticist archetype, while cool in theme, is alas, non-functional. The spells are pretty much the best component apart from the fluff, but as a whole, they can’t save this pdf. With the glitches accumulating like that, I unfortunately can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars, and though I’m very sorry for the cool concept, I can’t round this up in light of the other plant-race pdfs I’ve analyzed.

 

You can get this inexpensive, if not perfect pdf here on OBS and here on tabletoplibrary.com!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 222016
 

Shadows over Vathak: Player’s Guide to Ina’oth

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The second Player’s Guide to the disturbing regions of the Shadows over Vathak setting clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After an excerpt from the journal of Yarick Eastermann – which, as another, handout-style piece of parchment elucidates, is not in as happy a state as he should be. After a brief introduction for players, we get to know Ina’oth – situated at the southwestern corner of the continent, is protected by the Black Sky mountains…isolated, one could say. Before madness came upon the Bhriota, they settled, breeding with the romni stock – and, in fact, Ina’oth may almost seem like a paradise, compared to other regions of Vathak. The land has seen its fair share of death, though, and as the vindari enacted the genocidal “great cleansing” in the name of their One True God, the land took a breath; of particularly foul miasma, for the Plague of Shadows eliminated 2/3rds of the population, leaving plague villages and ghost towns behind, only to abate 13 years ago…though its specter remains, as bhriota once again rally and quarantine and xenophobia remain…after all, every stranger could bring a new strain of the horrific pestilence that almost ended these lands…

 

The pdf goes on to pose questions that help players with the character creation in the context of Vathak, while also explaining the mindset regarding death and disease in general. The pdf then goes on to explain the details of places of interest – the settlements of Ina’oth, for example – with notes on approximate population, but without SPOILERS. After all, Auld’s efficient death squads that hunt the diseased are a known fact there…Beyond these flecks of fragile civilization, the majestic landscape and its most commonly known legends are detailed next – from aforementioned mountains to the ruins that remain of Redfort. A total of 11 complex whispers and rumors you may have heard can also be found herein -and whether as red herrings, background knowledge or material for the GM to develop, they are great.

 

A total of 15 traits, correctly associated with their respective trait-subtypes (you’d be surprised how many files get them wrong…) can be found in the book…and they are awesome. Beyond the usual minor bonuses (with correct type!), always with some neat prose, they also have some very unique ones: 1/week acting in a surprise round as though you weren’t surprised,, since the spirits warned you? That may well be the difference between life and death, with the restriction helping to balance it and damn cool fluff as well. Better healing capacities for devotees of the One True God, lingering madness that increases the DC of your mind-affecting spells (but at what price in the future??), being the friend of a priest…the traits are flavorful, unique and actually for once do their originally intended job: Facilitate roleplaying from the get-go.

 

The book also features a total of 6 feats: One renders you immune to exactly one disease (more important in a horror context…at least if the GM doesn’t suck), temporarily granting bonuses to fort-saves to those affected by your channel energy, better social skills with the undead and a chance to live longer when reduced to negative hit points – all fitting, power-wise okay and flavorful as choices. The pdf also sports two metamagic feats: One allows you to add fear-based effects to spells and the other allows the undead you create to spread plagues – both are precisely crafted and solid, though, in an odd and purely aesthetic glitch, the second half of the latter feat seems to have slightly bolder letters – not fully bolded, though.

 

Now lineage feats have pretty much been one of the coolest things to come out of the new SoV-books from a mechanical point of view. Well, guess what? We get a new lineage, namely spirit. In case you didn’t know: These basically grant you the wonderful roleplaying gold (and damn cool character option) of having a bloodline of power…which also comes with a curse. When you embrace your lineage via these feats, your power increases…but you also pay a price. The spirit lineage here can be likened a bit to the ghost-haunted Godefroy of Ravenloft, with a stronger emphasis on becoming more ghost-like (including, at the end, incorporeal stints). Two thumbs up – great for the horror context!4 types of cool, mechanically viable incenses can also be found in this book…and yes, they are very cool: There is, for example, one that makes it much easier for the consumer to perceive invisible creatures…

 

The magic items introduced in the book feature a flair of talismans and resound with lesser folkloristic traditions and lore – necklaces from corpse hair supposedly keep the living dead at bay; consuming ghoul teeth may delay the frequency of ghoul fever, granting you precious time; murderer’s hands can continue to draw blood even after the demise of the killer (add bleed damage to attacks a limited number of times per day) and skin masks, a staple not only since Skinsaw murders, help you navigate the living dead…and animate them. Candles containing the toe and nail clippings of a hanged thief can help you outline secret doors and valuables…the items breathe a sense of the occult, of the twisted and make for perfect additions to horror and dark fantasy games. Two weapon special properties, maddening and penetrating are both aptly priced at +2 and welcome addition to the arsenal of PCs.

 

A total of 7 spells are next – with spectral hands attempting to drag targets to hell, the level 9 druid forest fire, the One True God’s Hoy Word (perhaps not perfectly named) causing sinners to bleed from their orifices, Fortitude-enhancers, permanent aging (appropriate for a horror game!) and snakes of water, the visuals of the spells are great and their position within the spell-levels well chosen. No complaints whatsoever. The pdf also provides the Ancestral Armaments incantation, a ritual that binds bloodthirsty spirits into spectral weapons that guard you or attack other creatures…but, as always, failure to perform the ritual properly comes at a price…

 

The pdf also sports a new archetype, the Hellfire Evangelist, who only gets one domain, but may also choose Fire. As a full-round action, these preachers may use channel energy to bolster their silver tongues, converting the unbelievers. The rules for this signature abilities for this roleplaying heavy archetype are rock solid and it can easily be combined with other archetypes. Two thumbs up!

 

The pdf has one final, meaty section: The Plague Mage PrC. The PrC needs to be able to cast 3rd level arcane spells, is pretty easy to qualify for, gets d6 HD, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-progression (interesting choice!) and full spellcasting progression, but only 2 + Int-mod skills per level. At 1st level, these beings can sacrifice spell slots of 3rd level or higher to spontaneously convert the spell into remove disease and they may prepare that spell without a spell book…however, here’s the catch: The disease is cured as usual…and transferred to the plague mage. If he makes his save, the disease is stored within him and can be transferred to victims with a mere touch, ignoring onset time. 2nd and 7th level increase the DCs of such diseases (and spells et al. dealing in them) by +2/+4, respectively. Starting at 3rd level, the plague mage may lace carried diseases into his ranged touch spells. At 8th level, plague mages may expend spells to deal physical attribute damage to foes a ta mere touch. Finally, as a capstone, the plague mage may lace diseases into cone- and radius AOE-spells. Both PrC and archetype come with roleplaying tips.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch. I noticed not a single relevant hiccup in either formal or rules-language. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games’ full-color two-column standard and the pdf features a lot of stunning artworks I haven’t seen before. This is a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

John Bennett’s Player’s Guide to Ina’oth is basically the perfect horror gaming player’s guide; the book offers flavorful options that marry a crunch functionality with a LOT of roleplaying potential. The focus here is not to engage in the min-max-mathfinder game; it’s to tell stories of unique and captivating characters in a rather disturbing land. This is a book for the roleplayers and horror-aficionados. Crunch is precise and well-priced for horror games and the quality of the prose is excellent. Beyond that, the book manages to paint a vivid picture of the region without spoiling crucial truths t the players – not even between its lines. Even more so than the colonies, this one is simply superbly written, fun and truly evocative.

The last time I have read a regional sourcebook I enjoyed reading this much was a long time ago. When even paltry little traits offer cool options and you can practically see the modules coming, the creativity blazing forth…well, then you certainly realize that you stumbled over something awesome. This book, in short, is absolutely excellent, evocative and inspiring. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans any inkling of doubt or hesitation. Fans of horror and dark fantasy should consider this a must-have addition to their library. (Yes, my fellow Ravenloft-fans – that includes you; this is the best regional sourcebook for the genre I have read since the end of the Doomsday gazetteers.) Oh, and if you want a module that thematically fits with the more savage and less sophisticated components of Ina’oth – may I suggest adapting TPK Games’ “The Reaping Stone“? It hits the right notes and is sufficiently brutal…

 

You can get this awesome, flavorful player’s guide/sourcebook here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 222016
 

Kemonomimi – Moe Races

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This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages, so let’s take a look!

 

“When the kami placed their thumbprint unto the forehead of man, bretahing life into the husks of flesh, they wept tears of sorrow. Looking upon their children playing upon the ground, rolling in the fields of grass and running alone through lush tracks of wilderness, the Kami felt the hollowness of the human heartbeat, thumping alone.” This is the beginning of the legend that talks of the creation of the kemonomimi, and it is but the beginning of a rather flavorful origin-myth, which is subsequently enhanced via age, height and weight tables before diving into the respective races.

 

Each of the racial write-ups comes with information on physical descriptions of the races, their society, relations, alignment and religion and adventurers as well as with, obviously, racial traits. However, beyond these, neither favored class options nor racial feats or traits are provided, making the depiction in each case rather minimalistic. On an aesthetically positive note, each of the races does come with one or two original piece of full-color artwork (exceptions: Fox and Tanuki-based races…but then again, for the former, Everyman Gaming’s numerous Kitsune-artworks should do the trick). All of the races share the kemonomimi subtype and are humanoids, in case you were wondering.

 

The red panda-based Akaimimi get +2 Con and Wis, low-light vision, +2 racial bonus to Knowledge checks, +4 to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy-checks made to influence red pandas and similar creatures and 1/day augury as a SP (on a nitpicky aside: Not properly italicized). Interesting: The SP can be cast by akaimimi with ki pool (also not italicized, but then, italicizing ki never made sense to me) additional times by expending ki. At 10th level, they also unlock 1/week divination.

 

The raccoon-based Araiguma get +2 Con and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Sleight of Hand, the same Handle Animal/wild empathy-bonus to influence raccoon-ish creatures and they can use dowsing to lead them to fresh water; By washing food (but not water), they can purify it…which is pretty clever and cool as an idea!

 

Inumimi, based on dogs, gain +2 Str and Wis, low-light vision, Handle Animal/wild empathy affinity with canine creatures, +2 to Handle Animals and Survival and they are resilient against curses, gaining a +2 bonus to saves against them. This bonus extends to adjacent allies, though multiple such bonuses do not stack. Nice one!

 

Kitsunemimi, obviously based on foxes, get +2 Dex and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Perception and Sense Motive, fox affinity and a +1 bonus whenever they take 10, +2 when they take 20. Again, a unique racial ability. Basically, think of these guys as more down-to-earth fox folk that work well in campaigns where kitsune are a bit too much.

 

Nekomimi, based on cats, gain +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Climb and Perception, cat affinity and may reroll a single die roll 1/day, thanks to their luck. Nice variant of the catfolk trope!

 

The tanukimimi, based on the tanuki, gain +2 Con and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Survival and Stealth, tanuki affinity and can gain, 1/day as a swift action, temporary hit points equal to their character level + Constitution bonus (EDIT: The author has contacted me and told me that the pdf’s “bonus” is indeed intended here instead of the more common “modifier” – which is pretty rare, but not unknown. So, negative Con-mod is not applied here. Just fyi!) – these last for 1 hour. Neat one!

 

Finally, the Usagimimi, the harefolk, gain +2 Dex and Wis, low-light vision, +2 to Craft and Profession checks, hare affinity and they gain +1 to atk and skill checks (not rolls) with weapons, tools and vehicles they crafted as well as +1 CL when using scrolls and potions they made. They also reduce the armor check penalty of armors they crafted by 1 and increase the earnings of Perform and Profession by 10%.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. On a formal level, there is nothing grievous to complain, and while on the rules-level there are very minor deviations from the standard rules-language, these do, in no way compromise the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to a full-color two-column standard with colored petal-like elements at the corners and, as mentioned before, a surprising amount of nice, full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but does not need them at this length.

 

Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose’s kemonomimi races were a surprise for me. You know, I’m not the biggest fan of anthro races and I’ve seen quite a lot of them. Most of the time, or at least often enough, they either are lopsided, studded with “OMG, look how KEWL my athro is11!!”-arrays of abilities or the like.

 

This book is not like that. There is the old design adage of KISS – and this pdf very much is the application of it. The fluff is neat; the races, however, manage an interesting feat: They aren’t boring. They are not jam-packed with skill-bonuses to x or z, instead, much like the fluff around them, exhibiting a Zen-like design-aesthetic. It simply does not take much to many abilities to make a unique race, just one good and unique one – and (almost) each of these has just that. Where many races I see are cobbled together from the pieces of the ARG, these guys all have their own, distinct trick that sets them apart and makes sense within the context of their respective fluff.

 

Suffice to say, I’d allow each of these races in any of my games; even in CORE-only games, these guys will not unhinge the game’s balance…and they still feel distinct as races. I really like this racial design philosophy. To make this abundantly clear – in spite of not being too into the subject matter, I found myself intrigued and wanted to know more about these folks. Which brings me to the one detriment of this book – its brevity. The lack of favored class options, race traits, alternate racial traits and the like is the one downside of this very economically-priced supplement. It should also be considered to be the only reason this does not score higher than it does. The races per se are neat indeed and warrant a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

You can get these races here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 222016
 

Wardens of the Wild (PFRPG/5e)

182990

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 217 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of KS-thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 210 pages of content, so let’s take a look.

 

But before we do: I was a stretchgoal for this book and thus, this will be more of a general overview and the following will not consider a rating -you won’t find me picking apart content or the like in the following text, as I instead try to provide a general idea of what you can find in this book.

 

Got that? Great! We begin this massive book with an introduction and a short fiction, where the calculating, deliberate and, one might say, somewhat alien perspective of the elves is elaborated. But beyond the tropes of LOTR evoked in the intro, this book has a more distinct heritage that you should be aware of. Back in the day, when I began playing roleplaying games as a wide-eyed youth, the books were different to what we have know. In a racial book, for example, you had next to no crunch – instead, you’d get a LOT of cultural information. On the psychology of the races, their culture, their mindset. While I am a huge fan of d20-based games, I will never forget holding my first 3.0-races book in my hands…and being utterly shocked at how reductive the information was. I grew up learning about grey elves and the crucial differences between the wood and wild elves…and suddenly, all of that was boiled down to different stats. I *liked* the different stats, mind you – but oh boy, was I dissatisfied at the same time.

 

Flash forward. Pathfinder’s Golarion has provided a unique angle for the elven people, with their new iteration as quasi-aliens blending well with the more weird fantasy-esque tropes of Golarion. At the same time, I do think that the elven people could use more details regarding their mindset and culture. This book, then, would be book that instead points towards the traditions of elven people as established in the historic context within the game systems we all know and love, though with the traditional TPK Games-style tint of dark fantasy. From the Daoine Crann’Moradh, the forest elves to the Aern Rugadh (high elves) to the Laith Seachran (grey elves) and Daoine Scath (umbral elves), the respective elven races presented in the book come with full details – from age, height and weight tables to nomenclature and interaction with other races, the respective sub-species of elves do feature a lot of details, which, obviously, include racial stats.

 

The racial stats, generally, can be considered to be pretty solid, though they do increase the power of eleves in contrast to the respective base renditions championed in the respective core books of the systems in question. In PFRPG, ~15 RP per the (imho unreliable) race-builder mechanics are the target line, while in 5e, the respective races do not build upon the subrace system employed in the PHB, instead opting for a treatment as new races. The different authors involved in the creation of this book do show, as e.g. some sections use attribute shorthands like “Dex” while others employ the proper, full name for them. If you are peculiar about things like that, this may somewhat annoy you. That being said, with some hiccups here and there, the general racial write-ups can be considered to be well-crafted pertaining the functionality of the rules-language. Power-level wise, the elven races herein are approximately on par/slightly above the aasimar and tiefling in PFRPG, while the 5e-versions clock in at a strength-level beyond the core races. As a plus-side for 5e-players looking for flexibility, alternate racial traits do come with 5e-versions, which allows players more customization options than usual for the respective race chosen. Pathfinder fans can btw. take a look at a long list of favored class options, including classes from the ACG and Occult Adventures. Pathfinder players can also find 3-level racial paragon classes for the respective races in this book.

 

Beyond that, each of the races sports one racial archetype, which is also translated into a 5e ability suite: The brawler stone crow, for example, is translated into a monk archetype. The book also features a sample PFRPG-character and settlement statblock for the respective races.

 

Beyond the elven races already mentioned, the small and somewhat more fey-like elflings and half-elves based on the new elven races can be found herein as well. The book also features a metric ton of new feats, for both 5e and PFRPG – though, obviously, the PFRPG-feats are more numerous herein. Beyond a LOT of these feats, the book does feature a couple of special categories, my favorite being the one called Reverie feats, which represents feats that tie into the connection of elves with the realm of dreams, poaching the Autohypnosis skill from Ultimate Psionics and utilizing it for a non-psionic context. Beyond that, these reverie feats help making elves different – though e.g. gate/teleport as soon as 8th level in 5e is imho much too soon. The dance of swords feats also represent an iconic and evocative concept associated with the elves.

 

The book also contains a lot of elven traits for PFRPG as well as a bunch of archetypes that generally are aligned with elves in concepts; 5e players can elect to play evil, spider-queen serving paladins, for example. The PFRPG-material ranges from highly complex archetypes to smaller archetypes. Aspecial mention deserves Jason Linker’s rampart-class – basically an alternate magus focused on defense and soft terrain control, which also sports multiple archetypes to further customize it. I similarly consider the thorn warden class, a specialist in using spectral vines, that is somewhere between druid and assassin in its ability dispersal, interesting. Unfortunately for 5e-fans, these two classes do not gain a 5e-iteration.

 

Both systems also receive an assortment of different spells and magic items, the latter of which encompass magical board games, leystones or the like. One of my favorite chapters in the book would be the final one, which depicts elven flora and fauna, with Cruathau, Cu Sidhe and Great Stags making fro interesting critters, though these only get stats for PFRPG.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally solid on a formal level, though some development/unification of the rules-language would have been beneficent for the book. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard with quite a lot of text per page and a blending of new and old artworks in both full-color and b/w. The pdf comes with bookmarks for the chapter-headers, but not for the individual pieces of crunch.

A lot of people wrote this: PJ Harn, Chris Bayes, Brian Berg, Matt Everhart, Kevin Glusing, Frank Gori, Hal Greenberg, Matthew Hamman, Jason Linker, Neal Litherland, Dale McCoy Jr., Tom Phillips, Jason Rice, Alex Riggs.

 

This book’s goal was to make elves more “elf-y” and in this goal, it succeeded; the master-race-like tropes we know from Tolkien-esque fiction certainly can be embodied better with the contents of this book. Whether the book is for you, ultimately depends on whether you always felt that elves need an upgrade in the respective systems covered or not and on your personal priority of what you expect from a roleplaying game supplement. If unified presentation, rock solid crunch, perfect balance with core and the like are particularly important to you, you’ll enjoy this less than if you’re into this book for the cultural tidbits, reverie-expansion and the desire to see rules represent the somewhat unearthly elves we know from fiction. It should also be noted that Pathfinder is definitely the main system here; not all components have been translated to 5e, though most of the crunch has.

 

In the end, wardens of the wild is a nice book for people who always felt that elves ought to be more like the beings we know from fiction and those that want a take on the races that feels significantly less like long-lived humans with pointy ears.

 

As always, thanks for reading this!

 

You can get this massive book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 212016
 

Kineticists of Porphyra III

180750

The third of the kineticist-supplements in the …of Porphyra-line clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of content, leaving us with 62 pages, though these are in the digest-like A5 (9” by 6”)-format, but if the previous two books were any indications, this will be chock full with hard crunch…so let’s not waste any time and dive right in!

 

In case you were wondering – this review is based on V.4 of the file.

 

After a brief discussion on kineticists and their interaction with the overall world, we are introduced to the selection of the archetypes herein – let’s start with the racial one: The Elemental Brethren, for the suli-races (Still hurts me physically to write “Ifrit, Oread, Sylph, Undine” -the mythology nomenclature fail’s so brutal…in this review, I’ll refer to them just as “suli”) must select the elemental focus associated with the element of the respective race, with non-suli at 1st level gaining the energy strike racial ability as being treated as the respective suli for the purpose of selecting the Extra Elemental Assault feat. Additionally, all of these brethren gain Incremental Elemental Assault as a bonus feat and may apply the elemental assault’s benefits to the respective kinetic blasts as through these were weapons, but lose the 1st level utility wild talent. 3rd level allows for the expenditure of one round of elemental assault to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to third level by 1, with 8th level allowing for the expenditure of 2 rounds to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to 6th level by 1 and 12th level unlocking the option to expend up to 3 round to reduce burn of an infusion of up to 9th level by 1.

 

6th level similarly allows the kineticist to expend 4 rounds of elemental assault to fill 1 point of the internal buffer as a full-round action. 7th level provides and infusion on the list of those available at -1 level and gain both an infusion and utility wild talent instead of expanded element. 9th level lets the elemental brethren expend three rounds of elemental blast to increase the damage die size by 1 step for 1 round, replacing the infusion gained there. 10th level provides expanded element, but limits the choice available to the 4 primary elements, but they only treat their level as 2 lower rather than 4 for purposes of wild talent selection. If the ability is applied to an element already known, the archetype instead modifies a known infusion to work at -1 level as well as gaining an infusion and wild talent. At 15th level, the archetype reduces the number of rounds required to use elemental fuel, augmented internal buffer and blast burst by 1 round, to a minimum of 0, effectively de-limiting this resource – okay at this level. They also get an infusion or utility wild talent, but trade all of that for the expanded element gained. At 20th level, the archetype can expend 4 round of elemental assault to use any kinetic blast wild talent they don’t know for 1 round. Alternatively, the archetype may wild card a wild talent for 24 hours and replace it with another of the same category – though the elemental restriction to fire, air, earth and water still persists. While I am still no fan of the races and themes, this is still a good example for a racial archetype done right, one that utilizes the unique capabilities and themes of the respective suli.

 

The second archetype contained herein would be the Corpse Puppeteer, who needs to choose viscera or void as elemental focus. At 1st level, the corpse puppeteer can create the eponymous corpse puppets from the bodies of deceased Small or Medium humanoids or animals (base stats provided): Void puppeteers get skeletons, while viscera specialists treat the creature as a construct. The construct is treated as an animal companion with kineticist levels standing in as full druid levels and may learn feats, in spite of being mindless, though the puppets are restricted to the companion’s list. Corpses are dumb and can only attack, defend, stay and flee and they can only be healed via kinetic healing options. Commanding the puppet is a swift action and the connection may be severed as a full-round action. Establishing a new connection with a corpse costs 1/2 character level burn, min 1 – but for each additional corpse provided, said burn can be reduced by 1. 10th and 15th level unlock Large and Huge puppets, respectively, with options to accept burn to grow the puppets in a small quasi-ritual as well as the choice to instead commandeer multiple smaller puppets. This does consume the 7th level expanded element as well as the infusions granted at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level.

 

Corpse puppets may share spell-like utility wild talents that require a standard action to use, but this eliminates the standard action from the corpse puppeteer’s next round and burn may not be accepted when doing so. This replaces the companion link and usual share spells abilities of companions. Starting at 4th level, fleshcrafting is unlocked, allowing the puppeteer to add the unnatural evolution permanently to a corpse, though only one such modification can be in effect at any given time, +1 at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 10th level unlocks the use of improved unnatural evolution instead. Corpses may also take Extra Evolution, using HD as level. This replaces the 4th level utility wild talent. 6th level keeps the corpses from decaying as though gentle repose’d and 10th level nets expanded element instead of a utility wild talent. As a capstone, the puppets gain a massive nasty boost to their capabilities. All in all, a delightfully creepy kineticist pet class.

 

The Dread Soul must be evil and has a corresponding aura and, if they die, returning them to life is hard, since they are on the express train to becoming evil outsiders in the lower planes. The blasts of dread souls are treated as though modified by the aligned infusion, not counting towards the substance infusion limit – but obviously, the ability’s limited to evil and it replaces the first level infusion. 2nd level nets the Flesh of the Fallen unique elemental defense, which nets you scaling natural AC as well as resistance depending on the evil outsider (devil, demon, daemon) chosen; as always, burn can be accepted to increase these values up to a scaling limit (max +7) until you restore your burn. When you accept burn for a wild talent, your scales deal reflexive piercing damage equal to your elemental resistance to creatures assaulting you with non-reach melee weapons or natural attacks for 1 round.

 

Now 5th level becomes NASTY: As part of using any wild talent for which the dread soul must accept burn, excluding defense wild talents, they can target a living intelligent creature (Int 3+ – kittens and rats need not apply) to make a Will save or take one burn for the dread soul. Good creatures take a penalty to these saves and this delegated burn increases to 2 at 11th level, 3 at 17th level. If the creature manages the save, the dread soul is staggered until the end of his next round, but delegated burn does count, thankfully against the daily and per-round burn limits, avoiding abuse via fanatically loyal cohorts etc. – basically, the negative effects of burn are mitigated, but the resource as such is not tampered with. This may require a bit of book-keeping, but I wholeheartedly applaud the design decision and precision here. At 9th level, Con-mod times (Con mod times 2 at 20th level) per day, targets must succeed two saves against this to mitigate it, which does take a bit off the edge of the stagger on failure, but retains the gambit-y nature.

 

This ability eliminates infusion specialization 1, 3 and 5. At 6th,11th and 16th level, the archetype increases the amount of total burn he can accept a day instead of gaining internal buffer. 7th level expands the Flesh of the Fallen elemental defense to apply to a second element at slightly decreased potency and add a bonus to Intimidate checks equal to the natural AC-bonus to the benefits. Additionally, the archetype gets the soul burning substance infusion allows you to add, at 2 burn cost, +1 burn to your infusion, burn that is very hard, in particularly for good characters, to remove. At 10th level, expanded element is gained instead of the utility wild talent.15th level provides one of two infusions, one of which is gained instantaneously: Number 1 is an improved version of soulburning that deals lethal burn and requires greater restoration to remove. As a nitpick, the pdf failed to italicize the spell-name here. Number 2 would be an universal form infusion…and pretty much absolutely awesome: A foe reduced to 0 hit points is turned into a soulstone that flies to your hand, with the soulstone acting as an unwilling target for your burn-delegation – and best yet, the ability, while powerful, can’t be cheesed. no kitten-failure, no follower-exploit…just all around awesomeness. And no, you can’t stockpile them. Maximum 1. Finally, the second capstone ability lets you treat the delegated burn as not counting against your own burn maximum for a fitting, brutal capstone delimiter. All in all, cool evil kineticist archetype with some awesome visuals. Soul stones are just…*shudder* Also: Impressive from a design perspective regarding the lack of possible abuse scenarios – I tried hard to break this one and couldn’t do it. Kudos!!

 

I’ve spared the most interesting for last – the Dimensional Ripper, who must select aether, time or void as focus (and this restriction is maintained for expanded element at 15th level). Instead of the 2nd level’s utility wild talent, the class gets dimensional tear: As a standard action, these guys can accept 1 burn to create two tears in the dimensional veil. (Alternatively: Full-round action and no burn.) These must be within empty spaces within 50 ft (+10 ft. per level beyond 2nd) and require line of sight. Tears cannot be opened in hazardous terrain, are 5 ft. tall and wide and must be placed vertically on solid ground. They block line of sight and can be identified as via Knowledge (planes) and they cannot be opened where extradimensional travel is blocked. Tears closing on creatures deal 1d6 points of damage and shunt them to the nearest unoccupied free space. They automatically close upon a dimension ripper moving further than 100 ft. +10 ft. per level beyond their location. A given creature of size Large or smaller may enter a tear and exit at any given other tear to which it has line of sight and infinite loop-scenarios via tears end after the third iteration – so no eternal falling exploit. Attacks and spells shunted through a dimensional tear by any other character than the dimensional ripper emerge from a randomly determined dimensional tear (or re-emerge from the single tear, if only one’s here). Kinetic blasts may be fired freely through dimensional tears by the dimensional ripper, though the maximum range may not exceed that of the kinetic blast. Melee attacks (such as via kinetic whip) can only travel through 1 tear and blasts modified with form infusions require the ripper to be within 5 ft. of the blast, treating the tear from which it emerges as the origin. Kinetic blasts with the ranged infusion increase the range of the blast by 10 ft. per tear they travel through, up to a maximum of 10 ft. per 3 class levels. The ripper can maintain a number of tears equal to twice the amount they can create with a single use at a given time – at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, they may place tears in the air (but only at 1/2 maximum range height), while also creating +1 tear (+1 tear per ability use every 4 levels thereafter). Additionally, tears created as a standard action no longer cost burn, and they can be created as a move action for accepting one burn. At 10th level, move actions no longer cost burn and the tears can be opened as a swift action (though the ability fails to specify that it costs burn to do so, that is apparent from the context) and standard action-created tears no longer require burn to increase their duration.

 

At 8th level, burn can be accepted to make the dimensional tears last longer and treat travel through rifts as if affected by the light speed travel wild talent. The dimensional ripper may also apply hyper-dimension blast for 1 burn to their blasts, as long as the blast travels through at least one rift. 9th level is interesting – for +1 burn cost, the dimensional ripper can increase +atk and damage by +1 per tear traveled through by the blast, with a cap of 1 per 3 class levels. Additionally, charges made through them with melee-centric tricks like kinetic fist get upgraded to pounce and increase the movement rate for each tear passed by 10 ft., with the same cap determined by level. 11th level becomes crazy cool -as a move action, they can move any number of tears up to 30 ft. – and they can, as an immediate action, be moved into the charge of an enemy, forcing them to save or be at your mercy regarding their egress point.

 

17th level is the “watch me obliterate you”-move: Shoot a blast into a tear…watch it emerge from ALL your tears (except the first one used), at half strength – sure, 3 burn…but this *is* so gratifying. At 20th levels, two rifts can be collided, causing them to collapse in disintegrating, devastating blasts…oh, and yes, the more used, the deadlier. This is basically the equivalent of all those Japano-RPG final boss total annihilation moves. You need set-up…yes. But you can kill basically anything with it. And at 20th level…I’m surprisingly okay with that. Why? Because the dimensional ripper is FRIGGIN AWESOME. As in: Even if the rest of this book was utter garbage (which it isn’t!), this alone would warrant the asking price. It’s the efficient, cool, yet restricted portalist that has enough options at each level; that can snipe through portals; that makes for a ridiculously brilliant antagonist and for a radically different playing experience. This guy is platinum.

..

.

You’re still here, aren’t you? All right, all right. So, guess what – no new elements this time around. Instead, we get an example that N. Jolly can write nice fluff as well – 5 elemental saturations, basically, for those not in the know, leyline-like nexuses of power for kineticists, are provided – with the shadeless citadel for light, the genus loci (the land made flesh) and similarly iconic places awaiting your kineticists to tap into their power – and while intended for use with porphyra, these places can be inserted into other campaign settings without hassle. The cool thing here: By e.g surviving the genus loci trying to eat you, you gain a means to convert 1 point of lethal damage into non-lethal damage. Bracing the chamber of compressed time can provide you a move and a standard action in a surprise round – these are powerful, yes – but they also are story-benefits and as such completely in the hands of the GM.

 

The composite blast-section begins with a clarification: Composite blasts treated as though affected by an infusion don’t count the added effect towards the limits of substance of form infusions. The blasts themselves are, much like in KOP II, pretty versatile and feature interesting images: Blasts of gore, hellfire (fire + negative, +1 damage die step and burning infusion), rare-metal meteorites and there would also be complex mods like shatterstorm blast: While you reduce damage die size (erroneously called “hit die” here) by one step, you add +2 damage per HD and treat it as though the kinetic bomb infusion had been applied to it. Adding silverlight to positive energy blasts and reducing foes below 0 hp to ash…there are some ways with which one can be an utter, total prick here. Like it!

 

Of course, we once again get new infusion wild talents, with reprints from KOP I and II denoted as such, but contained for your convenience. At level 3, I consider ignoring 20 hardness and being treated as adamantine for 2 burn to be too early. The effects are generally valued as stronger than alignment DR and hardness is pretty much the best defense there is…so yeah, that one needs a whack with the nerf bat in my book. On the plus-side: Demoralizing via blasts? Cool idea, as it emphasis a bit more good ole’ skill use. Upgrade-follow-ups for the burning infusion, frying creatures in water, level 5 burn 4 dismissal…pretty neat. Follow-up shot is basically a Rapid Shot/Flurry-style form infusion, but I consider the Pyroclastic infusion to be more interesting: Creatures currently on fire can become your own little kinetic fire bombs. And then, there is Vital Blade. It works like kinetic blade, but can be used with Vital Strike, Improved Vial Strike and even when used as part of a charge. Sorry, but no. This is friggin’ OP. I know that plenty of people disagree with me on this one, usually people who like playing the theory-numbers game. I know quite a lot of gaming groups treat melee as a static of trading blows with minor movement here and there. My experience is, that fluid and dynamic combats that do not boil down to trading full attacks all the time, make for more exciting combats. If your enemy refuses to do the out-rambo-ing game with you, Vital Strike becomes extremely powerful; particularly so when combined with the damage-escalation tricks of the kineticist. For me, personally, this is broken. It may not be broken in your game – if movement in your game is worth less than in mine, which seems to be the case in some tables, then this won’t cause too much of a hassle. That being said, as a whole, this is a nice expansion indeed!

 

We proceed according to plan in a similar fashion with utility wild talents – the pdf offers quite an array of different new ones, with reprints properly codified. Adaptive skin builds on reflective skin, allowing you to change resistance after the triggering attack, while aerial supremacy allows for up to two 90° turns in an aerial charge. Aquatic kineticists will enjoy taking bubbles of the sea with them, allowing them to use their swim speed on land (Cerulean Seas fans – get this!!). Okay, here, I’ll just be a sour grape: Level 3 utility wild talent. Nets you dimensional tear. Only the basic one, sure…but please. It can also be upgraded via two follow-ups. Not close to the ripper, but still. The ability is ridiculously good. In my game, it will remain archetype exclusive – imho, easy access to them is too powerful. Elemental duplicates of the good ole’ hand-spells-formerly-known-as-Bigby-spells on the other hand, are cool. Also: paper control is MUCH cooler than basic phytokinesis 8did we ever actually get useful rules for that one?) and can be taken in its place…this is a good thing, for basic phytokinesis kinda never did make it into Occult Origins, at least not into my copy. So kudos for this required upgrade! Now, the book also has some absolute winners for the thinking and planning crowd – Photographic Transference. You can see through your illusions. As in: “You literally see through them, becoming blind while the effect lasts and instead watch the world from the illusions you created. Yes, this can be pretty darn awesome. You can also deal fire damage to yourself (or allies) to end bleed effects or make your kinetic cover come apart as difficult terrain when it’s broken. Quicksand sinkhole? Check. Modifying wind intensity (your sniper/artillery guy will thank you for it!) with appropriate levels for wind strength? Check. Oh, and you can play disco boy. No, seriously: Strobe Lights that fascinate targets. Drawing foes into dimensional tears or pulling out your own intestines and whipping foes with them? Yup. And yes, the latter has upgrades and feat-synergy. THANK YOU.

 

Beyond these, the book has EVEN MORE: Combo Wild Talents. Bone spikes wild talents, infused with biological toxins, for example. Oh yes. These made me very happy…and there is a lot of potential for more of them in the future. The pdf also introduces elemental mutations – basically, in Porphyra, the NewGod war etc. have tainted the elements. Kineticists may only have one such mutated element. Brutal is basically more powerful, but always takes lethal damage for Burn and burn altering effects. Conservative reduces damage, but also burn. Dense means that they treat non-physical blasts as physical…but need to attack regular AC. Intelligent mutation nets +2 class skills and skills per level, but requires a move action for gather energy and supercharge. These may btw. also help, scavenging-wise, campaigns that consider the kineticist’s damage output to be too high. Combine detriments and there you go. That just as an aside.

 

The pdf also features new feats – basic kinetic training nets you one utility wild talent, while Composite Blast technique allows you to gain a composite blast for which you’d require an expanded element. Another feat nets you +2 Burn a day, +1 dimensional tear per use of the ability. There is also a feat that deserves special mention: Overwhelming Defense treats you as though you have accepted 1 burn for the purpose of elemental defense, +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This is basically a power-upgrade for the Overwhelming Soul…and a good one.

 

The pdf also sports a couple of items – there would be the Elemental Heart artifact (Hint: Kineticists will want it!) Blaster’s bearing is brutal – it’s a sling bullet into which you can infuse kinetic blasts with substance infusions of up to 3rd level – and they make sense to me, with their warfare application and volatile nature keeping them from breaking in-game logic. Now burn fragments will not get into my game. these are one-use burn-reducers. Only by one, sure and the three variants and their caps are well-priced…but still. Not a fan. There would also be a robe that grants temporary hit points upon accepting burn.

 

The pdf concludes with Jade Strider, a CR 10 dimensional ripper sample character.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed a few glitches in the formal and rules-language department, though usually, they don’t impede the functionality of the content. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly 1-column color-standard of Purple Duck Games, with A5 (9” x 6”)-size. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks as well as gorgeous, original full-color artworks.

 

This is the third of the books by N. Jolly and team KOP (Jacob McCoy, Mort, Onyx Tanuki) and it is…grml…hrmpf…you know, I really want to complain about some of the options herein. I consider a couple of components to be too good. And, at high levels, a capable power-gamer can insta-kill pretty much everything by using this and KOP I + II…but that’s, for the most part, a system-inherent issue. Until 17th level, even with all the options in the combined KOP-books, the kineticists expanded played like strong choices and worked surprisingly well. This series, as a whole, is something, though, which much like psionics or similar systems, requires the GM to really grasp how the kineticists work – with the significant fine-tuning options the KOP-series offers, that holds true even more. This book, perhaps a bit more so, should be carefully read by the GM, since not all components will be fitting for all campaigns.

 

That out of the way, in spite of me disliking/banning more components in this book for use in my nonplaytest-home game than in the first and second book, this is still my favorite installment in the series. The archetypes are friggin’ inspired and the dimensional ripper alone is worth the price ten times. (Granted, I wouldn’t allow for other kineticists to get tears…but you may. Just rest assured that the foes will weep…) Anyhow, the new locales, the pieces of content that I liked, shone like stars to me this time around. The fact that the dread soul can’t be cheesed, the sheer complexity of the ripper that one ups the already significant complexity of the kineticist…this book is pretty much master-class level regarding in the difficulty of its designs…and it manages to make them work. That in itself is a damn feat and the level of creativity and coolness this one oozes is exceedingly pronounced. To sum up: Best archetypes in the series, best archetypes I’ve tested for the kineticist so far. Must own book. Even if you loathe the base kineticist with all your heart, get KOP I, II and III and see if the new elements, archetypes like the ripper or dread soul and elements like viscera don’t change your mind.

 

In short: Considering the more than fair price-point, the complexity of crunch offered, the quality of the complex crunch offered and the absolutely impressive execution of these components, this is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the few hiccups herein.

 

You can get this third expansion and the damn cool content in it here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 212016
 

Alchemist (5e) (Revised Edition)

177767

This class for D&D 5e clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review is based on V.1 of the file.

 

The alchemist class comes with a sufficient array of introductory fluff, quick build rules and then proceeds to provide the respective crunch: The previously missing plusses have been added to the proficiency bonus and the notation of the HD, 1d8, now also 100% conforms to D&D 5e standards. Proficiency-wise, alchemists gain simple weapons, blowgun, hand crossbow and net as well as Aachemist supplies plus herbalism or poisoner kits. Saving throw proficiencies, fittingly, would be Con and Int and skill-wise, two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, perception and Religion are available. The starting equipment choices are sufficiently varied and allow for a nice array of customization and properly adhere to the standards established.

 

Alchemist spellcasting works a bit differently – while they gain cantrips, they refer to their spells as mixtures. While alchemists do gain 7th, 8th and 9th-level mixture slots, these only can be used to trigger or empower formulae from 1st to 6th level or utilize class features. Alchemist casting is a bit different: You expend a slot and then get the mixture’s effects…but you may delay the onset/use of the mixture to a later date, with proficiency bonus denoting the cap of mixtures you can have ready to trigger at any given time. Here’s the kick, though: Creatures with an Int of 4 or higher can spend their Action to trigger the mixture – you don’t have to do so yourself! Attacks made by other characters with your mixture use their Intelligence modifier, but your proficiency bonus – this previously slightly wonky sentence is now streamlined and can’t be misinterpreted anymore. Kudos!

 

You can prepare formula to turn into mixtures on a given day equal to Int-mod +alchemist level, minimum 1. Preparing a different formula does not require a short rest, only 1 minute of preparation per formula level. You need to succeed the concentration checks, if any, for your mixtures, even if someone else triggers them…unless you have reached 9th level and 15th level, at which point you may delegate the concentration of one or two mixtures simultaneously to other characters. The governing attribute for mixtures is Intelligence.

 

Some formulae can be prepared as rituals, provided they have the correct tag and alchemist formulae have Somatic and Material components, but no verbal components. At 1st level, you begin play with 6 1st level formulae, with each level providing +2 formulae of your choice. Formulae may be copied from spellbooks, scrolls, etc. and alchemists may attune magic items usually restricted to the sorceror and wizard classes as well as other, general spellcaster-exclusive items. 2nd level nets you more item preparation efficiency for alchemical items (proficiency modifier per day of downtime with your kit), excluding poisons or herbalism-based items. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter (minus 20th, plus 19th) net you ability score increases. The capstone lets up to 3 creatures maintain concentration in your place.

 

The defining feature of the class, though, would certainly the alchemical tradition chosen at 3rd level, which truly defines the class – basically, these are the domains, the archetypes of the class. Each tradition sports bonus formulae, which are added to the formula-list of the alchemist in question, with the first such tradition being the artificer. At 3rd level, they get proficiency in three toolkits and at 6th level, the jack-of-all-traditions ability – which lets you add 3 formulae from other traditions, though these do not count as bonus formulae. 10th level lets you ignore class, race and alignment restrictions for item-attunement.

 

Additionally, you may choose to not regain mixture slots upon completion of a long rest, instead maintaining the functionality of those you already have created. 14th level becomes interesting: When you use a 7th level slot to prepare a mixture of 4th level or lower, it may be triggered twice before being expended. Long rests eliminate, as usual, both uses and rest the process. If the duration exceeds instantaneous, it can only be used a second time after the first use has elapsed. As soon as you have access to 8th level slots, you may do the same for this slot and mixtures of 5th level or lower.

 

At 18th level, 9th level and mixtures of 7th level or lower get a different upgrade – namely, duration: It increases to 10 days!!! If it is instantaneous, the mixture may be trigger your Intelligence modifier times per day. Effects that require concentration can be suspended as a bonus action and resumed as an action. Linked gates can be reopened by resuming concentration.

 

The second tradition would be the Herbwarden, who gains proficiency with Herbalism kits at 3rd level (which may be redundant if you haven’t chosen poisoner kit at first level) and either Medicine or Nature, with Medicine being governed by Intelligence for you. Also at 3rd level, you may use field medicine to allow a target to expend HD as though he had completed a short rest, with higher levels increasing the number of HD a target can spend. Once a creature has thus been healed, it can’t be healed again this way unless it has completed a short rest, providing a nice anti-abuse caveat. 6th level nets advantage on saves versus poison and versus effects generated by oozes, plants and plant creatures as well as increased item creation in downtime with herbalist kits, analogue to the previous archetype’s crafting-enhancement.

 

10th level lets you double Int-mod when making Intelligence (Nature or Medicine) checks and when making healing mixtures. 14th level’s ability has been revised and is rather cool: After a target has been healed or stripped of a negative condition or disease by you, it can choose, upon failing the next saving throw or ability check, to reroll one failed ability check or saving throw. 18th level nets the herbwarden the option to expend a 9th level slot to animate plants as a shambling mound that can be commanded via telepathy.

 

The third tradition would be the Irezumi, most of whose mixtures are intricate tattoos. As such, they gain proficiency with tattooing supplies at 3rd level -a new kit that now comes with a base price and weight.. Also at 3rd level, the irezumi gains two cantrips from any spellcasting class. At 6th level, irezumi can create mystic tattoos in an 8-hour process. Once the tattoo is created, you can charge a number of mystic tattoos equal to your proficiency bonus. You can charge the tattoos of other irezumi, if you want to. Tattoos can be triggered by the target as an action much like mixtures and the benefits last one hour.

 

The benefits depend upon the region: Arms grant resistance to one damage type chosen upon being tattooed, which imho could have used a finer restriction, since physical damage types and e.g. force or radiant are situationally more powerful and useful than others. Head can net you Advantage on Insight or Perception or Darkvision; Legs can provide these benefits to Athletics/Acrobatics or net +10 ft. movement and the torso nets advantage on one saving throw. 10th level allows the irezumi to grant a subject up to 2 mystic tattoos and 14th level allows you to charge a bonus formula of 4th level or lower into a mystic tattoo, allowing the user to trigger that formula.

 

Here’s the thing, though: The formula is permanent. It is not expended upon being triggered, but any use beyond the first in a long-rest-interval incurs one level of exhaustion. I am a bit weary of this one in the long run – for as long as D&D 5e maintains the very high value of exhaustion, this is okay. As soon as a game has means of mitigating exhaustion, this may become problematic. This is just me being meta, though – so far, exhaustion remains one of the most crucial conditions in 5e and thus, this is solid. 18th level lets you create a master tattoo, which works analogue to the aforementioned tattoo, only with up to 6th level qualifying and two levels of exhaustion incurred upon repeated use.

 

The metamorph is pretty much the Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde alchemist – at 3rd level, expenditure of a 2nd level slot lets these guys trigger a combined alter self/enhance ability/mage armor with a duration of Concentration, up to 1 hour – but for the duration, you gain disadvantage on a mental ability’s associated rolls. 6th level lets you use Int instead of Con to determine hit points, retroactive to 1st level, and 6th level further enhances the mutagen’s effects. At 10th level, stoneskin is added to the fray and at 14th, regeneration is added alongside better natural weapons, advantage on concentration checks and an enhanced duration. Finally, at 18th level, the benefits are further expanded. Cool one!

 

The next one would be the poisoner, whose bonus formulae are considered to be poison effects. At 3rd level, you gain 6 doses of basic poison and now, also proficiency with the poisoner’s kit. You also get proficiency in Sleight of Hand, Stealth and may apply poisons as a bonus action (3 for ammunition). You create proficiency bonus doses of poison per day in downtime and the may be ingested, inhaled or injury and deal 2d6 poison damage on a failed save- now properly used damage-type-wise. Kudos! After a long rest, you may refine poisons not crafted by you to apply benefits to them as though they were made by you – which now, in a didactically cleaner manner, directly points towards the respective abilities.

 

Well, yeah – at 6th level, you increase their save DC to your mixture save DC and when you harvest poison, you instead get proficiency modifier doses from a given creature. At 10th level, targets also acquire the poisoned condition when succumbing to your poisons and your poison creation quickens, now also for non-basic poisons. At 14th level, you may expend mixture slots to weaken targets versus poisons and diseases or even bypass poison immunity/resistance. At 18th level allows you to expend slots to make mixtures particularly lethal and poisons generated thus nigh impossible to negate.

 

The penultimate tradition would be the pyromancer, who can manipulate the damage-type of evocation-cantrips and spells by changing it to one of the classic energies or physical types. 6th level provides resistance to one of the classic energy damage types, though you can change the type after a short rest. 10th level adds Int-mod to the damage of evocation mixtures and 14th level provides an array of benefits that allow you to double the radius, range or make the AoE into cones or single squares by using a 7th level slot for a 5th level or lower evocation. The 18th level ability fails to specify the level it is gained, but imposes disadvantage on saves versus 7th level or lower evocations prepared via a 9th level slot.

 

The final tradition would the nod to ole’ Herby West, the re-animator, who gets find familiar at 3rd level and may choose a crawling claw or homunculus . Any familiar is undead, though it gains advantage on saves versus effects specifically targeting the undead. Also at this level, you double your Int-mod for Medicine-checks and gain sneak attack progression of up to +5d6 at 18th level. At 6th level, undead you create also have the advantage of your familiar and at 10th level, you gain advantage on saves versus disease, poison and fear as well as the option to use a bonus action once per activity interval to temporarily gain resistance to damage from non-magical weapons and advantage on ability checks for 1 minute. At 14th level, you can use create undead to make (or assert control over) flesh golems and revenants and at 18th level, you can make either two flesh golems or two revenants…provided, for both abilities, that you expend the high-level slot.

 

It should also be noted that the pdf has a nod towards the intriguing Salt-in-Wounds-series (Think high, dark fantasy with a society based on the regenerating flesh of the subdued tarrasque) and advice on creating your own traditions.

 

Conclusion:

 

Editing and formatting have been SIGNIFICANTLY improved and now are top-notch. Where the rules-language wasn’t 100% perfect before, it now is. The sub-abilities no longer are italicized, which means you can easily see the now properly italicized spells. Even cosmetic and didactic complaints I nitpicked are fixed. Kudos indeed! Layout adheres to an elegant two-column, full-color standard with pretty big borders at the top and bottom and several pieces of thematically fitting art that has a photo-like-look. First, I considered it to be a bit jarring, but it rather grew on me.

 

Rich Howard and Tribality Publishing have taken an already good, evocative class and sanded off teh rough edges, showing that they care for their books, rendering the new alchemist superior in every way to its predecessor. The special casting of the class and its internal nomenclature are surprisingly consistent. While I wasn’t blown away by all traditions and while I think they do vary slightly in power, I was particularly surprised by the poisoner and irezumi. While the latter can be considered to be perhaps one of the strongest options herein, it also is a class that requires the interaction with a group to prosper. And seeing unifying tattoos on a group by the same artist can be pretty cool roleplying material. If an irezumi dies and a survivor looks at the tattoo as someone asks how she got it…well, let’s just say that I think the class and its modular traditions (of which we’ll hopefully see more in the future) proved to be interesting to me.

The level of care and detail that went into updating this pdf and the significant improvements make this revised edition now well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

 

You can get this cool base class here on OBS!

Want to support Tribality Publishing directly? Here’s the patreon!

Intrigued by Salt-in-Wounds? Here’s the patreon!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 212016
 

Bevy of Blades

174535

This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

After a page of introduction to the subject matter, we are introduced to the first of the base classes in this book, the aether blade, who gets d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, aether blade, light armor and bucklers. The class has good Fort- and Will-saves and full BAB-progression. At 1st level, the class gets its defining aether weapon and chooses the shape, which is retained forever after – either light (1d6 base damage), one-handed (1d8 base damage) or two-handed (2d6 base damage) – the blade can be formed as a move action. Aether blades may choose damage type (piercing, slashing, bludgeoning) when they call forth the blade. There is something odd in the rules-language for changing damage-types: “The aether blade can change the damage type of an existing blade, or may summon a new blade with a different damage type, as a full-round action.”

 

The problem here is twofold: One, the ability fails to its own nomenclature: aether blade = class; aether weapon = class feature. The text should refer to the weapon. Secondly, after relinquishing the grip or throwing the blade, it dissipates. Letting go of an item is…bingo, free action. So, drop weapon, call new one = move action. Why would I EVER spend a full-round action? It would make sense if the choice of damage type upon calling wasn’t free every time around, but this way, action economy makes no sense. The aether weapon can be sustained within antimagic fields by succeeding Will-saves, which is a nice catch. 1st level also nets Arcane Strike, which treats aether blade levels as caster levels. The aether blade also receives Cha-mod to AC and applies said bonus to neither touch, not flat-footed AC. The aether blade loses the bonus when wearing armor heavier than light, medium or heavier load and when cowering/helpless, etc. At 6th level, the bonus does apply to touch AC, with 14th level applying it to CMD and flat-footed AC as well..

 

Starting at 2nd level, the aether blade gets the aetheric aura class feature, which allows the aether blade to use a standard action to disperse parts of her blade in a 20 ft- radius, granting a +1 morale bonus to all allies within the area, depending on the aura used. The bonus increases by +1 at 7th level, 13th level and 18th level. Auras can be maintained for 4 + Cha-mod rounds per day, +2 round per additional class level. One aura can be maintained at 2nd level, with 11th and 19th level allowing for +1 aura in effect at any given time. 6th level modifies the action economy to activate down to a move action, 11th down to a swift action. New auras are gained every 4 levels after the 2nd. The auras allow for the application of the bonus to initiative, concentration, melee damage rolls, CMD, Cl-checks, 5 times bonus energy resistance to an element chosen upon activation, saves vs fear effects, atk or CMB. As you can glean, the bonuses range from very universal to very specific – bonus versus fear don’t seem to be on par with the others, for example.

 

The aether blade also uses Cha instead of Int-mod for Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft – oddly, this one is gained at 2nd level, which is rather odd, considering that it can mean, theoretically, that the class has higher capability in the skills at 1st level than 2nd – usually, such abilities make more sense at 1st level. Additionally, the ability does not specify the level it’s gained at – you have to consult the table. Cosmetic, yes, but still a tad bit annoying. 3rd level unlocks aura vision – class level rounds of detect magic that immediately provide full 3-round infos. I’m not a fan of this one, but, beyond personal preference, it is SU (when it should probably be SP) and lacks the activation action. 3rd level also nets eldritch symbiosis, which can be likened to a kind of linear order or bloodline-ish ability, three of which are provided: Wand, staff and rod. New abilities are unlocked at 3rd (apprentice), 9th (journeyman) and 17th level (master). In order to activate the abilities granted by this class feature, the aether blade has to be formed around the respective item. The respective item can then be used by the aether blade as though she was a wizard equal to her class level. However, while this symbiosis is in effect, the aether weapon cannot be used as such – it has basically been transformed in the respective item. Each of the paths provide a bonus feat at apprentice level and more complex abilities at higher levels, with journeyman generally providing passive abilities. The master abilities diverge wildly – from expending charges to temporarily enhance aether weapon damage output, adding defending to Cha-mod short-range teleports, the abilities are diverse, though the latter fails to specify CL or whether it’s SP or not…which it probably should be.

 

4th level provides the option to absorb and freely distribute bonuses of magic items, which is pretty OP – even similar godblade classes like the soulknife or ethermagus directly specify the enhancements available. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide exactly one spell of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th level respectively that can be cast 1/day, with each step of the ability increasing the daily uses of the previously chosen SPs by +1/day, with Cha acting as governing attribute, just fyi. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net +1 to saves versus SPs and arcane spells and, as a capstone, the aether blade gets SR equal to 20 + Cha-mod, with the option to spell turn spells that fail to penetrate the SR as an immediate action. Additionally, the class can now cast an SP as a free action after confirming a crit.

 

The archetype provided for the class, the aether knight, is proficient with medium and heavy armor and shields, replacing aetheric armor and its follow-ups….and the regular list of proficiencies. Which is problematic, as RAW, it eliminates light armor and all weapon proficiencies of the class. Instead of an aether weapon, they can call forth an aetheric shield, with eldritch symbiosis being replaced with an appropriate, defensive version that applies to magical armor. Once again, a SP is not properly declared as such, but that’s mostly a nitpick. Instead of spells, these guys can grant themselves scaling bonuses to physical attributes or natural AC.

 

The second class would be the Shadow Blade, who gets d10, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors as well as full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. They begin play with Improved Feint and unexpected strike, which is basically sneak attack that only applies when a foe is denied his Dex-mod, not when flanking, with die-increases only at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Starting at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class may decrease armor check penalties by increasing amounts. 2nd level also provides Steel Shadows, a shield bonus to AC that increases over the levels – but the ability does not mention the scaling here; you have to take a look at the table, which is slightly inconvenient. This may also be due to the irregular scaling of the bonus: The bonus increases to +2 at 7th level, +3 at 11th level and then to +4 at 17th level.

 

3rd levels beshadowed blade nets +1/2 class level to feint, but only for one weapon…and the ability lacks an activation action. The same level also nets darkvision, which increases in range and may later penetrate magical darkness…and the ability has no interaction-clause for races that already have it. 4th level can be unintentionally OP: The intent for the ability is to eliminate movement rate reductions caused by armor, which is okay. The ability says, though: “While wearing shrouded armor, the shadow blade does not suffer from a reduction in speed.” This can be read as eliminating reductions of the movement rate due to encumbrance, caltrops, difficult terrain, etc. due to not directly referring to the armor. While its twin ability makes the intent clear, this still needs polishing. Twin ability? Yup, twilight tread allows for a limited number of rounds of difficult terrain traversal per day, thankfully sans abuse options re damaging terrain. 5th level provides an SU dimension door-like low-range standard action-based (move at 10th, swift at 15th level) shadow jump that does not specify that it’s a conjuration [teleportation]-effect or a caster level for purpose of block-interactions.

 

At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow blade may choose a dark revelation, which basically constitute the unique maneuvers/tricks of the class. And generally, I like them…using shadow jumping distance as resources to flank with oneself (though the nerfed pseudo-sneak takes away some appeal here) is nice – though the very conservative distances available do mean that you won’t pull off this trick often anyways. On the plus-side, SPs are properly designated here. At 8th level and every 4 thereafter, the shadow blade also gets a shrouded secret, which basically would be the defensive/stealth-themed tricks. The capstone allows the class to choose one of three effects – form large-area darkness through which allies can see, DR 10, low-light vision (srsly, at 20th level?) and immunity to cold or heavy fortification in the shrouded armor.

 

The umbral prowler archetype would be basically a rogue/shadow blade blend, with trapfinding, increasing movement rate, scaling dodge-bonus to AC as well as access to thievery-enhancing dark revelations and 6+Int skills.

 

The third class, the verdant blade gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as Wisdom-based spellcasting up to 4th spell level, drawn from the druid spell-list, with the usual -3 level caveat, since spellcasting is learned at 4th level. Oddly, the class must be non-evil. The class gains a woad weapon of his choice, with composite bows adjusting to the Strength score of the character…which is problematic at low levels, considering how expensive these can get. The weapon usually is a kinda-symbiotic seed and can be drawn as though it was a normal weapon. At 5th level, Str-scores of composite bow forms can be upgraded and the verdant blade is considered to have Craft Magic Arms and Armor for purposes of woad weapon enhancement. Unfortunately, this provides no means to offset spell-requirements for crafting. The weapon naturally regenerates hit points. The verdant blade can implant seeds in foes; the effects last for 3 + Wis-mod rounds, can be used 1/2 class level + Wis-mod times per day and has a scaling save, with the precise save-type being determined by the seed discovery chosen. Continuous damage, entangling foes and debuffs can be found here, with the first such seed being available from level 1 onward and subsequently, gaining +1 such seed discovery every 4 levels thereafter. They vary greatly in power with low-level summon swarm being pretty OP in comparison to -2 to Will saves. +1/2 class level to Knowledge (nature) and Survival is also part of the starting ability array. AT 10th level, two seeds can be implanted at a given time and the maximum limit of seeds per target increases to 2.

 

At 2nd level, the class can scavenge together tools (nice!) a, with 4th level making wooden items like this tougher and treated as magic. He also gains woodland stride. 3rd level nets +1 natural armor; +1 every 4 levels thereafter as well as trackless step. 4th level provides the option to 3+ Wis-mod times create patches of caltrop-y terrain as a move action. 6th level provides a mantle that first grants concealment vs. ranged attacks, 12th extends this to melee and 18th grants fly speed 30 ft. + good maneuverability, all activated as a swift action and usable for class level + Wis-mod rounds. 8th level makes the blade count as cold iron and 14th level provides breath of life as a 1/day SP with damn cool visuals, as the verdant blade jump-starts fallen comrades by plunging his sword in their breast. 16th level allows for making treant allies and 50% provides basically a 50% fortification apotheosis complete with only 1 hour of sleep required and the option to gain sustenance from air and sun, etc.

 

The class can pursue the verdant florist archetype, who may grow and apply aromatic flowers on the woad weapon as a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity to adjacent, willing allies. These provide morale bonuses to skill or ability checks or saves, with the bonus increasing by +1 at 9th and 17th level and the effect remaining for class level rounds. A total of 16 blossoms are provided. Starting at 5th level, two flowers can be combined into one bouquet and at 13th level, 3 effects can be chosen at once, though each blossom still consumes a use of the ability, with a total of 1/2 class level + Wis-mod daily uses. A flower is chosen instead of seeds and generally, this is the buff equivalent of the debuff-heavy class. On a nitpicky side, the mention of the flower sticking to the character as a kind of corsage implies it occupying a slot, which I assume it does not.

 

The final class herein would be the Vital Blade, who gains d10 HD, 2+ Int skills per level, is proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields as well as full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves. Vital blades have a sangineous sword and begin play with Weapon Focus for it. This sword can, as a move action (swift at 8th, 16th level as a free action), be formed from a wound-like rune. Oddly, the ability can form any melee weapon the character is proficient with, making the name of the ability somewhat unfortunate. The vital blade begins play with a blood pool of 1 + Con mod points and is considered to have the Diehard feat while the pool sports at least 1 point. The pool refreshes via critical hits and killing blows – and BOTH have an anti-kitten-abuse caveat! NICE! 2nd level nets Endurance as a bonus feat as well as weeping weapon – as a swift action before making an attack, the vital blade can add scaling acid damage 3+ Con-mod times per day to his blade, with damage beginning at +1d4 and increasing by +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter.

 

3rd level decreases any bleed damage incurred by 1/2 class level. as well as granting the first blood talent, which is btw. the ability that will generally be used to consume those blood points. Additional blood talents are gained every 2 levels thereafter. Tracking by scent after tasting a foe’s blood, gaining Con-mod to initiative, firing shrapnel of blood (consuming weeping wounds instead of blood points) – the ideas are solid. Problematic, considering the clusterf*** that weapon-size-rules are: Increasing the size of the vital blade…can the vital blade still wield the weapon as its original size or as the modified size? Passive abilities like natural armor and DR can also be chosen and AoO-less SP grease via blood as well as weeping wound enhancers are included in the deal. Creatures slain temporarily increase the enhancement bonus of the vital blade, with the daily maximum being determined by the class levels of the vital blade.

 

At higher levels, the sanguineous sword is treated as magic and can be used to attack as a touch attack a limited amount of times per day. The class has two capstones, one of which allows for self-healing and Con-damage inflicting, with the other providing immunities and a slowly replenishing blood pool. The archetype for the class is the crimson inheritor, who loses heavy armor proficiency and gains a sorceror (not bloodrager?) bloodline to replace his blood talents with – though only the arcanas are gained. Bonus feats from the bloodline can be taken instead of blood talents. At 6th level, 1/2 crimson inheritor level is treated as sorceror level for purpose of bloodline spell availability, with the spells costing their spell level in blood points to cast. As a capstone, the archetype provides the final bloodline power.

 

The pdf provides favored class options for the classes, but only for the core races. Finally, the pdf provides 5 new feats: One for +1 morale bonus for verdant florist flowers, +1 blood talents. The others are problematic: Applying lesser metamagic rods to SPs…ouch. That’s just begging to be combo’d some way. Arcane Celerity and Bulwark are very strong: Both can be activated as a swift action. The first nets you 1/2 caster level + casting ability modifier temporary hit points, providing a constant shield. The second nets you 1/2 class level as bonus to you base land speed, and a bonus to AC vs AoOs equal to your highest mental attribute modifier. Both effects only last one round, sure, but the lack of cap makes them pretty strong. That being said, my main gripe with them is that both only require you to be able to cast arcane spells – that’s it. As 1st level-available feats, they are underpriced.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – it noticed no formal glitches and the rules-languages was also, with some minor hiccups, very consistent and adhered to the standards. Well done! Layout adheres to a two-column full-color used-parchment-style look that is solid, though personally, I think the respective class names would have made good headers – as provided, these are jammed in the upper left corner. Speaking of which: This is a very dense pdf with a *LOT* of crunch within its pages. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. Artist-wise, the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, though ardent readers of 3pp material will be familiar with the pieces used.

 

Brian Moran’s Bevy of Blades is an interesting pdf in that it shows a capacity to handle pretty complex concepts. While there are a couple of freshman hiccups in the book, the classes themselves should not unhinge any game they’re introduced into, so balance-wise, at least as a whole, I have no complaints apart from the two feats. Internally, the options of the classes diverge in power rather significantly, with clearly superior options and less optimal choices. Some internal streamlining may have helped here. The book, when it does have issues, mostly has them in the tiniest of rules-minutiae or on a meta-design level. Take the vital blade, which, with the verdant blade, would be my favorite herein: It gets this cool, somewhat grit-like blood pool…and must wait until 3rd level to actually do ANYTHING with it. That’s not a particularly fulfilling two levels there. Player agenda, in short, could be slightly more pronounced in all of the classes. Internal nomenclature of the classes could also have been a bit tighter.

 

As for my personal assessment: The aether blade didn’t particularly excite me with its pseudo-casting – you can have that concept in several, more compelling ways. The shadow blade…just isn’t on par with superior takes on the concepts – of which there are many. The verdant blade and vital blade generally have cool engines set up in their class progression and as such, I enjoyed both – however, I really wished the classes did a bit more with their unique set-ups, focused a bit more on these aspects. In the end, whether you will like this book very much depends on how much 3pp-material you have and how much money you’re willing to invest. Compared to e.g. the soulknife or the ethermagus, the aether blade just feels bland in options and playstyle. Similarly, there are more compelling shadow-themed classes. At the same time, you will be very hard-pressed to get said classes for the low asking price of this pdf and both verdant and vital blade, while not perfect, do have some pretty cool options. I look forward to seeing the designer tackle more complex and variable concepts. In the end, I consider this a solid buy for its low and fair asking price. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

 

You can get these inexpensive classes here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Jul 202016
 

Aventyr Bestiary

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This massive bestiary clocks in at 148 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 143 pages of content, one of which is devoted to the cover artist Raven Mimura’s biography as well as the story behind the cover.

 

This book, just so you know it, is dedicated to Joshua Gullion, KTFish7, fellow reviewer, colleague and friend – he always did champion a bestiary for AAW Games’ Aventyr setting and I does warm my heart to see this dream realized. In particularly since Aventyr’s critters, from humble A03 onwards, have been a defining staple of the setting. The crab-like Kra’tah that haunted the Vikmordere burial ground is but one of the creatures found within this book alongside new variants of the evocative monstrosity.

 

So yes, beyond simply being a massive collection of monsters can also be seen as a kind of “best of” of what has come out of creature-design for the Aventyr-setting – the evocative underworld races introduced under their own product line have representations here, from the crystalline colliatur to the alien funglets and the related creatures, they find their representations within this book. We can find deep badgers with the respective animal companion stats and classics like the delightfully disturbing NITNAM from classic A09, a gigantic blob of flesh, a parasite-like infection of flesh on a wizard’s tower, can be found herein as well.

 

Each of the monsters is codified via an easy to use monster icon key that depicts the climate in which the monster can be found as well as types and subtypes via pretty self-explanatory glyphs – though, as one nitpick pertaining the layout, the borders of these icons could be cleaner/sharper in the pdf-version.

 

So, this would cover the basics – but what beyond them? Well, there is a certain truth in the old saying that a campaign setting’s monsters somewhat define a given world and system. One of the reasons that drew me to Pathfinder back when I bought #1 of RotRL was the take on goblins – the fact that they were evocative and different. The themes evoked in the book, from the Jersey devil-like Sandpoint Devil to some encounters all provided a mature theme I preferred to that of almost all official WotC-modules and inclusion of themes from the Dark Tapestry and ever more twists on the familiar tropes ultimately did their fair share in ensuring I’d stay with Pathfinder as my default system.

 

A world’s monsters very much define its tone, a crucial component for any fantasy gaming setting: Introduce enough goofy creatures and the whole setting feels lighthearted; introduce enough grimdark elements and it similarly becomes rather dark. But beyond that, creature-design for setting bestiaries very much requires, at least in my book, a feeling of cohesion. Ultimately, my main measure for setting based bestiaries would be the fact that a bestiary like this needs to evoke a cohesive identity via its creatures between the lines – to succeed here, we require a sense of the down-to-earth baseline for a given world in the animals and plants. The aventyr bestiary does provide the like, with subterranean boars called vvors, svirfneblin riding slugs (!!!)…and then there would be skildpadders. Scandinavians may already glean at what these creatures precisely are, the name translating to tortoise – but the creature itself is massive. Skildpadders in the context of Aventyr are giant bulette-tortoises, used as elephant-on-speed-like beasts of burden by the dwarves, with howdahs and the like…and yes, they are damn dangerous and ravenous…but mere words do an insufficient job in describing the impact this creature had on my. Build-wise, it may not be the most evocative one, but the almost two-page-filling, massive artwork of this beast and the iconic nature of the concept adds a whole level of ideas to the game: I can see these titans making their way through the gigantic subterranean landscapes of the underworld, with their crews defending caravans of the gigantic beasts against the numerous threats below the surface. Images like this are truly fantastic in the best of ways and provide a unique sense of consistency to the world.

 

Another of my favorites would be the Szaboan: Think of a colossal crab with mantis-shrimp-like, scintillating coloring and two surprisingly cute rabbity-looking “ears” as feeler and red eyes…above a gigantic, all-consuming lamprey-like mouth, large enough to swallow whole houses, with rows upon rows of churning teeth? Yeah…at once cute and creepy…I love it.

 

Similarly, no (A)D&D/d20-based bestiary would truly be complete without an odd hybrid creature and this bestiary does offer such beings; as an example, I’d like to mention the Stegaloviper – at CR 7, this Huge foe is a disturbing cross of viper and centipede, with a massive, stegalodon-like club as its tail – think of a titanic rattle-snake that can bludgeon you to death with her rattle, while also have Alien-like mandibles in the gaping maw and insectoid legs on the underside of its belly. I almost expected this creature to feature in one of the classic, beloved Chronicles/Savage Sword of Conan-comics. Speaking of which – the builds of such fantastic creatures that breathe a certain sense of the unique can also be seen in the variants of fantastic spiders, with the CR 11 sloth spider and its lethargic aura and slime coating rendering it pretty powerful – but its stone carapace does render it staggered…until it erupts in devastating bursts of speed. Finally, the alien and tentacled Veinar, somewhere between Lovecraftian horror and plant-like aberration certainly should make fans of sword & sorcery tropes grin with glee.

 

Rust mites would also be pretty cool and certainly a creature PCs and players alike will come to hate: After all, how do you make rust monsters novel and nastier? Bingo. Make them a swarm. Speaking of magical vermin – chikfari would be grasshopper-like predators with devastating kicks. One of my own favorites, though, would be the dread karz – carnivorous slugs with bony protrusions , the ability to psionically lure in foes and a coating of poisonous, paranoia-inducing slime. And yes, before you ask: Salt does help. One component of this bestiary I personally very much enjoy is that the creatures herein often feature reward-mechanisms for smart groups to exploit, emphasizing creativity over just rolling the dice and comparing math.

 

There are also some truly weird monsters in this book that very much feel like they could have been picked from the pages of the mythology of our very own world: Take the Sigbin, for example: The winged predator with its black/red-striped fur, claws and goat’s head, it has sleep-toxin coated spines, is infused with the essence of shadow and can grapple and pin shadows of those that run afoul of it. The three variants of the shield warden, spanning CRs from 7 to 18 would be the creatures featured on the cover – and they are similarly feeling like they belong, though here, the analogue one can find would be with the tropes and concepts of the magical guard, the superb security and guardian. What about constructs that resemble weird crosses between chickens and houses?

 

Speaking of constructs: What about sentient, psionic asteroids with gravity fields? And yes, the book also features golems galore – Two variants of book golems, the lavishly-rendered totem golem (one of the coolest creatures in the book with a ton of unique tricks), mosaic tile golems or spells/power points-leeching constructs…and more. On a less positive note, there is a rendition for a mob as aswarm herein – when that one was originally released, there was not yet a troop subtype, but conversion into it wouldn’t have hurt the mob. Still, that issue extends to only one adversary herein.

 

However, as any good setting-specific bestiary acknowledges, there are also some threats that are, well, pretty much unique threats; bosses. This book also features those – a force of nature, the feral titan called Mortdravva (CR 22), for example. Noght Ma’klurl’uth the Madness Slug; or the insectoid, devilish titan called Naghith, the many-winged father, worshipped and feared by primitive tribes. The artworks for some of the adversaries herein are simply stunning, with the latter being a prime example for pure greatness. What about the Rellum, a gargantuan CR 24 ooze and incarnation of pure, destructive chaos?

 

The book also features no less than 6 templates, from the gorgeously rendered Colliatur monstrosity to the HEL-creature to making titanic versions of standard critters, the templates offer for neat customization options.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, particularly for a book of this size. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard, though, at least in the pdf, it could be a bit sharper. The book sports a huge array of artwork: Avid fans of 3pp-supplements may recognize a few of the artworks from previous releases, but the new ones truly shine, with several absolutely superb pieces that immediately grab your attention. The book also features several really big, one-page renditions…in short: This is a beautiful book. A very beautiful book. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Now I don’t (yet) own the print of this book, but I am sure as HEL going to get it – my print copies of Snow-White and Rise of the Drow are simply gorgeous and the smaller AAW Games-releases similarly are aesthetically pleasing….so yeah. If you can and prefer print, go for the premium paper-version. Worth it.

 

Mike Myler, Jonathan G. Nelson, Michael Allen, Curtis Baum, Wolfgang Baur, Brian Berg, Adam Daigle, Jeff Gomez, Joshua Gullion, Jacob Kellog, Jared Jeanquart, Juan Lucha, Justin Andrew Mason, Jonathan McAnulty, Michael McCarthy, Raven Mimura, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Will Myers, Jason Nelson, Owen K.C. Stephens, Colin Stricklin, Cory Wickruck, Stephen Yeardley – notice something in this list of authors? Yep, this is a veritable who is who of not only the gifted authors in the cadre of AAW Games, it also features some of the biggest names in third party publishing – and it shows.

 

The Aventyr Bestiary is a great book brimming with imagination and truly unique ideas – whether you want a fix of sword-and-sorcery-esque themes, strange horrors or simply cool animal-like creatures, the book breathes a sense of the fantastic. More surprising, though, is that it retains, in spite of the breadth it covers, in spite of the various voices of designers herein, a sense of cohesion and consistency. Reading this book, you can’t help but slowly get a feeling for the world of Aventyr, one that extends beyond the confines of individual monster entries. It’s subtle; it’s, in fact, almost imperceptible…but it’s here. A feeling of everything coming together, of a fantastic world that feels different from others; by virtue of its creatures and the themes they provide. The presence of what one could consider “puzzle foes” in the book similarly is something I cherish and quite a few creatures in this book made me go “Damn, this one could carry a whole adventure!” and then start brainstorming.

 

This, to me, is testament of the quality and imaginative potential this offers. At the same time, though, you should be aware of the fact that rabid fans of Aventyr will see some old acquaintances here: If you, like me, own a majority of AAW Games’ output, you’ll encounter quite a few of the best-of critters featured in the respective modules. These tend to be winners and evocative indeed, mind you, but it is still something to bear in mind. Format-wise, this book very much adheres to the bestiary-formula championed by Paizo, which means that this book is mainly crunch – so, if you want extensive background information beyond a few paragraphs, you may gnash your teeth a little. Then again, I’d truly love to see extensive and detailed ecologies and modules depicting a lot of these creatures, so consider me wanting to know more about them testament of how damn evocative they ultimately are.

 

How to rate this…see, this is where it becomes a bit difficult for me. As a person, I absolutely adore this book. It features some of my favorite non-mythic critters in ages. As a reviewer, I had to nitpick a bit, as you’ve read above…but honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a bestiary of this size with this much soul, a book of monsters that made me envision a fantasy world that, by virtue of their very existence, behaves differently from other fantasy settings…and this is a huge deal for me. If you already own the majority of AAW Games’ catalogue, you’ll get a bit less mileage out of this book, but the vast majority of the new critters more than makes up for this…and hence, after long and careful deliberation, I will ward this book the full five stars + seal of approval. There is simply too much awesomeness in these pages. If you thought even once “Heck yes!” regarding the monster-concepts I mentioned above, you’ll probably sit before this book with a broad grin on your face. I know I am.

 

You can get this evocative, cool creature-tome here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeis out.