EZG reviews Psionics Augmented Vol. I
In a display of superb customer-service, Dreamscarred Press offers the bonus-content scored from the Ultimate Psionics-hardcover-compilation-book as its own pdf, so let’s take a look, shall we? This pdf is 78 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a whopping 75 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
We kick off this supplement with new races, first of which would be the Forgeborn – Half-constructs (the type is reprinted from the ARG) that have been engineered from people blended with what seem to be mineralized growths – thankfully setting them distinctly apart from the huge array of different construct races already available for PFRPG. They get their own (Forgeborn)-subtype and attribute-wise +2 to Str and Int, -4 to Cha, get +2 to saves against fear, +1 natural AC, may be resurrected (unlike other half-constructs), may get a power point as a favored class option and get wild talent (or psionic talent when starting as a psionic base class) at first level. They also get the “Slow but steady” 20 ft. base speed, but are not impeded by armor or encumbrance. Solid race with a unique fluff that is rather reminiscent of the Elan (regarding their mysterious creation) – Nothing to complain.
The second race herein would be the Noral – who as a race have forged a symbiotic relationship with beings called Erliss (or dreamscar – namedrop!) and are rather enlightened, neutral diplomats and savants of other cultures – an interesting take indeed that also aesthetically should have some scifi-buffs out there smile. Plus 2 nerd-credibility points from me if you can deduce the imo obvious inspirations for the race. But back to their qualities – the Noral are Humanoid (Noral) subtype-wise, get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, +2 to saves versus diseases and mind-influencing effects, may 1/day exhaust their symbiote to add 1d6 to one d20-roll prior to rolling, can manifest 1/day mind thrust at 1/2 character level at a DC of 10 + power level + cha-mod – which is weird – why not simply state 11 + cha-mod (power level being 1)? Oh well. They also get +1 to Bluff and Diplomacy and learn +1 language per rank in linguistics, may opt for power points as favored class options, get low light vision and gets either wild talent or psionic talent for free. The race comes with information for those who reject the symbiote and thankfully, both forgeborn and noral feature the all-too-often forgotten age, height & weight-table. The Noral overall feel a tad bit strong to me, but not to the point where I’d start complaining.
After this, it’s archetypes – archetypes, archetypes and even more, you guessed it, archetypes. I’ll try to be brief with them to keep this review from blowing the 10-page mark, okay? Right, so first we have the Blues: These psionic goblinoids may opt to become Annihilator Aegis that allows the blue to count as medium when in suit, may burn power points for boosts to str and con and later even absorb critical hits – however, no augmenting or cannibalizing the suit for these aegis! Telepath blues may opt to become Dominators, who have an easier time controlling and manifesting versus those that have failed against their mind-influencing effects. They also have an easier time keeping tabs on their thralls. Alchemist Blue may opt to become Mutators, who have more volatile (i.e. random – you roll dice) mutagens and also mutagens that penalize melee attacks with 1d6 fire damage. While the intention of the discovery is clear, the wording “Anyone striking him with a melee weapon while under the effects of this discovery takes 1d6 points fire damage.” could be misread as meaning that the attacker has to be under the effect of the mutagen. While no big glitch, since the alternate interpretation I mentioned makes no sense, still a case for rephrasing. Finally, mutators may enlarge or reduce person via his mutagen. here, the two effects have not been properly italicized and the ability fails to specify an effective manifester level for the effects, though I assume the standard alchemist level.
Next up would be the Dromites, who get the Empty Caste Ninja – bred as executors of the Queen, these dromites may select their elemental affinity and, from the text, I gather they can circle it7switch it – but I’m not sure, for no action-type is given. They may expend this racial ability to charge weapons with elemental damage and use ki in turn to replenish their racial ray and also learn cloud mind later as a ninja trick. A rather powerful archetype that needs some refinement regarding its signature ability. Dromite Tacticians may become Swarmers: Not only do these make flanking even deadlier, they also learn a strategy that allows them to sync two creatures so they may occupy the same space – awesome idea there! Dromite Cavaliers may become Vermin riders – riding giant wasps, scorpions or mantis into battle and may share minds, enhance their mounts by expending their psionic focus and at high levels, even share hit points, potentially preventing death.
Duergar Vitalists may become Lifemongers, who may deal non-lethal damage as a touch to members of their collective, healing themselves and gaining additional temporary hit points. Furthermore, they may influence the sleeping and even instill temporary madness at higher levels. Duergar Cryptics can become Ravagers, who are particularly efficient versus intelligent foes, but pitifully weak versus non-intelligent adversaries. They also have a wis-damage causing reflexive array of abilities protecting them versus mind-influencing effects. Perhaps the weirdest of the Duergar-archetypes herein would be the Sleeper’s Guardian, a paladin-archetype (!!!) that learns to manifest powers, instead of detect evil, acts as a foil versus chaos and gets an aura that automatically penalizes foes within 10 ft of the paladin by WIS-MOD to attacks and damage. Yes. Ouch. While this replaces divine grace, the distinct lack of saves or SR makes this ability easily exploitable and one in need of proper revision.
Elans may opt to become ascended psions, replacing their discipline’s power-list with a custom list and making them, alongside their other abilities, rather predisposed for the role of secret agent – hiding from spells/powers and improved disguise help a lot here. They also are masters of telekinetic force. The Menteur-rogue is a con-man and as such, gets superb bonuses to bluff (and is also adept at disguising) – rather excessively powerful is the 6th level ability, which allows you to determine a location and 1/day as a standard action teleport there with up to one additional creature touching him/her – sans provoking an AoO. Rather powerful. They may also learn a type of minor metamorphosis as a rogue talent, but sans enhancements the power usually conveys.
Cryptic Elans may now become Pattern Wielders: These beings may transfer tattoos to their weapon, henceforth getting int-mod to damage. Not a fan since stacking two attributes to atk or damage always ends up offering a tad bit too much of an edge for the character in question. They may also temporarily lock powers to empower their powers or fling tattoos as ranged short-range touch attacks.
Forgeborn get a new cavalier-archetype, the Forgesteed Rider. Their mounts are like their riders, requiring neither sleep nor sustenance and the riders may share their challenge-bonuses with their steed and their steed can also be temporarily enhanced. At 8th level, the archetype gets rather powerful: As long as either rider or steed have more than 1 hp, the other being takes the excessive damage. Forgeborn Fighters may become Ironborn (unfortunate nomenclature – that’s Rite Publishing’s construct-PC-race) – the archetype gets less armor check penalty as his form bonds with armor and also a slam-attack as well as even limited DR while wearing armor. Forgeborn Tacticians may become Unifiers – and these guys are intriguing: The Unifier can replace a part of their own and their ally’s flesh in a modified version of their collective-ability – allies thus joined in may benefit temporarily from basic Aegis-enhancements. Neat blending of abilities! The Unifier may also telekinetically create an aura on him/herself that makes terrain difficult – per se cool, but the field can be used 3+Int-mod times per day, but no duration for the effect is given.
Half Giants may opt to become Kinslayers – as the name suggests, that means they’re specialists in slaying giants and they replace spellcasting with a fixed array of powers. They also may share their favored enemy bonuses with their companions. Okay, I guess, but overall rather bland. The second archetype would be the Thunderjarl for the Psychic Warrior class – and this one is actually rather cool – taking a cue from the boisterous viking that charges with bellowing laughter into battle and can shake the very earth, this archetype works exceedingly well on a fluff level, combining good uses of stomp and a specialization on the psionic weapon-feat. More defensively-minded Half-Giants may opt to become the War Hulk Aegis-archetype that is limited to the juggernaut-form and gets devastating smash attacks and deadly ranged ectoplasmic throws.
Maenad Wilders may elect for the Banshee-archetype – they may select additional elemental powers, but use them with the sonic-damage-type exclusively and also emit screams as their surge blasts, which may daze opponents. Relatively cool energy-type specialist archetype here! Disciples of the raging Sea are a type of Monk – one cool one: While benefitting from their racial outbreak, they actually may use rage powers, which they can gain in lieu of monk bonus feats. Rather damn cool archetype here! Maenads of the Reaving Raiders, a career for rogues, learns to channel the racial outburst into bull rushes and even making foes temporarily flat-footed. Two thumbs up for this uncommon take on the seafaring archetype!
The Norals may choose to pursue the path of being a pacifist, a sub-type of Vitalist who can deal non-lethal damage via a touch and even make hostile foes pause for parlay; Cool to see in an often rather bloodthirsty array of classes one that could quite conceivably be held to the highest ideals of goodness. Peacekeeper Telepaths may use their psionic focus to deal non-lethal damage as well and they learn special augmentations to daze and stun adversaries. They also require will-saves to be successfully attacked at 8th level – the save being rather high. Not sure whether I like that particular ability, since it heavily penalizes some foes. Still, I do enjoy the fact that via the expenditure of the psionic focus that maintains the ability, the Peacekeeper may extend said protection to allies for 1 round. The last of the archetypes for the Noral would be the Shadow Hunter, an Inquisitor archetype that is particularly perceptive and may mindlink quite often. Furthermore, they can recharge their mind thrust via the burning of spells -which means that they can SPAM mind thrust like crazy. I’m not sold on this final ability – doing instead of almost unlimited mind thrusts something with the lost solo tactics or teamwork feats would have been a more prudent (and fun) playing experience, I think. This way, it feels much like a one-trick-pony.
Ophiduan Egotists may opt for the path of Fleshbinder – they get a familiar that gets psicrystal-like abilities, heal the familiar by merging it into his/her body and DOUBLE the duration of psychometabolism powers s/he casts on allies by expending his/her focus. Wait, what? Come again? Nah, not gonna happen in my game. They may also have a power lie dormant in a target and then trigger it by expending their focus – SANS maximum range. Planar boundaries, teleports etc.? No obstacle. This needs a range-limitation – perhaps a VERY long range, but a range nonetheless. Also rather sick – the Fleshbinder may enter bonds at high levels with allies to offer them select benefits like his/her familiar, but at the cost of permanent con-damage while the bond is maintained. Especially share spells (powers) is VERY strong at this level and I’m rather positive that my players WILL find a way to break this ability hard-core. Psychic Warriors may become Scaled Riders – they get one of the reptilian Karaan as mount. She/He also gets a permanent bond with the mount and the mount gets its own focus at higher levels, one usable by the rider – while this may seem boring on paper, from experience I can tell you that additional psionic foci can be an insanely useful asset. So yeah, a good trade for the weakened access to warrior’s paths. The final archetype for the Ophiduans would be the Serpent Lord druid – even though it uses psionics, it’s YET ANOTHER serpent-themed druid. LAME.
The Xeph-race has Clan Warden inquisitors – one boring archetype to defend communities sans any intriguing options – mostly what you’d expect: better class features when defending community etc. Also, one of the abilities has not a properly bold-printed name. The second archetype would be the mobile knife for the marksman – an archetype that makes throwing knives and daggers more valid, offering bonus damage as momentum is used for additional damage. The archetype also learns to have knives return etc. – as lame as the first one was, this archetype is rather cool, also thanks to properly upgrading/expanding the xeph’s mobility. The final racial archetype would be the Xephyr, a specialist soulknife that may form a xephyr knife soulknife and also expands movement, but requires kinetic powers (i.e. to have moved) to utilize psychic strike to its maximum usefulness. Nice tactician’s (not the class) archetype. Also kudos: Information on combining the archetype with the Gifted Blade archetype is given.
No, we’re not done with archetypes yet – we’ve only covered the RACIAL archetypes – next up are the class-based ones, so let’s get pumping: The first archetype, the Arcane Mind, starts with a typo (a double “N”), but concept-wise is interesting – they require verbal and somatic components, suffer from arcane spell failure…and for that, their abilities are harder to identify and they can surpass resistances easier. Ähem…why would anyone take this? The benefits gained are rather paltry and the penalties significant. Perhaps it’s majorly intended for DMs who want psionics to work more like arcane magic. The Cannoneer marksman can essentially be described as a gunslinger/marksman-crossover – don’t expect any grit, though. The Contemplative Wilder loses surge bond etc., but may rotate powers they may use in a limited way. This is one of my favorite archetypes herein so far, since it modifies the base class to an extent that results in a completely different playing experience.
The Aegis may learn to fuse his/her psicrystal with his/her armor, and the crystal actually may use its actions to dish out ranged attacks and we also get 5 new customizations! Cool archetype! Fearmonger Dreads use wis instead of cha for intimidate, powers etc. – okay minor variation on the dread. The Feral Heart soulknife archetype is rather intriguing -allowing for less customization and claws instead that upgrade over the levels, they also get a scaling barbarian rage-like ability and to offset the lost flexibility, the Feral Heart may choose unique blade-skills: Rend, Pounce and similar killer abilities among them -awesome, especially when opting for a psionic wild child-style character/savage warrior. Two thumbs up! The Vitalist of the Intercessor Method is a savant of social skills and may get telempathic projection as a bonus power (lacking italicization) and may superbly influence those healed by him/her. Additionally, these vitalists get some bardic abilities à la inspire competence etc. Again, a solid archetype. Lost Minds are Cryptics that have been driven insane by the power they have glimpsed at beyond the patterns of reality – with mad defense (haha) against mind-influencing effects, the option to duplicate symbols and 6 unique insights that are focused on dazing and hindering foes (even including a gaze attack), this archetype can be considered rather flavorful and well-made.
The Metanexus Tactician learns at 5th level to treat allies of his collective as origins for powers other than touch-range and even pool racial traits! And high-jack the senses (And line of sight!) of collective members – this DESERVES being called a Tactician’s archetype – smart and extremely cool! The Psychic Warrior gets the new Pathmaster archetype, essentially a psychic warrior that focuses excessively on one path to the exclusion of others. Okay, I guess.
But no, we’re STILL not done with archetypes – we also get archetypes for the non-psionic classes: Druids can now choose the path of Gaean. These druids can communicate telepathically with nature’s ally and they also double the duration of their spells, ignore e.g. verbal components etc. 1/day when in contact with nature – nice one! At 13th level, they may also merge with nature, upon being reduced to 0 hp to be healed – nice last second save ability, though it requires a caveat that it doesn’t work if an attack actually kills the Gaean. Rangers may choose to become Pack Leaders: These beings may treat up to wis-mod creatures as a pack, i.e. a collective of ½ tactician level, making them work better in tandem. Furthermore, at higher levels, telepathy among pack members and sharing spells is possible.
Clerics may now choose the new Psionic Domain, allowing them to emit a psionics enhancing aura and dispel psionic effects via a touch The Discipline subdomain allows for various benefits, from bonuses to saves and movement to a kind of flurry of blows, while the Dreams subdomain quotes and translates one of my favorite 3.X-abilities to PFRPG with lucid dreaming, allowing you to make alterations to reality as via the stone shape-spell – a pity, though, that finer alterations and creations ex nihilo are no longer possible. The Noetics subdomain is all about concentrating to move target objects and creatures, with the max weight depending on your class level. Sorcerors also get new tools in the form of the Psychic bloodline. These sorcerers get the option to hurl unattended objects around, fly and increase the potency of their [force]-spells. The Psychic Mage gets two opposing schools, but also Wild Talent – and, rather interesting, the Wizard archetype may learn psionic powers as spells, allowing him/her to cast them (and even augment them sort of) via the expenditure of spell slots. Weird, but ultimately very cool blending of psionics and vancian magic – two thumbs up, also since at later levels, they can use psionic foci to forego inexpensive material components or add verbal and somatic components to increase the oomph of their powers!
Paladins may now choose to become Purifiers, who learn to detect psionics instead of evil, smite aberrations and may clad their weapons in fire (which ignores immunity and resistance when combined with smite) and they also get access to the gifted blade’s list of powers – nice take on the psionic paladin! Barbarians may choose the Raging Beast archetype, which may manifest claws and bite while raging and get limited manifesting as a psychic warrior of ½ their level – okay, but somewhat bland fusion of barbarian and psion. Personally, I preferred the Feral Heart. Thoughtsingers are bards that can connect “willingminds” – yeah, blank space missing, to form a collective, which then benefits from their thoughtsongs – telepathic bardic performance plus some unique effects, essentially. Extremely cool, complex archetype with a capstone that allows them t plant mind seeds, but here’s another glitch -the power is not properly italicized – other than that, a superb FINAL archetype.
Of course, there is more content in here, for example…feats! And they do open up some neat combo-potential – for example take assassin’s shot for the marksman – when making a ranged attack that deals sneak-attack damage, you may 1/round activate one style ability that requires the expenditure of your psionic focus with actually expending it. Per se cool feat and laudable concept, but does that mean that shooting is enough or does the attack actually have to hit? What if a target is immune versus sneak attack etc., can the ability still be triggered. The feat is unclear about that and needs clarification.
Rather cool: Wilder/Barbarians may use 1 round of rage to forego the expenditure of their psionic focus when only using wild surge – only here being the key, otherwise you’d have me complaining right now. Also interesting: Deep Focus allows you to get a second psionic focus, but one that cannot be combined with Psicrystal Containment – great to see this potentially very strong combo excluded for an overall balanced alternative: 3 foci would have been a bit much… (And yes, I had a level 24 psion with 3 of them in the 3.X days of yonder – and it was glorious and insane at the same time…) There are also feats for combining fighter and tactician class-features, very overdue extensions of collective range (a must-have feat, imho), options to enhance class features of elocators, better disengaging, improved cover fire, a dread/cavalier combo-feat and one feat that allows a cryptic to apply full damage via disrupt pattern to targets, even if they’re not your currently chosen creature type. However, in order to take this powerful feat, you need no less than 6 skills à 5 ranks (though Knowledge (Psionics) lacks the proper amount of ranks required) – thus a significant investment to offset the drawback of the class.
Also rather neat would be a feat to combine alchemist bombs and the pyrokineticist’s talents (the latter can now also split the heads of his/her lash) or offer barbarian/aegis synergy. Psicrystal Imprinters of 5th level may use their resonance class feature to use metapsionic feats in lieu of their regular resonance effects – rather cool and thanks to the concisely-worded limitations, also not as easily breakable as you’d think. All in all, some very cool feats that help realize nice combo-class concepts and also provide some nice fodder for PrCs.
Thus concludes the player-section of this pdf. The DM-section starts with an immensely useful discussion on how psionics work that ANY novice DM not familiar with them should read. All the misconceptions, from augmenting to handling the nova-issue are detailed. Having followed x “Psionics are overpowered”-threads that stemmed from lack of proper rules-knowledge or just plain ignorance, this chapter should be considered a mandatory read for anyone planning to integrate psionics. Furthermore, it actually provides guidelines that allow DMs to use psionics and master for psionic PCs sans reading all the rules. We also get advice on introducing psionics to a given campaign and house-rules for limited transparency between magic and psionics and also a reskin for everyone that does not like the flavor of regular psionics – turning them into Rune Magic. I’m a bit ambivalent about that one, but I also like the base-fluff of psionics. We also get 2 new psionic powers (which should probably be in the player-section) and a new PrC, the Dark Tempest.
The Dark Tempests are secretive warriors, get d10, 2+Int skills, full manifesting/mind blade progression, 3/4 BAB-progression, medium fort-saves, 4 psychic strike enhancements over their levels and combine their levels with soulknife-levels for purposes of blade skills, feat prerequisites etc. They also get an expanded power list, though level 1 universally is NOT properly italicized. As an interesting fusion ability, these warriors may forego dealing psychic strike damage to instead power their manifesting – interesting indeed!
After this PrC, we get 2 new special armor qualities, 4 new magical armors/items (including one made from flayed human skin- ewww), 7 weapon qualities, 1 new special weapon, 3 new psicrowns and over 30 wondrous items await as loot to be dispensed among greedy players! And then, the Legendary Items-section begins – all items released in the “Psionic Items of Legend”-series so far have been included, which in turn means you’ll get a lot of powerful tools that improve with your characters. Since I’ve reviewed already all of them, I’ll point you just to the respective reviews and instead close this one.
Editing and formatting are okay at this length, though there honestly are more glitches in here than what I’d usually expect from Dreamscarred Press. The release of this prior to Ultimate Psionics is definitely a smart move, especially if they can iron out the glitches so that they don’t tarnish the huge hardcover. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous two-column full color standard and the numerous original artworks herein are honestly mind-blowing and beautiful – on the very highest of quality levels, this pdf is beautiful indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though the Psionic Items of Legend don’t get individual bookmarks, which is a minor comfort detriment, seeing that they span more than 13 pages.
Andreas Rönnqvist, Jeremy Smith and Eric Hindley have definitely created a worthy addition to the excellent first 2 psionics books, thankfully providing quite a bunch of new tools for the cool core classes and even cooler new ones introduced in Psionics Expanded. That being said, this pdf also features a significant array of editing glitches and wordings here and there that need some rephrasing to eliminate all ambiguities. You may have noticed that I have been particularly nitpicky this time around. Mainly, this is to improve not only this book, but the hardcover (which I wish I could have pledged for) in the end. Much like the Psionics Expanded series that was further and further improved when required, I’m confident that the rough edges herein will be addressed by the DSP-crew. For now, though, I can’t rate this supplement higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3, though I’m looking forward to an improved release and upgrading my verdict.