Apr 112019
 

Archetypes of Power

This Spheres of Power-expansion clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The archetypes within this book are obviously created for use with the Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might systems, and as such, we begin with a few standards for use of archetypes with those systems: Archetypes with diminished spellcasting lose the magical talents gained at 2nd level and every 6 levels thereafter. Addition or alteration of spell lists is lost, and spells known added instead yield an additional magical talent at the first level the spells become known, but only one talent per group of spells. Proficiency gains for martial weapons can instead yield a martial tradition. Expenditure of spell slots can be substituted for spell point expenditure; equivalent spell level of spell points expended is ½ caster level, rounded up, maximum 9. Arcane bond instead uses the cosmic sage’s variant of the ability of the same name, and being a spherecaster qualifies for a specific type of spellcasting.

So, what kind of archetypes do we get? The first would be the Apex Predator ranger, who only has light armor, simple weapon and buckler proficiency, but gains a martial tradition if it’s the character’s first level. Apex predators are Low-Casters with Wisdom and as key ability modifier and class level + Wisdom modifier spell points. The archetype gets a magic talent every time she gets a caster level. The archetype also is considered to be a Proficient practitioner, using Wisdom as practitioner modifier, which replaces combat styles. Instead of tracking and swift tracking, the archetype gets the Scout sphere as a bonus sphere, and may substitute Survival for Knowledge checks at -5 when using the scout ability. This penalty is lost at 8th level. Basically, an adaptation of the ranger to the Spheres-systems.

The bastion of conviction employs a similar engine-tweak design paradigm, sans Scout sphere, but uses casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier and uses class level as BAB for combat feats and also counts them as fighter levels. The archetype is a proficient practitioner and loses the bonus feats at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 15th and 18th level, and 11th level’s feat is replaced with regaining martial focus when using a positive or negative energy-based ability. The soldier of the gods inquisitor replaces solo tactics and the teamwork feats at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 15th and 18th level with being an Adept practitioner using Wisdom as practitioner modifier.

Grand purifier (pala or antipaladins) are Charisma-based Low-Casters with class level + casting ability modifier spell points, and a magic talent every time a CL’s gained. Every odd level nets a combat talent, which replaces lay on hands/touch of corruption. When the archetype uses an attack action to attack the target of smite good, the paladin gains an additional circumstance bonus equal to class level to attack rolls. This, obviously, is intended to reward not going full attack, which is generally a sensible goal, though it does offer some serious power upgrade. I think this could have been solved more elegantly. When the archetype reduces an intelligent enemy with HD equal to or less than class level to below 1 hit point, they can attempt to purify them. This necessitates a Will save, with Charisma as modifier governing the DC. This entails a permanent alignment change, which is pretty brutal (and cool) regarding wars fought with ideologies. (As a nitpick: atonement reference not italicized properly.) Channel energy is replaced with regaining martial focus when using smite to reduce a target to 0 hit points or less. Condemnation (Save DC also governed by Charisma). As an attack action, the character can spend a spell point or expend martial focus to make an attack that has an additional effect on the target. These can include preventing aid another, adding a glow (not italicized properly), temporary preventing hit point replenishment etc. 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter unlock new arrays of condemnation options. These replace mercies/cruelties, and they are pretty neat.

Arcane weaponeer magi are Intelligence-using High-Caster that gain level + Intelligence modifier spell points. 4th level allows the archetype to enhance armor and shields via arcane pool, with 5th level providing an improperly-formatted list of special weapon properties that may be substituted. The plus values in brackets would help render this easier to use, and the special armor/shield qualities should be italicized. This replaces spell recall. Spell combat is tweaked, allowing for a full-round action with melee weapons to also allow for the use of a sphere-casting ability with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The spell combat may also be used to maintain concentration effects, and using spell combat imposes a -2 penalty to attack rolls. Additionally, the arcane weaponeer learned to use magic and doesn’t need to make concentration checks because of damage taken from melee attacks from enemies he’s aware of. This section has something missing: I’m pretty sure it should only apply while in spell combat, or it should not apply universally, and only for the sphere abilities of the archetype; otherwise, this is too dippable. Spellstrike is modified to work in conjunction with spheres. 7th level nets expanded knowledge, which allows the archetype to gain a magic talent he meets the prerequisites for, as a move action, gaining it for 1 minute. The ability may be used ½ class level times per day – verbiage is a bit confusing here, and could be taken to mean that the talent gained can be used this often. The ability may not be stacked atop itself, and 13th and 19th level allows for the use of the ability optionally as a swift and free action, respectively. This replaces the medium and heavy armor proficiency as well as greater spell access. Bonus feats are modified, and improved spell combat is replaced with the option to forego iterative attacks in favor of moving before or after spell combat. Knowledge pool is replaced with stalwart at 11th level, and also at this level, improved spell recall is replaced with the option to enhance weaponry and armor/shields as a swift action. 14th level replaces greater spell combat with ANY number of metamagic sans casting time increase in conjunction with spell combat. I’d have made the number of metamagic feats that may freely apply scale here – as written, this begs to be abused. The capstone allows for the casting of a second sphere ability in conjunction with spell combat, requiring that you forego the iterative attacks and codifying this all properly. The pdf also includes a pretty massive array of sphere-themed magus arcana, including low-range sift action teleport for Warp-sphere users.

Cosmic sage wizards are Intelligence-based High-Casters, and gain a magic talent at every even level, 2 at every odd level. Arcane bond is modified: When choosing an object, the wizard may use a standard action to gain a talent he doesn’t have for 1 minute. Prerequisites must still be fuldilled, if any. This may be used 1/day, plus 1/day for every 4 levels, and the ability can’t be stacked. Scribe Scroll (improperly formatted) is gained at 1st level, and arcane school is replaced at 2nd level with sagacious secrets, a book that may be consulted to enhance CL at the cost of an increase in casting duration to at least a full-round action. The bonus increases at higher levels. The dual-blooded sorcerer is a Charisma-based High-Caster, and gains a bonus spell point for every even-numbered class level attained, and a magical talent every level. The archetype gains a second bloodline, and bloodline arcana may be replaced with bonus magical talents or spell points, and the archetype gets the complex interaction array done right. Limited number of rounds of use per day bloodline abilities may be recharged by spell point expenditure and meditation, and another ability fuses the sorcerer 1st level bloodline ability. Interesting upgrade/take on the sphere-sorcerer; like it!

The mystic scion bloodrager is a Charisma-using Low-Caster, who gets a magic talent at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. Bloodrage is replaced with the unchained barbarian’s rage, and uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge, the archetype gains Destruction sphere with Energy Focus drawback (and the bonus blast talent), and the archetype gets to choose a damage type, and when a Destruction sphere ability causes damage of that type, he may use class level as CL. 4th level modifies bloodraging to allow for sphere-use, and replaces bloodcasting. The higher level abilities modify the greater/tireless/mighty rages according to what you’d expect, though the greater ability allows for the use of self-targeting sphere abilities in conjunction with entering rage, getting concentration right. As a complaint: The eligible sphere abilities for this combo should be limited by the action required to activate them to avoid for long casting cheesing.

The withering witch is an Intelligence-governed High-Caster with a magic talent each level and patron spells replaced with corrupted magic:  When the archetype uses a sphere ability or hex, it may be corrupted as a free action, a number of times per day equal to class level + casting ability modifier. Only one such effect may be added per hex or sphere ability, with 10 abilities provided. Most, but not all of them has an improvement gained at 11th level. These include instlling a sense of mania, contagion, venom, bleeding, etc. Nice, though the scaling mutation buff should have a typed bonus that prevents the physical ability scores from being buffed too high in conjunction with other options. The archetype also includes a total of 8 exclusive hexes, which are pretty nice, including channel energy, the option to meditate and spend spell points to regain corrupt magic uses and the like.

The soul with many faces shaman is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster, with one talent per CL gained, and a sphere associated with the spirit chosen, which is thus designated the spirit sphere. At 4th level, we get another sphere associated with a wandering spirit. Instead of spirit magic, we have a magic talent that may be redistributed when resting, taken from the spirit sphere, with 4th level allowing for the choice from the wandering spirit as well. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter add another such talent. 9th level nets the spirit animal ability and that of the wandering spirit, as well as any appearance changes. Shamans and witches also get 4 hexes for use of e.g. Death-sphere-based undead as sphere ability deliverers, fast healing in the dark (with, thankfully, a cap), an illusion-based AoE demoralize, or an eliciter emotion.

While we’re on the subject of roughly nature-themed archetypes, the greenrunner hunter is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster with magic talent gains that correspond to CL-increases, and the archetype is an Adept practitioner using his casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. Animal companion is modified, with the archetype gaining the Beastmastery sphere, locked into the (handle animal) Beastmastery package, using class level as BAB to determine sphere effects. The archetype also gains animal companion, using full BAB as druid class level for the companion, and the archetype may teach the companion the skirmisher ranger archetype’s hunter’s tricks. Instead of wild empathy, we get the Beastmastery sphere’s Animal Empathy, and precise companion is replaced with shared magic, making the companion count as in range for sphere abilities targeting single creatures, and allowing for the expenditure of an additional spell point to also affect the companion. Rather cool and well-wrought translation of the hunter-engine.

Skalds can choose to become growling marauders, Charisma-based Mid-Casters with magic talents gained with CLs, and the option to choose a bardic masterpiece or skald saga instead of a magic talent. Okay, but how does this interact with the costs of bardic masterpieces? This fellow is an Adept practitioner using Charisma as practitioner modifier, and these replace scribe scroll, uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge and damage resistance. Well-versed is replaced with choosing a magic or combat talent, using class level as BAB or CL for that talent. This may be re-designated upon resting anew. Rage powers are replaced with heavy chord, which allows for the sharing of a chosen combat talent or sphere with allies affected by inspired rage, with every 3 levels thereafter allowing for the choice of an additional talent or combat feat to share. Non-practitioners may use their highest mental attribute. Spell kenning is modified to 1/day allow for the use of a magic talent added or a new base sphere for a casting increase by one step. This may be used an additional time per day every 6 levels thereafter.

Nightblazer investigators are Intelligence-based Mid-Casters, with CL increases governing magical talents, and 1st level makes the archetype choose a vice – this vic must be indulged to regain inspiration. Studied strike and combat are gained at 2nd level, with 1d6 base damage, +1d6 every 2 levels thereafter. The poison-related abilities are replaced with choosing a Dex-, Wis- or Cha-based skill, and use Intelligence instead as the governing ability modifier, with 5th, 8th and 11th level providing another one. The archetype gets danger sense, and keen recollection is replaced with the option to increase studied strike’s damage via spell point expenditure. Swift alchemy is replaced with the ability to deliver sphere abilities via studied strike, with DC increasing. The pdf also sports 5 investigator talents, including, for example, studied strike-telekinesis-synergy and divination/inspiration combos.

The masked adept vigilante gets a modified skill list and only 4 + Intelligence skills per level. They are Mid-Casters using Charisma as casting ability modifier, magic talents tied to CL-increase. At 1st level, the masked adept chooses a magic sphere to be the hidden sphere. This is gained as a bonus sphere, plus bonus talent, and uses class level as CL. The hidden sphere is integrated into the costome, using vigilante identity as a staff of power (formatting incorrect) that scales; this replaces vigilante specialization. The vigilante may not take hidden strike modifications, but may choose stalker-exclusive talents. Sphere-casting vigilantes also may choose a familiar, hidden magic, and Alteration users have a nice synergy talent. There also is an Illusion-sphere option to create a hologram. Nice.

Knave bards work pretty analogous regarding the base chassis, and as such, also have the interaction-clarification requirement missing for the bardic masterpiece component. Countersong is replaced with a pretty potent self-buff and the option to taunt struck opponents, which also negates morale bonuses temporarily. Stealthy use of performances replaces distraction, and well-versed is replaced with the ability to designate a sphere upon resting, using class level as CL for the sphere. Soothing song is replaced with the option to affect ALL additional allies within 60 ft. with sphere abilities. More elegant here: Making the number of affected allies stack. Inspire heroics is replaced  with a performance that hampers magic.

While we’re on the subject of core classes: The runesinger fighter is proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers, and gains a martial tradition if it’s the first level of the character. The archetype is an Expert practitioner and gains spheres and talents accordingly, using their choice of mental ability score modifier as practitioner modifier. This replaces armor training and armor mastery. At 1st level, the runesinger gets 2 runes, and each rune may be chosen only once. Each rune has two benefits, and if applicable, they do scale. A run has an attack and movement ability, and using one expends the rune for that level. The engine comes with 11 supplemental feats for more runes, and apart from some formatting hiccups (like lower-case skills) I was positively surprised by this take on the tattooed/rune-scarred fighter. Nice one!

The book also includes new occult archetypes, with the ascendant mind psychic first: This fellow is a High-Caster using Intelligence as the casting modifier, and a magic talent every level. The archetype also gets a bonus magical talent every even-numbered level, chosen from Divination, Mind, telekinesis, replacing detect thoughts and the discipline spells. Psychic discipline loses discipline spells, and phrenic amplifications are replaced with an array of phrenic techniques; the first array is gained at 1st level, with 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter unlocking new abilities. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the level 19 stagger/daze-lock option, but at that level, it’s something I can stomach. Telepathic bond is replaced with a variant of a kind of collective, and the archetype gets a capstone that makes the archetype really good at using this – evocative and cool. Conniving bastard mesmerists are Charisma-based Mid-Casters that gain talents on CL-increases, and painful stare is modified, touch treatment replaced: The ability gained for that would be painful strike, allowing for the application of painful stare in conjunction with attacks versus targets denied their Dexterity modifier. Mental potency is replaced with the ability to deny enemies their Dexterity modifier to AC versus the attacks executed by the archetype in the aftermath of failing a Will-save versus a sphere ability, allowing for some surprisingly deep, nice combo-tricks.

The final archetype to discuss would be the psychomancer spiritualist, a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster with talent gains on CL-increases. Instead of calm spirit, we have Death, Life or Mind designated as spirit sphere and gaining that one plus a bonus magical talent, using class level as caster level for that sphere. Detect undead is replaced with spirit sight, scaling blindsight that detects the living and undead. 9th level replaces see invisibility with Project Spirit, using class level as caster level, though this requires phantom proximity. Call spirits is replaced with the ability to assume ectoplasmic or incorporeal form akin to the phantom when spirit walking as per Project Spirit. The pdf also features 6 alchemist discoveries that allow for e.g. the Alteration sphere to tie in with mutagens, and a very potent spell bomb, with damage dice equal to class level. While I’d usually not be a fan here, this one does account for the release of kineticist, and provides a valid alternative to burst-y fast bombing, so I’m fine with it.

The pdf closes with an array of 12 feats, including the option to expend 5 stamina instead of martial focus, stamina/Life-sphere synergy, rally allies to make them regain martial focus, and the like, as well as the maintenance of multiple performances at once, but at increased costs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf offers a blend of full-color artworks, some of which I’ve seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J. Gibson has my utmost respect for this book – this is what I’d consider pretty brutal grunt-work, design-wise. Making classes work with systems, offering archetypes and options for use in conjunction with them – that’s surprisingly hard in many cases. Much to my positive surprise, plenty of options herein managed to, in spite of the limited room available and narrow focus, offer some interesting combos and even manages to evoke flavorful and distinct tricks! This is a book I’d buy in a heartbeat to not have to do all the design-adjustment myself. The one thing that holds this back from the 5-stars this definitely would deserve, would be a) formatting, which offers quite a bunch of hiccups, and b), a very few instances where some (minor) snafus have crept into the complex material herein. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

You can get these neat archetypes here on OBS!

You can directly support Drop Dead Studios here on patreon!

You can directly support the Ultimate Spheres of Power kickstarter here!

Endzeitgeist out.

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