Jan 312013
 

107394-thumb140[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from Rite Publishing is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

So what are simple archetypes? Essentially, they are very short modifications that allow you to wilder in other class territories – in contrast to the more complex archetypes I prefer (which should ideally provide some unique new option at the expense of regular class features), these archetypes are more about small, minor modifications that nevertheless can totally change how a class plays out.

Alchemists may e.g. exchange mutagens for an arcane pool à la magus in exchange for mutagens, replace bombs with channelling energy and spontaneous cure/inflict spell-conversions, sacrifice discoveries for hexes or bombs and mutagens for rage (and select rage powers as discoveries). Where applicable, the gained class-features stack with the classes they originally belong to. Additionally, there’s a small archetype to allow the alchemist to gain the Hybrid (Ex)-quality: Starting at 5th level, you choose an additional favoured class and every time you gain a level in the class, your caster level and number of extracts known increase as if you had gained an alchemist level. Not sure whether I’m a fan of this light version of gestalt-ing, but the limitation of not being able to combine it with other hybrid-archetypes is at least a minor restriction. What makes this (and ALL other hybrid-archetypes) fail, in my humble opinion, is that they don’t demand any form of sacrifice for their benefits. Yes, they are applied to sub-optimal class-combinations and I guess it depends on your stance regarding that, but still, they leave a very sour taste in my mouth.

Barbarians may now opt to instead get Dex-bonuses when raging (having no AC penalty) and there’s one that enhances your Cha raging instead of trap sense. There’s also one that reward not raging with +2 to Str and Con at 11th level, +4 at 20th, replacing greater and mighty rage. Vindictive barbarians are people with anger issues – they can’t rage unprompted, but don’t get fatigued after a rage and we also get a barbarian that enhances worn traditional weapons/armour and be more effective with them.

Bards may become more scholastic at the expense of versatile performance, also walk aforementioned hybrid path, replace bardic knowledge with better sleuthing and replacing your spell selection with the inquisitor’s spell-list or sacrifice loremaster and bardic knowledge for martial training and the magus spell-list or become a fool who may start bardic performances as an immediate action upon botching.

Cavaliers can modify their challenge to last for a shorter duration, but allows him to change targets. They may also become immune to fear at the expense of banner and greater banner, replace banner and tactician (and the greater versions) to gain a bonus to will-saves versus charms, compulsions and fear effects and later inspire rerolls versus on-going effects of the above categories. There also is the option to play a faster rider at the cost of tactician. The coolest one, in my humble opinion, though would be the lame cavalier who gets a crippled landspeed, but may move fast while being prone. VERY cool to play veterans, characters à la Bran etc.

The elemental cleric is what you’d expect, though honestly, I think Rite Publishing’s divine channelled works better when geared towards elements. We also get, again, a hybrid archetype with the same issue of the others, a cleric that is alignment-neutral at the cost of energy dealing no damage. There’s also a cleric with just one domain that gets a mystery and honestly – we don’t need that. Mysteries and their revelations are the domain of the oracle, it’s what makes the class stand out versus the cleric. Overlap is, at least in my game, not intended, especially since the oracle needs the power it gains from them to stand up to the cleric – prepared casting, massive spell selection AND channelling are some hefty advantages. There also is a stern cleric-archetype, who is a hardliner of the chosen alignment, channelling energy that only heals those of his alignment as well as astern gaze.

Druids suffer from a glitch: the Arcane Druid is supposed to read “You cast arcane spells drawn from XYZ-spell-list instead of the druid spell-list” – as written, the ability says “You cast arcane spells drawn from the druid spell list instead of divine spells.”, which makes no sense. Or does it mean that, where applicable, we take the arcane version? What about spells that have no arcane equivalent? Can the druid still cast them? Do his spells count as arcane as opposed to the usual classification as divine? I’m puzzled. I don’t know which spell-list it refers to, rendering the archetype unusable. I GUESS the archetype means that the druid treats his spells as arcane, with spell failure etc. to offset the secondary ability, but honestly, I’m not sure. This needs clarification.

There’s also a druid drawing spells from the cleric’s list, another of those damn hybrid ones as well as a cool one: When summoning nature’s ally, shamanic druids may fall asleep to prolong the duration of the cast and channel spells through the animal, telepathically directing it. Cool! Not so cool: There’s a druid that replaces wild shape with the lycanthrope-template. Read that again. +2 AC, DR 5/silver, +2 Wis, -2 Cha, when in animal form +2 Str and Con PLUS curse and empathy PLUS the special qualities? COME AGAIN? This is broken beyond repair and needs to DIE. Wildshape is NOT worth a CR +1 template.

Fighters get better archetypes, like a manoeuvrability specialist at the cost of weapon training/mastery, 1/day at 3rd level +1/every 4 levels reroll of any save at the cost of all armour training, minor spell-storing at the cost of armour training/mastery, increased saves vs spells and improved skills at the cost of armour training and mastery and a cool one, that allows you to determine special combat feats and grant them to allies threatening the same foe as you do in melee. Neat!

Speaking of neat: Gunslingers get some of the best archetypes herein: There’s an anachronistic gunslinger who gets some temporal anomaly abilities at higher levels as well as a laser gun working only for him, the clockwork repeating crossbow-slinging one for all people who don’t like blackpowder in their fantasy, a gunslinger who can’t use other weapons, but is capable of wielding his gun in melee and a gunslinger sans misfire chance as well as one who has his grit refreshed not by daring and stunts, but by simply resting.

Inquisitors get an arcane archetype that suffers from the same issues as the one for the cleric. They may also opt to forego teamwork feats and solo tactics for access to mercies and lay on hands or touch of corruption and cruelties. They can also opt to gain revelations from oracle mysteries at the cost of domain, stern gaze, solo tactics and teamwork feats and there’s a version who can draw upon the summoner’s spell list instead of the inquisitor’s, this, in contrast with the arcane archetype, works as written.

Magi may now opt to blast foes with wind from their strikes at range (VERY cool), gain especially good synergy with the bard and cast like one, again one of those darned hybrid archetypes, while scholarly magi learn a limited amount of wizard spells at the cost of a multitude of abilities. The Warrior Magus is all about gaining the martial aspects of the class sooner and at the cost of arcane power.

Monks get archetypes with synergy with the rogue-and inquisitor-class as well as an archetype that treats its unarmed strikes as two-handed and is build on vital strike etc., hitting not that often (no flurry), but hard. There is also a short archetype that is all about agility in place of stunning fists and a mage-killer, who may detect magic, see the invisible and gain appropriate bonus feats – my favorite of the monk-paths herein.

Afflicted Oracles suffer from either one of two curses and honestly, I’ve seen the idea been done better in another publication. There’s also an oracle that replaces mysteries and revelations with a bloodline. The blessed oracle, in my opinion, doesn’t get what an oracle is about: Replacing mystery spells and curse with the ability to expend unused spell-slots to grant a bonus to an ally equal to the level of the expended spell. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the ability. But the curse of an oracle is what defines the class more than anything else for me and it is not only a benefit, but also a drawback that, depending on the curse, could mean various differences regarding the relative power-gain. Not my cup of coffee, though this gripe won’t fracture into the final score. There’s also an oracle that can cast druidic spells and yet another of those damn hybrids.

Paladins may opt to become rather trimmed on the lawful side (haven’t seen that one before…), change targets of smite evil, opt to become a multiclass inquisitor/paladin with judgment and smite-synergy, a cavalier/paladin-multiclass with challenge-synergy or take the ranger spell-list instead of your own.

Rangers may opt to only get one favoured terrain, but change that every day (NICE) and the same can be done with favoured enemy – again, neat! There’s AGAIN one of those weird arcane archetypes. There’s also an archetype that counts you as having all spells on your list for activating spell-completion or spell-trigger items and an archetype especially wary of danger, traps and the like.

Rogues get a variety of archetypes that makes them faster, improves combat expertise, exchange temporarily sneak attack for a minor bonus on atk and better feint, but the archetypes require you to get trapfinding as a rogue talent if you want it. There’s also a minor shadowdancing going on, but honestly – we have the PrC for that one.

Sorcerers get again one of those hybrid archetypes, one that allows access to the metamagic adept power at the cost of all bloodline spells, a material eschewing sorcerer at the cost of all bloodline feats, one that instead uses the witch’s spell-list and one that lets you cast spells from wands and staves as if they were on your spell-list.

Summoners may opt to focus on summoning animals, replacing the eidolon with animal companions that also gain later access to minor evolution points. There’s also one that makes disguising the summoned eidolon as mortal easier, yet another of those damn hybrid archetypes, a summoner who replaces his eidolon by adding the advanced template on summoned monsters and counting them as eidolon and one who conjures a shadowy eidolon.

Witches may no opt to use Cha instead of Int and gain social skill competences for the restriction of needing to take the charm-hex, replace patron and familiar with an arcane bond and take combat feats as hexes. Interesting! There’s another hybrid there, btw. Wilderness witches replace patron and familiar with druid spell list and animal companion – why not play a druid then? There’s also a wis-based witch who may opt to cast her spells as divine spells. Yeah, no penalty, nothing. FREE armour-casting everyone! That is just BROKEN.

Wizards suffer from yet another hybrid archetype, get the option to use a witch familiar instead of a spellbook, one with school resistance versus a prohibited school, a wizard that does not gain bonus spells from an arcane school or gain an opposition school, but may opt to change them each day and finally, a wizard/magus-synergy archetype.

The pdf also provides one racial archetype per non-human core-race, available exclusively for the respective races: Dwarves may exchange their favoured class for an extra skill rank a level that must be put into Craft (Weaponsmith) and at 6th level, they get the master craftsman feat. Elves may opt to replace their favoured class by treating all bows as if they had weapon focus and treat their levels as fighter levels for the purposes of the latter versions of the weapon focus/specialization feat-tree. Half-elves may exchange their favoured class option for yet another skill rank per class-level, while halflings can opt to get improved and greater steal. Finally, Half-Orcs may replace the favoured class with +BAB bonus hitpoints.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any typos. What I did notice, though, is that the arcane-archetypes herein universally need a clarification. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column standard and the artwork is stock, but fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This pdf admittedly is a hard sell on me – I’m a fan of complex options and complex archetypes, much more so than of the admittedly useful “class x, but with feature of class z”-types found mostly herein. However, as a toolbox, the latter are extremely useful and thus, I was also looking forward to reading this pdf. And on the one hand, author Eric Morton doesn’t disappoint – this is a nice toolbox-collection of simple modifications that allows for a wide variety of class feature combinations. What I don’t get, though, is how the hybrid archetypes could slip by: I get the reasoning: When multiclassing, keep on developing aspects of one class. Got it. But at no expense? Replacing nothing? That’s a power-gain equivalent and above a feat FOR FREE. That’s broken in my book, even if it usually refers to class-combinations that are not that efficient. And worse, it can be found for the majority of classes. Also, the arcane archetypes, again available for many classes need clarification on how exactly they’re supposed to work. While I can GUESS it, I’d like to be sure.

Don’t get me wrong, per se, this book is useful and features some really nice ideas, with especially the gunslinger archetypes and the lame cavalier standing out for me with unique and interesting mechanics. But there is a lot of filler in here as well: With the repetition of the broken hybrid and arcane archetypes and boring been-there-done-that law-instead-of-good-paladins, we get a tad bit less than what the author obviously is capable of. And then there are simply broken ones that crept in here and there like the wis-based, divine casting witch. These are few and far between, though – still: There are enough to, with aforementioned issue, impede the usability of this pdf, not by much, but it does. As it stands, I can’t rate this higher than 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Nameless Nil, the Beggar of Self is available from:

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