The Secrets of Renegade Archetypes II
This supplement clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
First of all – what is this? Well, if you’re new to the whole “renegade”-concept: This is Rite Publishing providing new material for 3pp-classes – either simply because they’re awesome or because they can use some more tools due to the original class not seeing enough support. In any case, we receive new tools for classes that would otherwise start to collect dust – and this is awesome, at least in my book. This pdf cover, surprise, archetypes – so let’s see how they hold up!
First of the archetypes herein would be Death’s Paramour for Rogue Genius Games’ Death knight-class. These guys replace gravestrike with gjenganger awakening (which btw. translates to Wiedergänger or, in English, revenant) – the ability allows the death knight to animate those slain by him or by his servants as a swift action, with telepathic commands and concise writing providing a nice means of balancing the class. Now also pretty awesome -touch of corruption causes no harm, but using touch of corruption, the paramour can temporarily swap places, for one standard action with a gjenganger. If you can’t see the massive potential here, I can…and I love it! Providing teamwork-feats to gjenganager servants, buffing them, executing melee attacks through gjenganger bodies – all of that is already pretty awesome. Now there is another cool trick – high-level members of the class may free gejengangers for one final task to go to the afterlife. This nets the death’s paramour 1 quietus, a point-resource he can utilize to buff himself or allies; granting them is easy, activation can be done as an immediate action – that one adds a whole new dimension and as a capstone, the aforementioned phasing allows for the negation of attacks and rays – nasty – and awesome! This archetype is inspired in all the right ways and one of the best undead-pet/commander classes I’ve seen; certainly the best one with a martial focus.
Kobold Press’ Elven Archer is next on the list with the Elven Exemplar list, who receives no proficiency in armors or shield and double non-proficiency penalty and also just 2+Int skill bonuses – but what does the archetype get for that? The archetype receives good ref- and will-saves and can cast spells like a ranger who also adds all magus spells with a required touch or touch attack (so e.g. shocking grasp, but not shield) or that produce an area of effect in a spread. Her bow acts as a spellbook of sorts and bonded item and the governing attribute is Intelligence. HOWEVER, there is an issue here – magus spells are arcane, ranger spells divine – while I *think* the elven exemplar casts all of tehse spells as arcane spells, the ability does not state this. And yes, this is more than relevant when taking a look at arcane spell failure… Anotehr issue would be that the cdlass does specify when the exemplar learns new spells, yes, but not whether she can learn new spells like a wizard/magus or not. On the cool side, the archetype may use arrows as melee rapiers with the fragile quality.
Downright brilliant would be arrow scrolls – you make a scroll as per Scribe Scroll, but the only means of activation is hitting a target with the arrow at the culmination of activating a scroll – this increases the risk of a spell failing, but promises a significantly increased reward by a better action economy. I love the idea! Speaking of glorious – know all those touch-range buffs? Well, these guys can transform the spells into harmless energy arrows they can use to shoot allies and e.g. charmed adversaries. The non-damage caveat prevents abuse, the increased buffing capacity is beautiful. Two thumbs up! The 3rd level ability, ranged spellstrike, could use some nerfing -while the -5 atk penalty is significant, 3rd level might be a bit soon for it. Expending prepared spells for temporary bow enchantment makes for a cool variant of arcane pool benefits. Now downright awesome from a designer’s perspective would be ray arrows – this allows an exemplar to treat rays as arrows (regular AC, not touch) and thus benefit from weapon enchantments and even fire multiple rays allotted by a spell in one round. Once again – significant drawback versus something I haven’t seen before. The higher level abilities improve the tricks here, but that’s the gist of it. So do I like the Elven Exemplar? Yes, surprisingly, I do – unlike the base class, which I consider boring, and unlike various iterations of the ranged magus-concept I’ve seen, this one is surprisingly cool – apart from aforementioned gripes and slightly high power, this one is downright inspired, offering more unique tricks than the last 3 ranged magus-style classes I’ve read combined. Even if you don’t use this one, for scavenging purposes alone worth the page-count!
LPJr Design’s immensely popular Machinesmith-class (and its less refined fleshwraith-brother) also receive new material , with the Cybernetics Doctor sporting separate indicators for what it replaces in each of the two classes. While both classes can select this archetype, it has in common that it sports some exclusive tricks for both, creating a broader variety within the archetype itself. The cybernetics doctor archetype provides a new greatwork for its base-classes, the cybernetics workshop – this is not a physical locale, but rather a mindspace powered by mobius core and direct-to brain interfaces, which provides benefits overlapping with reality, allowing the machinesmith to implant benefits in allies, granting e.g. DR, bonuses, slam attacks, low-light vision etc. For full-blown cyber-punkery, why not graft items permanently to a creature for a price… or for none, when applying the item to the cybernetics doctor himself. And yes, this does come with a thoroughly unique, cool way of countering/suppressing the grafted item!
Okay, thought that was cool? Gearworks upgrade 1: Put your brain in a jar to either put it back in or have it act as an ioun stone-like trabant. Let me spell that out again: YOU GET TO HAVE/BE A BRAIN-IN-A-JAR!! I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that I have *NEVER* seen a class sell ad execute that as a benefit! It’s glorious! Oh yeah, you can escape your body. Perfect for any villain. At this point, I’m grinning from ear to ear, something I very seldom do these days. Spell-like abilities to be triggered by brainwaves, better defensive capacities – all that accompanies this damn cool greatwork. 6 new machinesmith tricks, from dart guns to firearm fingers (!!!) to retina zoom lenses are part of the deal as well and 6 augmentations come as part of the package: what about electricity shockwaves while being a brain in a jar (aptly named System Shock) or receive a prototype as a spell-like ability for your brain-form (called Brainiac – what else?) – cool and iconic. Want talons added to your brain? Graboid prime, baby! This archetype is one of the FEW, the proud. The type of archetype that oozes heart’s blood, that is downright inspired from top to bottom, that supplements glorious ideas with high-caliber crunch for a thoroughly inspiring whole. I can’t stress enough how much I like this archetype. It’s inspiring.
Now, if you’ve been following my reviews, you know that I’m a huge fan of Pact Magic – well, this book adds two constellations – the artisan and the lover constellation. The former allows you to temporarily suspend one negative, predetermined condition and helps crafting. Additionally, it allows you to declare creatures as unworthy for the purposes of wielding specific items. The lovers constellation’s aspects allow you to improve your social prowess and prevent violence via sanctuary and calm emotions. Each of the constellations receives one new spirit, which is a slight issue for me – introducing new constellations with opposed constellations etc. may seem like a good idea mechanically, but in practice, this will probably make the two constellations herein “orphans” without further support. I hence suggest to treat the benefits they grant as alternative benefits for allied constellations. The first of the two spirits provided would be the 5th level spirit Merülf Balm’et, a crippled goblinoid, but gifted smith. His abilities are all about efficient crafting and generating phantasmal items from thin air. The signs/influence, ceremony etc. are nice, but over all, this guy did not blow me away. the second spirit, the bride Marie-Jeanne is all about moving on, rejoining a lost love and withstanding emotions and providing solace – a thematically cooler spirit with a more interesting execution.
Rogue Genius Games’ Shadow Assassin also receives some new tricks with the new mage slayer archetype. Instead of an offensive deadly focus, the mage-slayer receives a save and AC-enhancing defensive focus -now the class receives anti-mage tricks as you may have expected, but as an uncommon and cool synergy, it may also wilder in Rouge Genius Games’ Witch Hunter’s toolbox. Nice!
The next archetype elicited a kind of jubilation from yours truly: Dreadfox Games’ Swordmaster is still, hands down, my favorite martial class for PFRPG (same goes for my players) and the now years-spanning delay of the expansion for the class has left us dry and yearning for more. The Braggart archetype receives proficiency with an exotic weapon of your choice and allows you to execute sword arts with said weapon. Additionally, partnered blade is replaced with a weapon of legacy, essentially a legendary weapon with a specific purpose that increases in potency over your levels -which is neat for narrative purposes indeed! Instead of Intelligence, Charisma is the governing attribute for a braggart’s tricks. Instead of destroying magic items, the weapon of legacy is tied in gold price to the continuous advancement of the legend of the braggart. Additionally, when fighting against a current compound opponent, the braggart may substitute Reflex saving throws for Will and Fort-saves as an immediate action and is particularly hard to fool. If may not be that obvious from the text, but in play, this has become known as Devil May Cry-the archetype. And yes, that is meant as praise. The basic opener-sequitur-finisher-chain of the braggart is all about infuriating opponents and drawing their ire and is per se neat. While personally, I prefer my solution to swordmasters drawing aggro, but this one works pretty neat as well. we also receive an additional array of 1 sequitur and 4 openers – from acrobatic charges to spontaneously duplicating effects via environment and performing the equivalent of a weapon bind maneuver (see Razor Coast) with a bare hand also makes for an interesting option. The sequitur, which allows you to enter the square of an allied person for an immediate aid may not sound like much, but in combat, it can be used for pretty awesome ballets of death. Great additional material for the swordmaster!
Witch Hunters (also by Rogue Genius Games) may elect to become Witch Eaters – and yes, that means *literally* eating witches. These guys receive an anti-magic bite attack and depending on the part of the body they consume, they receive different abilities. (These do btw. increase in potency at higher levels.)Bites drain magic and are particularly effective when chewing through mirror images (haha!) and reactive, resource-based regeneration does not help in making these guys less creepy. Have I mentioned to option to essentially can creatures slain for later consumption? Or the option to substitute damage for dispel magic? One utterly creepy, iconic archetype!
The final archetype would be for Paizo Fans United’s Wolfshifter, as premiered in the superb free Wayfinder e-zine. The archetype is called Were-beast and that’s exactly what it’s all about. Instead of a regular Hybrid or Wolf transformation, this archetype opens the class wide for a vast array of different options, including dinosaurs, felines and anything else you’d want, making this the ultimate broadening of a cool, but thematically pretty narrowly-focused class that is free to boot – kudos!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches and the rules-wording is, for the most part, up to the highest standards. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column full-color standard and sports beautiful full-color artworks by various artists. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.
Benjamin Rombeaut has DONE it. Not only surpasses this pdf the first collection of renegade archetype, it almost mops the floor with it. Why? Because this is INSPIRED. There is not a single archetype herein that is mediocre or even just good. NOT ONE. Each and every archetype has something iconic and special going for it and I *love* this book for it – especially the swordmaster, death knight and machinesmith content deserve special mentioning here, being radiant examples what crunch should do – inspire.
I see a lot of crunch. I can appreciate the beauty of complex math and when that works with the rules to create something unique, I feel warm and giddy. Alas, more often than not, crunch equals the recombination of established rules, the mixing and blending of abilities. Not so here. This pdf’s archetypes are not “X with ability z” – they are triumphantly unique, inspired, complex. They provide iconic imagery that is partially baffling in its awesomeness, in its “OMG, how cool is that”-knee-jerk rule-of-cool reaction. While not always 100% perfect, the quality of the underlying rules does actually manage to supplement these complex concepts in a way that can only be described as beautiful.
This pdf is an excellent reminder of what Rite Publishing is capable of and what made me fall in love with some many of their pdfs – versatile, high-concept and oozing flair, this is a gorgeous book. Now admittedly, there are some minor issues to be found herein. And yeah, the Pact Magic content is the one part where the book slightly falls off, feeling less awesome and more like some pretty common ideas. But know what? This is one of the very few instances where I don’t care – all issues can be easily fixed by most DMs and this pdf does deserve a verdict befitting the excellence of its idea-rich content – 5 stars + seal of approval.