Book of Beyond: Liminal Power
This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 66 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by one of my patreon supporters.
As before in the series and in Lost Spheres Publishing’s offerings, we begin with a brief synopsis of sources of power, that, in a way, pre-empted how PF2 thinks about magic, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned – if e.g. the source of power is entropic, that’ll be a different experience and flavor from drawing power from the temporal. This is further underlined by correlating sources of power with planes, with some suggestions provided. In a way, these source super-descriptors, as the pdf rightly points out, could be likened akin to e.g. magic being arcane, divine or psychic. In a welcome notion I did not expect, things like e.g. ki are contextualized within the super-framework thus presented. And yes, I know that many groups won’t mind, but I can’t help but grin when such operations are concerned. Perhaps it’s my academic background, but my games tend to codify and quantify magic and such sources of power in a similar manner, emphasizing a kind of “rule”-array that governs how they behave and function. But that as an aside. This also extends to explaining the difference between Astral and Ether, and the respective correlations to psionic and psychic disciplines, respectively, which is once more a helpful way to think about their co-existence. Indeed, this extends to noting how classes and potential retrograde users can be codified within this frame of thought, INCLUDING classes such as the shadow-themed classes by e.g. Interjection Games’ Ultimate Antipodism, Rogue Genius Games’ shadow-themed classes of Lost Spheres’ own shadow-themed offerings – which, to my pleasant surprise, included the echo in that category. Indeed, the pdf then proceeds to explain signature expressions of transitive planes within the context of magic.
The theoretical underpinnings that grant context to the material in question out of the way, we begin with a selection of 8 archetypes, with the first being the darkside defender fighter, who replaces the bonus feat gained at first level with Liminal Self.
This is a character created as per the cohort rules outlined in the Leadership feat (or, if you’re using Everybody Games’ Ultimate Charisma, the rules there); this character only exists in a dreamscape in mind and spirit, a part of the unconscious mind. As a full round action, you may relinquish control to said character. You choose one mental ability score modifier that this entity is in charge of, as per mind swap, for up to one round per selected ability score modifier. (As a nitpick, this is referred to as “attribute modifier”; the original self, meanwhile, is set adrift in the unconscious dreamscape, and might potentially (subject to GM’s discretion), be accessed via dream-related spellcasting, such as dream travel. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the character gets to call upon this Liminal Self an additional time per day, up to the chosen ability score modifier rounds per such daily activation. However, doing so is super-draining, and renders the character fatigued as well as expending all power points, spell slots and daily use abilities. Kudos: stacking of fatigue-related conditions is properly codified. The feat may be chosen multiple times, with each additional time offering an additional such persona. In essence, this feat provides an engine for limited gestalting, which is, obviously, system-immanently powerful, but the stringent limitations imposed upon this feat do mean that this option retains viability without breaking the game. Personally, I would have appreciated a caveat that prevents exploitation by characters that are immune to fatigue, but this is a relatively simple caveat to add, and the conditions are the least of the feat’s drawbacks. So yeah, color me duly impressed. Since this feat-based Liminal Self engine features in quite a few of the archetypes, let us take a slight detour and discuss the feats herein that build on this pretty potent chassis, all right?
At 5th level, you may take Persistent Self, which increases Liminal Self’s duration intervals to minutes per level instead of rounds per level…which is a very unfortunate inconsistency, as the base feat’s duration is not tied to levels, but to ability score modifiers – so, which is it? That being said, it remains possible to extrapolate the use of the feat properly: Since Persistent Self increases the interval unit of activity from rounds to minutes as its benefit, it may still be employed, though the confusion resulting from this inconsistency can be a bit jarring. Potent Sleeper, also available as soon as 5th level, allows you to make Liminal Selves be within 1 level of your character’s level. Unconscious Awakening lets you roll an opposed Will-save versus the Liminal Self persona when you have the unconscious condition – if the Liminal Self wins, it awakens while you are unconscious, and if the core persona’s body is below 0 hit points, it gets half its maximum hit points as temporary hit points for the duration of control. This can be a pretty potent last second save effort, and might be construed as too much for lower-powered games, but within the context of the material presented herein (and the core feat’s already potent quasi-gestalting), this should not break games featuring this engine. Sleepwalker’s Soul requires both the former feat and Persistent Self, and makes the Liminal Self take control for the entire duration of your sleeping, but at the cost of waking fatigued/exhausted, etc. Finally, Lasting Manifestation, which requires Persistent Self, allows you to choose to have the Liminal Self in control until it is subjected to a “negative condition” – a list here would have been appreciated.
Okay, got all of that? To summarize: The Liminal Self feat tree is essentially a (relatively) balanced attempt on introducing a gestaling-lite engine, and it does its job relatively well. That explanation out of the way, let us resume talking about the archetypes for which this is relevant. The darkside defender’s Liminal Self may not be a full BAB-class, and when the character drops a foe to 0 hp, contested Will-saves with the Liminal Self are in order; if the Liminal Self wins, it takes over as a free action, and remains in control until affected by damage or negative conditions. Okay, cool.
Wait. There is an issue here. Did you spot it? I did provide a bit of a hint before. You see, standard Leadership assumes 7th level as prerequisite, and as such, the standard cohort-engine doesn’t work too well for low levels. (Read: Not at all.) That would render the Liminal Self engine nonoperational at low levels, and indeed, also affect archetypes herein. I honestly almost didn’t notice that, though. Why? Because I’ve been playing with Alexander Augunas’ excellent leadership-from-level-1 rules, which can be found in Ultimate Charisma, for AGES. And with those, the engine is fully operational. So yeah, let me state this clearly: You should be using Ultimate Charisma if you want to make use of the Liminal Self engine. Without it, the engine has a big blind spot.
The feats at 2nd and 16th level are replaced with the ability to select a weapon. A masterwork quasi-real shadow weapon manifests when the Liminal Self takes control. The weapon turns magical at 6th level. 3rd level also provides a kind of shadow armor, with the type improving at higher levels, replacing armor training and mastery.
Also at 2nd level, we have the dark rage class feature, which is essentially a barbarian’s rage that triggers when the Liminal Self takes control, save that it provides a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution and upgrades that to +4 at 12th, +6 at 20th level. Additionally, this counts as a rage and rage power, and allows the archetype to take the Extra Rage Power feat with 5 of the fighter class’ bonus feats. This replaces bravery and the bonus feats gained at 6th and 12th level. I kinda like this, but without enhancements of weapons and armor, the shadowy accoutrements are not exactly useful; this is a cool concept, but one that essentially needed to be a full-blown class hack, with more tricks for the shadowy items. On the plus-side, as written, it is an archetype that, despite of the gestalt-angle’s sheer power, retains its viability even in more conservative games, which can be considered to be a big plus. Whether the totality here is a bug or feature, ultimately, is contingent on your personal preferences.
The grinning shadow rogue archetype also is based on Liminal Self (replacing trapfinding), and the Liminal Self may not have sneak attack; the archetype has the same chance for the Liminal Self to take control, and also has the shadow-weapon-angle; only this time around, the poor rogue loses two rogue talents; considering that it’s, well, the rogue class, the archetype would have done well to not neuter the poor class further with the none-too-potent weapon replacing two vital talents. Indeed, the archetype is nigh identical with the one for the fighter, save that the rage here is more unique, as benefits apply to Strength and Dexterity instead, and its rage power options pertain to rogue talents instead of feats.
Psions can choose from one of two archetypes, with the first being the mirrormind, who replaces discipline and discipline talents with mirror power: This supernatural ability lets the character choose one type of source super-type, as per classified in the introduction. The mirrormind may expend psionic focus to imprint a spell or power of the chosen source they witness in use. No action to activate is given, though free and immediate are my guesses; then again, readying might be an option as well, so some sort of clarification would be nice. For one round per point of Intelligence (NOT Intelligence modifier!), the mirrormind can manifest this power or spell by paying twice its level or power point cost. The level of the spell or effect is the same as witnessed, and material components of 1gp or more need to be supplied. That being said, RAW, only the LEVEL of the power or spell is constant; this may either be intentional or not, but RAW, the mirrormind could use powers and spells with multiple forms of augmentation and level modification via e.g. metamagic/psionic tricks. I am not sure if that is intended, as the “mirror”-name evokes a theme of copying the exact parameters of the witnessed effect, but either interpretation is possible. 7th and 14th level provides an additional source that may be duplicated. 10th level allows the mirrormind to retain one such imprint indefinitely, and as a capstone, they may retain one indefinite imprint per spell/power level. (As a nitpick: A reference to the previous class feature is erroneously called “power” AND capitalized – the combination of these two rules-language slips tripped me up for a second.)
The second psion archetype would be the phrenic surger, who loses the bonus feats gained at 1st, 5th and every 5 levels thereafter. The archetype gains a phrenic pool equal to ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, and a phrenic amplification, plus an additional one at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. For the purpose of amplification, the power point cost is correlated to spell levels. All in all, an interesting engine-tweak.
While we’re on the subject of psionic options, there also is a new aegis archetype herein: The mnemonic guardian does not create an astral suit, and instead instills its powers with relics, making it feel more occult in a way. The archetype is primarily defined by unique customizations: For 1 point, we have ancestral focus, which nets you a lite-version of an occultist’s mental focus pool, and indeed, ties in with the 2-point customization that nets an occultist implement school that nets the resonant and base focus power to the armor. The other customizations, ranging from 1 point to 4, are a tree, and also build on the 2-point customization, allowing for the expenditure of power points to manifest the respective implement school’s spells as psychic spells.
While we’re on the subject of occultist-adjacent psionic options, there also is a new wilder-surge within, the nostalgic surge; the wilder forms a bond with an item, and the wilder may invest power points in said object while surging, with surge modifier applied. For one round per class level, the wilder gains the resonant power bonus of a single occultist implement correlating to the item. Psychic enervation dazes the wilder until the end of their turn, and loses the invested power points. Surge bond nets a spell from the occultist’s spell list,, which may be manifested at the wilder’s level while the object has power points invested. Okay. At what cost? No idea. Extra Focus Power is gained at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. I like the basic premise, but this needs some finetuning to work as intended.
The pdf also presents a new occultist archetype, the shadowed keeper, who has a massive twist to its core engine, altering the focus-engine and introducing temporary focus, which may be invested as a swift action – it basically makes the investment operate with a higher oscillation. The shadowed keeper has ½ class level (mo minimum specified) + Intelligence modifier mental focus points. For each creature reduced to 0 hit points near (5’’ per class level) the shadowed keeper, they gain 1 point of temporary focus, and temporary focus lasts for 1 round per shadowed keeper level until 12th level, where this extends to 1 minute per shadowed keeper level, and 1 hour per class level, at which level this increases to hourly intervals; they don’t have the ability to maintain the generic focus usually provided. The downside here is readily apparent: You really want to carry a bag of kittens around to slaughter for your boost. At 4th level, shift focus is replaced with a +1 insight bonus vs. necromancy, athanatism and death effects for every implement invested with temporary focus. I like where this goes, but I maintain that the kitten-failure is unnecessary; plus, the flux of focus could have carried more.
But let us get back to psionic options – there are two new cryptic insights: Structural resonance lets the cryptic target objects when gaining their psionic focus, ignoring hardness. This decreases disrupt pattern’s damage die size to d4s, and every round you use this consecutively subtracts 1 from the damage total dealt. Does this reset immediately? After resting? The second option would be entropic redistribution, which lets the cryptic designate a second creature type when gaining focus; when damage is done with disrupt pattern to the first type,, as an immediate action, the cryptic can heal a creature of the second type for the same amount This may be used up to Intelligence modifier times per day. Super cool. The pdf also features a kineticist utility wild talent, which has a formatting that somewhat deviates from the standard presentation; it essentially acts as a more limited kineticist’s plane shift.
The momentus psychic warrior replaces warrior’s path with rising kinetics. As long as they maintain psionic focus, after the first successful attack, the momentus gains 1d6 active energy type bonus damage that bypasses power and spell resistance. With each successful hit, the archetype gets 1 temporary power point that can be used to manifest or augment powers with the active energy type. These temporary power points dissipate at a rate of one point per round, and you get basic kinesis of the element corresponding to the active element for class level round after triggering this. This can easily be cheesed as soon as you have more than one attack per round, as you can stack up infinite temporary power points by slaughtering kittens. This makes the core of the archetype-engine broken. Next. The Phobius mesmerist replaces painful stare with a dread-like untyped damage-causing touch attack, with hypnotic stare’s effects requiring a swift action and only deliverable via this touch. Consummate liar is replaced with +1/2 class level (minimum +1) insight bonus to Intimidate. The archetype may choose dread terrors instead of mesmerist tricks. At 6th level, terrors may be delivered through the touch attacks. They may have any terror active, altering mesmerist tricks and manifold tricks. Touch treatment is replaced with a fear-aura, and at higher levels, we have fear immunity and the ability to similarly fortify allies under trick effects.
Kyoudai Games’ Thunderscape-Thaumaturge also gets a new legend, the mystic, who has good Will-saves, Psychic Sensitivity, 2 +1 per level spirit points, and may use occult skill unlocks an additional time per usage period per Charisma modifier. When you gain this legend, you choose Charisma modifier +1 1st level spells from mesmerist, occultist and psychic, which you may then cast as SPs 1/day Emotion components, if any, must be provided. At higher levels, an array for 2nd, 3rd and 4th level may be chosen, and active aspect or folk magic traits granting SPs get +1 Charisma modifier uses while this legend is active. This is VASTLY superior to pretty much all other legends available to the class. For comparison: Sneak attack progression versus multiple levels of SPs and use increases.
So, this covers the archetypes – but before we get to the second major crunch chapter, it should be mentioned that the feat-chapter also provides means to e.g. combine akashic essence and residuum from Ultimate Antipodism in a potent, but overall plausible manner spending residuum for increases, etc. can also be found. Occult/psionic crossovers are another leitmotif here, with e.g. the means to expend psionic focus to temporarily enhance resonance or activate focus powers. Feats to enhance the interesting burden/boon spells may be found. There also is a feat to gain a Residuum pool that can be built upon for echo-lite action, and there are e.g. means to spend shadow points to enhance psychic conjurations, etc. Extending phrenic amplifications to other effects may be overkill, and there are more feats for additional daily use class features. Modifying summon monster with imprinted creatures…notice something? This book takes a TON into account – heck, there is even material for pact magic and Everybody Games’ Paranormal Adventures here. Using phrenic pool to enhance Psionic Fist/Weapon, spend residuum to decrease the cooldown of spirit granted abilities, etc. – some seriously interesting, but also sometimes VERY potent stuff here. There also is a feat that is a psionics/psychic crossover that nets you essentially an implement with a single resonant power – this tackles highly complex stuff. The chapter also features two new, nice flaws.
The lion’s share of this book, though, is devoted to prestige classes, 9 to be more precise – and if I went through these PrC by PrC, this’d be a 20+ pages review, so I’ll be brief. The first would be Astral Antiquarian with a ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression and full spell/power-progression, as well as d8 HD and 2 + Int skills per level. This one can be qualified either by magic or psionic power, and object reading is a base theme. The PrC nets essentially an occultist-lite experience and provides 7 implement schools for psionic disciplines, including athanatism – and these actually are more interesting and precise than the previously noted archetype/class option tricks, featuring e.g. means to make undead temporarily susceptible to mind-affecting effects, dive into the mind of a corpse and rewind their memories. There are some seriously cool high-fantasy detective tools here, crystalline caltrops, energy torrents, etc. – it’s an interesting PrC, with the implements potentially interesting beyond the confines of the PrC.
Blackblade Breakers require a residuum pool, d1ß HD, full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression and 4 + Int skills per level. This fellow is essentially a fellow specialized in defeating shadow-users. A solid little PrC, if not one that’s blow you away. Dreamsealers get d8 HD, 2 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, full progression for spells/powers from two sources: These are interesting, in that they are psionic/psychic healers that can temporarily shut wounds via dreamseals – these instead act as temporary hit points, but are accompanied by essentially minor evolution packages, as the power of the dreamseal sports lesser metamorphosis/metamorphosis. Additionally, higher levels offer location-swaps, and yes, there are limits in place. This fellow is super-.interesting, and actually one of the PrCs I’ll be using. Kudos! The Eye of the Storm similarly has dual source full progression, ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level. Either psychic or akin to the wilder, these beings may designate binder, casters, manifesters, etc. and roll a die, chaotically influencing their powers. Add primal magic events, and we have an interesting chaos-supporter.
The gyreblade gets full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression, 8 levels of dual-source spell/power progression, 4 + Int skills per level. This class essentially fuses two manifested or summoned weapons – one is the flow, one the riptide; this lets e.g. a soulknife act as a transmutation occult implement or vessel for a kinetic blade infusion. And yes, this is kept in check, and the PrC comes with its own talent array: Verdant blade, shadow blade, shadow assassin, vital blade, etc. – there are plenty of lesser known class options that may be fused thus. This is wide open, and potentially interesting, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a compelling one for most tables.
The shadowed packmaster gets full dual-source progression, ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD and 2 + Int skill per level. This one is interesting, as it lets you undersummon creatures/astral constructs by expending other spells/power to create additional shadow creatures at decreased reality; higher levels add additional critters, though the table nets an additional increase at 9th level, which is not noted in the rules-text. That being said, there is some seriously cool stuff going on here, as these shadow beings may be expressed by the opposite element – acidic earth beings causing electricity damage and having the air subtype, for example. Furthermore, we have Astral Construct augment menus for these.
The souldancer gets 3/4 –BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, 8/10 manifester progression, d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, and it’s once more an interesting one – it’s a PrC focused on possession as an angle. Tribeminds get d8 HD, ½ Will-save progression, 2 + Int skills per level…and here we have the PrC that further expands upon the Liminal Self-based engine, creating a great class for solo-games, jack-of-all-trades-fans, etc. – this is a potent fellow, but once more an interesting and fun option. The trinity mage has a ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, 2 + Int skills per level – and its progression of spells/powers/etc. is kinda interesting, as the PrC is contingent on the notion of heavy multiclassing with three different power-sources as such alternating between progressions. The PrC gets trinity points, and so-called sequences, which grant benefits for varied source-resolution; essentially, the PrC provides options that make a thoroughly subpar choice interesting and play differently. They are potent, but they have to be potent to account for the dispersal of focus. This is an extremely tough design and acts as a kind of magic combo-system. Big kudos for this one, in spite of some minor rough spots.
The pdf then proceeds to provide some advice for campaigns tapping into luminal themes, as well as two new psionic powers, one of which is a shadow-based Astral Construct ability grant, and the second lets you manifest the luminal self and interacts with the feat. The pdf also features three astral construct menus and the metamorphosis stuff for reference.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but the pdf does feature a couple of typos…and on a rules-language level, the book often manages to execute super-complex operations, but also stumbles a few times in ways that influence mechanical integrity. I seriously wished that a strict and nitpicky editor had gone through this with a fine-toothed comb. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features some seriously nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Christen N. Sowards’ love for Pathfinder 1 is readily apparent here, particularly for all the amazing things that the third party community has brought to the game. There are a ton of top tier complex multiclassing/overlapping options herein, allowing you to blend a vast variety of different options. As in all of his designs, it’s definitely “go big or go home” regarding themes. While there are problematic aspects herein, they never ever are boring. They almost always do something unique and creative. Even after all these years of PF1. That’s a serious achievement. Additionally, there is an undercurrent here – there are parts that aren’t great, yes. But there also are components that I genuinely consider to be genius. That seriously warrant getting this book – at least for me.
But what about you? Well, how many 3pp-resources are you using? If the answer is “a lot”, then chances are that this one will add some serious oomph to your game. The pdf provides quite a few potent options and requires some serious mastery of the Pathfinder 1 system – this book obviously is intended for veterans of Pathfinder 1, and frankly, it made me seriously ponder how to integrate its some of its content into my games – something that rarely happens anymore, because I just have so much. At its weakest, this book feels like an excellent first draft of a book, with quality oscillating from “almost perfect and inspiring” to “should go back to the drawing board for minor refinement before it’s fully functional/cool.” Honestly, I could warrant rating this as low as 3 stars for what it is – a mixed bag with brilliant highlights, but also some pretty nasty lows. Do not flat-out allow the entire book; the balancing is not always consistent, though in parts, this is system-immanently due to the vast amount of sources and crossovers herein.
That being said, let’s take the target audience into account; hardcore PF 1 fans with a ton of experience with 3pp-material. And this demographic? At this point, I think you fine people are system-savvy enough to iron off the rough patches and use this book as intended. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, courtesy of the imaginative components and strength of the book’s visions. Quite a few components herein would be seal of approval level, but as a whole, this is as high as I can justify. Still, if you’re a PF1 grognard or simply a fan of novel things done with a d20-based engine, then give this a try. Chances are you’ll find something that’ll blow your mind.
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For your convenience, here is a list of some of the best books that may be tied into this book in some way:
Ultimate Psionics may be found here!
Akashic Mysteries may be found here!
More (and imho superior!) akashic goodness can be found here:
The Grimoire of Lost Souls (essentially Ultimate Pact Magic) can be found here!
As for shadow-themed classes, my favorites are:
Ascension Games’ Path of Shadows may be found here!
Interjection Games’ Ultimate Antipodism can be found here!
Lost Spheres Publishing’s cool Shadow Weaver may be found here!