This installment of the Player Paraphernalia-series clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 4 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
The Imperial Druid’s angle, concept-wise, would be the inherent natural order of things within the animal kingdom, providing control over this concept by graces of the celestial Court. Imperial Druids thus need to be neutral good and may utilize metal weapons and monk weapons, gaining their proficiencies…but at the cost of all armor and shield proficiencies.
The imperial druid also receives an imperial bond – either a domain chosen from air, earth, fire, good, celestial court, nobility and water or an animal companion with the Minor Foo Creature template at 1st level, the full foo creature template at 8th level and the imperial foo creature template at 18th level, but the companion neither receives evasion, nor improved evasion. Problem here: As written, the ability is obviously intended to modify animal companion, but does not explicitly state this, rendering it RAW an addition to Nature’s Bond instead of an replacement. While the intent is clear, RAW, this is still a nasty little oversight.
All right, you’ll now note something – firs of all, yes, the Celestial Court domain is provided herein. The domain allows for 1/day communion with spirits, which acts as commune with nature, with the caveat that it also works in dungeons, cities, etc. EDIT: The ability has been re-declared as the proper SP. The second ability is a supernatural, more heavily modified spell: At 8th level, you can, as a standard action that does not provoke an AoO, call forth a celestial templated summon nature’s ally with a minimum Intelligence of 10, which remains for 1 round per level, with the summon nature’s ally spell-level being equal to 1/2 your class level (9th level version at 18th level) – while the wording is slightly wonky here, this still is okay.
The template progression of the foo-templates from minor to the lesser imperial foo template has been cleaned up and now lacks its prior ambiguity, making this key-component of the pdf work significantly better. On a further plus-side, while the powerful stony defense ability is retained, the lesser foo template has receives a nerf that makes it less overbearing at low levels, with its power-gain being a sensible offset for the delayed wild-shape gain.
Instead of nature sense and wild empathy, imperial druids may intimidate evil fey, evil outsiders and evil incorporeal spirits, gaining +class level to the check. The prior issue with the Knowledge (nobility) bonus has been fixed as well – though a GM still has to define “spirits” since that is no creature type…but granted, this is cosmetic, which is also why I didn’t complain about it in the original review.
The imperial druid may also spontaneously convert non-domain spells (if applicable) to summon nature’s ally-spells of the same level, adding kami to the list of creatures that can be called.
Instead of woodland stride, trackless step and thousand faces, the imperial druid receives a scaling natural armor bonus and, at 10th level, EDIT: nerfed to hardness 2 (which scales up to 4), though this costs 5 feet of movement in three steps, reducing movement down to up to 10 feet. Hardness 4, bought with what can be countered by a level 1 spell. Hardness is better than DR; notably energy and ranged attacks halve their damage before applying hardness. This is INSANE, even with the caveat of not working in wild shape and being able to negate it via stone to flesh.
The Wild shape (gained at 4th level, with a delay) similarly allows for the addition of the lesser foo creature template, with sizes of the animal form chosen and class levels determining the foo-creature template that is gained EDIT: Now sans template-botch and ambiguities! Conversely, higher levels allow for the assumption of draconic forms, with foo templates added, though at least the breath weapons thus gained adhere to a daily limit.
Editing and formatting are rather good on a formal level – there are no obvious typos and the like herein. On a rules-language level, while there still are quite a few non-standard wordings, the new and exceedingly quickly revised version, while not perfect, has significantly improved. Layout adheres to an easy to read full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and with the good type of hand-crafted, actually helpful hyperlinks – kudos for those!
John Buckley has crafted a thematically cool archetype herein – the idea of a quasi-eastern druid with fitting servants, in service of the celestial bureaucracy is something I really enjoy in theme. The new and revised iteration of this archetype is a powerful archetype for the druid – the foo creature summons, draconic wild-shapes at higher levels and HARDNESS (OUCHOUCHOUCH) still render this archetype too strong in my book – hardness on its own wouldn’t be that bad, but its resulting halving of ranged/energy damage…now that’s BRUTAL. So balance-wise, I’d suggest this archetype for more high-powered rounds; in low magic games, this one won’t work. However, after a quick check of the math, I’m pretty confident that this will work as a strong archetype in more high-powered rounds. While some rough edges still can be found here, this constitutes a fast and significant step upwards for the archetype and thus nets it a final verdict of 3.5 stars – high-powered rounds that do not mind the relative strength should round up, while the others should round down. Due to in dubio pro reo, my final official verdict will round up.