Secrets of Card & Salt
By Thilo Graf
This supplement for the Gypsy and Ritualist-classes from Dreadfox Games is 33 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Note: Since this pdf provides supplemental material for both Gypsy and Ritualist, I’m not going to get into details of these classes, assuming you’re familiar with them. If you want an overview of them, please check out my reviews of the two classes.
One of my main gripes for both the Gypsy and Ritualist-classes was at first the lack of supplemental material and this pdf seeks to remedy that, so let’s first take a look at the new tools the Gypsy gets!
First we get 21 new auguries which start off with the uncanny knowledge of knowing when an ally out of sight is in trouble (but no details etc.) to more crunchy ones. A weird one would be Fateful insurgence, which allows a gypsy to grant an ally in sight a reroll of a d20 as an immediate action by cutting her deck. I’m not sure whether there is a minimum number of required cards in the deck for this to work, though. The old conventional rule would be a minimum of 4 cards to be cut, while another suggests up to 10. I couldn’t find any specifications/standard regarding card-games and cutting cards and thus can’t assume whether the ability still works when the gypsy has no more cards left or only a few of them. While I assume the ability still works for as few as two cards, I’m not sure. A clarification would be in order here.
Figurative Prognostication allows you to add elemental spell to your cast by sacrificing cards sans increasing the casting time. Here, it would have been nice to have it specified that the metamagic-feat is meant – while evident from the content, the lack of visual clues in the ability’s sentence structure first pointed my towards another ability I remembered. The same btw. holds true for all the auguries that allow them to add metamagic feats – a slight improvement in layout/wording would add to the usability of the pdf.
Now, another augury allows the gypsy to name a card with a casting time of an immediate action or less and draw cards until she has it, discarding the cards she drew till then, making the ability essentially an improved version of “manifest destiny” from the gypsy-pdf. Speaking of said ability – there also is an augury that allows the gypsy to 1/day admit that her usage of manifest destiny (or its derivative Imperative destiny, I gather, though I’m not sure – the pdf fails to specify) was wrong and add the discarded cards back and reshuffle her deck, though its eats up the remainder of her actions.
However, beyond these auguries, there also are some rather cool ones: Justice for example allows the gypsy to create a special card that allows her to modify an ongoing magical effect to include willing or unwilling allies. I assume the gypsy has to correctly identify the effect via spellcraft, though the ability only mentions “see”. Gypsies now may also add up to Wis-modifiers marked cards via an augury, allowing slightly greater control, something players of the class will definitely appreciate. They may now also to increase ally’s caster levels for character level hours by a whopping +3 (!!!) or find out pieces of trivia about characters that actually grants them bonuses to attacks. “The Lovers” is also an interesting card, granting two creatures in sight the same teamwork feat, but only when used in tandem and for the respective other part of the duo. The World is also an interesting card in that it always is at the bottom of the deck and can only be drawn as the last card, granting a +2 bonus to Con. However, rather weirdly, the text of the card refers to an increase of atk-bonuses of +1 per non-gypsy-level the character has. However, said reference is not specified before, making me wonder how exactly this ability is supposed to work. I gather it grants +1 per non-gypsy-level of the character, but I’m not sure. We also get a total of 5 different greater auguries, which allow them to create a secondary deck, pinpoint locations of her party’s members, spontaneously fabricate a card from her deck and even force a reroll back as far as wis-mod rounds in the past – potentially ending or saving lives. Rather cool, though a potential nightmare for DMs.
The Gypsy now also may choose from multiple new archetypes, with the first being the Harbinger of Ruin: These harbingers may not add abjuration or conjuration-spells to their deck and treat any spell not of the evocation and necromancy-schools as if it occupied one spell level higher and her augury and greater augury-selection is rather limited. She may, however, draw up to 5 cards to her hand as a standard action and may return their hands into their deck when casting an evocation or necromancy-spell, making them essentially more versatile in their limited range and focused on destroying foes. The second archetype is the diametrically opposed Harbinger of Hope, excluding evocation and necromancy-spells from the deck. Abjuration and conjurations are enhanced in an analogue to the harbinger of ruin and the archetype also gets access to the ability to discard abjuration and conjuration-spells to channel positive or negative energy, but exclusively for healing purposes. The Harbinger of Deceit works in much the same way, omitting divination and transmutation spells and treating one the option to treat any card as if it was one chosen spell of the charm, figment, compulsion or glamer-subschools, to be determined once each day. Harbingers of Change also follow this schematic, but can’t cast Illusion and enchantment spells, instead focusing on divination and transmutation as well as gaining the option to change a drawn transmutation-spell into another transmutation spell of the same level. This concludes the gypsy’s section and has it end with 3/4 of a page blank.
Now what new options does the ritualist get? Well, first of all, Ritualists may now substitute one domain spell with another of the same level per 4 ranks in the Knowledge (Planes)-skill. Interesting mechanic and rather innovative and then there’s an innovation I really like: The notion of ritual mastery. First of all, every level, he main forego favored class options for one point of ritual mastery OR instead of learning a new ritual, gain 5 mastery points. But what can be done with mastery points? Essentially, you assign these mastery points to a specific ritual and for every ten mastery points, you can add an effect depending on the ritual, reflecting your growing familiarity with the ritual. Adjured Mantle for example increases the miss chance to 30%, conquest of ages enhances the buff for one item by a further +1. I really like this kind of unconventional “metamagic” for rituals that shows lengthy dedication and growing skill with the ritual. Two thumbs up for all of these options!
Now Ritualists also get access to Symbology: Essentially, there are good, neutral and evil symbols and the ritualist may discover new ones for every 5 ranks in Knowledge (Religion) – they can spplement their regular rituals with symbols appropriate to the bound deity’s alignment and depending on the complexity of the symbol, we get an enhancement ranging from +1 to +3 to ritualist level, depending on a ratio which has to be calculated. Two pages are devoted to sample symbols, though again we get 3/4 of a page blank space between the rules for the symbols and the depictions of the symbols. The Hexagram-Symbol used to bind evil deities include erupting fire, but I don’t get why not all symbols get some kind of description like this.
After that, we are introduced to a wide variety of new feats, with feats of the (Fate)-descriptor being available to the Gypsy, but with the maximum of one feat per Cha-score over 10. (Ritual)-feats may be applied to rituals, one such feat per 5 points of mastery invested into a ritual may be applied to a given ritual. Artful Draws for example allows a gypsy to draw a card as a free action instead of a swift action. What I don’t get is a feat like Brilliant Wits: For -6 to Initiative, the Gypsy can make a steal attempt prior to making the roll. Does this mean the gypsy is no longer flat-footed? Can it be used preemptively when there’s no combat yet, but ensured combat on a missed attempt? There is also a feat that lets you feint with sleight of hand instead of bluff to prevent an AoO instead of regular feinting benefits. There’s also a feat that allows you to add a blast of negative energy when using symbology to bind evil deities.
On the weird side, we also get the option to gain a bonus on diplomacy, intimidate and sense motive vs. a creature whose fate you have read, but only 20% of the result of your Profession (Fortuneteller)-check – weird design choice that could use so streamlining. Speaking of streamlining: “Expert Craftsman” allows you to “Creature up to 3 cards per day.”[sic!] Standards like a feat granting an additional ritual and greater ritual, a feat that allows you to cover more space with rituals, buff or debuff others as a side-effect of using rituals. Ritualists of the Circle may now join in a type of coven, supporting one another, though the feat also contains a typo. There also are two feats that allow a gypsy to take a look at the first card of the deck prior to drawing it 2/day or (5/day, respectively) – required for minimum successful planning. There is also a multitude of feats to enhance the ritualist’s thralls. Again, at the end of the section, we get 3/4 of a page blank.
After that, we get 2 pages of feat-tables and then, traits: A total of 16, to be precise and they can be considered good choices for the two classes, though, again, the section ends with 1/2 a blank page.
The final section of the pdf depicts equipment. Equipment that is REQUIRED for the Ritualist to properly work in many campaigns. In my first iteration of the ritualist-class, I complained about salts dissolving in water etc. Now, we get clinging, aquatic and aerial salts as well as 7 new thuribles and dye to help a gypsy fit foreign cards into her deck. Again, the final page of the section is 3/4 blank and the final page contains just one weapon and the price-weight-list of one item, making this page essentially blank.
Editing and formatting is below the standard I’ve come to expect from Dreadfox Games – there are quite a few editing glitches, plural glitches and similar errors in here, some of which make the rules presented herein harder to understand than necessary. Layout adheres to DFG’s thorn-bordered two-column standard ad the sketchy b/w-artworks are nice, the cover artwork stellar. HOWEVER: We get quite a bunch of (almost) blank pages that simply are unnecessary drains on the printer (these pages still have the border, remember!) and worse, feel like they artificially lengthen the pdf. The pdf comes with internal links and nested bookmarks.
I had high hopes when buying this pdf – more control for the gypsy? Cool! And generally, yes, there now is more control for the class, but still not enough to properly plan. Worse, mechanics like cutting decks etc. remain poorly defined within the context of the deck of divinations, lacking necessary hard guidelines. And the Ritualist: I LOVE this base-class. I really do. In fact, it’s one of my favorite PFRPG-classes by any 3pps, coming only in after some offerings by RiP and SGG. In my game, the class encountered problems with aquatic environments, aerial combat or combat while climbing and the new salts remedy these environmental factors. What really annoys me, though, is that they are included in here instead of adding them to the base pdf, as they essentially are required for the class to work in these environments. The new mastery-ability and increased versatility with domain spells are awesome and cool.
I showed these to my player (who has a temporarily retired ritualist character) and he started swearing. Why? Because the ability essentially is not an addition – it requires you to build your ritualist back from the ground up, relearn rituals, think about which to replace, how much mastery to apply etc. Easy to implement is something completely different. And then there are the symbols. I’m a fan of the idea, but honestly, the Cruth Galdr-runes from RiP’s “Secrets of Forgotten Magic Items” work MUCH better since the way to determine how the symbols work includes a wonky metric to calculate the final bonus they grant and they essentially lack default effects apart from the evil hexagram (which might offend some people). Why not make unique symbols that provide unique enhancements? The idea is awesome, the execution feels clumsy.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for some of the feats that could require some additional clarification. Oh, and then there are the gypsy-archetypes, which essentially are one and the same archetype with one alibi-signature-ability slapped on them . Worse, these school-specialists are not that interesting in design.
Why. Why does Dreadfox Games do this to me? Honestly, I was so STOKED that they support their classes. I was looking immensely forward to more fodder for the two classes and what I got in the end is…well. At least not bad. While a bunch of the gypsy’s auguries, feats etc. could use clearer wordings ad the archetypes are bland at best, I do consider this pdf in slightly improving the gypsy – but not going far enough. The Ritualist gains a stellar mechanic – that requires existing characters to be rebuilt from scratch. And a hastily and half-heartedly implemented cool idea with the symbols, that could easily have been awesome, had more space been devoted to it.
Dreadfox Games-releases are usually rather polished, with only rarely any ambiguities creeping in – not so this pdf. All in all, with almost 5 pages of blank space, editing glitches, rather ungraceful mechanics and awkward wordings, this pdf gives me the distinct impression of being rushed and, as loathe as I’m to say it, of being slightly sloppy. Instead of making the two classes more complex, adding, choices, etc., this pdf feels more like a revision that lacks the basic content it is based on – essentially as if you released an expanded or revised version (like SGG did with the Vanguard-class, bumping it from 1 to 5 stars) of the class, but sold it as a separate pdf. These are not necessarily options, they completely change how the classes are built. if this were a free enhancement or priced at a more moderate price-point, I’d be willing to cut it some slack, but with less than 25 pages of netto-content remaining (sans blank pages etc.), editing glitches, awkwardly worded abilities etc. and wonky mechanics, Dreadfox Games cannot, in contrast to most of their releases, claim that the quality of the content justifies the price-point.
Which is a DAMN, FRIGGIN’ PITY. Why are there no mechanics to retroactively gain mastery points/retrain/reassign mastery points? Why are the symbols so under-developed? The ideas are so great and the execution so lackluster it hurts. 5 bucks for a base-class, 5 for this supplement. If you buy both base-classes (which you need to if you want to get all out of this pdf) and the pdf, then you’ve just spent 15 bucks. To give you an idea: For the same price you can get 5 (!!!) classes by SGG or RiP. 5. Or the Godling-bundle PLUS enough bucks to buy a module by Frog God Games or Adventureaweek.com. Or a Midgard Player’s Guide. (Btw. – 36 pages in full color with original artworks…) Now if the content was streamlined, top-notch and cool, I’d still happily slap that 5 stars and seal on the pdf. Well, it isn’t. Instead of the liberating assault for the classes, this pdf, while enhancing them, falls short of the pretense of premium excellence set by DFG. I’ll give the ritualist another shot with masteries, for these, the items and a couple of the feats (though these are terribly often basic run-of-the-mill, design-wise) are ok. The items, as mentioned, are practically required for the classes to work. But the rest of the new content fell horribly short of what it was supposed to do and achieve.
I’ve fought long and hard with myself on how to rate this and honestly, I was contemplating the 1-star-rating. But that would be unfair. While this pdf NEEDS to get back into the oven and be redesigned/streamlined – massively – it still has a (small) Coup de Ville at the bottom of this crackerjackbox. Hence, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 2 stars IF you own both classes and can use all the pdf. IF masteries intrigue you and IF you’re not willing to handwave aquatic salts etc. Fans of the classes might give this a try, but damn do I hope Dreadfox Games completely revises this. The pdf has all the potential of 5 stars and squanders it all.
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