EZG reviews New Paths: Expanded Battle Scion
This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So. Another gish-class. I can’t say I’m too excited by the prospect, but author Marc Radle has already created the revised Vanguard, which ranks among my favorite takes on the concept, so let’s take a look: The Battle Scion gets d10, full BAB-progression, good fort-and will-saves, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in light, medium and heavy armor, shields and simple and martial weapons AND may cast spells while in armor from the very first level without arcane spell-failure chance – thankfully still specifying regular spell failure chances for spells granted by other classes. Starting at 4th level, Battle Scions get access to arcane spells of up to 4th level, which they cast as a prepared caster via Int at caster level battle scion level-3. Furthermore, starting at 4th level, they also count as fighter of battle scion level -3 for the purpose of qualifying for fighter-only feats. They are very much advertised, and correctly so, as a kind of arcane paladin-style class.
Thankfully, though, the class also gets some signature tricks to pull off – namely a deflection aura (which is not particularly powerful) and more notably, the power to throw so-called forceblasts: Usable 3+Int times per day, these are essentially big singular magic missiles that automatically hit for 2d4 damage, scaling up to 8d4 at 19th level, making this essentially a warlock-style, force-damage slinging class. Honestly, I’m not too big a fan of those automatic hits, but the strict limitation on how many times per day it can be used serves as a balancing factor. Of course enhancing one’s weapon via an array of magical qualities as a standard action is also part of the deal and makes for melee versatility as one would expect from an arcane/fighter-class.
The pdf also comes with an archetype called Force Blaster, which enhances said blasts – for once, the archetype delivers +2 uses via a bonus feat and also allows the blaster to do unique things with the blasts: First of all, the class may use move actions instead of standard actions to fie these blasts and at higher levels, fire two of the blasts simultaneously and even fire them as swift actions at level 11 and above. Finally, the force-blaster can deliver push and trip combat maneuvers via their blasts – and honestly, the whole archetype, while a cool idea, is problematic to me – the damage the maneuver-enhanced blasts deal in combination with the guaranteed hit feels like a bit too much for my tastes – while the average damage the blaster can deal may not seem too impressive, automatically hitting AND the fact that the maneuvers can be initiated essentially sans fear or repercussions make this archetype feel slightly too strong for my tastes – depending on the power-level of your campaign, you might want to take a VERY good look at this one before allowing it.
The second archetype is the bonded scion, who makes his weapon an arcane bonded item and may enhance his bonded weapon, later even using his blasts to enhance his weapon to make it especially lethal against incorporeal foes. Where the blaster feels a bit on the strong side, the bonded scion feels a bit weak – especially the weapon-enhancement could have used some added versatility in my opinion.
We also get 5 new feats that range from extra blasts to enhancing arcane strike, the arcane aura and the arcane bond and make it even possible to awaken arcane bonds. The two rather complex feats that scale and add to the arcane bonded item’s prowess are nice indeed and after that, we get what I consider a great additional offering: Legendary items, i.e. magical items that get stronger over the levels: The regalia of Gax the Great ( an homage to Gary Gygax?), the first Battle Scion: His armor, shield and longsword are depicted and allow the owner to e.g. expend spells for additional melee damage, dispel foes when striking them etc. – I’m a big fan of legendary items and the inclusion of them is, at least for me, a great benefit and should make this particular section also relevant for characters of other gish-classes.
The pdf closes with a handy prepared spell tracking sheet, though honestly, I don’t consider said sheet to be too useful – a column for range, targets etc. would have gone a long way there.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, since the only glitches I found have since been ironed out. Layout adheres to a 2-column, full-color standard with original artworks (which are nice to look at, though not mind-boggling) and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
So…is this pdf worth its asking price? It ultimately depends. The battle scion is the third prepared gish-class I’ve read and its design-goal of delivering an arcane paladin can be considered accomplished. Though whether that’s enough depends on the person you’ll ask. the magus is essentially more on the casting-side than the martial side, whereas the battle-scion is the other way round – a fighting class with an array of arcane spells. And honestly, that’s where I’m not 100% sold. To me the magus is a kind of paper-tiger – deadly, but also relatively fragile in melee, whereas the battle scion is much sturdier – and the battle scion may learn ALL spells from the sorceror/wizard-list. Only up to 4th level, granted, but still, that’s quite a bit of flexibility when compared to non-gish martial classes. The closest analogue would probably be that the magus is a razor, the battle-scion (especially the blaster!) being more of a sledge-hammer.
It’s hard to put into words, really, but I feel like there’s something off with the class, something that makes me a bit weary – whether it’s the full BAB, the heavy armor casting at first level or the array of automatically hitting force projectiles (which can be quite OP at low levels!) or just the combination of these components – the Battle Scion works, yes, but it does so while leaving me with a modicum of unease. At first level, for example, the Battle Scion severely outclasses the Magus in damage-dealing potential (via blasts and better BAB) as well as AC and while later the Magus gets arcana and spells to offset the imbalance, the Battle Scion retains a massive, all but guaranteed source of damage via his blasts. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t harp as much on them, but even with a 15-point build, you can easily get 6 blasts at first level without sucking in melee- that’s 2d4 per round for a total of 12d4 over 6 rounds – damage that next to nothing can avoid or negate at this level, while even blaster sorcerors are stuck with 3 level one spells (+1 when assuming also a Cha of 16 analogue to Int 16 for 6 blasts) + bloodline. Yeah. the full caster is at low levels a worse blaster than the battle scion AND can’t hold a torch to it in melee. Outclassing the blaster-class in a given level is NOT a good sign when you also can fight on par with the melee characters AND wear heavy armors from the get-go.
While at later levels these issues tend to balance out, I consider the battle scion at lower levels to be unbalanced. “But Endzeitgeist”, you say “Marc Radle’s Vanguard also gets a similar blast and you didn’t complain about that one!” Yeah, you’re right – do you know why? Because it remained a standard action and couldn’t be executed faster – and the forceblaster archetype gets rid of this action-economy-balancing. Because you couldn’t execute the blasts that fast – and because you could prevent them by separating the vanguard from his weapon – no weapon, no blast and a way for people to deal with in-game knowledge with the threat of the class. Additionally, the Vanguard only has a 3/4 BAB-progression, making it not shine as much as the Battle Scion does in melee.
Overall, the Battle Scion, at least to me, is slightly off on the power scale. If you do have a campaign on the conservative end of the power-spectrum and especially at low levels, the Battle Scion will be problematic. Is it broken? No, not horribly so and at mid levels and above, it actually works very well. But at least in my opinion, it will outshine fighters AND casters at low levels and also its Magus-pendant and thus I consider it overpowered. Now the supplemental information, apart from the blaster archetype, is great, but honestly, I can’t help but feel disappointed in the class. Author Marc Radle’s Vanguard-class is imho superior in balance and personally, I won’t allow the Battle Scion anywhere near my table until my PCs hit at least 6th level. That being said, in high-powered campaigns, the class probably won’t shine as much, though the points I brought up still remain valid – prepare for disgruntled martial characters and sorcerors at low levels when allowing the class beside them. I know my players would have taken severe issue when outclassed in their hometurf by a mixed class.
My final verdict thus, unfortunately and in spite of overall solid ideas, will clock in at 3 stars – unless you already hand out wands of magic missile like cookies. If your campaign is high-powered, then the Battle Scion will find its place with you and deliver a solid execution of the idea of arcane paladin.
You can get this class here on OBS!