Terrors from the Id: The Book of Psionic Horror
This supplement clocks in at 40 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this book with new class options for psionic classes, which include new tricks for the Path of War class Zealot (from path of War Expanded) as well, so let’s start here: Zealots get 4 new convictions. One lets the zealot, as a free action, take sanity damage of up to his Charisma modifier, regaining an expended maneuver for every point of sanity damage taken. Sans sanity system,, the zealot may instead take 2 ability score damage to one of the three mental ability scores of their choice. Mad echoes lets the zealot cause 1 sanity damage to all creatures affected by echoes of steel; if he does this, the target of echoes of steel gets to use the loaned maneuver an additional time. I *assume* that the bonus use of the maneuver still is voided if the zealot chooses to recover the maneuver, but explicitly pointing that out would have been nice. The final conviction nets the “shattered mind” oracle curse, using zealot level as oracle levels. Unless I am sorely mistaken, there is no such thing. After combing through my pdfs and books, I finally realized what this should have been, or at least, I think I do: In PF #88, a shattered psyche oracle curse was introduced. This was the closest I got to discerning the intent of this one.
Zealots also get a new mission, corruption. This one nets all creatures in your collective the benefits of your corruption manifestation and stains while you maintain psionic focus. You can expend your psionic focus to allow all creatures in the collective to ignore their stains for 1 round. This ability is missing the action to activate it. The second ability, warping majesty, lets the zealot spend “3 power points on a martial strike, affecting the target with Malefic Metamorphosis[sic!]” If the target failed a saving throw against the maneuver that activated this power, it is affected automatically. For 4 power points added to a martial strike, the target can be forcibly included in the collective. As a swift action, the zealot may command the target to perform a move or standard action, with a “DC 10 + the zealot’s charisma modifier + half the zealot’s level” “will” save to stop performing the action. Leaving the collective requires a move action and a will save. Why all those quotes? Well, if you’re even remotely familiar with PFRPG, you’ll notice that there’s a lot wrong with formatting here – the sequence of the DCs is nonstandard, ability scores are persistently lower-caps, and, to get that out of the way, powers referenced and archetypes are both provided in caps – so the “Malefic Metamorphosis” does not reference a feat, it actually points towards a power – and should be malefic metamorphosis. Skills are btw. written in lower caps.
The issues this book has with formatting are VERY pronounced, and particularly in high-complexity contexts, they do impact the material.
On a formal level, it should be noted that the verbiage here also made me stumble a few times, but yeah. The mission is conceptually great, but before we can properly judge it, we have to make a brief excursion to new psionic powers, namely the aforementioned malefic metamorphosis. The power is one of the new powers introduced herein, and is a third-level power for psions/wilders and vitalists. It can be manifested as a standard action, has a range of touch, and PR applies; A fortitude save negates, and the power clocks in at 5 power points cost. The power allows you to impose a -6 penalty to an ability score, decrease the target’s size by 2 categories, make the target lose a limb, render the target blind or deaf, decrease natural armor by 3, decrease DR by 5, reduce fast healing or regeneration by 5 (nice: Has a caveat that prevents cheesing immortal enemies here!), decrease maneuverability by 2 “steps”, impose -4 on attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks and saving throws, impose a 50% chance to waste any given turn; this increases to only a 25% chance to act normally. For every 4 power points spent, you get to add another effect; for 2 power points, range increases to close; for 4, you can affect a creature with additional manifestations of the power, and for 2, the save DC increases by 1. Sounds familiar? Yep, this is essentially a psionic, more versatile version of bestow curse. I like *most* of the flexibility it offers, though loss of a limb is pretty nasty, and should probably have been a costly augment. The power is, like bestow curse, permanent, but unlike the spell, it notes this: “any effect that would remove ability damage is capable of removing the effects of this power.“ Okay, I *assume* that means that any effect curing ability damage also ends this power. In short: It is more flexible, but also easier to remove than the spell. Per se not too big a problem. Oh wait, we were talking about the zealot, right? That means full BAB, and this potent power added for 3 power points to strikes? Now that is damn brutal – compared to destruction, we have the disabling of a limb equated with 3d8 active energy damage and +1 DC. And yes, this is the better comparison than destruction’s AoE-attack, as the new mission’s power point cost does not scale. I really love this conceptually – the infectious mutation/madness-angle reminded me of ole’ Sutter Cain, but as written, this is a very potent added debuff to strikes, one that exceeds in power the options granted by the other zealot missions. RAW, the ability also does not clarify the interaction with targets and affected area – as written, one could argue that 3 power points add this to all affected targets, when a single target was almost assuredly intended. This is a super-cool concept, but it needed some finetuning and polish.
While we’re on the subject of class abilities, we also get a new surge for the wilder, the horrific surge. This one lets the wilder make an “intimidate” check versus a creature within close range, gaining a untyped bonus to the check equal to the wild surge’s “value” – I assume that to refer to the manifester level increase granted by the wild surge class feature. If suffering enervation, the wilder is shaken for a number of rounds “equal to the level of wild surge used” and loses power points equal to the unmodified manifester level. This is, verbiage-wise, not really functional – does it refer to the manifester level as modified by wild surge? To the increase to manifester level? A wild surge in itself has no level. The surge bond increases the fear of targets already affected by shaken, frightened, etc., and the improved surge bond nets +1 creature affected by the wilder’s wild surge Intimidate checks, + another creature affected for every 4 levels beyond 5th.
Archetype-wise, the deranged min psion loses the bonus feats in favor of getting an oracle curse (adapted properly to psionics), and at 5th level, we have the tap the madness ability to accept temporary penalties to saves to enhance DCs, with the ability improving at 15th level. Interesting: At 10th level, this ability’s penalty becomes an aura. Formatting is inconsistent here: Class abilities are formatted as though they were feats for the most part (confusing), but not always. At 15th level, when using the save DC-enhancer, the archetype gets to completely ignore PR. Very strong. This should probably be a scaling decrease instead, particularly since they also ignore ANY immunities of creatures, which is OP even at 15th level. – granted, mind-affecting immunity instead nets a +5 bonus, but still. The capstone increases the radius vastly and provides a limited added psionic focus ready to be expended whenever the tap the madness ability is used.
The fearsome overlord dread replaces devastating touch with a collective governed by Wisdom, which is interesting (or a hiccup), considering that the dread otherwise is governed by Charisma – the archetype gets Unwilling Participant at 1st level, using Charisma instead of Wisdom, and adds the [Network] descriptor to all [Fear] powers and a list. The latter makes me think that the collective probably was intended to be Charisma-based as well. 2nd level’s terror is replaced with spirit of many. Terrors can be channeled as a standard action via the collective, and targets in it are treated as though affected by devastating touch for the purpose of being affected by a terror, or the target can be affected by an Intimidate check. The ability is correctly codified regarding descriptor and spirit of many’s augment, which is the big thing here – you can essentially use terrors on multiple targets for power point expenditure, which makes for pretty potent low-cost debuffs.
Aura of fear is replaced with a penalty applied to collective members regarding fear-based effects, including the loss of fear immunity. Channel terror is lost in favor of the ability to induct targets into the collective on a failed save by expending a use of terrors. I assume that the save DC here is based on the terrors, but the ability doesn’t state this. Twin fear is replaced with knowing/remote viewing the location of creatures in the collective. The archetype also comes with a sanity damaging terror. This is an interesting engine-tweak – I rather liked it, minor rough patches notwithstanding.
The martinet tactician does not suffer drawbacks for collective members reduced to 0 hit points, and replaces coordinated strike with 3+ Intelligence modifier uses of press onward. This ability can be used as a swift action, and lets all members of their collective ignore a pretty massive array of negative conditions for 1 round, , +1 round at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. When the effect wears off, the suppressed effects have their duration extended by an equal number of rounds to which they were suppressed….and here, we have an unintentional exploit: Per default, the suppression of effects in PFRPG has their duration continue to elapse, so if the negative condition elapses while the ability is activated, there is no more duration to extend. This is, admittedly, a nitpick, but the exploit is completely avoidable via a suspension of duration elapsing clause. Oh, and there is this other sentence. While under the effect of the ability, creatures ignore ALL DAMAGE SUFFERED. Granted, they take twice as much when the duration elapses, but this is still broken as all hell. Deity blasts your level 1 farmer? Death delayed, you’ve got this level 1 martinet standing around…and again, it didn’t have to be this way. I love the idea. Add a simple scaling mechanism per round for damage ignored, and there you go. 6th level nets Diehard and collective members benefiting from coordinate gain it as a teamwork feat. 14th level replaces pooled knowledge with the ability to redistribute damage taken among collective members. Good here: The ability has a caveat that prevents damage negation – via DR. Since the base ability regarding delayed damage does not comment on energy types, this should be more broadly phrased.
The psyche preserver vitalist replaces medic powers with an expanded powers list and the respective powers being treated as though they had the network descriptor. Transfer wounds is replaced and delayed until 4th level, and the replacement instead transfers sanity damage. Collective healing is similarly modified to instead apply to sanity damage, health sense is replaced with sanity sense, and at 6th level, we have a pulse that lets the collective members ignore madness or mind.affecting effects for one round. 7th level allows for the negation of sanity damage taken via the modified transfer wounds replacement, and the 19th level ability allows for regular healing to also be able to deal with sanity damage.
Next up are two prestige classes: The 5-level psijacker, who needs 2 skills at 7 ranks, Inducting Power, Shared Power and Unwilling Participant, as well as the ability to manifest 3rd-level powers, which must include two telepathy powers. The PrC has d6 HD, 3/5 manifesting progression, and BAB, Fort- and Ref-saves improve by up to +2, Will saves by up to +3 during the 5 levels of progression. If the psijacker had a collective before, it advances as if the character had gained a level in the collective-granting class. The PrC is missing its class skills, and information on its skills per level and proficiencies.
1st level adds the attune target augment to all mind-affecting powers: for 2 power points, a creature that fails its save against the power becomes attuned to you, and can be affected regardless of range or line of effect. 4th level allows for the expenditure of an additional power point to add attune another creature that failed the Will save against the power.
The interesting thing comes at 2nd level: When attuned to a target, the psijacker shares an attuned target’s collective abilities, and can’t be forcibly removed. Additionally, the psijacker can redirect ANY power or effect that affects another creature in the collective to himself. No save, no limits here. This ability is AWESOME, but it needs some checks and balances. Particularly since all creatures in mental contact with an attuned target are ALSO treated as attuned, save that they can’t act in this same relay-like manner. 3rd level nets spirit of many, and creatures thus affected can be targets via collective effects and powers, effectively bypassing saves and limits that keep the already potent collective ability in check. Remember: Creatures affected by the relay of the attuned target do not get a save to avoid this! Really cool: The psijacker can change what a creature says in mental communication by expending their psionic focus. 4th level eliminates the most pronounced restriction to the psijacker’s attunement, making it last for 24 hours, which is strange, as RAW, the attunement lasts as long as the triggering power, which can be longer than 24 hours. Attuned creatures also take a -2 penalty versus the psijacker’s mind-affecting powers. The 5th level nets another global augment – for 4 power points, mind-affecting powers can become contagious, and only for powers that allow for a Will save. I love the concept of this PrC, but it could have used a few whacks with the nerf-bat. Still, this is definitely a cool concept! Still, I think many of these options either didn’t realize, or didn’t care about all the very potent benefits that collectives have already hardcoded into their rules. There is a reason why Unwilling Participant requires a standard action to use, has a save, and still is very powerful. So yeah, I wouldn’t allow these options in most of my games.
The paragon lunatic covers 10 levels, and requires 5 ranks in Autohypnosis, Iron Will, and at least one greater or two lesser madnesses. The class is immune to all mind-influencing effects save for madnesses already possessed, which can’t be healed or removed. The class also sports mad insight, which is essentially advantage on a d20 roll 1/day, +1/day for every odd class-level thereafter.
We have d8 HD, and ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 8/10ths enhanced development (not bolded properly), progressing regarding class features etc. in a class they belonged to before gaining the PrC. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat, and 2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a madman’s boon from a list of 12. These are not properly classified as extraordinary, supernatural, etc. – this is relevant in e.g. the ability that allows the paragon lunatic to extend a madness they suffer from to another creature. Most of the abilities are passives, like increasing one ability score by +2, and decreasing another by 4, but yeah…taking e.g. sanity damage when affecting the character with a mind-affecting effect would be another example where ability type is very much relevant. The level 10 ability lets them become super-flexible, and retrain all feats every day, exchange powers for spells (power/spell lists used?? I assume same list…), or exchange class talents etc.
The book also contains quite a bunch of new powers. To give you an idea: Armageddon is a 9th-level power that deals 10d6 force damage…to everything in a 1-mile radius, centered on manifester, including the manifester. Oh, and you take 4d6 ability BURN to the manifesting ability score. Brutal. Assign imperative is permanent (should be “Permanent, see text”, since an inability means it “only” lasts for several days, and essentially lets you implant Code Geass-like compulsions in targets – which is also the interesting angle here: This 6th-level power is akin to geas/quest, and per default takes 10 minutes to manifest, but otherwise has more flexibility due to its augments, which include the option to manifest it as a standard action instead. However, in such a case, the target gets a Will save. Confusing: The augment-section erroneously refers to this power as “Mind Control”, instead of its proper name; it’s not the only power with this particular glitch. That being said, with lantent programming and this one, you can do some seriously nasty stuff.
There is also a 60-foot shockwave spread that renders targets helpless on a failed save, a cool signaling beckon to call low-HD creatures to you (but doesn’t compel obedience…) Deathless Form begs to be abused. A 4th level power, the power has a duration of 1 round/level, and prevents death by hit points. ENTIRELY. It also ahs this confusing piece of verbiage “However, the creature does not heal nor regain consciousness; further healing is required in order to bring the creature back to positive hit points.“ Either the first sentence only applies to natural healing (if so, what about fast healing/regeneration), or it’s self-contradictory. It’s not that hard to remain operational with 0 or less HP. Either way, that’s the pre-augmented power. This sort of stuff is also usually a frickin’ CAPSTONE with limited uses, not a puny 4th-level power. WTF. Compare it to delay death. I mean, seriously. WTF.
On the plus-side, a 6th level power that is essentially a tweak on multi-target ectoplasmic form, a psionic tongues variant…cool. Speaking of cool: One of my favorite psi-powers, false sensory input, gets a complex level 5 variant that I’ll most definitely use. The level 8 feed to oblivion power is a better destruction that is most assuredly missing its [death] descriptor, an important balancing aspect for such powers/spells, particularly since it also imposes negative levels and even ignores immunity to the like. Halt has really cool visuals: It is a 30-foot radius, and saps kinetic energy. It makes projectiles fall to the ground, and creatures in the area must succeed on a Fortitude save or be paralyzed, which EXPLICITLY ignores immunity to paralysis, but not immunity to cold. Since duration is concentration-based, I can see this work rather neatly. However, it also notes that psionic effects are shut down as if affected by dispel psionics – so we have AoE save or suck aura that moves, is a dispelling aura, and eliminates projectiles. I think power-level 5 is too low here.
Insurrection has a chance to force the affected to attack allies. That should have the (compulsion) descriptor. I like the interference field’s massive penalties to concentration. Sharing real and false memories is cool. Personally, I think that the 9th-level power lore of the deceased, which permanently nets you a known power of a deceased creature, should have a limit regarding power lists to choose from, or some maximum of powers from other lists you can thus attain. I welcomed the powers that allow for the use of mindscapes with psionics. Relapse also needs a limit, and obviously was based on a more limited class ability. The power lets you choose a spell or effect that affected the target within 24 hours that has been ended or dispelled. The effect begins anew. This lets you basically duplicate very strong attack spells/buffs/debuffs, as you with, and bypass 1/day ability limitations. On the plus-side, switching 2 20-foot cubes of terrain and people with spatial displacement? Awesome.
Okay, this should give you an idea regarding the powers. The pdf also includes 2 pages of new feats. These include making mind-affecting powers cause sanity damage, or render certain powers contagious (the latter being just what you think – at a flat cost of only 2 power points, this one is underpriced and very strong); there also is a Metapsionic feat building on Unwilling Participant – conceptually, many feats here are variants of class abilities I discussed above. Slaying creatures reduced to 0 sanity, enhancers for psychic duels are also here. The section also features the Dream Sovereign feat, which enhances both dream message and induce nightmare with custom augments, a per se cool design paradigm I can see work well on a more global scale. As an aside: The latter power lets you move targets to nightmare dreamscapes…just sayin’…Freddy’s be proud!
The book also provides 3 new corruptions: Overlord interacts with psychic enervation, and focuses its Manifestations’s Gifts on added effects when manifesting powers. The compelled is the other direction – instead of gaining the corruption because of excessive use of power/imposing of power, this one is about having been subjected to it. Bolding of the manifestation sub-headers here is consistently off, which is puzzling, since the previous corruption didn’t suffer from this issue. The ravager corruption is, no surprise for veterans there, a nod towards Dark Sun’s ravager tradition – your powers generate wastelands, sapping the life from the world. This also ties in with the artifact(s)
herein – torcs of the legendary ravagers exist in 4 variants, and, well, are artifacts that can vastly enhance the ravage radius.
The book then provides some notes on sanity damage, psionic (psychic) dueling, and generating MP from power points. The latter requires care in a mixed game: Psionic characters will mop the floor with psychic ones of these rules are implemented. A table of fleshwarping psionic creatures, including ingredients and costs, and 3 fleshgrafts, were pretty nice! Sealed mind is interesting – it makes you immune to mind-affecting effects, but also makes you have a trigger that can be sued for mind control.
Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, and the original b/w-artworks herein are AWESOME. I love them.
Unfortunately that is all of the positive things I can say about the formal criteria of this pdf. Editing on a formal level is okay, but on a rules-language level, there are quite a lot of vagaries, glitches, etc. – several of which influence the integrity of the rules.
Formatting, though? Oh boy.
You know, I often feel petty when complaining about formatting. And I’m sure plenty of authors out there at one point wanted to beat me up for my nitpicking.
If you need a good example why formatting for a game of PFRPG’s complexity is so darn important, look no further than this.
I mean, I’ll complain about a bolding missing, sure, but that’s aesthetic. This book, though? It’s the first book I read in AGES, where the formatting is so bad that it makes it harder to grasp how some stuff is supposed to work. There are no italics in this book. Instead, everything, from archetype names to powers to class abilities is formatted like feats. Powers suddenly are called ability. References regarding “levels” don’t specify which levels are meant.
Combine that with some hiccups, nonstandard verbiage and the complexity of the engines this operates with, and we have a seriously hard to decipher book.
Oh, and this nonstandard formatting? It’s not even consistent! Heck, one of the PrCs is missing its entire skill section.
Oh, and guess what? NO BOOKMARKS! Not even F****** bookmarks.
This book? It reads like a pre-development/pre-editing draft/Beta, like nobody took a swing at checking the stuff for balance, like nobody bothered clearing up the immediately apparent issues this has. This book looks like a freshman offering, like a book with a troubled development history, or both – my money’s on the latter.
I haven’t seen a blunder of these proportions in all of Legendary Games’ catalog. And it’s heart-wrenching, for Matt Daley is a talented author, and there are gems to be unearthed here. There are some genuinely cool ideas here, and while the implementations often are exceedingly rough, one can *see* the gem this could have been. Heck, the author has done so much better in other publications, this must have been some seriously old work…right?
…I wanted to love this book so badly. I actually had kept it on the back-burner, because I love psionics, I love horror, and I was confident it’d be a fun, well-wrought book. Instead, I got a heart-wrenching mess. In spite of the good ideas contained herein, I can’t rate this higher than 2 stars.
You can get this book here on OBS.
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