This installment of the Caster Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what are these? In case you are not familiar with the concept, a prestige archetype represents a way to not have to take a prestige class; after 3.X’s flood, many players and GMs were justifiably tired of the concept…something that is also represented within the design of some PrCs out there. Worse in my opinion, the 3.X flood killed the “prestige”-aspect – the PrCs felt more like kits that could only be taken later, to use a 2nd edition analogue. PFRPG has partially inherited this issue – while there now are significantly more PrCs that emphasize “prestige”, we still have ample of concepts that do not have to be represented by a PrC. The massive amount of excellent assassin-fixes out there would be just one example that not all PrCs should be PrCs. Enter this series.
Prestige Archetypes translate Prestige Classes and all their unique tricks into basically an archetype and combine that with a base class, moving everything around. The result, hence, is closer to a hybrid class than you’d expect and it has to be – after all, minimum PrC-level-requirements mean that PrC-options not necessarily cover all levels or are appropriate for every level. Thus, in each such pdf, we get basically a class that makes it possible to pursue a PrC from level 1, all the way to 20th level.
Something new for this series as opposed to the earlier ones: We begin with a massive list of alternate favored class options that cover the core races, advanced races, featured races and also extend to several of the unique and evocative Porphyran races like the Zendiqi. These alternate favored class options are generic in that they are not tied to a specific class, but that is not to say that they are boring – they tie in very well with the respective races, featuring, among other options, increased limited daily use racial abilities and the like. So yes, these can be considered to be a fun, balanced array that manages to tie in well with the racial concepts.
That out of the way, let us take a look at the class herein, with is built on the chassis of wizard and the cypher mage, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, with d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, full spellcasting progression, good Will-saves and 1/2 BAB-progression. Proficiency-wise, they only get simple weapons. Cypher mages may also select additional bonus languages. Cyphermages must choose between an arcane school and arcane bond; in the former case, they’re locked into divination. They may also choose a wizard bonus feat in lieu of a cypher lore.
Cypher lore would be the talent-array of the prestige archetype, with the first gained at 1st level and subsequent lores being unlocked at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, meaning that the class, as presented, sports some serious player agenda. These include bypassing symbols, automatically analyzing scrolls, extended summon-lists, metamagic-enhancers of scrolls, better giant-mind subversion, using Int instead of Cha for UMD
Cypher mages cast spells from scrolls at +1 caster level higher than that of the scroll and +1 to checks to activate scrolls with CLs exceeding his own. Cypher mages also receive a cypher pool equal to his “Intelligence bonus + 1/2 class level” (that’s usually presented the other way round, to engage in a cosmetic nitpick) – these points may be expended to increase the CL of a scroll by 1 or the DC to recognize a spell by 5, but at the cost of increasing the activation to a full-round action – and yes, this can be used in conjunction with spontaneous metamagic. And yes, dear readers – the aforementioned summoning enhancer is actually new and not something the base PrC had – so kudos! A known cypher lore that requires a swift action to activate may be chosen at 10th level and thereafter be activated as a free action, with 14th and 18th level adding another one to the array.
2nd level yields Scribe Scroll and the capstone yields the bonus to saves versus glyphs etc. – a less bland capstone would have been nice to see in this redesign.
As per the tradition of this new series, we receive information on using arcanist, psychic, sacerdote, and witch as alternate chassis-bases, so if you wanted to play a cyphermage adept based on one of those classes, you’re in luck. It should also be noted that these modifications this time around are more complex than in other installments
The prestige archetype does include a significant array of class-specific favored class options for core races and some of the stars of the Porphyran races.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glaring glitches apart from minor, non-rules-relevant inconsistencies in presentations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with PDG’s signature purple highlights and is pretty printer-friendly. Huge kudos: The pdf comes, in spite of its brevity, with full, nested bookmarks, making navigation extremely user-friendly!
Carl Cramér’s take on the cypher mage is a definite step up from the PrC – the prestige archetype is well-crafted, fun and solid – the cypher points add player agenda from the get-go and make the experience of playing the class more interesting than it would be without them. While I would have loved that class feature to be more interwoven and while the capstone still isn’t that impressive, we have a good installment on our hands here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
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