Cryptics of Porphyra
This installment of the Porphyran class options-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf comes in the A5-size one-column standard, so when printed out, the format would be more of a booklet style.
All right, so let’s take a look at the character options in this book, which hit us right after the introductory fluff with the first archetype, which would be the chaos bringer, mainly intended for the classic and evocative erkunae, who have first been introduced to the canon of Porphyra in the Fehr’s Ethnology-series. As befitting the theme of chaos, the archetype may add a touch of chaos to any power manifested, changing its parameters in an unpredictable way: Generally, 1 -6 delivers one of two negative effects; 7 -14 delivers the “neutral/none-too-inconvenient” effects (like different target chosen within a splash damage radius) and 15-20 providing the beneficial tricks. That being said, there are a couple of rough patches in the mechanics here – for example, the splash damage: Is an empty square an eligible target or not? What if there is no eligible target in the radius? Similarly, the chance to pay 0 power points or get a 50% damage increase can be pretty potent, considering the array of abilities that can grant d20-rerolls. While this does not make the archetype’s base premise broken, it can lead to problems for some groups. This replaces Scribe Tattoo.
On the plus-side that I actually consider pretty well implemented, Pandemonium Disruption changes the creature type choice mechanic when gaining psionic focus, instead randomizing it and allowing for potentially multiple types, alignment types and “none” as well as “all.” The interesting component here would be that the cryptic’s pattern must be attuned to a creature type and usually, the attunement is an enforced part of the gaining of psionic focus – with this archetype, a lucky chaos bringer has a very good reason to basically keep the psionic focus attuned to all, providing a reason for them to maintain the focus instead of expending it. Which, per se, is nice. On a downside, the ability in no way specifies that the chaos bringer may only use this randomized attunement to a creature type in stressful situations, meaning that gaining focus and expenditure at a given adventuring days’ start would be repeated by a cryptic whenever he had the time to do so – basically, as long as the archetype has enough time, he’ll end up with “all”, which is a pretty severe abuse that could have been mitigated by a simple caveat. Hampering truth-seekers and their spells and power, better saves versus charms and compulsions, control over thoughts read and a chaos-apotheosis-style supreme insight complement an interesting, if not perfect archetype.
Next up would be the enigmatic paradigm for the eventual race, who gains a bonus equal to Int-mod to AC and CMD while wearing no armor, carrying not more than a light load and maintaining psionic focus, thankfully including stacking caveats for monk bonuses and the like. Speaking of which – instead of the trapmaker and proficiencies, we get the unarmed damage progression and feat-wise capability of a monk here as well, setting the tone for this archetype, with Patterned Strikes being gained at second level instead of the usual insight. Similarly, starting at 6th level, these guys gain a flurry, though thankfully the archetype steers clear of combining patterns with that, restricting it to unarmed strikes. You don’t know the Patterned Strikes feat? Well, it is one that will not get anywhere near my table – it allows you to add disrupt pattern to all your unarmed strikes, including iterative attacks, thus breaking the usual restriction of disrupt pattern, but while excluding the combined use of both this melee and ranged use of the ability. Here’s the problem: Flurry + full disrupt pattern per attack. Nope, not getting near my table.
The underappreciated and delightfully weird Xesa plant-race, who alter their disruption to instead work via strange seeds in the target, causing damage to creatures and healing plants…and there we go, disqualified from my games. Disrupt pattern is a non-limited resource and considering the sheer array of plant races available, this means infinite healing from level 1 forwards, for the whole group if the plant character has a means of sharing hit points. OP and needs a hard whack with the nerf bat, which is a pity, since the floral-themed visuals of the archetype are pretty cool. The Dragonblood Judiciar is damn cool – they can deal nonlethal damage with their patterns and are experts at tracking foes and bringing them in alive. Pretty evocative: Starting at 6th level, when properly sentencing a foe according to the facts, they gain bonuses and better defenses against the foe. As a capstone, the archetype goes Judge Dredd with “I AM THE LAW” (Imagine me going full Stallone here), gaining save-or-suck blasts.
The Qi’tar nightrunner replaces the absorb option of altered defense with scaling miss chances, with better free-running/parkours and proper cat burglar tricks, including the option to mitigate failed Stealth checks 1/target per Stealth attempt with Bluff to create a distraction – very much obliged. I really like this archetype, though this is as well a place as any to mention that editing isn’t as precise on a formal level as in some other PDG-releases – lower case “stealth”, “verses” instead of “versus” – there are a couple more typo-level glitches in the pdf, though they admittedly do not usually hamper the rules-language.
The Avoodim Purifier increases the damage output versus outsiders (all of them, not only a subtype) and gains several abilities to enhance his knowledge versus outsiders as well as the option to add this variant of disruptive pattern to melee attacks performed with slashing weapons instead of swift trapper…which is pretty potent. Let’s take a look: The ability does specify that it is the exception to the 1/round caveat – so far, so good. The problem lies within the contradictory wording, which makes me believe that some sort of balancing caveat was lost somewhere: “A purifier can use his disruptive outsider as part of any or all attacks made with slashing weapons he makes.” and “The purifier cannot use this ability as part of an edged melee attack and as a ray attack in the same round.” So, what is “edged”? Can it or can’t it be used? I thought it was slashing melee exclusive, so why the ray caveat? I *think* I know what the ability was trying to preotect abuse-wise against, but as written, this does require some clarification. As a capstone, the archetype has an apotheosis, which is relatively cool as far as that type of conventional design goes and the higher levels allow for planar allies.
The pdf also features new feats for the cryptic, 7 to be precise. These generally deal and interact (or are part) of the respective archetypes, with Chaotic Favor allowing for the modification of the chaotic roll as part of manifesting a power to be modified by +/- 1d3, with erkunae gaining +1d4 instead, exacerbating the aforementioned reroll power’s strength. The Chaotic Power metapsionic feat unlocks a lesser variant of the archetype class feature for non-archetype adherents, with the same caveat. Enduring Defense has the following benefits: “You can the benefits of the enduring defense class feature that you otherwise would not have.” – I am pretty sure there’s a verb missing here and while I can guess what this is supposed to mean…it’s nonfunctional. Extra Sentencing allows for more sentene uses by the aforementioned Dragonblooded archetype. Floral Growth is a bit like a gardener variety of a psionic Brew Potion – which is nice, though explicitly stating the activation action and mechanics would have helped here – one can extrapolate those, sure, but e.g. the usage of “wearer” does imply that these growths take up slots which they may or may not do. Parkoud Climbing would be a solid take on the aforementioned nightrunner archetype’s tricks in feat-form
The pdf provides three new insights, which allow for the upside down change of sequence of iterative attacks regarding their base attack bonus (Interesting!) – though, as a word of warning, in groups less mathematically versed than mine, this could slow down the gamelplay, as the cryptic is thinking which totality of his iterative attacks is more efficient. Also: My group at least rolls atk, damage, atk, damage…not atk, atk, atk, damage, damage, damage… So depending on how you play, this may be pretty useless. The follow up insight provides complete control over the sequence, which sounds intriguing on paper, but will slow down gameplay in even math-savvy groups, while retaining the predecessor insight’s issues. Finally, there is a metagaming insight I really dislike on a personal basis: Move action to learn an enemy’s AC, CMB and CMD. No range or the like required. IF your group likes these types of abilities, cool – I really don’t.
The pdf also provides 10 psionic powers, which include a multi-energy ray, crystalline shackles…the general visuals an intent is pretty cool. Unfortunately, the wording does not always live up to the precision required. Crystalline Shackles, for example, limits movement to “5 foot movements, with an Acrobatics check DC 20 to move at half speed.” Does this movement count as 5-foot steps when the Acrobatics-check is failed? Is there a consequence for attempting the check and failing (no movement)? The rules-language could have easily been streamlined to where is did not feature this unfortunate wording. A teleport + distraction-clone-power is imho too low on the level scale, lacks information pertaining the control of the duplicate and lacks the teleport-prevention caveat for ability/power/spell interactions…well, you get the idea. All in all, a well-intentioned array of powers that can be streamlined into properly working…but also a section that misses the precision I would have wanted the concepts to feature.
The pdf does have new magic items as well – gloves that allow for the blending of hidden pocket and containers, jackets of hidden pockets and a torc that makes powers look like they originated elsewhere – pretty neat. The pdf concludes with new materials, the first of which would be godsmind crystals: Holding such a crystal “reduces hit points by 1 per hit die.” This NEEDS to be maximum hit points, otherwise sequence, healing etc. come into play. Also, “A character can use the crystal to cause 1 hit point of damage per hit die they have to another creature, but they take the same amount of damage.” Untyped damage. No DR-interaction. No range. “In the hands of a psion, they are able to infuse power points into so that the creature takes 1d6 points of damage, while still taking 1 hit die of damage per die of damage they deal.” Okay, there is so much wrong with that sentence. To give you a brief impression: Only psions? How much power points? What’s a “hit die of damage”? I *get* what this is supposed to do, but the wording isn’t functional even before going into disrupt pattern interaction. The second item would be a godmind crystal gavel…which obviously suffers from the base material being horribly broken.
Editing and formatting are a mixed bag – while, in the beginning, the issues pertaining rules-language were pretty minimal, the latter pieces of content did somewhat decrease in quality. On a formal level, the pdf does have more glitches than I am accustomed to in Purple Duck Games books by now. Layout adheres to the 1-column, relatively printer-friendly full-color standard with some nice artworks, though astute readers may know them from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Scott Dillon’s Cryptics of Porphyra is not a bad book, let me make that abundantly clear. In contrast to many a book featuring racial archetypes, the book tries very hard (and succeeds) in blending the unique flavor of the respective races with the archetypes associated with them, so that’s a plus. However, at the same time, there are a lot of hiccups on both formal and rules-aesthetic levels that decrease the overall functionality of the book to the point where I consider precious few rules-components to be on the level of precision I expect and require in my games. Unlike many a supplement, these can be salvaged by a competent GM/rules-dev/editor, but I can’t rate the potential alone here, particularly considering that several of the components herein focus on a rather brutal escalation of cryptic damage-output that may be too much for some groups. As a person, I like this book significantly more than the array of problems would make you believe, but as a reviewer, I have an obligation to my audience. Let’s not beat around the bush: This needs work. It has some gems in it, but they do need refinement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars…and unfortunately, I can’t round up for this one.
Youc an get this class option-supplement here on OBS!