This installment of Purple Duck Games‘ „..of Porphyra“-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages, though it should be noted that these are laid out for digest-size. When printing them out, you can fit up to 4 on a single page, providing your eyesight’s good enough.
Anyways, we begin, somewhat surprisingly, with global rules for fighters in the Porphyra setting: Fighters get 4 + Int skills per level (a houserule I also use) and only take a -2 penalty when wielding weapons sans proficiency. If a fighter’s Intelligence is less than 13,, it is treated as 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites. They also halve the time to Craft armor, weapons and ammunition. Fighters can inflict lethal damage with unarmed strikes (but still suffer from AoOs). The one modification I have a problem with would be that two-handed weapons dealing slashing or piercing damage also deal bludgeoning damage when wielded by a fighter. This can make DR-interaction etc. pretty confusing and further devalues the two-handed bludgeoning damage. Also weird: They get a bonus skill point each level – I *assume* that’s intended to be in addition to the ones granted by the 4 + Int-modification, but it feels a bit clunky nonetheless.
Okay, so those global rules out of the way, let’s take a look at the archetypes herein! The first of these would be the anticavalier, who treats all two-handed weapons as though they had the trip special quality and they get +2 to Trip-attempts against quadrupedal creatures. 2nd level, they add the brace special weapon quality to two-handed weapons and +4 to CMD versus overrun. 5th level becomes a bit problematic, as they start treating two-handed weapons as reach weapons with -1 to atk, losing the penalty at 8th level. 6th level adds the deadly special property to such weapons. This replaces the bonus feats gained first, 2nd, 4th and 6th level.
The second archetype would be the giant killer, who replaces bravery with selective immunity against intimidation and fear caused by giants. 3rd level replaces armor mastery with (untyped) bonuses to Reflex saves and a dodge bonus to AC against a “larger creature’s area effects.” That’s problematic. Sure, the creature needs to be one size-category larger, but since you can play Small characters, what would be situational can pretty quickly become always-on – pretty sure that exploit for Small characters has not been intentional. Cool: Instead of making a secondary attack, the giant killer can move 5 ft. Okay, does that count as a 5-foot-step? I assume no, which means it provokes AoOs, which renders the ability less compelling. At 10th level, we have the capacity to overrun larger creatures, causing falling damage on successes – which is pretty cool, but the rules-language is a bit wonky, speaking of “giant humanoids” – does that mean the subtype? Or does it refer to a size category? No idea.
The immortal is an archetype specifically for the amazing Zendiqi ethnicity, one of my favorite cultures on Porphyra. The archetype is restricted to the planet-touched, genasi-races (i.e. those associated with the 4 elements) and zendiqi and these guys only get 2 + Int mod skills per level. They are proficient with light and medium armors, shields (excluding tower shields) and simple and martial weapons. The archetype begins play with a ramah, a special spear or longspear with a silver tip. At 6th level, this is upgraded to adamantine. The second item they get is the tiarah (a better name would have been nice), a sacred blinder that nets +1 to saves versus visual, auditory, sonic and language-dependant effects that increases to +2 at 11th level, but imposes -1 on Perception. This replaces the ability to make unarmed attacks lethal from the global rules. The archetype inflicts +1 energy damage with successful melee, ranged or unarmed attacks per 4 class levels, with the type depending on bayit or race. At 7th level, the archetype is locked into Leadership and can grant adjacent allies a +1 shield bonus that scales over the levels. Cool flavor, less than interesting benefits.
The janissary loses proficiency with heavy armors and shields in favor of firearms. He also treats scimitars as light weapons, falchions as a two-handed light weapons. Okayyy…that doesn’t work as written. Per definition, light weapons are used one-handedly and may be used in grapples. Two-hand wielding light weapons does not increase the Str-bonus to damage, so how does that interact with a falchion? No idea. Instead of bravery, the archetype gains a scaling bonus to saves vs. enchantments. Circular thrust’s ability-name has no5t been properly formatted and replaces armor training and mastery with a scaling atk-bonus while fighting defensively.
The Lone Wolf loses the armor training ability tree. When narrowly missed by an attack, the archetype inflicts minor damage on the target’s weapon (which is damn cool!) and takes unarmed/natural weapons into account. At 7th level, rolling natural 1s when facing these guys also nets this damage and an AoO. 11th level increases the damage mentioned and so does 15th and 19th level. At these higher levels, failed maneuvers can also trigger the ability, and a shield bonus or gaining the benefits while one-hand wielding a weapon complement this one. This archetype is the first herein I consider interesting – while I wish there had been done more with the engine, the idea is intriguing.
Pawns begin play with less starting wealth and only simple weapon/light armor proficiency. When gaining a bonus feat, they also gain a character trait, and are exempt from the limiting rule regarding multiple traits of the same category. 3rd level yields a scaling dodge bonus to AC 5th level nets a bonus to atk and damage equal to the difference between the character’s CR and that of the opponent faced – not a fan, since the ability’s pretty meta-gamey. 9th level lets him treat all simple weapons as a weapon group, which he may select.
The primeval loses heavy armor and martial weapon proficiency, but gains Improved Unarmed Strike. In a mind-boggling confusion, the archetype also gains slam or claw attacks (not codified) that sport a monk’s unarmed damage scaling. This shows a profound lack of understanding between unarmed strikes and natural attacks – they are NOT the same. 6th level yields an immediate action AoO-less combat maneuver when critting targets with a natural attack, which is upgraded to hitting at 10th level, provided both natural attacks hit. At 16th level, crits provide action-less maneuvers and one maneuver needs only one attack to hit.
Spellfighters add Knowledge (arcane), Spellcraft and UMD to the class skill list and lose proficiency with all armors and shields. They gain spontaneous spellcasting based on Charisma…of UP TO 9TH LEVEL, drawn from the sorcerer/wizard list. WTF. Or, as the pdf says: “Like wizards and sorcerers, spellfighters are 9 level spellcasters.”[sic!] – sure, they “only” get abjuration and EVOCATION spells, but really? The magus over there? He’s weeping in the corner, even before weapon group: touch spells wrecks the rest. The math of these already is wobbly; adding full BAB and it completely falls apart. Just NO.
The varonis gains simple and martial weapon proficiency, + one exotic weapon of choice as well as light armors, but no shields. They have a good idea: Adding damage to combat maneuvers. Alas, the rules-language of the base ability is a total MESS. “As a standard action, when making a successful combat maneuver check with which they also have an “Improved” feat, they may also add the weapon damage of the melee weapon they are wielding at the time of the combat maneuver.” As a standard action? Add “weapon damage”? I tried hard to puzzle out how this is supposed to work. I have not the slightest idea. I have a suspicion, but the rules-language is so messed up, I can only guess. While the ability tries to clarify bonus damage dice, it fails to account for magical special weapon abilities…Non-operational RAW. The archetype gains a scaling dodge bonus to AC, minor skill boosts, scaling atk and damage with AoOs and at 8th level, scaling DR…which also applies when making a Reflex save? WUT?
The elisud hybrid class is next. It needs to be LG, is a hybrid of paladin and fighter, has 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency in all armors and simple and martial weapons and shields, excluding tower shields. 1st, 2nd and every 4 levels thereafter yield a fighter bonus feat and treats class level as fighter levels for prerequisite purposes. The class gets full BAB-progression and good Fort-saves. They also treat Intimidate and Diplomacy as one skill, akin to the Middle Kingdom’s codionic knights – that was wonky back then and still is. How does that interact with skill boosts? Skill unlocks? 5th level nets Signature Skill: Sense Motive.
He also begins play with a morale bonus equal to ½ class level to Sense Motive. Okay, at first level, is that rounded down? They also get +2 to all saving throws – again, a morale bonus. And guess what: All morale bonuses of the class stack with each other. At 3rd level, they gain, bingo, a morale bonus to saves versus fear and diseases equal to ½ class level. At this level, they also get ½ class level + Cha-mod morale points, which may be expended as a swift action for a +2 morale bonus to ANY d20-roll, not only for the elusid, but also for an ally. Fun fact: Since they stack with each other, multiple elusids can do really ridiculous things…5th level yields +1/2 class level to saves versus illusion spells and spell-like abilities. I assume that to only pertain to illusion SPs. 8th level does that for charms, 11th for “chaotic spells and SPs”, 13th for “necromantic”…URGH. 17th level for evil and compulsions…The issues are so apparent. Beyond failures to properly clarify the effects, these abilities only yield boring numerical escalations.
5th level yields weapon training. 7th level allows the character to impose a minor scaling penalty on a threatened foe as an immediate action. 19th level yields DR 5/- while wearing armor or using a shield and the capstone prevents being unarmed when wielding an “instrument of justice” – whatever that’s supposed to be in the context of the class. It also renders immune versus alignment changes and being forced to violate them. Whoop-die-doo? This is the worst hybrid class I’ve read by PDG. It is BORING, has no identity of its own, is surprisingly wobbly for how basic it is…No. Just no.
The pdf also mentions the idea of feat slicing – i.e. halving the benefits of a feat, but gaining two instead. I don’t even have to explain why that’s a bad idea, considering the very basic notion of prerequisites etc….right?
Okay, so, next up would be new mundane pieces of equipment – like the Folly Kit – which allows you to heal 1 hit point as a full-round action, holding up to 100 hit points worth of healing. 300 gp., but still…Why isn’t this properly tied to Heal and Healer’s kits? There is a helm that grants a headbutt attack and lacks a damage type and treats it as a bite, which can be all sorts of weird. On the plus-side: Flammable clubs? Cool idea! Is it its own weapon or is it treated as a club? There is some coolness here, though: The concept of hybrid weapons with additional modifications is pretty cool, if explored only in a rudimentary manner– still, I’d like to see a book based on that idea at one point, though one that should get some very careful looks regarding balance.
The pdf closes with a section of magic weapon qualities and items. Here, we have gems like this: “An opportunist weapon allows the wielder an immediate attack on its opponent if that opponent rolled a natural 1 on any of its previously attempted attacks upon the wielder.[…] The wielder can make as many opportunistic attacks as there are natural 1’s rolled against him, but only 1 response attack per attacker.” I THINK I know what this tries to do, but the rules-language has some serious issues. Curving weapons further marginalize shields. Almost funny: The brand of balance, a blade that generates a constant antimagic field around its wearer. It’s a magic weapon. Yeah. It doesn’t work RAW. The spell reads: “Likewise, it prevents the functioning of any magic items or spells within its confines.” Pricing also is a bit weird in the section. And while there are other magic items here, I’ll cut this short right now.
The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze. Easily the best part of the whole deal!
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are pretty good. On a rules-language level, there is something left to be desired here, with quite a few wording issues that influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games’ 1-column standard with some nice full-color pieces, though fans of PDG may be familiar with some of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
After the fantastic “Witches of Porphyra” (get it!), the previous installment, and after reading Aaron Hollingworth’s amazing Vessel hybrid class, I went into this file with a smile on my face, expecting to find some cool material herein. The global rules sounded promising, providing some nice tidbits to modify.
I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. The archetypes are lackluster at best, focusing on bland modifications and when they don’t, they do not properly capitalize on their ideas. I consider not a single one of them to be compelling; there are some gleams of interesting ideas here, but they are few and far in-between. The hybrid class one ups that – it is insulting. As in 1-star- or-1.5-star-bad, with the only analogues being the early Wayward Rogues Publishing offerings – their later material is better, if still problematic. The hybrid herein lacks any agenda, identity or care – it is lackluster filler of the worst sort, a class that manages to be less compelling than both of its parents.
Unfortunately, the rest of the supplemental content doesn’t really improve that much – while the unmitigated low point of this book is the hybrid, the other material isn’t close to dragging this up to levels where I’d consider it possible to recommend this. I try hard to see the positive in even flawed designs, but this pdf’s content, for the most part, looks like the author simply had no interest in writing a fighter-book, cobbled something together and went on. The fighter needs good options. Interesting abilities. And there are some herein…but the execution of these is lackluster as well.
I am, as a whole, a fan of the class-centric installments in this series – there are some amazing gems to be found. This is not such a file. In fact, I’d strongly suggest skipping this one. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, saved to being rounded up by the bonus-pdf. Purple Duck Games deserves being supported: They give a chance to new talent and often deliver some really amazing books – the installments on samurais, witches etc. are awesome – get them instead. Heck, if you want to support the author, get his cool Vessel class instead. But steer clear of this one.
You can get this pdf here on OBS!
While this one wasn’t a winner, many PDG-pdfs are definitely worth it – you can support the Purple Ducks here on patreon!