May 112015
 

Gonzo

133412

This supplement clocks in at a massive 65 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages blank, leaving us with 60 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Wait, one note before that – this pdf comes with a second version that provides a 2-page layout, but for the purpose of page-count, I opted for the one-page version. Got that? All right!

 

So this book kicks off with a definition of what “gonzo” is – in short, it is an experiment in testing out the malleability of pathfinder, of providing weird ideas, in being somewhat bonkers. It also aims to retain the functionality of the system and maintaining enjoyment for everyone – hence also the first chapter, which defines a core aesthetic for the campaign and provides some rather sound advice for DMs – not only when using this book. Fun fact – the very first example of what this book is about is actually something I ran – a massive 80s-metal-inspired dungeon crawl with Blue Öyster Cult’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” in the background – theme and music conspire to make the game more immersive. Other sound advice herein pertains the “anything 20/1”-concept, which translates to awesome successes…and failures at tasks – and why not? I’ve been using exactly this in quite a few of my games for great effect. Gestalting is also touched upon (no WuXia sans monk-gestalt, righto?), as is the importance of terrain. The one thing I’d disagree on would be the “few and easy names” – then again, I have a private board for my group, including an ever-growing compendium of names, places and factoids.

 

The first new base-class herein would be the Craven – these guys get full BAB-progression, d10, 2+Int-modifier, good fort-saves and all proficiencies – a martial class in the traditional sense. The class, however, also is an expert-appraiser and suffers from its greed – the craven has a hard time turning down bribes and consuming valuable objects. Optional physical change, which include money-signs in the eyes and the like can also be added for an extra-level of weird. Mechanically, the craven can sacrifice up to his class level in gold to add a similar amount to the weapon damage roll of a single attack. At later levels, each such attack also spawns a wooden coin (a so-called discount token), which can be used as a substitute gold piece to power craven abilities.

Beyond that, he may consume gold by flinging it as deadly weapons at adversaries (scaling in level, btw.), eat it to heal himself (thankfully with a scaling, daily cap) and of course, receives quite a bunch of fitting enhancements regarding the acquisition of money – from the illegal to the legal venues. Higher level cravens can prevents death by paying hefty fees. The capstone nets him the midas touch and an array of talents allow for solid customization options that include using discount tokens gained. The class also sports platinum as a material for weapons etc. and certain class features interact with this precious material. Whether or not you like the craven very much depends on whether you as a DM wish to have very tight control over WBL – the craven can literally eat a party’s funds and requires a cooperative group; conversely, in campaigns with an abundance of funds, the craven’s commerce-enhancing abilities can prove to be too powerful; the balancing via gold just begs to be abused like crazy, with both healing and damage bonuses being ultimately less expensive than via similar one-use items. I get that, it’s kind of the premise of this class, but it does render this class very experimental Other than that, his mechanics are rather solid and, when handled with care, this guy can work as a pretty interesting, cool addition to a given group.

 

Next up would be the 10-level PrC Living Bomb: d8, 2+Int, 3rd level arcane spells prereq, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort and will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression, d8 HD. The Living Bomb gets a class feature that is indeed odd – they can combust spontaneously character-level times, dealing damage die in fire damage -equal to the HD used to power the explosion. A barbarian 1/wizard 5/living bomb 2 may for example use the class feature 8 times per day. Now each explosion is tracked separately and also adds the Int-modifier to damage- 1d12 barb 1/day, 1d6 wiz 5/day, 1d8 Living Bomb 2/day. Got that? Well, the more PrC-levels you have the more dice you add – at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the amount of damage dice available for each of the explosions is increased by +1. I like this ability and generally, its wording is very concise – though I still had to read the ability 3 times to properly get it – a terminology for the explosion die etc. would have helped here, but that’s not my gripe with this one. The ability takes a standard action and isn’t that powerful. However, it is a readied omni-evasion: “The living bomb is also reduced to dust as if by disintegrate. At the start of the living bomb’s next turn if he is alive he reforms and is staggered for 1 round.” This allows you to avoid just about anything with it – dragon’s breath, etc. And this would be too strong, wouldn’t it also eat the readied action. Also, technically, the reference to disintegrate is wrong here – the living bomb only takes a few hit points (minimum, btw.) damage and does not take the massive damage assocaited with disintegrate. Technically, when you are disintegrated, you also are dead, which clearly does not apply to the Living Bomb, so while the ability is clear in its intent and mostly concise, it could have been slightly clearer still.

 

Now what’s rather interesting is that the combustion leaves the living bomb staggered – and the energy build up is not strictly voluntarily. Indeed, these guys receive eruption points by using Empower Spell or by being subject to crits. Upon surpassing a threshold, they explode (painfully, I might add), unless they release the pressure before. Other than this, the living bomb is a specialist of making the most of Empower Spell – not only do the class specializations potentially get rid of the level-increase, they can also significantly increase the potency of the metamagic feat. Additionally, higher level living bombs may elect to deal cold damage with explosions, draw others closer with spontaneous implosions and add spontaneous combustion effects to creatures reduced to 0 HP (sans the whole disintegrate-thingy). Shaping the blast is also possible at the cost of power and mundane enhancements for disabling devices and creating alchemical explosives are also covered by the PrC.

 

The Living Bomb is very complex in its mechanics and if you haven’t noticed by now – the AoE-potential of these guys is SICK. A properly made character with this PrC is DEADLY – not per se due to the explosion/implosion tricks (though the chain reaction can be the ultimate mook-sweeper), but rather due to the Empower Spell-increase in potency. Now granted, 3 levels of spellcasting is a hefty fee, but I still maintain that you should be very careful about allowing this guy – the PrC is not per se broken, but it CAN be broken and provide some very nasty war-mage AoE-sweepers. On the other hand, it allows for an actually unique character concept/build far beyond what most PrCs can accomplish. So yeah – impressive, but, like the titular explosives, living bombs need to be handled with care.

 

D8, 3/4 BAB-progression, 2+Int skills, good will-saves and simple weapon/light armor proficiency – the mime base class does not, at first, look too impressive. Mimes also loose progressively the ability to create sound – later, they do not produce any and can even extend their silence to objects touched. Perhaps that’s my own thing, but I suddenly see creepy mime-serial-killers making an appearance in my campaign… This communication breakdown allows mimes to communicate surprisingly fast and well with their charades…a benefit that does not extend to other PCs. At 2nd level, the mime receives character level + cha-mod masquerade points, which constitute the resource of the class.

 

They also choose a masquerade, with an additional one being unlocked at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Each masquerade unlocks e.g. new class skills or proficiencies to be added, bonus feats and often, enabling tricks that help other characters – the rogue-inspired masquerade, for example, can increase the damage of other characters in a sneak attack-y manner. The interesting thing here is that the effects all deviate rather significantly from just copying the base class – which is the awesome part. Now where things get really odd is with neutral energy – mimes can channel the utterly absurd neutral energy – it provides temporary hit points and using it requires an odd gesture or the like as a swift action. If this gesture is repeated by an affected creature, the creature is healed for this amount. If not, the creature instead takes damage equal to the amount of temporary hit points left. This AoE-swift-action-control trickery can be significantly more interesting in play than on paper – especially if you’re using a lot of 3pp classes that utilize swift actions. Now where I have an issue would be the peculiarities of the wording and scaling of the ability – regarding wording, temporary hit points usually are not “destroyed” and a couple of strange rules-semantics choices made the ability more opaque than it ought to be. Secondly, the amount of temporary hit points is equal to the Performance bonus of the mime – and we all know how easily skills can be blown through the roof. Why not adhere to a more linear scaling of e.g. twice the ranks +3 for the class skill bonus? Would prevent undue escalation…then again, seeing this book, undue escalation may exactly be the intent here, seeing how the capstone also uses the total perform bonus…

For added complexity, mimes may at later levels combine multiple of these masquerades at once.

 

Mimes also receive a significant array of talents to choose from for further customization options. Walls of force can also be created, alas without specifying the action required. Temporarily duplicating combat feats in action is also pretty awesome, especially seeing how later levels do not require the mime to meet the prereq…

 

The Mime was a surprise -IRL, I do not like them. Other people consider clowns creepy, I always considered mimes worse. They give me the heebie-jeebies. This class, though, can be one of the most hilarious enabler-classes you can imagine – from the charade to the mocking, enabling tricks, a mime is a fun addition to a given table, alas also one that could have used slightly better streamlining in some abilities and rules semantics.

 

At d10, 4+Int, full BAB-progression and good ref-saves as well as uncommon weapon proficiencies, the next base class, the Punk, is in one word, awesome. Indeed, mechanically, the class may be one of the best choices for gestalting and certain high-flair concepts – why? Because these guys are melee-centric, yes – but their focus is very much on the vertical: They are masters at moving out of range after attacking, can expertly launch themselves into the air and deliver devastating attacks from above. They also learn significant parcours-tricks and can combine them with their fighting style and increasing base speed into a surprisingly fun class – oh yes, tagging, bonuses versus lawful outsiders etc. are all part of the deal, but even if you loathe the fluff, you actually get one awesome, mobile melee class here that can pull off unique stunts – like air-juggling foes, leaving impact craters when crashing down, etc. Even if you strip away the delightful fluff, this class pretty much makes for an awesome mobile fighter addition, including remaining in the air for short bursts – in game, this made Devil May Cry-style antics rather easy and played exceedingly well. This class is awesome and my only gripes would be some minor rules language hiccups – when an ability that only allows for attacks from above, for example, specifies ” The punk may only make an attack delivered after

falling or jumping from a higher surface.”, that may easily be misconstrued as a terrible restriction, when it pertains only “such an” attack, a “gravity gain” attack. Conversely, while it is clear that the ability means to say that the punk can execute an attack after falling on a foe, provided he has the action to do so, the pdf does not explicitly state this, rendering action economy slightly more opaque than it out to be. Conversely, the ability to launch 5 foot into the air on a successful attack should provide the caveat that this is not a 5-foot-step and that it does not provoke AoOs – the interaction here did cause some initial confusion at my table. Still, seriously, try this one – it can be exceedingly fun to play and provide “See what I did there”-moments. Two thumbs up, my favorite class from LRGG so far!

 

The penultimate base-class herein has the most badass illustration I’ve seen in ages (full color, more than one page viking/black-metal dude with a guitar that deserves being called a weapon…) and receives d10, 2+int, full BAB-progression, good will-saves and may utilize instruments, a bunch of which are provided, as weapons. A rockstar’s message increases in potency from cosmetic to significant and they may use perform in lieu of a skill, depending on their genre, with possibilities being pretty much endless. Someone has clearly been playing Brutal legend, for, as a standard action, rock stars may deal sonic damage to everything around them – via two abilities, rock-out and solo. Both look pretty much identical at first, but the combination possibilities with other class abilities differ – planning the two becomes important later in the class when the sequence of abilities used in a combat changes the benefits granted.

 

They may also substitute their perform check for AC as an immediate action while wielding an instrument – generally not a fan of this since it leads to minmaxing the skill and competing throws – personally, after some quick math, I’ll houserule that as a fixed value of 15 +Perform ranks + 3 + cha-mod for faster combat and less enticement to min-max the skill. The class also receives talents that allow the rockstar to essentially become larger than life and yes, the class also features a kind of second form with the stage persona and the capstone (how could it be any other song? “The Show Must Go On”)allows the rockstar to pretty much ignore all impediments but total annihilation to continue playing – just because he’s lost both arms does not mean he can’t play the guitar anymore. Kudos to anyone who got that Metalocalypse-reference and groaned. What can I say – I’ve played brütal legend thrice, am a goth and metalhead…how can I not like this class? The rockstar is solid, versatile and cool – I just wished he had a bit more exclusive talents, but I guess we can’t have it all.

 

The final class herein would be the Toon, aka “Who framed Roger Rabbit?” – the class. Toons get d10, 2+int skills, full BAB-progression, good will-saves and AC/CMB-bonuses that scale up to +5. Proificency-wise, they are proficient with all simple and improvised weapons, but with no armors. The toon may prestidigitate at will…and should. Why? Because the resource that powers his antics is laughter – by spending this resource, he can do all the Warner Brothers tricks you can fathom and do the impossible – however, pointing this out actually requires the toon to spend more laughter. The toon also becomes more and more like a caricature and can take ridiculous high falls. Also cool would be the gutterspace – whether its deep pockets or something similar, a toon can bring forth the oddest of items – with a chance of instead getting something rather odd. Other than that, an array of combat feats etc. make sure he can dish out nasty damage. Solid one, though the resilience factor of toons could have used more representation – as written, the class is pretty squishy.

 

The supplemental feats for the classes contain the obligatory +x limited resource class ability-array as well as e.g. more control for rock outs, options to stun devils in musical contests or reduce the speed of foes instead of dealing damage via rock out or solo. Pretty solid.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. Considering the imaginative, unconventional mechanics herein, the rules-language is also much more concise than what I’ve seen in “easier” mechanics. Layout adheres to, as mentioned, a 1 or 2-page standard and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks are mostly in full color, original and awesome.

 

Scott Gladstein, Thomas Lee Hornyak Jr, Christos Gurd, Dayton Johnson, Caleb Alysworth, Jeremiah Zerby – gentlemen, the acclaim Gonzo has received is pretty much well deserved. This is, indeed, at least in my book, the most refined Little Red Goblin Game-pdf I’ve reviewed. The rules-language with its eclectic concepts and innovative twists on the rules does not lazily recombine existing pieces, instead opting for something new with each and every class – and I love it for that.

 

At the same time, though, some of the classes herein can turn pretty problematic – the Craven in the context of WBL-deviations and the Living Bomb in particular can work superbly for some games, while being utterly broken in others, so careful consideration is in order here. Now at least partially, that’s a system-inherent issue, granted, but it does remain one.

 

Now the surprise of this book would be the Punk-class – I expected to hate it and instead love it to death, with a fitting reskin, this becomes in a fixture in my games and in the context of WuXia et. al, this will work just as well and might constitute a great alternative to monk-gestalting. Indeed, I’d seriously consider this class one of the best gestalt-options I’ve seen in a while. So yeah, people, I love this!

 

Now granted, I am biased towards the Rockstar and adore the concept, but kept on wishing its interaction and sequential gameplay reached the level of complexity supported by Interjection Games-composition magic – I will probably make a crossover class at one point. Nothing wrong here, mind you, just me preferring things a bit less straightforward…and the class essentially already has the sequential nature built in, so that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

 

So all’s fine and dandy? No, there are, as mentioned above, several minor issues in the rules-semantics that weigh heavily when used with the more complex of options herein – but then again, I honestly prefer innovation over perfection.

 

And there is the layout. The font used, a typewriter-style old-school font, makes reading this book harder than it ought to be…and it cheats. The font has no italicization/bolding and while class abilities are red and blocky and easy to distinguish, the lack of italicization for spells etc. has been excruciatingly annoying for me. It makes reading so much slower and required more concentration to read the class abilities – there is a reason for the formatting convention and this flaunts them. Especially when providing complex concepts like this book does, the nonstandard layout and formatting can make understanding some abilities harder than it ought to be.

 

So yeah, there you have it – the thing is disliked most was the font. The rules-issues, where present, still leave the RAI pretty much obvious. Now that being said, if you want an easy, quick conventional book, then this is not for you – this book is one of the most experimental books I’ve seen for PFRPG and I applaud its guts!

 

Do I recommend this? Heck yeah! Even if you just are looking for abilities and ideas to scavenge, this provides both in ample spades. While not every class is for every game, just about all of them could be reskinned to some extent and introduced to most settings and a distinct joy is evident on the pages – plus, I really enjoy the fact that none of the classes took the easy way out. Not one class herein could be mistaken for another class or archetype – they are resoundingly distinct.

 

No, this is not perfect or for everyone, but it is an exceedingly fun, innovative book – and while its font, glitches and slight balance-concerns here and there prevent me from rating this the full five stars. In fact, were I to rate pdfs only on their formal properties and not also for the benefits of their imagination, this would probably fare less well – Gonzo is pretty much a a diamond that still needs to be polished. I’ll still settle for a final verdict of 4 stars – while I firmly believe that the concepts herein deserve my seal of approval, the execution of the complex mechanics sports a tad bit too many hiccups for that and, depending on your personal preferences, you may consider the blemishes that are there to be more serious than I did. When adapting these classes for your game, you will probably need to do some minor tweaking here and there – at least I’d suggest doing so.

Still, in the end, I’ll take courage and innovation over retreading anytime and I encourage you to reward the designers for the unmitigated joy that oozes from these pages, for the high-concept ideas, by checking this out…

Now excuse me, I have a certain Devil May Cry-style class to reskin for the upcoming Hell’s Rebels AP…

 

You can get this innovative, unconventional book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Comments

  2 Responses to “Gonzo”

  1. Thank you for another thoughtful review! A class that eats gold, YES! As I read the review, the possibilities for re-skinning were exciting. Definitely not good for every game, but some really interesting possibilities for others.

    I already had an elevated opinion of you Endz,but referencing “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” has just earned you the Seal of approval! =)

    Keep fighting the good fight!

    • You know, the Psychic Wars are a thing in my campaign – War (the horseman) actually has vast armies of psionicists fighting the battle against the Dark Tapestry both in the planes and within the minds of the mortals on a metaphysical basis. And yes, there are a LOT of philosophical reasons for this. One of my players actually plays an agent of Lady War…

      Have I mentioned the legendary boogeyman that kills people by drowning them without water? They say, he looks like a down-on-his-luck beggar/alcoholic and that anyone close by gets a wheezing, almost locomotive breath? 😉

      ..
      .
      Yes, my campaign sports nigh countless amounts of odd concepts based on classic rock, metal, goth or industrial tracks. ^^

      Thank you for awarding your seal of approval, Elorebaen! 🙂

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