Asian Archetypes: Martial
This collection of archetypes clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content – it should be noted that these are tightly packed, though!
All righty, we’re starting with the bloodrider cavalier, but in order to understand it, I think it may be prudent to mention the mounted combat-follow-up feats that complement it: Mounted Skirmish lets your mount make a double movement and lets you perform a ranged or melee attack at one point during the movement, with the mount not provoking AoOs. As limitations, adjacent creatures at the start of the turn may not be attacked and you have to move at least 10 ft. before and after the attack. Basically, this is a variation of Ride-by Attack, one that emphasizes skirmishing – and personally, I like it better. The second feat, Mounted Sweep, builds on this and lets you perform a single standard action during the Mounted Skirmish. This unlocks a HUGE array of tactical options – and is something I wholeheartedly applaud.
Proficiency-wise, the bloodrider loses medium and heavy armor-proficiency and gains access to proficiency with the whip. They add Perception and Survival to their class skills and gain a morale bonus on saves vs. compulsions and fear and also gains +1 to AC for every 4 levels against the bloodrider’s challenge target. Personally, I’d have tied the AC-increase to class levels instead of levels, but oh well. The archetype learns, at 2nd level, to employ the whip to use drag and reposition combat maneuvers, with the option of using the better Strength modifier (mount/rider); At 8th level, this is upgraded action economy-wise and the character can make the mount make either AoO or immediate action attacks against targets dragged through its square. That is pretty damn amazing – why hasn’t this been done before? 5th level nets the option to charge with a single 90° or two 45° diagonal turns during a charge and boosted Ref-saves when doing so. This crooked charge is further upgraded at 14th level, allowing for free movement through allies’s spaces during the charge. 15th level nets a free charge attack during a charge, made against a target the blood rider is at some point of movement adjacent. Additionally, if the bloodrider’s charge provokes an AoO and it is taken, the bloodrider may retaliate with an AoO after the first AoO has been resolved. This is a really cool martial controller with some seriously unique and fun trick – though these are paid for with the order and banner abilities. Still, one of my favorite cavalier tricks and a really strong start!
Hyakusho fighters take the play of the beggar fighter and halve starting money, gaining broken weapons and no proficiency with heavy armor and tower shields. However, they gain ½ class level to Craft check made to repair and quicker repairs as well as an extended class skill list. They also get an array of monk-style feats that can be chosen as bonus feats and Catch Off-Guard at 3rd level. They are locked into light armor training, with maximum Dexterity bonus in them increasing by 1 for every 8 levels after 3rd. 5th level provides a scaling dodge bonus to AC, increasing at every 5 levels after 5th. 7th level yields black market connections and 11th provides either resolve or martial flexibility, with 19th level gaining flesh wounds. A thematically concise, nice archetype.
The iajutsu adept swashbuckler gains Quick Draw, but only with katanas, as well as +2 to critical hit confirmation rolls, instead of derring-do. They apply swashbuckler finesse to katanas. But not to other weapons and applied deeds that are usually limited to one-handed and finessable weapons to katans…and only katanas. Similarly, panache is regained upon criting/striking killing blows with the katana. So that’s the modification of the chassis: 2nd level provides iajutsu focus, adding Cha-mod to initiative as well as when trying to gage a foe’s martial training as if using Measure Foe. Upon drawing her blade and attacking as her next action, she may make a Charisma check, adding her class level as a bonus. The bonus damage the attack inflicts then scales with the result of this check -pretty elegant solution to the conundrum of the trope, and the bonus damage is properly codified. At 7th level, Charisma modifier is added to such attacks as a bonus to atk and damage. 3rd level doubles Nimble’s bonus when unarmed and sans shield and the bonus feat selection is modified. 5th level provides swashbuckler training benefits when 2-handing katans.11th level provides the option to execute two attacks as a standard action with her katana. 12th level always yields the option to act in a surprise round, but for a iajutsu attack only and 20th level makes initiative checks all natural 20s for the archetype. Swashbuckler weapon mastery only applies to 2-handed wielded katanas. Thematically concise, potent archetype – like the iteration of the concept!
The imperial unifier samurai loses Climb and Swim as class skills…and may use challenges in verbal duels! At 6th level, he gets a Leadership-proxy (or upgrade for the feat) and gains more fame/honor. Short, but sweet thematic option. Kaiju Hunter rangers gain proficiency in heavy armor and may use their combat style while in heavy armor. Favored enemy applies to all creatures of size Large and larger (ouch!) and he gets monster lore instead wild empathy, gaining bonuses the larger the creature is – and yes, the bonus is increased for kaiju. The “3rdd”[sic!] level allows the character to use Enrage Opponent as a move action, but only versus targets that are Large or larger , but he may affect dumb targets. He is locked into allies as hunter’s bond. He may use evasion and improved evasion versus the Ex and Su abilities of larger creatures at an increased efficiency and may do so while wearing medium or heavy armor or loads, but doesn’t gain them versus smaller targets. 7th level provides dodge bonuses versus AoOs provoked by movement or combat maneuvers, a bonus that increase with the size of the foe and the effortless movement through the monster’s space. 8th level provides Timely Coordination for herself and her bond’s allies. 12th level provides camouflage and 13th level find the weak spot. 17th level nets HiPS and 18th level defensive roll – with all abilities geared specifically towards tackling big adversaries.
The kuma barbarian is interesting, losing medium and heavy armor proficiency in favor of Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple, using the monk’s unarmed strike progression to determine damage caused via grappling. They are locked into animal fury as 2nd level’s rage power and 5th level provides Diehard. Additionally, they can remain conscious by expending rounds of rage as swift or immediate action. 7th level provides, surprise, the option to use beast shape to turn into a bear when entering a rage, improving the effectiveness at 10th and 13th level, respectively. Alternatively, 10 rounds of rage may be expended for a longer duration of the bear form. The smaller bear forms remain valid choices due to to scaling AC bonuses when choosing them. 10th level nets scent. Cool!
The kwa no ninja loses proficiency in light armor and gets graceful defense, adding Cha-mod, maximum level to AC and CMD as well as a scaling bonus to these that even applies versus touch attacks and while flat-footed. Instead of poison use, the archetype gains detect psychic significance at will. They can spend 1 ki as a move action to create a +1 punch dagger, sai or wakizashi that lasts for Charisma modifier, minimum 1, rounds – this blade deals half damage to mindless creatures, non to creatures immune to mind-affecting abilities, but at 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter, she gets additional customization options for this blade, not unlike a soulknife. 4th level provides access to a couple of unique ninja tricks usable in conjunction with this psi-blade for continuous damage for the purpose of concentration, detecting surface thoughts of those hit, better chances to hit those with concealment…pretty cool array!
6th level provides additional weapon choices for the blade and 8th level nets a bonus to initiative equal to Charisma modifier while she has at least 1 point of ki, as well as the option to spend ki to roll twice and take the better result…or spend more ki and treat the result as a natural 20. (This would be as well a place as any to note that these 20-initiative options can be VERY strong in mythic gameplay – not the archetype’s fault, mind you, just something for less experienced GMs to bear in mind!) 10th level provides basically the advanced talents for the archetype, including ki-theft, aligned attacks, temporary negative levels and the like – pretty damn cool. Cool here: At this level and 16th level, the character can learn more of these or regular archetype specific talents. 10th level allows for the taking of 2 of the standard talents of the archetype instead of one of the advanced ones, for example, while 16th level, 2 of the advanced talents may be chosen instead of a ninja trick – or 3 of the regular ones. (there is an errant “o” here in a sentence, but that as an aside. Additionally, the archetype gets a better ratio when using ki to power her assaults. The capstone yields automatic confirmations of crits and an increased crit multiplier for the blade. Interesting soulknife-y option.
The mandarin investigator gains diminished extracts, but does gain the paper rail ability of the major domo and can use inspiration to affects Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive sans expending it (ouch!) and starting at 3rd level, the archetype gains official favors, gaining favors when engaging in kingdom building and downtime activities, with a maximum of 1 + ½ class level favors. These may be expended to call in favors with groups, with a concise, mathematically-consistent formula. Even cooler: The ability takes verbal duels etc. into account and the ability increases in its effectiveness at 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th and 18th level. Whiel the archetype loses trap sense, I absolutely adore this one…but then again, I’m a huge Judge Dee fanboy… 😉
The vigilante class is a definite winner here: The pdf sports a feat for the use of natural weapons as ancestral weapons, one that may be taken as a social talent, and an iaijutsu slash-enhancing scabbard as an item. The first archetype for the class would be the mercurial duelist, whose weapon proficiencies are modified to include all one-handed slashing weapons, estocs, rapiers and swordcanes. The archetype replaces vigilante specialization with iaijutsu slash (Yes: The two different ways to write this are intentional in the pdf to help differentiate between them!) – this allows for the use of full class level as BAB after Quick Draw-ing the blade and makes the attack count as 2-handed and he may freely sheathe the weapon after a slash. 6th level allows for the application of the Vital Strike feat-chain and increases of the Strength bonus applied, with 10th an 14th level providing the benefits of Improved and Greater Vital Strike, respectively. 1st level’s social talent is replaced with an ancestral weapon and gets to choose from a wide variety of exclusive vigilante talents – some feature the iaijutsu tag and only one of them may be applied to a given slash.
Those who have the Legendary Vigilantes/Legendary Villains: Vigilantes-pdfs will btw. be able to gain some synergy here, with one talent providing crossover tricks with the arsenal summoner’s anima union, for example. But even sans these pdfs, you’ll have enough fodder, with the special slashes, from scaling attribute-damage to AC-penalties and even concealed slashes that victims and onlookers may not understand/perceive as such (!!!), the tricks are locked behind sensible minimum level requirements and the talent selection spans more than 2 full pages Dispelling strikes, Dirty Tricks, fatiguing aattacks, bypassing some amount of DR/hardness, AoO-based parades (once per round, thankfully). What about generating a vacuum with a strike, pulling foes closer? Yeah, this one sports a lot of the iconic tzricks we know and love – though personally, I consider adding Cha-mod to damage inflicted, scaling, nonetheless, to be overkill, considering how the archetype’s base chassis already sports a rather solid damage output and enough benefits for numerical escalation.
At 3rd level, we have the choice between finesse or spiritual duelist. The former nets Dex to attack and damage and ignoring the Strength-prerequisites of Power Attack and for the purpose of the shield of blades talent. The latter option includes using Charisma instead of Dexterity for AC, initiative and Reflex saving throws, as well as for determining max bonus in armor. They even use Charisma for Combat Reflex-AoOs. And honestly…that is very, very strong. It completely replaces the base benefits of the whole Dexterity attribute; not circumstantially, but completely. I wouldn’t allow that in my game. 5th weapon lets the archetype use the ancestral weapon as though it was a sacred weapon; 11th level provides the option to apply two iaijutsu talents to one attack and 17th level upgrades that 3 – but only one that calls for a save may be applied per attack. 20th level auto-maximizes the damage of the iaijutsu slash. There also are three general vigilante talents for poaching the iaijutsu basics and gaining a panache pool/panache talents. It should be noted that RAW, no deeds are gained alongside panache.
The second archetype herein for the vigilante would be the sentai soldier, a reprint from Legendary Vigilantes. The sentai soldier archetype replaces vigilante specialization with burn, elemental focus and kinetic blast, but they can only accept up to Con-mod burn and don’t take non-lethal damage from accepting burn. The archetype gets a transformation device that mirrors a magical child transformation in 5 rounds, potentially reduced to a standard action with quick change, immediate action via immediate change. Beyond this modification, we get the option to take an utility or infusion wild talent instead of a vigilante talent and the archetype also contains a variety of different talents: Battle Charge allows the character to spend a swift action to reduce the burn cost of the kinetic blade or fist infusion by 1, but not below 0. This can be further improved and the archetype can use these talents to gain composite blasts, elemental defense or metakinesis. 3rd level nets a fascination-inducing quick transformation and 4th level sentai soldiers that have accepted 1 burn or more gains an equal bonus to atk and damage with kinetic blasts, with the very necessary cap based on the class level. The archetype does lose 3 vigilante talents for that and at 5th level, the vigilante gains gather power – and yes, the archetype loses the appearance tree. 20th level yields access to metakinesis (twice).
The silversword samurai pledges loyalty to a family above all else and gains Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (nobility) and may use them untrained. If he has ranks, he adds +1/2 class level to them. Really cool: The archetype interacts with organization rules and gains influence equal to Charisma modifier + level, but also suffers from negative influence with the enemies of his family. The archetype provides a scaling bonus to Intimidate versus targets of his challenge and gains the same bonus versus compulsions and fear effects. He may use challenge to determine the honorable behavior of himself and an ally, which makes for a really cool idea, and may use challenge in conjunction with social events, adding ½ (minum +1) class levels to the DC of influence checks made against him by the target, and adds the same bonus on influence checks made with other NPCs towards the goal of decreasing the influence of the challenged target. He does not gain a mount, but 2nmd level yields an ancestral blade, with a higher CMD with the blade (it’s also harder to steal) and gains a bonus versus rusting grasp et al. Higher levels yield the tools to enchant it and 4th level also provides an ancestral armor as well as a ki pool of a monk of equivalent level, which can be used to add additional attacks to full attack with the blade (yep, capped!) and the blade is treated as progressively better for the purpose of bypassing DR. 6th level replaces the bonus feat with Unimpeachable Honor and 8th level nets the option to deflect ranged attacks via resolve. 15th level, finally, makes the blade ghost touch and allows him to part space, duplicating dimension door and even plane shift. I ADORE this archetype. It is concise, thematically strong and extremely cool.
Finally, there would be the sky dancer swashbuckler – basically the wire-fu archetype for the class. The sky dancer gains proficiency with simple and monk weapons as well as light armor and a modified class skill list. The chassis of the swashbuckler’s panache etc. is triggered by the modified weapon proficiency’s list instead. He is treated as though he had Weapon Finesse with these and substitutes his Charisma score for his Intelligence score regarding combat feat prerequisites. The archetype loses menacing swordplay, superior feint, bleeding wound, swashbuckler’s edge and deadly stab with the option to deflect missiles sans requiring a free hand, getting the interaction with the classic feats right, and allow for the returning to sender of thrown weapons. Light steps, taking 10 in Acrobatics and Fly (and + Cha-mod to CMD versus bull rush, drag, reposition and trip), confusing strikes…pretty cool. Winds incarnate, alas, doesn’t really work. “At 19th level, as long as he has 1 panache point a sky dancer treats any CMD check to avoid being bull rushed, dragged, repositioned or tripped as if he had rolled a natural 20 on the die.” Did I miss a memo somewhere? Since when is there a CMD-check to avoid these maneuvers?? I have literally no idea how this is supposed to work. As an aside: Spell-reference not italicized. The archetype also provides a scaling atk and damage bonus with one of the archetype’s weapon roster as well as Improved Critical and numerical escalation and auto-confirms with it at 20th level. I like the idea of this one, representing the WuXia swordsman, but the capstone could be cooler. Also: The archetype, weirdly, sports a couple of formatting hiccups like non-capitalized feats and the like.
The pdf concludes with Kozue Kaburagi, aka Silver Blossom, a cool mercurial duelist aasimar with a neat background and a neat boon – kudos!
Editing and formatting, for the most part of the pdf, are top-notch and manage to juggle, both formally and on a rules-language level, really complex concepts. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ elegant two-column full-color standard for the Jade Regent plug-ins, with artwork being a blend of new and previously used pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jason Nelson, N. Jolly. Jesse Brenner and David N. Ross show how an archetype book ought to be: There is not a single boring or simple filler archetype in the whole book; even the engine tweaks do things that are novel and haven’t been done before. The pdf offers something for everybody: Do you like WuXia options? You’ll find them herein. Do you prefer grittier options or something like Kaidan? You’ll find those herein. Want Judge Dee-style intrigue? You’ll find that herein. Want balls to the wall, far-out sentai action? The pdf has you covered and the two different concepts of ia(i)jutsu offer cool options for all types of campaigns.
I wouldn’t use all archetypes herein in the same campaign, but I’d use a lot of them in ANY type of asian campaign I’d run – they all, in their individual ways, are brilliant and amazing. While there are a couple of minor hiccups, they don’t really tarnish this superb example of what an archetype book should provide in terms of design-difficulty, quality and concepts. In fact, this range as one of my favorite examples in that whole category of rules-supplements. That good. It only misses nomination as a top ten candidate due to the few minor glitches, but even taking them and the high standards among 3pps books into account, this can only have a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval. No matter the campaign style you’re looking for, this should be considered to be a must-own addition to your options.
You can get these GLORIOUS archetypes here on OBS!