Thunderscape: Iron Guard Field Guide
This class expansion for Thunderscape’s classes clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Now, first things first: This is an expansion for the Golemoid and Thunder Scout classes – as such, I assume familiarity with both classes in this review. If in doubt, consult the campaign setting to freshen up regarding their mechanics.
After a well-written piece of introductory fiction, but there is more to this: As the name implies, there are intrinsic connections to the setting’s flavor here: The class options are tied, flavor-wise, to the Iron Guard of Urbana, and as such, the content does not simply exist in a vacuum: The supplement does talk about the roles of golemoids and thunder scouts in the context of the setting. These blend rules-relevant components and history, in a way: We learn, for example, that specific golemoids excel as damage dealers, while others can act as blockers. Beyond, as noted, a history of the golemoid, we also learn about their role and public perception throughout Aden…and about, for example the black marketeers that may be able to salvage golemoid components, making them rather nasty repo men…should you decide that these exist in your game, that is. The interaction of golemoids and rust-causing beasts and effects is fyi also noted.
The golemoid manite implant array is significantly expanded by this book, though it should be noted that other characters with manite implant capacity do qualify for these. The minor implants include using an immediate action and expanding a steam point to use feather fall (not properly italicized), using a move action to create subsonic vibrations (subtle ones!) that penalize Perception and Sense Motive, expending a steam point to reroll initiative (only once per roll and you must take the reroll, thankfully!), using a standard action to make a touch attack that sickens the target on a failed save…some interesting ones here. Mechanically, I’m particularly partial to using Fearvun Ocular Implants to extend the range of precision damage and Point Blank Shot, making one of the most maligned feats ever more suitable. I’d definitely want a fire-starter digit IRL (you can make objects catch fire, and I really like the notion of an integrated grapnel launcher. (RAW, it can reel in stuff as a swift action and may not be used for at-range maneuvers, just fyi!) There are some formatting glitches, though – endure elements, for example, is capitalized and not italicized. If these sound underwhelming, fyi, bear in mind that manite implants are extraordinary, so the elemental enduring would be nonmagical! Auto-stablizing and similar tricks complement a solid, fun section here, one often benefitting from cool flavor: The auto-stabilizing option? It’s called “Phoenix Stabilizer”, which does sound pretty badass. And yes, there are upgrades and more potent versions there.
The basic implants do include some interesting and unique tricks – including a steam point based option to generate a thin sheet of steam that filters out harmful particles from the air. Nice one! Steam point based, limited condition curing with a self-only target, charging unarmed attacks etc. with a stunning charge, an integrated lie detector (sans 100% accuracy, thankfully), a bonus to atk versus undead, retractable claws and the like may be found. The latter btw. come with tightly codified damage types, but no notes on the type of natural attack, requiring defaulting in a minor comfort detriment. Also interesting: The ability to hold a spell of up to 3rd level, usable as a wand.
The section also includes 7 advanced manite implants that include becoming immune to effects specifically targeting metal creatures, the option to extend spells with a duration other than instantaneous or permanent via steam point expenditure and the like. The latter *can* be problematic for spells with different, specific effects by rounds and would probably have benefited from having a caveat that only applies to spells with a casting time contingent on caster levels, as measured in rounds, minutes, hours or similar increments. Weird: Hypnotic eyes lets you cast suggestion as a SP, which somewhat makes the interaction wonky: “Duplicate the effects of a suggestion spell…” would have been more feasible here, considering the per se default extraordinary nature of these tricks. Delayed phoenix raise dead via previous, significant steam point investment is interesting and gaining additional ring sockets is also a unique trick. There also are three superior implants, one of which nets a 30 ft. cone of electricity. Cosmetic nitpick: There is no such thing as electric damage – the correct term is “electricity damage.”
The pdf also includes two new golemoid specializations: The steamshadow gets steam point based disguise self, courtesy of the integrated illusion matrix and Dexterity to damage when attacking with a single, chosen one-handed or light weapon. This should probably specify that Strength is not added in such cases, though at least two-handed wielding interaction is covered. The improved specialization provides a variant of Hide in Plain Sight, better Stealth and squeezing. Nice: The pdf accounts for the issue that 1st level characters should gain access to the skills granted by this one, contingent on the fact that they take the steamshadow specialization. The level 17 ability nets an automatic critical threat when hitting a flat-footed target and they get steam point-based mislead. The harrier specialization nets better Acrobatics and may choose to trail steam and generate steam clouds – cool soft terrain control angle. The high level options further emphasize this, allowing for two unique tricks: Swift action movement and a multi-target trip/move make for cool tricks. The pdf also features quite an extensive array of new steamreaver weapons. These include aci-drills, cyclone maces and the like – they all come with passive and steam-based tricks, and they are surprisingly cool and unique regarding their benefits. Big plus here!
The pdf also includes one new golemoid archetype, the modular, who replaces basic combat specialization with +1 basic and minor implant at 2nd level and +2 steam points. Whenever they gain access to a new implant level, they also get +1 implant. They are locked into Extra Steam or Manite Implant for bonus feat choices at 3rd, 11th and 19th level (the feats are not properly capitalized) and instead of interchangeable parts, the archetype can, as a full-round action, spend steam to change one of their implants to another of the same implant level, with costs depending on the implant level. 13th decreases the activation action to standard, and 18th level allows for the change of multiple implants at once. Instead of the improved combat specialization, the golemoid gains a bonus swift action at 9th level, but one that may ONLY be used to activate manite implantsm steam mastery effects or steam feats. At 17th level, the modular regains 1 steam point at the end of the round, whenever they spend more than 3 points of steam in a round. This may just be an engine tweak, but it is one that radically changes how the class plays. Nice one. The pdf also provides 9 different, new steam feats, contingent on both old and new specializations and choices: With Aci-Deluge, aci-drill specialists can spray acid; there is a feat that allows for the limited regaining of steam (and no, it can’t be cheesed!), one that nets you temporary hit points…and here, I whip out my trusty bag of badly mistreated kittens. Unfortunately, the duration of these temporary hit points is an hour, and the ability explicitly notes that it stacks with itself. As long as you have kittens to slaughter, you can generate a massive shield of temporary hit points. That is just bad design, and utterly uncharacteristic for the otherwise tight rules within this book.
We also get two sample golemoids: Hesh Dargoh, a ferran predator (tiger) steamreaver, who, as a cyborg-anthro-tiger is probably one of the most badass iconics I’ve seen. Stats for level 1, 6 and 12 are provided. The second sample NPC would be Satsobek, a rapacian steamshadow, who also gets stats for these levels.
The second class covered in this book would be, as mentioned before, the thunder scouts, and in the flavorful write-up section here, we learn about the crude secret language of thunder runes (and who is liable to know them!), public reception, etc. 14 different scout techniques are introduced, allowing for limited mechamage spell-poaching, + class level to Acrobatics to avoid AoOs, increased vehicle jumps, better vehicle or regular movement charge damage, and there is a 1/day option to use a swift action to gain a move action limited to movement – basically a built-in quickrunner’s shirt. Sharing favored terrain bonuses with allies is also solid, and zig-zag charging, running etc. can also be found. The class also gets a variety of new class exclusive spells that interact with the signature vehicle: Hazard zone nets the vehicle a threat range that can inflict collision damage at half speed, while Jerome’s Command is a cantrip for signature vehicle actions. There are a variety of retrofit spells, which allow for quick changing of bonus features, including notes on sidecars and even vehicle type change for the true version of the spell at 4th level. Rubber ride allows for vehicle squeezing (heck yes!) and did I mention the option to create shadow vehicles? Yeah, amazing!
We also get two new fully statted basic vehicles – the Mekanus Loader, an exo suit, and the high-speed arctic snow hare. Love them! There also are three new advanced vehicles, the first of which is the wagon of wonders, a wagon that may upright itself, is lieghtly fortified and an all-terrain Huge vehicle with air generator etc. Really cool! Speaking of which: What about dirigibles? And yeah, these can be made nonflammable. Finally, subterrane mole machines are damn cool – if these feature prominently in your game, playing Gaming Paper’s classic “Citadel of Pain” adventure may be a good idea… 😉 And yes, we get a unique feature here as well. The vehicle also provides a crucial bit of clarification: Co-piloted signature vessels retain their status while the thunder scout is manning the pilot station. The pdf also includes the Tsunami superior vehicle, an ironclad marvel of naval warfare, a deadly gunboat…Oh, and prices for signature vehicles are provided! Less daily maintenance, jump pistons, parachutes and ultra-light frames are included among the new vehicle features included within. The pdf also provides rules for the Jump vehicle maneuver.
There also are two thunder scout archetypes: The iron scout replaces spellcasting with limited golemoid tricks with Int mod + ½ class level steam points, using Intelligence rather than Constitution as governing attribute, with Igniter provided for free, but usable only to power mechamagical engines. Instead of the bonus feats, the archetype allows for the use of steam points to operate signature vehicles sans using their hands, with increasing power. Lone Rider, the second archetype, loses additional vehicles, and instead nets a bonus HD and feature at the levels when these would be otherwise gained. Bland.
There is one archetype for other classes: the metalheart bard: Instead of spells, cantrip and bardic knowledge, the metalheart gets ½ class level + Charisma modifier steampoints, using Charisma as governing modifier for them and manite implants as a golemoid. They can double the range of bardic performances for a round by spending steam points, and 5th level nets combat specialization, with 13th level netting the improved combat specialization, but must take the one chosen at “level 6” – that should be level 5. Higher level options include using bardic performance for greater dispel magic (not italicized) and steam point/performance synergy. Interesting hybrid archetype. The thunder scout class also gets two different sample NPCs – a half-elven thunder scout (lone rider) named Lucius “Finder” DeNiels (once more, level 1, 6 and 12) and the dwarven Isolde Waldorf (ditto regarding levels). Both of these characters get signature vehicle stats for all their levels.
The pdf also sports a couple of mundane equipment choices for better climbing, baskets that halve the weight of ferrous objects carried, parachutes and the like. There are three weapon special abilities, one of which allows for automated vehicle gunner tripods, one for sonic damage and one for reduced penalties for attacks with speeding vehicles. A rod that can clamp down on vehicles (think of these as a magical tire clamp), one that unfolds a vehicle…some cool ones here. A painful and unstable elixir that temporarily grants manite implants, reduced collision damage, jet boosters, a draught that replenishes steam points, a good luck charm for pilots…pretty cool. The pdf also notes a couple of traits from the background category. A minor issue here: While these are well-designed and interesting, one of them gets the bonus type wrong. Really cool: The pdf ends with a section that provides role-playing tips for the options within, as well as 2 tables with 10 entries, each of which sports different origin stories. Cool!
Editing is excellent on a formal level, and the rules language editing is similarly very good – however, formatting is not as good. There are a ton of missed italicizations and wrong formatting choices, as well as a couple of issues in finer rules-formatting. These are few and far in.between, but ina book of this quality, they do show. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that manages to fit a TON of content on each page – this book could have been twice the size. You get quite a lot of content for your bucks. Artworks deserve special mention: Full-color, original and style-wise consistent with campaign setting and cover art, this is a beautiful book. Annoying: The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which is a huge comfort detriment for a book of this size. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it.
Rich Wulf, Christopher Koch, Matthew Tyler and Michael Lawrence provide an amazing expansion for the golemoid and thunder scout classes – while I like the new manite implants very much, I was mostly enamored with the vast potential of the thunder scout tricks. That class is inspiring, and this books made me think of many amazing encounter, adventure and campaign ideas. The blending of unobtrusive flavor and crunch makes for a great supplement of high-quality crunch. That being said, the minor hiccups in the details and formatting do accumulate, and the lack of bookmarks is utterly puzzling. These aspects do tarnish slightly what would otherwise be an excellent book. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this cool class expansion here on OBS!
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