Jul 302015

In the Company of Angels


This massive installment of the “In the Company of…”-series clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 54 pages of content – quite a bunch, so let’s dive in!


This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.


As you may know, the “In the Company of..”-series is devoted to making high concept, monstrous races viable options for PCs and this one tackles angels, out of all creatures. I very much like this concept and, following the standard of Rite Publishing books, the introduction to the race is delivered in glorious in-character prose, rendering the reading experience of this book surprisingly fun – alas, of all texts, the introductory paragraphs are riddled with punctuation errors, which did somewhat detract from my reading experience of an otherwise glorious introduction – the race presented herein would be the grigori.


Now those of you interested in mysticism and mythology in general with have a smile hushing across their faces and, at least in my case, this smile broadened when I saw the optional rule of a setting-specific curse that renders all children of grigori horrible monsters. It should also be noted that the amount of minor glitches decreases over the course of the text, as the narrating grigori explains physical appearance, alignment, relations with other races, etc. – over all, this section served as a very flavorful introduction to the race.


On a formal level, grigori gain +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Con, which renders the base race somewhat lopsided – while I won’t bash the race for this, personally, I prefer races with an equal distribution of attribute bonuses between physical and a mental stats. Grigori are humanoids with the extraplanar, angel and good subtypes – and no, they do NOT receive aura of menace and the other nifty, yet often overlooked and powerful angel abilities. Grigori are medium humanoids and may choose either acid, cold, electricity or fire resistance 5, gain +2 to saves versus poison and petrification, +2 to Sense Motive and Perception, darkvision 60 ft. and a racial curse that makes all attempts to prevent the conception of offspring with mortals moot. Okay, the base traits, while powerful and providing a net bonus of +3 to Sense Motive and Perception, are interesting and would fly as provided in my game.


Next would be the alternate racial traits: Here, we have an alternate array of attribute modifiers I personally prefer (Con and Int +2, -2 Wis) as well as a rather broad array of options to customize the grigori. Do you want to affect magical beasts with handle animal sans penalty? Check. Bonuses versus evil outsider? Check. Expanded spell lists for arcanists that transform the divine spells into arcanem f applicable? Check. Now the latter is somewhat of a corner-case for me – I absolutely adore the fact that it lets you portray a healing arcanist that makes sense; at the same time, I’m a bit reluctant due to exactly that factoid. Resistance against negative energy (akin to AAW Games’ colliatur) can also be found among the traits for grigori sworn to defeat the undead. A defensive hole is also here as well as SP corruption resistance against evil and lowlight vision. 1/day fiend-smiting is a trait that allows paladins to stack damage against the hordes of abyss and legions of hell appropriately. Sounds all awesome, right? There even is a balanced wildcard feat trait – 1/day as a free action upon the beginning of the grigori’s turn, he may beseech the heavens to grant him one feat for which he meets the prerequisites, but only for one round. While looking powerful on papre, its impact remained appropriate in my playtest – significant, yes, but not op.


Grigori also receive a smattering of favored class options for bard, cleric, inquisitor, monk, oracle, paladin, skald, sorceror, summoner and warpriest – and beyond those, even one for Rite’s cool luckbringer and divine channeler classes. On a purely aesthetic point, the warpriest’s benefits are slightly different in formatting, but that remains a cosmetic gripe and should not faze anyone. Thankfully, we do receive age, height and weight tables and, of course, also a racial paragon class (for which FCOs are provided as well, btw.) – this would be the angelic paragon.


The angelic paragon must be neutral good, gets 6+Int-mod skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort and Ref-saves, proficiency with natural attacks, greatswords, heavy maces, javelins, longbows, morning stars and warhammers (wait, no scythes?) and neither armor nor shield proficiency – while I get armor, shields did not seem too sensible to me. So, how do they raise their AC? That would be the job of Celestial armor, which consists of 1/2 armor bonus, 1/2 natural armor bonus – this begins at +2 and scales up to +18. The bonus is lost when wearing armor – I assume shields are okay, though I admittedly am, not 100% sure. Now if you’ve been following my reviews for some time, you will have noticed that I did not mention the HD of the class. That is due to one simple fact -none is given. This is a pretty glaring glitch for the class and a severe detriment, especially considering the fact that the framework of the class is already powerful on a borderline way – 6+Int skills, 2 good saves AND full BAB? That’s nasty. The framework does point towards d8 or d10 as HD, but as provided, I am not sold.


1st level paragons are treated as both humanoids and outsiders and 10th level sees native outsider apotheosis. Angelic paragons also begin play with a pool of providence equal to 3 + class level. An angelic paragon may not spend more than one point of providence from this pool in a given round and begins play with three uses, learning an additional trick every 2 levels thereafter, to be chosen freely from the selection. The base abilities allow for the enhancement of the paragon’s weapon with various, scaling special weapon qualities and bonuses, stacking up to +5 enhancement bonus, with proper wording for the application of the bonuses to be added to already magical weapons. The +10 cap remains in effect.

Secondly, as a standard action, they can cause a target within 100 ft. to burst into soulfire – 1d6 points of damage, +1d6 for every 2 levels thereafter, with a Cha-governed Reflex save for half damage. This damage is half fire and half divine, the latter being thus not reduced by resistance akin to certain cleric spells. Non-good creatures slain by this ability must succeed a Will-save or be subject to the sequester spell with a caster level equal to the paragon’s class level. This is an odd choice – I get the anti-divination prevention, but what about the invisibility-component? Furthermore, the spell does mention that the target remains in suspended animation until the spell ends, which is confusing in conjunction with the soulfire ability itself – so, the target is killed and then sequestered, got that -but does that mean the coma-effect hits before the target is killed or not? I assume that the sequester effect affects the target’s remains – alas, I am not 100% sure.

Finally, immediate action can prevent truespeech, with 10th level making the ability permanent. As someone with a background in academia and a serious interest in linguistics, as a person, I am no fan of this ability – why? Because it further marginalizes languages. That is no base for a proper criticism, though – what would be one, though, would be the fact that the spell-effects duplicated here are usually reserved for higher levels, meaning that, at lower levels, the opposition of the PCs probably won’t have a good means of countering them. Now granted, the spell-like effects won’t break the game, but still. The soulfire ability feels OP to me in the context of the already impressive framework of the class – full BAB, good saves, many skills and a ranged SP that can’t be completely negated by resistance? The totals, while not broken on their own, represent overkill in conjunction with one another.


The further abilities powered by providence include group telepathy as a supernatural ability, including ranged aid another for Int, Wis and Cha-based skills. This can be pretty nasty – one cohort in my game is an aid specialist and, were he a grigori, this would be NASTY. My advice for GMs regarding tis ability is to watch it carefully. Spell-like abilities of cle/orc-spells with scaling level selection can be found here – and works, though it took me a bit to get whether the ability grants scaling SPs or not. Access to orisons is also in here, as are angelic senses – these allow for at-will detect evil, detect magic, discern lies, know direction as SPs as well as the missing sense, whether that be darkvision or low-light vision. On a nitpicky side that will not influence the verdict – the default granted sight is darkvision, which makes less sense than lowlight vision since the race’s default is darkvision. As a standard action and for one point of providence, see invisibility is part of the deal. 9th level nets commune and 17th level provides true seeing and detect snares and pits. The latter, at 17th level, is probably way past its usefulness.


The angelic paragon also gets a powerful, fear-based save or suck (with a hex-like once per 24-hour per target clause), with shaken going directly to panicked and cowering. Why skip the frightened in the condition-progression? 11th level paragons can add +2d6 damage and save or 1d6 Str and Con-damage or object-breaking to attacks, though thankfully with the same caveat. What about devastating charges that deal additional +6d6 soulfire damage, include a free trip, the possibility to blind foes AND speed-increase? Magic jar possession of mortals is also part of teh deal

17th level paragons can journey to the astral plane. The angelic paragon can also gain an aura that modifies memories, erasing the paragon and her allies for one minute in the past – this ability only affects creatures the paragon would want to protect; adversaries get a save. This ability is at once exceedingly powerful and crippled – the shenanigans you can pull off with such a trick are extensive – even modify memories, the psionic power, can be VERY powerful when handled correctly. This is AoE and less limited, but at the same time, the non-scaling 1 minute duration of memory modified feels very conservative. All in all, this ability, to me, feels like it would be well-served by a slight reconfiguration.


Providing a brand that buffs anyone who attacks the recipient and +1/2 class level enhancement bonus to an attribute for one round are also in here, with the latter being one example for an ability that just begs to be abused like crazy. I am also not a fan of death and soul-targeting effects that otherwise do not grant saves being granted this (at +4 to the save) and immunity to negative energy effects, including channel energy – as a free action. Granted, only for one round, but still.


What about one ability, available at first convenient choice, that allows the angelic paragon to spend a providence point to intercept an attack and take hit point, ability damage, level drain or death effects – yes, this outclasses shield other, but does not stop there. The ability ALSO allows for instant, long-range exchange of positions with an ally (not denoted as conjuration [teleport] and thus impossible to negate) as a swift action, of all things. The ability also allows for the prevention of adjacent allies fallingFinally, the ability allows for the expenditure of all providence points to take the effects already determined upon herself, applying immunities and resistances as normal. That’s ONE ability. Each component would be valid and worthwhile – in combination, they’re broken for the investment they require. SP invisibility, mirror image and alter self. At the same time, e.g. a scaling single target sonic damage that may damage foes looks underpowered in comparison, as does the all providence costing divine damage burst that blinds foes, even when it’s not. Why? Because there are A LOT of frankly OP options here. 19th level unlocks solar’s slaying arrows and the array of options also allows for the immediate substitution of soulfire as an energy type. While this deviates from how metamagic usually works for spontaneous casters, I have no issue here.


2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the angelic paragon also receives a so-called heavenly gift. Channel energy at -2 levels, unassisted flight (at 6th level, thankfully), not being attacked by animals – there are quite a few cool options here, but also a tool that provides variable bonuses to attributes, which is once again an invitation to min-max.Iincreasing protective auras, eidetic memory, hard to pronounce truenames, planar adaptitions – interesting. Sacrificial healing can be broken by a ring of regneration – sacrifice hit points in increments of 2 per level to heal another creature. The lack of a caveat means that any form of regeneration translates into infinite healing for the group. Broken.


Natural attacks and the improvement of them, scaling Spell Resistance- unlike the providence-powered abilities, the majority of the options here can be considered flavorful and fitting without breaking the game. Limitide SP-summoning etc. does work 10th level expands the gifts available, providing one energy immunity and scaling up the progression of resistances chosen so far – organic and nice. A sanctuary-style aura is also part of the deal here, as is damage reduction. High level angels may stun an opponent hit twice in one round on a failed save, but only once per 24 hours. Fats healing and a celestial animal companion and even a size-increase are available here. 20th level nets you a host of celestials to command and renders you immune to being permanently slain unless bested on your home plane.


The angelic paragon class also sports an array of archetypes that provide further customization options – the archon, azata, cherub, ophanim and sereph archetypes, with the brijidine archetype further modifying the azata archetype . Archons may, for example, choose short-range, scaling teleportation, become a tiny harbinger that can blast foes with scaling force damage (!!) AND perfect flight at 50 ft.? Sounds lame? You do know the songbird of doom-build and its variations, right? The Lyrakien-form providence (once referred to as “archon” instead of azata) also falls into this mold. Archon-weaponry and exclusive gifts can be found here as well as in the other archetypes. This review is already very, very long and hence I will spare you the detailed analysis of each everyone of them. It should be noted that some providences replace the default grigori ones, with e.g. azata senses deviating from the base providence. Steal Magic also has a cut copy paste error that still refers to yamah. Cherubim get claws, grab and rake. Yeah, combine that with the other abilities – SICK. Lillends get FULL bardic performance progression. What about 1st level immunity to all mind-affecting effects that would make you do negative things? Soulfire BREATH WEAPON in a cone witha cooldown of 1d4 and only 1 providence cost?


The feat-section contains an array of interesting feats – from the obvious class resource enhancers to some monster feats (buffs when spells/spell-like abilities fail to penetrate SR) to touches that spring will-save based manacles, the feats also cover retributive curses and an ability that forces a geas-like obedience from a target. Extradimensional prisons for prisoner storage while adventuring fall on the cool side of concepts and refreshing of limited SPs via providence is part of the deal. Absolutely broken: Siphon the Divine: 2/day, refresh your providence pool by destroying a divine magic item, regaining 1 providence per spell slot used to create it. This allows for much longer bursts at a pretty low cost; negligible, in fact, at higher levels.



Editing and formatting are not particularly good – from numerous punctuation glitches to typos and minor italicization glitches and even a whole paragraph of nothing right in the middle of an ability text make this feel rushed. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column, full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks are of a diverse style and range from thematically fitting stock to gorgeous former Pathways cover to beautiful piece.


Let me ramble a bit – I love the concept of playing angels. Perhaps it’s Kaori Yuki’s manga Angel Sanctuary, perhaps it’s the iconic imagery. If someone asks me what my favorite 3.X setting is, I answer, without hesitation, “Engel” – the post-apocalyptic setting in which the angels are pitted against the dreamseed insectoid demons of the lord of flies is stunning and awesome and, while not mechanically perfect, just brilliant. It is a tragedy that the numerous sourcebooks have not been translated to English and if you are capable of reading German, I strongly urge you to seek them out. At the same time, Anger of Angels, the more widely known sourcebook by Malhavoc Press, extremely disappointed me with its lack of fluff, balance or mythological themes.

The good things first – Steven D. Russell’s In the Company of Angels gets the feeling right – abilities are highly complex, interesting and wilder widely in the realms of the respective imagery, both real world and in-game. There are a lot of options here that are downright fun and the superb prose is glorious. I also consider the grigori race as such a very fun choice and like its flair, its options. At this point of my first reading, I was truly excited.


Alas, then the paragon class came, and it is one of the most heartbreaking experiences for me. Why? Because Steven D. Russell manages to put extremely complex concepts into a rules-frame; he does so with panache and flair and more often than not, I found myself smiling at the respective abilities and their imagery. Alas, my impression upon reading this was confirmed in the playtest (FYI, we used d8 as HD) – the angelic paragon class is broken. This is essentially a paladin, or rather, magus on steroids. The reason WHY it doesn’t work as provided, at least not in a balanced manner, are manifold: Number 1) Glass cannon-argument: The lack of armor, shield, etc. means the angelic paragon is pretty fragile in the AC-department, but that’s not the issue. The framework of the class itself, on its own, is already too powerful. Now, one could field the “attack the angel first”-clause, yes, but unlike e.g. the tanimin, the angels herein have all the tools at their disposal – from stealth to mind-games and switcheroo-teleportation that cannot be mitigated, they have the movement-advantage and thus, better chances of avoiding and mitigating attacks. Add to that infinite heal-exploits and we have the trinity of avoidable glitches. The attempt to balance the excessive power of the providence abilities is founded on their relative costliness and short duration, but in-game, this leads to nova-issues.

Full bardic progression, channel energy, flight, copious natural attacks, great framework – this class can get all and that without necessarily excluding that many other tricks, with balance varying wildly between what was obviously based on monster abilities of different CRs and what was intended for player-use. Soulfire’s massive range and impossibility to fully mitigate the damage via resistances, magus-like weapon-enhancement at 1st level – this class poaches among the established classes, dials down the minimum required level and then adds its own options. “But it does not get spellcasting!” Yeah, so what? The flexibility in combat provided by spellcasting is there and the collective of abilities and basic class frame, all of which would be strong on their own, coalesce into a class that feels woefully rushed -and capital letter BROKEN. It is obvious that the significant array of complex options provided required a lot of time and effort – it does show. However, how they come together is a mess in everything but the most high-powered of games. This is one of most overpowered classes I’ve seen for PFRPG and needs a redesign of its bursts, several abilities need to be made into trees and there need to be mutually exclusive clauses to balance this monster.


Now if that all sounds awfully negative, then because for me, it is. This is a tragedy in that the constituent components are great – the rules-language, while sometimes haunted by punctuation errors and the like, is precise and skillful. The concepts are great. The fluff is glorious and the race is fine. But the class is extremely rushed and requires a massive retooling.


I agonized over this. I really, really want to like this book. I can’t. With this amount of glitches and, MUCH more importantly, the glaring balance issues, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this great race…and its not so great paragon class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.


Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 302015

Urban Dressing: Elven Town


This installment of what I’d tentatively call the “new” Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


So this time around, our trip through diverse towns brings us into a town of elves – where the sights and sounds, of which no less than 100 are provided – from mist that stubbornly refuses to yield to the encroaching rays of the sun to out-of-place snowless lakes to newborns ritualistically drinking the sap of trees, this provides an aptly mystical glance at the insides of elven culture.


A total of 50 different businesses, from animal-shelter-style menageries to courier-services that utilize the branches above for fast travel through the forests and crystalline wind-chimes, all provide a distinct and somewhat unearthly flair. Of course, these places would, on their own, remain pretty opaque – hence, we get a massive array of no less than 50 entries detailing short fluff-only entries of sample inhabitants, which, while in focus obviously elven, also sport a diverse array of characters not belonging to this ethnicity -from obviously xenophobic “newborns” to halflings with a nasty temper, the array of characters covers quite a broad spectrum from benevolent to malicious – have I mentioned the incognito vampire?


In case all of these entries do not spark your interest right from the bat, you can still count on the final table covering 12 hooks and complications, with elven funerals and warriors providing quite a bit of nice hooks to draw this in.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w-stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.


Josh Vogt’s Urban Dressing on elves could have been pretty much bland, but thankfully, that is not the case – much like the installment on dwarven towns, this provides inspired fluff galore to make your elven towns, no matter the precise look and feel for them you prefer in your games. This installment of Urban Dressing once again is a wonderful installment and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.


You can get these great, flavorful tables here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 282015

Classes of NeoExodus: Mythic Machinesmith


This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?


The machinesmith class is a deservedly beloved addition NeoExodus has contributed to many a group beyond the scope of its own campaign setting – and here we get the material needed to run these guys in a mythic context, so how do they hold up?


We begin this pdf with the 10-tier Futurist mythic path – which already provides imho a basic issue: Is it a path for just the machinesmith class? The answer, thankfully, is NO. The path nets 4 hit points per tier and a path ability at every tier, with first tier granting one of 3 futurist revelations: Surprise grenade allows you to expend a swift action and mythic power to draw and throw an alchemical item, thrown weapon or grenade, suffering a penalty to saves equal to your tier. per se cool, but why lock alchemist bombs out of the equation? As written, bombs are not covered, which remains my one gripe in an otherwise nice ability. The second revelation would be the energy shot, which allows you to attack with a ranged weapon as a swift action for the expenditure of mythic power, increasing the attack’s damage by + tier and changing the damage-type for this attack to force. An issue here would be the omission of specification at what BAB the attack is executed – while the default, obviously, is full BAB, this still constitutes a minor blemish in rules-precision. The third option would be to use mythic power as a substitute for uses of extracts, prototypes or wands without expending a slot or charge, forcing non-mythic creatures to roll twice. This ability has two issues: Can one mythic power act as fuel for an ability or effect that would require the expenditure of multiple slots or charges? Would it instead decrease the number of charges by 1 or can’t it be used? Secondly, what action does this require? Swift? immediate? Free? Part of the activation? While not rendering the ability unusable, it does constitute an issue.


As always, you can select more of these revelations as path abilities, but you may want to think carefully here – why? because the path abilities are pretty much unique: What about making all damage your vehicle does (including all attached weapons) ignore ALL DR? Yes, this is damn cool, but I very much wished it was not automatic and had a scaling mechanism that progressively unlocked DR-ignoring at higher tiers – as written, it means low level futurists can pretty much mow down legions of golems beyond their levels. Disarming traps and opening locks as move action sans provoking AoOs kind of works, though, once again, I wished it had a scaling-mechanism tied to the tier.


On the nice-side, this does provide full-blown support for the Technology Guide, sporting a means to offset glitches and firearm mishaps, an integration I also hope to see in the compiled machinesmith. Less charge-consumption for such items due to mythic power is also an intriguing option that adds a nice level of versatility. A humble and yet cool path ability allows you to wield firearms one size larger than you without penalty – though I’d definitely prevent large PC-races from taking this ability. On a design-aesthetic perspective, I am not a fan of an ability that allows you to return any single-target arcane spell or spell-like ability back to its originator when you save or SR against it for one mythic power – while limited by mythic power – there ought to be a discrepancy here between non-mythic and mythic magic. This is baffling since the similar ability for divine spells has just that caveat – though here, it pertains to the duration of short-term STUNNING – without save to resist, mind you.


A nice ability that takes the DiY into account would be Force Armor, which allows you to add AC bonuses of any armors you craft to touch AC, but only when wearing them yourself. I am also pretty much a fan of an ability that allows you to reverse-engineer spells from magic items to add them to your spellbook. Now while the spellbook does imply a sense of limited usefulness, I would have preferred a more open wording to allow non-spellbook-using prepared casters to benefit from this path ability. What about doubling any AoE spell or effect via the expenditure of mythic power, while also increasing the damage output AND knocking non-mythic targets prone? That one is incredibly broken -stack that with metamagic and/or class abilities get HUGE blasts – not gonna happen in my group.


On the plus-side, upgrading weapons in a flexible manner to higher technology tiers on the other hand is pretty much awesome! Class-specific options can be found inside as well – greatworks that are not the mechanus can provide a mythic power-based buff to allies upon activation. Nice! Cybertech implantation can also be found alongside the option to add metamagic to spell trigger or spell completion items. I also enjoy particularly the option to UMD past magical traps without triggering them, potentially allowing you and your allies to turn a deathtrap dungeon against its inhabitants.


Among the 3rd tier abilities, scaling DR 1/epic that improves by 1 for each implant and using mythic power to make one drone-spell or prototype permanent (and only one at a given time) is a neat idea, as is firing through foes. Among the 6th tier abilities, construct-apotheosis and turning non-magic items into universal crafting material grey goo also is nice, though perhaps a bit high up the tier-scale. Merging magic items for slot-convenience also constitutes an interesting design-choice. Awakening constructs and mythic power-based rerolls can also be found within these pages. As a capstone, the path allows for the creation of technological items in one day and for the purposes of cybertech, your capacity is vastly enhanced.


A feat nets you +1 machinesmith trick and we also get 8 new mythic versions of feats – which include, obviously, rules from the technology guide – from Craft Technological Arms and Armor to quicker crafting of Pharmaceuticals, these feats generally make sense and do a good job at integrating technology and mythic. We also get a total of 6 mythic versions of drone-spells that include unlimited ranges for exterminator drones – which is awesome. I am VERY weary of mythic moebius converters – why? Because it can be used to restore mythic power IN ADDITION to spells, extracts or prototypes – seeing how mythic power can be used to power these, this regeneration of mythic power as the most powerful resource available is something usually avoided – and for a good reason.


The pdf also provides a CR 10/MR 5 Mythic Ironforged.



Editing and formatting generally are very good, I noticed no significant issues regarding the formal language, though rules-language could be more precise. Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s gorgeous two-column full-color standard and includes some beautiful artworks you may know from other NeoExodus-supplements. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a slight comfort detriment. The pdf comes with a second, no less beautiful, but more printer-friendly version.


Mythic Rules are VERY hard to get right, not only because balancing them is exceedingly peculiar and hard, but also because the intricacies of rules-language are amplified by the inclusion of new terms and components. Worse, the balancing of mythic, as peculiar and fragile as it is, very much requires a lot of knowledge of abstract, implicit rules-decisions and it is this component that this pdf, alas, flaunts in quite a few instances – essentially, mythic is, at least in lower tiers, not about absolutes, but about enabling a distinction to operate on the power-level of heroes like wonder woman or superman instead of on those of batman or green arrow – you get some tools on the superman-level that are extremely efficient versus mere mortals, but you don’t yet get to walk right over them – that comes at higher tiers. While not per se bad, this pdf gets exactly this component wrong in quite a few instances. Author Jonathan Palmer has grasped the basic concepts on how to write and use the syntax and semantics of the mythic rules – you can see that he gets the grand picture and delivers something functional. At the same time, it is apparent to me that the interaction and way things work diverge from the base mythic standards – and this constitutes an issue in a system this fragile.


At the same time, this pdf juggles another component, namely the Technology Guide-sub-system and it does this rather well – as problematic as some decisions in the path are, as awesome is the blending of both systems. I also pretty much like how you could mash this and Legendary Games’ genius-path together without that much overlap.


On the one hand, and there is no denying this, we have here an example of a flawed pdf. At the same time, though, universally, the issues can be caught by a capable DM and yes, ironed out with a minimum of effort – fixing the balance-issues that are herein pretty much would probably amount to about 2 hours and that’s it – if you do that, you’ll have a functional and fun pdf for a more than fair price at your hands. This has the potential for full 5 stars +seal of approval, but as long as the issues persist, I cannot rate this higher than 3 stars.


You can get this supplement here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop.
Endzeitgeist out.


Jul 282015

Mythic Mini: Mythic Weapons


All right, you know the deal – 3 pages – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let’s go!


-Blade-eating Battleaxe: This battleaxe can essentially dual-sunder as a standard action and apply mythic surge benefits to the two sunders. Furthermore, with the expenditure of mythic power, it allows for whirlwind-sundering and allows for reflexive sunderings to counter certain combat maneuvers and abilities. The complex mechanics required here actually work out very well – nice one!


-Kinslayer’s Knife: Nasty blade with blood biography and the target’s relatives becoming apparent to the wielder, making this one very lethal for those carrying out a bloody vendetta.


-Redflame Trollblade: A +1 flaming burst humanoid (giant) bane bastard sword that has its bane further enhanced versus trolls, while also sporting color-coded glowing warnings regarding the presence of certain types of adversaries. In the hands of mythic characters, it also gets the mighty cleaving property and can use mythic power to grant Mythic Cleave, adding in a 5-foot step. Alas, the blade also calls all trolls within 1 mile, compelling them to seek out and slay the wielder or perish in battle. Nasty!


-Silverspark Longbow: Arrows fired from these intelligent bows made to slay evil wizards and witches are silver and grant SR in addition to their significant enchantments. 1/day, they can fire a lightning bolt modified by the Disruptive Spell feat – and one that is half divine energy. In the hands of mythic characters, limning and shocking burst are added versus targets and the lightning bolt can be shot multiple times per day, powered by mythic power.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason Nelson delivers 4 mechanically complex mythic weapons here, all of which have in common that they tackle complex rules and manage to execute them in interesting ways. Additionally, they all sport this nice extra oomph – the unique ability that goes beyond an accumulation of properties and renders them unique. Nice and well worth 5 stars +seal of approval.


You can get these cool weapons here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.


Jul 242015

Adventure Quarterly #6


The sixth installment of Rite Publishing’s spiritual heir of the Dungeon magazine clocks in at 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than a massive 67 pages of content – quite a huge array, so let’s take a look!


As always, we begin the issue with a nice editorial by Robert N. Emerson before jumping into the meat of the respective modules. This being a review of an adventure-based magazine, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.



All right, still here? Great! The first module herein takes us back into the iconic training ground/artificial dungeon of Questhaven’s Questor’s Society, the Ruins Perilous, wherein 4th level PCs are challenged by Mike Welham to enter the Fungarium! What once was a gigantic banquet hall has since the various cataclysms befell the ruins turned into a kind of interesting fungal habitation, one that is by now separated in two factions of fungoid life-forms that exist in a brokered, uneasy truce – and yes, this means that the best option indeed boils down to actually negotiating with the strange fungoid creatures. If Diplomacy is not up to your PC’s alley, fighting does remain an option, though they will miss out on a boon for the PCs. However, this is not where this dungeon-level shines alone – indeed, the creepy atmosphere is well-supplemented by a diverse array of cool hazards and yes, these strange mushrooms add a nice dimension to the encounters. Fungal forlarren queens that share a mind may be there for negotiation, but unaligned fungoid creatures and a dangerous spiny otyugh do make for quite a few nice, challenging foes for combat-centric PCs to defeat, rounding out one of the arguably coolest levels in the ruins yet – fun, diverse and consistent – I love it! This gets even more awesome by supplementing tidbits like stats for the trap-resetting ratfolk workers, an anti-fungus weapon and stats for groundkeepers et al.


The second module, Bret Boyd’s Fire and Ice, not related to the neofolk band of the same name, begins with the death of adventurers, though thankfully not the PCs – instead, a company of competing adventurers has been all but wiped out while trying to thwart an evil organization’s plan to harvest divine essences. Their sole survivor, as it happens, is on the same ship as the PCs – and draws the ire of the primary antagonist, the immortal assassin Malkin and an iceberg-vessel – upon temporarily defeating the threat, the poor survivor comes clean and asks the PCs for aid and so they’re off to the island of pleasure, Mibre, a small paradise, where an order of enigmatic monks poses an interesting puzzle (including trouble-shooting advice and means t brute-force it) – for without the help of the monks, the PCs will have a hard time bringing the magical crystal to the plane of fire to sunder it and thwart the plans of the evil cabal. My one gripe here would constitute in the lack of vessel stats for the iceberg ship and the PC’s ship, but on the plus-side, the settlement at least does sport a full settlement statblock.


The final module within these pages, penned by Alex Putnam (and Danielle Doss), would be “In Iron Clad,” wherein 14th level PCs have their business trip to a mercane merchant (and a remote metropolis)rudely interrupted while aboard a massive, dwarven sand-steamer used to traverse the massive, lethal badlands – only to have it be attacked by a massive behemoth – and this is only the first of things to come – deadly divs herald the shape of things to come, as the PCs happen upon the massive artifact, the metal heart. Bringing this to the metropolis, the PCs are tasked to pilot the Iron Knight -and yes, we’re talking about the Saber Rider/power Rangers-style mecha also featured in the glorious Kaiju Codex. Much like its rendition there, the rules provided could be a teeny tiny bit more precise, though they should not overexert the capabilities of most groups – and yes, the task thereafter is to pilot the gigantic mecha to vanquish the corrupted, elemental-themed kaiju-sized creatures. But that is not where the module ends – indeed, the PCs have to brave a legendary, vast tomb to find a magic weapon for the iron knight, the Sword of Ages’ End, and use it to vanquish the legendary corruptor in one massive boss battle of gargantuan proportions – quite literally!


After these modules, Creighton Broadhurst provides an array of complex, multi-round hazards/encounters to drop into your game, some of his best work, btw., while Steven D. Russell continues his advice for wide open sandboxing campaigns, including some handy lists t use at one’s convenience.



Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-level. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s 2-column full-color standard with a significant array of gorgeous, original full-color artworks AND there are A LOT of awesome maps in here – if you need any more proof that Tommi Salama is perhaps THE heir to Jonathan Roberts, this one delivers – in diverse styles and color, the maps are ridiculously beautiful. Better yet, the maps also come as high-res jpgs for use with virtual tabletops or the printer AND there are player-friendly high-res versions of the maps as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


This is a first in the run of Adventure Quarterly – for the first time, more than module blew me away – and honestly, I really like all 3. Each sports unique locations, nice, compact storylines and deliver, in spades, some absolutely imaginative vistas. Better yet, Alex Putnam’s final module is perhaps the best high-level module in any Adventure Quarterly – high-stakes, unique and supplemented by lavish, copious maps, this module is a stroke of genius and will have your players talking about it for years to come – heck, it may be the perfect transition from regular gaming to making full use of the superb Kaiju Codex and truly high-fantasy gaming! This installment is creative in all the right ways and sports glorious ideas as well as Rite Publishing’s trademark focus on high concepts – even the supplemental material went above and beyond – well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval!


You can get these cool modules here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Want the subscription for issues 5 -8 instead? You can get that here on OBS!


Missed issues 1- 4? You can get these here on OBS!


Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 232015

Legendary Villains: Antipaladins


This installment of Legendary Games’ toolkits for villains clocks in at 46, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial,1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?


We begin this supplement with a short essay on the role of antipaladins as villains and the types of evil they can represent – the essay is pretty much a concise recap of types of evil by virtue of comparison with some icons of popular culture. After this concise introduction to get us into the proper mindset for those champions of evil, we delve into the new archetypes herein.


The first of these would be the Black Knight. Yes. Get all your Monty Python jokes out of your system. I’ll be waiting here…. All right, done? Great! This archetype receives a mount that has an interesting scaling mechanism – at 5th level, the antipaladin can sacrifice his mount to make it return as fiendish boon with an appropriate template. The touch of corruption of the black knight not only can heal her mount, it can also grant temporary immunity against cruelty conditions (including suppression thereof). Better charges and more efficiency regarding the killing of animals etc. complement a mounted champion that can stand on par with cavalier et al. regarding efficiency in the saddle.


The second archetype is the Dark Deacon, who surprisingly, does not gain any spells – instead, this one does get Weapon Focus, access to fighter feats as well as the warpriest’s sacred weapon and limited access to warpriest blessings, while complementing this with domain powers. The Falconer of Pazuzu replaces detect good with bird animal companions at full druid progression, but only half hit points – however, they do get the fiendish template. Facloners can scry upon their falcons and do have two unique animal tricks to teach them – nice, since this is an imho underused mechanic! The intriguing archetype also adds plaguebringer to the companions (later also allowing the delivery of touch spells…) and provides nice further synergy with the unique feats in here, but more on that topic later. Smite is also kind of shared and yes, the falconer does receive Hunter’s Bond and a unique high-level trick for birds that delivers devastating charges. Awesome archetype!


The Kohai of blasphemy is a chronicler of atrocities and receives a flexible take regarding the use of mental attributes for the purposes of key attributes for abilities etc. That and improved touch of corruption as well as bonus feats are offset by terrible scars that penalize saves and a slower BAB-progression. After these archetypes, we are introduced to the main meat of the book, a vast array of [Cruel] feats – antipaladin feats specifically designed to provide options beyond what would usually be considered normal – indeed, each of the feats comes with a high-concept fluff-text (though some of these lack the italicization established as a formatting standard) and the feats provide a different array of feats that can be considered a huge toolbox of options to make uncommon class combinations work – full synergy between ninja or monk and antipaladin? Covered. And yes, the feats do sport quite an array of abilities -it is not uncommon for 2 feats herein to cover a whole page, so yes – these feats cover more than some archetypes I have read over the years, including an array of scaling benefits thata re unlocked at a certain level. And yes, much like in the first Legendary Villains-book, it is pretty evident that not all of these should find their way into player-hands.


Let me elaborate on this: Remember the exceedingly iconic dark wood-themed feats in the Legendary Villains: Dark Druids-book? Well, there would be an antipaladin-feat thematically linked to said concept. The feat renders all items the character takes broken for as long as the character touches them, while also rendering Use Magic Device a class skill. Your reduce hardness of the objects you attempt to damage, later crumble objects to rust and you get 1/2 “druid” level as barbarian rages – note that this feat constantly refers to “druid levels” instead of antipaladin or character levels, rendering me somewhat unsure whether that is a case of wrong class name or intentional for multiclassed characters. There also would be feats that practically demand to be used for certain adversaries – Bright-burning Tempter’s follow-up feat “Answer to Apocalyptic Desires”, for example, allows for a broad array SPs to be granted to the supplicants via e.g. wishbound arcana, which also provides additional synergy with the touch of corruption class feature.


So yes, we have a continuation of Dark Druid‘s complex feats that essentially go above and beyond in power-level and breadth of what a feat is usually capable of. The feats herein, one can argue, do more than most of 3.X’s Prestige Classes and provide inherent scaling mechanisms that are enough to make a significant majority of them unlock class-combinations of archetypes that were previously cool in concept, but not particularly feasible from a perspective of efficiency. Antipaladins poaching among the alchemist’s tricks? Yes, in there. Blackblade-magus/antipaladin – synergy-feat? Jup, there. We can also find feats that make use of archetypes and archetype combinations here, allowing for completely now, suddenly efficient villain builds. Are these feats balanced? No, they are not. They quite frankly constitute patches in the increasing complexity of the system to bridge gaps, patches intended to render adversaries and iconic builds work. Now not all feats fall into this type of pattern: For example, you can spontaneously summon a chosen wondrous item to conjure it forth said item temporarily – think of it as an external non-consumable item to call forth, one whose base-price btw. increases.


Unlocking the aforementioned powerful dark druid feats for inquisitors can also be found herein and yes, there are feats particularly suited for the new archetypes herein as well. Touch of corruption dice increase and adding sticking damage on subsequent rounds – yes, this is possible, though oddly the latter feat’s text is gray instead of black – odd formatting hiccup that is mirrored in quite a few feats. Have I mentioned being able to execute warpwaves, protean-style? Particularly awesome would also be the options to add proper antipaladin/time thief-synergy – yes, there are feats herein that work in conjunction with Rogue Genius Games’ Prince of Persia-style classes. Awesome since it adds a further dimension to these feats!



Editing and formatting are good, though not as good as in most Legendary Games products – there are quite a few minor typos and formatting glitches herein. Layout adheres to the full-color two-column standard of Wrath of the Righteous plug-ins and the pdf sports gorgeous full-color artworks, though rampant fans of Legendary Games may recognize some of them from other supplements. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and, thankfully, hyperlinked for your convenience – a necessity when confronted by the complexity of these options.


Jason Nelson and Clinton Boomer’s first cooperation in Legendary Villains: Dark Druids felt a bit disjointed. In this second cooperation, their distinct styles blend better – and distinct they are. Jason Nelson is one of the masters of concise crunch presentation and Clinton Boomer is all about massive, evocative concepts. While I would not let most of the feats herein anywhere near my players, thankfully, they are not intended like that. Instead, the feats herein should be likened more to miniature templates for class/archetype-combos. Essentially, they are concept-enablers and simply inspiring, deadly arrays of abilities that will stupefy your players and put the fear of antipaladins back into them – but not only antipaladins, but many combos that would not be otherwise viable or smart. In the end, this collection is one glorious toolkit for GMs to enhance truly nasty adversaries and make the PCs really, really dread those champions of darkness. While the pdf does sport more rough edges and while some of the feats do sport minor ambiguities, this pdf ultimately constitutes a great toolkit and is well worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this delightfully dastardly collection of options for the champions of darkness here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.


Jul 232015

Secret Societies of Vathak: The Final Phase


This Vathak-supplement clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


The Final Phase is a cult that sprung form an appropriately nihilistic vision of life as sorrow unending and thus, it should come as no surprise that the already questionable ideology (as much of it as the well-written intro-fluff showcases) has been perverted even further in a world like Vathak – now, the cult is pretty much a decadent accumulation of cultists with a surprising range of influence. More disturbingly, the cult believes that the Great Old Ones hold the key to prevent resorption into the unending cycle of sorrow the multiverse propagates – and while this may sound angsty, in a fantasy setting with demons, angels etc., the clue is – they are kind of right. Okay, bringing the Great Old Ones to the world is not a good idea, but the aforementioned point has been a central and very effective theme in my last campaign: In the words of one of my favorite metal bands: “If my soul could revive from my carnal remains, what does it matter to me? If it all fades to black and I’m born once again, then no one really is free.”


A pyramid structure that mirrors their inverted ziggurat ritualistic place is detailed alongside the current headquarters and initiation into the cult – particular mention deserves that WE ACTUALLY GET THE OATH the initiates recite. See, *this* is exactly what makes a cult come to life, what makes it more than just a collection of cultists.


The pdf also sports unique magical items, namely the Belt of the Great Old Ones that not only bestows ooze-like immunities and a miss chance on the wearer, but also allows you to squeeze through tight spaces – and make foes rue the day they tried to see through your miss-chance… On a nitpicky side, the item has a minor italicization glitch. The second item would be the Lamprey Sleeves. In the lower sections of aforementioned ziggurat is a vat, wherein lamprey await – upon plunging your arm inside, the lampreys devour the arm and magically turn into a disturbing facsimile of the arm, returning to their original disgusting form only upon activation, acting as a buckler and allowing for the wearer’s choice of either vampiric touch or touch of madness 3/day, though again, with minor italicization glitches.


The pdf closes with adventure hooks.



Editing and formatting are good, apart from some minor italicization glitches, I noticed nothing severe. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is thematically fitting.


Jeffrey Swank’s Final Phase has been an odd pdf for me to review. This began, to be honest, with me not being particularly excited – yet another nihilistic cult? Yawn. Only slowly did the themes and leitmotifs of self-determination emerge and lend an actual identity to the cult herein. The sample oath provided in particular made me wish this pdf sported more fluff like that, for it is here that the pdf shines -at this point, I expected this to be pretty much in the mediocre/good range. Then the items hit and hit hard – they are unique, strange and downright creepy, adding an element of body horror to the philosophical underpinning of the cult, blending a strange mix of psychological and body horror with the utterly creepy premise of elitism and “good intentions for the enlightened” to form an amalgam that is something I did not expect this pdf to deliver – something genuinely creepy.


Now granted, not all components of the organization hit home perfectly, but the blending of themes makes this work better than I honestly expected, rendering the cult a fun, inexpensive addition to one’s game, mainly hampered by the brevity of the format – with a couple of additional pages to showcase ideology and rituals in more detail, this could have been top-tier awesome. As provided, it is a compelling secret society just short of true excellence and thus well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this sinister cabal here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.


Jul 232015

Mythic Minis: Metamagic Feats


All right, you know the deal – 4 pages – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages content, let’s go!


-Burning Spell: Twice spell level damage on follow-up rounds; then + spell level damage for 1 round per 2 mythic tiers, min 1. +1/2 mythic tier feat-uses per day and the option to spontaneously make a spell burning via mythic power without preparing it beforehand, increasing casting time or spell level. Solid.


-Coaxing Spell: Affect mindless oozes and vermin as well as sentient creatures. You still can choose to affect only one type of adversary, providing a penalty to the target’s will save. As minor nitpick, the minus herein is not properly displayed, though that does not impede the ability to understand it – btw., this glitch that displays a strike-through box instead of a minus extends to all instances where a minus should be in the pdf. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. This extends to almost all of the feats herein, so no, I will not mention is for every one of them.


-Concussive Spell: Adds Ac-penalty to the insult of the feat and makes target risk falling prone, with standing up being not as simple as usual -standing up may see you falling back prone. Nice one.


-Consecrate Spell: Spell level consecrate added; creatures targeted count as consecrated. Very interesting, not necessarily on a hard number basis, but on a narrative basis. I like it!

-Echoing Spell: Now we’re talking – get the full spell as a1/day at-will SP. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. This is simple, yet awesome and manages to get even the focus-requirement right. Love it!


-Flaring Spell: Add blind and dazzle to the spell. Solid.


-Jinxed Spell: Jinx up to 1/2 mythic tier creatures with jinxed spells. Additionally, a creature that makes its save can be targeted by your halfling jinx, with a normal save. Nice one!


-Piercing Spell: Treat SR as 5 plus mythic tier for non-mythic opponents or 5 + 1/2 mythic tier for mythic foes lower when targeting with a Piercing Spell.


-Rime Spell: Add temporary fatigue to the entangle effect. Can be spontaneously added via mythic power akin to Burning Spell. Neat.


-Seeking Spell: Use this in conjunction with ranged attacks or ranged touch attacks or with Ref-save allowing spells, ignoring cover-bonuses. This one allows for some fun tricks – nice!


-Shadow Grasp: Add dazzle to the entangle condition. Shrouded creatures gain concealment against foes more than 5 ft away (10 ft. for creatures with low-light vision, no effect versus darkvision). Okay, I guess – the feat’s secondary effects have some potential when used in conjunction with Stealth/shadow-characters.

-Tenebrous Spell: + mythic tier to concentration checks made to cast the Tenebrous Spell in bright light. Attempts to dispel such a spell only get a bonus of +2, while you conversely increase CL and save DC by +2 for you when casting it in darkness or shadows and penalize dispel checks by 4 in such areas. The feat does reference Umbral Spell instead of Tenebrous Spell once in a harmless cut-copy-paste-glitch.

-Thanatopic Spell: Attempt caster level checks to temporarily suppress death effects, negative levels, negative energy or energy drain, potentially suppressing the effect. With mythic power, you can,a s a swift action, affect more than one creature.


-Threatening Illusion: Select any number of 5-foot squares within a figment you create, making the squares count as threatening regarding flanking etc. The feat gets combat maneuvers et al. and interaction right and the balancing via spell instead of feat is downright genius. One of my favorites herein.


-Threnodic Spell: Affect living and undead at the same time or penalize one type’s will-saves for a number of rounds – essentially a copy of Coaxing Spell in that regard, though you may not choose the living.


-Toppling Spell: +1/2 mythic tier, min. 1 to CMB to trip creatures. Unique and awesome – add +2 to checks to topple targets adjacent to a target you’ve toppled, including stacking and getting the complex rules-language here right. One of my favorites – awesome!


-Umbral Spell: The target radiates deeper darkness (with a special caveat for cantrips). Unique and elegant.



Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches, only the aforementioned cut copy paste error and the strange minus-layout-glitch. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.


Jason Nelson’s Metamagic feats were a surprise to me – while I expected the mythic power to cast spontaneously angle employed by most of them and while I get certain analogues among the respective feats, I did not expect to actually enjoy some of these feats – there are quite a few examples that go beyond what one would expect, providing some unique tactical options. While not perfect, this is still a very good pdf, well worth of a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a tiny margin.


You can get this nice mythic mini here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!
Endzeitgeist out.

Jul 222015

Akashic Mysteries: Guru


The second installment of Michael Sayre’s Incarnum-style series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


Depicted herein would be the Guru-base-class, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made – more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested + wis-mod. Essence investment into prepared veils can be reallocated as a swift action.


I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch – if a guru invests one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + wis-mod bonus, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC’s path. What’s also pretty odd – per essence invested, the ability deals +1d4 nonlethal damage. Now the issue is – does this stack with the wis-mod bonus damage? If so, then this is pretty much a very powerful damage boost, perhaps beyond what one would expect. Also: Does the first, unlocking point of essence invested add the +1d4 as well or just the wis-mod? The double increase to damage makes me think that the wis-mod perhaps was supposed to replace Str or Dex for the purpose of BAB-calculation? Be that as it may, while not broken, this ability could use some clarification. Beyond this, I also believe that the ability perhaps could use an exclusion-clause for shuriken and the like – since the damage applies to everything, combining that with shuriken and/or multiclass’d flurries of stars…OUCH.


1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power – you can’t write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks – the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.


The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack – this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs – imho, this one should be nerfed to at least +1 per essence. You don’t need me to make the math for unbeatable DCs. The negative condition lasts for wis-mod rounds (odd, seeing how the DC is essence-based – why not also increase durations here?) and scales up over the levels.


7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence invested, though essence invested in the limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of foes that are immune to nonlethal damage. 16th level provides, apart from a lack of bolding of the ability name, the option to expend stunning fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes – cool and surprisingly powerful!


Now I mentioned philosophies – a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon proficiencies the first of which would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities. Alternatively, these points can be used to execute as a veil of positive energy. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible, as is shooting rays – which deal an untyped damage AND lack information on their range. Both should be rectified. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light – it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability.


The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds- “After all, the guru can always conjure forth light and meditate for temporary essence points…blablaba” – you get the rationale: Burning temporary essence at 16th level would grant up to +40 to damage for one attack. Now this *looks* much worse than it is in game – meditating this one back would require 8 minutes, so no spamming AND it is a significant expenditure. See, that’s why I playtest these classes – this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers.


The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic – it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp – interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I’m still not 100% sold here – though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this – limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement (lacking italicization) and some minor non-standard wording – inescapable unarmed attacks (powered by essence + grab quality…) and AoE unarmed attacks are cool, though the most powerful ability here lacks a duration for the paralyze effect -and if it’s supposed to be permanent…ouch. Even at level 19 nasty.


The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater’s tanky playstyle – using essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or duplicate spells (lacking italicization) as well as getting back up quickly. 10th level nets breath of life and is solid. The base ability allows for debuffs of foes that target creatures that are not the vayist, essentially making him a solid kiter – why? Because not including the vayist in attacks allows for them to regain essence burn – which works perfectly considering the emphasis on movement and flexibility – for players that enjoy flexibility and movement superiority, this one is fun indeed. It’s also the most refined philosophy in that it imho has the least minor hiccups.


The pdf, obviously, also sports a significant array of feats, some of which you will probably know from the vizier’s pdf – that is, obvious gestalting functionality is still maintained in the tradition of incarnum, surpassing the options of this system by quite a bit. Now some feats imho could be a tad bit more refined – when untyped energy damage (against which no DR or resistance helps) can be added to attacks, that’s nasty. Increased maneuver-bonuses AND better damage outputs in conjunction with Piranha Strikes and Power Attack are pretty strong, though that is balanced by requiring, obviously, essence-investment. Enhanced Veil Capacity, still proved to be pretty much a no-brainer in my playtests. Life Bond proved to be somewhat problematic for akasin gurus – why? Because it lets you take damage and heal allies – since the akasin can heal himself indefinitely as long as he has time and access to light, we’re seeing an infinite healing option for the group here and one that can break in-game logic pretty hard – can you see the nightmarish visions of guru-healing-batteries beyond the front-lines of the evil empire? I can. Damn. That imagery is actually cool. Still, I think there needs to be some limitations implemented here. This problem also extend to the Martyr’s Toga veil, btw., though that one’s wording makes me believe it was supposed to have a daily limit of uses akin to other healing veils.


Dual binding of veils is also possible and offers yet another tactical option. Essence of the Immortal provides 2 x essence pool bonus hp and counts as toughness – a pretty blatant power-escalation even without the additional essence granted by feats et al. – this can easily upgrade your hit points by ~50 for non-optimized builds. While fitting the theme of specific builds, I still consider this in need of a gentle whack with the nerfbat – or a different scaling mechanism that is not based on total essence. Perhaps grant a base hp-bonus and allow for essence burn to temporarily increase that?


The veils presented obviously have some overlap with those of the vizier, but are not limited to those already known from the first pdf – there are quite a few cool exclusives here! One theme you’ll note is movement – from air walking to increased movement rates make sense – though the latter’s lack of bonus type means it’ll allow for a nasty combination of speed-types you usually don’t see – with items and spells, you can get problematic speeds here. The Stalker’s Tabi is a pretty nasty beast – unlimited short range teleportation and hide while being observed/in plain sight is slightly earlier than usual – 6th level, when usually HiPS is relegated to 7th or 9th level – perhaps include a level-based scaling mechanism here? The Eyes of the Hawkguard can be bound first as see invisibility, later even as true seeing – constant! And yes, this one gets the balancing right! Fluid partial conversion of energy damage taken to one favored by the guru is also an option provided by veils – one that can be considered an unique take. It should also be noted that some of these veils actually do interact in rather cool and unique ways with class abilities, including psionic abilities – providing further combo options and screws to tinker with.



Editing and formatting can still be considered good, though I noticed quite a few instances of missing bolding, italicization glitches and the like on a formal level. Michael Sayre’s rules-language is pretty concise and more refined than in the vizier, with a more concise terminology – on a nitpicky side, establishing one type of wording for essence burn vs. burn essence would make the pdf more concise still. The pdf comes in two versions, one in gorgeous 2-column full-color layout and one more printer-friendly version. The artworks are a combination of original pieces and stock art. Strangely, my full-color version had no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


All the positive things I’ve said about akashic classes in my review of the vizier still hold true, so if you want to read about me rambling over the superiority of the system over incarnum, take a look at that review – it still holds true here.


I adore the akashic classes I’ve read so far – the classes are ALL about player agenda – there are so many options to choose, screws to tinker with, math to run – the flexibility of the classes and fully functional gestalting options are exceedingly versatile and utterly fun. They are also a nightmare to review, but that’s beside the point – most classes I LOVE tend to fit that criteria. The guru’s rewarding of nonlethal damage, of actually not being a murder hobo, is something that resonates deeply with my convictions of what it means to be good, so thematically, I ultimately ended up loving this class.


That being said, as much as I’d like to praise this in the highest tones, there are some instances where the wording still needs some refinement, some rough edges that need to be sanded off. If my review above seemed nitpicky, then mainly because I so want the final book to be perfect. One surprise of this pdf, at least to me, was that the guru, on paper, looked essentially broken, with many knee-jerk-reaction inducing choices that mellowed out when doing the math/actually playing the class. The grand potential of problems can be seen in Life Bond – the feat itself isn’t that strong, but as soon as it allows for infinite healing (which it didn’t for the vizier), one can see one tiny oversight in the rules-language that radiates outwards – this needs a daily activation cap akin to similar options to maintain functionality with the akasin – and to future-proof the system to prevent ample future abuse.


So how to rate this? I love Michael Sayre’s akashic classes and can’t wait for the final book, but with the rough edges still in here, I can’t go higher than a final verdict of 4 stars for now – with the explicit note that this very much resonates with me – I am stoked to see the final book – it may be one for the EZG-Essentials-list if Dreamscarred Press can get rid of the rough patches!


You can get this cool, if not (yet!) perfect class here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Want the whole subscription? You can get that one here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.


Jul 222015

#30 Magic Tools


This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?


So, know what pretty much I don’t get? In all those high magic magocracies and settings, why are there no actual tools, you know, everyday-useful magic items to make life more convenient? I mean, literature is full of wizards using convenient items to render life more comfortable for themselves and in a setting where the crafting of deadly, costly magical weapons, it is only sensible that some of the funds circulated would be used to actually improve the tools used to generate the respective tools, right?


Right – so here we are, new magic tools. All of them are masterwork per default, as the pdf notices and framed by an aptly-written, short piece of IC-prose, we dive right in: The Arcane Anthology, for example, opens itself on the correct page and politely positions itself in front of the reader, levitating and leaving his or her hands free. If that is not inspiring to you in and of itself, then the short piece of history provided for each item should exactly help in that regard. Now this is pretty much awesome, though, alas, not all items herein reach this level of coolness – take the Brass of Binding: It prevents the rider from being dismounted “no matter what happens.” No matter how good the CMB, no matter the circumstance – unless the points of the maple-leaf brass are tapped. Alas, this does not specify what type of action tapping the maple leaf’s points is. Oh, and cost: 1000 GP. For never being dismounted, ever. WUT? This sounds like it needs a hard whack with the nerf-bat or rather, a tighter wording: It is clear this should only prevent dismounting due to the rider’s own failed checks – and yes, I am very much aware that this is supposed to be a tool for the Ride-skill only, but as written, it does look like it can be used otherwise AND it still fails to mention the action required for (de-)activation, alas a glitch I noticed a couple of times when the item’s text (à la mental command) etc. provides no clear means of determining the activation action, though I do assume the standard action default for wondrous items. But I’m rambling about a nitpick, so onwards!


A spoon that can purify any poison from food 3/day and detect it 3/day as well is a cool item, though personally, I think I’d prefer the detecting and purification to be based on poison DCs, but I am aware that this is just a personal preference and won’t hold it against the pdf. There also would be an enchanted chisel that can carve into wood on its own. A compass that can lead you to food, animals or locations pictured in your mind is nice, as are gloves that turn held items invisible. The Flawpicker item needs a scaling mechanism – picking out flaws from gems is fine with me – eliminating curses from cursed items, on the other hand, imho should have a scaling rate of success chances. I do like the sight-enhancing magical kohl. Mantles that help you avoid detection are nice, but what about shoons that 1/day create a platform mid-flight to push off, adding +10 ft. height and length to a jump? Yeah, awesome. Pins to improvise opening locks and helping with escaping manacles et al. also are a-ok with me. What about a patch that allows for quicker application of liquids?


There also would be slippers that allow caught thieves to generate an illusion of an animal darting away, providing an excuse for any noises created? Using a needle to animate cloths and the like to entangle foes? Cool! What about a babelfish-like translating butterfly? Nice!



Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typos, italicization glitches and the like. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks consist of thematically-fitting stock art.


Liz Smith’s items are glorious on the one hand – they make sense and in many, many cases, they can be considered awesome in their flair – breathing the spirit of fairy-tales and feeling like actual MAGIC instead of an accumulation of numerical bonuses, the tools herein may not be 100% perfect, but they have more soul than many magic item books I’ve read. Yes, there are some minor ambiguities and yes, I pretty much prefer Scaling options over those that work as a default – but in the end, most of the gripes I could field apply mainly to my personal preference, which has never been a sufficient reason for me to rate a pdf down, leaving as valid gripes only the glitches and non-preference hiccups, which ultimately are offset by the sheer imaginative potential herein. It should be noted that the items herein fit perfectly as rare items in a low magic game, so yeah, versatility is accounted for.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4. 5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this cool little pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!


Endzeitgeist out.