The Fey-Binder’s Handbook
This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my readers and patreons.
All right, we begin this supplement, as always, with a nice piece of in-character prose, before diving into the nit and grit. As with the Blood sphere, we have a new sphere introduced in this book, though this one previously did have its debut in Skybourne. The sphere as presented within is no longer restricted regarding who can access it, and has been rewired, so let’s see how it holds up – as with the Blood sphere, it makes most sense to start off the discussion of the subject matter at hand by taking a look at the base sphere first before getting into the details of archetypes etc.
The Fallen Fey Sphere’s base ability would be the fey-link: As a swift action, this allows the caster to change creature type to fey for 1 minute per caster level; this transformation only applies to your base type, not your subtypes, so bane and similar effects possibly contingent on subtypes still apply. While in this fey-link form, you may spend 1 spell point as a free action to gain the benefits of a fey-blessing until the end of the fey-link. There is no maximum cap to the number of fey-blessings you may have active at a given time, but they all end with the fey-link. Renewing the fey-link does not renew the durations of currently active fey-blessings and, indeed, ends all currently active ones.
Upon gaining the Fallen Fey sphere, you gain the nature connection fey-blessing, which potentially could have the (fey-blessing)-tag, as certain magic talents also have this tag when they grant additional fey-blessings, though the various fey-blessings themselves don’t have this tag. Personally, I think making the individual fey-blessings provided by (fey-blessing) talents have a kind of descriptor would make sense from a rules-syntax perspective; it may be more feasible to call the talents “Fey Gift” or some such, since the rules are based on individual fey-blessings. Then again, this is purely aesthetic and will not influence the final verdict. The pdf does cover the interaction of activating fey-blessings when already of the fey type. It should be noted that both fey-link and fey-blessings are tracked individually regarding their caster levels.
Anyhow, the nature connection fey-blessing nets you an untyped +1 bonus to initiative, Knowledge (geography), Survival, Stealth, and Perception check in a terrain of your choice that you choose when the fey-blessing is cast. The bonus increases by +1 for every 5 caster levels you possess. Weird: Something has gone seriously wrong in verbiage here, as the blessing states that it may be gained multiple times, choosing a new terrain every time. Okay, how? As a magic talent? I assume so. But then, it still contradicts itself, implying once that you have to choose one terrain, while a few sentences before that, it allows for full flexibility whenever you cast it. Which is it?
On the plus-side, this book does account for the obvious thematic overlaps between the Fallen fey sphere and the Alteration sphere, specifying that fey-blessings maintained during shapeshift reduce the traits that may be assigned by 1 per fey-blessing applied. Additionally, Unthreatening Form functions as an analogue of the blank form. This would btw. be a talent that allows you to shapeshift into a Diminutive or Tiny animal, though attacking, using a supernatural or spell-like ability or sphere-effect immediately ends this. While in unthreatening form, you get movement modes of the form as well as abilities it may have, with a concise list presented. The talent includes modifications of the physical ability scores noted in a table, and powerful abilities are locked behind a minimum level that makes sense.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the base sphere: If you also have the Divination sphere, you may Detect Faetouched. The sphere comes with two general talents: Share Link allows you to designate a creature within close range as beneficiary of your fey-link, with a Will-save to resist for unwilling targets, and such targets cost you a spell point; such targets may also share in your fey-blessings while the target is in close range, and spell point-contingent talents use your spell points, not that of your ally. Minor nitpick: I assume those decisions to be free actions, but the talent doesn’t really specify an action economy for e.g. fey-blessing sharing. Second issue: RAW, the target only has to remain in your vicinity for the purpose of sharing the fey-blessing, nor for its maintenance, which makes this aspect of the ability very strong, particularly in conjunction with the second general talent.
The second talent, Greater Link, increases the duration of the fey-link to 10 minutes per caster level, with the option of spending 1 spell point to instead increase the duration to 1 hour per caster level. Overall, we have more the 40 (fey-blessing) talents included in this book. The latter imho should have been relegated, at least in its hour-duration version, to the realm of advanced talents. While fey-blessings do cost spell points as a hard limiting cap, the increased duration of a couple of these options can make them, well, very, very potent group buffs.
Take, for example, Aelfwine, which conjures forth a type of faerie drink, which you can drink as a move action, with allies capable of drinking it as a standard action on their turns. This has 4 applications, all but one of which last for 1 minute: The first nets you temporary hit points equal to CL; the second nets you the Barroom sphere or a (drunk) talent; the third lets you suppress [emotion] effects for 1 round per CL on a successful magic skill check, and the last one nets you a scaling bonus to fear saves. The balance of this talent is contingent on the fact that you can only consume 1 + 2 times the Constitution modifier alcohol (minimum 1 missing) before being sickened for 1 hour per number of drinks beyond this. Okay. Know how easy you can get rid of the detrimental effects of alcohol in PFRPG? While the talent thankfully notes how it can’t affect creatures immune to alcohol, it could still be easily deprived of its limitations by getting rid of the sickened condition time and again. This should have some further, hard capping implemented to prevent abuse-strategies. Also, since this blessing has a physical representation, I am also not 100% sure how it interacts with Share Link’s ability to share fey-blessings. While the talent notes that the flask can be called back to the caster’s hand, RAW, the Share Link talent’s baseline would suggest that allies receive their own flask? I am genuinely not sure.
The second talent presented, Animate Hair, makes your adjacent squares harder to move away from for enemies, requiring a Reflex save and a Strength/Escape Artist check to move away from you on a failed save. You may also use hair to execute properly codified (NICE!) slam attacks and hold items, load weaponry, etc. as a swift action. Neat execution there! Beastward has multiple applications, which allow you to benefit from better default dispositions of animals or vermin, or repel animals or vermin. Nice: This does take the Beastmastery sphere into account. Problem here: The repelling effect for vermin specifies that they are shaken if forced in ranged, which contradicts the fact that mindless creatures (like most vermin) are immune to mind-affecting effects, of which fear is one. This should note that the shaken condition here specifically overrides the immunity to fear they thus usually have. There is also a talent that lets you go Disney princess and beckon animals to you, fascinating them with your beckoning call. We also can find a talent that lets you temporarily don a crown of a court of the fey, making associated beings incapable of attacking you, which is per se nice. Once more, the talent here is tied to a physical manifestation, which makes the interaction with the fey-blessing sharing aspect of Share Link somewhat opaque – a problem that also extends to e.g. the music-related Enchanting Music talent and similar options within.
On the plus side, the music talent offers multiple, neat effects that, while offering e.g. the means to stagger targets on a failed save, does not allow for stagger-locking exploits. Gaining concealment via the signature fading tricks of fey and another talent nets you a variety of different fairy dusts (this one comes with 9 types of dust!!!) – which is per se awesome, but oddly lists its last dust type below the global rules that govern the application of fairy dust. (And yes, for reference, this is also one that has a physical manifestation, which means that interaction can be weird – and frankly, at this point, I think that such fey-blessings were probably intended to be cut out of the sharing, as this would generate a ton of pouches of dust, which becomes problematic considering that a couple of the more potent fey-blessings have a hex-like limiting caveat, which would necessitate specifying that a shared fey-blessing still is treated as one instance of the same fey-blessing. On the plus-side, we have a properly balanced flight, and an option to generate enchanting lights, which, while cool, could have used some synergy with the Light-sphere’s glow-engine, but that may be me. We also have the options to spoil or unspoil food or target enemies with a sickening spew of vomit (nauseated for spell point expenditure). Some numerical boons may also be found.
Fey Secrets once more becomes an issue: Once before the end of your fey-link, you may add a 1d4, +1 per 5 caster levels, insight bonus to an ability check, skill check, attack roll, CMB check or initiative. While you can’t use it for the same roll multiple times, you can take the talent multiple times, increasing the uses per link by 1 each time. RAW, this may be shared, but is there still only one roll when used with Share Link? Or does every target get one? On the nitpicky-side, the tag of this one lacks the hyphen. Grace of the Sidhe, on the other hand, is nice – it nets you either evasion, or a 20% miss chance when moving far enough each round – like it. Indeed, while the above may have come off as harsh, and while I do maintain that there are some kinks to be worked out in the core engine of the sphere here, the book does offer quite a few of really cool talents – there are, for example, talents associated with the seasonal courts, short-range teleport and the like. On the downside, Listen to the Wind lets you just find North, and makes you privy to the natural weather within 48 hours – some Weather synergy would have been neat here. Dominion over components of the natural world, being a friend to plants (including the option to have primarily wood-based weaponry be less efficient against you), sabotage of civilization (yep, Gremlin-themed talent included) and the iconic means to steal shadows all may be found here. The latter is particularly nice if you’re playing in conjunction with one of the numerous options of spells and class features that use a target’s shadow as a kind of resource. Entangling fungal bombs and anxiety causing spores, glances that may stun targets etc. can be found within as well. Did I mention the options to clothe yourself in cinders and see through smoke or sense objects with Zolavoi’s Mantle? Yeah, some cool stuff here!
A total of 8 advanced talents may be found within: These include the option to banish targets to the realms of Faerie, traveling faerie rings (and determine their locations – just fyi, there are rituals provided for both functions as well! Additionally, there’s a proper incantation to create them yourself – nice!!), and there is one that makes you a fey – and allows you to turn others into fey! Minor issue: Fey Invisibility, while based on Fade, lacks the (fey-blessing) tag that its prerequisite talent has, and with the lack of an activation action or cost noted explicitly, I’m pretty sure it should have the tag. There is also a means to reincarnate (spell-formatting incorrect), a version of a nymph’s blinding beauty, a nereid’s drowning kiss and the ability to steal skins constitute notable fey-blessings that are situated properly as advanced talents.
The pdf comes with 5 feats, with Enchanted Performance building upon aforementioned Enchanting Music/Disney princess-style talents, providing synergy with bardic performance or raging song. Fairy Dust and Alchemy sphere synergy is neat, and we also have Trap sphere synergy. Adding forbidden lore bonus to CL for the purpose of summoned fey limits and a water geomancing is another interesting one, though feat-descriptors could have been a bit more stringent – pretty sure that quite a few of them should have the (Champion) descriptor…
Anyhow, this out of the way, let us take a look at the class options, shall we? We have 3 archetypes: For the shifter, we have the fey incarnate, who loses Climb and replaces it with Bluff, and who has Charisma as casting ability modifier. Instead of shapeshifter, we have Alteration and Fallen fey as bonus sphere, with Beast Soul and Lycanthropic drawbacks granting Fey Transformation (from the Shapeshifter’s Handbook); Fallen Fey sphere effects applied on herself and Fey Transformation talent both use class level as CL. Instead of enhanced physicality, we have the means to combo Fey Transformation and fey-link, and the option to take (fey-blessing) talents instead of bestial traits, as well as 7th level enhancing Charisma by +2, which increases by a further +2 every 6 levels thereafter. The capstone nets a fey apotheosis, with fey-blessings applied to herself being now free of charge and extraordinary.
The second archetype would be the feylord for the commander class, who gets a BAB of an incanter – which is a needlessly convoluted way of stating that the archetype has ½ BAB-progression. We also have d6 HD, but the feylord is a Low-Caster using Charisma as governing ability score., with level + Charisma modifier spell points. Every level nets one combat or magic talent, and first level changes type to fey, including low-light vision (or increasing pre-existing low-light vision’s effectiveness). Instead of battlefield specialist, we have the option to treat class level as CL for fey-link and fey-blessings cast upon self. Where this becomes awesome is 7th level: Instead of call in a specialist and its options, we get fey subjects, which provides not only a cool array of abilities – these abilities also come with applications for use in conjunction with kingdom-building! Awesome!
The third archetype would be the Sidhe invoker fey adept, who gets fae points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier instead of shadow points et al., trading in shadowstuff and shadowmark. Interesting here: The archetype can basically generate a sort of illusion/transposition of fey logic/reality with a so-called ringfort: Basically an area where the laws of nature bow to the will of the fey adept, allowing for control over terrain, magic, time, etc. – this includes Wild Magic-synergy and features some genuinely cool tricks – I wished there was a bit more for this one, but considering its synergy with [surreal] feats, it does have ample options for creative players. Create reality is modified to account for the new engine, and we have , instead of HiPS (hide in plain sight) full reality for Illusions within the created reality…which can be awesome in the hands of a creative roleplayer!
Beyond this, we have a fey domain (with Seelie/Unseelie subdomains) and 2 incanter specializations – for 2 points, fey servants, and for 3 points a sphere-specialization. Warpriests and (unchained) rogues also get a bit of material. There are alternate racial traits for more fey-ish races included, as well as two properly codified traits, which both are mechanically relevant and not boring. Two different traditions, the ley-line tapper and elf-shot hunter can be found alongside two general drawbacks. Some sphere-specific drawbacks would have been nice to see.
The magic item section includes a compass that points to the closest fairy ring while in the land of the fey; we also have an item-based version of aforementioned stagger-inducing music trick, thankfully retaining the anti-abuse caveat. We also have bells that notify you of gremlins and rules for the sphere in conjunction with the crafting rules. A neat CR 1 and CR ½ gremlin, as well as concise and well-presented rules for fairy rings, traveling through the lands of the fey etc. may be found within as well, and the book closes with some solid advice for applying fey-themes in your campaign – helpful thoughts to consider, basically.
Editing and formatting are not as well-executed as usual for Drop Dead Studios; while the material as a whole remains functional and often admirably precise in the details, there are a few aspects that have a somewhat compromising effect on the overall integrity of the material within. A bit of refinement and a careful pass has the potential to make this a true gem, though. (Indeed, capable GMs can benefit from this book in its entirety right now, though some minor judgment calls may be required.) The pdf adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a couple of solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
I really appreciate what Andrew Stoeckle did here – the base-engine of the sphere is interesting, in that is super-lenient regarding its action economy, but punishing regarding its costs. This is a smart way of handling the design here, and it makes the sphere feel very DIFFERENT from the other spheres – and I certainly enjoy that! The respective abilities often ooze flavor and made me smile time and again. I’m not sure whether the issues I noticed are due to version-conflicts or simple oversights, but particularly considering the unique action economy situation, there needs to be some serious clarification regarding the interaction of sharing fey-blessings. That being said, if you take this one crucial component away, the remainder of the book provides often evocative and interesting benefits. As a whole, I feel justified (though, admittedly, barely) in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, with the express hope that the sphere will receive the fine-tuning it deserves to shine as it should.
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Referencing the BAB of another class was how Paizo did it. I don’t believe BAB tracks are officially defined with names.
Making some markups to clarify a few things for an update prior to USoP. Basically, if you share an item granting blessing, the target gets to use, recall, etc. the item. Activating blessings on a shared link inherits the free action casting, which apparantly was not obvious. Fey invisibility is a blessing.