Ultimate Antipodism – Drawn from Light and Darkness
Ultimate Antipodism is a massive book of 93 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a whopping 90 pages, so let’s take a look!
First: What is this book? Well, one could assume this to be the unofficial fourth part of Strange Magic, seeing how this basically represents a massive, non-vancian casting system and classes based on it. Antipodism is all about light and darkness and the things in-between – instead of the linear progression that characterized shadow magic in 3.X, antipodism is more about combos and the oscillation between light and dark. The concept was pioneered in the edgewalker rogue/assassin/shadowdancer-y class, then expanded to a full caster via the antipodist…and then, Interjection Games patreon happened and made Bradley write a huge expansion plus a third base class…and here we are, Ultimate Antipodism, courtesy of patrons Sasha Hall and Sean Paetti. I will structure this review by base-class and chapter.
Chapter I: The Antipodist
All right, so let’s get this party started! We begin with the antipodist: The antipodist base class receives d6 HD,1/2 BAB-progression, no good saves and a locus-progression of level 1 to level 4 and 2+Int skills per level. Antipodists are proficient with simple weapons, but not any armor or shields – no here’s an interesting cincher – they double the point costs of their loci when wearing armor they’re not proficient in, but are otherwise not hindered by them – meaning that you’re only a feat away from armored casting with these guys – sans penalties.
The Antipodist receives two pools – a radiance pool equal to class level + Wis-mod and a shadow pool equal to class level + Int mod. These replenish after 8 hours of consecutive rest. Now an antipodist’s career is called “Journey through Light and Shadow” for a good reason – the antipodist learns so-called loci, which range from passive extraordinary abilities to supernatural and spell-like tricks. Loci are broken into three subtypes – light, twilight and dark.
Within these subtypes, there are different philosophies further providing variation/sub-subtypes if you will. Now antipodists surprisingly have no caster level per se, but for interaction purposes, they treat their philosopher level as caster level. Additionally, though some of the antipodist’s loci are treated as spell-like abilities, they do NOT count as spells for e.g. PrC, feat-qualification and similar purposes. Catching this one and covering it properly is rather impressive. For the purpose of concentration, a locus is treated as locus level + 1/4 antipodist class level, rounded down. It should be noted that supernatural and extraordinary loci cannot be identified via Spellcraft. In order to activate a locus, the antipodist requires a key attribute (Wis or Int) of 10 + 2x level of the locus and save DCs, if required, are 10 + 1/2 philosopher level + key attribute modifier. It should be noted that antipodism utilizes the aforementioned term “philosopher level” to denote caster levels in antipodism-related classes in a streamlined, concise terminology.
An antipodist begins the game with 3 loci and she receives +1 locus every class level. However, within each philosophy, an antipodist can never know more loci of a higher level than of a lower one – in order to e.g. learn a second locus of the 3rd level of a philosophy, the antipodist needs to know at least 2 loci of the second level of the philosophy – essentially a pyramid rule. The antipodist may replace a locus with a new one at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, but must maintain the level of the retrained locus – but NOT the philosophy, allowing you to “cheat” the pyramid rule to some extent. Some loci require the use of the antipodist’s shadow and thus, only one of them can be in effect for a certain time.
At 2nd, 7th and every 6 levels thereafter, the antipodist may also choose one 1st level locus to become “well-travelled”, reducing the cost of said locus to 0, but at the cost of treating a level-dependent effect as half the actual philosopher level, with the exception of DCs and saving throws. At 11th level, the antipodist may 1/day cause a 3rd level or lower locus to be spontaneously treated as well-travelled, +1/day for every 3 levels. Finally, at 20th level, three different capstones loom, depending on the philosophy chosen – these include turning one 4th level dark locus into a light-locus (and vice versa) or a third pool, the twilight pool, which can exclusively be used to pay for loci of the twilight philosophy.
Got that? Well, that’s not all – the antipodist can have different philosophical leanings – radiance, shadow or twilight. Twilight maintains the duality between light and darkness, whereas light and shadow, whereas the specialists in either light or darkness may not be able to utilize the other’s tricks, but instead receive a slightly (+2) increased pool and, more importantly, may choose to ignore aforementioned pyramid rule to compensate their decreased versatility – anyways, all choices further modify what an antipodist receives bonus-wise – which is nice. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the philosophical leaning also provides further bonuses – increased pool size and minor bonus to one of the three saves. It should also be noted, that extensive advice for the DM and player to handle the transition of philosophies are provided – and that both light and dark are not tied to an alignment – playing CE radiance specialists or LG shadow specialists is very much possible. Now interesting in this seeming dichotomy would be the “drawn from experience” ability gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, choosing a philosophy and increasing its potency – the trick here being that the very progression of the class can be used to mirror the moral development of the character and the preferences chosen.
Now a total of 4 philosophies for radiance and shadow are provided and additionally, there is the twilight philosophy, which counts as either. Got that? All right, so I’ll give you a brief run-down of the philosophies (If I mention every locus, the review would bloat…): Anima allows you to animate your shadow to execute close range reposition maneuvers, have your shadow record a locus (and execute it at your command) or stretch and peek around corners or even invade a target, potentially slaying it via fear. Other tricks of anima allow you to animate other’s shadows, commanding them to help or hinder target creatures and passive bonuses to AC when not utilizing your shadow actively can also be found herein. Bull rushing targets via swats of your shadow is also neat.
The Beacon philosophy can help you cancel out ongoing fear-effects. on yourself and allies and perfect, short-burst flight alongside buff/debuff-effects, fast healing and healing (the latter with a 2 round delay-mechanism – interesting!) as well as beneficial mood lighting. Reflexive damage + dazzle when targets of a locus are hit by attacks and eliminating diseases and poisons also make for interesting choices. There also is e.g. an option to use your shadow to grant DR that scales with your level and e.g. mass, light-based flight.
Now the coruscation locus is more combat-centric – duplicating color spray, unleashing deadly blasts of atomizing light and blinding light make for interesting choices. On a design paradigm level interesting, one locus allows you to regain limited radiance points of spent loci when reducing foes below 0 hp, meaning that the ability can’t be cheesed or kitten’d via well-travelled loci – nice way of preventing abuse there. Dazzling and blinding of foes are often accompanying effects of this, and the negation of concealment as well as causing “catching fire” (akin to alchemist’s fire) with coruscation loci can mean a nasty drain on an enemy’s action economy. We can also find a locus that enhances the damage rolled via coruscation, treating all 1s as 2s – Interesting.
The illumination locus allows you to e.g. charge and increase the damage-output of the next damage-dealing locus you cast, net yourself darkvision, infuse texts with appropriate bonuses to skills or even “store” a d20 roll and later substitute it. Among the more interesting options, crits granting temporary radiance points are interesting…and since they only pertain the loci, no way to kitten this one.
The Manipulator philosophy has some truly unique options as well – take for example the possibility of subverting and hijacking summoning spells – damn cool! Subverting enemy morale also makes for a cool idea – as does intensifying conditions – making the relatively useless dazzle-condition blinded instead, upping entangled to staggered – really cool, especially since the save varies on the condition intensified! Also rather unique – clouding the minds of foes, causing them to treat all targets as if subject to concealment. Ignoring the immunity of mind-affecting effects at the cost of shadow points also makes for a cool idea, somewhat analogue to DSP’s dread class. Also rather nasty – one high-level locus that is the equivalent of mass-haste for allies and mass-slow for adversaries. Causing the shaken-condition via images of “spiders, mothers-in-law” and similar horrific images made me chuckle and manipulating weapon-hands is interesting – a word of warning, though – if a target’s HD exceed those of the antipodist, they may instead receive a buff! Now while this may look like an strange design decision, it also opens an uncommon way of using the class – cohorts and similar followers may actually end up as buff-specialists for their masters, with minor manipulation thrown in the mix. Oh, and yes, you can make foes attack themselves en masse.
Now the Obscurity philosophy, of course, is the go-to toolbox of stealth-focused tricks – from turning into smoke and instantly moving 5 ft. per class level (to e.g. escape from the guts of a huge creature that has swallowed you whole), entangling globs of greasy darkness, dual short-term reflexive shaken/blindness – so far, so good. What about beginning an insurrection of shadows, resulting in a target receiving additional weapon damage when hit by a target for the first time in a given round? This philosophy has also perhaps one of the most powerful passive abilities of the whole class – once per day, your shadow dies instead of you when first reduced by something that required an attack roll reduces you below 0 hp. (Of course, the shadow regenerates, rendering this a neat type of life-insurance, though your shadow’s absence may severely limit some of your options…) Shadow evasion and granting a weak sneak attack can be considered rather cool options as well, rendering this philosophy probably one of the go-to choices for thieves and those versed in the lore of the underworld – tag-teaming with your shadow to ignore the movement-penalty of difficult terrain does make for cool imagery. Evasion when unarmored is surely appreciated.
The Refraction philosophy allows for 1st level invisibility via bend light, with the added caveat that taken items (up to 10 ft. sticking away from your body) also become invisible. Now while the mechanics of parabolic dishes may not be particularly elegant (not a fan of opposed rolls in PFRPG), it works mathematically here – d20+BAB+Wis-mod+deflection bonus to AC (e.g. granted from the hovering parabolic dish) against incoming rays – if you win, you can catch and return the ray to its sender, destroying the dish. Generally, this one can be thought as the most defense-focused of the philosophies, with quite an array of e.g. AC-bonus netting and even mirror image-like loci. An abuse-safe retribution-spear can also be found among the loci here. What about a locus granting charges that grant resistance bonuses to saves and can be spent in place of your shadow?
The Umbral Embrace philosophy is probably the most sinister of the respective philosophies – a lot of the loci impose negative levels and e.g. darkness rising even further penalizes saves against the ability depending on the amount of negative levels accumulated. One of the more iconic loci would e.g. allow you to conjure forth the literal sandman to put your foes to sleep and another generates an anti-duplicate of the target that crashes into it for massive damage. What about a nice combo-set-up that adds negative levels to foes when you continue to pile on umbral embrace loci?
The Twilight philosophy is rather peculiar in its general versatility, allowing you to increase the potency of loci when alternating between light and dark loci. Increasing the point cost of loci in order to have them apply to additional targets also makes for versatile options and adding swift action dimension doors to the casting of 4th level loci also offers some unique tactical tricks. A sneaking, auto-flanking weapon of shadow, a bolt that can be modified as belonging to any type of philosophy – the twilight philosophy is probably the most versatile and diverse of the philosophies. All in all, a total of more than 170 loci (that’s a SIGNIFICANT upgrade over the first iteration!) make sure that antipodists will have A LOT of combo-potential and tricks at their beck and call.
The class also comes with favored class options for the core-races plus drow, aasimar, tiefling, kobold, orc, hobgoblin and puddling. Furthermore, we get antipodist archetypes, the first of which would be the extremist. In the extremist, light and darkness wage war and thus, the archetype gets a duality pool. This pool’s size cannot exceed 5 and begins play empty. Whenever the extremist activates a non-well-traveled locus and the pool is empty, she gains 1 duality point and the pool is “charged” or flagged in opposition to the locus activated: Activation via light flags it as dark and vice-versa. Each time, the extremist activates a locus whose descriptor does not match that of the pool, she gains 1 point. As soon as she activates one that matches the pool’s descriptor, it empties and provides benefits according to a handy table – from one-round-rendering a locus well-traveled to reduced costs, careful planning can provide some neat combo-potential with this pool added. Philosophical leaning-wise, extremists get +1 locus (+1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter), but may never learn any loci from twilight. The Drawn from Experience ability of the base antipodist is also heavily modified, precluding e.g. the taking of a given benefit more than oonce, but at the same time having a scaling upgrade at 11th level. As a capstone, the extremist gets ANOTHER pool, the EXTREME (cue in 90s music) pool – 10 points that can be used to escalate the benefits granted by her duality pool when activating its benefits. Some people may complain about the pools to manage. I’m not some people. I like the extremist and how it plays. It’s a unique, nice archetype.
The second archetype, the Specialist Philosopher, is just what you’d expect in such a context – a specialist of one of the philosophies: They choose a favored philosophy and begin play with +1 locus from this philosophy, gaining an additional one at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. When learning loci from this philosophy, the specialists can ignore the pyramid rule. The specialization has full compatibility with the philosophical leaning class feature, though changing it from the prescribed specialization means that the character loses the access of the 11th level class feature. 11th level nets a well-traveled 2nd level locus from the favored philosophy, +1 at 17th level, instead of wayfinder. Drawn from experience is also modified. The capstone nets the specialist a specialist pool equal to 4+ number of 4th level loci known in the favored philosophy – these points emulate the points required by the respective favored philosophy. In a minor nitpick – the text calls the specialist philosopher “extremist” here.
Chapter II: The Edgeblade
The edgeblade would be the new class herein – it gets full BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d10, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor, medium armor, shields. The penalty for non-proficient armor is to increase the cost of waypoints by +1. The edgeblade gets class level +Wis-mod shadow pool and class level + Int-mod radiance pool, minimum 1. This does not look like much, right? Well, the edgeblade also gets residuum pools – a light residuum pool and a dark residuum pool. Whenever the edgeblade uses a non-finisher light waypoint that costs at least 1 radiance point, he gains 1 light residuum; the same holds true for dark residuum and dark waypoints. These pools can hold a maximum of 2+1 per 6 edgeblade levels each. Residuum is used to fuel residuum powers and waypoint finishers. They also have a stability score, which begins at 1: Any minute the edgeblade does not gain or spend residuum decreases the residuum score in the pool until the pools reach the stability score. residuum does not replenish – it empties upon resting and needs to be filled again each day. The stability-score is interesting in that it represents a crucial balancing mechanism and some really intriguing untapped potential to play with in further designs – tying it to waypoints, abilities and the like does sound like something I’d sooner or later try to craft myself.
At 1st level, edgeblades get 3 residuum abilities: One light, one dark, one twilight. 2nd level, 3rd level, 4th level, 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the edgeblade gains +1 residuum ability. These abilities need to be prepared – each day upon resting, the edgeblade chooses one light, one dark and one twilight ability, which then are considered to be prepared. Residuum abilities can be considered the unique passive buffs – resistance against all elemental energy types + sonic equal to residuum or twice residuum, decreased armor check penalty, adding mighty cleaving at higher level to the weapon, better initiative, saves, hurling minor fire-damage causing balls of flame, reflexive dazzle or generating the other type of residuum when one pool is full, these abilities provide a baseline of unique options to supplement the fighting styles of the edgeblades.
1st level nets the edgeblade gets two waypoints, +1 at 2nd level and every two levels thereafter. If applicable, the DC for such abilities is 10 +1/2 philosopher level (=class level)+key attribute modifier (Int or Wis, respectively). As always, waypoints marked by an asterisk utilize the shadow of the respective edgeblade – only one such effect can be in place at a given time. You’ll notice something: Edgeblades are crazy MAD – as such, at 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter, they get +1 to Int and Wis for the purpose of waypoint DC, stacking with itself, up to a maximum of the highest physical ability score. At 4th level and every 5 levels thereafter, an edgeblade gets +2 to his pool-sizes, to be freely distributed among radiance and shadow. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a antipode or combat bonus feat.
5th level and every 5 levels thereafter provide a greater waypoint for the edgeblade. 6th level edgeblade may perform a finisher that requires a standard action in place of the first attack of a full-attack action or in place of the first attack while charging or instead of a charge. The wording here is slightly wonky, but still precise enough – still, I’d be interested to know whether the benefits of the charge still apply to the finisher combined with it. As a capstone, the edgeblade may prepare a 4th residuum ability. We get favored class options for the usual array of races in IG-supplements: Core, orc, hobgoblin, tiefling, drow aasimar, kobold, puddling.
Archetype-wise, the first would be the Dawnblade, who only gets a radiance pool equal to 2xdamblade level +Wis mod. Unlike the regular edgeblade, the dawnblade has no stability-score to contend with – his residuum does not decay/dissipate – which also precludes the archetype from qualifying for feats and abilities that modify residuum stability. The dawnblade begins with 2 residuum abilities, +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter. Residuum abilities have to be prepared and the dawnblade may prepare two – both of which obviously must be light residuum abilities, since the archetype cannot choose dark or twilight. However, the dawnblade receives some unique residuum tricks – like a blade of light (cue in all the Star Wars jokes and quotes you know…I’ll be waiting…all right, all done?) that scales its potency at higher levels, no-save dazzle, reduced finisher costs and temporary radiance points when spending 3+ light residuum. The archetype gets 2 waypoints at 1st level, +1 at 2nd level +1 every two dawnblade level. The entry here is a bit redundant, since it mentions dark waypoint DCs, even though the archetype can’t use these. 4th level increases radiance pool by +1, a further +1 every 5 levels thereafter. The 6th level ability is modified by reducing the cost of the first finisher in the first round of combat by -1 t a minimum of 1. This does not allow for the execution of finishers beyond the maximum residuum capacity of the edgeblade.
Where there is Dawn, there is Dusk – and hence, there also is a dark-specialist. Analogue to the dawnblade, the duskblade receives only a shadow pool of 2 x class level + Int mod. Conversely, the duskblade does not get light residuum. Now this would not be Interjection Games, if we just got a mirror image, right? Instead, we get a pretty cool mechanic based on the symbolic phases of the moon: When the duskblade prepares residuum abilities, he assigns one ability to the new moon phase and one to the full moon phase. The beginning phase each day is “new” – during combat, there is a cumulative 20% chance to change to the next phase. Phase-change eliminates 1 point of dark residuum and resets the chance to 0%, but also gets +2 atk, saving throws and skill checks for one round.
The interesting thing here is that the archetype thus gets an unreliable, slightly chaotic flow, but one that allows for the simultaneous activity of two residuum abilities at once when the phase is waning/waxing…oh, and new/full also have additional benefits that play with the residuum mechanic – and they’re beautiful. Seriously, love this mechanic! Akin to the dawnblade, the duskblade does get some exclusive residuum abilities, including nonlethal cold damage and immediate action-residuum-powered reflexive invisibility at higher levels. Like the dawnblade, the waypoint section, somewhat confusingly, notes the information for light waypoints, when the duskblade can’t take them. The other components of the chassis are similar to that of the dawnblade, so to avoid redundancy, I’ll skip ahead.
The waypoints provided are grouped by type and by minimum level – 8th philosopher level is the maximum such abilities require, with greater waypoints at most requiring 15th level – from globe of invulnerability-type immunities to other tricks – now the intriguing idea here is, obviously, that the terminology of finishers allows for the combination of waypoint-mechanics between edgewalker and edgeblade, while still maintaining the unique identity of the edgeblade. Between Loci, finishers and the like, this means there is still a lot of untapped potential within the systems presented here that could be expanded in future supplements.
Chapter III: The Edgewalker
The edgewalker gets 4+Int skills per level, d8, proficiency with simple weapons, short sword, rapier, sap, kukri, shortbow and whip as well as light armors and shields. Over the 20 levels of the class it receives a sneak attack progression from +1d6 to a maximum of +7d6 at 19th level and the class gets a 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. The edgewalker has also been codified according to the philosopher level terminology and has full philosopher-level progression. As you can imagine, Uncanny Dodge also can be found among the class features, at 3rd level.
So, what is the edgewalker’s deal? The class can be described as a martial artist with a thematic connection to light and darkness – a kind of monk/rogue blend, if you will, and more importantly, one that does not fall by the wayside. Edgewalkers at first level receive thus two pools – the radiance and the shadow pool, both at least containing one point and both using an attribute modifier (as before, Wis for radiance, Int for shadow) plus level to determine additional points for the respective pools. At 5th level and every six levels thereafter, the edgewalker receives a +2 to maximum pool size that can be freely distributed among the pools (for a net gain of +1/+1 or +0/+2)
Now as a Batman/stealth type of class, receiving evasion relatively soon should not be considered uncommon (2nd level, improved evasion at 11th level, nerfing these two and taking away any lingering sense of these components being problematic) and 6th level edgewalkers receive hide in plain sight as long as they are within 10 feet of a sufficiently large shadow. Now this still makes targeting the edgewalker with spells et al rather difficult – the class is geared rather well towards taking softer targets out.
Beyond FCOs for core races, drow, aasimar, tieflings, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs and puddlings (all solid) and it’s the time I should explain the core talent system of the class: Essentially, edgewalkers start the game with two so-called waypoints known, one light, one darkness and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the class receives an additional waypoint. Now there is a cool restriction in place here – the edgewalker needs to keep a balance between light and darkness, which translates to waypoint selection: If your light-based waypoints exceed those that are darkness-based, you need to learn a darkness-based one next and vice versa, creating a kind of equilibrium. It should also be noted that a couple of these waypoints count as either light, darkness or twilight.
Now before I get towards waypoints, you should also be aware that at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the edgewalker also receives a greater waypoint, which can be considered a kind of more powerful talent – one that requires some planning, for the greater waypoints also have to adhere to the light/darkness-dichotomy, offering opportunities for proper planning of character progression.
The capstone of the class allows you to use radiance and darkness pool interchangeably – a slight increase in power when compared to the original iteration of the class, but one I welcome.
Archetype-wise, we receive the motebringer (previously released on its own). The motebringer has the same basic class-chassis regarding saves and BAB as the edgewalker – unlike the edgewalker, who oscillates between light and darkness, the motebringer is a specialist of utilizing light – as such, the archetype only receives a radiance pool equal to class levels x2 + Wis-mod – but no shadow pool. Seeing how this means that several of the combo-set-ups that render the edgewalker captivating to play fall away, we thus receive a significant array of infusions, the first of which is gained at second level, +1 at 3rd level and every 2 levels of motebringer thereafter.
This list of unique tricks, ultimately, is here for one reason – to add a level of flexibility the class would have otherwise lost – and I applaud the motebringer for it. Reflexive temporary hit points, high-level poison immunity, energy resistance and the like can all be found herein -as can blinding motes of light that act as replenishing blinding flash bombs. The significant array of choices is interesting due to two further design decisions – at 2nd level, the motebringer receives a mote pool that scales with the level totaling 1/2 of class levels, rounded down -these are spent when infusing aforementioned infusions into the second interacting component – the radiant shawls. From extending ropes of light from the shawls to granting himself a temporary radiance point, and minor (but untyped) damage as rays that can be fired as swift actions or whirlwind touch attacks render this archetype interesting-
Also gained at 2nd level, radiant shawls constitute pieces of roughly-shawl-like solid light that can be modified with infusions by spending 1 hour. The shawl occupies the shoulder slot and also provides a bonus to AC and a penalty to Stealth-checks – it can be activated and deactivated as a standard action, and yes, the infusions that can be woven into the shawl can, for example, grant temporary radiance pool points to power the waypoints learned. Both radiance and mote pools increase over the levels and obviously, hide in plain sight is not part of the deal for motebringers. The capstone allows for instant modification of infusion loadouts as well as replenishment of daily uses of infusions.
The second archetype provided herein is no less complex than the motebringer – the shadowfriend. The shadowfriend loses sneak attack and instead begins play with a shadowy remnant of what he once was in an alternate reality – unlike companions and the like, the motivations of these guys sync automatically up with yours. If the shadowself is destroyed, it can be regained in a rite costing 200 gp x level. The shadowself has 1/2 HD (min 1), 1/2 BAB-progression, halved bad-saves, gets up to 20 skills (2 at first level, +2 at third and every odd level thereafter) and begins play with one feat, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The shadow also gets sneak attack that scales up to +6d6. Healing via waypoints may spontaneously be redirected towards the shadowself and waypoints with a range of personal may also affect either. The shadow can always spider climb and occupy the same square as the master. Taking away its surface lets it snap back to the master’s feet and even teleportation is properly handled for the shadow. The shadow self is immune versus precision damage and crits and all its attacks are touch attacks. When removed from the master by more than 30 ft or out of line of sight, the shadowself curls up in an inactive ball and is helpless, dissipating after 1 hour of inactivity. Masters and shadow can freely communicate verbally, but other creatures do not understand this communication – which is a bit odd: Why not make this a telepathic link? I don’t really get how that works.
The master uses a language, right? Anyways, at 2nd level, the shadowself gets DR 1/- (+1 every 4 levels) and uses Int-mod to calculate hp, Fort-saves and Con-based special abilities. At 5th level, shadowself duplicates the master’s weapon or shields as masterwork versions, with 8th level allowing for a +1 enhancement bonus that scales up by +1 every 4 master levels thereafter. 5th level provides improved evasion. Shadowselves have Str, Dex, Wis, Cha and Int 10 and no Con on account of being a construct, which also means d10 HD. The shadowfriend does pay for this powerful pet with pools – they only get a shadow pool equal to 2xclass level+Int-mod, minimum 1. No radiance tricks and neither may they learn radiance waypoints. 3rd level nets the shadowfriend and his shadowself a shadow of their own for the purpose of waypoint/locus-activation and 5th level and every 6 thereafter increase the shadow pool point size by +2. The shadowfriend is an extremely cool archetype and imho mops the floor with the motebringer – touch attack sneaks are nasty, in spite of the bad BAB and while the shadowself is fragile, it can be used in pretty awesome ways. That and the ability’ codification is a thing of crunchy beauty.
All right, I’ve stalled long enough – let’s talk about the waypoints that constitute the primary resource of unique, active tricks of the edgeblade and edgewalker. Now you’re of course interested in the aforementioned waypoints and the waypoints themselves have diverse prerequisites – from none, to level-caps and other waypoints have certain skills and feats as prerequisites, which thankfully are listed in the handy lists provided for the respective classes. Now what can you for example make with these waypoints? Well, since there are more than 100 in here (approximately double of what we had before!), I’m just going to note that the following is not a comprehensive list, but rather an array of options that should be considered kind of representational for the classes. While many waypoints are available for both classes, of course there are some that are exclusive for either. As a special mention: Yes, the theme of character-development and specialists seem contradictory, but the pdf does provide guidance for archetype-switching, so that should also be noted…just in case you notice on of the numerous combos herein too late and/or have a change in your character’s development. There is another component I should mention: Finishers tend to allow for escalation – i.e. the payment of additional residuum to increase the potency of waypoints. Waypoints also thankfully generally provide scaling benefits, but I guess, at this point, that’s a given.
Very interesting for blocking charges and the like, “A Thousand Grasping Tendrils” allows you to, as a swift action, reshape your shadow into an array of tendrils that create a micro-aura of 10 feet of difficult terrain around you – which, of course, does not hinder you in any way. Ignoring difficult terrain and effortlessly scaling any incline less than 90° can also be done by these fellows. Another waypoint offers a dazzle against a creature you threaten – sans save, as an immediate action, useable whenever you switch between light and darkness consecutively. Armors of light (that do not necessarily enhance your stealth…), a shaken-causing breath weapon of black wind, 1 round slow at a higher save DC, better stealth, cushioning falls (the longer the fall, the higher the cost), very minor reflexive damage (plus dazzle), creating areas of demoralizing gloom and putting creatures subjected to fatigue-related negative conditions or con-damage/drain to sleep is rather interesting. Why? because for the edgewalker, rolling bad on sneak attack is not necessarily a bad thing: For each natural 1,2 or 3 rolled on such a roll, you also deal one point of Con damage if you take the right 8th level dark waypoint. What about edgeblade clothing themselves in DR-granting armor of hardened light, with options for escalation?
Now where things get interesting would e.g. be with the exceedingly cool ability that lets you set up your shadow as a flanking supplement and, quite possibly for the first time since I’ve been doing this reviewing thing, gets such an ability actually right. Now, with Ichor of the Firefly, the edgewalker may coat his/her weapons with virulent light that invades the bodies of target, negating invisibility etc., while also providing significant bonus damage, especially against creatures sensitive to light. Making conversely, a poison from darkness itself that scales damage-wise over the levels also becomes a distinct possibility. Speaking of said poison – if you use the dark-aligned poison, you may add a neat combo (though the following is not restricted to the darkness-based poison) that allows you to ignite the poison coursing through your foe’s veins, dealing significant fire damage. Damn cool!
The equivalent of solo tactics sans requiring an ally (but only while your shadow isn’t otherwise occupied) also makes for a cool array of tactical options. Want to know what’s lurking round the corner, in the adjacent room etc.? What about stretching your shadow up to 60 feet and looking through its eyes? This ability, which can be taken at first level, is narrative gold and iconic in imagery!
Of course, various spell-like abilities, poison use, pillars of light that heal minor damage, motes of searing light or making your shadow the equivalent of a kind of bear trap are possible, but for me, the anti-ray/attack-roll spell Tenebrous Tango, which allows you to have spells utterly miss you – think mirror image variant with an edge. At a permanent cost of 1 point from a pool of your choosing, you may also master poisons to the extent they become more potent, making your poisons at +1 DC more lethal – and with quite a few requiring consecutive saves in PFRPG, this makes sense.
Now I did mention those greater waypoints and as you may have imagined, they are the big ones – Summoning forth several shadows from you one – cool. But more interesting would, at least for me, be the game-changer that is Cumulative Exposure – it deals automatic damage to all adjacent creatures whenever you subsequently use two waypoints. Using multiple dark waypoints may also yield bonuses and igniting mundane light sources to emit blinding flashes makes for a cool idea and better light/darkness poison/ichors are lethal and cool – what about e.g. an ichor that makes the target suffer from miss chances galore, but also receive an applicable miss chance as it becomes insubstantial -nice reflection of the duality-theme in the crunch here.
Now also rather awesome would be the option to steal other creature’s shadows via ranged CMB to power darkness-waypoints. Cool here – the ability manages to properly prevent kitten-bag abuse. Lifelinks also are possible – ouch! Now it should be noted that, although the page-count of the pdf remains unchanged, quite a few stock artworks have been taken out of the file to make room for more waypoints, which is rather cool and adds to the arsenal of an already fun and inspired class. It should be specifically noted that the greater waypoints receiving some awesome tricks – what about establishing a link that damages a target when you are healed? Yeah, evil and oh so cool!
If all of these options still are not enough – yes, there are feats to enhance the classes here, but this review is already 12 pages long as is – so let’s jump to the conclusion.
Editing and formatting are very good – there are almost no issues in here, most being typo-level and in the exceedingly rare case some piece of mechanic is influenced, it is to a small degree that still allows you to deduce what’s intended. The pdf sports thematically-fitting stock art and layout adheres to Interjection Games’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard. This book has one massive issue on the formal side – no bookmarks. Beyond making this review relatively painful with a lot of scrolling, this means that printing out this massive book is something you should do – a book of this size, sans bookmarks, is very user unfriendly. I asked what happened and it turns out, there are supposed to be bookmarks – but the technical side of things has screwed the pdf, thus breaking them. It would basically be required to build the whole book anew to make them work.
And ultimately, that’s my one issue with this book. You already know I loved the respective three classes, with particularly the edgeblade being just fun to play. All archetypes herein are unique, sporting a significantly-changed playing experience from their unmodified classes – to the extent where the archetypes can be considered more unique than some variant classes out there. Bradley Crouch delivers a highly complex and rewarding casting system here, one that codifies antipodism and makes it feel more concise.
Unlike previous systems, antipodism is all about the combos: Much like the themes it represents, you’ll have better DPR-options with other systems. What makes this book’s classes awesome is their deliberate emphasis on cool combos and synergy effects – if you enjoy classes that play intelligently, then this book provides content galore, with the vast majority being quite frankly unique and not something you’d see in the arsenal of other classes. Juggling highly complex concepts and getting the wording right also constitutes one of the unique benefits here. Content-wise, this is awesome and if you’re willing to print this out, it’s definitely worth the investment of the fair asking price. That being said, the lack of bookmarks really, really hurts this massive, otherwise great book.
Let’s make this abundantly clear – this would be 5 stars + seal, in spite of the few minor glitches here and there and to me as a private person, it is just that….But, as a reviewer, no bookmarks constitute a big fat issue for a book of this size. If you don’t have a problem with printing this out, then get it – for you, the above verdict very much holds true. However, as a reviewer, I can’t just assume that and have to rate the pdf as is; as much as it galls me, I have to detract 1 star, ending with a final verdict of 4 stars – if you print this out, I’m pretty sure you will love it, though!
You can get this massive, unique system here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Want Bradley to make unique classes/supplements according to your specifications? You can do just that here on the Interjection Games patreon!