The Antipodist – Radiant Shadowsage
This base-class clocks in at 28 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
The antipodist base class receives d6,1/2 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 penaltes.
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. If you’re familiar with Interjection Games classes, you’ll notice a similarity with the edgewalker here – and thankfully, multiclass-information is provided. 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 two subtypes – light and dark and within these subtypes, there are different philosophies further providing variance/sub-subtypes if you will. Now antipodists surprisingly have no caster level per se, but for interaction purposes, they treat their class 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 etc. 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 class level + key attribute modifier.
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. Like the edgewalker, some loci require the use of the antipodist’s shadow and thus, only one of them can be in effect for a certain time.
Got that? Well, that’s not all – unlike the edgewalker, the antipodist can have different philosophical leaning – 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 specialisits 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 philosphy 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. The extensive advice for philosophy-changing goes above and beyond, providing detailed guidance for the turnfrom one leaning to another, both in the crunch AND in the fluff departments.
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 antipodist 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.
The class also comes with favored class options for the core-races plus drow, aasimar, tiefling, kobold, orc, hobgoblin, puddling (with the one for elves referring to edgewalker instead of antipodist) and 3 feats for the class: Increased pool-sizes (including variance between twilight and the extreme leanings), making a 1st level locus well-travelled and +1 first level locus are possible here – solid, especially since the latter feat becomes rather important for pyramid rule-planning.
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
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. 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. 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. 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. Interesting!
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.
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. 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.
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.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience – with actual, nested bookmarks, rendering navigation easier than in many IG-pdfs.
The Antipodist was a surprisingly tough pdf to properly take apart – and this is mostly due to the pyramid rule and the slight modifications one may apply to its progression via retraining. Now shadow magic, as introduced back in the 3.X days of old, was a high-concept idea, flawed in its execution, and the antipodist provides a distinct array of tools that are significantly better balanced. While generally defense-friendly due to the option to go armored caster, the bad saves and otherwise subpar base stats of the class maintain and enforce one basic concept – the antipodist is what I’d call a trick-class. That means both that it is somewhat tricky in that you should carefully consider your advancement through it, but also that it lets you pull off interesting tricks beyond the capability of other classes. Much like the (scarce) good parts of shadow magic of days gone by, the antipodist offers some very unique options, cool imagery and goes beyond the original, tight focus, by adding in the concept of duality and specialization.
More interesting, though, would be the option to radically change philosophies mid-game and essentially reboot the character and choices made throughout the PC’s career. This flexibility is in my book the most impressive component of the class alongside the cool twilight tricks. Now if I were to complain about one component of this pdf, it probably would be the antipodist’s so far limited (though by no means TOO limited) selection of foci when compared to full casters, but then again, there’s always the chance there’ll be expansions for this guy down the line. The pyramid rule and whole theme of the class, blending mechanics with the proverbial metaphysical journey also proves to be gold for roleplaying – in the hands of a capable player, these guys can really, really shine, tying the acquisition of powers on level ups to key moments in the campaign.
The handling of one or two pools remains a relatively simple affair, so apart from planning for cool combos (especially with twilight-antipodists), the class is relatively simple to wrap your head around when compared to other IG-releases. So how to rate this latest piece by Bradley Crouch then? Well, to cut a long ramble short in its tracks – this is the shadowcaster class I always wanted.
Its odd options more often than not go a step beyond what can be done with spells and quite a few loci have this cool “see what I did there”-flair. Add to that the cool condition dispersal/identification-options and we have a winner, though one that imho misses one damn cool option – as written, edgewalkers and antipodists, while thematically similar, have no overlap apart from their pools. Some sort of synergy between waypoints and loci would have been damn cool and made the whole system much more modular (and rewarded those who have both books) – perhaps something to consider for a future expansion? After all, the system per se is similar and the other way round, using loci as waypoints, would have been interesting as well. Now yes, this probably would have been a nightmare to balance, but still – if it’s not done some day, I’ll probably do it myself to render the shadow magic as intangible and unpredictable as possible. Now consider this a the spoiled whining of one jaded reviewer, though – this class is still a damn fun option and quite simply the shadow magic we always wanted. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.
And if you haven’t noticed teh recent addition to my publishers-tab on the right side, Interjection games now has a site – which includes a selection of different, free expansions for base-classes – so if you liked them, take a look for new freebiew here!