Hybrid Class: Gestrati
This hybrid class clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 24 pages of content. It should be noted that the content is laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means that you can potentially fit 4 pages on one sheet of paper when printing this.
The gestrati is a hybrid of unchained monk and sorcerer and gains d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Fort-saves, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency in simple weapons. Important: A gestrati wearing armor loses his AC bonus (Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD, at 4th level +1, increase by a further +1 at every fourth level thereafter.), mudras, energy strike and somatic defense and mastery abilities. In short: You really don’t want to wear armor. The gestrati begins play with Improved Unarmed Strike and, I assume, the damage progression of the unchained monk – while the damage values by level for Small and Large monks are provided (kudos!), the ability and class table are curiously missing the damage progression for Medium-sized monks. While it is easy enough to look that up, this constitutes a slight comfort detriment.
Starting at 4th level, the gestrati gains Eschew Materials and gains spellcasting based on Wisdom at 4th level; curiously, that spellcasting is spontaneous, as with the sorcerer, but it is something to bear in mind, if you’re particular about attributes correlating to spellcasting types. Anyhow, the class sports its own spellcasting list that focuses on blasting and self-improvement: burning hands, jump, silent image, etc.; The class gains spellcasting of to 4th level and the higher level options include some potent tricks – force punch, fireball, haste, wind wall at 3rd level, for example, phantasmal killer, greater invisibility, elemental body I at 4th, to give you an impression. The spell list is pretty strong, so let’s see how it ties in with the class as a whole.
At 1st level, the gestrati gains the first of the mudras – mystical hand signs. While these provide benefits tied to spells, they do something I actually like: They affect the gestrati when he takes the total defense action. A gestrati can use mudras class level + Wisdom modifier times per day and they base saves, if any on spell level and Wisdom modifier. We begin with sanctuary and expand that at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter: 5th level provides magic circle against…, 10th nets repulsion, 15th mind blank and 20th level prismatic sphere. I really like mudras as a concept and tying them to total defense is really smart; however, I wish that the effects specified their duration; I *assume* that duration is 1 round, but as written, the ability is opaque – one could assume spell duration, one could assume “for as long as total defense is maintained”…this needs to specifically state that it only applies for the duration of the total defense action. Furthermore, while level governs the mudra in question, the ability RAW looks like it assumes that new mudras supersede the old ones; personally, I think there should be a choice here.
3rd level yields a ki pool with ½ class level + Wisdom modifier points. Starting at 7th level, the gestrati may expend spell level in ki points as a swift action to replenish a spell slot of that level; 10th level allows for the gestrati to expend 1 ki point to grant himself an enhancement bonus to attacks delivering spells via unarmed strikes, with the bonus equal to the spell level of the spell delivered. At 16th level, the gestrati can expend 1 ki point as part of casting a spell to increase the DC by +2. Alternative, the gestrati can expend 1 ki point as a swift action to increase the energy damage of the energy strike class feature by +1d6. Minor complaint: That ability, since it looks like it’s not tied to levels, should probably be listed before the unlocked uses at higher levels.
So, what does this energy strike feature do? Well, as a full-round action, the gestrati may channel energy into his fists. The type of energy is chosen at first level and is either acid, cold, electricity or fire. Energy strike attacks deal +1d6 of the chosen energy type with unarmed strikes or monk weapons; this damage increases to +2d6 at 11th, +2d8 at 17th and +2d10 at 20th level. Alternatively, the energy may be projected as a ranged touch attack, with a range of 10 ft + 5 ft/2 levels. I like this class feature, though touch attack is a bit overkill for a full BAB-class, even though the projection only deals the energy damage and thus isn’t too much. A couple of bad issues have crept into this ability, alas: 1) The ability lacks a duration. I have no idea how long the energy charge lasts. 2) Since the action is a full-round action and nowhere mentions attacks being executed, I have frankly no idea how it precisely works. The ability references strikes, but yeah…not exactly ideal. 3) Does the projection ability grant iterative attacks? I like this, but rules-wise, it’s a mess.
Starting at 4th level, the gestrati can use his somatic components defensively; as a swift action, the class can spend a ki point to cast spells sans provoking AoOs. This only pertains spellcasting, not any ranged attacks made with the spell. Interesting. At 14th level, this becomes always on while the gestrati has at least one point of ki.
The main defining feature of the gestrati class would be the lineage, the analogue of the bloodline. Lineage powers are gained at 1st level, 4th and every 4 levels thereafter. These abilities are gained in a linear manner. 2nd level, 6th and every 3 levels thereafter yield a bonus feat defined by the lineage in question, and gestrati use their class level as monk levels for the purpose of determining prerequisites. 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter up until 16th level yield a new spell granted by the lineage. These spells are bonus spells and may not be exchanged/traded. One note regarding bonus feat selection – these include Style feats, but oddly, not feats based on Style feats (a common misconception – since Styles require action expenditure and have a hard cap on active Styles, the follow-up feats that are based on them, are not classified as Style feats – hence the verbiage referring to Style feats may or may not be working as intended. I assume in dubio pro reo here.)
A total of 10 lineages are provided: Aberrant, Abyssal, Arcane, Celestial, Destined, Dragon, Elemental, Fey, Infernal and Undead. Here, I once again have some positives to remark, namely that the abilities granted by the lineages themselves are nice and tie in well with the existing ability arrays. To mention a couple of examples: The aberrant lineage, for example, allows you to stagger foes on a failed save when criting them with energy strike (the power of this one is hard to judge, as energy strike is opaque); higher level options allow you to expend ki to increase your reach, nets immunity versus sickened/nauseated, etc.; among the arcane lineage’s abilities, ki-powered SPs, gaining temporary ki for saving versus potent high-level spells (cheese-proof), properly codified anti-outsider attacks…there are some seriously cool options here. Slightly problematic: The dragon lineage lets you choose a dragon type and the associated energy – which must not necessarily correspond to your energy strike’s chosen energy…which makes the “chosen energy/your energy type”-verbiage employed by the lineage ambiguous. An analogue complaint may be fielded against the elemental lineage, just fyi.
The class comes with two archetypes: The anomalous prodigy does not gain a lineage, but adds +Wisom bonus damage with unarmed attacks (not a fan). Instead of the bonus feats granted by lineage, the archetype gains style feats – see my complaint above. The archetype does gain full class level + Wisdom modifier ki, and replaces the fixed lineage spells with cherry picking spells from bloodrager, magus or wizard – which is imho overkill. 20th level allows the character to mimic harmful spells via ki, which is pretty potent, but a cool capstone.
The second archetype, the yogic pacifist, must be LN or TN and loses Intimidate as a class skill. Their mudras increase their save DCs and gain a modified spell list based on abjuration and divination. Instead of energy strike, the yogic pacifist gains bonus nonletheal damage that may not be projected. While he may create items as though a cleric, that ability unfortunately does show a bit of ignorance regarding how crafting works.
We get 5 supplemental feats: Arcane Spell Dabbler nets a bloodrager, magus or wizard spell. Ki Escape is weird – it nets you temporary ki when a spell is at least half your gestrati level or higher. Yep, this means that, starting 19th level, the feat ceases to work. Magical Posturing lets you take spell level Dex damage to apply Silent Spell on the fly (Interesting!). Mudra master lets you make AoOs while using a mudra. Spell Ki lets you expend an unused spell slot to gain that spell’s spell level as temporary ki. Allows, with the level 7 ki pool ability, pretty much free control over spell slots and makes the class behave more akin to a point-based caster – interesting!)
The favored class options are as detailed as we’ve come to expect from Purple Duck Games, covering exotic and Porphyran races…though a couple of them are a bit weird. Anpur get, for example, additional mudra uses for one mudra…but the ability, RAW, does not track daily mudras uses for the mudras individually. I am also not particularly fond of the crit-roll confirmation-enhancers.
The pdf comes with a bonus critter penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr, the Draumrgeiss, a CR 9 goat that sparkles, with hooves seemingly glistening like platinum. The etymology of the name could be read as dream-goat, and as such, the array of oracle spells it can cast, the ability to view the dreams of the sleeping and the ability to bestow the gift of sleep on willing creatures makes for a nice, good creature. Cool bonus!
Editing and formatting on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-language level, the class and its presentation are, for the most part, crisp and precise…but the flaws at the core of the class abilities are big issues. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The full-color cover artworks of the pdf and bonus pdf are neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Aaron Hollingsworth’s gestrati isn’t a hybrid I was looking forward to, but that changed pretty quickly; the class does offer some cool connections between its abilities, has its own signature abilities, has a neat game of resource-management built-in…in short, there is a LOT I really, really like about this class. However, at the same time, it unfortunately suffers from some pretty nasty ambiguities in the core class features, of all places. This represents a big issue and while it doesn’t take much to make the necessary calls, RAW these still constitute grievous issues in the integrity of the class and how it works. This is a pity, as the gestrati ranks among the author’s cooler offerings and has all the makings of a really evocative class. As provided, it is nigh impossible for me to judge overall balance of the class, courtesy of the core class feature ambiguities. At the same time, what I can discern from the class, what does work, does so in a rather impressive and cool manner that I really enjoyed.
This is, to an extent, a bit heart-rending; the class has all the potential to be a really cool offering, but its flaws do drag it down, to the point where I can’t rate it higher than 2.5 stars, though I will round up for the purpose of this platform. With the caveat that GMs need to make the proper calls for this to work; if you do, you’ll get an interesting, fun and distinct hybrid. If you want a ready-to-play class, then round down.
You can get this hybrid class here on OBS!