EZG reviews CLASSifieds: The Saint
This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ~1/2 a page editorial, leaving us with 1 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the saint, shall we?
Saints need to have the same alignment as their deity and get d8,4+Int skills per level, proficiency with the deity’s favored weapon and simple weapons as well as shields and simple armor, but not tower shields. Saints get prepared divine spellcasting via wis of spells of up to 6th level from their own spell-list , 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref and will-saves and one domain from their patron’s available list. Regarding their spell-list – the list contains bard, paladin and cleric spells – and is OP. Exclusive spells usually have a reason why they’re exclusive – they’re more powerful than many comparable spells. Compiling several of these makes for a spell-list that is too strong for my conservative tastes.
Aforementioned domain deserves special mentioning, for it does NOT add the respective spells to the spell-list, instead converting them into spell-like abilities that can be cast interchangeably (essentially like the domain is cast spontaneous via a pool). The save-DC for said abilities is 10+1/2 level + wis-mod, ignore up to 100 GP of material components and are cast from essentially a pool: 3+Wis-mod cats per day, with spells level 1 to 3 costing one use, level 4-6 spells costing 2 uses and higher level spells eating 3 uses per day. A rather interesting expansion of the spellcasting capabilities – though I’m not comfortable with the increased DC – domain spells tend to be rather powerful and further increasing their DC might propel them towards regions I’m not wholly comfortable with – especially since they can’t be counterspelled. Additionally, they may thus ignore SIGNIFICANT amounts of costly components -which are a crucial balancing factor in costly spells. No-go there.
Saints add their class level to diplomacy and intimidate-checks versus unbelievers and get bonus feats at level 5 and every 4 levels after that – and that’s the only ability to help the fluff-concept of a negotiator/peaceful agent of the gods. That’s not the signature trick of the saint – said component would be favor, of which the saint gets wis-mod per day. They can be regained by vanquishing challenging foes with the deity’s favored weapon and non-combat ways of gaining favor, like converting others and proving your loyalty are also included – essentially, we thus get a version of grit based on faith. And I love the idea. Seriously, my one complaint with divine spellcasting always was that it didn’t FEEL like wonders bestowed by a god – but rather a class feature analogue to the one of arcane casters. Tying a class ability to a deity’s favor feels distinctly divine to may and makes this a rather neat decision – so kudos to designer Tyler Beck for that! Unfortunately, the disclaimer comes in the fineprint here, but more on that later. A problem here is that each day, favor resets to a fixed amount – excess favor is taken away from you. That makes NO SENSE whatsoever to me – as a means of limiting favor, wouldn’t have a cap made much more sense? Also: Beating foes unconscious may net them favor as well or would – instead Saints have to beat foes into negative HP to get a favor. Yes, the class penalizes non-lethal damage dealing instead of rewarding it. In order to gain the favor-point, saints have to keep clobbering unconscious targets down to negative HP – saintly behavior indeed. /sarcasm
Where there’s something like grit, there’ll better be some mechanics akin to deeds – and we get them in the guise of graces: At 1st level, 3rd level and every 4 levels after that, the saint learns new favors, of which a total of 18 such favors are provided. Thematically, akin to deeds, there are some favors that require the expenditure of a favor point, whereas others are passive and work as long as you have at least one favor point in your pool. The favors per se are interesting – one for example nets the saint access to the bodyguard feat and expands it if the character also has combat reflexes, making it usable dex-mod times per day – really nice to see such interwoven rules – or, unfortunately, again, it would be nice – if they properly worked. Bodyguard and combat reflexes use a completely different rules language and the discrepancy is unfortunately not properly addressed: The ability uses a MODIFIER instead of a BONUS, which means that you can actually get negative AoOs. Do these stack for future rounds? Kidding aside. When first reading it, the concept seems to fit like a hand in a glove for divine classes – but this means of getting favor is BROKEN as all hell: While I like the alternate ways of getting favor, favor has NO CAP and can be stacked infinitely – e.g. via bathing with an ally in a litter of aggressive, but fluffy kittens that heap futile attacks on you. Why am I evoking this horrible imagery? Because that’s the visual equivalent of this design-glitch: Access to an unlimited power-source. Now if the Saint had a caveat CR-wise to regain favor, that would easily be a nice mechanic (though I’d prefer unique ways to gain favor based on domains).
And that still leaves the regular way of regaining favor if s/he runs out of kittens. Sorry. Honestly, I like how bodyguard thus can be used to regain favor and the caveat that “If her aid another attempt to boost an ally’s AC makes the difference between the attack hitting her ally or not, she regains a favor point.” It would have been easy to slip up here – which again shows an existing understanding of rules-language., imperfect though the wording is right now.
Dodging missiles (with a 5-foot movement that is NOT a five-foot step) that might incur AoOs is possible as well, as is a so-called favored onslaught – a variant of flurry of blows that requires the expenditure of one point of favor, but nets the saint an additional attack at his/her highest BAB with the penalty of -2 applied to all attacks. As a caveat that makes this more viable regarding the saint’s less than stellar BAB, favored onslaught uses a full BAB to calculate the attacks at -2 and also requires the use of the favored weapon of the deity and can be used in conjunction with two-weapon fighting and similar attacks. This is essentially the saint’s signature offensive ability and it can be combined with two weapon fighting. I applaud the courage of this decision, as most designers won’t touch the mess that is flurry of blows with a 10-foot pole, much less combining it with TWF. However, it is not entirely clear from the products wording how the attacks of flurry of blows and two weapon fighting are distributed – which becomes relevant as soon as one weapon is more efficient against a foe. Again, a cool ability tarnished by flawed rules-language. Worse: Since the ability improperly words the how new attacks granted from the feat and ability interact (the ability specifying that it nets no new attacks even when it clearly does), it gets more obscure – and that before further attacks via other sources enter the mix…. Furthermore, there’s a reason why regular flurrying is limited weapon-wise and doesn’t work with TWF – if you’d aim to grossly powergame, you’d be able to stack multiple attacks with 2-handed weapons. Like Scythes, Great-Swords and Dwarven Longhammers. The thing is – I’d let that seriously slide – if the resource used to power it was RARE – i.e. more limited than a ki pool or magus arcana. It’s not. It’s favor – which, as per the rules exists in infinite quantities and even when fixed, can be regained much too easily. Don’t believe me? Well, with favored sacrifice, you can throw yourself into harm’s way – you just need two allies, one hitting the other with non-lethal damage and you can stockpile even more favor. Especially if you manage to get a DR or happen to be immune to the damage-type inflicted. You could thus protect your allies even without fluffy kittens of evil and your deity would smile upon you.
Saints may also preach, generating fascinate effects in their vicinity and charm or denounce foes – per se nice and fits with the peace-theme (which is all but abandoned at this point) – but the effect adds +4 to DC. +4. Yeah. Op much? Especially since converting charmed people nets you the favor you just expended.
The saint may also bypass a limited amount of DR or add silent spell to a spell-like ability for one point of favor. Ehem…spell-like abilities already are silent last time I checked.
At 15th level, saints may sacrifice all remaining favor and take 1d6 points of damage on ALL physical attributes – but also save an ally that would otherwise perish. VERY cool last second save ability that comes with enough of a drawback to be considered well-crafted! The same cannot be said about the saint’s protective aura – as long as s/he has at least 1 point of favor, saints count as if affected by magic circle against evil/good and what about law and chaos? Tough luck, not covered. More importantly, the aura also acts as a lesser globe of invulnerability. Which actually MOVES with you. Yeas – that’s powerful – but more important even than this very strong ability (there’s a reason these globes are static!) – it can’t be lowered. No more low-level buffs for any Saint or nearby allies. This ability needs a nerf-bat whacking – powered by favor and making it possible to lower it would help.
As a capstone, we get an outsider-transformation, that nets the celestial or fiendish template (what about neutral saints, why no appropriate choices for them? Again, where’s chaos/law?) as well as smite like a(n) (anti-) paladin wis-mod times per day and essentially sees the saint turn into a herald-like figure of the deity, including some exclusive casts that may only be used if they pertain their divine mission.
We also get two new feats: Expanded Favor, which allows you to use abilities that would usually require wielding your deity’s weapon to the weapon’s whole group (As if the basic ability wasn’t powerful enough already…) and one for +2 favor points per day – relevant if you run out of kittens.
The pdf concludes with massive lists of favored class options for ALL core races, featured races and uncommon races -kudos, since some of them actually are very unique: Kobolds e.g. getting 1/4 ranger trap fits nice with their racial theme.
Editing and formatting, while not perfect, can still be considered very good – I didn’t notice significant typos, with the worst offender being a slip up of a grace being called deed – nothing game-breaking. Layout…is DROP-DEAD-GORGEOUS. I mean…beautiful. Evocative. Awesome. The full color artworks also help here and make this pdf a true beauty to behold. The pdf has no bookmarks, which I’d usually complain about – but this pdf is extensively hyperlinked: With the good kind of hyperlinks – you know, the ones that take a lot of effort. Where a hyperlink actually pertains to the right content -even the dispel alignment-spells are properly hyperlinked and you won’t see e.g. “will” hyperlinked to will-saves when it does not refer to them! My hat’s off to Fat Goblin Games for getting this right and for the significant increase in production values they have achieved since the last pdf I’ve read from them!
So…the saint. It’s Tyler Beck’s first foray into class design…and it does and doesn’t show. Now at first sight, this class is rather conservative – spellcasting, medium BAB, flurry, grit-like system – we’ve seen those before. But the devil, as so often, lies in the detail -for better and for worse. What makes this class feel not all cobbled together, are the small nuances, the minor modifications that add a new spin on things – whether it’s the separate spellcasting of domains as spell-like abilities, the take on flurrying, the reappropriated (and brilliantly so) grit-mechanics to the thematically fitting spell-list – each has its small humble, yet intriguing twists – that actually come together really well, creating something better than the sum of its superficially familiar-looking components. The saint is a great class and with production values to match.
Or it would be. Could still be, in fact. While the spell-list is nice, it’s overpowered. The DC for the domain-casting is too high. The central mechanic can be exploited even by beginners. I was honestly pulling at my hair of considerable length while writing this review. The saint (though perhaps zealot would have been a better name…) almost gets the complex things it tries to do right. ALMOST. When skimming over this pdf for the first time, I was smiling, glad I’d be able to complement a new designer on a job well done – I was actually looking forward to introducing this class into my campaign. Was. Well, there’s a reason I read pdfs multiple times and when I started actually analyzing the rules-language, the saint began, much to my horror, to come apart at the seams. There are so many great ideas herein and admittedly – what the class tries to do is complex. But that can unfortunately be no excuse for the rules-language exhibiting flaws that don’t make it possible to break the class, but actually render it broken from the get-go. The longer I read this class, the more balance-issues and potential exploits I found.
And it’s so damn close. Everything in this class that has issues ALMOST works. Almost. Author Tyler Beck has potential – there is ambition and talent here, but as provided, the saint falls flat of its own lofty ambitions – on the one hand getting complex and difficult things right, while on the other failing to acknowledge very basic concepts. This class has all the makings of 5 stars + seal of approval – but the issues add up. To a point, in fact, where the problem is so significant that I can’t even give this 2 stars anymore – there are simply too much issues and glitches in almost all the central mechanics (favor, spellcasting, onslaught, bodyguard) and thus, at least for me, this class simply does not work. My final verdict will be, at least for now, a 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 for the purpose of this platform.
I sincerely hope for a revision and look forward to seeing the author develop and improve – there is talent here – it just needs to be refined.