Vigilantes of Skybourne
This massive expansion-pdf for the vigilante-class clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All right, we begin this pdf with a collection of archetypes, the first of which would be the living banner. At 2nd level, the archetype is locked into the inspired vigilante talent. At 3rd level, a unique peculiarity begins – the living banner receives access to the war sphere, using inspiration points instead of spell points. The totem abilities gained are always centered on the living banner and affect only allies while he’s in the vigilante identity. In social identity, an ally within 30 ft. may be affected by the rally abilities, but not the totem abilities. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net a talent from the war sphere. This replaces startling appearance and unshakeable. 11th level allows for a cool option: Whenever the banner would be reduced below 0 hit points while in vigilante identity, an ally within 30 ft may aid another for AC as an immediate action – if the AC bonus suffices to raise the vigilante’s AC high enough so the attack misses, it is negated. This one replaces frightening appearance. 17th level nets the ability to allow allies to execute an attack as an immediate action against an adjacent target when the banner crits, replacing stunning appearance. All in all, a cool archetype.
The Iron Lord is basically an Iron Man archetype – instead of the default dual identity, the archetype can conjure forth a bonded armor that is of masterwork quality, +1 enchanted for every odd level beyond first, with the +5 cap maintained. Enhancements/special qualities can be switched upon reaching a new level. The armor vanishes once it loses the iron lord’s possession and 7th level provides a second suit of armor for more flexibility, with changes between suits and identities following the normal dual identity rules Starting at 3rd level, the iron lord unlocks progressively better special materials to craft the suit from, with 7th and 11th level providing progressively better options. Now this is not meant as criticism and I won’t penalize the pdf for it, but I would have loved to see some GM guidelines of when to unlock new materials beyond the standard Paizo stuff. Oh well.
The third archetype, the masked duelist, gains Weapon Finesse with one-handed piercing weapons and light weapons, replacing seamless guise. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with the swashbuckler’s panache, including dodging panache and opportune parry and riposte, with 3rd level unlcoking precise strike and swashbuckler’s initiative. 6th level replaces another vigilante talent nets Dazzling Display and treats all Weapon Finnese’d weapons as Weapon Focus weapons for the feat’s purpose. A number of times per day equal to Cha-mod, the masked duelist can mark a foe as part of Dazzling Display, potentially dazing the adversary. You’ve no doubt discerned it – this is the Zorro-archetype. And I like it. One issue remains, though, one that is retained from the base swashbuckler – the archetype, much like the swashbuckler class, lacks a reliable skirmishing option, one that imho would have really benefited the archetype.
The next one is pretty interesting – the Possessed gains 4+ Int skills per level and instead of vigilante specialization, he gains possessed identity The possessed identity can either be construct, aligned outsider, elemental, plant, dragon or construct. The vigilante identity, before you start groaning, does not gain all immunities of the respective types (which is good), but still provides unique tricks: Construct possessed do not require air to breathe; undead are treated as both undead and living for the purpose of spells and effects and elementals provide speeds. The transformation is magical and thus faster – it can be completed in 5 rounds, but it is anything but subtle. Somewhat disappointing – no guideline regarding how loud it is was provided. The possessed is btw. treated as a low caster for the spheres system, using Charisma as governing attribute, he does not gain talents. MSB and MSD increase normally, but the spell pool only equals 1/2 + casting ability modifier points – odd: Why not use Cha here?
The secret police gains proficiency with the bow, sap and whip instead of martial weapons, shields or medium armors and replace seamless guise with Enforcer. These guys receive a scaling unarmed damage (Small and Large damage values included) and may execute these even with hands full and applies full Str-mod to damage, including off-hand attacks. Nonlethal damage does not impose penalties to atks with these. This replaces level 1’s social talent. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with an inqui’s judgment and 8th level provides a ring of protection that increases in power as more class levels are gained and this ring may conjure forth tears of death with an immediate onset, replacing that level’s vigilante talent. I really liked this one – strong theme, well executed.
The sky marine adds Fly to the class skills and loses medium armor proficiency. The vigilante identity of the archetype relies on war paint, oils, piercings, etc., and as such does not gain any protection from scrying etc. usually conveyed by dual identities. That being said, the vigilante identity provides a scaling dodge bonus and improved startling/frightening appearance duration/AoE. This also kills off seamless guise, obviously. 6th level replaces the vigilante talent gained there and at 13th level as well as Vengeance Strike with the ability to enhance a ship he gains control of, with a handy table listing the quite significant benefits. Also at this level, the archetype may designate any spot on the ship as a temporary control device via cranks and pulleys – cool! 12th level either increases maneuverability (for engines) or nets the ship the ability to work sans sails. The capstone is so cool – it makes the ship return to the archetype within 1 week…and if the archetype is in contact with the ship, both marine and ship receive regeneration 5. Cool!
The next one would be the overwatch nets either a flying familiar or animal companion at full level, replacing the talent usually gained at 2nd level. 6th level nets improved empathic link, including the option to look through the companion’s eyes, replacing 6th level’s vigilante talent. The capstone lets the companion contribute up to 2 standard actions to vengeance strike. I consider this one somewhat problematic, taking into account the superiority of animal companions and their power at low levels; going druid-progression for them looks like a slight overkill to me. Ranger-route at -3 would have imho been smarter here, but it remains a pretty easy modification to execute, so yeah.
The uncanny archer loses medium armor proficiency and gains Precise Shot as a 1st level bonus feat. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a hunter’s trick from the skirmisher ranger archetype, which may only be executed with ranged or thrown weapons. These may be used 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. This replaces 4th level’s vigilante talent. 8th level replaces that vigilante talent with 30 ft.-range ranged maneuvers and 12th level provides a ricochet-shot. Decent, but not too interesting as far as I’m concerned. The vessel archetype is interesting – the archetype has no control between the identities – they have to start the day in the social identity and may not sue the vigilante abilities while in social identity. Starting at 1st level, when the vessel or an ally is below 50% hit points, the archetype can assume their vigilante identity as an immediate action. 5th level lets the vigilante transform 1/day as a standard action, regardless of ally conditions, 10th level lets them assume vigilante identity at will and unlocks the vigilante talents for the social identity. The form also nets class level x2 temporary hit points when assuming vigilante identity, though it should be noted that these cannot easily be cycled. Okay, so how would I play this? I’d find a fluffy little kitten. Then…yeah, you get the idea. I’d be angry and whop out my supernatural identity as well when a kitten is hurt. Anyways, at least you don’t have to kill them…
Moving on, instead of vigilante specialization, the archetype receives a luck pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which may be spent as part of an attack or damage roll to add a surge-y +1d6 to atk, or +1d6 per 5 class levels to damage. As an immediate action, the vigilante may add this amount to saves, thus replacing vigilante specialization. Also as an immediate action, the vessel may boost an ally’s save or AC by +1d6 by expending 2 luck points. I really like this mechanic, but alas, the ally option is a separate ability and does not specify when it is unlocked. Until 10th level, these cannot be used while in vigilante form.
The next chapter provides more archetypes, this time racial ones – if you remember my review of the PG and its gross power imbalances, you’ll notice that this does not necessarily leave me stoked. So, for the purpose of this book, I’ll just look at these on their own, distinct entities, all right? The Cecaelia deepstalker replaces Climb with Knowledge (history) and gains proficiency with heavy and light underwater crossbow, but loses medium armor and shields, excluding bucklers. 1st level nets poison use and seamless guise is replaces with a bonus to Craft (alchemy) and (traps) – how much? No idea – there is a box-like layout/formatting remnant where the bonus should be. I assume from context that it should be 1/2, though. 4th level replaces the vigilante talent gained with a ranger trap and 20th level nets a pretty hard to counter final death-y ability when reducing foes to 0 hp.
The aasimar divine avenger replaces 5th level’s startling appearance with Call Truce and 11th level nets an ability in social identity that makes it hard to say no to the avenger, requiring a WIll-save to not have your attitude improved temporarily – which is cool. However, it replaces “startling appearance” – which is wrong. That ought to read frightening appearance. 17th level replaces stunning appearance with a stun versus anyone at least indifferent when the vigilante identity is revealed. Okay one, I guess, but nothing special. The fenghuang ebon phoenix can assume the eponymous ebon phoenix form in only 5 rounds (as always, talents can hasten that) – and once again, there is no guideline for Perception checks to notice the pretty stark transformation. 1st level locks the character in the Renown social talent and quickens the ability to gain renown in settlements with some fenghuang. The downside here being that it’s pretty hard for these fellows to disguise themselves from their people. 2nd level nets bonuses to skills and atk and damage versus fey, which increase at 8th and 16th level. This type may be changed in a 24-hour-ritual that requires sufficient knowledge of the threat being lethal to his people. The capstone allows for a cold-based self-immolation + full-healing auto-resurrection that is particularly potent versus the chosen threat.
The cherufe archetype lava walker is only available for the amet subtype and all members of the archetype share the same vigilante identity, gaining a bonus to Intimidate. Interesting: No mundane or magical compulsion can make a cherufe give up a lava walker’s identity. This replaces seamless guise. 2nd level last longer lava and +1/2 class level additional uses, allowing you to perform iterative attacks with it. The lava may also be added to wielded weapons and unarmed/natural attacks, with 5th level making it magical and 7th and 11th level increasing the damage output, the latter also increasing duration. This replaces 2nd level’s vigilante talent. 12th level upgrades fire resistance to 25 (or 30 with hotblooded) instead of the vigilante talent. The Reimagined created has basically two modes – the vigilante form may have a different configuration of creation points, though each form per se is fixed.. 3rd level lets the archetype, as a standard action, move around the ability score bonus granted by the repurposed ability, with additional daily uses gained at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter.
The technophile tatulani replaces martial weapon proficiency with firearms and begins play with a battered laser pistol and replaces seamless guise with +1/2 class level to Craft (mechanical) and Knowledge (engineering). 1st level’s social talent is exchanged for Technologist and 7th level provides the pretty amazing ability to, in 8 hours, repurpose a room into a crafting laboratory, cybernetics lab, medical lab or military lab, with the Craft-check made determining the charges available. The character also receives Craft Technological Arms and Armor and thus replaces the social talent gained at 7th level. I love this lab-improvising-mechanic…really cool, though I wished the archetype went one step further with it.
The cuazaj winged terror replaces 1st level’s social talent with +1/2 class level to Craft (alchemy) and gains alchemist bombs instead of a vigilante talent at 2nd level, though he does not add Int-mod to damage.5th level’s startling appearance is replaced with a 30 ft. average fly speed (40 ft. and good with Real Flight) and 17th level’s stunning appearance is replaces with even better flight. Weird: While two of the appearance abilities are exchanged, level 11’s frightening appearance still is here. Aesthetics-wise, I consider that choice a bit odd.
The pdf does feature archetypes for classes beyond the vigilante, the first of which would be the Beast Tamer for the damn cool Luchador-class. The beast tamer replaces skilled combatant with a full-progression animal companion (alongside a bonus on wild empathy and Handle Animal checks. Thing is…he does not get wild empathy, RAW. Oversight? I don’t know. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a teamwork feat, with class level acting as BAB for prerequisite purposes – all animal companions he has are treated as though they also had these feats. Basically a pet-luchador.
The cloaked killer ranger archetype replaces wild empathy with dual identity and replaces spells with the stalker’s hidden strike ability at -3 levels and damage increasing by +1d8 per 2 levels thereafter. 7th level lets the killer move unimpeded through crowds and nets concealment as well as an Intimidate bonus to influence crowds instead of woodland stride. The mutator alchemist replaces the default mutagen with a so-called evolutionary catalyst, which, instead of a mutagen’s usual benefits, provides a pool of 1/2 class level 8min 1) spell points as well as a single mutation vigilante talent. Brew Potion is replaced with dual identity and two discoveries and one grand discovery can be used to further enhance the evolutionary catalyst. More on those mutation talents below, just fyi.
The swordsmith fighter loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gains 4 + Int mod skills per level (thank you!), +1 per level that must be used for Craft (weapons). 5th level nets Master Craftsman for Craft (weapons). Starting at 3rd level, the swordsmith designates one weapon he made the blade of legend, which receives a +1 bonus when wielded by him, +1 at every odd level, with the usual +5 cap in place. The assigned abilities may be changed via a ritual and drawing said blade adds the bonus of the blade to Ref- and Will-saves as well as Cha-checks when drawn: The swordsmith basically transforms into an alternate identity, which may even be of a different alignment. However, the character may still be recognized by keen-eyed individuals. This replaces armor training ad qualifies as dual identity for prerequisite purposes. 19th level nets DR 5/- while wielding the sword instead of armor mastery and 20th level allows for on the fly reassignment of blade abilities. Love this one. It’s basically He-man. Damn cool!
The pdf also features two 10-level-PrCs, the first of which would be the hellsworn, who receives d8 HD, 4 + skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and prereq-wise, 5th level access. Oh, and you have to pledge your soul to hell, obviously, which makes resurrection unreliable – the interesting aspect here is that dual identity, if present, means that only one identity is condemned to hell. 1st level nets the option to add hellfire damage (untyped) as a swift action to attacks with mutations, bombs, attacks, etc. The ability also improves at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, which extends to the skill bonuses it conveys. 2nd level provides class level DR/good and allows for quicker identity change. 4th level nets poison use as well as the option to conjure forth imp poison 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. 6th level nets 15 + class level SR and 8th level lets him inflict devil chills Cha-mod times per day. The capstone nets an aura of fear.
The second PrC would be the shrouded captain, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and can be taken prereq-wise as soon as 4th level. The character does need a ship, though – and losing it is nasty. They begin at 1st level with a shrouded crew, which means that the captain can cloak their identity, crafting basically dual identity’s lite version for up to 10 x class level beings…which is an AMAZING rpg-catalyst! 3rd level and every three levels thereafter provide a social talent, which may be then included in the generated identities for crew members, though they can’t get Renown and the ship will always be the Safe House, if applicable. 2nd level nets jolly roger, which doubles as dual identity for the captain, but extends its benefits to the ship – it also allows for ship intimidation and provides a scaling bonus to crew members’ damage rolls and saves versus fear. 5th level and 7th level net a teamwork feat, which may then be shared with all crew members within 60 ft., for a daily total of 5 x class level rounds. 10th level is amazing: If the captain dies and is not returned to life within 24 hours, a member of the crew may take up his mantle, becoming for all intents and purposes the fallen captain, including personality and identity. And yes, this interacts properly with captains later returned to life. Amazing PrC full of flavor, one of the best Pirate-y ones I’ve seen.
The pdf also features a significant array of new class options for the vigilante: The enigma specialization makes the vigilante a Mid-caster using Cha, with class level + Cha-mod spell points, but does not gain magic talents. Two magical talents may be foregone in favor of a mutation vigilante talent. Mutation vigilante talents are supernatural abilities that do not provoke AoOs and, unless otherwise noted, require a standard action to activate. Many double as sphere effects and may thus be enhanced by magical talents, but may not be enhanced by staves. MSB is based on class level. The massive collection of talents include discoveries for alchemist bombs, Alteration sphere traits (Bestial Form, the talent, is not properly italicized), a combined teleport/darkness, [meld]-scavenging or several SPs. (Once again, one is not italicized correctly) that scale with levels. generating light daggers which can later be used to 30.-ft-whirlwind also are amazing…and yes, dear reader, if you’re like me and loved the “Cloak and Dagger”-comics (Mantel und Degen, for my German readers) – the light and darkness-related tricks here are an amazing homage to these characters. Fire-breathing, laced energy, preventing lying, firing ocular blasts and radically improved speed all make sure that the ample inspiration from the superhero genre was well integrated with both spherecasting and the vigilante’s engine. Speaking of which: You get two nerd-cred-points if you can reliably state the inspiration for “There is only the Night”, which “kills” off a social identity and allows you to build a new one. So. Cool.
Social talent-wise, we get a bit less – only 5. One nets you a copycat, which you can use to retain your identity’s secret, one that lets him buy at military discount in an area of renown, one that lets him request the help of fighters, one to make a ship the safe house and one that is the opposite of the aforementioned one that lets the vigilante have his vigilante identity “die” – only to construct a new one. The pdf also features favored class options for the skybourne races and closes with 6 feats: Clangorous Crash deafens foes temporarily when you roll maximum damage with a bludgeoning weapon (finally a reason to use hammers…). Dazzling Blow is smart: Single attack dazzling foes that also renders them flatfooted against you…but only until the start of your next turn, making this a great AoO/tactics set-up that can’t be cheesed. Kidney Cutter allows your potshots to deal continuous nonlethal damage (neat!); Mutation nets you, bingo, a mutation. Sealed Mind proofs you versus divination/Mind Sphere abilities and Tertiary Identity nets you another social identity – cool!
Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level – the pdf juggles complex concepts rather well. At the same time, there are some oversights and formatting hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art and several amazing full-color pieces I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Michael Sayre’s vigilantes of Skybourne are pretty amazing as a whole; while not all archetypes wowed me, there are indeed some gems herein. In particular in the talent-selection, I kept grinning from ear to ear. As a longtime fan of Cloak And Dagger and as someone who grew up with He-man, there is a lot of heart’s string-pulling involved here. The talents, if you’re playing with Spheres of Power, are pretty much a reason of its own to get this. If you’re not playing with the system, then this has less to offer, so let that stand as a warning.
To make that clear – SoP-using groups that feature vigilantes should consider this a must-have, though not all options reach the level of awesomeness as the ones I mentioned: The Zorro-archetype inherits the issues of the swashbuckler and the hellsworn, while obviously a homage to Spawn lacks symbiotic costume and the unique timer, ending up being basically just another hell-themed PrC…one that, theoretically and RAW, could be cheesed via the new talents that let an identity “die”. So yeah, this is not perfect, but it represents a book worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
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