City of 7 Seraphs – Akashic Trinity
This collection of new akasha classes clocks in at 57 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages blank (one of them only lists a few favored class options), leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Full Disclaimer: While I did contribute material to the City of 7 Seraphs Kickstarter, I did not have a hand in any way, shape or form in the creation of this pdf. The material was already done before I got on board.
Now, much of this may be familiar for those familiar with Michael Sayre’s excellent work on Akashic Mysteries, but this pdf very much works like a stand-alone – it explains akasha, so you do not need to get Dreamscarred Press’ Akashic Mysteries-book. So yeah, since this works as a stand-alone book, let me quickly reiterate:
Akasha is basically a primal form of power that can enhance magic or psionics, for example, but it is also distinct from it. Mechanically, it could be described as “Incarnum that doesn’t suck.” Flavorwise, akasha manifests as veils, upheld by the focus of their wearer. Practitioners of akashic arts are known as veilweavers, for this reason. Veils are powered by essence, and this resource, while *usually* not expended, is invested into a receptacle – this can be a veil, an akashic feat or other ability. Investing essence or changing it is a swift action. When a character gains access to a veilweaving class, they have the potential to manifest and utilize any veil of that class. However, there is a limit here beyond the essence: Every veil is associated with a chakra, even if it is not bound to it. Chakras are points on the body that conduct magical energy, and veils do not interfere with magic items worn in the respective chakra slot. Veils manifest as translucent, eldritch constructs surrounding the body part. The slots are Hands, feet, head, wrists, shoulders, headband, neck, belt, chest, body. Some veils may be manifested to more than one slot, and some classes may yield additional slots or unique veils not usually available. Veils can be bound to a slot to increase their potency once a character has reached a certain level. In order to unleash a veil’s most potent abilities, this is what you have to do. Most veils are subject to SR, though exceptions do exist. Veils may be sundered, though reforming them is pretty quick, and they may be targeted by abjuration magics. Being ephemeral, they are easy to disguise…unless essence is invested in them, at which point they become less than subtle.
Some abilities and feats require that you bind essence in them. It is important to note the difference between “binding” and “investing” essence – invested essence can be quickly redistributed, while bound essence remains “locked” in place for 24 hours or until the veilweaver next shapes veils, which happens after the usual resting period. Critters summoned by veils may not be dismissed, but sundering the veil immediately gets rid of the critter. Veils have descriptors like spells, and some abilities cause essence burn – this essence becomes basically expended until the character has rested. However large the essence pool of a character may be, they can only invest a fixed amount of essence into a given receptacle. This limit is strictly governed by character level, and is known as essence capacity: The value starts at 1 and increases to 2 at 6th level, and by a further +1 every 6 levels thereafter, for a maximum of 4 at 18th level. This is extremely important for balancing akashic arts.
Veils do not require conscious effort to maintain, per-day abilities are note, and similarly, stacking, temporary hit points and weapon-like veils are covered: It should be noted that the latter are assumed to be proficient for the veilweaver manifesting them. If this system sounds complex to you, believe me, that it really isn’t – it has a lot of moving parts you can play with, but the basic ideas are easy to grasp and its functionality fits on a mere two pages, accounting for even esoteric components.
Now, it should be noted that this pdf focuses on the veils and 3 classes designed for the City of 7 Seraphs – this is basically the book that nets you the classes sans setting etc., and this is how I will rate it.
The first class would be the Eclipse. The eclipse gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. The class begins with 1 veil and essence and increases that to 7 veils and 20 essence, at 20th level. Eclipses get proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, longsword, rapier, sap, shortbow, short sword shuriken and sword cane as well as bucklers. The save DC for their veilweaving is 10 + essence invested + Intelligence modifier. The class begins play with darkvision 60 ft., or otherwise increases darkvision by 30 ft. The eclipse may invest essence in this ability to increase the range of darkvision by a further 20 ft., and at 4th and 12th level, the essence capacity of this ability increases by 1. At 4 points of essence invested, the eclipse may see through supernatural darkness, while at 7 points invested (possible due to increased essence capacity), we have immunity to being blinded or dazzled and a properly typed, hefty bonus to saves vs. gaze attacks.
The other first level ability provided would be occultation, which, as a standard action, creates a shadowy copy of the eclipse. This copy manifests in an adjacent square, sharing the eclipse’s statistics (including height and weight!), items and veils, excluding consumables. This copy is immediately destroyed if it takes any damage or fails a save versus any spell or effect. An eclipse may freely switch perceptions between their self and the occultation, though the occultation only has a single move action per turn and can threaten enemies, make AOOs, etc. – AoOs executed count towards the per-round limit of the eclipse. It should be noted that the reference regarding attacking through the occultation becomes relevant at 11th level – explicitly stating this would be didactically more sensible, as this can create temporarily confusion prior to reading the advanced ability upgrade gained later. The eclipse may never move more than 50 ft, +50 ft. per class level, away before blinking out. When not having an active occultation, the eclipse gets +1/2 class level as a competence bonus to Stealth and as armor bonus to AC.
Occultation improves at 5th, 11th and 17th level: 5th level increases the range at which the occultation can spawn and also nets the occultation a perfect fly speed of 60 ft.; 11th level adds a second copy and lets the eclipse use an attack action or ability that would require a standard action to activate through them. 17tth level makes defeated occultations collapse into a miniature black hole that can cause massive damage to those nearby that fail their saves. This black hole is VERY damaging, and the lack of limit on this particular ability is troubling – I’d strongly suggest making the black hole effect require essence burn.
Second level nets trapfinding as well as Enigma. These may be used whenever the eclipse uses an attack action, including a targeted veil (i.e. non-AoE-veils that require choosing one or more targets) against an opponent (this prevents use for ally-buffs/personal veils), versus an opponent that is flat-footed, flanked or denied Dex-bonus to AC, or unaware of the eclipse’s presence. If the veil/attack misses, the enigma effects are wasted, and if multiple attack rolls are executed, only one needs to hit to deliver the enigma. Only one enigma may be applied to an attack action of veil activation. Additional enigmas are granted every 2 levels after 2nd, and 12 enigmas are provided. These include scaling cold damage, scaling Wisdom damage, a disrupting attack, a Strength/Dex-buff + Wisdom debuff…these are per se nice. I loved how the disrupting attack can make you lose martial or psionic focus (yes, this is Spheres of Might-compatible!). That being said, there is an enigma that is broken and needs a cap: Draining blow can replenish essence burn (which is super strong) AND also would allow you to replenish power points, ki points, grit points etc. – you know, LIMITED RESOURCES. Bear in mind that enigmas have NO DAILY LIMIT. This utterly delimits several limited resources, so let me grab my bag of kittens, while my occultation sets up flanking…let the slaughter begin.
This guffaw is uncharacteristic for the designer. The ability needs a hard cap. Bonuses, a high-level echo – the other enigmas are solid and the save-or-die assassination strike is relegated to a high enough level. Chakra-binding is unlocked at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, in the sequence: Hands, feet, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Belt. At 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter, the class gets improving shadow armor: At 7th level, this translates to Hide in Plain Sight; 13th level nets dimension door between dimly lit or darker places, and 1/day shadow walk as a SP, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. 19th level nets a cool one: When reduced below 0 hp, as an immediate action, the eclipse can grant 60 hp, but prevents further occultation creation – why is this relevant? Well, all these shadow armor abilities only work while you have no occultation deployed! This is pretty clever! 8th and 14th level increase all essence capacity of receptacles by 1. From 10th level onward, eclipses may shape an additional veil on either feet or hands, chosen anew each day. When binding them to a hand, you can attack with two-weapons as a single attack action, at -2 to atk. Two veils on feet increase movement rate by 20 ft. If no two veils are shaped in either slot, the eclipse treats veils as 1 more point of essence invested; this explicitly allows the eclipse to exceed the usual limits. The capstone is called, probably as a nod to ole’ Ravenloft, Darklord, and allows for the binding of all darkness-descriptor veils, regardless of slot. Additionally, we have an apotheosis of sorts – no breath, no dying from old age, as well as a minor defense bonus in areas of dim light or less, get a nightshade’s darksense and may detect living beings and health with a combined blindsense and nondetection.
A veil list is included and we get favored class bonuses for dhampir, drow, dwarf, fetchling, gnome, halfling, human, orc, oread, sylph and undine.
The second class within would be the nexus, who gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. Veilweaving is governed by Charisma, and we start at 1 veil and essence, and increase that to up to 10 veils and 20 essence at 20th level. 3rd, 9th and 15th level provide improved essence capacity, increasing the essence receptacle limit by 1 each. 2nd level nets chakra bind, with every 2 levels thereafter providing the next in the sequence of hands, feet, head, wrists, shoulders, headband, neck, belt, chest, body.
The nexus, flavor-wise, is attached to more than one plane and as such may channel destructive planar energies. This is exemplified by the planar detonation ability gained at first level: This is a ranged touch attack with close range that inflicts 1d6 piercing damage, +1d6 for every 2 class levels beyond 1st. (As an aside – feats to change physical damage types or an integrated switch would make sense here…) The nexus may take essence burn to increase that damage to 1d6 per class level + ½ Charisma modifier. When wielding a weapon-like veil, the nexus may make a single attack as a full-round action, adding planar detonation to the damage inflicted. Starting at 6th level, this may be done as a standard action. The capstone nets outsider apotheosis as well as a kind of pretty strong authority, depending on one choice that is based on the defining class feature of the class, the so-called convergence.
At 1st level, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter, the nexus becomes more attuned to a single plane. The nexus may choose to be treated as though of the plane’s alignment for the purpose of alignment-based effects (cool), and the nexus may either choose a new convergence at the respective levels, or advance an already existing one. Convergence ability saves are DC 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier, and identical benefits from two convergences actually *do* stack. Each convergence has 4 tiers of ability progression, but we do not get the full outer plane spectrum within – we do get 5 convergences, which at 4 tiers each, does provide for quite an array of choices, though. Theme-wise, we get Hell, Elemental, Heavens, Abyss, Underworld. Minor formatting nitpick: The Abyss’ convergence’s “Tier 1”-header is not properly bolded. Convergences unlock energy types for the damage caused by the planar detonation blasts, and the abilities allow for essence burn to generate shaped AoEs instead, summon forth outsiders, grant powerful SPs or add weapon qualities – At 4th tier, for example, any slashing weapon wielded by a Tier-4 nexus is considered to be vorpal! Ouch! Heaven’s 4th tier nets you a 1/week auto-resurrection…these are really cool, easy to design, and I certainly hope we’ll get more! Favored class option-wise, we get aasimar, dhampir, elf, fetchling, gnome, human, ifrit, oread, sylph, tiefling and undine.
The third class among the akashic classes within would be the one that perhaps looks blandest on paper, but plays much better than it looks: The radiant gets d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor,1/2 BAB-progression, good saves in all 3 categories, and they begin play with 1 veil and 1 essence, and increase that to 8 and 30, respectively. The veilweaving of the class is governed by Wisdom, and 3rd, 9th and 15th level increase essence capacity. Chakra binds are granted at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, in the sequence hands, head, headband, neck, belt, body. The radiant may reclaim and invest essence into allies within 60 ft. – the ally can move out of this range, but doing so makes reclaiming essence invested cause essence burn equal to the reclaimed essence. If the ally reenters the 60 ft. range, this essence burn is not taken. For each point of essence invested in an ally, the ally gets 5 temporary hit points as well as a +1 insight bonus on all saves. The temporary hit points replenish once per minute while the ally has essence invested. If the ally suffers from the diseased, poisoned or fatigued condition while essence is invested in them, the radiant may draw out this condition as part of reclaiming essence. The radiant gets a save versus the condition, if any. This ability is known as the akashic bond, and it is the cornerstone of the radiant.
Starting at 4th level, the radiant may spend a standard action to attempt to invest essence into an unwilling target, risking essence burn if the target makes the save. Such targets then take a -1 penalty to atk and damage per point invested. Additionally, while an enemy has at least one point of essence invested in them, the radiant may attempt to redistribute a condition to this target instead of herself. This ties in with the linear martyr’s renewal ability-tree: At 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the radiant learns to draw more negative conditions out of targets, and also is automatically cured of an ever-increasing array of conditions when drawing them out of her allies.
Starting at 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the radiant also gets a vivification, of which 10 are provided. These add further numerical bonuses to essence invested in allies. These include attribute bonuses, DR, damage boosts, ability damage healing (and drain to damage conversion), etc.
Oh, and if you’re concerned about HD-based fragility: The radiant adds Wisdom modifier to Constitution modifier for the purpose of determining Fort-saves and for determining hit points – but only when leveling in the radiant class! Nice catch to prevent dipping-abuse. Wisdom modifier is also used to determine the maximum number of negative hit points prior to dying. At 19th level, the radiant may return a fallen ally to life at maximum hit points as a standard action – this does cost 6 essence burn and requires that at least 50% of the body’s still there. The capstone makes the radiant and allies invested with essence immune to death effects while the radiant is conscious. Additionally, when an ally would be killed, the radiant may, as an immediate action, take essence burn to negate 10 points of damage per essence burned. The radiant also doesn’t die of old age anymore and is immune to age-modifying effects as a byproduct of this capstone. The favored class options encompass aasimar, elf, gathlain, ghoran, gnome, human, ifrit, oread, ratfolk, sylph and undine.
All right, so far so good! The second half of the book is devoted to a ton of new veils – though there is a difference here. These veils don’t just come as unrelated series of options – instead, they feature 12 different themes, like “Angelic Armaments” – this one alone does encompass 10 different veils! The total section included more than 80 (!!) veils, vastly expanding your options. And yes, the section does note not only the new classes: Viziers, gurus and daevics are mentioned in the respective lists. There are a few minor inconsistencies here. It should be noted that this pdf does a better job at descriptor-ing the respective veils. And yes, the veils do now, as you can glean from the alignment-themes, alignment-based descriptors. So yes, mechanically, I consider these to be neat: Ever wanted to have angelic wings, a halo, a flaming sword and vambraces inscribed with holy scripture? What about a halo? Yeah, I do want to go “avenging angel” on evil doers! There is a set of veils modeled after Charon – the feet-bind effect of boatman’s ferry lets you glide across liquid and makes you a deadly adversary, and there are inter-veil combos here! Charon’s five rivers amulet, for example, adds doom marks to those that dare attack you. The whole set’s veils have additional effects when vanquishing foes with doom marks on them! For maximum synergy effects, you may need to do some thinking, but that’s the beauty of the system – you can get basic functionality out of these, then discover the veil-combos (further enhanced by the set-leitmotifs) and then discover even more combos!
Vampiric healing, halting ongoing effects via partial stasis in time, shrouding yourself in a flowery regalia (though Daevic is missing from the list of classes that get the veil here, even though the class seems to be supposed to do so)…what about a cloak of thorns or the Heart of Yggdrasil, djinn-themed veils, ones that focus on the eternal darkness, blasting foes with light, become the lurker in light (which ENHANCES your Stealth in light!), attack foes with hellish pitchforks, manifest barbs…some pretty cool ones. There is one ability that could be used to cheese essence burn, demon lord’s hunger: While it requires 18th level to bind, the ability allows you to inhale souls, which boils down to save or die and minor essence regeneration. Granted, a target can only be affected once per 24 hours by it…but I have a whole bag full of delightfully fluffy kittens…On the plus side: Healing is tightly kept in check and in line, including other abilities like flight etc. – the ability-dispersal does speak of a firm grasp of not only overt, but also of covert design paradigms. An exception to this would be unicorn feathering’s neck chakra bind, which nets a burst-y heal whenever you or the unicorn allies called confirm a crit (18 -20/x3 due to the veil’s modifications). This should have a fixed cap. That being said, I’m calling these out since the material otherwise is really refined and diverse…and sports some awesome visuals. Oh, and it may be a small thing, but I like that every veil gets a small flavor-description.
Editing and formatting are very good – I noticed a few very minor formatting glitches and rules-oversights…but frankly, many public playtests fail to deliver such a concise and dense system at this level of quality. This is impressive. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The artworks within are full-color, original, and frickin’ fantastic. Inspiring, with their very own, internally-consistent style. This is a beautiful supplement.
Michael Sayre is one of the crunch-designers that doesn’t screw around. There is no blandness, no mediocrity here – just high-concept, complex, math-heavy design, clad in inspiring fluff. If you already own Akashic Mysteries, then you need to get this by virtue of the veils alone – they are worth the asking price on their own.
That being said, let’s discuss the classes: The radiant is a unique playing experience and has, chassis-wise, a ton to offer – the class can actually help party-tanking capability greatly and makes for a really unique defender-style character. The nexus also has its own niche: The class, once you know the akashic system, makes for a super-easy to make blaster. It doesn’t try to out-kineticist or out-ethermage the complex blaster list, instead representing a great beginner’s class: It’s viable from the get-go, even if you don’t yet understand the akashic system and is superbly noob-friendly. In short: It’s the warlock-y blaster that works for gritty games without being invalidated in high-power games. It also won’t bore experienced gamers, courtesy of the akashic engine. Your character died? Make one of these, start blasting away, and slowly get into the akashic system. Impressive. The eclipse is also inspired in its own way – while I am weary of two of its abilities (which should get a nerfbat-whack), it has its unique role: An akashic killer who does the disposable shadow-clone angle really well, and in a way that should even work for lower-powered games. In short, I consider all of these classes to be inspired in some way.
Now, there is one thing to note: Each class will leave you wanting more. More convergences, more vivifications, archetypes – it is within the nature of this pdf and its intent as a decoupling of classes from setting, but DAMN, did I want more! As far as rules-integrity is concerned, I can name a TON of files that do not attempt even remotely anything as complex as this one does, which do worse. Summa summarum, I came up with a grand total of 3 potentially problematic components, and none of them is a deal-breaker. While I do maintain that the essence burn-healing of eclipse and the veil should be limited, I still consider this to be an inspired file. And you get a LOT of really dense, high-difficulty rules for the price-point.
How to rate this? Well…here things get tricky. I really like the akashic system, and I like the classes herein more than the original 3 classes. I like the veils more…but at the same time, the very few minor blemishes do drag this down from the lofty praise I’d otherwise bestow upon it. I also found myself wishing we’d have gotten a single book for each class, with more options per class…but hey, there’ll be expansions in C7S, and perhaps we’ll get to see even more! Still, as a reviewer, I have to take these factors into account, and they are what drags this down to 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform. I will still add my seal of approval to this gem, though – If you like akasha or even remotely are interested in it, get this asap!
You can get these unique classes and their tricks here on OBS!
You can preorder the City of 7 Seraphs book here!
Missed the original Akashic Mysteries book? You can find it here!