EZG reviews The Plaguewright: Lord of the Microscopic
This pdf clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
So what is the Plaguewright all about? Well, basically, we get a 3/4 BAB-progression-class with good fort and will-saves, d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and syringe spears, light and medium armors and shields and when wearing shields with which the character is not proficient, it will decrease action economy efficiency of loading syringes. Now the name Plaguewright may sound awfully negative, though one should be aware that this class, as a pioneer in biology and its application in warfare, can just as well be used for good -so no, not an evil-only class.
Plaguewrights compartmentalize these weapons in containers of different sizes that hold the microbe-containers. Plaguewrights begin play with one vessel and receive another vessel at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. They also receive 1 vial at 1st level and the class receives +1 vial every level. Their difference is in container-size. A vial can contain enough culture to fuel one syringue, whereas a vessel can contain 1/2 class level +Int-mod uses.
The cultures made require a minimum intelligence score of 11+number of filled mutation slots of the given culture. The save-DC for the respective culture varies on the basic strain used. While plaguewright cultures refresh daily, they do not require sleep.
Now I mentioned strains – the Plaguewright begins play with 3 strains known and at 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the plaguewright receives an additional strain. Plaguewrights also begin play with 2+ Int-mod mutations and learn an additional mutation every level.
Got that? All right! So what type of methodology do these cultures adhere to? Essentially, cultures have 1 mutation slot and increase the amount of mutation slots by +1 at 4th level and every 4th level thereafter. Now here’s the catch – microbes don’t grow on trees. Well, all right, they actually do, but generating cultures actually takes a bit of time.
Now since attacking (and delivering) with strains of microbes via syringes requires precision, the class also receives the scaling ignoring of DRs and as a capstones, removal and changing of mutations becomes twice as effective.
The class comes with full FCOs that also cover exotic races like puddlings, hobgoblins, kobolds, and the plane-touched aasimar and tieflings. The pdf also includes 10 different feats to further enhance the options available of the plaguewright. Faster mutation-application, increased DCs and additional mutations and strains, improved vial capacities, making hybrid strains and reloading as a substitute for an AoO etc. – quite a nice array of nice options.
Strains generally can be grouped in benignant or malignant strains (though one can be categorized as either) and the same holds true for mutations. All of the respective strains and mutations count as supernatural effects and supernatural diseases that bypass immunity to mundane diseases – otherwise, e.g. adding a mutation with the mind-affecting descriptor renders the whole culture mind affecting. The system is relatively easy to grasp. Some strains have cumulative save modifiers that actually increase, durations and symptoms – and some of the mutations are terminal; Essentially, they are the end-game effects and a separate supernatural ability to the respective culture.
So what about those strains? Take the Barbaris-strain – a benign bacteria, it provides temporary DR to the target – and duration is an interesting component here – benign strains tend to have their duration measured in an interesting way: The recipient saves every round and upon a failed save, the effect ends, but a maximum duration prevents infinite buffing exploits. Increased temporary hit points, being enabled to temporarily “fly” by making jump-like saunters, getting roid-like str-enhancements.
Among the malignant strains, we have those that cause nausea, shortness of breath, confusion -dex-damage-causing, crashing all strains and mutations for painful damage…bleed-inducing elephantitis, a virus that makes the recipient treat all creatures as if they had been subjected to a mirror image-like effect. Higher level malignant strains can induce heart-failure (with a cool mechanic – exhaustion for x rounds, once rounds elapsed > HD, the creature dies), cripple casters, mind-control parasites that make the recipients suicidal and classic flesh-eating bacteria – there are quite a few rather nasty and versatile options. Of course, as you could probably glean from these, Interjection Games’ unique effects can be found herein as well – what about e.g. a damage-dealing strain that grows a nodule of skinsack, which can then be harvested as a rather effect healing potion? Yucky, yes, but also rather cool! On another level, it should be noted that the respective strains sometimes modify the amount of mutations that can be applied to them for further concerns in the customization department.
Now you should remember – these examples only covered a selection of the base strains – so what can mutations accomplish? Well – for example, they can affect creatures adjacent to those infected by the syringe at the cost of mutations applied, there are mutations that can decrease the amount of AoOs the target can perform, those that bypass even immunities to supernatural diseases and negative conditions, susceptibilities, an euphoria-inducing bliss (which translates to temporary hit points) – all of these modifications are fun to play with, but where things get REALLY nasty would be with ones that end in a terminal cloud that may infect adjacent targets – crafting a micro-epidemic of effects may actually work out for Plaguewrights that handle their craft well. Of course, similar synergy effects might also be achieved for buffing strains, though it should be noted that these imho benefit more from symptoms – when e.g. your infected ally not only benefits from the primary effects of the strain, but also kicks off with healed attribute damage? Or a fast healing added to the effect? Chances to ignore precision damage? The smart combination of a basic strain, symptoms, regular mutations and terminal boosts to e.g. atk can make for rather interesting effects and the same holds true for the possible combinations of offensive strains. Now I can see the central question – all fort-save based? Well, it’s my pleasure to tell you that there are mutations to make the saves will instead.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf’s artworks are thematically-fitting stock art. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, which is a slight comfort detriment.
Bradley Crouch’s Plaguewright is a very interesting concept – a debuff-warrior kind of akin to the glorious Maestro; I.e., a highly-customizable class that allows the player to tailor-make the buffs and debuffs of the given culture to make truly unique effects. Unlike more common options of buffing/debuffing, the sheer amount of customization and daily uses and the option to combine, realign etc. so many components makes optimizing the class interesting and allows for quite some versatility to make the right tools, for the right job. The respective strains and mutations offer for a neat array of fun options that should allow the player hours of fun in making new and unique tools to vanquish foes. Both strains and mutations are easy groups of abilities to expand for the enterprising DM (and potential future supplements, should there be any) and Interjection Games’ trademark unique abilities, none of which just lamely duplicate established spells, just add a piece of icing on the cake.
Now not all is perfect here, though – the pdf could have been more precise regarding the mechanics of growing cultures with applied mutations and costs for applying syringes to other weapons (with hardness for sundering etc.) would have made this pdf even better, as would have bookmarks. These nagging points out of the way, this should not be deemed a significant detriment – the Plaguewright is still a glorious, unique class with a significant array of innovative options that, most of all, is a unique playing experience – hence, in spite of the minor flaws, this is well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.
You can get this cool class here on OBS!
If you want mastermind Bradley Crouch to design class-options (or even PrCs/archetypes!) for you – you might wish to check out the Strange Magic Kickstarter that expands some of the coolest magic systems currently available for Pathfinder – it’s in the final hours! Here’s the link to the KS!