Legendary Magus

Legendary Magus

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

 

All right, we begin pretty much immediately with the class-redesign, the legendary magus. The legendary magus gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as with light AND medium armors, with no spellcasting failure from the get-go. The legendary magus remains a prepared spellcaster with spellcasting governed by Intelligence and the magus-spell-list. A legendary magus may spontaneously apply metamagic feats to spells cast, with the casting time increase you’d associate with the sorcerer. HOWEVER, the legendary magus may ALSO prepare spells with metamagic feats in advance, as usual for prepared spellcasters. This is a genuinely interesting tweak from the get-go, one that makes metamagic feats much more compelling for the class. It should also be noted that the casting process of the legendary magus is akin to the arcanist – prepared spells, spontaneous casting. Spells prepared day, as before, at 5, but the tweaked spellcasting engine necessitates a spells prepared addition to the table, which caps out at 6 on each level save 5th and 6th, where 5 spells prepared represent the cap.

 

The class gets a codified “eldritch tome” as a kind of special spellbook, and the book has half the magus’ hit points. If destroyed, it reappears among the magus’ possessions on the next dawn. It doubles as the spellbook, but also grants a linear ability progression – more on that later. The class begins play with Arcane Strike as a bonus feat, and may activate it as a free action, but only at the beginning of her turn.  At 3rd level, Riving Strike is granted as a bonus feat and Arcane Strike used in conjunction with the Vital Strike feat-chain multiplies the Arcane Strike damage by the number of times the Vital Strike chain makes her roll damage dice. This thankfully does not stack with other Arcane Strike multiplying abilities.

 

The class gets ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves. It should be noted that something has gone horribly wrong in the Fort-save column of the class, with several entries being obviously incorrect – unless the save is supposed to actually decrease and increase time and again, I suggest instead looking at the Reflex-save column.

 

At 1st level, the legendary magus gets arcane potential – the ability to harness residual energy of spells she has cast. The magus starts the day with no potential, but gains potential when she casts a magus spell, whenever she begins the round under the effects of a magus spell of 1st level or higher (the spell needs to affect her, not her gear), and whenever the legendary magus takes damage from a spell or spell-like ability or has to make a saving throw against a harmful spell or spell-like ability. The latter spell/SP-related components yields 2 potential instead of one. Potential caps at Intelligence modifier, minimum 1, and maximum potential increases at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter by +1. Potential may only be gained in combat, which made me sigh, only to be happy soon thereafter. Two reasons for that: 1) It is lost if you spend more than one minute outside of combat and 2), the pdf explicitly provides a sidebar that disallows the exploits this would otherwise allow for. As a minor nitpick: I do believe that cantrips should be disqualified for providing arcane potential, which they RAW are only for the buffing caveat (nice!) – when a cantrip prompts a save, though, the legendary magus can still earn a hefty two points. Minor nitpick, though, as the obvious exploit’s been taken care of.

 

Said potential can be employed in a variety of ways, and, unless otherwise noted, can be used as a free action, but no more than once per round per potential technique. At 1st level, we have the means to, as an immediate action, grant a +1 circumstance bonus to AC to the magus or an adjacent ally. Somewhat weird: While this is listed as costing 1 potential, it seems to imply the option to pay with more potential for greater bonuses to AC. I assume this to be no glitch, design-wise, but explicitly stating such would have been preferable. The second option takes a swift action and bestows a +4 bonus to concentration checks against being injured by a specific target creature and for casting in said creature’s threatened area. Thirdly, there is the means to pay 1 potential to gain +1 to atk and damage until the start of the next turn. For 2 potential, the magus may, as part of a move, withdraw or charge, step through space for up to 10 feet per 2 potential spent to a location within line of sight – this is a teleportation and as such, ignores obstacles and similar things, and charge targets may be determined after the teleport. This is a favorite of mine, as it makes the legendary magus a capable, though not overbearing skirmisher from the get-go. The second 2-potential option allows the legendary magus to enhance Arcane Strike with a +1d4 bonus damage of its usual damage type until the start of the magus’ next turn, which increases by a further +1d4 per 5 class levels attained. These bonus dice are multiplied in conjunction with Vital Strike’s feat-chain according to the same guidelines that apply to Arcane Strike as mentioned before.

 

8th level unlocks a second array of arcane potential-based techniques. For 1 potential, we have the option to fluidly change the core energy type damage inflicted, and the means to enhance touch AC and saving throws versus spells. For 2 potential, we have the means to spontaneously apply metamagic sans casting time increase (the ability header isn’t properly bolded here). The second 2-potential ability allows for the modulation of a magus spells’ range, and there is the means to execute spell combat as a standard action. For 3 potential, we have the means to create an arcane 5 ft. by 5 ft. barrier, granting cover. This reminded me of one particular archetype by Jason Linker I rather liked. Secondly, as a swift action, we have the means to flicker to any adjacent square for the purpose of originating attacks and effects. Interesting.

 

Spell combat’s verbiage now lacks the TWFing reference, and the ability is now employed for one-handed weapons exclusively, removing the potential clusterf*** that two-handed light weapons could create with the whole engine set-up.  4th level nets Combat Casting, and 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter a bonus feat, to be chosen from combat, item creation and metamagic feats. At 7th level, magi no longer provoke AoOs when casting 1st level magus spells, and ability that extends one spell level farther at 10th level and every 3 levels thereafter – this is smart, as it generates a motivation to keep casting lower-level spells. Additionally, the magus is treated as a fighter – 4 levels for the purpose of prerequisites. 7th level nets spell recall, which is now powered by arcane potential, costing 3 potential per spell level, and the ability notes that recalls can’t be chained, and that such recalled spells do not generate potential – a crucial balancing component here. 16th level decreases the cost this ability has to twice the spell’s level in potential. The capstone allows for the use of spell combat as a standard action (which makes the rapid spell combat ability somewhat obsolete), and combine that with full attacks that are accompanied by one of 4 different short-term buffs.

 

Now, I previously noted the eldritch tome as a source of a linear ability progression, and indeed, each type of eldritch tome provides a total of 4 abilities over the class’s progression: At 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level, new abilities are unlocked. 8 such tomes are provided. In all brevity: The tome of the bulwark nets shield proficiency, the ability to store spells in shields and deliver them with e.g. a shield bash, applies shield bonus to touch AC and grants it to adjacent allies and at the highest level, extends the effects in a small radius beyond her immediate range. This one also has the ability to intercept attacks. The tome of the deadeye would be the ranged option – the interesting component here would be that the like would be ridiculously OP for a regular magus. This one allows for the substitution of ranged weapon range for spell range, after all. However, in the context of the legendary magus, while clocking it at one of the more potent options, it does remain within the parameters. Why? Well, in case you haven’t noticed it: The legendary magus got rid of frickin’ spellstrike in favor of actually useful and flexible combat options. That is a huge plus for me, as it liberates the class from its niche of fishing for potent critical hits. The book also does something right, in that it rewards the use of e.g. crossbows and the like with faster reload speeds, meaning that there, for once, is not a penalty for choosing them as your preferred weapon. On the downside, I am not a big fan of the means to expend spells for bonus damage that just flat-out ignores DR – this should imho scale through the DR-types by level.

 

The tome of the duelist allows for the use of Dexterity to calculate atk, and Intelligence to calculate damage, and it receives a defensive option for spell combat that grants concealment, including the means to execute counter-attacks sourced from AoOs. Cool! The tome of the Gemini is all about TWFing, while the tome of the juggernaut would be the two-handed weapon option that also enhances charges and concentration. The tome of the magister may be, as a physical object, be used as a kind of shield and also bestows limited access to sorcerer/wizard spells. The idea here is the weaponized book, including means to use it for shield bashes and the like – interesting. The tome of the pugilist is, unsurprisingly given the name, the unarmed combat option, including a spell combat/flurry combo and immediate action counters and bonus damage at higher levels. The speardancer’s tome is another two-handed weapon specialist ability array, but one that focuses on Lunge, Whirlwind Attack and similar soft crowd control options. Like this one particularly, considering that arcane potential enhances skirmishing capabilities pretty much from the get-go.

 

Now, 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a magus arcana, of which there are more than 50 presented. I *assume* that these adhere to the usual arcana rules, for, in a somewhat glaring oversight, the summary of class abilities fails to list the base engine of arcana…but then again, that text doesn’t offer too much anyway. Still, it made me confused for a second, and considering the fact that third level of the class table double-lists the magus arcana class feature and the table’s error in the Fort-save column, this kinda made me a bit anxious. For the purpose of this review, I am going to assume that 3rd level nets only one magus arcana.

 

So, first thing you’ll notice: There is a metric ton of them: From additional potential to ignoring load and gaining new potential techniques, the arcana SUDDENLY MATTER. Picture me raising my fists to the sky in glorious triumph there. I’m serious – of all the Paizo classes, I’d be hard-pressed to mention one that has talent-like abilities as boring and utterly bland as magus arcana, and the options herein thankfully seem to be cognizant of that fact and hell-bent on doing a better job. The load-based one lets you treat your Strength as higher; we have the means to gain heavy armor proficiency sans spell failure, a 3-potential bane, the option to blink weapons back when using Arcane Strike to throw them, multiclass synergy for the purpose of potential (locked behind an appropriate level cap), AoOs versus defensive casters (further enhancing the skirmishing angle) and more – and I’Ve only touched upon all there is herein. From vigilante social talents to limited spell-conversion, we have quite a few really cool and flavorful tricks. Some arcana also have the (blade)-tag, of which only one may be applied per round, and these include, among other things, lacing the weapon with elemental force. Personally, I do think that the ability that nets access to a 1st level tome ability should be locked behind at least 9th level, considering how the tomes, while not necessarily super-potent, allow for some serious et-up potential for combo-builds, but that may be me.

 

From a familiar to Gunsmithing and firearm proficiency to casting while transformed/polymorphed to using class level for CMB/CMD, there are a ton of options. Also nice: The class comes with 7 favored class options available for ALL races. These all are valid options and are in line regarding power.

 

Okay, let me say that clearly: I LOVE THIS CLASS. Its formal flaws notwithstanding the legendary magus is a vast improvement in flexibility over the base class. While I can probably out-DPR the legendary magus with its regular fellow, this class instead rewards you for doing something else each round, and it is useful in more contexts than singular, devastating attacks. This is a much more rewarding and modular playing experience, both regarding spellcasting, martial angle and the synergies thereof.

 

As a special treat for fans of Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might, we do receive a sidebar for use with these two sub-systems. Considering how the legendary magus radically changed the assumptions of the base class, how do the archetypes fare? Well, the Blade of Legend doesn’t get the lingering means of generating arcane potential and is locked out of a familiar, but the black blade receives its own potential pool that may be used to power its own scaling array of abilities. It’s obviously still sentient and has its own class table. The coiled viper is a Spheres of Might crossover archetype that features its own martial tradition as well as status as a Proficient practitioner using Intelligence as practitioner modifier, though this does strip them of the arcana at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter, as well as the bonus feats at 8th and 14th level. They employ Toxin talents and may add alchemy-sphere poisons alongside spells, replacing the Arcana Strike ability suite. As poisonous whip specialists, they replace the tomes with a unique ability array, that combines soft crowd control with quick attacks; the capstone is also modified. The dragon fang gains enhanced skills and uses Charisma as the governing spellcasting ability score, with tomes being partially replaced with dragon apotheosis abilities that include a scaling, potential-based breath weapon and wings locked behin an appropriate level cap – basically the dragon-sorcerer archetype.

 

The drakeguard has a diminished spellcasting and replace spell combat with a drake companion; the tome is replaced with a custom ability suite that allows for potential technique sharing, including the means to split spell duration between herself and her steed, for example. Minor nitpick: In this and the previous archetype, there was an ability each that had its name not properly bolded. The First Magus has a bit of a druid-y vibe, including the option to call down lightning bolts on nearby targets. Something in layout or formatting has gone seriously wrong with the ability – while legible,  it has a weird blank block in its middle, and lacks a whole bunch of blank spaces. Beast shape, Wisdom for casting and divine spellcasting sourced from ranger and druid (noting spell level discrepancies and clarifying that – kudos!) – you get the idea here. Similarly, the hexwielder would be, bingo, the witchy magus, with limited hex access and the means to debuff via a custom array of potential-based strikes, this one is interesting.

 

The legendary kensai is proficient in simple weapons and a single exotic melee weapon, but not armor or shields. We have Int to AC, diminished spellcasting  and full BAB and iaijutsu style strikes, enhanced damage and the like. Perhaps it’s because I’m so fond of the concept, but personally, I do think this one would have warranted a bit more unique abilities – it’s not a bad archetype, but when compared to a few other versions of the kensai-idea, it felt a bit lackluster with its none-too-novel Vital Strike focus.

 

Ruinous blades are Spheres of Power-magi, Mid-Casters, and have the Destruction sphere with the Shape Focus drawback. They are locked into Energy Blade as the talent gained for the drawback and use class level to determine its effects. The potential engine is conversely modified to apply to the realities of the spheres-system and exchange, in a VERY limited and controlled manner that can’t be cheesed, potential for temporary spell points that are lost at the end of the turn.

 

Did you absolutely think that spellstrike was a good idea? There’s an archetype for you. There is a relatively simple Spheres of Might crossover archetype that doesn’t change much of the chassis. Easily the coolest archetype herein. Warp tempest, a short-burst teleportation specialist that allows you to go full-blown Dishonored on your enemies – personally, I’ll impose a generous, but hard cap or a cooldown on the daily uses of the teleport, but as a whole, I adore this one.

 

The pdf, as befitting of a book that features such significant tweaks to the base class engine, also presents 3 new feats: +1 arcana, increased Arcane Strike bonus damage, and reduction of a 2-or more-potential costing technique by 1. The pdf includes 4 different magic items that enhance e.g. Arcane Strike further than the gloves of arcane striking, and there are vambraces of pain that allow you to take continuous damage – which is great for magi (or anyone exploring the positive energy plane). The pdf also includes a special weapon ability that nets potential on crits, and an armor property that nets potential that needs to be spent or lost – the latter lacks all blank spacesmakingitkindahardtoreadeventhoughitsrulestextiscorrect. I am not the biggest friend of these magic items, as they trivialize the whole potential engine’s planning component, but that’s pretty much what they are supposed to do. They don’t break the game and this is just my personal opinion, though, and as such won’t influence the final verdict.

We also get 4 nice spells (no complaints) and we do get a cool sample character – Iris Pageknife, a charming CR 5 gemini specialist.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a rules-language level are very good – but the same can’t be said on a formal level. From missed bolding of ability names to weird blocks of blank space to missing blank spaces between words, this pdf feels oddly rushed in its formal presentation for a Legendary Games-supplement. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a bunch a cool full-color artworks, some of which you may have seen before, while others are entirely new. Weird and grating oversight that adds to the impression of this pdf’s formal properties being rushed: The book is missing bookmarks, which is highly uncommon for Legendary Games.

 

Dave Nelson and Hal Kennette have delivered a thoroughly impressive redesign of the magus here – it took some serious chutzpah to get rid (for the most part) of spellstrike and its baggage, and how the arcana have been killed with fire, only to rise as something much cooler from the ashes? Yeah, the legendary magus, as a whole, must be called a resounding success. The legendary magus play better than the original, is more versatile, and an all-out joy that gets rid of the linear focus that hamstrung the class previously. As a consequence of the massive engine-change, the most popular concepts needed to be translated, and this slightly hampered the pdf in the archetype chapter for me as a person: I prefer new stuff, particularly since the new material tended to be inspiring, but that’s just me and nothing I’ll hold against the pdf.  I would have loved to see an occult magus as well, but once more, that’s just me.

 

What breaks my heart is that I can’t bestow the accolades upon this pdf that its genius class redesign would definitely deserve. After much rumination, I just can’t ignore the lack of bookmarks in conjunction with the formal glitches, which deprives the book of the lofty praise that would otherwise be its rightful due; I am, however, still very much in love with the class itself, and even though the formal glitches would warrant me doing so, I just can’t bring myself to rating this as anything below 4 stars – it’s just too good for that. For making the magus become truly distinct, this also receives, as one of the rare pdfs to do, my seal of approval for the class redesign, in spite of its formal shortcomings– design-wise, this remains  a resounding success! Congratulations!

 

You can get this impressive magus-redesign here on OBS!

 

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Endzeitgeist out.

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2 Responses

  1. Hal Kennette says:

    Thanks for the glowing review of Dave and I’s work EZG! I loved writing, developing, and playtesting this class and I hope the layout issues can get fixed.

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