Lost Lore: The Portalist
This supplement of Frog God Games’ Lost Lore-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What is the portalist? The simple reply would be that it is a new base-class that gets d10, full BAB-progression, 4+Int mod skills per level, good Ref-saves, proficiency with simple and light as well as single-handed martial weapons and light armor, but not shields. Portalists receive +1 to initiative at 1st level, increasing this bonus by +1 at 7th level and ever 4 levels thereafter, but their signature trick, obvious, is the eponymous ability to create portals.
A portalist may create one such portal +Int-mod per day at 1st level, +1 every level until 5th, where the progression slows down to +1 every odd level thereafter for a maximum of 12 portals per day at 19th level. In order to create a portal, a portalist has to expend a swift action and designate a start and an exit point, with the start point being either his square or one adjacent to him and the exit square not being more than 25 ft + 5 ft/2 levels away. Portalists need to have line of sight to the exit square and the exit square must not be occupied – if it is, the attempt is expended and fails, though the ability does work against tiny and smaller creatures. Portals collapse immediately upon passing through or at the end of the portalist’s turn and may only be used by the portalist that created them. Portals are loud and easy to detect, so no silent infiltration…which is a pity, concept-wise. This, alas, does leave me with some questions: Can you look through a portal to get line of sight? Can you cast through a portal when you have an action readied? Is a portal a Conjuration [teleportation]-effect? It should be. If so, at what CL? This becomes relevant for means of teleportation-suppression. Do you need a free hand to make a portal? The proficiencies suggest so, But I’m not sure.
Starting at 2nd level, the portalist learns a portalist trick – basically, the talents of the class utilized to manipulate the portals and, unfortunately, here, the wording falls a bit apart: Take Ally Portal. It’s simple in concept: Take an ally with you through the portal. “A portalist may pull a single willing adjacent ally of the same size or smaller through his portal so the two of them travel together. The Portalist and his ally must exit the portal in separate but adjacent squares. Using an ally portal only expends a single portal.” Simple, right? Nope. Does the ally have to expend the movement? If not, why not? Does the ally have to ready the move through the portal? No idea. At 2 uses of another ability, a portalist may, as a full-round action, create a portal, move through it, attack, and return to his origin and similar combinations with charge attacks and the like are possible. Another issue that came almost immediately up would pertain the portal combinations: Can multiple such special portal tricks be applied to the same portal? Could you e.g. combine aforementioned two tricks?
On the other side of things, making portals elemental blasts upon opening and immediate action evasion or ignoring the line of sight requirement for the exit portal are interesting options – as is e.g. a spider climb-style perching on ceilings and the like. The other abilities of the class, unfortunately, also sport some minor inconsistencies – when e.g. an ability talks about “rough” terrain and obviously means “difficult terrain.” Combining attacks and portals receives circumstance bonuses at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter and 10th level provides basically the advanced portal tricks, so-called arch portals – and here we have per se interesting mechanics: Like accelerating in the initiative order past an opponent adjacent to which the portalist came out or contingency portals. The capstone of the class allows for one portal per foe in range of his ability and basically whirlwind attack at range 1/day.
The pdf provides 10 new feats that cover extra portals and similar basics, but also feature e.g. the option to combine readied actions with portals, +1 portal per successful crit after exiting a portal (kitten-proof due to 1:1 expenditure/reward-ratio) or an option to eliminate the place-swapping trick of transposition portal’s AoO. There are also some rather weak filler feats here, though: +2 dodge bonus after porting (+4 at 10+ ranks in Acrobatics)? Yeah, right, let me waste a feat on that one…
The pdf also sports new favored class options for the core-races and a new skill use for Acrobatics: Porting onto big monsters – and this section, with plenty of skill modifiers, may be worth the pdf’s low asking price alone for you. The pdf also sports a new weapon special quality, portallic – this is basically a duplication of flaming, frost…etc. – with one caveat: Each may only be used once per day and only after passing a portal. The Rod of the Portalist allows for 1/day use of any portalist trick, whether the wielder knows it or not.
The pdf closes with no less than 4 pretty inspired fluff-only sample portalist-organizations on a evocative high note.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with parchment-style background in full-color featuring solid b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Michael Kortes’ portalist is a pretty awesome class in concept; thinking with portals and the ramifications for their use make for utterly unique tactical options and generally, the crunch manages to juggle even complex concepts rather well. Rather well, but certainly not perfectly – from minor violations of rules-language to some required information missing regarding the functionality of portals, this pdf, alas, is an exercise of “almost” getting it right. Basically, the class is functional, but requires some minor DM-judgments to properly work. That’s not the issue – as provided, it is certainly not bad. However, the class, to me, feels pretty much like it does its best to miss its own target demographic.
So, you’re the cool portalist guy, pretty MAD (Str, Con, Int or Dex, Con, Int), but you have the portals…and can use them, at 19th level 12+Int-mod times per day. At first level, 1 +Int-mod times. Yay? The problem is that almost all class features here are predicated on using a resource that is not only severely limited, it is painfully limited. My playtest confirmed this, alas. Once you take the crit refuel-feat and combine it with crit-fishing, you can maintain (provided you’re lucky) a certain array of portals, but you’ll still liable to run out of juice very fast – faster than comparable core classes. And once you run out of fuel, you’re basically a fighter without bonus feats or proper proficiencies. Yay?
Basically, the class imho needs to do one of two things: 1) Nerf portal options and provide more portals per day to make the full BAB-chassis work. Or 2), make the class 3/4 BAB and provide significantly more portals per day. As written, the class plays great for short bursts and then becomes pretty much useless – and this criticism by the guy who is a huge fan of resource-management/attrition in my games and designs…so yes, I like that design-type, but it must remain feasible. Ultimately, the portalist has all the makings of an awesome class, but stumbles pretty hard and ends up being a good scavenging ground/base from which you can work, but needs more power to make its unique concepts work consistently. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.
You can get this interesting, yet somewhat rough-around-the-edges-class here on d20pfsrd.com’s shop!