Ethermagic Expanded: The Etherknight Base Class (patreon request)
This class clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
The etherknight base class gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, and they are proficient with simple weapons and void blades as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The etherknight does not incur arcane spell failure when wielding these. The etherknight begins play with an etherfusion known, and gains another at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. The begin with 3 techniques known, and learn an additional technique on every attained class level. More of these later.
Unsurprisingly for most, this class makes use of the ethermagic engine, which is essentially a refreshing infinite magic source particularly geared towards blasting, and it’s imho still the most unique and rewarding to play infinite blaster for PFRPG. (Kineticists are not infinite blasters.) This pdf works as a stand-alone file, though I do suggest checking out Strange Magic 1 first, as this class is geared towards experienced ethermagic players. (It *IS* complex!)
Balance-wise, the ethermagic framework uses its resource as a refreshing resource per round, and power-level-wise, the class works sufficiently tightly to not unbalance even more conservative games. Ethermagic is measured in EP (ether points), and an etherknight has class level + Charisma modifier EP. The etherknight regains 1/3 their class level (rounded up – important!) every round. Ethermagic consists of two components – the etherheart (which is a kind of core template/theme) and the manifestation, which modifies the respective ethermagic. Alterations have different manifestations than e.g. voidmelds. The etherknight gets two etherhearts: Alterations, which are used for (self-) buffing, and voidmeld. Alterations are old companions for ethermagic users; they cast as a standard action, and have an EP cost of 1 + ¼ class level, rounded down. The etherknight gains them at 5th level, and the etherknight gets an additional alteration every odd level beyond. Voidmelds are cast as a swift action and have a duration of 1 round/level, with an EP cost of 1 + ¼ caster level, rounded down. I am pretty sure that this should be class level. The etherknight begins play with 2 voidmelds known, and gains an additional one at 2nd level and every even level thereafter.
To cast a manifestation, the etherknight needs to have a Charisma score of 10 + the respective manifestation’s level, and the saving throw DC is 10 + the highest manifestation level sued in the etherspell + the etherknight’s Charisma modifier. While a manifestation is in effect, the caster’s maximum EP is reduced by the total EP cost of the etherspell in effect. If multiple casting times conflict, the longer takes precedence. All etherspells have somatic and verbal components. An etherknight may not have more high-level manifestations than low level manifestations; so, let’s say an ether knight knows 2 1st-level manifestations and 2 2nd-level manifestations; the etherknight would need to take a third 1st-level manifestation before being allowed to take a third 2nd-level manifestation – this is also called the “pyramid rule”, though I personally tend to think of it more as a pillar.
Now, etherfusions were rarer in the core system, but they become more important here, as hinted at before; these are powered by ether jelly, classified by the fusion pool; fusion pool contains fusion points (FP), and has a size of class level + Charisma modifier, but it only replenishes after 8 hours of rest. Etherfusions count as etherspells for counterspelling purposes, and have a duration of instantaneous, unless otherwise noted. These also have modifiers that unlock over the levels; if an etherfusion has multiple modifiers, it can be taken multiple times. If two modifiers of such a shared origin are applied to the same effect, any FP cost of 0 is treated as FP 1 instead.
Starting at 2nd level, the etherknight can, as a full-round action that provokes AoOs, reduce her maximum EP by 1 to add 1 to her fusion pool; this reduction to maximum EP lasts until the etherknight finishes the customary 8 hours of rest. 3rd level nets a variant of lay on hands, with each ability costing 2 FP, healing 1d6+1 for every 2 etherknight levels attained. This is a standard action when sued on other targets, swift action when used on self. Etherknights can use ether to heal constructs and undead as well. 5th level builds on that with a class feature that applies a limited amount of mercies, and includes a modification of Extra Mercy for the feat; 5th level starts off the mercy aspect with one mercy, and adds one mercy every 4 levels. Etherknight mercies can remove conditions caused by curse, disease and poison without eliminating the source; in such an instance, the effects return after 1 hour if the underlying ailment has not been taken care of. 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th levels unlock new mercies to choose from; those that can be unlocked at 5th and 9th level cost no FP, while those that can be unlocked at 13th and 17th level cost 1 FP. Some have prerequisites. Minor formatting snafu: the “Staggered:”-relieving mercy is the low one that doesn’t have its name in italics.
While we’re still talking about etherfusions and give you an example: Buffering Infusion targets 1 creature and has a duration of 1 minute, and nets the target 1 hit point, +1 for every 5 etherknight levels; the modifiers for this one increase the hit points granted by +3 for 1 FP, while another nets DR 3/- while they have temporary hit points. Ether Restoration heals 1d4 temporary ability damage, freely divided, and the modifiers let you remove temporary negative levels, heal all temporary ability score damage to a single ability score, or heal ability drain at a minor gp cost; the modifiers have different class level prerequisites. Ethergel Aegis nets +2 deflection bonus to AC and +2 resistance bonus to saving throws for 1 round/level. Sharing damage, rerolls, etc. are also available here. At 7th level, the etherknight gains +1 Focus the first time he casts an etherfusion each round – see techniques below.
These also can, btw. interact with lay on hands, set targets aflame, etc. – it is a rather neat engine, but only a component of the etherknight’s entire package.
The etherspell manifestations, obviously, do include old favorites like the initiative booster A Thousand Eyes or the Ultraviolet Shift manifestations that made one of my players’ PCs an incredibly fearsome assassin by trade, if not by class. Beyond these classics, though, the pdf does include a variety of new tricks that tie in with the novel parts of the class. This also holds true for the voidmeld manifestations, obviously: If you are new to this etherheart: Think of it as the godblade etherheart; the weapon-shaped hole in the multiverse. It’s essentially one-handed or light, and enhancement bonuses are hard-coded into the class, with 10th and 20th level upgrading the damage die.
The volatile black-hole-blade. The manifestations of this etherheart include bleeding damage, additional damage, having the weapon also cause force damage in low-range cones, adding mighty cleaving. And yes, this means that “I manifest my voidblade with Kiss of the Nuclear Fireball, Icy Grip of the Outer Spheres and Greater Knife Edge of Nowhere.” Is something you can and probably will say. Call me cheesy, but I love that. And that’s just the shape of your blade, not the sword laser martial arts you’ll do with it.
But wait! That’s not all! Remember those techniques I mentioned at the very start? Well, it’s time to start talking about them. Their DCs are 10 + highest manifestation level known + Charisma modifier. New techniques are unlocked at class level 2nd, and every 2 levels thereafter, with the higher-level options tending to be rarer: 10th, 12th and 14th level only unlock a few new ones; the lion’s share of techniques are unlocked before that. Techniques are, in essence, a modification of the engine championed in the rather awesome assassin class presented by Interjection games. Techniques have a so-called “Focus”, and at 1st level, the etherknight is locked into a technique with a Focus Change of +1 as one of their choices; this is a safety precaution so the player can actually use them. Focus is measured by a focus pool, which caps at 4; the focus pool begins empty, and is charged by using techniques with a positive focus change; similarly, some techniques decrease the focus and thus first need building. Focus only works in combat, and is lost after Charisma modifier minutes without combat. Puzzling: This lacks a kitten-caveat, so if you can antagonize those furry kittens, you can pre-build focus RAW. Uncommon oversight as far as I’m concerned.
That being said, the etherknight’s technique engine does come with so-called ether crashes available since level 1. These are essentially finishing moves and can only be performed with a focus of 3 or 4, and have a -3 Focus Change. They are used as a standard action, and one chooses three techniques, with the following limitations: One technique has a Focus Change of +1; one has a Focus Change of +1 or 0, and starting at 6th level, a technique with a Focus Change of 0 or -1. The ethercrash has the longest range of all techniques; if one technique is supernatural, then the crash is supernatural; otherwise, it is a spell-like ability. If at least one technique is delivered via ranged touch attack, then it is delivered as a ranged touch attack; otherwise, it is a standard ranged attack. Using a melee weapon you are wielding, you make an attack roll against a creature in range (of the technique!); if you hit, an arc of energy slams into the enemy, applying the combined effects on a hit.
If you’re familiar with this type of engine, you’ll know what to expect: The ethercrash has an escalation that unlocks at 11th level. 20th level btw. eliminates the distinction between Focus and FP (and via FP, also with EP), using FP to pay for Focus, etc. – up to a maximum of Charisma modifier points per day.
Okay, so what about those techniques? These allow you to temporarily grant shields to allies, execute melee attacks at range, bypass some types of DR. With e.g. Breath from Beyond you can sicken targets, and alternatively, sue the escalation at higher Focus Change and Cost, nauseate targets. Subverting resistances first and then, after the 3-round duration ends, adding class level damage sans save? Neat insult to injury. These btw. also include the ability to temporarily steal a part of a target’s magic, which depends on style of casting for the effect; this includes truenaming, ethermagic, psionics, etc.. I also liked the ability o swap two targets you hit, provided they both botch their save…if only one botches, things become painful. Hitting with a sword-laser and then granting a temporary hit point buff?
Yeah, at this point Strange Magic veterans will have realized the core difference between the etherknight and the ethermagus on a thematic level, right? The ethermagus is essentially the assailant that goes in for the assassin-style kill; the etherknight, on the other hand, is essentially a ranged laser-sword combatant with a combo-engine!
Of course, this wealth of engines and combo-options in the ethercrash-finishers also means that there is bound to be a plethora of feats that allow you to tinker with aspects of the engines: Unless I have miscounted, we have 27 feats, which include classics such as Zero Master, but also new ones like Technique Specialization. These feats do come with a bit of flavor, and sometimes even humorous. I really got a chuckle out of: “Okay, fine. They’re all sword lasers, but you have a favorite nonetheless.“ The feats also include the ability to immediately get 1 Focus when your FP to drop to 0 for the first time per day…this might sound like a lame benefit, but when planned properly, it ca make that final expenditure really matter more. (And yes, standards like Extra Etherknight Technique etc. are included.) The interjection of systems can also be seen in the manifestations, btw.: The Artificial Focus Alteration nets you 1 Focus, for example.
Of course, the pdf also includes a variety of favored class options for various races, including a selection of general ones that everyone might take. Some of these favored class options are btw. really brutal: Elves may, for example, once they have taken their FCO three times, reroll technique attack rolls as an immediate action, and may be used 1/day for every 3 uses. Dwarves can gain DRs from their techniques, and vishkanya and drow can unlock a special etherfusion at +0 FP via these. Much more meaningful than usual for FCOs. Of course the usual +1/6 of XYZ etc. style options are also here.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The book juggles ridiculously complex rules concepts and engines with panache aplomb; a few minor hiccups have found their way into the entirety, but these are primarily cosmetic. Artworks are b/w-pieces, and the pdf adheres to Interjection Games’ two-column b/w-standard. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but generally only for chapter headers, not for individual techniques/manifestations, or e.g. the favored class options. So yeah, minor convenience detriment. I do recommend printing this and working with it that way.
…but then again, I do recommend that anyway. The etherknight, even more so than Bradley Crouch’s usual classes, is not a plug-and-play thing. You need to invest some prepwork to make your sword laser paladin work, but when you do, you’ll have a rather remarkable and rewarding-to-play class on your hands, and personally, I am very, very fond of the notion of making my own finishing moves via the ethercrash-engine. Plus, the relative proximity in concepts to Bradley Crouch’s other Focus-based engines does mean that a talented designer can create MOAR and/or convert techniques from other classes.
So yes, no surprise, I do very much enjoy this class…with one caveat: Please, do yourself a favor and increase the poor sod’s skills per level to 4 + Int. 2 + Int sans Intelligence as key ability modifier just sucks.
That notwithstanding, I had a blast with this class; it is really cutting edge.
Okay, I’ll stop; this gets 4.5 stars, rounded up, and my seal of approval.
As a final sentiment: As per the writing of this review, this was the last thing the author published. I do hope he’ll one day return to game design. I very much enjoyed his unconventional classes and alternate systems.
You can get this complex, unique class here on OBS!
If you missed the fantastic Strange Magic tome, you can get it here!
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