Transcendent 10 – Psionics of Conflict – Zones of Power
So, Lost Spheres Publishing, back in the day, began with the Transcendent 10-series. While these represent the early works of the company, the company flew under my radar for a long while, so it’s high time we took a look at the series, right? It should be noted that the company has evolved since then – reviews of more current books will hit sites soon as well. But how do these early works hold up against the test of time? Let’s find out!
One thing I really enjoy about this series would be the designer’s commentary that is provided for each respective piece of design – they help a GM and player to properly contextualize the content, which is particularly helpful for folks who don’t have a veteran’s level of system mastery. This pdf was released after Dreamscarred Press had expanded the roster of psionic classes, but before the most current, occult psionic options and classes – as such, it is 100% Ultimate Psionics compatible.
Anyways, this pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 4.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin with a definition of the eponymous zones of power: They have a visual display and are indiscriminate. They very palpably emanate from the character in question and they move with the manifester. Now, and this is important, zones do NOT allow for saving throws and, RAW, they ignore power resistance, which sends all my alarm bells into alert-mode. No save and no resistance can be rather brutal. But let’s see how they hold up! The first would be the battlefield manifestation zone, which is available as a 3rd level power for psion/wilder, cryptic, marksman, psychic warrior and tactician. All creatures in this zone except the manifester have cover, and movement is restricted as if by “hindering terrain” – that should be “difficult terrain.” For 2 power points, the zone can be extended by 30 ft., while 1 power point allows for the exclusion of one square, which is cool – but can this square be reassigned? Since the zone can move, this would make sense, but RAW, the hole thus created cannot be reassigned. This is particularly problematic since all the zones sport these two basic augments. There is another augment here, one for 4 power points. This augment makes a move action only amount to 5 ft. (WTF) and makes the zone grant total concealment. Yeah, that is utterly OP and should be handled with a movement penalty and minimum movement instead.
Dimensional interface zone is available for nomad and cryptic as a 6th level power and basically makes the zone behave as a plane, copying its planar traits. The augments have a 5-ft.-square exclusion for 1 power point, +30 ft. radius for 2 power points and for 4, you can extend the duration to 10 min/level. Empathic transfer zone is a 3rd level power for psychic warrior and vitalist (5 power points), 4th level for psion/wilder (7 power points) and 2nd level for dread (3 power points). When you take damage for the first time in a round, roll 1d6 – all targets in the zone take this much damage. The total of this rolled damage is then subtracted from any damage you would take. Broken as all 9 hells. Does someone have a bag of kittens to cheese the hell out of this one? Next.
Energy amplification zone costs 5 power points for psion/wilder and psychic warrior and clocks in as a 3rd level power for them, while kineticists (the psionic ones) can get it as a 2nd level power for 3 power points. Once more, we have the augment for +30 ft., for 5 ft.-square exclusion. The power adds +1d6 to all energy damage of a chosen type. This should specify the energy types available. (What about force, sonic, negative energy? Can it be used to enhance those?); For +2 power points, you can add a second energy or increase the damage by a further +1d6. Not a big fan of the number-escalation here. Lifeforce flare is available as a third level power for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and vitalist. The zone nets a 10 temporary hit points buffer that any creature within can use to decrease damage incurred. The usual shaping augments are included and for +1 power point, you get +10 temporary hit points. Okay, do these replenish each round or not? I like the idea, but the execution is rough.
Necrotic corruption zone is a third level power for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and vitalist, at 5 power point cost, 2nd level for dread at 3 power points cost. It can be shaped with the standard two shape augments for increased emanation radius and 5 ft.-holes. The zone adds +1d6 negative energy damage o each attack, +1 bleed and nets undead fast healing 1. OUCH. For +2 power points, the damage increases by +1d6, for one additional power point, you can increase the bleed incurred by 1.
Probability distortion zone, defensive clocks in at 3rd level for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and tactician, 2nd level for marksman and seer. It nets +1 insight bonus to AC and saves. For 3 power points, this increases by 1. Compared to the other zones, this is pretty weak. Probability distortion zone, hostile clocks in at 3rd level for psion/wilder, psychic warrior and tactician, 2nd level for dread and seer, with power point costs at 5 and 3, respectively. This one is the inverse of the previous zone and instead provides the penalty. Minor nitpick: Penalties in PFRPG are untyped. Probability manipulation zone clocks in at 4th level for cryptic, psion/wilder, psychic warrior, tactician, costing 7 power points. Seers get it as a 3rd level power for 5 power points. This…doesn’t really behave like a zone. Only the manifester has control over it. It nets an immediate action d20 reroll. +2 power points for an additional reroll before it discharges. Odd one.
Finally, warp strike zone clocks in at 3rd level for dread, nomad and psychic warrior, 4th level for the tactician, with 5 and 7 power points as base costs. Okay, this is another zone that needs to die in a fiery blaze. All targets in the zone are treated as eligible for touch attacks by the manifester. I kid you not. The augment for 4 points can even extend that to a 5 ft.-square to get this benefit. Yeah. No. Just no.
Editing and formatting shows, alas, that this is an early work – the later offerings by Lost Spheres Publishing are MUCH better. Bolding isn’t consistent and rules-language in the base chassis has problems. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with red highlights and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover.
Yeah, to be honest, this was what I kind of expected from early works in the series. The Transcendent 10-series has positively surprised me with its unique and complex concepts and honest gems that shine through the lack of experience the author had back then. (And rest assured, the new stuff is much more refined!) This extends, to a degree, to this offering. However, unfortunately, the very base engine of the zones is flawed. Moving zones are tricky in PFRPG – I should know, I’ve written a whole class based on the concept and have juggled the concept in more than one of my designs. The zones as defined herein are interesting per se and less problematic than I expected them to be; alas, they sport some seriously problematic exploits and a rather big flaw in the base engine. At the same time, the active zones for manifesters only at the end feel odd, almost like the author had run out of ideas for the base engine. They are, comparably, boring. While I maintain that the concept attempted here is cool and definitely worth pursuing, the execution here, alas, leaves quite a lot to be desired, requiring imho further design-work by the GM to streamline them and make them work properly. As such, my final verdict cannot exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this pdf here on OBS!