The Malefactor Class: Revised & Expanded (PFRPG/5e)
This revision of the malefactor class clocks in at 41 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my review-queue as a non-prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
After a brief introduction by the designers, a guest author and a well-written excerpt from the journals of the iconic malefactor, we begin with the description of the class – the malefactor is a being blessed (or cursed) by the attention of an Yla, a spirit of chaos and misfortune.
Let us begin with the PFRPG-version:
The class, with its focus on misfortune, clocks in at ¾ BAB-progression, good Will-saves and Ref-saves, d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons, light crossbows, rapier, longsword, shortbow and short sword as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The iterative attacks in the table lack plusses and the third iterative attack is completely missing from the class table.
The malefactor begins play with a strife pool equal to ½ class level (I *ASSUME* minimum 1, but the pdf does not specify this) + Wisdom modifier strife. Strife replenishes after resting and while the malefactor has at least 1 point of strife remaining, they are immune to their own aura of misfortune. This aura imposes a -2 penalty to saving throws within 10 feet of the malefactor, which improves by -1 at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter.
The malefactor deals a lot in curses, and as such, spells & SPS with the [curse] or[hex] descriptor are treated as such. RAW, this does not include hexes, oddly. Maledictions, however, as considered to be curses for the purpose of this definition and magic items requiring remove curse to put down similarly are treated as such.
Maledictions would represent SPs, the first of which is gained at 1st level, with every 2 levels thereafter yielding additional maledictions. Maledictions use character level as caster level – I’m pretty sure that should be class level. Anyways, the governing attribute for these would be Wisdom, with a save of 10 + ½ class level + Wisdom modifier. Maledictions have a range of only 20 ft, which increases to 40 ft. at 9th and 60 ft. at 15th level, with a duration equal to Wisdom modifier, minimum 1 round, unless otherwise noted.
Maledictions include physical ability score penalties via aged bones, rendering a target flat-footed…or even imposing a 50% chance that a creature will be incapable of acting! The more potent of these often have a hex-caveat to prevent abuse. Cumulative penalties, Charisma-based AC bonus, making a foe temporarily a bleeder, blinding targets, swift action maledictions when passing through a target’s square – the maledictions, let that be stated loud and clearly, are pretty amazing! They are creative, and, as a whole, let you play a mobile debuffer/sabotage role really well. There are a couple of minor hiccups, like an SP that should be, action-wise, probably SU That being said, this is honestly offset by some of the evocative tricks – like e.g. suppressing the special weapon abilities of weapons, reducing damage – there are some honestly unique and fun tricks here!
Starting at 2nd level, the class gains harrowing strike – a melee attack as a standard action that may target any being currently suffering from a curse. This attack gains Wisdom bonus to atk. Starting at 5th level, Wisdom modifier is also added to damage rolls. 8th level lets the malefactor automatically bypass concealment. 11th level adds 1d6 bleed damage and 14th level provides a second harrowing strike, but at the cost of -2 to both attack -a kind of micro-flurry. 17th level makes the harrowing strike be treated as a touch attack and 20th level upgrades the bleed damage to 2d6 and makes the DC to still the bleeding rather high. Also at second level, the class gains strife surge: Whenever a creature within the aura of misfortune rolls a natural 1 on a save or attack roll, the malefactor reduces strife cost of abilities and maledictions by 1, minimum 0.
Starting at 3rd level, the malefactor gains Wisdom modifier to Reflex and Fortitude saves. At 4th level (not noted in the ability text – an oversight that extends to a few of the abilities), the malefactor gains cursebreaker: The malefactor can target a being with an at-will remove curse (not properly italicized, like quite a few spell references herein), suffering the curse on a failure. 7th level nets cursebound, which is amazing: It lets the malefactor ignore the penalties associated with the respective cursed item – the malefactor may even get easily get rid of the items…though they revert to their cursed state when outside of the malefactor’s possession. Additionally, the malefactor gains +4 to saves versus curses and hexes. Starting at 9th level, attempts to flank the malefactor yield a penalty instead of a bonus and aiding another against the class becomes harder. This improves further at 15th level, imposing a -5 penalty instead to atk while flanking and increasing the Aid Another AC required to hit to a whopping 25.
10th level yields a bonus feat as well as a dread escalation: Each malediction sports such an escalation, an additional, unlocked effect.
At 13th level, the malefactor gains dire displacement, a swift action SP that costs 1 point of strife to enter displacement – cool: If a foe fails to hit the malefactor due to this, the malefactor may redirect the attack to another creature within the attack’s reach. 15th level yields Reject Defeat – spend 1 point of strife upon rolling a natural 1 on a save to immediately reroll it, but this prevents using the strife surge ability – kudos! 16th level lets the malefactor perceive cursed items and creatures as via blindsense 30 ft. and they may determine on sight if something is cursed. The capstone provides immunity to all curses that allow for SR and creatures treat natural 2s as natural 1s while within her aura.
There even is a lore table with appropriate skill DCs provided for the class and the pdf sports 12 feats for PFRPG – these allow the malefactor to take the usual “Extra X.” Choosing a signature malediction to be usable as a move action (sans breaking the hard limit per round), selective aura, increased durations, higher DCs – some nice customization tools here. The class also sports a rather impressive array of favored class options for a wide variety of races beyond the core.
A total of 5 archetypes are provided: The curse-eater loses harrowing strike at 2nd level, but gains a boost whenever she uses cursebreaker. Problem: That ability is gained at 4th level, which is a bit late for the archetype, rendering the signature boost useless at 2nd and 3rd level. Higher levels yield the option to transfer curses, an SR versus them and at 17th level, they carry around a cursebreaking aura, making them formidable foes against enemies employing them. The Doom herald loses medium armor proficiency in favor of at-will tongues. Furthermore, they gain the ability to force two rolls, taking the worse result, on saves versus curses or hexes of those affected by their terrible proclamations. And yes, this is balanced via a hex-caveat. This replaces aura of misfortune. At 7th level, they gain +1/2 class level to Intimidate. And 10th level yields a +2 bonus to saves versus mind-affecting effects. 30th level yields the ability to cause the frightened condition and 19th level provides a bonus to atk versus frightened foes. The archetype uses Charsima as governing attribute for its abilities.
Kismets replace harrowing strike and aura of misfortune with the ability to bestow luck on allies, with 5th level providing a save reroll, 10th level a skill check reroll with a bonus and 15th level the option to grant atk rerolls. 19th level lets the kismet cause attacks to be followed up by AoOs. Charisma, once again, is governing attribute here. Moirae can roll a d20 and store it fr later use in the round, thankfully with a hard daily cap, and they may use a full-round action a limited number of times per day to make a roll be treated as a 20 (not a crit); 10th level allows for a similar ability, but one that locks the roll as a natural 1, with a Will-save to negate – I assume, the DC being as per a malediction. 15th level replaces reject defeat with a reliable weal/woe-question to the GM and 19th level lets the moirae roll twice on random charts (crit/fumble/rod of wonders, etc.). Finally, the reaver increases damage output versus cursed targets (bonus damage should be codified) and they gain heavy armor proficiency. They can add maledictions after crits and at 9th level, add maledictions after successful attacks a limited number of times. 15th level yields a critical threat range increase versus cursed foes (need clarification on whether it stacks – I assume it does) and 19th level increases the bonus damage die size.
Next up would be 5e, though this is well a place as any to note one peculiarity: While I like that the two systems are color-coded for your convenience, I consider the presentation-sequence horribly annoying: Instead of getting PFRPg first, then 5e, we get one ability, then the effects for 5e and PFRPFG, then the next ability – no matter which system you employ, your class is thus constantly interrupted by rules that do not concern you. This is baffling and pretty annoying, particularly in conjunction with the fact that many abilities/features don’t note at which level they’re gained in the respective ability text, requiring a lot back and forth skipping.
The 5e-version of the malefactor gets d8 HD, proficiency in light and medium armor, simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers and shortswords and has proficiency in Wisdom and Charisma saves. Skill-wise, you choose 3 from Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth and Survival. On the equipment-side of things, whenever there are choice, the “(a)s” have gone missing – probably due to a redundancy autocorrect. Disappointing: The class lacks a quick-build-section, one of the more convenient aspects of 5e. The class gains ability score improvements at 4th level, every 4 levels thereafter and 19th level. The class begins play with 2 strife points and increases that up to a total of 8 at 19th level.
Aura of misfortune, in 5e, causes a -1d4 penalty to all saving throws of creatures within 10 ft. of you. As in PFRPG, you don’t take the penalty as long as you have at least 1 strife. Strife replenishes after a short rest in 5e. Strife Surge in 5e lets you furthermore regain a strife point whenever a creature within your aura rolls a natural 1 on a save, skill check or attack roll.
Harrowing strike in 5e behaves as follows: The attack requires an Attack action and 2nd level lets you add your Wisdom bonus on attack rolls; 5th level also applies this to damage rolls. 8th lets you ignore cover. 11th level adds +1d8 necrotic damage; 14th level nets a second harrowing strike as a bonus action. 17th level provides advantage on harrowing strikes and 20th level upgrades the bonus necrotic damage to +2d8. Luck of the damned nets you proficiency in Dexterity saves, +1/2 proficiency bonus extra if you already are proficient. Cursebreaker nets you at-will remove curse – but, like all abilities here, fails to specify the spellcasting attribute here. Also annoying: The pdf keeps mentioning a caster level – which does not exist in 5e. Cursebound is just as cool in 5e as in PFRPG – full use of cursed items.
At 10th level, when more than one opponent attacks you, they all suffer from disadvantage on attack rolls against you. This is later upgraded to automatic disadvanateg on attack rolls and saves while within your aura. Dire displacement can be triggered as a bonus action and lets you use Stealth while observed. Reject defeat lets you reroll natural 1s for strife. Curse sense does pretty much the same as in PFRPG. At 20th level, creatures attempting to curse you must save or have the curse affect them as well. The level also yields immunity versus all spells with the curse descriptor…which does not exist in 5e.
The archetypes work as usual for 5e – you choose one at 3rd level and then receive a linear sequence of abilities: Curse eaters sport this as the first ability: “At 3rd level, as part of a full-round action when you successfully use the Cursebreaker ability, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and temporary hit points equal to the caster level of the broken curse. These abilities last for one hour or until the temporary hit points are depleted.“ Okay, let’s begin, shall we? Full-round action? Not in 5e. Minor bonus tracking? Not exactly 5e-aesthetics. Caster level? Does not exist in 5e.This whole ability does not work RAW. I’d WISH this was the only one of the abilities this flawed, but it’s not. PFRPG actions has crept into this a couple of times, compromising the rules-integrity. Curse eater doesn’t work as it should. The herald of doom is, thankfully, functional, but the save against the demoralizing utterances is weird – 8 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier, when 5e usually employs proficiency bonus for the like: RAW, the DC is VERY high. Weird: The fear-sowing instead uses ½ proficiency bonus in the formula. Other than that, decent enough. The Kismet archetype botches the reaction-wording, failing to specify to what the reaction can be taken. This applies to all class features, rendering the archetype basically nonfunctional as presented. Also mentions luck bonus once. The moirae’s mechanics are pretty close to 5e…but alas, they sport daily uses and don’t properly codify their recharges regarding rest intervals. The reaver’s rules-language is a bit wobbly, but at least functional. Oh boy, that archetype section was a downer.
So, how did the maledictions fare? Maledictions have make-belief caster levels, are governed by Wisdom (correct formula) and have the same range (20ft./49 ft. at 9th/60 ft. at 15th level) and duration (Wisdom modifier rounds, minimum 1)as in PFRPG. They require an action unless otherwise noted and do not provoke opportunity attacks. Well, malediction number one requires a Constitution save, bestowing a level of eshaustion on the target if he fails. Oh, and guess what? Since 5e lacks the dread escalation unlock, the options to pay more strife for the better benefits are unlocked from the get-go! For 1 point of strife, that one is upgraded by “an additional point of exhaustion.” Exhaustion sports levels, not points. Not starting with how multiple malefactors can slay anything that can become exhausted willy-nilly with this. The malediction seriously should have a maximum exhaustion level caveat. Wisdom save or 50% to lose all actions for 1 round can be increases to 1 minute (!!) for 2 strife. Compare that to one requiring a Constitution save, or all attacks against the target cause 1d4 extra damage. There is also one that lets you pull off a malediction when moving through a creature’s “threatened area” – yep, that does not exist in 5e. Reach? Space? Yep, those do exist. Balance-wise, the replenishing pool in combination with the lost scaling means that these maledictions end up being potent; I don’t get why the dread escalation aspect has been purged from the 5e-iteration.
Supplemental material wise, the 5e-version gets two feats: Power of Malediction nets +1 malediction, +2 strife and when anyone rolls a natural 1 in your aura, you gain advantage on ALL actions until your next turn. WTF. Misfortune Aura Mastery increases the aura of misfortune’s range to 40 ft. Which does nothing if the levels are high enough…or should that be +20 ft.? It also lets you exempt Wisdom bonus targets from its effects and increases the duration of all maledictions by +1 round when within your aura. Okay, what if the target leaves and re-enters?
The pdf closes with stats for Talitha Shadowtongue, the iconic malefactor, in both systems. Both statblocks sport hiccups.
Editing and formatting…are what brings down this pdf. While the formal criteria are still okay, the fact that the rules-language is compromised in several key instances is highly problematic. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard, and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports two really gorgeous one-page full-color artworks (one being a pole-dancing succubus or tiefling) and a couple of less impressive, but decent color-pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
I love Brian Berg’s malefactor class. (Additional writing by James Olchak and Rick Cox). It is one of the most unique, interesting classes I know for the PFRPG game and the combo-skirmisher/debuffer is a cool role. The class oozes flavor galore and provides utterly unique tricks to pull off.
In short: It deserves better.
The annoying presentation that alternates between the systems can be grating and is utterly baffling to me. But while I was reading the PFRPG-version, the old fire returned – I caught myself smiling. In spite of the formal hiccups and nonstandard wording instances, I couldn’t help myself. It is a cool class, albeit one that could have really used a picky developer to file off the rough edges here and there. Then I started looking at 5e. Oh boy. The base chassis is, apart from referencing several rules-concepts that don’t exist in the system, pretty solid. But the class falls apart in the archetypes, where crucial abilities simply don’t work. The amount of remnant Pathfinderisms is baffling and something even a cursory editing pass should have caught. I’m sorry to say this: While in Pathfinder, bonus types and several aspects of the finer rules-language could be a bit smoother, the 5e-version is simply sloppy and not up to the standards.
This review breaks my heart. The base chassis, in both versions, is cool and utterly unique. It is, however, also a prime example for why I consider editors and developers to be the unsung heroes of the industry. One careful pass could have rendered this class, in both iterations, a 5-star + seal masterpiece, annoying presentation notwithstanding. Instead, we’re left with class that is flawed, that has serious issues in one system and minor hiccups in the other. I’d love to rate this separately, but alas, I can’t. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, barely rounded up for the purpose of this platform, courtesy of me really loving what’s here, what can be salvaged.
You can get this class here on OBS.