This Everyman Mini clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
First of all: In case you didn’t know: This pdf is an expansion for the vessel class that was originally presented in Paranormal Adventures, itself a love letter to the Supernatural franchise and Occult Adventures’ design-paradigms. The class could be best summed up as: “Do you want to play Castiel, but retain control of your faculties?”-the class. Alternatively, if you had no idea what that sentence meant, one could consider the vessel to be basically a medium-style character in theme. No, it has nothing in common with Paizo’s medium class – the vessel has a specific bond with a powerful outsider and may be ridden in a way. Think more of a permanent Loa, a fusion with a devil, etc. From Spawn to similar classics, the vessel has a lot of potential and radically different ways to express the unique class.
Passengers, unsurprisingly, are an important and pretty much essential component for the class, which, in impact, could be likened in severity of impact, to a bloodline or an order, perhaps even beyond that. I assume general familiarity with the vessel class in the following review. But before we take a look at the new passengers herein, we should acknowledge the new feat that is included on the introductory page: Life to Grace.
Grace, the vessel’s point-based resource, can be gained here via a unique mechanic – upon gaining the feat, the GM rolls maximum age in secret, and when you’d need to spend grace, you can reduce your maximum starting age by a number of years equal to the race’s trained starting age modifier to reduce the total grace costs by 1, to a minimum of 0. Basically, you sacrifice years of your lifespan to fuel your abilities. This is a stroke of genius – races have wildly diverging lifespans, and tying this mechanic to trained starting age accounts for that. Now, sure, mathematically, there will be differences, but if you have millennia ahead, wouldn’t you be extra careful with this one? This aging process also can explicitly only be reversed by divine intervention, and before you ask: Immortal or non-living creatures are explicitly prohibited from taking this one. I love this and the only super-specific nitpick I could field here, would be that samsarans should be prevented from taking the feat…but that is an aesthetic choice. One could argue that rebirth is a death, after all, and depending on how nonchalant or serious you take the concept, this may never be a true issue.
All in all, I adore this feat to bits, and its mechanics can easily be used to create derivative feats or class features that literally burn away lifespan to power other resources. One of the coolest feats I’ve seen in a while!
There are three vessel passengers contained within the pdf: Fey spirits get DR/cold iron, are associated with magic, plant and Weather as far as domains are concerned, and the boons include selective SR that scales, woodland stride and enhanced speed. The passenger also provides scaling options to call fey, akin to a summoners’ summon monster ability. Higher levels provide the means to use grace to become invisible as per invisibility, and fey forms that improve at higher levels, culminating in fey apotheosis and constant mind blank at 18th level.
The second passenger would be the shinigami, who requires LG, LN or LE alignment, is associated with the Death, Healing and Repose domains, and the DR is /chaotic and silver. Vessels stop aging (but remain susceptible to aging effects) and gain a bonus to saves vs. death, poison, cold and disease. On the passive benefits side, we get fire resistance 5 (10 at 15th level) and scaling SR. 6th level provides grace-powered fast healing and gains cure spells and breath of life as spells known, with the former being optionally powered by grace expenditure. Frightful presence, deathsense – some cool tricks. At 15th level, natural 20-based crits can add negative levels onto targets, potentially affecting the vessel with heal for more grace. Kudos for making this proof against attempts to cheese it! The final ability adds some potent immunities as well as grace-powered casting of death-themed spells to the passenger.
The third of the passengers would be titans, with alignment restrictions based on the titan subrace in question. Similarly, associated domains are contingent of the specific titan subtype chosen. This modularity also extends to the damage types to bypass DR. As far as grace boons are concerned, we have save bonuses that scale, SR versus outsider spells and SPs and later, some immunities: Minor nitpick: The ability name hasn’t been properly italicized, which represents a purely cosmetic snafu. The passenger nets rock throwing and catching, and 9th level nets righteous might (not italicized properly in one instance) as a grace-powered SP, with DR adjusted for the titan subrace, and it later improves to also feature air walk and trample! Grace-powered heal (again, not italicized) and size-increases for grace are cool. The high level ability, among other things, “stios aging” – it’s odd how this last passenger has accumulated these typos. They don’t wreck it, but I couldn’t help but notice them.
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level. On a formal level, formatting and editing are slightly less tight. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series, and the piece of artwork presented is nice. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
David N. Ross knows what he’s doing. His pdfs range rather often among the highest echelons of my rating system, and indeed, his passengers are amazing. While I would have loved some more Death note-y abilities for the shinigami, it’s close enough to make me smile. Similarly, the titan…is relevant for fans of a franchise that features these guys in a prominent manner. The feat, imho, is a stroke of genius, and its design paradigms will influence my own home-game. While the uncommon accumulation of minor formatting glitches in the last vessel is slightly jarring, I will still round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars, and the feat’s cool angle single-handedly nets this my seal of approval. It’s not a feat for every game, but I love it to bits!
You can get this cool pdf here on OBS!
Missed the Vessel class? You can get Paranormal Adventures here on OBS!