This installment of the Legendary Heroes-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
As always, we begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Chakra Champion, who utilizes the Occult Adventures system, which, while interesting, ultimately falls short of what one can do with the premise…but that as an aside. What does the archetype do with it? The archetype replaces the 1st level bonus feat, providing Chakra Initiate, adding +1/2 monk level (minimum +1) to character level for the purpose of opening chakras. Later, the character may choose Chakra Adept and Master instead of bonus feats, ignoring prerequisites. This is a pretty big bumble in rules-integrity – the ability should specify that the archetype still has to select Chakra Adept before Chakra Master, ignoring all other prerequisites. RAW, you can choose Chakra Master before Chakra Adept. The archetype also gains disharmonious flux. After a damage-less touch attack or an unarmed strike, the character may trigger a disharmonious flux once per round as a free action. The target must succeed a Will-save (DC is governed by Wisdom) or take a -2 penalty (minus missing) on one of the saving throws, as chosen by the chakra champion. This penalty increases further at 8th and 16th level and lasts for Wisdom modifier rounds. Additionally, at 4th level and every 8 levels thereafter, an additional effect is added to targets that fail their save against disharmonious flux. A surprising 14 choices are presented, ranging from the expected extension of the penalties to e.g. attack rolls to some more creative ones: Being shaken while in total darkness, treating foes beyond 30 ft. as having concealment, basically disadvantage on saves versus Will-saves or an ability that allows the flux to affect mindless targets…which has a remnant from the original ability, referencing mesmerists instead of the chakra champion. Wait. What?? RAW, the ability has no indicator that it’s only supposed to affect creatures that have a mind – it is not codified as a mind-affecting ability! RAW, this is weird. The ability replaces stunning fist.
At 4th level, we get +1 point to the serpent-fire ki-pool, plus an additional one for every 4 levels thereafter. When awakening chakras, the archetype gets +1/2 monk level as a luck bonus to avoid the detrimental effects of serpent-fire. This replaces slow fall and the option to spend ki for additional attacks with flurry of blows. Starting at 7th level, the DC of disharmonious flux increases while a chakra is awakened or maintained, with the choice to alternatively gaining a buff to AC, atk, skills or saves. This bonus increases by +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. Minor complaint: The DC increase is per se not a bonus and while it is clear what the intention here is, RAW only the bonus scales. At 9th level, we get 1/minute maintaining an open chakra sans action expenditure. When opening a chakra, the archetype gets to roll both Fort- and Will-save and choose the better result and any chakra opened that has effects depending on number of open chakras increases that number by 50%. Chakras close at a rate of the highest in the first round, then 1d3. At 11th level, the chakra champion can start by awakening the heart chakra sans awakening the previous ones. Additionally, healing may be split between chakra champion and adjacent ally, if any, and conditions negated affect both. Finally, for ki expenditure, we can heal more conditions. This replaces diamond body.12th level nets a damage-less melee touch attack that can disrupt ki use and stagger the target for a number of rounds on a failed save, replacing abundant step. 15th level allows the chakra champion who has at least 2 chakras open, to expend ki or serpent-fire ki equal to ½ the open chakras, firing negative level causing rays at targets within 30 ft. I like what this archetype does with the chakra-engine, but I still maintain that redesigning the chakra-engine would have probably been smarter.
Anyways, next up would be the Crystallion, who uses crystals, enhancing defenses: Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, we get DR/Adamantine equal to ½ class level. Instead of fast movement, we het +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 for every 5 levels beyond 5th. The archetype also qualifies for Improved Natural Armor. This replaces fast movement. Manuever training is replaced with the option to inflict piercing or slashing damage with unarmed strikes and may use class level as BAB to qualify for critical feats. 4th level yields light while the character has at least 1 ki, and may use ki to duplicate daylight…but may not expend ki to grant herself a dodge bonus to AC. The archetype may generate scintillating light as a distraction bardic performance and use fascinate at -3 monk levels, as the bardic effect, with ki as governing attribute and ki as resource employed. This replaces slow fall. 5th level yields the option to dazzle nearby creatures while in proper light, with lesser illumination levels requiring ki expenditure. Alternatively, the archetype may temporarily blind nearby foes. At 7th level, we gain resistance 5 versus electricity and fire, which improves at later levels. Additionally, successful saves versus these effects can provide evasion-like benefits, with immediate action ki-expenditure providing improved evasion’s equivalent for such effects. However, the character becomes vulnerable to sonic damage. 13th level provides ray-deflection via ki expenditure; 15th level nets 1/day prismatic spray and the capstone nets a crystalline apotheosis to a construct-status, with ki-based prismatic spell use. I really liked this one – it feels like a natural fit for someone turning into a member of AAW Games’ amazing colliatur-race.
The Imperial guard archetype replaces Knowledge (religion) and Perform with Diplomacy and Knowledge (local) and gets the ability to designate a sworn charge, which may be re-designated pretty quickly, but the guard can’t have more than one at a given time. The archetype gets additional conditions to stunning fist, but blind/deafen is not permanent. 2nd level allows for the sharing of evasion between charge and guard as well as +2 to Reflex saves, with 9th level providing the option to get evasion’s benefits when either makes the save. 3rd level nets Bodyguard, which is more efficient for the monk’s charge and the bonus granted gets a duration based off Wisdom modifier; 6th level nets In Harm’s Way for such contexts. 4th level yields a bonus to a maneuver or a skill, gaining a +2 bonus here, with 10th level allowing the adding of Wisdom modifier to the chosen roll, with ki-cost associated. This replaces slow fall. Quivering palm is replaced; the archetype nets a retributive strike when defending targets, which explicitly increases critical multiplier and has synergy with other increases. 1/day, the character can designate a critical threat.
The psychic cenobite replaces evasion versus the equivalent for mind-affecting or psychic magic effects; at 9th level the character can absorb a number of spell levels of such effects, which must be designated prior to attempting a save. Cool, though the ability erroneously added a paragraph from the lesser version of the ability – it should replace improved evasion. 3rd level replaces maneuver training with +2 to saves versus psychic magic; 4th level replaces slow fall, wholeness of body and high jump with the ability to spend 1 point of ki to study a threatened target in melee as a swift action, immediately before making an attack. On a hit, the target saves and on a failure, the attack is a critical threat. This doesn’t work versus mindless targets. 11th level replaces diamond body with swift action, short-term true seeing or invisibility purge. The 15th level replacement for quivering palm is the seeding of a dominate monster effect with unarmed strikes or touches, including the option to set trigger conditions.
Singhala monks are Tiger Style specialists that are locked into the three feats of the style at 1st 6th and 10th level; 3rd level yields Diehard, with the threshold to remain conscious extended by Wisdom modifier and the option to use ki to ignore the staggered condition for one round, provided it is incurred due to negative hit points. Purity of body is replaced with immunity to fear, while 7th level replaces wholeness of body with Wisdom modifier minutes of speak with animals; cats and felines can be affected with a variety of themed spell effects for ki expenditure when talking to them, including simultaneous activation for more ki costs. 4th level lets the character use ki to enter a controlled rage; this is basically a barbarian rage, which scales and is powered by ki. It replaces evasion and diamond body. 9th level loses improved evasion and diamond soul in favor of AoE-fear-causing roars that can be used as a standard action or as a swift action after a full attack (cool!); higher levels allow for the causing of panic. 12th level replaces abundant step with the ki-activation-based benefits of haste, though the additional attack must be unarmed; alternatively, the character can effectively pounce for ki-expenditure; 15th level provides 1/day ki shout (instead of quivering palm) and 17th level removes the fatigue after controlled rages, replacing tongue of sun and moon.
The yogi monk replaces flurry of blows with yogic body: Meditate 1/day for 1 hour to gain an exceptional ability for 24 hours; starting at 8th and 15th level, the character gets to choose an additional ability per use of the class feature. A total of 9 such benefits are provided, and they all fit the flavor perfectly: We get the trick to move through smaller spaces and openings, better Escape Artist, delay toxins, Endurance, low-range blindsense, natural reach extension due to disjointed limbs (at the cost of a penalty of -2 to atk), slowed respiration, suppression of bleeding and boosts versus fatigue, sleep etc. – really cool. Yogis are locked into Psychic Sensitivity at 1st level and may use feats building on it as monk bonus feats, Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, the monk gets ½ class level uses of the samurai’s resolve, but does not regain resolve based on defeated opponents. Fast movement and maneuver training re replaced with the ability to use Wisdom instead of Str/Dex to calculate atk and CMB. 5th level nets the ability to use meditative drones, which behave as bardic fascinate and Wisdom as governing attribute, with ki as resource. This replaces high jump. Instead of slow fall and the ability to expend ki for additional flurry attacks, the 4th level yields yogic levitation, ki-based, better form of levitate or, well, alternatively, feather fall.
Okay, that covers the archetypes for the regular monk – let’s take a look at those for the unchained monk now, shall we? The first of these would be the flagellant, who gets Heal as a class skill. 2nd level lets the character use Wisdom for Intimidate instead of Charisma, as well as getting +1/2 class level to such checks, replacing the bonus feat. Instead of evasion, the flagellant gets pain tolerance, gaining a repeated save vs. pain effects in following rounds. 3rd level yields scarification – bleed damage is decreased, with higher levels providing further decreases. Additionally, we get immediate action and ki-based ignoring of ability damage/drain instead of fast movement. 4th level flagellants add +1d6 nonlethal damage to stunning fist uses, increasing by +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter; 8th level flagellants can render targets fatigued by stunning fist sickened. This replaces the AC bonus gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but the archetype retains the Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD. 5th level nets the faith healing skill unlock, as well as phrenology occult skill unlock, using Knowledge (religion) as an alternate basis. The latter may be used with damaging, sharp needles etc., allowing for the implantation of permanently penalizing needles…nasty and really cool! This replaces purity of body. At 4th level, the flagellant can use cilices or similar pain-inducing armor to steel himself versus emotion, fear, etc. and 9th level yields Stalwart. The flagellant gets a total of 5 unique ki powers: Critical hit DR-ignoring and regeneration-suppression, expansion of pain tolerance; an intimidating glare; what about using ki to ignore up to twice the class level damage and gain temporary hit points of an equal amount (4x instead for nonlethal damage…) Really cool: When using pain tolerance and succeeding the second save, the character can choose to take the pain, activating a judgment or gain a ki point/stunning fist use – yes, it only lasts for a brief while and can’t be cheesed. This may also be activated after a critical hit was confirmed. Really cool archetype!
The leikung unchained monk replaces ki strike at 3rd level with a standard action sonic-damage-causing sonic damage that allows for stunning fist synergy, adding the deafened condition temporarily, with stacking durations. Alternatively, a weapon attack may be made, channeling the sonic damage through weaponry, with stunning fist synergy contingent on using a ki focus weapon. Thunderstrike may be held as a charge and it may also be fired as a ranged touch attack, though synergy with stunning fist costs an additional point of ki in that case. 5th level yields +4 to saves versus sonic effects, with 10th level providing resistance, which upgrades to 20 at 15th level and immunity to sonic effects and damage, replacing purity of body and the ki powers gained at 10th and 20th level. 7th level, leikungs can use move actions and ki to create a warhammer of half bludgeoning/sonic damage, which may be thrown. Creatures vulnerable to sonic treat the full damage as sonic. The weapon is wielded with Wisdom instead of Str/Dex and has a duration – if hurled during the duration, it may be decreased to re-manifest it sans cost, with higher levels unlocking +1 thundering and the weapon being treated as an adamantine weapon. It works as a monk weapon and the leikung is proficient. 9th level yields ki-based echolocation, replacing 9th level’s style strike. Also at this level, we get the ability to expend two points of ki for a ranged touch sonic wave, which may also be used as a cone-shaped burst. This replaces improved evasion.
The Shinsei has a heavy Rokugan-vibe, but that may be the Oriental Adventures fan in me; these fellows are a bit paladin-y: They must be lawful good and must accept at least one vow, for which they don’t get bonus ki. They get the paladin’s detect evil and smite, though the latter is governed by Wisdom. These replace flurry. 3rd level provides awakened recovery, which is basically rerolls versus fatigue or sleep-effects and at 7th level, rerolls versus exhaustion or being staggered; the shinsei can also spend ki to negate effects that cause sleep or being fatigued at 7th level. 10th and 16th level increase the ability to including stunning and death effects, respectively, with the progression allowing for the negation of previous effects. Minor nitpick: As written, it is not 100% clear if the upgraded 10th and 16th level negation effects require the expenditure of 2 ki as well, but from context, it is pretty evident how that’s supposed to work. 5th level nets the Sense Motive skill unlocks as well as those for the Intimidate skill, but the latter only versus targets of her smite. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 6th level replaces the ki power usually gained with a selection of oracle revelations from the ancestor mystery, at -3 levels, with Wisdom as governing attribute, and activation based on ki expenditure. An additional such ability is gained every 4 levels thereafter. 9th level provides Henshin Perfection instead of style strike: For 1 ki, the shinsei can shed light and gain 10 resistance or +4 to an ability score. 13th level provides stern silence, a ki-based short-range option to render targets mute or even, for more ki, inflict the caster croak spellblight. Cool! 17th level is pretty epic: It suppresses all magic on shinsei and target (as if affected by antimagic field), for a cool sudden-death-y climax trip.
The tempest gets a completely modified bonus feat list and replaces flurry of blows with skirmisher: If the tempest moves at least 10 feet before attacking with an unarmed attack or monk weapon, including ranged weapons used within 30 ft. of the target, any successful attacks deal +1d6 damage, +1d6 ever 4 levels after that; this may be foregone for AoO-less reposition. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the tempest also gains +1 dodge bonus to AC when the target has moved thus, though the ability requires not carrying medium/heavy load or being fatigued/staggered. 3rd level lets the character use ki to enhance speed temporarily for +30 ft., replacing the option to spend ki to add an attack to flurries; 4th level provides twice the natural healing, but the tempest must eqat twice as much as well and has a harder time to stave off starvation due to the increased metabolism. At 4th level, the tempest doesn’t lose Dex-mod when running and no increased DC when using full-speed Acrobatics, Climb, Stealth, Survival – this replaces still mind. 5th level provides he option to spend ki to reduce exhaustion to fatigue or negate fatigue, but not those caused by hunger- Style strikes work in conjunction with skirmishing instead of flurry of blows. 15th level nets the option to run to gain various glimpses of the future – really cool. 18th level provides basically advantage on Reflex saves/Acrobatics instead of flawless mind.
Now here is the thing: The archetype replaces ki powers with speed stunts; first gained at 4th level, an additional one is gained every 2 levels thereafter. This list is HUGE: We get more than 3 pages (!!) of individualized stunts, which include zig-zagging run, wind jumps, wall-running, acting in surprise rounds, dragging allies along with them, making attacks during a full-round twice-movement full-round action; quick opening/closing doors or similar actions as part of move actions, plane shift…notice something? This archetype makes the monk a great skirmisher AND quotes a lot of our favorite speedster tropes (including high-level speed phantoms or sonic shattering), clothing them is a subdued guise. Amazing class-hack!
The voidmind, finally, is another uncommon concept: The archetype adds all Knowledge skills as class skills and replaces ki strike with the ability to use ki to duplicate a variety of divination SPs that increase over the levels. 7th level provides the option to use ki to grant allies temporarily bonus feats or skill ranks; feats for which the voidmind does not qualify are more costly, unless touching a character who has it. The creature thus granted the feat must still qualify for the bonus feat granted. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 9th level nets fold fate, which nets ki-based bonuses equal to class level; Wis-mod if used after results being known. 13th level nets the ability to touch an ally and let him use Wisdom modifier instead of a touched target’s ability score modifier for a chosen ability score. 17th level nets the option to cause temporary negative levels or penalize physical ability scores, based on Wisdom modifier, with ki-use required. This should probably have a daily cap beyond ki; Con can be pretty deadly pretty fast and a properly min-maxed voidmind can probably kill most targets in two rounds…
Okay, after this massive chapter of archetypes, we take a look at the chapter honor and vows, which provides a total of 10 new vows – thankfully sans the annoying still mind-prerequisite; prerequisite-wise, we only require a ki pool, which means that, in conjunction with e.g. Legendary Games cool archetypes or similar WuXia-supplements, we can greatly expand the usefulness of these vows beyond the confines of the monk class. Speaking of which: The Ki Meditation feat to grant ki to characters, first depicted in LG’s The Way of Ki, is reprinted for your convenience here. Kudos! The first vow wowed me – extremely materialistic, the vow of hard gold makes a perfect fit for Karzoug’s minions: The monk may not give gifts etc. and becomes extremely materialistic. Vow of knowledge ties you to the protection of academic texts, while vow of the ki-weapon represents an obsession to the exclusive use of a weapon. Vow of obedience is self-explanatory and ties you to a master; vow of self-sacrifice adds to that, tying the monk to a ward. (Cool: Trouble-shooting advice included!) Vow of secrecy makes you sworn to secrecy and vow of sightlessness is a willful blindness, while the vow of simplicity prevents manipulation of emotions and flourished speeches; vow of superiority is really cool as well, while the vow of total freedom prevents marriage or being burdened by any physical or metaphysical bond.
A huge plus: We get a massive list of psychic spells codified for the qinggong monk. Extremely useful and the ki-to-power-ratios is sound. The pdf then proceeds to depict ki tattoos – basically a universal archetype-y option for monks, replacing their bonus feats. At 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, the monk gets a magical tattoo, which may be activated as a move action or as a swift action as part of a move action 1/day; further activation costs ki and saves, if any, are governed by Wisdom. The list includes rerolls, SPs, bonus feats, brief boosts to ability scores, the stalwart defender’s defensive stance, self-haste. Solid.
Then, we get to my favorite component of the whole book: Ki tomes! These are basically unique grimoires that contain special techniques and powerful tricks, akin to the nice books contained in Meditations of the Imperial Mystics. This contextualizes the abilities in an easy to integrate manner in the game, adding unique flavor to the options presented. Meditating upon these books can allow the character to learn specific tricks, either permanently when leveling up or temporarily. The first of these would be the Text of Burning Wind and Iron Rain, is unique: Crane Reversal is e.g. a potent upgrade of the Crane Style and pretty cool (though it should NOT have the style descriptor – as a character can usually only be in one style, and as this feat builds on Crane Style, that descriptor is wrong here.); Empty Hand Weapon lets you deflect missiles while holding a monk weapon (cool!) and Flow of the Firearm provides actual monk/gunslinging synergy – and guess what – those are just the first 3 feats! Making the flying blade a monk weapon is nice and a whole series of feats deals with monk weapon improvements, which is pretty damn cool! Further gunslinging tricks follow alongside Reflect Arrows…and have I mentioned ranged attacks with light weapons or increased shuriken range? Yeah pretty cool – though the subsequent taking of the shuriken upgrade multiple times should have minimum level requirements to prevent abuse.
The second tome herein would be To Serve Stone’s Stern Will, a poetic recount of a servitor-cult of shaitan requires adherence to vows, but upon mastering the basics, earth affinity may be gained, with further ki powers unlocking SPs…and the feats include Earth Gliding and the Sevenfold Stone Curse, which is a glorious blend of ki, earth affinity…and has the option to push targets into frickin’ stone! Glorious! Can we please have more? (And yes, they have amazing artworks!)
Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are tight, if not perfect, in spite of the complexity of the material; on a formal level, we have more glitches than usual for Legendary Games, making the book only good in that category. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the book sports quite a few nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jason Nelson, Clinton Boomer and Jesse Brenner deliver a really cool supplement of monk options here. The complex archetypes presented within run the gamut from inspired to nice and the supplemental material is well worth checking out. The tempest, vows and ki tomes in particular really made me smile from ear to ear, in spite of the vast amount of monk material I’ve read. That being said, there are slightly more small components that could be a bit more streamlined than what I’d like to see – chakra champion or the damage-increase of shuriken sans scaling minimum levels, for example, are two such examples. The latter can be rationalized away by the context of the tome, but still – there are a few such instances that feel like they could have used a bit more scrutiny. That being said, I am complaining at a high level here. As a whole, I consider this very much worth getting, though I can’t round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.
You can get this cool collection of options here on OBS!