Mesmerists of Porphyra
This pdf clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD (though one has a spell-line from the previous page), leaving us with 35 pages of content. It should be noted that these sport an A5-style (6” by 9”) booklet-like layout, which allows you to comfortably fit 4 pages on a given sheet of paper if you print them out.
After a brief introduction, we begin with the massive assortment of archetypes featured within these pages, beginning with the arcane manipulator, who does not receive any armor or shield proficiencies and suffers from spell failure when using the like. The archetype treats the spells gained as prepared arcane spells rather than psychic spells. The psychic components are replaced with arcane ones – while it is pretty evident which components should be used in this substitution, I do think it would have been prudent to explicitly spell it out. Anyways, the governing attribute would be Int here and the mesmerist receives a spellbook. The stare is modified to impose a decreased penalty to account for the gained flexibility, but extends its penalties to Will saves with a custom bold stare. Instead of consummate liar and towering ego, the archetype may employ Intelligence as governing attribute for Diplomacy, Intimidate and Sense Motive and also is treated as having Combat Expertise for the purpose of feat prerequisites. Starting at 3rd level, the archetype adds a limited amount of healing-themed spells to spellbook and spell list – cure light wounds, remove disease, cleanse, etc. – this eliminates touch treatment, though. Solid.
The Caretaker must be good and replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Diplomacy checks. These guys can focus their stare on an ally, granting them a “+2 penalty on Will saving throws” – this scales up to +3 at 8th level…and obviously should be a bonus with a proper bonus type. Instead of painful stare, the caretaker can convert damage the target of the stare receives into non-lethal damage. Cool: The ability has a caveat to prevent abuse from those immune to nonlethal damage. Nice! 3rd level provides the addition of healing spells to the spell-list, with every 3 levels thereafter providing a new spell added…and yes, they properly denote their spell-levels. 11th level nets the paladin’s detect evil class feature instead of glib lie and 10th level nets 1/day mass heal as an SP instead of rule minds. Weird: The ability is Su when it pretty much is textbook SP, structure-wise. That being said, I *love* this engine-tweak, in spite of its minor hiccups.
The dazzling flailer gets 4+Int skills per level and proficiency with simple weapons + flails, including nunchaku, spiked chain, meteor hammer, etc. They start play with Dazzling Display and may use it in conjunction with these weapons. 8th level increases the condition imposed from frightened to shaken….äh…wait. Shaken is more serious than frightened. Something’s wrong here. This eliminates hypnotic stare. Instead of painful stare, those affected by his Dazzling Display receive +1/2 class level damage from the flailer’s attacks with the weapon group. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the flailer gets display improvements to Dazzling Display, chosen from a list of 5 – these allow the penalty incurred by the target to also apply to different values – initiative, DCs, etc., movement and Ref-saves…you get the drift. It’s basically a variant bold stare tied to the Display. There is also a solid, exclusive mesmerist trick allowing for the use of a weapon as a hypnotism locket in conjunction with the occult skill unlock.
The elemental eye replaces Knowledge (religion) with Knowledge (planes), and those affected by his gaze can look forward to receiving more elemental damage (1/2 class level); if the eye uses the ability to increase his own elemental damage output, it’s even more (1d6 per 3 class levels). Cool: The ability manages to properly code critical interaction. As a minor complaint: The ability should specify what constitutes elemental damage for its purposes, since sonic damage is sometimes treated as elemental and sometimes not; using Porphyra’s other supplements and the stare modifications as reference, I’m pretty sure it should only apply to acid, cold, electricity and fire damage. Speaking of which – 4 bold stares are available for the archetype, allowing the mesmerist to penalize saves versus the respective element. It should be noted that the archetype loses painful stare.
Next up would be the gazer, proficient with handcrossbows and whips as well as simple weapons. “They can wear light and medium armor and carry shields” -is not rules-language, alas. Even non-proficient characters can do that. 😉 Kidding aside, the intent is clear here and I’m just complaining to help the authors improve. Instead of knacks, spellcasting and glib lie, the archetype receives the complex psychic gaze ability, which is an SP, with a DC equal to 11 + 1/3rd class level (minimum 0) + Cha-mod, usable 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day, with CL equal to class level. Effects persist even after changing the hypnotic stare’s target. At 1st level, the gazer picks one gaze school, with 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter unlocking an additional school.
These correspond to schools of magic. These include basic abilities and improvements at 4th level and every 6 levels after that. Abjuration can impose concentration checks to cast spells or SPs with scaling DCs; at higher levels spellcrashes are added and we even get an antimagic field at high levels. Divination nets increasing AC bonuses and SP-duplications of several information-gleaning tricks; Enchantment provides straightforward charms and compulsions. Evocation lets you set targets ablaze with your gaze. Here, the wording is a bit odd: You see, the damage dice used to calculate the damage increases to d8, but since the gaze can render foes alight, they have a chance to continue to receive damage – 1d6. I am not sure if this is intended to be fixed or if it should scale to d8 as well. Illusion can eliminate the mesmerist within the sight of the target, making him invisible…only better: Not even glitterdust etc. help here. Cool! At higher levels, we have complex and scripted hallucination, including precisely worded trigger option. Nice. Necromancy yields undead control as well as debuffs. Annoying: The archetype references “turning corpses into skeletons or undead” – a) Skeletons ARE undead and b), the spell used as reference by the pdf is raise dead – which does something completely different. This should be animate dead instead, otherwise, we have ridiculous amounts of dead PCs returning to life! Transmutation begins with fatigue and then nets paralysis at 4th level…which is kinda lame. Locking a foe down is nice and dandy, but transmutation most certainly had cooler concepts.
Instead of consummate liar, these guys use the hypnotic Stare’s BAB as equal to their class level and 3rd level allows them to affect additional creatures with their stares, +1 per every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, psychic gaze may be used upon multiple targets, but at an increased daily use cost. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter yield a bonus feat and the archetype gets a unique capstone, namely absorbing gaze attacks and potentially unleashing it on foes. Additionally, one school chosen grants a mastery bonus, the exact nature of which is determined by the school in question. I like this archetype’s engine very much, but I think its precise execution could be more precise and diverse, considering the loss of spellcasting.
The kytonik would be a high-concept archetype. Instead of hypnotic stare, these guys get an unnerving gaze with a range of 20 feet that imposes a scaling penalty to Will-saves on non-allies, with 8th level extending the range to 30 ft. Whenever a target fails a Will-save versus the kytonik’s unnerving gaze, they take 1/2 class level damage, minimum 1. This is codified as precision damage and may only be used once versus a given target per round and while the ability replaces painful stare, it counts as such for abilities and feats. 2nd level replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to Fort-saves, but only when capable of fulfilling the emotional component of psychic spells. Instead of the standard bold stares, these guys may choose from a wide variety of bold gazes, which allow for the use of combat maneuvers sans provoking AoOs. I like the theme here, but I do believe that it could have used a couple of more abilities to build on its tricks.
The Macaroni, fops and dandies, inflict 1d6 force damage after saving versus a charm effect and living to the end of the spell’s duration, replacing consummate liar thus. Instead of mesmerist tricks, these guys can choose vigilante social talents and 3rd level renders them immune to the shaken condition, with 6th and 9th level providing immunity to frightened and panicked, respectively. 11th level provides something extremely potent: The ability to gain two worn item body slots. Of his choice. Here’s the issue – the ability makes it sound like you can freely assign these…but “body” is actually a precise slot…so which is it? I assume it’s free selection…but seriously, as a replacement to glib lie, that’s pretty potent. The archetype does come with a great piece of full color artwork depicting the character, though.
The Master Mesmerist draws his spells from the divination, enchantment and illusion spells of the wizard spell list, including cantrips, and makes them psychic spells. They get spells of up to 9th level and use the druid’s spell progression to determine daily spell allotment. Once again, conversion from arcane to psychic would have warranted a note. They use Cha as governing spellcasting attribute and lose mesmerist tricks…and 9th level spellcasting is MUCH too strong for losing just mesmerist tricks, even when restricted to these schools. Not getting near my game.
The mirahoiru add Acrobatics to their list of class skills and gain several eastern weapon proficiencies, from kama to kusarigama to wakizashi, quite a nice list. They can also use light armors. The archetype suffers from diminished spellcasting. Instead of painful stare, mental potency and glib lie, they gain a ninja’s full sneak attack progression and they may take ninja tricks instead of mesmerist tricks, using their class level as ninja level for prerequisite purposes. 2nd level nets +Wisdom bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Disguise while he can provide the emotional component of his psychic spells. Not the biggest fan of dual attributes to anything, but I can live with it here.
The Panoptes gain +1/2 class level to Perception and qualifies for the Improved and Greater Disarm feats, ignoring some benefits. This replaces consummate liar. Okay, here, things get…disturbing an cool: Instead of painful stare, the panoptes gains all-around vision via hundreds of eyes over the character’s whole body, which can seamlessly close, granting a bonus versus petrification, paralysis and gaze attacks – to nitpick, that should be “bonus to saving throws”, but the intention is clear. Instead of 1st level’s trick, they gain a peacock familiar and 2nd level yields Darkvision or improves it, also granting a reduction of the percentile chance to miss invisible creatures. This replaces towering ego. The capstone yields 1/day SP mass hold monster…which is designated as SU and is textbook SP, but oh well…we do get an AMAZING artwork of the archetype. Brett Neufeld did a great job here!
The siren’s mind-affecting spells have thought and verbal components and teh archetype receives a couple of bonus spells, replacing towering ego. They get + class level to Perform (sing) instead of consummate liar. Unique: Instead of hypnotic stare, they use their voices to generate the tricks we expect from the base class. This means she does not require the same line of sight…but to make up for that, she may not eliminate the knowledge of her song from the target’s consciousness. Cool. Mental potency only applies to mesmerist spells with verbal components. The Spellbinding saint transforms her spells into divine spells (again, component transition could be explicit for the sake of ease of reference). She also gains two warpriest blessings, using Charisma as governing attribute, with 10th level unlocking major blessings. This replaces mesmerist tricks, manifold tricks and masterful tricks. A bit front-loaded as far as I’m concerned. 4th level, 8th, 16th and 18th level nets a combat or metamagic feat. At 20th level, we get SU miracle once every 3 days, but still requires the component.
The vision is a mesmerist sans spells and has neither caster level, nor spell list. The vision gains an unchained summoner’s eidolon, but not life link etc.. Visions use Con as governing attribute for mesmerist abilities. 5th level yields +1 to Fort- and Ref-saves, +1 every 5 levels thereafter, replacing mental potency and glib lie. 20th level provides a native outsider apotheosis.
The pdf also contains 6 new bold stares: Penalty to Acrobatics, Climb and Swim; Bluff and Linguistics, DCs of EX abilities and feats; making the target friendlier; knowing the precise location of the target and penalizing AC can be found here. Nice ones.
A total of 10 tricks are provided for the edification of the reader. These include teamwork lying, triggering a berserker rage, percentile chance of negating sneak/critical hits, a sharing of teamwork feats, adding an Intimidate check after being caught sneaking around, sound-dampening, better healing, slowing poison, uncanny dodge and an AC-bonus can be found here – nice array.
The book contains vile tricks – these can only be implanted willingly or via Subtle Implantation, but they are darker…basically, they hurt the target, making the trick less of a buff and more of a devious debuff. These include becoming confused upon rolling 1s (and allowing the mesmerist to undertake that endeavor immediately at a +2 bonus!), penalizing flanking or causing the target to intercept ranged attacks aimed at the mesmerist. What about delegating ability score damage due to casting spells? Yeah, nasty. These are not all of them, mind you. As a whole, some cool ones here!
The pdf also features 6 master tricks…which include growing temporarily 4 additional arms when using unarmed strikes, including Multiweapon Fighting. Being encased in protective ice when reduced to below 0 hp is also rather cool, particularly since the block does heal and blocks line of effect. Implanting a counterspell similarly is a rather nifty trick – I like these.
We next are introduced to new feats – these range from a bit lame (higher DCs for animals and anthropomorphic creatures) to very interesting: You can lock your gaze on one target for 24 hours; the target is affected, but you’re locked out of your own stares…but you *can* end this as a free action. Considering that this eliminates a central limitation of the class, I’d suggest adding a hard cap of daily uses to this feat. Pure awesome: Mesmerist Implants. This feat is actually 8 in one – you choose one of the 8 implants and gain benefits from cybernetic interface to aura scanner. Have I mentioned the option to shutdown implants etc.? VERY cool. Spellbite Stare is also intriguing, replacing the painful stare’s effects, but allowing you to cast a spell that directly targets creatures and requires no atk roll as your painful stare. Casting time modifying effects cannot be used in conjunction with this feat and it does count as inflicting painful stare damage. Big kudos: The complex feat manages to get Lasting Stare interaction right.
Subtle Implantation, mentioned before, is pretty evident from the name – and it is AMAZING and utterly required for mesmerist masterminds. This feat on its own may be enough reason to get this pdf. Vile Misdirection builds further on this and lets others benefit from the vile tricks. Wracking Stare inflicts nonlethal damage via hypnotic stare and Wilting Stare adds a penalty to Painful Stare feat or Will-Saves of targeted mesmerist spells as the aftermath of inflicting painful stare damage.
Equipment-wise, we get masterwork mesmerist kits…and more: The above has hinted at it…more Technology Guide support! Like hypnotic mesmer eyes! Cool. Oh, and treatment magnets. Shields can benefit from the spiraling special ability and weapons from painful, with both interacting nicely with the respective class feature.
Fans of Ravenloft or Horror Adventures will enjoy the new narcissist corruption contained within these pages. Before you’re asking: We don’t take the clinical angle here, instead focusing more on the mythological one, including a need to Cha-buff and gaze into reflective surfaces. The corruption stages don’t 100% follow that theme, though, with the final one making you a sociopath, a completely different diagnosis…I know. I know. It’s a complex concept. Positive correlations between psychopathy and narcissisim have been observed, but yeah…as far as I’m concerned, they are apples and oranges. The manifestations allow for arcanist exploits, better illusions, adding Cha-mod to saves and the like – they, unlike the stages, feel better in line with the theme. That being said, the stains, as a whole, make for fitting and cool penalties for the powers gained via the corruption.
The pdf concludes with a brief spell-list, noting PDG spells that should be added to the mesmerist’s class spells.
This pdf also comes with Paul Verane, a sample mesmerist 3 in his own little 4-pages pdf – nice bonus!
Editing and formatting are pretty good. While I noticed quite a few typo-level hiccups and punctuation glitches, for the most part, this is solid. The rules-language, for the most part, is very precise, though there are a couple of hiccups here as well – unfortunately, sometimes influencing the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard (in A5, 6” by 9”) with purple highlights. The artworks provided herein are full-color and rather impressive, considering the low price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.
Aaron Hollingsworth and Blake Morton’s take on mesmerists was a weird experience for me. You see, I adore the base class and think that it could and should care significantly more via its chassis. The vile tricks and implantation modifications presented within these pages are a huge, amazing step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. I adore them. Similarly, quite a few of the feats and other options within are cool, evocative and make sense. The archetypes take the base engine and tweak it in various ways – some in a cooler manner than others. As a whole, I felt that quite a few of the archetypes herein could have, concept-wise, carried more than the abilities they received. The panoptes or kytonik, for example, imho practically demand additional, cool options. While there is A LOT to love within these pages, the pdf, as a whole, is also a somewhat flawed book with quite a few small glitches, some cosmetic, some not so cosmetic, making this a bit of a mixed bag for me.
However, in spite of these, there are several options herein (buffing mesmerist, debuffing tricks, etc.) that simply are too cool to designate this as just a mixed bag. While not everything is amazing herein, there are several concepts that fit this description. Formal criteria-wise, I’d probably settle for something around the 3.5 star-range, but I’d rather have a flawed book with brilliant highlights than a perfect accumulation of bland mediocrity and this book does not deserve being called that. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If you’re like me and look for engine-tweaks for the mesmerist and some seriously needed additional options, take a look. Can we have a sequel book, please?
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