Heroes of the Advent Imperiax
This installment of the massive Porphyra Player Guides/region-books clocks in at 64 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with no less than 61 pages – a massive amount, so let us take a close look at this book and what it offers!
As always, we begin with a well-written piece of introductory prose that establishes one thing from the get-go, in case the cover was not ample clue: Within Porphyra’s patchwork regions, the Advent Imperiax is very much science-fantasy-country! The first thing that comes to my attention would be the dhosari and the erkunae among the races – those following my reviews or Porphyra will note that these races have been featured before in Feh’rs Ethnology. However, much to my pleasant surprise, the quadribrachial (4-armed) dhosari have been cleaned up – they now explicitly state their magic item slot rules and have been fitted with some restrictions to render them more palpable regarding their power; alas, compared to the two other, imho better balanced 4.armed races I know of (The Tretharri in Legendary Planet’s Player’s Guide and AAW Games damn cool Hoyrall), they still overshoot the powerlevel by means of their arms. That being said, this still is the most refined iteration of the race so far, so kudos!
The damn amazing Erkunae race, another favorite of mine from the ecology-series similarly makes a return here…and so do the half-orcs. Wait, what? That’s supposed to be a new race? Well, yeah, because in Porphyra, half-orcs are actually half orc/half-elven. They gain +2 Str and Dex, -2 Wis, dakrvision 60 ft. elven immunities, +2 to Str-checks to break objects and sunder, +1 to Bluff, Disguise and Knowledge (local), count as both orcs and elves and also gain orc ferocity as well as weapon familiarity with both orc and elven weapons and proficiency with longbows, greataxes and shortbows…making them, as a whole, a very strong race – personally, I think they’re a tad bit too strong and that less, frankly would have been more here. I also prefer the racial attribute bonuses to be half physical/half mental instead of generating a racial lopsidedness towards some pursuits, but that is a design aesthetic gripe -as a whole, I enjoy the fresh angle that half-orcs have in Porphyra.
Femanx would be a ruthless meritocracy of aliens that have exterminated the males of their species. They gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, suffer -2 to saves versus diseases, are Fey with the extraterrestrial subtype, get low-light vision and +2 to Perception, get a +1 deflection bonus to AC and CMD if their Cha is at least 12 and are naturally psionic, gaining Wild Talent at level 1 as a bonus feat. Additionally, 1/day, they can ego rend a target within 30 feet as a standard action, causing Cha drain, but also dealing Con-damage to the femanx; upon reducing a target to 0 Cha, the will of the being is broken and he can no longer distinguish between the will of the femanx mistress and his/her own. They also gain familiarity with nets, bolas, bowguns and Alien Weapon Proficiency as a prereq…more on that later. While they look powerful, the ego rending ultimately is a flavor ability (that should specify whether it’s psi-like, supernatural, etc.) and the race does suffer from cold vulnerability…which makes it an interesting race I have no complaints against. Humans under femanx dominion get their own stats, including a drawback and generally can be considered to be a nice tweak.
Alluria Publishing’s ooze-race, the squole, have been tweaked to be included here as well – they have been stripped of the ooze type and updated to conform to the half-ooze subtype and received some tweaks to their original iteration, including an increased blindsight range. As a whole, I was never a big fan of the mechanical framework of the race (My favorite ooze-race being Interjection Games’ puddlings…), and am not too keen on this revision either, but from a balance point of view, the Advent Imperiax version is better balanced, tighter and more up to date with the evolved Pathfinder racial design aesthetics…so fans of squoles, take a look! What is this? You haven’t heard about either the half-ooze or extraterrestrial subtype? There’s a reason for that – both are introduced herein and presented in a solid manner, though they imho should be featured in the race-section -as written, their rules can be found after the powers, which is an unnecessary page-flip there.
It should be noted that alternate racial traits or age-height or weight tables are not included for the races here, which is an unpleasant oversight. The traits provided for the races, while solid, should denote their trait subtype, though I do assume “Race” as a default.
All right, so these uncommon races would be the main demographics in the Advent Imperiax…so what do we find there?? Well, at one time, a gigantic Femanx vessel traveled the lightless void between the stars…and its remnants, even after crashing, can still be found in the region known as Advent Imperiax, being the foundation for the three major settlements of the region. Beyond a full-color map, the region also provides proper settlement statblocks for these places. The region is governed by a triumvirate of two Myxiir and the Myxiax, the latetr of which is an honorary position, usually awarded to long-serving beings and mainly employed to resolve conflicts. Froma society point of view, the femanx have ties with the Opal Throne of Erkusaa and thus sport quite a few dhosari slaves; similarly, non-femanx in the realm tend to be slaves, second-class citizens at best – a delightfully cheesy nod towards 70s scifi aesthetics suffuses this aspect of the realms, though it is certainly more diversified and critical than you’d expect from the originators of the trope. From the capital of Myxhadriax to Yhadris-Fhas, the industrial center, to finally Yhadri-Izhaaf, the “gate” or trade city established as a kind of fantastic frontier’s city, the metropolises are captivating places and employ a variety of cool settlement properties beyond the standard, handily reprinted from your convenience here. A total of 12 fluff-based NPC-descriptions with signature gear, but sans full statblocks, allow you to develop the aspects of the region to your liking and provide a general guideline.
Now, as always in these books, we also receive an array of crunchy class options, the first of which would be the 10-level faceless agent PrC, who receives d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and 6+Int skills per level. These beings require studied combat as well as a power point reserve and skills as well as feats gearing them towards a more Stealth-oriented gameplay. They may, at-will, detect psionics and gain metamorphosis 1+Cha-mod-times per day as a psi-like ability; at 5th level, two such uses may be expended for major metamorphosis instead and 9th level lets them expend 3 to duplicate true metamorphosis. The class levels of the agent stack with investigator levels for the purposes of inspiration, investigative talents, studied combat and studied strike, allowing for full synergy here. 2nd level provides full control over as which alignment the agent detects (awesome!) and also +2 to Bluff and Diplomacy along the option to employ Diplomacy to improve attitudes up to 3 steps instead of the usual cap of 2. The class also nets uncanny dodge at this level. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide an investigator talent as well as Urban Tracking. 4th level lets them expend a move action upon using studied strike or combat to create a distraction for Stealth. Additionally, the level allows for the expenditure of the metamorphosis psi-like ability (not properly italicized here) to grant herself a bonus versus hostile polymorph effects. 5th level nets Hardened Mind and improved uncanny dodge, 6th hide in plain sight and 7th increases metamorphosis-duration to 10 minutes/level (again, not italicized properly). 8th level nets the benefits of escape detection (raised and lowered as a standard action) and allows the class to use the shapechanging tricks as a swift action when employing studied strike/combat. 10th level makes the shapechanges permanent and also provides basically a Will-save version of evasion. I…actually really like this PrC! The psionic shapeshifting investigator? Yep, that’s a PrC I can totally get behind!
Femanx cavaliers may elect to become LostHome outriders – proficient with light and medium armor and shields, and is erroneously, but descriptively called otyugh outrider in the proficiency-section…for they actually gain an otyugh mount. Yes, mount statistic provided. Yep, otyugh mounts at first level are exactly as nasty as you’d think they are…personally, I consider them too strong, but the fact that they can’t be used for mounted combat until 4th level and the growthspurt there does help at least a bit regarding damage output. Teamwork feats are automatically granted to said mount and the character also receives Pack Flanking as a bonus feat and 4th level unlocks Mounted Combat instead of expert trainer. However, the class does lose the whole tactician sequence of abilities. 5th level nets a favored terrain that increases in potency every 5 levels thereafter, where also a new favored terrain is chosen. The archetype is locked into the new order of the imperiax, taking away the one central choice of the poor cavalier. The cavalier and her mount add +10 ft. when moving towards the target of her challenge and she also receives a scaling damage bonus. As order abilities, being a community defender and a swift tracker are gained and 15th level unlocks Act as One. On a plus side, this is a nice option for novices that don’t have much experience tweaking mechanics: The lack of choices and relative power of the archetype makes this a solid pet-class option without much requirements for finetuning.
Dreads may choose the new proving mindlock terror to mind probe foes and investigators may become masters of disguises via the appropriate talent. Absolutely something I *REALLY* wanted: The machines spirit for the shaman, which is basically the Warhammer 40 K guy who talks to the ghosts in the machine, with full technology guide compatibility and appropriate spells and hexes. Plasma shields. Channeling energy to “heal” machines or clockwork/robot entities? The gearforged and robots will love you! And no, I have no issue with plasma damage, consiering that the fire/electricity-blend has been around since 3.X and its relative power as a composite energy is properly taken into account in the balance of the option. The metaphysical rogue receives only 6+Int skills per level, but does receive Autohypnosis as a class skill -and if you know that skill, you’ll realize where this goes: Yep, it’s basically a decent little take on the slightly psionic rogue. The dread archetype herein would be the Questioner, whose proficiencies (flails, hammers, saps, whips…) and ability to cause nonlethal damage basically make them a sufficiently neat take on the psionic torturer/inquisitor. The primeval rager may only be employed by squoles, since its mechanics are reliant on the elemental composition trait – nice way of tying a racial component into an archetype. The sworn guardian brawler would be a solid take on the bodyguard trope. None too complex, but functional.
Now the pdf also contains a plethora of feats – though frankly, I am not sold on all options herein. there would be, for example, the utterly weird Alien Weapon Proficiency. Which renders you proficient with an alien weapon. The only reason why this is not an exotic weapon would probably be to lock the weapons beyond the confines of the feat more securely and prevent exotic weapon specialists from employing too many of the alien weapons, but ultimately, I think this feat may be unnecessary. The pdf also features options for the races to enhance their signature abilities, including gaining fortification for squoles, better ego rending for femanx, rendering foes struck critically via devastating touch shaken or sickened…there are quite a few solid options here, though my favorites here would pertain the synergy of technology and psionics: With the right feat you can affect constructs via mind-affecting powers…which is VERY strong, but locked behind enough feats and requirements to make it feasible sans being overpowering. Weaving secret messages into bardic performances similarly is a damn cool one. The psionic focus of the supplement continues, just fyi, with additional psionic powers: A HD-based aura of intimidation, a touch that may only affect living psionic beings and damages them, leeching power points and a concussive weapon fo force may be nice…but where the pdf basically enters the “must have for some campaigns”-territory is the nice streamlining of no less than 10 spells dealing with technology etc, all converted to psionics with appropriate augments. Kudos!
The pdf does not even remotely stop there: Instead, the book continues to provide items for us: From otyugh dung as fertilizer to the unique herbalism associated with the extraterrestrial Jhoila tree, this section provides some seriously flavorful options. Similarly unsurprising, but very much appreciated would be the array of drugs provided here: They all obviously have somewhat medicinal uses…but also nasty drawbacks. The aforementioned alien weapons provided are on par with nice exotic weapons and have some cool properties: From the hooked miniature version of the branches of aforementioned trees to daggers with springloaded spreaders that are hard to remove, I have no issues here. The theme of technology is further enhanced herein as well, with 2 suits (including an exoskeleton and a simpler skin suit) and a neat array of weaponry provided: From gravity gloves and hammers to stunstaves and basically stunning phasers that deal nonlethal damage and electrocuting nets, the weaponry featured here is fun and neat. In a nice twist, we actually get some neat full-color artworks for several of them – cool! The pdf also contains natural healing enhancing pods, checkpoints that may detect items, auras, etc. tear gar [sic!] – should be “gas” as per the item description grenades, slave collars, sensory deprivation tanks, stasis coffins…notice something? These items and weapons basically are the “oppressive, dystopian scifi regime”-toolkit par excellence and I love them for that – so much cool ideas here…
Psionic weapons and items can also be found – like suits that allow you to phase out of grapples, manacles that punish escape attempts, psionic femanx skinsuits that allow for the limited sharing of psionic/metapsionic feats among the legionnaires, periapts that allow for the detection of psionic beings presents…or what about a weird liquid that sharpens your perception and nets you fast healing, but also makes you vulnerable to light? Oh, and have I mentioned the disturbing monolithic terror engine? It becomes more awesome still: We receive several unique femanx vehicles, from wastecarriers to repulsor sleds and the repulsor field engine as a new means of propulsion comes with its special array of mishaps. I love these vehicles! Speaking of loving something: The pdf concludes with tables upon tables that depict and collate the items available in the Advent Imperiax, with prices and by category, providing a massive, concise shopping list for the GM. Such locally available lists add further depth and identity to regions – so kudos for that. Finally, the pdf offers a CR 5 metaphysical rogue, a CR 10 faceless agent, a CR 7 sword guardian and a primeval rager, a CR 9 questioner, a CR 11 shaman and a CR 6 LostHome outrider. All characters provided come with some nice NPC background to supplement their statblocks.
Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – there are some minor formatting hiccups here and there and while rules-language is concise as well, some cosmetic hiccups are here. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ two-column standard with Purple highlights and the pdf sports several nice, original pieces of full color artworks and the piece of color cartography’s neat as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Treyson Sanders is a very technical designer – he has a gift for finding niches and filling them and this one shows that. However, it also represents a great development towards high-concept ideas. In short, this is a glorious 70s-scifi-cheese toolkit, if you wish to employ it thus. Still, I couldn’t help but wish this was two books. Why? Because, while the races adhere to roughly the same power-level, they, the class options and feats just didn’t elicit total excitement from me – they are good and can be considered to be roughly n the 4 stars-range, with the PrC being my highlight here.
However, as soon as you go to the vehicles, the items and the psionics/technology-crossover bits, the book suddenly becomes frickin’ amazing. The blending of psionics and technology is lovingly crafted, thematically extremely concise and will see ample of use in my games. Beyond that, this section provides basically an amazing scifi-dystopia-toolkit in checkpoints, enslavement devices and worse, allowing you to use the material herein in a much, much darker context…again, something I will definitely do. In short: Of all Porphyran “Heroes”-books, I have never encountered this much material that really made me want to use it, even outside of the context of the region. This second section is amazing and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval – come on, there’s even herbalism and drugs in here! And vehicles! WTF! Alas, I am in the annoying position of having to rate the book as a whole and while I consider about the half of it as a must-buy recommendation, the rest is nice, but falls a bit flat in direct vicinity of so much awesome. Okay, let’s do it like this: If you are neither interested in psionics or technology, you may consider this ~4 stars and probably should get one of the other books in the series; if you’re like me, however, and primarily interested in the item/psionics-technology-synergy, then you definitely should get this guide. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars…and though I cannot round up for the purpose of this platform, I can add my seal of approval to this book for the awesomeness that is within these pages.
You can get this massive, densely packed guide here on OBS!