This player-facing class book/class redesign clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, though it should be noted that, as always, legendary Games has stuffed a TON of content within these pages, so let’s take a look!
Wait. Before we do, I need to fully disclose one fact. To say that I don’t like the shifter class would be a frickin’ understatement. After all the shapeshifting classes I’ve reviewed, the class was the blandest, more bring implementation of the concept I could possibly fathom. It’s one of my least favorite PFRPG classes released by Paizo, and coming from the amazing Occult classes and the similarly awesome vigilante, it was a huge disappointment for me. It’s a dedicated shifter class that’s less flexible than one that gets shifting as a bonus. And don’t get me started on the lack of actually unique things it can do. I wasn’t alone in that, so let’s see if the class redesign by Legendary Games actually manages to make the shifter interesting.
The legendary shifter base class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as natural attacks gained from class features, and light and medium armors and shields, excluding tower shields. The class may take Sylvan as a bonus language, as well as Aklo, and they speak Druidic as a free language. Nice touch there! Chassis-wise, the legendary shifter gets full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves.
Now, the basic shifting engine has been changed rather drastically: At 1st level, you choose a shifter’s aspect, and entering it is a swift action; ending the effect is a free action. Forms may be switched as a swift action and the aspect may be maintained indefinitely. Until 9th level, when chimeric aspect is gained, only one form at a time may be maintained. 14th level nets greater chimeric aspect – three aspects and related forms. The shift is NOT a polymorph effect. A new aspect is gained at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Unless I have miscounted, 19 different aspects are provided and provide minor benefits that often actually manage to be interesting. I have no balance-concerns with them, as the form’s usefulness and the benefits gained correlate in smart ways: While a mouse aspect may generally suck a bit, gaining evasion does make it quite tantalizing now, doesn’t it? Also at first level, we’d have shifter’s shape, which allows for the assumptions of badger, bird, camel, cat (small), dire rat, dog. Dolphin, horse, manta ray, pony, viper, constrictor snake or wolf forms, analogue to beast shape I. However, it lasts for class level + Wisdom modifier hours, min 1, and the duration may be split, but only in 1-hour increments. Changing form in this shape may be used ½ class level + Wisdom modifier times sans penalty; beyond that, it reduces the total allotment of duration remaining by 1 hour. This is treated as wild shape, but the shifter lsoes the ability to communicate while in the. 3rd level unlocks all beast shape I forms, 6th level allows for the assuming of Large and Tiny and beast shape II forms. 8th level allows for the assumption of Huge or Diminutive animal form, or that of a Small or Medium (not capitalized properly) magical beast; the ability is upgraded to beast shape III. 12th level upgrades that further to beast shape IV, and unlocks Tiny and Large magical beasts; 16th level unlocks Diminutive and Huge magical beasts and makes the ability behave as magical beast shape. 6th level hastens shifter shape to a move action that does not provoke AoOs. 10th level upgrades this to optionally use as a swift action, and 18th level allows for the use of shifting as an immediate action.
The class also begins play with wild empathy and shifter evolution: This lets the shifter, as a swit action. Grow claws and a set of fangs – these are (HUGE kudos!) properly codified both regarding damage type and precise nature of the natural attacks. These start with the ability to bypass DR/magic and begin bypassing DR/cold iron and DR /Silver at 3rd level, with 7th level making them behave as ghost touch. 15th level lets the shifter ignore DR/adamantine and 19th level even DR/- – ouch! These benefits also extend to natural attacks conferred by polymorph effects and the synergy of natural attacks and those she can grow is properly codified. Damage dice of the shifter evolution natural attacks increases from 1d6 to 2d10 over the course of the 20 levels of the class. As you can glean, this makes shifters at low levels pretty dangerous, considering that we’re looking at 3 primary natural attacks. For very conservative games, this may prove slightly problematic, though in such a case, I’d simply advise in making the damage default to the standard for the natural attacks and rendering claws or bite, depending on low power level sought, secondary instead. Most games will not encounter a problem here.
At 2nd level, the shifter gets track and adds Wisdom modifier to AC and CMD, or half as much when also wearing armor or using a shield; 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase this by +1. 3rd level nets woodland stride; 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a wild shape based bonus feat; 5th level nets trackless step. The capstone nets shifter shape at will and nets shapechanger apotheosis, becoming immunity to transmutation effects unless willing to accept them.
The pdf also provides a wide array of different archetypes, 12, to be precise. Bound beastmasters get an animal companion and instead apply shifter evolution benefits to the companion’s attacks instead. The Wis-bonus to defense is lost in favor of the companion sharing in aspects, and instead of chimeric aspect and its greater version, we have the option to have the companion also assume shifts, but the form taken must be that of the legendary shifter. The dragon touched is an archetype I would not allow in more conservative games, as the claws gained from shifter evolution are replaced with a 15 ft.-cone or 30 ft.-line breath weapons that deals 1d8 + class level damage of the chosen energy type corresponding to the dragon blood; the damage increases by +1d8 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, and there is no limit imposed on it. It won’t break the game for most groups, but unlimited AoO energy damage can be pretty potent. Personally, I’d have imposed a hard cap for the low levels here and then delimited that at higher levels. Instead of shifter aspect, the archetype begins with low-light vision and gains progressively better draconic traits. Unsurprisingly, the shifter shape is completely changed to instead provide the ability to assume draconic forms. Similarly, the chimeric aspect and capstone are modified.
The elemental nexus chooses a chosen element’s basic utility wild talent as well as a kinetic blast wild talent, with full damage progression as though shifter levels equaled kineticist levels. Additionally, we get the kinetic fist form infusion at 0 burn cost and Improved Unarmed Strike. The blast may only be used in conjunction with kinetic fist and replaces shifter evolution. 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter net a utility wild talent, and Wisdom modifier times per day, the archetype may lower the burn cost of a wild talent by 1. This replaces shifter aspect. As a nitpick here: The reduction should imho only work for utility wild talents granted by this archetype; otherwise the option is a bit too dippable for my tastes. Instead of the Wisdom boost, we get elemental defense at 2nd level, being treated as having accepted 1 burn. 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the archetype is treated as having accepted 1 more burn. Bonus feats allow for kineticist tricks and 5th level unlocks elemental forms via the modified version of shifter shape. 9th and 14th level provide expanded element instead of the chimeric aspect abilities.
The fairy shifter has HD reduced to d8 and only ¾ BAB-progression, but gains the hunter’s spellcasting progression, but draws spells from druid and ranger lists, using Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute. Kudos: Spell overlap between spell lists is noted. Unsurprisingly, this one then proceeds to codify shifter shape in the fey form direction. Instead of the Wis-boost, these folks use Charisma to bolster their defenses and extend that to flat-footed. The capstone is similarly modified. The Giant shifter replaces claws with slams, and bingo, does what it says on the tin. Lycanthropic warriors are limited regarding their aspects, but get scaling DRs instead of the Wisdom boost and they begin play with hybrid form availability – nice tweak and easily multiclassed one. Metamorphic genius has d8 HD and 3/4 BAB-progression. The archetype also gets the infusion discovery and alchemy instead of shifter aspect and the chimeric abilities; extract levels of shapeshifting tricks are reduced by 1 and it also comes with some flexibility. These also get a longer duration and Int is a governing attribute here. In the absence of shifting, quicker extract imbibing (only of those noted by the archetype) maintains the action economy of the base class.
As a huge fan of the Dark Souls games and the classic monster, I smiled broadly when reading the Mimickin – you get Disguise as a class skill and the archetype nets scaling mimic shapes…and yes, this means grab and swallow whole at higher levels. Oh, and multiple mimickin can form larger objects! Oh, and they get to move stealthily. As a fan of the Prey game and Dark Souls, this one really rocked my world. And before you’re asking: The 3 new object form spells within are what makes this work.
These is a mini-engine tweak/micro-archetype that exchanges trackless step and bonus feats for a ranger’s spellcasting. Necromorphs are a cool thematic undead/undead-controlling type of shifter that can maintain multiple gentle repose effects and Hide in Plain Sight in dim light at 5th level. One of the cooler theme-archetypes; no Dead Space-y stuff, though. Speaking of which: Oozeling. It’s the single best ooze-style class option I’ve seen in a long while. Compression from level 1 and some potent defenses, as well as a more complex natural weapon table made me smile. Protean masters would be the inevitable unchained eidolon archetype. Surprisingly, all eidolon subtypes are unlocked – I kinda expected these to unlock over the levels, but limited evolution points keep this in check. Higher levels provide more flexibility here.
The pdf also includes a new 10-level PrC, the Polymorph Savant, who needs the Basic Alteration feat (one of the feats within – unlocks speaking and behaves like alter self) as well as shifter shape and a BAB of +5. The PrC has ¾ BAB-progression and ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression, 4 + Int skills per level and d8 HD. The PrC adds class levels to legendary shifter regarding the effects of class features and gets the ability to assume Tiny, Small, Medium or Large insect shapes, as per vermin shape II. 2nd level adds ghost touch to shifter evolutions, with 6th level making the attacks count as aligned, 10th providing the adamantine bypassing. At 2nd level, being under shifter shape nets uncanny dodge and evasion. 3rd level unlocks Diminutive, Tiny, Small, Medium, large or Huge monstrous humanoids; 4th level and 8th net a bonus feat, 5th nets fey shapes – get it? Yep, the progression is pretty close to the base class, and instead of specializing provides basically the jack-of-all-trades shifter.
Now, the feats within allow shifter to retain combat power while Tiny or smaller sans being crippled; Animal Spirit makes you use Charisma as governing attribute; Bestial Roots allows archetypes that trade this in to gain animal shapes (but not the magical beast shapes of the base class); Morphic Berserker is a legendary shifter/barbarian crossover feat, and Morphic Lyricist and Morphic Stalker represent the multiclass facilitators for bards and slayer, respectively. The pdf concludes after aforementioned spells with Ines, a beautifully illustrated and well-written, fun NPC – Ines is overflowing with love, raised by fey and comes with a cool boon. Two thumbs up for the cool NPC!
Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a blend of previously used and new full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Siobhan Bjorknas and N. Jolly deliver a huge improvement over the standard shifter here. Honestly, just forget about the base class and use this one instead. The legendary shifter is, at least in my book, preferable in pretty much every way – this class does the dedicated shapeshifter, the one based on the magic-chassis, as well as you can probably do the concept. Heck, while a lot of this pdf delivered pretty much exactly what I expected to find, it actually managed to surprise me in a positive way, in a book that I honestly expected to bore me to tears. The oozeling and mimickin, in particular, made me smile a really devilish grin. So yeah, this is a very good book. There are a few components where I’d have preferred a tad bit more nuance, but that’s me complaining at a very high level. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up, since given the design goal, this is probably as close to excellent as the shifter without divorcing it from core-engines, is ever likely to get.
You can get this vastly improved shifter-rebuild here on OBS!
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