This expansion of the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Framed by a nice piece of introductory prose and some advice for players to render abjurer-themes interesting, the book starts off with 5 different archetypes, the first of which would be the faithful shepherd, who is a Mid-Caster based on Wisdom, with a spell pool of class level + Wisdom modifier and 1 talent per caster level. The archetype gets the Life and Protection spheres and uses class level as caster level for them. The archetype is locked into positive energy channeling. Instead of spontaneous casting, the archetype gets a massive talent array – the so-called divine works. The archetype gets one of these at first level, and an additional one every odd level thereafter. These include healing buffs for ward-based healing (with an anti cheese-caveat), using channel energy uses to create signs that duplicate exorcist hedgewitch sanctions, using casting ability modifier with the deity’s favored weapon, use a ward as a 30 ft. aura (no, protective barrier is not eligible) etc. – really cool take on a sphere healer/protector cleric-y character.
The impossible warrior fighter replaces the 2nd level bonus feat with the ability to parry spells, SPs and sphere abilities; the parry works as an immediate action that uses class level instead of MSB, and rules for creatures with SPs are provided. An interesting angle: This only negates the effect on the fighter, and the fighter must expend a standard or move action on his next turn to disperse the parried energy, or be affected at the end of the turn! This is a cool caveat, as it rewards players while imposing a tax on the potent ability. The 6th level bonus feat replacement lets this fellow dispel or suppress effects on creatures or objects; 10th level’s bonus feat further improves this ability, and 14th level allows for the dispelling of multiple effects. The 18th level ability’s verbiage allows for striking back the effect to the originator.
The living weapon armorist gets good Fort and Ref saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, but not with armor or shields. The archetype gets, no surprise there, protection as a bonus sphere, with the Limited Protection drawback, which may be bought off. The archetype gets Armored Magic as a bonus talent, and uses class level as caster level for summon aegis, which replaces summon equipment. This one allows you to treat summoned equipment as basically armor and shield stand-ins, which is an interesting angle to pursue, though one that requires, obviously, a pretty expert player. The bound equipment thus is modified to apply to such armor and shield stand-ins. Instead of armor training, we get the fighter’s weapon training at 5th level, and the class gets an array of arsenal tricks that allow for the sacrifice of spell points instead of aegis when using a (succor) talent. Minor nitpick: In the unarmored base damage increase talent, size categories aren’t correctly capitalized. It also refers to the bound weapon ability, which the archetype doesn’t have. There are a few of these minor snafus, and while not gamebreakers per se, they do hamper the pretty complex archetype a bit. Quick summons and infinite arsenal are modified, but we have another nomenclature snafu here, with a reference to armored aegis that should refer to defensive aegis instead.
The marshal controller mageknight is proficient with simple weapons and light armor + shields, and if the class level is the first, he gets a martial tradition. When the archetype gets a magic talent (excluding the 2 ones when first gaining casting), they can instead get a combat talent, using casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. The archetype blends the Protection sphere (with limited Protection, cannot use aegis) and the Guardian sphere, locked into patrol as guardian package. These replace 1st level’s magic talent and resist magic. The wards the character places make foes that violate them trigger AoOs, and this has synergy with patrol. The terms of violations for wards are concisely defined. The archetype also gets an array of 7 exclusive mystic combats, which enhance what should be clear by the name – this is basically a controller, and an interesting one.
The shield of the gods inquisitor is a Wisdom-using Mid-Caster with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points, and track is replaced with a bonus talent chosen from Enhancement, Fate and Protection. Instead of judgment and the follow ups, we get the means to use (aegis), (consecration) and (enhance) talents as a swift action, even ones they don’t have, provided they meet the prerequisites. This has a limited array of daily uses, obviously, and uses scale. Higher levels allows for the activation of multiple such abilities at once. The pdf also has two armorist tricks, though formatting here misses some italicizations. Eliciters get the aversion emotion, hedgewitches may qualify as having the exorcism tradition benefit as a secret, and said tradition is actually really flavorful, focusing on the 13 sanctions, defensive signs that are pretty potent and fun.7 tradition secrets, a tradition mastery and 6 grand secrets complement easily one of my favorite pieces of content for the hedgewitch so far. Incanters also get stuff – two complex specializations; one (2 specialization points) nets an attunement over the environment, which makes them walking, scaling countermagic zones; the other, Lattice Weaver is a Protection sub-specialization at 3 points and nets you a crystalline lattice that can basically generate barriers that may be moved around, becoming more potent and later, it may also form an aegis, etc. – really cool! 5 mystic combats and 3 magus arcana and just as many rogue talents complement this section.
The basic talent section sports an errata that specifies that different aegises can be stacked on a target, that barriers don’t block teleportation, and that the Healing Aegis doesn’t require a spell point to use – which makes sense, as the base ability already has a spell point cost. Speaking of which – this one, as well as the Luck option of the Protection sphere have retroactively been designated (succor) talents – i.e. effects that kick in when you dismiss an aegis. This would be as well a place as any to note that there is something annoying about formatting – there are abilities that are called “Xyz aegis”, and they are harder to distinguish from aegis talents, as the book isn’t particularly good at italicizing it properly. It’s a minor thing, but it kinda annoyed me. The new talents include scaling miss chances (that decrease when negating hits) and the means to place cubes instead of barriers – weird there: They don’t have to be contiguous. Providing DR for dismissing an aegis, repairing barriers, anti-illusion wards, longer durations for wards sans concentration – the pdf covers quite a breadth of options.
Glyphs and quicker ward use, help versus emotion (erroneously referred to as “emotional”) and mind-affecting effects, ward/aegis options to make targets behave as though they had no alignment, bonuses versus Life sphere effects, wards versus specific spheres, a (succor) talent that allows for immediate action counterspelling of spells or sphere abilities, with the chance to return them to sender…all in all, a neat section.
The advanced magic chapter includes more complex glyphs, permanent wards or e.g. an aegis that prevents being directly targeted make for powerful tricks that are well-situated in this chapter. The two incantations are true winners: One for an impenetrable dome around a vast area (iconic!) and one to seal planar rifts. Amazing! We also get a new ritual, basically a variant of the old explosive runes trick.
Of course, there is also a pretty massive feat-section, for ward-favored enemy or aegis-pala synergy, Counterspelling Strikes, the usual (Dual Feat) fun, a feat that interacts with the Combat Stamina engine – some nice ones here. The pdf offers three neat traits and a couple of nice and flavorful protection sphere drawbacks. The equipment section provides a couple of solid consumables, but really cool would be the two armor properties: Anti-ballistic and ant-spell are really cool: The former helps versus potent projectile weaponry, while the later helps fortify the wearer versus effects where SR applies. Interesting angle! There is a banishment-style property priced at +2, which is imho too low. Preventative nets you a circumstance bonus to AC equal to weapon enhancement bonus for 1 minute or until you hit another target. The pdf also offers two staff properties, a new ring and, really neat, a scaling amulet, the amulet of primal protection. The pdf closes with salient advice for the players.
Editing and formatting are generally good at tackling the complexities herein, but particularly the latter is significantly weaker than usual for the series, sometimes to the point where it impacted rules integrity and how easily the material can be understood. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf offers a blend of new and stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Andrew Gibson has penned a rather cool supplement here, and he has managed to do several neat things with the class options and tricks within. That being said, the formatting and minor inconsistencies do crop up over the course of the book, to the point where I genuinely believe that this could have used another editing take. That being said, this should still be considered to be a must have option for many groups, as it offers potent options for defense in a game that is geared too much towards offense. The material herein allows you to create some neat combos and realize complex tricks that are hard to pull off. All in all, a good expansion for Spheres of Power – not as mind-blowing and precise as the chronomancer’s book, for example, but well worth 4 stars.
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