Occult Secrets: The Occultist
This installment of the Occult Secrets mini-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All right, after a brief introduction, we begin with the invoker, who must choose a planar implement among the first level implements. The circles instead apply versus specific outsider races and non-alignment outsider subtypes. Okay. 8th level replaces outsider contact with a scaling planar binding for one additional mental focus when establishing circle, with another point as an optional expenditure available to add dimensional anchor. As noted, the planar binding and HD –cap improve at higher levels.
But wait…planar implements? Yep. These take the form of small metal discs with glyphs upon them, and they share the resonant power resonant planar affinity: For every two points of mental focus invested in the implement, the occultist gains +1 to penetrate the SR of creatures hailing from the associated plane, as well as +1 to attack and damage rolls against them. Additionally, the occultist gains a +1 insight bonus to Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Sense Motive, Perception and Knowledge checks. Cool: The bonus caps, with the cap scaling at higher levels. Additionally, all planar implements have the planar servitor base focus power. This lets you, as a standard action, expend 1 point of mental focus to summon monster, with the spell upgrading at higher level, but thankfully capping at one active servitor at a given time, avoiding slowing the game down. Mental focus may be expended to increase the duration of an active servitor, and creatures native to the plane (which is, all of them, as that is the base condition) get +2 natural armor and to saves. Both bonus types are properly codified. Nitpick here: Critters summoned thus: Can they act upon manifesting, or next round? This is something that usually is bypassed by the 1 round casting duration and needs to be clarified.
All implements gain alignment based focus powers – good aligned planes net flesh mend, evil ones necromantic servant, lawful planes purge corruption and chaotic planes side step focus. Neutral ones on the good-evil-axis net mind eye, and neutral ones on the law-chaos axis net future gaze. A total of 12 different planar implements are provided, all of them with spells noted and 3 focus powers. Abaddon nets shield other in conjunction with the servitor and lets you add an evil frost. The servitor gets death throes. Abyss provides spectral arms that can execute Intelligence-governed AoOs, staggering, mental-focus powered screeches or disguise self. Activation actions are not noted for the latter two, but being SUs, one could assume defaulting to standard actions – it’d be nice to have that spelled out, though. Planar implements aligned with the astral plane can add a psychic link to the servitor, poach/hide items in your own extradimensional space or track targets via astral residue. Elysium lets you temporarily turn into wind and lightning while charging, imbue weapons with special qualities or reroll dice modified by morale and luck bonuses. The implements associated with the ethereal plane lets you add ghost touch a weapon or armor as a swift action for one mental focus. Both property references are not italicized correctly. Mental focus powered Ectoplasmic Spell and shared see invisibility with servitor can be found. Cool: When you greater invisibility yourself, the servitor gains invisibility. This also modifies the servitor base power and allows for ethereal condition sharing.
The implements of heaven net you heavenly lanterns that can be discharged as short-range force rays, swift action protection from evil plus scent and sharing shield bonuses with nearby allies. Hell nets the option to enhance weapons with wounding, adding being treated as evil at 5th level (analogue to e.g. Abaddon’s frost). The second ability covers the same for flaming and being treated as lawful. The servitor may be enhanced with scaling atk and damage boosts. Limbo implements can cause random ability damage to creatures adjacent to servitors when they’re called. When the servitor power is used, you can make it also push away targets on a failed Fort-save…or pulled towards the creature. Nirvana’s abilities enhance servitor abilities to use aid another for you. For mental focus, the servitor gets Combat Reflexes and Bodyguard and emerging servitors can heal adjacent targets. Implements of the shadow plane let you use mental focus to add invisibility to yourself when casting darkness-themed spells, modify shadow weapons with a variety of effects or improve its effects.
Planar implements associated with true neutral purgatory nets you a mental focus powered touch attack with slow, suppress healing and sacred bonuses or negate enhancement, luck, morale and profane bonuses – interesting short-duration curse mechanics. Utopia, the lawful neutral plane nets the servitor access to your teamwork feats, Disruptive (and later Spellbreaker) or temporary hit points for both you and servitor. These planar implement powers turned out to be more differentiated than I expected, changing playstyles in a meaningful manner, and most of the time getting the complex rules-language required right. Kudos!
The second archetype would be the tattooed occultist, who gets a modified class skill list- Instead of physical implements, the tattooed occultist gains tattoos that obviously can’t be taken away – to make up for that, the archetype only gets one tattooed implement at first level. The archetype also gets Improved Unarmed Strike that behaves like a monk’s attacks, replacing the second implement as well as shift focus and outside contact. 2nd level replaces object reading with a combo of phrenology and read aura by studying a target’s body. They also get a scaling (half class level) to Craft (tattoo) and Heal and may use mental focus to enhance healing via medical care. This has mend flesh and purge corruption synergy. The archetype also has a replacement ability for implement mastery, granting DR 5/-. Interesting one, in that it represents a kind of yakuza-ish occultist. I like it.
The third archetype would be the totemist, who once more receives a modified class skill list and +1/2 class level to Knowledge and Survival checks to identify, track or learn about creatures, replacing magic items. The archetype need to choose one totem implement at first level, and at 5th level, aura sight is replaced with a universal creature detector based on detect undead, save for all creature type the totemist has a totem (implement) for. 8th level nets shapechange mastery, with the ability to use mental focus to enhance polymorph effects and higher levels allowing for the speeding up of casting such spells. This one also lets the occultist end spells quickly and replace outside contact. Warding circles are modified to interact with totems and binding circles similarly is modified.
Okay, you probably guessed it – this one also has a whole arsenal of special implements, the implement class of totem implements. The spells these grant may be exchanged for up to 2 druid spells when choosing them. This choice is permanent They also share a resonant power: Resonant favored enemy, which nets an insight bonus to Bluff, Knowledge, perception, Sense Motive and Survival, contingent on mental focus invested – once more, thankfully, with a proper, scaling cap. The totem implements are based on the standard creature types, but have individual base powers. Aberration, animal, dragon, fey, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, plant, undead and vermin are covered, all with their individual spell lists, base powers and 3 focus powers each.
The aberration totem implement fortifies your mind versus attempts to read it, and also enhances your saves versus charm person. This lasts for an hour and can be activated as an immediate action. The focus powers include all-around vision, and long arm can be enhanced with mental focus to net you tentacles, and similarly, water breathing and echolocation are modified. Similarly, immediate action fear-suppression is neat. Animal, in contrast, nets speak with animals as well as melee enhancers via free grapples (and grab synergy), bull rush and overrun tricks or trips – basically the classic animal tricks. The dragon implement nets you a mental focus-based breath weapon that scales, and which, thanks to a cooldown, can’t be spammed. The 4 (deviation from the standard 3 to account for base energy types) implement powers allow for multiple breath modifications that enhance the breath weapons depending on base damage type chosen. The fey totem allows you to get low-light vision and scaling DR, and take fey aspects, which include Perform, Swim or Survival boosts that may be shared. The magical beast totem lets you boost physical skill checks and petrify targets – thankfully, a HD caveat and save prevent abuse there. Healing that can prevent death and protection versus evil (single and later, magic circle) may be found here.
The monstrous humanoid lets you gain gore or bite or claw or slam options (In contrast to most herein, these are not specified re natural attack type, requiring defaulting to primary); the focus powers can make claws carry a debuff, ignore difficult terrain when charging with gores or add poison to bites. Oozes net compression and corrosive touches, use mental focus to become sticky (enhancing maneuvers and CMD) or gain temporarily translucent flesh. Plants allow for communication with them, as well as better healing (and superb resiliency in sleep as well as temporary hit points while asleep) as well as several plant-based spell modifications. Undead implement nets negative energy affinity; adding death effects to the coup de grace performed and temporary hit points based on target HD, preventing cheesing. When reduced to 0 hp or below, you can manifest malignant, spectral force and a vampiric pinning ability that nets temporary hit points for pinned targets. Mental focus expenditure requirements prevent this from being cheesed. Finally, the vermin totem nets the ability to converse with vermin, commune with them, repel swarms and fortify yourself versus poisons, with higher levels improving this.
The pdf also includes 4 feats: Dual Enhancement lets base powers or focus powers that enhance weapons apply their benefits to two of them, but these only remain active when both are wielded. Echoes of Mending nets you temporary hit points when using flesh rot or flesh corruption. Echoes of Servitude requires a necromantic servant and upgrades the servitor. Mental Ki allows you to substitute mental focus for ki on a 2 to 1 basis. The pdf also has two spells: Empower implement (3rd level) grants temporary mental focus. Lock the flow can prevent the target from using mental focus or ki on a failed save, and lasts multiple rounds. The pdf concludes with Keron Tiel, a CR 5 elven tattooed occultist.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are good on a formal and rules-language level, being very precise for the most part, in spite of the complexity of the material. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard with red, blue and purple headers. The artworks are a blend of public domain and stock art, though I haven’t seen all of them before. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.
Wojciech Gruchała is a veteran, and this pdf shows – the expansion to the occultist allows for finer differentiation, and distinct, different playstyles depending on implement chosen. While not all implements are equally compelling or potent, this nonetheless represents a cool and worthwhile expansion for one of my favorite classes. While the lack of bookmarks is a bit sucky, the pdf is pretty inexpensive, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.
You can get this inexpensive class expansion here on OBS!