This massive installment of the Echelon Reference Series clocks in at 192 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping 178 pages of content, at least for the PRD +3pp version. The PRD-version is, obviously, less hefty, though still a pretty big file.
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
So, first things first – this is a reference work and I will rate it as such. This book focuses on the alchemist and my review is based on the iteration that is based on both PRD and 3pp-material from a wide array of different sources. There are basically three different steps of completion for Echelon Reference Series-pdfs: They grow, and once they have grown, their price goes up as they become more refined – rather fair, at least in my book.
There are three steps: RAF (Rough and Fast, 50% discounted), WIP (Work in Progress, 25% discounted) and the finished version.
However, the “Rough and Fast” or “Work in Progress” monikers are actually a bit deceptive, in that they usually conjure forth images of Beta-tests for video games etc. – this is nothing like that.
Even the Rough and Fast versions already have full functionality provided, with bookmarks, etc. – but a couple of the unique comfort functions of the series are not yet implemented in these versions. Most importantly, the RAF-version does not yet include the super-handy flow-charts that depict the connections between feats, talents and similar class features. These have proven to be particularly helpful when building characters or planning progressions.
The RAF-version also does not yet feature full, internal hyperlinking (though there are plenty of working ones!), although it should be noted that navigation is sufficiently convenient, courtesy of the bookmarks provided.
We begin this time around with the alchemist base class and the archetypes collated and collected from various sources among the more refined 3pps as well as the Paizo books. The version, right now, goes up to ACG and provides a solid selection of different archetypes. The astute reader will also notice something subtle, but it really does enhance the aesthetic value of the file: You see, Echelon Reference books provide small bubbles on top of the colored ability-headers: one of these designates the ability type (like SP, SU, EX…) and one the level it’s gained. This is a small thing, but it makes navigation quicker and allows for faster information processing while reading. In this supplement, that presentation has undergone a slight, but efficient evolution: The bubbles no longer jut forth from the ability header, but instead have been integrated into it. They still have a white background, which sets them apart in a distinct fashion from the core abilities and thus retain functionality – but as a whole, they make everything look smoother. Kudos! Even better, and this is a HUGE improvement and comfort plus, would be the fact that now, these bubbles have a second part, which, if applicable, notes the ability an archetype class feature, for example, replaces. This adds another layer of comfort on top and is something I absolutely ADORE! Huge plus for the time-starved gamer here!
The master chymist prestige class included does btw. also come with the handy “class at a glance” box that the series provides for the base classes.
These improvements in presentation btw. also extend to the class features and how they are presented: It will take you only a single glimpse to immediately know that a discovery pertains to bombs, mutagens, and exclusive discoveries that prevent other discoveries are similarly apparent at a glance. I frickin’ love these improvements to the presentation. They make the supplement more aesthetically-pleasing AND even easier to navigate and use! Heck yes! Oh, and did I mention that we get a bullet point quick use version for the discoveries in front of the big text? A boiled down “at a glance” version? This adds serious value to the reference file. To give you an example of such a bullet point array before the full text, let’s take Dual Mind:
- Gain +2 bonus on Will saving throws.
- On failed save, can try again one round later at same DC.
- Usable only if there are uses of mutate ability remaining.
Prerequisites Alchemist level 10th
See what I mean? All there. The proper, big rules text is still there, but this presentation type can make running the game so much easier, as the pdf acts as a huge GM (r player!) cheat sheet! I love this. Seriously. Can we please have more of these?
The feat section and spell list is handy, and, as always, we have a significant collection of statblocks, ranging from CR ½ to CR 20, with Bassam the Pestilent, a ratfolk plaguebringer, getting stats for every single level – in addition to the other NPC-stats, of course!
Editing and formatting are top-notch considering that this is the first iteration, I noticed no grievous glitches. Layout adheres to the functional and efficient 2-column b/w-standard with brown spliced in, and as noted, the improvements to the layout prove to be extremely helpful for the book AND make it more pleasing to the eye. This is a pretty printer-friendly file, just fyi. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with individual bookmarks for the archetypes, for example, but not for every single feat or discovery. The book is internally hyperlinked and the index further helps making navigation simple and painless.
Keith J. Davies’ alchemist reference pdf is a surprising evolution for the series that I did not expect. The improvements in layout extend the appeal of the installment significantly: Instead of being “just” a handy reference file, the streamlined presentation and bullet point ability summaries manage to make this a massive and impressive cheat-sheet as well! It may sound weird, but once you try it out, you’ll realize how much sense the organization and presentation like this makes, how useful it can be when you forgot the precise details of an obscure discovery in the midst of battle and don’t want to read the whole text – one glance and, BAM, you’re ready to rock! This is a thoroughly impressive, welcome and well-crafted evolution of the series and its presentation paradigms, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this massive reference file here on OBS!
Want just the PRD-version? You can find it here!