This base-class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction/editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The thaumaturge class presented here receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as proficiency with all simple weapons and light armor and the weapon championed by their occult order. Thaumaturges radiate the alignment aura of their order, not their own, which is an interesting design decision. They also need to be non-good. All right, so the chassis of the class certainly is interesting, now hat do these occult orders do?
Well, chosen at 1st level, these govern the energy they tap into when blasting, the aura they tap into with black arts (more on those later) and their familiar. Beyond the weapon familiarity already mentioned, orders also modify the respective class skills and the opposed order. Speaking of familiars – these generally net a nicely chosen one at 7th level, with 13th and 19th level providing upgrades to the familiar. Now, as far as the damage types of the respective orders are concerned…well, they aren’t really balanced among themselves. There is an order that deals force damage, while another one deals fire damage, for example. This alone will disqualify the class for low magic games, which is a pity as far as I’m concerned, for there are some cool tricks: The aforementioned aura can be activated as a standard action: 1/day at 2nd level, +1/day at 8th and 14th level, respectively. The benefits of the aura range from AoE negative energy or fire bursts to draining spell-levels, which is supremely cool and balanced further via a once-per-24-hour hex-caveat.
As a formatting complaint, the sub-abilities of the orders provided lack the respective ability types and colons. That being said, apart from e.g. an instance of damage type missing, the orders generally are interesting, though e.g. the order of Tiamat Risen’s free energy selection is nasty and so is the potential to cause positive energy damage via a chaotic blast – the latter primarily because there are two precedence cases: Dreamscarred Press assumes positive energy damage to affect the living (highly problematic – no one has resistance to it!), while regular positive energy damage as per channel energy leaves living creatures unaffected – I assume the latter is the case here. The governing attribute is, just fyi, Charisma. A total of 6 such orders are provided, one for each alignment the class may have.
The energy blast of the thaumaturge requires a ranged touch attack, has a range of 30 ft. and SR applies, as does energy resistance, with Cha-mod added as a bonus to damage inflicted. Blasts require a free hand, count as weapons for feat purposes, but may not be used in conjunction with Vital Strike. Blasts inflict full damage on swarms and 8th and 15th level net the secondary and tertiary blasts – basically, iterative attacks with blasts. The verbiage here is precise, but slightly confusing upon first reading it. Energy blast base damage increases by +1d6 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.
Thaumaturges begin with minor access to black arts, beginning play with up to Cha-mod cantrips taken from the sorc/wiz-spell list, casting them as though their class level was a proper arcane caster. They treat their class levels as arcane caster levels for feat prerequisites. Now the class has a pretty big drawback, but one that really has some serious promise: Defiant hubris.
The thaumaturge cannot be the willing target of divine magic or SUs, forcing them to save and resist even harmless spells, unless they concentrate for 1 minute, whereupon they are treated as willing recipients of all such magic for 10 minutes. This can be really interesting, if played right. 2nd level unlocks storm of blasts, usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day: The thaumaturge may fire a single ray at up to class level (max 10) targets within 30 ft., with each requiring a ranged touch attack and inflicting only 1d4 energy damage – here’s where things are neat: On a roll of “4”, the die “explodes”. If you’re not familiar with the mechanic: That means you roll the die again and add its damage value to the first roll. The ability caps these by putting a cap equal to twice the thaumaturge’s caster level on the maximum – a thaumaturge of 13th level could have up to a total of 26 such exploding dice per storm of blasts, for example. I *really* like this. It’s chaotic and cool and has a proper cap to avoid truly ridiculous blasts and the math is solid. Oh, and since it’s an SP, it’s also a bit risky. Point for the class!
Now, I have already mentioned black arts – these would be supernatural talents that require somatic components and, as the class is wont to, are governed by Charisma. They are unlocked at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter and a handy table lists them by prerequisite, with the big steps for unlocking new ones being 8th and 11th level: While one black art has a prerequisite level of 17th, it remains the exception. The black arts themselves can usually be employed once per day, with the majority requiring only a swift action to activate. These allow the thaumaturgist basically to add infusion-like modifications to blasts, among other things, though the hard cap of daily uses that lacks a scaling mechanism makes many of these add less versatility than you’d expect the chassis to deliver. It should be noted that black arts may be used for the conjuration of fiendish creatures with the appropriate choices. As a minor nitpick, the summons require only a standard action, which opens up the old question of when the summoned creature may act, how many actions it has left, etc. It is also worth mentioning that most may be taken multiple times per day, with each one granting + 1 daily use and that a feat can be taken to get an additional black art.
The orders of the class go further in determining the respective class abilities, though – at 3rd level, the order’s first blessing is gained, with 9th and 17th level providing the second and third blessing, respectively. It is here things, at least partially, become really problematic: If you have chosen the order of high sortiledge, you receive arcane mimicry, the ability to substitute an energy blast’s effects for a spell of a level he would be able to cast: While the spell needs to be arcane, may not cause damage and only affect willing targets, it does not have any other restrictions. Sure, it may suppress the ability to use energy blast for 1/2 the spell’s level in rounds, but who cares? Infinite utility magic!! Suck on this, witch, wizard etc.!! Ähem, what? Yep. The ability has no cap, can be used an infinite amount of times per day, and considering the number of powerful buff options with long durations, it is one of the best examples of something utterly broken I have ever seen. WTF? How could this have gone past any playtesting?? This invalidates any utility/defense-caster ever. EVEN THE WIZARD. If your class is more powerful than the wizard, you have an issue. Not starting with the issue of different spell levels for different spellcaster classes, but yeah – even if you’d restrict that to the sorc/wiz-list only, this’d be broken as all hell.
Which is puzzling, for other abilities do cool things: Like prohibiting a creature from being the willing recipient of a spell when suffering from your black arts or hexes. Wait, hexes? Yep, several abilities tie into the black art that unlocks witch hexes at full CL, which is a neat and fitting touch as far as I’m concerned. Similarly, decreasing blast potency for self-heals with a daily cap or using magic items sans expending charges is a ncie idea – and comes with an anti-abuse caveat I like. These abilities, as you may have noticed, are active abilities.
The order chosen also affects the passive abilities available for the class: 4th and 16th level, respectively, provide the aspect of the order and greater aspect of the order abilities that culminate in the similarly order-based capstone of the class. These, as a whole, tend to be solid – though e.g. High Sortiledge’s deflection bonus lacks the “to AC” usually added to the verbiage…and, much like the energy types of the blasts, the internal balance is a bit…odd? Darkvision 60 ft. versus resistance 5 to fire, cold, electricity and acid, which increase by +5 at 12th and 18th level. Okay, it’s nice that darkvision improves if the character already has it and that he may see through magical darkness…but still. As a further nitpick – one of them refers to Intimidation – someone read 5e while writing that section, it seems. This is also reflected in another ability, which references lightning instead of electricity.
Coolest by far – the bounty of bedlam table, which provides one of 8 chaotic blessings/penalties a day.
Once per day at 6th level and plus 1/day every 6 levels thereafter, the thaumaturge may redirect one targeted spell/SP/ray or melee touch attack spell. The second feat herein does offer an option to use this ability to hijack other spells as an immediate action to steal enemy buffs. Cool. Starting at 10th level, as a full-round action usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day, the thaumaturge may channel their blasts through their familiar. 15th level is extremely cool and flavorful, allowing the thaumaturge to move sans moving his legs, levitating constantly above the ground as if affected by defy gravity, including slower, but reliable movement when further away from the ground. Speaking of flavorful – while a few of the aforementioned capstones represent various takes upon the apotheosis-theme, their respective representations certainly are flavorful!
Editing and formatting, for the most part, are good – there are a few deviations from the defaults here and there, but the rules-language and formal prose are nice as a whole. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard with greenish highlights and fitting fonts, though starting at black arts, the pdf begins utilizing a 1-column standard. The pdf sports a blend of nice full-color stock art and some seriously amazing pieces I have never seen before – for the price, it certainly is a nice-looking book. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.
This class had a turbulent gestation period, and alas, it shows. Originally penned by N. Jolly, then refined by Brian Suskind, Ben McFarland and Jaye Sonia, it was once to be the PFRPG warlock…but then, the kineticist came along….so what did the Storm Bunny crew do? They emphasized the occult aspect, which is a VERY smart thing to do…and flavor-wise, they succeeded. The thaumaturge is a class with several flavorful options and manages to evoke a unique playing experience, which is a big thing for me. It does not feel as restrictive and bland as the original warlock class and very much feels occult in theme…but not in design.
Occult Adventures, as I’ve written in my review of that book, represents a paradigm shift towards classes with an emphasis on player agenda and roleplaying as baked in aspect of a class. The warlock has a bit of player agenda with his black arts, but that’s about it – much like the poor cavalier, you choose the order and then are locked into it, allowing for a limited array of concepts. The concepts themselves are nice, though their internal balance among themselves (or lack thereof) is one of the disappointing aspects of this class.
I am loathe to say it…but the class feels a bit like it could have used some time to further mature: From the lack of energy blast range increases (with the exception of a true strike blast black art that doubles range) to the uneven power of the orders and their abilities, the class feels like it could have used some serious fine-tuning…which is a pity, for, contrary to what I expected to find, there is some serious fun contained in the chassis. I love the exploding dice with their cap, for example. I like the spell-leeching…but that does not change that several aspects herein could have used some nerfing, others upgrading…and a bit more versatility. (With the exception of infinite spellcasting. That needs to die horribly.) Oh, and better power-streamlining between orders, damage types, etc..
In other words – this is *almost* a cool class; it could have been awesome, even. It has these gleaming highlights of brilliance, but remains a flawed class. It also lacks favored class options, but oh well. I expected to hate this and I don’t – so yeah, this would fare better…were it not for the fact that Interjection Games’ ethermagic basically does the whole warlock-shtick better balanced, with more soft and hard crowd control choices and unique tricks than this one.
This is not a bad class, but neither is it one that most groups can unanimously and sans tweaks use in their games – in short, it is a mixed bag and as such receives a final verdict of 3 stars.
You can get this class here on OBS!