EZG reviews The Deductionist
This massive new class-pdf is 56 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a whopping 50 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Author Matt Everhart kicks off with a short introduction before we get a compelling piece of fiction before we dive head first into the meat of this new class. Alignment-wise, Deductionists need to be lawful, a restriction I don’t necessarily get (example: chaotic, associative savant etc.), but one that ultimately is easily ignored. Meat-wise, the class gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and a good will save.
Now, the signature ability of the deductionist would be, surprise, deductions: These essentially use appropriate Knowledge checks against 10+CR of creature or hazard, with rare or common creatures mitigating or increasing the base to 20 or 5 respectively. Much like spellcasting, deductions can be interrupted via AoOs, but don’t work via concentration (deductions having no spell level), instead modifying the DC by the damage taken. Unless otherwise noted, deductions target one hazard/creature within 60 ft and last for 1 minute. Using a deduction multiple times during one encounter increases the cost of reason by 1 if applicable. Reason essentially represents a pool used to power certain deductions and other class features and a deductionist has 1+int mod points of reason at first level, scaling up to 7+int-mod. Reason refreshes after 8 hours of rest and has no autonomous benefits.
The deductionist also starts game with the “exploit weakness” signature ability: By making as a free AoO-less action a knowledge check versus 15 + CR, the target may be considered exploited for 1 round, using Int instead of Str to calculate CMB and adding 1/2 class level (or HD, I assume, though the text doesn’t specify it) versus the deductionist. Furthermore, the deductionist does not provoke AoOs when using combat maneuvers versus exploited targets. Exploited targets also suffer deductionist’s int-mod in additional damage upon being subjected to a combat maneuver. Repeated uses of the ability versus the same target enhance the DC by +1 and via the expenditure of one point of reason, the duration of the exploited-condition can be prolonged by 1 round. Furthermore, the ability allows for the deductionist’s attacks to count as silver, magic, cold iron and lawfully aligned over the levels, allowing the deductionist to potentially bypass a variety of DRs. In order to affect incorporeal creatures, the deductionist would require to interact with them, though. Particularly perceptive, deductionists may add Int-mod to perception-checks as well. Deductionists also learn to read subtle clues, gaining a +1 insight bonus to perception and sense motive versus disguises, conversations, observations, hidden doors etc. as long as they have at least one point of reason remaining and spend one such point to reroll one such check. The bonus scales up over the levels to+5 at 17th level.
Also at 1st level, though the class table fails to list it, the deductionist also chooses a discipline. Each discipline is associated with 2 skills, which may be substituted by a knowledge-skill depending on the particular area of expertise. Depending on discipline chosen, two skills are eliminated from the list of class skills to reflect opposing disciplines A discipline also offers a unique benefit that can range from being able to scribe scrolls via research (and skill-checks) or Trap Sense or the ability to offer his int-bonus as a luck bonus as an immediate action 1/day. The mechanics of these disciplines have been vastly improved and streamlined since the latest revision of the deductionist and while my first 2 drafts went on a tangent here, these rules have been cleaned up to the point where I can’t complain – kudos for doing so! A total of 11 disciplines to choose from are provided.
Deductionists also gain 1/2 class level as a bonus to knowledge-checks, 5 bonus feats, add int-bonus to damage when attacking exploited creatures with improvised weapons and pick up an additional trait at 3rd and 9th level and at 5th, 11th or 17th level choose a teamwork feat – the deductionist may also designate an ally within 10 ft. as a move action to count as having said teamwork feat for purposes of the deductionist benefitting from the teamwork feat. Said teamwork is especially efficient with the cohort gained at 8th level, offering benefits to both deductionist and cohort. At 7th and 9th level and later at 11th and 13th level, deductionists may choose from two limited lists of rogue talents.
At 10th level, deductionists may use their accumulated, indexed knowledge in conjunction with the expenditure of reason for 3 distinct ways of increasing skill checks and at higher levels and the deductionist may use knowledge checks to get rid of enchantments. At 2nd level and at every even level after that, the deductionist gains a deduction (I assume either one or none is available at 1st level, but the pdf fails to specify so) from a list of 39 different ones available. Some of these deductions are exclusive to disciplines and since all of them are tied to respective knowledge-checks, careful attention must be given regarding the choice of Knowledge-skills. While the active ones usually require the expenditure of reason, there also are those that offer passive benefits which can be upgraded via using reason. From dazing opponents to fascinating others via monologues up to the ability of 20th level deductionists to lay low foes in sobbing heaps of self-pity and inflicting the new “distracted” condition, the deductions per se are AWESOME and ooze Doyle’s flair – allowing you to finally portray the brilliant mind using intellect as a proper weapon. And yes, learning to exploit undead, constructs and even elementals.
Beyond a CR 4 NPC deductionist, we also get favored class options for 16 races and 17 feats, which allow deductionists to e.g. impart negative conditions in lieu of receiving a bonus to hit versus exploited targets. Getting extra points of reason or making attacks versus exploited elementals count as bane weapons are just two of the new options available via these feats. A total of 13 wondrous items, from diving tubes holding air to cloaks mitigating fog and similar penalties to lenses enhancing the deductionist’s subtle clues-ability and gems that can act as a holographic tape-recorder/photographs – the items herein are pure gold regarding their utility: Glorious tools not only for players, but also for DMs to potentially make the respective investigations so much more complex. Have I mentioned syringes that can be used to replicate metamagic feats and apply the effects to potions? They are a great idea – but I have NO IDEA how they actually are supposed to work. Do they have to be used upon consuming a potion? If so, what action is using a syringe? Do they have to be drawn separately? Used in the same round as the potion? Prior to that? The text contradicts itself by acknowledging that 4 types exist, but then lists 5. This item is a great idea, but needs clarification and should be taken as an example of the hick-ups that sporadically plague this pdf.
We also get 3 new archetypes for the deductionist – the eldritch inspector loses improvised combat, but gain access to a slightly expanded bard’s spell-list (which may, with the musical theme, result in some necessary reskinning…). The Operative may be neutral and while restricted to cloth armor, they are masters of concealed weapons and gain sneak attack etc. – essentially, the operatives are less detective and more secret agent, which is also reflected by 4 exclusive deductions. Finally, Shadowed Avengers may be non-lawful, as long as their alignment contains a neutral component. They gain a masked persona and learn to track fugitives from crime-scenes, scuffles etc. via a special ability and are closer to what one would use to create characters akin to Batman and similar masked detectives.
Editing and formatting are this pdf’s one weak spot – from harmless guffaws like knowledge checks being called “knowledge tests” to the class-table missing information and deductions not specifying whether they become available at 1st level or not (and if so, how many are gained), there are quite a few rough edges here, some of which unfortunately negatively influence the otherwise concise rules. Layout is drop-dead gorgeous and adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with thematically fitting stock-art that makes for a perfectly fitting overall look – this pdf is, in one word, gorgeous to look at. The pdf comes with bookmarks, though I would have preferred more of them for a pdf of this length.
Author Matt Everhart has taken up a gauntlet that has been lying on the floor since the 3.X-days of old – create a scholarly class/detective that is actually fun and unique to play. And surprisingly, the deductionist WORKS. Superbly so, in fact -up to the point where I was constantly asking myself where this class had been all these years. This is exactly what I’ve been wanting for quite some time and definitely a glorious class – for me, as a private person, concept-wise, this is definitely a 5 star + seal of approval class…in concept and theme.
Unfortunately, I have to put my reviewer-hat on and start complaining – the class, as awesome as it is, simply features quite a few blunders and rough edges and starts to unravel a bit upon closer scrutiny – the rough edges in the wordings, the glitches accumulate – to a point where I’d usually rate this pdf down further. Some of the abilities just make not that much sense to me (a monologue can for example, affect creatures even if they don’t speak the deductionist’s language – some do specify the need to UNDERSTAND the deductionist, but not all of them do…) and more importantly – are skill-based. In case you’re not aware – there’s a reason why we don’t see that much of them out there – skills can rather easily be buffed into the stratosphere, but since at least the deductionist doesn’t use the skill-result as DCs to resist, that’s still okay, if not particularly elegant in my book.
I should rate this probably down further, but honestly, I can’t – while it does require some careful reading and some benevolent oversight on part of a DM, it still is an ambitious, cool take on the scholar class and simply does not deserve a lower rating. Whether the Deductionist works well for you is much more so than usual, a question of how your campaign works – for grim, relatively low fantasy settings like Ravenloft, for investigative APs like En Publishing’s Zeitgeist, this class not only works, but fits superbly with the tone and premises. Conversely, in a far out high fantasy setting, at least to me, the class comes a bit apart due to its system inherent focus on knowledge – much like Batman in JLA-comics, deductionists reasoning versus intelligent oozes (which is an issue, since oozes are exempt from being affected by several deductions due to being…dumb…) and similar far-out beings might make the class seem a bit like a fish out of water. Reasoning with aberrations and the importance of language in this context feels a bit off to me, but that may just be me. To give you an example for Paizo-APs – I can see this working superbly with CoT or CotCT, but e.g. LoF…not so much. Now that being said, this particular caveat is not something that will influence my rating, but still is something I’d encourage both players and DMs to contemplate.
In the end, the deductionist’s flaws make it impossible for me to recommend this as highly as I’d love to – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded won when you are going for a more high fantasy campaign, rounded up if you’re looking for a more investigative/low magic style – still, either way, encourage you to check this class out, especially if you tend towards a more low fantasy gaming that is not brimming with strange creatures – its flaws can be ironed out and in certain campaigns, the deductionist will feel more at home than many other classes and deliver fun galore. Hence, I’ll settle on a in dubio pro reo and round up for the purpose of this platform