The second collection of Occult Archetypes released by Legendary Games clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC,4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, though it should be noted that, as always for Legendary Games, there’s a lot of content crammed into these pages.
We begin with the Alterationist alchemist archetype, who must be an aberration to qualify for the archetype. The archetype replaces the formulae component of alchemy with the ability to cast psychic spells drawn from the alchemist list as a mesmerist, using Int-mod as governing key ability modifier. The archetype retains bombs and mutagen and begins play with Extra Bombs instead of Brew Potion. The archetype also begins play with a psychic blast which is a mind-affecting effect that employs the same rules as bombs, but deals untyped damage – this replaces bombs and is treated as a bomb substitute – the aforementioned feat does instead modify these blasts, and there is a discovery that lets you inflict fire damage instead. As a limiter for the VERY potent untyped damage, the ability is treated as a mind-affecting ability, though energy damage inflicted gets rid of this descriptor, which goes a way to validate the fire damage discovery. Mutagen is altered to instead be continent on a psychic charge that is stored internally and activated as a standard action, though but one of these may be kept at any time. The interaction of discoveries with formulae is addressed to instead apply to spells, with a sensible array of limitations imposed. Instead of swift alchemy and poison use, we get a darkvision range increase by 30 ft. Poison resistance and immunity are replaced with a +2 bonus to saves vs. confusion, insanity, madness and effects that cause Wisdom damage and drain, which improves by +2 at 5th and 8th level, while 10th level provides immunity to confusion and insanity effects, madness and Wisdom damage/drain. 6th level provides a +2 bonus to saves vs. divination and enchantment, which is doubled at 18th level, replacing swift alchemy and instant alchemy. The archetype also comes with a variant, the philosophic transmuter, which is available sans being an aberration; this modifies the sight-upgrade and the latter bonus versus enchantments and divinations is replaced with one that applies to extraordinary, supernatural and spell-like abilities of oozes and aberrations.
Next up would be the Astropsychic, who gets planteray adaptation and the mass version (both are btw. reproduced here!) added to the spell-list. At 1st and 7th level, the archetype chooses an oracle revelation chosen from the dark tapestry or heavens mystery, with a few choices prohibited. Instead of phrenic amplifications or major amplifications, a revelation may be chosen, using the class level as oracle level, and Intelligence as the governing key ability for DCs, if applicable. Cloak of darkness and cloak of many stars may be chosen, but not activated at the same time – cool. 2nd level nets ½ class level as a morale bonus to Knowledge checks to identify abilities and weaknesses of aliens, a term concisely defined, fyi. The bonus also applies to knowledge (local) checks made to identify the cultural peculiarities. This replaces detect thought. At 2oth level, the archetype gets to choose the whether to take the regular capstone or a final revelation, but in an interesting twist, the archetype may only choose the final revelation of the mystery for which he has more revelations than the other. This rewards specialization without penalizing diversity. Nice!
Next up would be the aura master investigator, who begins play with Psychic Sensitivity. The archetype replaces poison lore, resistance and immunity with a scaling saving throw bonus versus mind.influencing effects that becomes immunity at 10th level. 2nd level provides psychic aura: This begins as personal, but improves to also allowing for a ranged aura at 3rd level, with a 10-ft.-radius, with 5th level and every two thereafter increasing the range. Once activated, an aura lasts until changed or until the character is knocked out. The aura type can be changed as a swift action, and the establishing of an aura similarly is a swift action. 7th, 13th and 19th level provide the option to have an additional personal psychic aura in effect at a given time, with 9th and 16th level providing the means to maintain an additional ranged aura. Here’s the cool thing: These auras are basically buffs that enhance other healing tricks, bonuses to weapon damage, save buffs, resistance, DR – basically, we get super flexible self- and ally buffing without requiring resources! I really liked this, and yes, balance-wise, these are relevant and potent, but since they replace alchemy and swift alchemy, they better should be. Starting at 8th level, two auras may be activated with the same action, and similarly, they may be changed. This improves further to three auras at 16th level. I really like this one – it is flexible, and radically different from the base class.
The indomitable kineticist must be a geokineticist with earth as elemental focus at 1st level. The archetype may choose other elements later. The archetype does not gain basic geokinesis and does not gain utility wild talents at higher levels, nor may the archetype take Extra Wild Talent – ouch! So, what do we get instead? When attacking with an unarmed strike the indomitable gets full BAB, and inflicts 1d6 (1d4 if Small) damage, with 5th level, 9th and every 4 thereafter adding +1 to atk and damage with them. This replaces the infusion gained at 7th level – minor nitpick here: This should probably specify that it’s gained at 1st level, not at the usual substitution ability level. Unsurprisingly regarding this one, the Improved Unarmed Strike feat is gained at first level, and the archetype gets the kinetic form infusion, with burn cost reduced to 0. Kinetic blast may not be used sans form infusions, nor with the chain, extended range, extreme range, foe throw, flurry of blasts or many throw form infusions, nor with any that require a ranged attack or ranged touch attack roll, basically a kineticist martial artist. As long as the kineticist is only a geokineticist, the indomitable detects as non-magical, and even gather power or elemental overflow require magic and a CL to detect. LOVE this one!! 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter net a list from a smartly-chosen array of bonus feats contained on a pretty massive list, these replacing the utility wild talents. Instead of the 3rd level ability, we get immunity to all diseases, including magical ones. At 5th level, the archetype may accept 2 points of additional Burn to increase the kinetic fist base damage die one step, with 9th and 13th level providing further die-size increases at higher Burn costs. This replaces the infusions gained at these levels. This is actually a really cool hybrid-y archetype with quite a bit of its own flair. Like it!
The next archetype is the iron mind barbarian, who must be non-chaotic and gains a modified class skill list and uses Intelligence as governing attribute for the social skills, replacing fast movement. Instead of trap sense, the archetype gets Bravery (great if you’re using Rogue Genius Games’ bravery feats…). Instead of 4th and 16th level’s rage powers the iron mind gets limited telepathy, which increases in range from a basis of 30 ft., with +10 ft. at 5th level, to a maximum of 100 ft. 8th level replaces the rage power with a 1/week commune with the Akashic Record. 12th level dazed targets on a failed save if they try to initiate mental contact, replacing the rage powers gained at 12th and 20th level. This does not allow for telepathy cheesing. The archetype comes with a variant that represents a slightly more primitive version that does not get all of the more “civilized” abilities. Interesting tweak on the barbarian as the party’s face.
The kinetic wizard decides upon a kinetic focus chosen from the 4 base energy types at first level, which also nets the associated basic utility option and determines the blast energy type, with 7th and 15th level providing another energy type. As you could glean from that, the archetype receives kinetic blasts, as kineticist of an equal level, with 2nd level allowing for the sacrifice of 1st level or higher prepared spell slots to increase the blast’s damage output as a free action. Only one spell per blast may be sacrificed, and a massive, handy damage table shows off Julian Neale’s understanding of math. The extra damage granted is not multiplied on a critical hit, and the chassis is sound. A designer’s explanation makes the reasoning beyond the chosen outputs even obvious for mathematically less gifted GMs and players. While the blasts are less flexible than those of the kineticist, the wizard is already the flexibility king, and the requirement of resource-expenditure plus basic blast damage chosen mean that the archetype clocks in at a good option that will not break anyone’s game. Really impressive.
The martial occultist gets proficiency with all armors and full BAB-progression as well as the option to activate aegis, inspired assault, legacy weapon, philosopher’s touch or quickness as a swift action when targeting self only or the martial occultist’s equipment. Inspired assault, legacy weapon and philosopher’s stone also last until dismissed, until the item leaves the martial occultist’s possession, etc. The archetype may not use the servitor base focus power (conjuration) and may not gain conjuration or necromancy resonant powers and also is prohibited from choosing a few focus powers. The martial occultist loses spellcasting and must use UMD for spell-trigger and –completion items. Selecting conjuration as implement school, he gets Implement Focus (conjuration) as a bonus feat – analogue for necromancy. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets bonus combat feats. This replaces magic skill, object reading, outside contact and the circle-abilities. I actually really enjoy this take on the martial occultist! It’s a technical engine-tweak, but it is one that is well-executed and distinct.
Martial seers are paladins or antipaladins that gain +1 to atk and damage versus creatures of their opposed alignment on the good-evil axis, with 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter increasing that bonus. The ability interacts with a change of how the smite engine works, with separate instances of the ability properly codified for both qualifying base classes. The archetype casts spells as a medium, but draws them from the paladin/antipaladin spell list, with 3 spells per spell-level added to represent the seer angle. Divine health or plague bringer, as well as mercies/cruelties are replaced with full-powered object reading, and channel energy makes way for at-will standard action (Not always on, thank the 7 heavens…) aura sight. Once more, sufficiently distinct in both flavor and tricks employed. Like it!
The psychic may also choose to become a psychic hunter, who is locked into the rapport psychic discipline and receives diminished spellcasting. Instead of phrenic amplifications, we get the tactician, greater/master tactician ability tress, with 3rd level instead replacing the phrenic amplification with an aura of mental static that impedes psychic spellcasting. The psychic oracle gets a custom selection of wisely chosen and flavorful spells replacing the standard mystery spells, and is locked into transcendental bound at 1st level, while 7th level locks you into the egregore cultist revelation, which makes you automatically succeed the save to avoid being sickened from cult mind members leaving. The link gets a longer range and may be established quicker. The archetype also notes that it works in conjunction with the rage prophet – it’s a small thing, but this level of system mastery-based advice for novices makes the complex options within more accessible…so yeah, neat. The rage lord barbarian picks an emotion focus every day, starting at 1st level, and basically is 7 archetypes in one. You see, each form of emotional focus significantly alters the benefits of rage and class features gains at 1st, 2nd 6th, 11th and 20th level. A lesser book would have made them separate archetypes – here, a handy table conserves space and makes the archetype more accessible. Additionally, the archetype can use touches to compel emotions in targets! Once more, designer’s commentary explains the design rationale to less system-savvy players to see their uses. I really applaud this. This archetype is a resounding success – plus, the Cha-boosting despair rage, the Wis-boosting dedication rage etc. can make the character feel much more versatile than just a hulking brute. One of my all-time favorite barbarian archetypes!
In contrast to the tumultuous bard, the soulful druid also chooses an emotional focus, but is locked into it, with 7th level providing bonus spells as if Emotional Focus of the chosen emotion had been taken. The druid is locked into a domain and does not gain domain slots, instead adding them to spells known. Spellcasting wise, the archetype uses Charisma as governing spellcasting attribute and casts spells as an oracle, gaining its own custom spellcasting table as well as summon nature’s ally spells. 7th level nets an emotion aura akin to a spiritualist’s phantom, governed by Charisma, applying all effects to the soulful druid instead. Wild shape may only be executed 1/day. Really like this one as well! (And yes, once more explanations are provided!)
The tranquil occultist gets a code of conduct that avoids the killing of sentient lifeforms, and may not be neutral or chaotic evil – I’m pretty happy this fellow may be lawful evil – a lawful evil pacifist is a cool character concept I’ve been looking at for a while…Anyway, the archetype gets only one implement school at 1st level, but this is made up for by a potent array of bonus spells. The archetype also starts with Merciful Spell sans increasing casting time, and may apply it to focus power effects. Using legacy weapon, if available, to grant the merciful special ability (italicization missing), the duration lasts until dismissed. The archetype replaces the circle abilities with aura of courage and aura of resolve, as well as aura of righteousness, though the later has the DR modified to /chaos. Fun tweak for a high-concept idea!
The trick master mesmerist gets diminished spellcasting and may implant class level + Charisma modifier tricks per day, with Extra Trick providing double the tricks per day instead. The archetype may, from 1st level onwards, have two tricks implanted in himself at any given time, but still may only trigger one per round. 5th level increases that to 3, with 9th level and every 4 thereafter further improving that number by +1. At 5th level, allies may have two tricks implanted, but only one per individual may be triggered per round. 9th level and 17th level improve these caps by +1. Starting at 5th level, the trick master may change an implanted trick sans losing the use of the ability spent implanting the trick on himself, with 11th level allowing that for allies as well. Starting at 12th level, this ability also works on master tricks. The archetype gets a capstone for devastating trick flexibility. Neat one!
The pdf closes with 18 feats, though these deserve special mention, as they are often pretty specific and extensive. Shield Against the Supernatural and Supernatural Slayer are reprinted from radiance House’s Pact Magic, with proper credits given – kudos! Several of these feats make use of Dampened Versatility and may be taken in lieu of utility wild talents by elemental annihilators. Hydrokineticists with cold blast may not choose Absorb Violent Energies, as the feats renders vulnerable to cold, but also nets DR or energy resistance – and when an effect would negate the damage, you’re treated as having gathered power as a move action. *sigh* Give me a henchman, tell him to activate that sparker or hold the torch right under my arm. That’s it. Not my fire resistance means I auto-gather any round. -.- Such an obvious cheese.
Accelerating Kinetics is interesting – it allows you to increase your movement rate temporarily based on Burn accepted or obviated. This is per se great, but unfortunately, the rules-language is slightly wonky: The bonus should be codified as enhancement bonuses to prevent stacking, and the bonus speed lacks the “ft.” a couple of times. This is particularly obvious since the feat otherwise does a great job at limiting it, as the benefits are halved by effects that hamper conjuration (teleportation). Enhanced Guarded Hearth provides synergy of the class feature and effects à la hallow etc. for longer duration. Nice! Force-focusing oath lets you take monk vows…which is nice, but the feat lacks its prerequisite line, which, since it builds on buffer, is pretty jarring. :/
Godhood from the Bottom of a Bottle makes you basically a drunken master-ish kineticist, allowing you to use alcohol for gather power or internal buffer tricks, though the feat also makes you sickened upon using it, though the penalties are negated while you have at least my one temporary burn point. You can also blast while nauseated, and the feat nets Drunken Brawler synergy, if any…Just one thing: Never be caught sans alcohol… This feat and the others within offer internal synergies, btw. Heir to the Power Unstable is the single longest feat I have read to this date: In the economically-sized font of the pdf, it still takes up more than a whole page! The feat makes your family members automatically succeed all saves versus your kineticist abilities and immune to energy damage you deal with them. They also get DR versus your kineticist physical ability scores. Gather power draws unattended, light objects, dust etc. to you. This codifies gasses and acids etc. and how they interact with this well. Here is the thing: Depending on your elemental focus, expanded element and simple blasts chosen, the ability has different effects! These include light nosebleeds and blood flowing towards you (Sympathetic magic, anyone?), winds that buffet flyers, extinguishing flames, stone attraction etc. Other elements gained add their benefits! Unique: When gathering power, creatures nearby may choose to move 5 ft. to you as a free action, and yes, this is codified properly regarding 5-foot-step and difficult terrain interaction. Here’s where things become OP: Gather power to negate burn, accepting burn or using internal buffer also nets you an AoE bull rush based on Con instead of Str, and targets thus pushed back ALSO are affected by a trip! If they are tripped, they also are affected by ¼ blast base damage. Okay, the angle that family members are immune is great – but all those additional things in combination? That should be at least two feats. Improved Menacing Stance applies the penalties to all foes in reach. Selective Psychic Disruption Aura allows you to exclude allies. Psycho Crusher lets an indomitable take Extra Wild Talent as a Limited Versatility bons feat.
Incredible Hidden Power nets you Dual identity and Seamless Guise and the Transformation Sequence of the Magical Child archetype, though the feat, to nitpick, does not note that kineticist levels are equal to vigilante levels for the purpose. 7th level nets Quick Change, 13th Immediate Change. While in social identity, you suffer -4 to Strength for Strength checks and combat maneuver checks, but +ü2 to Escape Artist and Stealth. Elemental overflow in social identity is considered to be suppressed, and you may not use burn in that identity. Tough one, plus pretty potent for just one feat. Tidalwave of Raw Power hastens your transformation for burn, and is echanged for the next feat at 13th level. Mask of Raw Divinity nets AoE-demoralize while you have a point of Burn, with Con-mod added to the skill-check. This is usually a class feature, and that sans the bonus. Additionally, damaging targets with blasts nets you a swift demoralize that ALSO makes the target flat-footed versus your attacks. At higher levels, you can also choose for daze or stuns, but why bother? These have a save to negate, when the flat-footed effect doesn’t. WTF. Not getting near my game. It also is missing the special prerequisite it mentions. Next.
There is a new Style herein – though the header of the Style has not been properly formatted. Serene Style nets you +1 Touch of Serenity and increases DC. Serene Grace allows for more control and multiclassing trickery and Serene Ascendance has an upgrade for the base ability. Love that this one builds on touch of serenity. Finally, the Terrifying Blow Combat/monster feat lets you sue the awesome blow combat maneuver with claws and slams. This is limited, thankfully, but does allow for some Awesome Blow-based tricks, with particularly intricate synergy tricks. Solid one!
Editing and formatting are meticulous and nigh-perfect during the archetype chapter; in the feat-chapter, the integrity dips noticeably in both formal and rules-language integrity – there, things become just okay/good. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports several full-color artworks, some of which are gorgeous indeed – and I have not seen all of them before! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This pdf clearly shows that two authors, Julian Neale and Clinton boomer, have penned it – I am not sure who penned what, but I have my suspicions. Anyhow, this pdf is a bit of a hard case for me as a reviewer: You see, when I was done with the archetype chapter, I was smiling from ear to ear – the archetypes herein are all killer, no filler! One can really see Julian Neale’s improvement as a designer – he has always done *mechanically* interesting things, but here, he marries unique FLAVOR with even small engine tweaks. This is one of the coolest archetype selections I have ever read in a single book. I did not consider any of them boring, bland, or problematic – they all have something going for it and often are inspired indeed!
And then, the feat chapter came. Don’t get me wrong. I like the ambition and flavor of almost all of the feats. I really do. However, I have balance-concerns regarding more than one. There’s a super-avoidable cheesing trick here, and rules-integrity similarly is not as meticulously tight as before. While I love Heir to Unstable Power, for example, it is frankly broken in its current iteration. You’d be stupid to not take it. Where the archetype chapter is an example of design excellence, the feat chapter feels rushed in more than one way and could have really used a critical eye.
…and this is a real pity, for the book’s archetype section is phenomenal. In fact, were I to rate the feat-section on its own, I’d rate it as 3.5 stars; the archetypes, on the other hand, would be easy 5 stars + seal of approval. Heck, I’d frankly have to think about making them a candidate for my Top Ten. As noted, they really do manage to combine flavorful and mechanically-relevant design in an excellent manner.
But how to rate the book in its entirety? Here things become pretty tough for me. I can’t rate the archetypes on their own, but ultimately, they imho justify getting this pdf all on their own. While the feat-chapter’s flaws prevent me from rating this as highly as I’d like to, it’d be unfair to not not acknowledge the excellence in the archetype design. If you want to ignore the feats, or if you simply don’t care about the flaws I mentioned, instead consider this to be a 5 star + seal of approval file. As a reviewer, I have to rate the entirety, though. Hence, my official final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, but, the pdf still gets my seal of approval.
You can get these inspired archetypes here on OBS!