This massive expansion for the new base-classes introduced in Paranormal Adventures clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 5 pages of SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review is based on the revised version of the pdf.
We begin, as always in Everyman Gaming publications, with an introduction, ToC and a kind of mission statement, if you will – but beyond that, we begin directly with one of the most requested aspects for the shapeshifter class: MORE kingdoms. These, however, also come with new base shape abilities, so what do they offer? Well, for one, marine creatures are primarily air-breathers, but spend a lot of time in the water and thus gain Hold Breath, which also exists on its own. Being able to squeeze through narrow confines similarly is possible. Very interesting: Being Faceless is just as possible as gaining a shell, the later enhancing defensive fighting or total defense by the respectively noted bonus to AC. The respective kingdoms introduced follow the established formula. To recap: We get base shape, shape sizes, speed and the respective abilities granted by the kingdom, which are unlocked at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, respectively. The governing attributes of the respective kingdom are provided for one’s convenience in brackets after the name. Simple and elegant in presentation.
Now it is the selection of shapeshifter kingdoms that proves to be the intriguing aspect: Aardvarks can, for example, not only run pretty fast, they can actually smell through rock, dirt, etc. and at higher levels, they excel at fighting prone and kipping up from a prone position…and at 15th level, they may even rend while prone. This may sound goofy at first glance, but this actually allows for an interesting fighting style. Anteaters gain a repositioning tongue that can pull targets closer (alas, sans synergy for the purpose of standard reposition maneuvers) – there is one issue here, though – I think that the tongue probably should have a reach. It can be intended as default reach, which is why I won’t hold that against the pdf, but from the context and multiple repositioning (and flair)-perspective, I think that reach was perhaps intended. (And it would be cool…but perhaps, I watched too many pink panther cartoons as a child…) I digress. Armadillos, surprisingly, are all about defense, while bats begin with unassisted personal flight -as always, my usual “DMs should take heed of low-level flight”-caveat applies, but overall balance-wise, I am pretty okay with it. I really like the bivalve kingdom that can fluidly clamp the shell shut and burrow at higher levels. The Bovine kingdom plays on the sexual dimorphism of the species and grants different options for the sexes as well as trample capability. And as someone who has once evaded a charging wild boar, let me tell you, these are NOT to be trifled with.
A wide smile graced my face, when I noticed that camels can dirty trick-spit foes as well as move through difficult terrain – the combo makes for a relatively nice skirmishing action here. Centipedes gain poison, grab and constrict and those seeking to emulate our sleeping overlords in the sunken cities are in luck: The cephalopod kingdom’s part of the deal as well. And yes, at 15th level, you’ll have up to 8 tentacle attacks. OUCH. Cetaceans can bull rush in a unique way, while crustaceans at high level are expert grapplers, though both kingdoms are more conservative in design. Deer make nice skirmishers and are highly mobile, while echidna gain defensive spines and, once again, a tongue. Elephants could potentially be problematic, depending on the game – their shape size is Huge. Enchinoderms get pull and staggering spines and yes, friends of horses etc. – the equine kingdom’s part of the deal! Gastropods and Marsupials are similarly covered…in the latter case, I am sorely tempted of making a monk who uses his trampling as well as a tail attack. (Kudos if you got that reference!) Mongoose are ferocious and are resilient to poison, while monkeys excel at skills, dirty tricks, etc. Raccoons follow a similar base-line, while the rhinoceros kingdom is suitably unsubtle. Scorpions similarly are unlocked, as are sirenias, sloths and skunks. And yes, sloths can gain a neat burst of speed, while skunks get their signature sickening spray (later nauseated). Turtles and Weasels complement the impressive array of new options here.
Unless I have miscounted, you may also choose from no less than 25 (!!) subkingdoms that should make our friends Down Under happy – koala and kangaroo are part of the deal, just so you know…and so are Gophers, who can carry significant loads in their cheeks and retrieve them via swift actions! That is SO AMAZING. I mean, come on, don’t tell me you never wanted to make a badass hamster-hero? Hilarious RP-potential, btw.: While carrying stuff in your cheeks, you’re difficult to understand. Add some M&Ms, grapes or similar goodies, stuff them in while playing, et voilà – hilarity. Two thumbs up! Legless humanoids, megabats…and there is a blanaced version of multi-armed humanoid options here…same goes for multiple heads. Whether you want to go rabbit or starfish…or even, yes, sheep – the subkingdoms are intriguing and often are associated with different attributes than the regular kingdoms.
Now the vessel class was a surprise to me back in the day – I frankly believed I had that role covered, but it did bring an interesting engine to the table that made me slowly come around to liking it. The class also receives an assortment of various new passengers to choose from. These follow the established formula. To recap: Each has an alignment, associated domains (3), a damage reduction, a flavorful manifestation of grace as well as a linear sequence of grace boons, which are gained/enhanced at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Concept-wise, these passengers provide a diverse array – we begin with the animate dream, who receives the defensive capabilities you’d expect (better saves vs. emotion, fear, etc. effects) and SR, but also receives tiring strikes, higher-level intangibility and suggestion implanting. It should be noted that said dream, like nightshade or oni, do not receive bracketed subtypes, though e.g. asura and manasaputra do receive these. The former btw. do receive nondetection as well as high-level resistance towards divine magic., while the latter provides Cha-based monk-like defenses. At higher levels, these guys can fire rays of cosmic fire, which inflict both fire damage and positive energy damage – and in contrast to another instance of 3pp-use of positive energy damage, it does not harm creatures usually not harmed by it, which makes it more in line with established depictions of the damage type, so I’m good with it.
Nightshade vessels are the nightmares of evil clerics, being healed by negative energy as well as by positive energy in an interesting variation of the usual type of depictions of such abilities. Channeling energy and summon forth undead similarly are in line with the expected tricks. Oni passengers convey better revitalizing, grace-powered immediate action death knell and such nasty combos. Qlippoth-bound vessels gain tentacles and may capitalize on the aberrant anatomy of their passengers, inflict horrid fungal infections and receive a nasty gaze at 9th level. More subtle and deceptive would be the spells added, courtesy of the rakshasa passenger, as well as the shape changing and spell-poaching, later more flexible when used in conjunction with grace expenditure. The sakhil are slightly less interesting, with a focus on fear and emotion and a grace-powered frightful presence that can be combined with other actions.
The vessel also gets to choose two different archetypes – the possessed vessel is treated as the passenger’s type and is susceptible to possession, but may also expend grace to eject passengers. Nice tweak of the base engine. The Psychic Vessel gains psychic spellcasting drawn from the psychic’s spell-list of up to 6th level and replaces 2nd level’s omen with a small phrenic pool and a phrenic amplification. A total of 4 new omens can be found: Breath of Grace is basically a grace-powered variant of breath of life; Omen of Sorcery nets one or two sorc-spells; quick weal-woe visions and divination with really cool associated imagery of speaking in tongues complement this assortment.
Now perhaps the most radical of flavor-paradigm-innovations herein would be vessel usurpers. Vessels usually are outsiders; usurpers behave very much like passengers, but grant insight bonuses instead of sacred/profane bonuses and generally tend to not be too nice – whether it’s the fey, ghost or yithian, I don’t applaud the respective usurpers for their designs per se – they behave very much like passengers. I do love, however, that e.g. the Yithian allows me to go full-blown Loath Nolder (kudos if you know those games; more kudos if you’ve completed them!) – their design is certainly nice! However, at the same time, I found myself wishing that they had a more pronounced behavioral change mechanic to complement their flavor…or a more different feel. That being said, I very much consider the concept to be rife with potential!
Beyond the new class options for the original paranormal classes, we also receive an assortment of archetypes that unlocks options for existing ones: The Devourer alchemist, for example, replaces mutagen (and cognatogen, if applicable) with the option to consume parts of a creature vanquished, allowing them to scavenge abilities associated with the kingdoms and subkingdoms of the shapeshifter. As such, it should come as no surprise that the archetype receives a more melee-centric replacement for throw anything, as well as the option to receive instincts instead of discoveries. The kingdom abilities of the creature consumed are unlocked at 4th level, with higher-level kingdom abilities being unlocked later, thus consuming 3 discoveries the class would usually receive. 14th level increases the duration of the shapeshifting, thus replacing persistent mutagen.
NICE one: The pdf takes the concept of animal companion archetypes and introduces the fey-touched archetype for such companions: Instead of Str/Dex-bonus with becoming intelligent and a fey creature; 3rd level replaces evasion with fey-associated resistances and DR/cold iron and 9th level provides Eldritch Claws instead of Multiattack, with 15th level providing short-range teleport. I *REALLY* like this one; it trades raw power for versatility and it even provides concise synergy with previously established hunter levels. Kudos!! The Linewalker arcanist is, as the title implies, a specialist of detecting ley lines – instead of consuming spells, the arcane reservois of this archetype may be replenished via tapping into ley lines, which not only is flavorful, it also puts some control in the hands of the GM, a design decision I do applaud. However, before the power-gamers start pulling out the pitchforks, I should mention that these guys can seriously enhance spell save DCs and, at high levels, make better use of places of power. I’m not the biggest fan of the class, but I found myself contemplating this archetype quite a bit – kudos!
Now, the original Paranormal Adventures is basically an unabashed love-letter to the Supernatural TV-series and the bloodrager leviathan spawn, locked into the aberrant bloodline, would be a continuation of the themes established – with environmental and even planar adaption and high-level fast healing while raging, the archetype manages to convey well (and in a balanced form) the power of the leviathan. Similarly, the sorcerors may now choose the levialogos mutated bloodline that enhances your disguises and nets you nasty tentacles.
A new bardic masterpiece that first exhausts targets, then sends them asleep. As a minor complaint – the page-reference of the Blessed Conduit cleric archetype is incorrect for the book (the page it should reference is 23, where the spell is found – not 13), though these Magic domain-using clerics would otherwise be a neat take on the ley line using cleric. The Occultist receives the essence guide archetype, who gets an alternate array of spells, sense undead, expend mental focus to generate an aura that impedes undead, generate anti-undead circles – basically a ghost-hunter. Solid, if not mind-boggling.
Unchained Monks may use new ki powers to gain ghost touch, remove fear and similar emotion effects and even separate from the body to project his spirit – the latter in particular is nice, The pdf also provides a wide array of ranger traps (YEAH!) that include ghost salt traps, net launchers, etc. Rogues may elect to receive Psychic Sensitivity and a total of 7 new shapeshifter insticts can be found – these include becoming more lethal when faced with multiple enemies (you know, cornered beast and all…) as well as the ability to smell poison, which is pretty amazing.
Vigilantes also are covered, beginning with the cryptid, whose vigilante identity basically takes use of shapechanger mechanics – think of that as pretty much every werewolf-superhero or e.g. the archetype for fans of “The Wolf Among US” (the adaption of the Fables-comics). The invoker, unsurprisingly, would then be basically a vigilante/vessel-crossover, replacing, akin to the shapeshifter-crossover, vigilante specialization, having the passenger take care of the transformation. Basically, you could go Captain Marvel with that one, with grace accepting etc. – Shazam! (And nope, transformation is NOT subtle…but pretty fast!)
The final archetype is pretty complex and creepy as all hell – the poppet witch, who replaces patron spells with her own array: The witch receives an animated toy as a creepy construct familiar that has a soul focus that can be used to replace bodies…think of that a bit like Chucky, your new familiar. Oh, and the hexes further enhance this theme, allowing you to gain eitehr Improved Familiar…or an animal companion’s power! Yes, your creepy killer-doll can actually…be a good creepy killer doll and you won’t be penalized thanks to aforementioned soul mechanic, for sending it into the fray. Marionette-like domination, transforming targets into doll-effigies. This archetype is supremely creepy, mechanically complex and pretty much represents the designer at his best. LOVE it.
We conclude this pdf with a total of 9 feats: Cursing stares for mesmerists is neat; similarly, using channel energy to generate a mobile barrier versus fey, better defenses versus emotion effects, sharing a square with same-sized eidolon/phantom…some cool tricks there, though sharing a square and counting as flanking can be seriously nasty. Gaining a stun-inducing defense versus telepathic contact or divination and ghost touch shots for gunslingers are cool. Finally, the pdf introduces the new Sphinx Style, which provides benefits versus foes that you have identified – including potential negation of energy resistances or hardness, based on feats of the style. I usually am NOT a fan of such metagame-y tricks…but here, the implementation is damn cool.
Editing and formatting, while very good, aren’t perfect – there are a couple of minor hiccups, though they do not impede the functionality of the rules- Rules-language, as pretty much always in Alexander Augunas’ books, is precise and to the point. The pdf’s artworks are in full-color and Jacob Blackmon’s signature style. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though individual kingdoms and passengers have not been bookmarked, which may require a bit of page-flipping.
Alexander Augunas and Matt Morris deliver a cool expansion for the Paranormal Adventures classes; the material herein unlocks several of the neat tricks for other classes and features some true gems – the poppet witch, for example, is amazing and the yithian usurper similarly is cool. Plus: HAMSTER-cheek-action! I mean, come on, how cool is that? That being said, not each and every component herein is that inspired. A couple of the options feel, at least to me, like they could have carried a bit more. That being said, this is simply me being horribly spoiled by Everyman Gaming and similar high-caliber designers/publishers – this is pretty much a must-own expansion for the cool Paranormal Classes – and as such, this receives a final verdict of 5 stars.
You can get this cool expansion here on OBS!
You can get Paranormal Adventures here on OBS!
There also is a massive bundle currently available for Everyman Gaming material – so if you’re only looking for pdfs and not the PoDs, you may want to check it out here!