This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD,1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of one of my patreons.
We begin this one with a pretty cool poem/ritual chant that can be scavenged for use in game, before diving right into the new archetypes – this time around, we get 4, the first of which would be the weather harvester alchemist, who is a Mid-Caster using Intelligence as casting ability modifier, replacing alchemy, with a spell pool equal to class level + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1), and the archetype gains a magic talent every time caster level increases. This replaces alchemy. Instead of mutagen, we get the Weather sphere as a bonus sphere, or a weather talent if he already has the sphere. At 1st level, we have the create harvester ability, which allows for the creation of magic items that work 1/day. Lacking a prerequisite talent or sphere requires a Spellcraft or Craft check, and the harvester may only be activated by the weather harvester that created it, and only in an area with sufficient weather severity These gizmos have a complexity rating contingent on the minimum weather severity, and activation may be sped up if the harvested weather is more severe than the minimum requirement; this replaces brew potion, and the anti-poison defenses. The archetype, as a whole, is a flavorful tweak on the alchemist engine.
The vajrahasta armorist is proficient with simple weapons as well as light armor and bucklers and gets a Martial Tradition if this is the first level of the character. It should come as no surprise, then, that we have blended training as well. Instead of bound equipment, the archetype gains vajra, a swift action that manifests a weapon of lightning made solid that counts as a thrown weapon with a 20 ft. range increment, inflicting 1d6 piercing and 1d6 electricity damage. The energy damage is part of the weapon damage and is multiplied on a critical hit. The vajra gains a +1 enhancement bonus for every odd class level beyond 1st, and thankfully manages to keep the +5 net bonus cap intact, with special abilities based on bound equipment. Applying a special ability that deals electricity or sonic damage increases damage die size, while that from another elemental energy type decreases die-size by one step. Minor nitpick: This should specify that only the energy damage component is thus modified…or at least, I assume so. Is the piercing damage modified this way as well? Anyhow, vajra is a treated as a bound weapon regarding arsenal tricks, and additional vajra may be manifested at a given time at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These may all be manifested as part of the same action, but must share their ability loadout. Vajra do not disappear upon leaving the vajrahasta’s hands; instead, they may be recalled as a swift action, and they may not be wielded by other creatures. Kudos: This does specify interaction with e.g. impaling weaponry and such aspects of Spheres of Might. Indeed, instead of 2nd level’s trick, we get the Lancer sphere, or Ranged Impale if the character already has it. Instead of armor training and 4th level’s trick, we get the Weather sphere and one (shroud) talent at 3rd level and the Localized Weather drawback. Targets impaled by the vajra may be affected with shrouds via spell point expenditure, requiring no concentration. The archetype does come with a unique anchoring trick. I love the flavor of this one! Cool!
The wendigo bloodrager gets simple weapon, light armor and buckler proficiency, and, as expected, gets a martial tradition f this is the 1st level of the character. The wendigo is a Low-Caster using Charisma as casting ability modifier and a spell pool of class level + Charisma modifier. The archetype, unsurprisingly, gets blended training. Instead of bloodline and bloodline power, we start the game with a properly codified bite attack (base damage value for Small characters included); 2nd level replaces uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge with snow strider, free, trailless movement through snow; at 5th level, the character no longer needs to make Acrobatics checks on ice and becomes faster on snow, ice, etc. At 3rd level, all bloodline feats are replaced with a famine aura that has its save DC governed by Charisma; it imposes the fatigued condition, with duration scaling and a hex-caveat to prevent abuse; this later upgrades to imposing the exhausted condition, and the wendigo may exempt allies from the aura at the start of the day. 4th level nets the ravenous spirit ability that allows for the immediate action spell point use to add a nonlethal cold damage –inflicting soul devouring of targets close to those hit by his bites, gaining temporary hit points, with 12th and 18th level increasing the number of targets affected. While not super-easy to abuse, this is missing an important caveat, namely that the temporary hit points gained should correlate to actual damage caused. Otherwise, wendigos will have a pretty good reason to carry kittens around to replenish their temporary hit point shield. 8th level allows for limited and uncheesable spell point replenishing via the eating of incoming magic, replacing 8th and 16th level’s respective bloodline powers. 11th level makes bloodrage also come with a ferocious aura of cold, and as a capstone, he can move this cold, which is really cool (haha) but something I wished the class got sooner!
The skald may opt for the storm herald archetype has a clarification/limitation on proficiencies, but remains compatible with other archetypes, and is a Charisma-using Mid-Caster with a class level + Charisma modifier spell pool, and a new magic talent every time he gains a caster level. The skald replaces well-versed and scribe scroll with the Weather sphere and their choice of Rain, Storm or Wind Lord and a modified version of the Focused Weather drawback, which prevents the decrease of the severity level of Wind and Precipitation, which may be affected. The archetype uses class level for CL for the Weather sphere and properly specifies interaction with preexisting drawbacks/sphere/etc. The archetype’s voice may bypass the noise of precipitation and wind and 1st, 4th and 14th level yield unique raging songs that have a storm theme. The uncanny dodge ability and its improved brethren are replaced with a static insight bonus to AC and Reflex saves of +4, which increases to +6 at 8th level. Instead of spell kenning, we get a sphere-specific variant that has limited daily uses, and 9th level’s rage power and damage reduction are replaced with scaling resistance to electricity and sonic damage that culminate in immunity – which btw. may be shared with allies, though immunity is only shared as resistance 30.
The pdf also contains the tempest-tost hedgewitch tradition, which nets Knowledge (nature), Perception and Survival as class skills and the Weather sphere plus a bonus talent as a tradition benefit. This one is really exciting: As tempestuous as the strormwinds, these hedgewitches are in one of three states, randomly-determined after resting. The state may similarly change whenever the hedgewitch is subjected to a natural 20 attack, fails a save or regains consciousness. The states are nebulous, thunderous and tempestuous; nebulous helps with weather control and precipitation, and lets you see through mist and carry fog banks with you; in the tempestuous state, we have Telekinesis tricks to represent the stormwinds, and the thunderous state enhances electricity and sonic damage. The capstone, btw., allows you to 1/day enter all states at once, and the secrets and grand secrets provided are cool, even though the latter uses stalwart, which is an ability I was never fond of. That being said, being locked as a grand secret and contingent on a state, I’m good with it. I love this one! The section is complemented by a new arsenal trick (special weapon abilities not properly formatted), rage power (again, with an obvious formatting glitch) and two general hedgewitch secrets.
The basic magic section introduces three weather categories (aridity, ash and vog) in 7 severities and two new talent types: (Mantle) talents lets you bestow, as a standard action that requires touching the target, bestow a mantle on a target, and their effects tend to be contingent on the weather. (Shrouds) let you place a shroud on a single creature as a standard action within weather control range, and persist as long as the caster concentrates; alternatively, a spell point expenditure allows for the effect to last for 1 round per CL sans concentration. Multiple shrouds of the same weather type and shroud + weather interact, depending on the weather.
And yes, this means that Weather actually has unique engine components now that help make the sphere more relevant without a ton of advance preparation, though the like obviously is still rewarded. The talents also include some seriously cool tricks, like using wind in arid areas to create dry lightning, targeting more creatures with shrouds and maintaining more of them at once. The mantle talents (handily listed in their own subsection, 20 mantle talents in total) allow the Weather use to employ mirages or mists for defense, adding slashing damage to unarmed attacks,help you Escape Artist/get out of grapples, etc.
The section also has 16 different (shrouds), which can e.g. make creatures treat targets beyond 30 ft. as having concealment, making targets fall, make the target cause electricity damage to allies – pretty cool! Minor complaint: I’d have been nice to have e.g. Galre have an Illumination sphere synergy. Hilarious: Make the target be followed by a personal thundercloud that periodically strikes the target with bolts of electricity. The pdf also features a total of 15 different advanced talents that include several “XYZ Lord” talents that allow for specializations for certain weathers, like cold, Aridity etc. Wind specialization, precisely plotting the course of tornados, etc. – the material herein lets you emulate the X-men’s Storm.
The incantation included is none other than the 9th level Fimbulvinter, which must be recited during a war (it’s, after all – skeggjöld, skálmöld, skildir ‘ru klofnir, vindöld, vargöld, áðr veröld steypisk;) over 8 days and requires a massive menhir; the mighty incantation expands cold and boosts the power and aggression of predatory animals…Nice one! And, if unchecked it will eventually encompass all the plane, so yeah, sufficiently apocalyptic.
The pdf does include 5 different alternate racial traits (including one for Skybourne’s fenghuang) that allow for Weather access and e.g. adaptation to the like. The pdf does include 9 feats, which include an Enhancement crossover (Dual Sphere) feat that lets you animate a tornado (and even gain a tornado companion!!); an (admixture) feat lets you combo (shrouds) instead of a second blast type, and some specialization to make (mantle)s less contingent on surrounding weather can also be found. Oh, and obviously better air vehicle use! The book also sports two solid traits (one of which nets you a skyrider vehicle (stats included!), a new casting tradition boon and three sphere-specific drawbacks. (Those that grant feats clarify how they may be bought off.) The pdf also features new equipment for buildings (lightning rods & storm shelters), and there are 3 new weapon special abilities that interact with the weather severity engine; there also are two unique items, and they are per se neat, but their formatting sports quite a few formal glitches.
The book also sports a bestiary section, which includes CR 2 cloud sprites, the CR 4 dewdrop fairy swarm, as well as the meteorological creature template – and finally, a page of GM advice for dealing with the situationally significant impact of dedicated Weather specialists.
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, but less impressive on a formal level; this could have used a bit more finetuning regarding formatting etc. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and features a blend of stock and original artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jeff Collins delivers an expansion I did not expect to like as much as I did. The archetypes are genuinely interesting; the supplemental material allows Weather users to contribute in more scenes, and as a whole, a prepared Weather specialist is frightening indeed. This situational, and sometimes out of control of the player, power is still impressive, but doesn’t necessarily become overbearing. The expansion for the sphere, as a whole, can be considered to be a success, and as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. And since I really enjoyed quite a few of the components herein, I will also bestow my seal of approval on this expansion.
You can get this cool spheres-expansion here on OBS!
You can directly support Drop Dead Studios creating these books here on patreon!
You can also get the massive compiled Ultimate Spheres of Power hardcover here on kickstarter!