The Auspician’s Handbook
This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion books clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, the Fate-sphere expansion – what does it offer? First of all, it should be noted that the GM advice chapter provides some advice on material that is supposed to have the curse descriptor. If you wish to add alignment descriptors to your Spheres of Power game, and advice on removing alignment, can be found. While Spheres of Power is thankfully (a huge plus, imho) less alignment-heavy than the base game, this does have a couple of more notes. Similarly, the pdf does cover hero points and their interaction with spheres of power, with the supplement offering a few feats to interact with these and the content within – the most interesting one herein blends words and hero points – more on that later.
The pdf contains 4 archetypes. The grim disciple mageknight replaces the first level talent and 2nd level mystic combat with the Fate Sphere and a bonus curse talent, as well as the neutrality drawback, which may not be bought off. Stalwart and mystic defense are replaced with the option to spend a spell point to reduce the casting duration of a curse by one step, to a minimum of swift action; this improves to allowing for the use of 2 spell points for the reduction of casting time by two steps at 11th level. Instead of marked, we get casting ability modifier as a bonus to attack and damage rolls versus cursed targets.
The second archetype would be the lucky bastard unchained rogue, who gains kismet instead of evasion. This ability is measured in Charisma modifier (minimum 1) points that may be regained on natural 1s on saves, attack rolls, and has the interesting notion to make an attack a gamble – this adds a d3 to the attack roll: On a 1 of the d3, the attack deals minimum damage, on a 2 normal damage, and on a 3, the lucky bastard regains 1 kismet point. The latter ability btw. THANKFULLY has a caveat that prevents abuse via cuddly kittens. Kismet may also not be cheesed prior to combat, as it caps at Charisma modifier. The archetype gets a selection of deeds, which include a custom deed at 2nd level that can negate AoOs, allowing for skirmishing. 4th level further expands that angle, and the risk/reward theme is also exemplified by a standard action strike vs. flat-footed AC that has the chance to deal extra damage, but at the cost of potentially being disarmed. This one is a bit ill-conceived, as it doesn’t specify whether the bonus damage is multiplied on crits. That being said, kudos for catching that e.g. locked gauntlets don’t help – if you can’t drop the weapon, you instead become staggered. Higher levels provide further deeds for use with the kismet engine. All in all, an interesting one.
The ordained hunter inquisitor is a mid-caster using Wisdom, with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points and 1 magic talent per caster level attained. The archetype gets the Fate sphere instead of detect alignment and discern lies, and track is gained at first level and slightly modified. Monster lore and the judgments are replaced with a Wisdom-based variant of the kismet engine noted above, which instead ties in with the Fate sphere for the purposes of gambling for regained points. (And yes, this also has an anti-cheese caveat.) While the engine at the base of this one is thus familiar, the execution is not, for the archetype receives more than a page worth of customary deeds for use with kismet, which include superior defenses against traps, an SR that fluctuates slightly based on kismet pool points, the option to spend kismet to temporarily gain pounce (behind an appropriate level cap), and e.g. high level teleportation tracking. The archetype also comes with a cool high-level replacement for slayer, which helps pinpoint even the most elusive of quarries, and the capstone also does its job. This is a really cool and encapsulates the concept it portrays really well.
The paladin may choose to become a Parzivalian Knight, who is a low caster using Charisma, but with full level + Charisma modifier spell points. Class level is treated as caster level for consecrations and motifs from the Fate Sphere, and the class may Charisma modifier times per day ignore a general drawback when using a consecration – or employ uses of this ability to maintain or create consecrations. This gets rid of lay on hands, though. Similarly, the auras of the base class are modified to instead behave akin to consecrations, which is something I enjoy – more agenda and tactics. Instead of mercies, we have the means to activate some consecrations chosen (more unlocked at higher levels, provided they don’t have a spell point cost to create) 1/round as a free action. The archetype also gets a wildcard motif talent with a cost reduced for self-target use, and the engine actually manages to blend consecration auras and motifs really well. Surprisingly fun archetype!
There is a new arsenal trick for new special weapon qualities (not italicized properly) and class options for investigator, rogue, slayer and unchained rogue to take chance feats. There is also a mystic combat that nets you a cù-sìth black dog.
All right, I’ve already been talking about motifs– so, what are these? Talents with the (motif) tag are cast as a standard action unless otherwise noted, and usually have a range of touch. Will save is the default means to resist them, and they have a default duration of 1 hour per level, but they may be discharged as an immediate action to gain a short-term effect. Motifs don’t stack with themselves. Motifs are based on Tarot cards in style (cool!), but as a nice boon, groups preferring the Harrow deck actually get notes that provide the equivalent cards. Cool! All righty, that out of the way, let us take a look at the talent section herein, shall we? As far as words are concerned, 12 talents are provided – these allow for the use of objects as holy symbols (or to align weapons – kudos for getting the rules right here!!), and there is an interesting one that allows you to reroll, but at the cost of then being haunted by bad luck in the roll’s category. Hand me my trusty bad of kittens – this needed a threat caveat. There also is a nice forced reroll for foes that offers a buff after such a reroll. There is a word forcing targets to classify themselves, and a risky conjunction of fates that allows you to tie stats together, but at the risk of the participants. A debuff word of enmity is solid, but personally, I liked the one that allows for the cloaking of alignment. There is also a really potent one that allows you to place a curse on a weapon, which makes the attack hit automatically. A word that allows for the use of smite etc. versus targets that would usually not be eligible for such abilities is brutal.
The pdf also provides talents that affect the meta-engine, like applying two motifs at once, ranged word use, or make a consecration remain in place, or centered on an object. There also are 5 consecrations, with an aura that can grant healing (spell point cost to make the aura selective). Sounds basically like infinite healing…or does it? Nope, thankfully, the author was smart – it caps at the amount of damage taken since the last turn AND since the creation of the consecration. This is really clever as far as anti-cheese caveats go – two thumbs up! Plainly visible alignment reveals, auras that debuff targets opposed to your alignment, etc. – some fun options here!
The majority of talents are, as noted, based on Tarot cards, and these do have some interesting tricks, like granting a floating pool of insight bonus-y pool points; we have means to gain a boost to a save at the expense of the other saves, better means to work alone, and the option to discharge these for unique benefits adds another level of depth to them. These rank among my favorites here – including for example the trick to discharge the judgment motif to pinpoint all invisible creatures in close range! Or, what about preventing death by empathic transfer to allies (can’t be cheesed?) – there are a lot of neat ones here, and the motif talents are indeed a great addition to this book and the sphere.
The advanced talents are 8 this time around: Long-term consecrations, bind possessing spirits, fortify a target versus a specific death – these really tie well into concepts like preordained destinies, wyrd, etc. when focusing on flavor, and to offer potent options when not doing so. I considered all of these well-placed in the advanced options array. The book also contains two mighty level 9 incantation – petition the fates, which allows you to even prevent natural disasters from wrecking the landscape (cool!), and a brutal, if ill-labeled Ragnarok. The latter is a one-mile kill stuff burst that also calls forth demons. Yeah, don’t see the mythological resonance either. The pdf also includes the new detect divinity ritual.
Beyond these, the book has a pretty neat feat chapter, which introduces, as hinted before, the new (Chance) feats – these feats net you a kismet pool, subject to the limitations as noted before in the archetype section. Doubling healing via kismet (Affecting you as well as the target), channel/kismet synergy…some pretty cool ones, though I’m not the biggest fan of the feat that nets you an additional attack after a critical hit. If it hits, the crit threat range is increased by 1, which explicitly stacks with other critical threat range increases. On the plus side, we get a cool Admixture feat for Fate/Destruction synergy that allows you to replace a second blast with a word, and the Battle dual sphere feat is pretty badass. The book also provides two nice traits, a new casting tradition (cartomancy) and 4 sphere-specific drawbacks.
The book also features a CR 10 Cù-Sìth and the ridiculously potent Mau (mummified cat/master of fate), which clocks in at CR 20!
Editing and formatting are very good for the most part on both formal and rules language levels, with precious few minor nitpicks to complain about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided are nice and a blend of stock art and new pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jeff Collins’ take on the Fate sphere makes for a fun and interesting expansion for the Spheres of Power-system. The motifs are great and fun, and the options presented herein often allow for meaningful, fun options – which is particularly impressive when considering how the Fate sphere is certainly one of the tougher spheres to get right. As a whole, I can recommend this to fans of the system, particularly those that want to see divine/fate-themed angles realized in unique spheres-related ways. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.
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