This book clocks in at 65 pages of content if you take the usual away, so quite a lot to cover! Let’s take a gander!
First things first, though: I was at one point involved in the Strange Magic II project, and was supposed to contribute to this book, but things did not work out. I ended up having no involvement whatsoever in the creation of this book. I wouldn’t have reviewed this, but it was requested by one of my patreon supporters, so here we go!
We begin this with the Onmyōji base class, which clocks in with 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, d6 HD, 4+Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, kukri, double chicken saber, tonfa, monk’s spade and naginata as well as proficiency with shields, excluding tower shields.
When wearing armor or using a shield the onmyōji is not proficient with, petitions increase their spirit pool point cost by +1 and talismans are reduced to 1/2 their usual duration.
Onmyōji begin play with a spirit pool equal to their Charisma modifier, which grows to 12 + Charisma modifier at a rate of +2 every 3 levels. The spirit pool can be utilized in a variety of ways: The onmyōji can extend their reach by 5 ft. per onmyōji level for the purposes of placing talismans for 1 round or extend the duration of an active talisman within 60 ft. by 5 rounds – though the latter option is unlocked at 5th level. Additionally, the onmyōji may increase the hardness of all active talismans within 60 ft. by Wisdom modifier for 1 round. The onmyōji may also increase the radius of an o-fuda talisman within 60 feet by 5 ft., though the onmyōji must be at least 7th level to do that. (This increases to affecting two o-fuda talismans at 14th level, fyi.) All of these are swift actions.
11th level onmyōji may pay 2 spirit points as an immediate action to grant an active talisman three times Wisdom modifier temporary hit points. Alternatively, for 2 spirit points, we have an array options unlocked that includes o-fuda radius increase by 10 ft. (2 talismans in range affected at 16th level), and at 13th level, there is no more limit to the number of talismans that may have their duration enhanced. At 17th level, this cost may be paid to not expend talisman uses, and at 20th level, an o-fuda talisman may be treated as an omamori talisman.
So, what are those talismans all about? Talismans are small tokens usually made of paper, cloth or wood, decorated with glyphs. An onmyōji begins play with 2 prayers and learns an additional one at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. When placing a talisman, an onmyōji can choose a prayer that is compatible with the talisman-type, though the onmyōji has to have a Wisdom score of at least 10 +1/2 the minimum level of the prayer’s level requirement. The onmyōji has a petitioner level (the term for this caster) equal to class level, and may use up to Wisdom modifier + class level talismans per day. Talismans do not allow for saving throws and have a limited hardness equal to Wisdom modifier, and hit points equal to onmyōji class levels x 3. Destroying a talisman ends its effects; otherwise, it lasts for 3 rounds, +1 round for each onmyōji class level. There are two types of talisman, first of which would be o-fuda. These generate their warding effects in a 10 ft.-radius upon being placed and cannot be moved after being placed, only destroyed. The second type would be the omamori – these are attached to creatures the onmyōji threatens, either voluntarily or via a touch attack. These only affect the creature to which they are attached. Failing to hit does NOT expend talisman-uses, but does provoke an attack of opportunity.
As hinted at before, they also start with 2 prayers known and scale that up to 11. At 2nd level, they have the first petition and scale that up by +1 every even level thereafter. Talismans in the book are plentiful indeed – they also come with minimum level restrictions and most prayers (but not all) can be used on either o-fuda or omamori. The omamori’s can be considered single-target effects, while the o-fuda, if used wisely, can make the onmyōji’s area-buffing absolutely unique and rewarding, allowing you to finally lure foes into your cleverly laid-out o-fuda traps. Guiding attacks, increasing the potency of the elements, increasing the healing of allies – all pretty cool options, and they’re sporting mechanics that deviate enough from spellcasting to maintain the unique flavor of the class – what about e.g. granting allies the option to spit weaponized energy-based saliva? Temporary negating age-based penalties for the image of the venerable monk standing up and kicking badass butt? Yeah, I love these.
It should also be noted that an onmyōji receives access to two wizard cantrips and cleric orisons as part of replenishing the spirit pool – this minor magic ability is dubbed “Aid of the Minor Kami”, and the onmyōji may use them at-will while close to the shikigami.
What’s that? Well, an onmyōji begins play with a shikigami, a kami bound to the onmyōji’s service in an origami paper vessel. If said shikigami dies, it can be replaced after 1 week for a penalty cost of 200 gp per onmyōji level in an 8-hour ceremony. Shikigami are Tiny constructs with d10 HD (and 1/2 HD-progression), a fixed Strength of 6, 10 Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma and a Dexterity-score that begins at 14 and improves to 15 at 7th level and 16 at 15th level, respectively. The shikigami has 1/2 BAB-progression and no good save. It begins play with 2 skills (and has its own skill-list of class skills) and begins play with a feat, receiving another one at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Sounds fragile? Well, while within 20 feet of the onmyōji that is its master, it receives the master’s Wisdom modifier as hardness. Additionally, while within this range, it grants the onmyōji bonuses as if a familiar. Its origami-form determines its natural attacks, though a slam is default. It may also place talismans the master knows while within this range, drawing on the onmyōji’s resources, but using the shikigami’s HD rather than the onmyōji’s class level to determine talisman duration. A shikigami can communicate with the master onmyōji and it has its own spirit pool equal to its HD, but may only use these points to affect talismans it has placed itself. The short-range benefits to shikigami survivability increase by +5 ft. at 2nd level further for every HD the shikigami has, which also affects the range at which the “Aid of the minor kami” class feature works. At 5th level, the shikigami receives improved evasion. At 9th and 15th level, the shikigami receives more bonus hit points, counting as a larger-sized construct – which btw. are provided in a handy table.
Onmyōji of 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter also learn a petition to the spirits. These are governed by Charisma, with a 10 +1/2 minimum level requirement in the ability score analogue to the Wisdom-based talismans. Petitions have a DC of 10 + 1/2 onmyōji class level + onmyōji ‘s Charisma modifier, where applicable.
The class comes with favored class options for the core-races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs, puddlings and tieflings – and they are interesting, actually – e.g. adding bleed damage to omamori is pretty interesting and fitting for half-orcs/orcs…
The pdf also features an assortment of different archetypes: The grinning fox is basically a Charisma-governed guy that has an emphasis on Kitsune synergy, allowing the character to take Magical Tail and a 2/day SP lesser confusion, which doubles as the racial prerequisite for that feat. The archetype does lose the shikigami, though. The Herald of the Lucky God chooses one of the 7 lucky gods to worship over all else, and gains the associated petitions as bonus petitions, and the archetype also gets the respective god’s friendship feat, provided he meets the prerequisites. These special feats are aligned with the 7 lucky gods of Japanese mythology, and while generally available, they significantly increase the potency of the petition aligned with said god. However, an onmyōji may only have ONE friendship-feat at a given time…so choose wisely your allies among the gods! Really like the fluff of these feats. Depending on the lucky god chosen, we also get a special ability at 3rd level. In short, this is basically a specialist, which also explains why the archetype doesn’t have to lose any other abilities – the specialization locks it out of the other gods.
The Mokusei begins play with a quarterstaff – they are jailors of a sort, binding a spirit within the quarterstaff; this is known as mokugami, and the staff gains enhancement bonuses, the ability to grant limited fast healing, and the staff later sprouts green shoots, which double as single charge wands that allow for petition use. The basic aid of the kami cantrips/orisons may be quickened at no cost at 7th level, and the capstone provides a mighty version of the green shoot ability. This replaces shikigami, and the o-fudamori section of the spirit pool enhancement options.
The oathbearer would be a complex archetype, who must choose a willing creature to be the “ward”, who may not be a member of the oathbearer’s immediate family, and the oathbearer’s focus is to see said ward prosper. This increases maximum age, and at higher levels, even prevents dying of old age and allows the oathbearer to treat the ward’s children as though they were the ward, becoming an eternal defender of that bloodline. The solemn duty is not one to be undertaken lightly, though the process by which the oath may be transferred is detailed in a concise manner. The oath replaces the shikigami. Oathbearers have their own class table, and start with a spirit pool of 1 + Charisma modifier, which increases by a further +1 at 2nd and every 3 levels thereafter in addition to the regular onmyōji’s increases. This is listed properly in the class table. The “Aid of the Minor Kami”-range is instead applied to tie in with the ward. 2nd level nets a protector’s pool: When replenishing the spirit pool, the oathbearer may expend up to Wisdom modifier spirit points. For point thus spent, he gains a protector point, which allows the ward within 60 ft. to use petitions at ½ petitioner level, analogue to a shikigami, using the lesser of ½ the oathbearer’s class level or the ward’s level to determine variable effects.
The ward, however, pays for these in said protector points. knowledge of petitions is shared, but a limited level caveat does apply for the ward. Replenishing the spirit pool resets this secondary pool to 0 – no cheesing. At 5th level and 10th level, the protector pool may be set to 1, with excess points detracted reabsorbed into the spirit pool, gaining more flexibility. The minimum points in the protector pool do increase, though. At 4th level, the oathbearer may enter temporary ward-lite relationships. We also have minor bonuses and temporary hit points for wards. At higher levels, oathbearers may learn to detect detrimental conditions and take them upon themselves via spirit pool point expenditure. AT higher levels, we also have an exclusive omamori talisman that alerts the oathbearer to danger and lets them port to the side of the character. We laos get unwilling temporary bindings and, as a capstone, the option to undertake the ultimate sacrifice for the ward. The final archetype is the shubo-sha, who gets two shikigami, but pays for that with a stunted petition array.
The book also features a rather cool rule that is entirely optional – the shikigami ascendant. The player of an onmyōji of 4th level or higher may, upon gaining a level, forego some of the benefits in order to grant the shikigami a boost; this represents the shikigami usurping the master. The stunted progression has to be explicitly noted – it’ll go away when the next time a level is gained, for then, the shikigami will take control, basically becoming the new player character! And yes, it gets a full class table, a subservient onmyōji…and an origami pool equal to 2 + 1 for every 3 class levels beyond 6th. The shikigami ascendant may spend these to gain the benefits or origami folds it knows. Later levels allow for limited refolding, and there are 4 full pages of origami folds! Awesome!
The second base class (if you don’t count aforementioned quasi-base-class-level options) would be the warrior poet, who gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Reflex and Will-saves, d8 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency in simple and martial weapons as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. As before, warrior poets may wield shields and wear armors they’re not proficient with, but doing so prevents the use of haiku and ends ongoing haiku. Nice: the author did his homework on haiku and the misconceptions that western school systems tend to apply to the art-form, but that as an aside. For the purposes of this engine, I’ll stick to the basics here:
A haiku is a piece of poetry with two subjects to be compared, and a kireji to direct the comparison. Warrior poets start with 2 haiku, +Wisdom modifier/3 (minimum +0, rounded down) to start with, and increases that to a base value of 5. Each haiku has an allowance of one “on”, or syllable, that determines the number of topics the haiku can accept. A haiku must have 2 subjects, one kireji. AT 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter, this “on” allowance per subject increases by +1. In order to prepare use employ a haiku, the warrior poet must have a minimum Wisdom score of 12 + the “on” allowance of the subjects. DCs, if any, are governed by the usual 10 + ½ class level + Wisdom modifier formula.
In order to change prepared haiku, the warrior poet must consult the poetry book after sleep, and said books starts with 3 kireji and 2 + Wisdom modifier, minimum 2 topics. At any further level, any combination of two kireji or topics are added. Note that similar to comparable engines, the ability to use haiku actually is not contingent on the poetry book, just the change of the prepared loadout. The poetry book otherwise behaves in many ways like a spell-or composition book. The class uses Wisdom as a replacement ability score for Perform (oratory), provided Wisdom exceeds Charisma. A warrior poet may recite each individual haiku for a number of rounds per day equal to their ranks in Perform (oratory) + Wisdom modifier, and starting to orate is a move action, but maintenance is a free action; the warrior poet may simply end an oration as a free action, or use a kireji to end the oration. Oration cannot be interrupted in the traditional sense, though paralysis etc. do the job. The kireji is btw. handled in an interesting manner: The warrior poet may declare any attack or full-attack action the kireji. This ends the effects on subject a), and starts the effects on subject b) until the oration ceases, or the warrior poet uses the kireji again. Only one kireji per round may be executed.
At 2nd level, the warrior poet gets an inflection – the means to use a kireji that is not native to the current haiku. (minor nitpick: Ability header no bolded.) An inflection may be used 2/day, +1/day at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter. At 4th level, the warrior poet may place omamori talismans on weaponry, and it remains inactive while thus placed. As a swift action, the warrior poet may execute an attack with his talisman’d weapon, applying its effects to the subject of the attack. This may not be cheesed for buffing purposes, fyi. The class has a baked-in, scaling bonus to attack rolls made to deliver talismans. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter grant scaling bonus damage dice to weapon damage inflicted while orating, and the capstone to treat an o-fuda as an omamori. The warrior poet also gets talismans – 2 prayers at first level, and an additional one at 2nd and every 2 class levels thereafter.
The class comes with a full array of interesting favored class options, and one archetype, the Kigoist.
Kigoists are proficient with simple weapons, and their orations are dedicated to a season – when they spend a round of their haiku’s daily duration, the haiku gains a season charge. A haiku may have a maximum of 2 + Charisma modifier season charges (Season charge threshold further increases by +1 at 9th level, and again at 17th level.), and season charges may be expended as a standard action to generate spell-like abilities, which range in cost from 1 to 7 charges, with 4th, 8th and 12th level unlocking new abilities for the season. Starting at 5th level, if the kigoist has been orating for at least 3 rounds since the last kireji, his kireji can grant a season charge to another season; also at ths level, spell-like abilities may be used instead of the kireji, provided aforementioned limitation was maintained and the SP costs 3 or less charges. This replaces the effects of the kireji and basically allows for the use of a SP in a full attack, as well as a haiku change. This replaces the ability to place and deliver omamori via the weapon. 9th and 13th level net +1 round of haiku instead of the bonus damage dice while orating, and at higher level, starting season charges begin at 2, instead of 0. The capstone requires serious set-up, but allows for an omni-dedicated SP-flurry of sorts.
It should come as no surprise that the warrior poet gets its own dedicated section of kireji, which allow for damage result recording, making movement provoke AoOs and more – 1.5 pages of these poetic interjections are included, and the list alone of haiku subjects covers 1.5 pages, with level 3 and every 3 levels thereafter unlocking a new array. Sharing effects, ability check rerolls, constant cold damage and similar aspects would have been neat on their own – in combination with the flexible and rewarding haiku engine, they become awesome.
Now, we also receive a significant array of onmyōji-themed feats – these include feats that expand/modify the cantrip/orison granting aid of the kami, including the option to forego doing so for spirit pool power. Increased spirit pool-size, 0 cost for the first time you cast a petition each day, more petitions, reduced costs of a petition, gaining temporary spirit points when executing an ability chosen from the spirit pool’s options – a serious array here. You can also get an interjection, a single-subject haiku with an “on” capacity of 1 that may be interjected as a swift action. Kigoists can expand the SPs in a GM-approval based, complex feat that provides concise guidelines
A shikigami familiar, better refolding, specializing on a haik topic, green shoot poaching, etc. – oh and there is a dedicated skikigami feat section included as well – interesting.
Speaking of interesting – as noted before, I love the idea of friendship-feats. Petitions essentially constitute the spells of the class, all coming with required levels (instead of petition-levels) and drawing from the same spirit pool resource. Here, we can find the options for conjuring force-damage dealing phantom legions, or the means of petitioning the scarecrow god Kuebiko for a divination – but one that only extends half an hour. Shields of temporary hit points, or a status-like effect based on heavenly bureaucrats – the petitions themselves are not only mechanically interesting, they also evoke a ridiculously awesome imagery and often come with more narrative potential than you’d expect. Daikoku-ten, for example, may create mundane goods for you, but they do vanish upon executing the petition the next time… Raising the dead can also be achieved by petitioning Fukorokuju. Or perhaps you want to conjure forth a kami of the morning dew, which may explode upon the target receiving damage to douse the unfortunate in healing spray?
These petitions stand out due to two facts – for one, they provide Interjection Games’ interesting knack for cool mechanics and nifty combo-potential. More so than in almost all IG-releases, these petitions also BREATHE the awesomeness of the extensive Japanese mythology and supplement the great rules with an imagery that is ridiculously evocative and steeped in lore. If you’re like me and Lafcadio Hearn opened a whole new world for you, if you enjoy Kaidan…well, here goes.
Everyone even remotely into Japanese mythology will have a field day here, grinning from ear to ear. Ever wanted to fly on ethereal cherry blossoms? Yeah. You read these and can immediately picture them – even in the cases where the mechanics are interesting, but not too special, it is the imagery that makes the petition awesome. For less romantic imagery, what about emitting a dread shriek of the dishonored and perished souls or unleashing Raijin’s thunderclap on foes? On the mechanical side, the most interesting petition herein essentially takes all the 1/day spell-like abilities granted and turns them into a pool, for more flexibility – nice!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, particularly considering the complexity of the rules-operations attempted. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with a few colored highlights, and artwork is a blend of original b/w-pieces and well-chosen public domain art that works infinitely better than bad stock art would have. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Bradley Crouch’s Ultimate Onmyōdō is a brilliant book, pure and simple. The haiku-engine alone is a stroke of genius, and the shikigami ascendant? Pure awesomeness. The original class may have been neat, but what he managed to add to the subject matter? Heck, it’s amazing, no doubt in my mind. If you even remotely enjoy Japanese mythology and always were dissatisfied by the use of western spellcasting and classes in your oriental games, look no further. This is a genius book, and one I’d consider to be a must-own for any game that e.g. takes place in Kaidan or similar regions. Mechanically and flavor-wise distinct, as well as respectful, this gets 5 stars + seal of approval. An impressive achievement indeed.
You can get this amazing supplement here!
Want the whole Strange Magic II hardcover? You can find the massive crunch-tome here!