The Illuminator’s Handbook

The Illuminator’s Handbook

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


After a brief introduction and explanation on how to use this book, we move on to new class options, the first of which would be the astrology hedgewitch tradition, which nets Knowledge (Geography), Knowledge (planes) and Perception as class skills and the Light sphere as a bonus magic talent. As a tradition power, these gals may project a so-called celestial aura as a swift action, which affects all allies (including the hedgewitch) within 30 ft. and lasts until dismissed – only one such aura may be projected at a given time and it increases the lighting levels up to normal. 4 types are included, of which you must choose 2. Moon nets an untyped (should probably be typed) bonus to Fort-saves and replenishing temporary hit points. Planet nets resistance to either fire or cold, with class levels added as scaling device. Star grants an untyped Perception bonus as well as a scaling initiative bonus (ouch) and Sun adds fire damage to weapon damage rolls, 1d4, +1d4 for every 5 class levels. Personally, I think that Moon, Star and Sun are significantly stronger than the other two options. The tradition secrets, 5 of which are presented, allow for the expansion of the aura radius or the ability to gain another aura. You can also gain an oracle revelation from the heavens mystery, modify the light-level of the aura…and the final one, the grand secret, lets you project two auras at once. The tradition mastery increases your character level by 5 for determining aura potency and lets you change auras as a swift action. A new hedgewitch secret lets you dabble in the tradition.


The pdf also contains archetypes, the first of which would be the glass-eye gunmage, who replaces Knowledge (local) with Knowledge (arcana) and Sleight of Hand with Spellcraft. He must also swap out two deeds of his choice, one at 1st and one at 3rd level. Instead of the first-level deed, he gains Lens Array, which nets a Perception bonus and allows for grit-expenditure to reroll Perception. The 3rd level deed lets him ignore penalties to Perception for being distracted or asleep and may expend 1 grit at the start of battle to not be treated as flat-footed. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the gunmage gains (lens) talents from the Light sphere, treating class levels as casting levels and using grit as a resource. EDIT: Big kudos to Amber Underwood and Drop Dead Studios – the previous issue in the lens-talents has been fixed, which means that the archetype works properly now! 😀


The radiant paragon shifter replaces Handle Animal with bluff and gains the Light sphere at 1st level at full CL, as well as the Touch of Light drawback. This replaces animal empathy. The archetype also employs the new Bioluminescent Transformation feat at 3rd level, which adds glow to shapeshift, allowing for some combo potential. 8th level provides two unique traits to add to shapeshift – +1/2 caster level bonus to Stealth checks (untyped – meh) or demoralize as a swift action via sudden color-shifts. This replaces poison immunity.


The third archetype would be the sun warrior, based on the mageknight class, who replaces Handle Animal with Intimidate, uses Cha as casting ability modifier and is locked into the Light sphere at first level. The archetype also gains the Glory talent instead of gaining resist magic, and uses her class level as caster level “on” glows benefitting from Glory – which lets your glow shed low-range bright light for combo set-ups. This may be as well a place as any to note that the rules-language has some cosmetic deviations in the finer details – mostly nothing glaring, though. When the sun warrior would gain a mystic combat ability or bonus combat feat, the archetype may choose solar radiance abilities instead. 5 of these are presented and include for increased radius for Glory, selective light talent application when affecting equipment, more Light talents, lending the glow (not italicized here) affected by Glory to allies and free action Searing Light application ties in for a cool combo. By FAR the coolest archetype herein and the only one I really liked. It also lends itself very well for Dark Souls-esque characters: “Do you even praise the Sun, brah?” I’d enjoy playing this guy!


From here, we move on to basic talents, which include a minor errata for glow: When you create a glow you may cause it to shed bright light as part of the same action, but otherwise follow the normal rules for causing a glow to shed bright light. To give you a brief summary: (Lens) talents can be placed as a standard action on targets within glow, potentially requiring melee or ranged touch attacks to hit. Spell point expenditure can increase duration to 1 hour per CL. Among the (lens) talents, we can find Aiming Scope (here, proper bonus types are thankfully reinstated…) and the lenses include an option that nets you the option to Hide in Plain Sight – which is usually unlocked at a higher level – imho, this should have a minimum level requirement. Forcing rerolls from attackers and using lenses to ignore miss chances for living creatures is pretty potent – a reduction may have been more viable there. EDIT: Dim Lights only grants immunity to one’s own lights to the target, but its wording could sue improvement – “You cause a target to suffer no ill effects from light.” could be read as superseding/complementing the benefits of the talent.


(Nimbus) talents modify glow, but only one may b applied per glow. You may switch these as a free action, but they thankfully affect an area only once per round. These include the ability to make light-show style beams, selectively illuminate cubes or leave trails of light. There btw. also is an option to bypass the 1-nimbus restriction.


Beyond these subtypes, we also get quite an array of other talents – bending radiance, shedding black light, generate patterns that may cause targets to fall prone and we have dual application of light talents to glows. Very interesting would be Flash, which eliminates the end of turn only restriction imposed on the application of (light) talents. Having glow linger and controlling intensity as well as gaining artistic modifications of glows make for interesting, flavorful options. Nonlethal damage via glows also makes for a nice option.


The advanced magic chapter lets you generate motes of Dancing Lights glows, which is cool…but Diffuse Body is really intriguing. When you move while under the effects of Flicker, you actually move in two places – and only upon being attacked or targeted, you decide which location you are…basically Schrödinger’s caster. Permanently imbuing objects with glow is nice, I guess. With another talent, you can turn a creature affected by Flicker into a being of pure light – very potent and thankfully locked behind an appropriate prereq-array…and the form may be further upgraded with vast movement superiority via Light Speed. Making the glow turn prismatic is similarly cool and Con-draining radiation light is cool. The chapter also contains two rituals – reflection/refraction, which alters objects and beacon pillar, creating a bauble you can crush to emit a beacon of light.


The feat-chapter includes Dual Sphere feats for Auroras and propulsion via beams, +2 MSB and MSD for Light sphere effects, doubled when trying to make an opposed check versus magical darkness; Firing light-based destructive blasts that are not hindered by windows, but by light-blocking things is nice. Creations of hard light, Photosynthesis. not a fan of addition of untyped damage to Searing Light, myself. 5 solid traits also are here and we get 3 sphere-specific drawbacks and 3 alternate racial traits. No complaints there.


The equipment section defines different light sources and types – motes, strobes, etc. -handy. Cool: radiant edge weapons project deadly light, slightly increasing their reach (Can I hear Burnt Ivory King?), but sans increasing the threatening range. Staves with sunset let glows linger slightly. There are 3 specific magic items, a veil that fortifies versus the dazzled condition, the brush that generates colorful ink and a nice miniature orrery. The pdf concludes with 6 radiant tattoos, which shed light and allows for hypnotizing targets while dancing, for doubling as a divine focus, etc. – no complaints here.



Editing and formatting are good for the most part – in fact, the material is generally very good, though the class section could use some refinement – it has a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series. EDIT: The previously migraine-inducing bright, yellow headers have been dimmed down. Thank the deities! Artwork is a blend of the nice cover and some okay stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Amber Underwood had a relatively challenging task here – the sphere is simply not as “sexy” as some of its brethren, though this book does a valiant job enhancing the Light-options. While I disagree with some of the design decisions, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement with some minor imperfections. EDIT: With the headers and the archetype-glitch fixed, this now is a proper addition to the series, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.


You can get this cool expansion (be warned of the yellow!) here on OBS!


You can directly support Drop Dead Studios making these cool expansions here on patreon!


Endzeitgeist out.



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6 Responses

  1. Amber Underwood says:

    Thanks for the review! Sorry that the coloration gave you such a headache – I wasn’t fond of the choice either. I’m hoping we can get an alternate, non-searing light version up some point.

    I do want to point out a couple of minor issues though. First, you’ve misunderstood (or just misrepresented?) the errata. The errata allows Glows to be placed and made into Bright Light simultaneously, rather than requiring two separate actions.

    (Lens) talents are a new class of talent introduced, rather than errata, and don’t require glows to function. They use the same range as glow, which their wording refers to. I believe this might also clear up your complaints with Glass-Eye Gunmage?

    Finally, Dim Light does not give immunity to all glows, but rather, immunity to YOUR glows, allowing you to shield your allies from your own Searing Light or other debuffing effects. It doesn’t protect from anyone else’s glows.

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Hej Amber!

      Thanks for the comment!

      I did not misunderstand the errata, but I have made the review-text reproduce it, since the text-flow wasn’t as clear as it should be. I DO know that lens talents are new and not part of the errata – made that clearer!

      The gunslinger’s issue is that, RAW, he does not have glow! “The
      caster may place a lens as a standard action on any target within
      the same range as their glow.” The gunslinger has no glow. I *get* that you wanted to make this behave as though the caster had glow, but RAW, the ability only states “For the purposes of this talent
      his glass-eye gunmage levels are treated as casting class levels
      when determining MSB and MSD. He is treated as having a
      caster level equal to his glass-eye gunmage level and uses the
      ability that determines his grit points for his casting ability
      modifier (usually Wisdom).”

      This does RAW NOT encompass affecting glow, as we do not have access to the Light Sphere or glow in particular, which deprives lenses of their range.

      As for Dim Lights: I’ll concede that it can be read differently.
      “You cause a target to suffer no ill effects from light.” could be read as superseding/complementing the benefits of the talent, though – an insert of “your” would make sense here!

      Here’s to hoping it’ll get a layout face-lift; the book deserves something less eye-searing. 🙂

      • Amber Underwood says:

        Along with the dimming of the yellow to a more manageable orange, I managed to get in some edited wording on Lens talents (which now have their own range, which should not only fix Glass-Eye Gunmage, but other situations like the Lens Focus drawback) and Dim Light (adding that single your).

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