Obsidian Apocalypse Player’s Guide
This supplement clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 2 pages char-sheets, 1 page monster-mini-sheets, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what do we have here? A collection of the racial traits of the Obsidian Apocalypse races, with reprints of the racial traits? No, this supplement is all about new content supplementing the unique races of the obsidian apocalypse campaign toolbox. We begin, without any introduction or the like, with Zebadiah’s progeny, the celestial-blooded Exalted – interestingly, this content, though, is not presented in a cut and dry manner, instead providing nice pieces of introductory prose for each of the races covered before providing favored class options that fit in interesting ways with the base races – take for example the one for the monks: Utilizing the angelic wings racial trait, it enhances the speed of movement via these wings, actually enhancing the unique racial tricks of the race. Guardian Angel clerics replace the option to cause harm with their channel energy with an AoE-alignment-based sanctuary-like effect- solid and makes nice use of the concept of guardian rituals on a lesser scale. Avenging Angels barbarians receive wing attacks that do mention correctly the effects of using wings as weapons, but should probably determine their type as well – still, fully functional. Scaling soulsword and modified DR/SR complement a solid archetype here.
The Genesai witch can learn to enhance the unnatural aura and in a pretty cool manner, the racial archetype for the ranger takes this aura, ties it to the favored enemy class feature and renders the result surprisingly nice for such a small archetype – like it! Dark Comic bards can replace three buffing performances (inspire courage, competence and soothing performance) with pretty cool debuffs, the last of which may even preclude creatures from targeting the victim of it with beneficial effects – the concise wording does get this concept right in as few words as possible.
The Harrowed’s FCOs unfortunately sports one minor issue for the paladin “Add +1 to your roll when you channel positive energy against undead or haunts.” -that is supposed to be the DAMAGE roll, I think. The Harrowed Predator barbarian receives what amounts to lifesight and gains life from vanquishing foes – and yes, the archetype is kitten-proof! Grave caller summoners are locked into the undead appearance evolution at 1st level. The signature ability is at once great and woefully problematic – the grave caller can create temporary haunts that duplicate spells, which do not need to be on the summoner spell list a limited amount of times per day, but only while the eidolon is not manifested. The issue here is obvious – this is an insanely overpowered wildcard of haunts, essentially access to all spells ever without knowing them. Worse, the archetype does not provide a guideline for the creation of haunts, meaning that notice DC, reset time etc. are issues for most players. I like the general notion and the mechanic that rewards the eidolon not being always active, something seen all too rarely, but overall, I wished this had limited the spell-selection and provided proper haunt-creation guidelines for the purpose of this ability instead of remaining opaque.
The Infernals receive FCO-powered increases of their limited use racial abilities and the paladin archetype for them is law-themed and receives an aura that reduces the elemental resistances of evil outsiders in the proximity, while also, at high levels, learning to prevent the calling in of reinforcements of hostile outsiders. On the evil side, demonic servitor oracles get a fiendish familiar, but are also easily tracked due to their infernal stench. Solid.
The Khymer generally also get cool FCOs, including ranegrs that learn to sustain the host-bodies of favored enemies for a longer duration. Sorcerors can opt for the hemotheurgical leech-archetype, which allow for the borrowing of bloodline powers depending on the host body entered – and yes, the mechanics actually work! This one was very impressive in my book, especially since it also helps the DM with sample bloodline suggestions. This is simple, but also provides pretty unique options. Two thumbs up! Body Snatcher rogues may use sneak attack to intrude foes, gaining the option to issue commands to the targets, later scaling up in potency and effect to dominate monster, while also getting full-blown body invasion against helpless foes. Additionally, bonuses when inhabiting large or small foes complement one awesome archetype – I adore this one and its quick body-switching. Kudos!
The Lykian race can opt for increases of the damage-output of their already pretty much impressive array of natural weapons via FCOs and receives an alchemist archetype of all things – instead of swift alchemy, they learn to make alter self-like mutagens to conceal their nature and conceal their presence as humans, later increasing the potency to beast shape II and its options. The archetype also sports unique discoveries that are pretty much awesome: What about a bomb that cuts down the incubation period of diseased characters? Yeah, pretty cool! The other options also are unique: When a target believes it has turned into a wolf, the imagery is nice. Alas, the wording here, while not bad, could be more precise: So the target tries to attack with “natural weapons only” – how does this work with creatures that have no natural weapons? I assume the default would be unarmed attacks – if so, does the target incur attacks of opportunity? Does the target drop weapons held? Can the target opt to hold on to the weapon and attack at penalty? This one needs some work to properly. Other than this hiccup, which can be solved by a good GM, this is pretty much awesome.
The Osirion’s range-increment-increase for necromantic hellfire lacks the unit of measurement feet beyond the “Add +1”, but that remains a cosmetic glitch. The archetypes allow gunslingers to gain an arcane pool that applies only to the gunslinger’s firearm and lace bullets with necromantic hellfire as well as minor arcana abilities. The arcane tattooist wizard archetype is interesting – instead of spellbooks, they inscribe spells upon their flesh. As a free action, a tattooist can cause a learned spell to appear for “his study” – I assume that refers to preparation – not a fan of infinite spellbook-trickery. An arcane tattooist can inscribe a number of tattoos equal to his level in each magical item slot. Activating a tattoo in a slot wherein another tattoo is active ends the effect of the former. Overall, I consider this one to be slightly too strong.
Clockwork prometheans can become clockwork mount-riders and may repair the mounts as well. I’m not sold here – the clockwork benefits greatly outperform the basic animal’s traits and a cavalier’s mount already is VERY powerful at low levels. Add to that the lack of a need for handling the construct mount and we have an imbalance here. The lack of payout for this component makes me consider this archetype in need of some slight rebalancing. promethean machinesmiths may opt for the new Mobius Body greatwork, which gets 1/2 class levels + Int mod charges per day. On a nitpicky side, the minimum 1-caveat only extends to the class level, so theoretically, a machinesmith with a negative Int-mod (an absurdity) would end with 0 charges at first level. Now granted, this is only a glitch on a design-aesthetic perspective, no any viable glitch, but I still figured I’d mention it – rest assured it does not impede the final verdict. Said charges can be used as a swift action to increase Str- or Dex-based skill-checks by 1d4, upgrading said die-size at higher levels and also learning to negate negative conditions via the expenditure of more charges. The augmentations allow for SP-like effects to buff physical-attributes, extra limbs for the purpose of swift action item retrieval. The improved extra limb addition upgrades this to a fully functional off-hand, which is pretty nasty. Only two such additional hands can be added, though, with the second only becoming available at 10th level.
The Flesh prometheans have a cut copy paste error that denotes their chapter as “Promethean, Clockwork” – a rather obvious glitch that should have been caught in editing. Wildman druids replace wild shape and nature’s bond with a hunter’s animal focus, applying the animal aspect to herself and benefiting from an unlimited duration, with 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter adding +1 aspect. Now said additional aspects have a duration, which has to be spent in 1-minute increments. Personally, I think the ability would have benefited from explicitly stating this distinction/ option to stack additional animal aspects on the first, especially since the ability fails to mention whether more than the base and a second animal aspect can be stacked on another. The inquisitor archetype here is particularly resilient against madness/confusion-inducing abilities and spells and also receives this bonus to sanity-checks if you’re playing with these rules. Instead of greater bane, these guys can inflict temporary insanities on foes and gains more domain powers.
The Raijin’s FCOs allow the character to help mitigate conflicts of interest with the avenging spirits powering them. The Sword of Vengeance fighter gains a hatred pool (which lacks an editing glitch of 3 blank spaces missing) equal to Cha-mod, minimum 1. This pool, much like grit, can be refreshed by rolling a natural 20 on an Intimidate check or landing a killing blow against undead – both kitten-proof’d, btw.! Now pretty cool would be the fact that pool interaction etc. is covered and discussed. Deed-wise, immediate action 5-foot steps +2 AC-bonus versus triggering attack, barb-rage (with rage power-crossover, if applicable!) etc. Now overall, I like this one, though I am pretty weary of the high-level ability that allows for hatred (a limited, refreshing resource)to power rage powers (when barbarian rage is a limited, non-refreshing resource), but it is still functional.
The final race covered would be the Uzamati, whose FCOs for example allow cavaliers to extend the duration of necromantic phasing by +1 round. Among the archetypes, the Rift Mystic monk can ignore natural armor, armor and shields with unarmed strikes a limited amount of times per day, replacing stunning fist while still retaining the rules-language required to potentially combine them. Nice! Using phasing and ref-saves to negate attacks may not be particularly elegant regarding competing throws, but at least the math did show that the ability is conservative enough to be feasible sans being too reliable. High level mystics may discorporate foes. The new hexes provided here allow for quicker duration lapses of spells and also provide options to temporarily age foes, cause starvation or progress diseases by one day. Now while most diseases work on a daily basis, highly virulent strains could render this instantly lethal, so if your campaign does feature such uncommon diseases, that’s something to bear in mind – settling on a one-step progression along the disease’s progression track would have been slightly more elegant.
Editing and formatting is good on a formal level – there are some glitches, cut-copy-paste errors etc. Rules-language is pretty concise and only very rarely sports minor ambiguities, so good job there! Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s beautiful full-color 2-column standard with several original, gorgeously nightmarish full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jacob W. Michaels actually does deliver herein -I did not expect to like this player-guide, but I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I would. Why? because it gets right what many similar pdfs fail at: A good racial archetype not only ties in with the race’s unique individual flavor, but also ties in the best cases the unique mechanics of a given race to a class feature, making the racial archetype truly unique. To a lesser extent, this also applies to FCOs and this pdf gets both components triumphantly right. In fact, while there are quite a bunch of small archetypes, not one of them is boring. NOT ONE. My dislike for small archetypes tends to be grounded in a bland reconfiguration of content that usually just elicits yawns – instead, the archetypes herein not only tie class and race abilities together, they do so in an interesting manner.
Now, if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll recall two things: One, Obsidian Apocalypse’s races are slightly stronger than core-races, so be aware of that. Two, some of the races have slight wording ambiguities. Now the intriguing feat this pdf accomplishes would be that it manages to actually circumvent these issues. It takes a truly skillful designer to pull something like this off. Finally, there is another reason I like this book – its flavorful, fun amount of cool fluff that made this pdf actually exciting to read.
So yes, I am not 100% sold on some of the abilities herein and yes, there are some rough edges herein. But know what? I’ll take a glitch here and there in interesting mechanics over boring content that’s perfect any day – and the overall package works for me pretty well. As long as you don’t expect perfection and/or fixes for the more problematic race-hiccups, this will be a blast for you, offering damn cool options for all those delightfully grim races. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars – round down if the aforementioned glitches rub you the wrong way; but if you’re like me and prefer unique mechanics and properly-tied race/class-synergies, round up instead.
If you enjoy LPJr Design’s uncommon setting, you may want to take a look at the NeoExodus kickstarter! The project is in its final hours and has just unlocked mythic support by Alexander Augunas!