Vigilantes of Horror II
The second supplement dealing with horrific vigilantes clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, first of all, the archetypes all make use of the variant, transformative Dual Identity variant introduced in the first Vigilantes of Horror-pdf, and yes, it has been reproduced for your convenience here. So, what are the archetypes I’m talking about? The first of these would be a modification that can be applied to them all: The revealed monster, who loses aforementioned dual identity and seamless guise with Toughness and +1 to natural armor bonus, increasing that at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Instead of social talents, the archetype gains bonus feats, which may not be combat feats, item creation feats, Extra Vigilante Talent (important) or metamagic feats – or, alternatively, 2 traits. As an aside – this may be a means for GMs to change an exposed monstrous vigilante!
Okay, so what kind of archetypes do we get? The doll master begins play with 3 animated dolls, plus an additional doll at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, animating and de-animating one doll as an immediate action. The doll master can control a maximum of 2 such dolls at any given time. The doll base stats are provided, but things become a tad bit more complex: Upon creation, the doll master chooses one role for the doll and he may never have more than 2 dolls of a given role. The roles btw. correspond, analogue to spirits etc., to the mythic roles: Archmages and Hierophants provide limited SPs, champions and guardians defensive options and e.g. Marshall dolls provide a morale bonus based buff alongside some numerical boons – though it does have an obvious “See Page XX”-glitch that should have been caught.
Trickster dolls, among other things, obviously gain sneak attack. It should be noted that these abilities increase in potency at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. The pdf concisely covers the means to replace destroyed dolls. Dolls, potent though they be, replace the vigilante specialization. Vigilante talents sans requirements that the doll master learns may instead by granted to the doll – this means that the doll master does not have it, though. When such a doll is destroyed and replaced, the new one does have the doll, which is a plus. 5th level provides startling appearance for the dolls, with 11th and 17th level yielding the follow-up appearance abilities for them. They also, btw., become really good at impersonating mundane dolls.
Beyond this significant modification of the base class, the archetype also sports an exclusive talent, which may be selected multiple times, increasing the potency and options available for the dolls – climb speed, burrow speed, attaching – you get the idea. All in all, an interesting pet-class version of the vigilante, which comes with an amazing full-color artwork.
The second archetype featured in this book would be the glaub, who represents the sentient ooze/blob-angle – instead of vigilante specialization, these guys can perform AoO-less overruns, adding scaling acid damage to targets knocked prone thus. As a minor complaint: The slam attack does not note that it’s a primary natural attack, requiring that you default to the standards. Instead of 1st level’s social talent, the character gains acid resistance 5, which increases by 5 at 3rd, 7th and 10th level, replacing unshakeable. 2nd level’s vigilante talent is replaced with a 10% chance to ignore critical hits and sneak attacks, which increases by +5% per class level attained, up to full 100% immunity at 20th level. Okay, does this stack with light/heavy fortification? No idea.
Starting at 4th level, as part of a standard action, the glaub can slime – all creatures through whose squares the glaub moves must either choose: Make an AoO or try to avoid being slimed (non-scaling Ref-save makes the latter option lose its potency at higher levels ) –slimed opponents take acid damage and are nauseated, but may make Ref-saves against a scaling DC to scrape off the slime. Starting at 12th level, provided the glaub takes the right vigilante talent, targets being slimed are also blinded. 6th level provides a 30 ft.-range option to sling acid damage dealing slime. The damage of this and slams, slime, etc. increases at 10th level. 14th level yields immunity to being tripped and the glaub can no longer be flanked and gains all-around vision. The other exclusive talents of the archetype yield reflexive acid damage, adding entangling to sliming foes, gaining grab in conjunction with slams and the follow-up talent to suffocate grappled targets…which can be rather OP with a min-maxed grappling build. I’d strongly suggest at least tying that to being pinned rather than grappling foes.
The grotesque gains a specific type of bardic performance variant ( 4 + Charisma modifier rounds, +2 per level – which should probably be class level), with 7th and 13th level decreasing the activation action from standard to move and swift action, respectively. Satire is an AoE-debuff to attack and damage rolls and saves versus fear- and charm-effects, increasing the penalty thus caused at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. 4th level unlocks mockery, a scaling single-target Charisma-debuff. Inspire weakness nets at 10th level two negative levels to a target, increasing the number of targets affected every 3 levels beyond 9th (slightly off formula – but the maximum of 18th level makes me think that it’s intentional) – and before you’re asking: No, you can’t cheese this, the negative levels vanish upon ending the performance and have a proper save. This replaces the vigilante specialization and the talents gained at 4th, 8th and 10th level and those gained at 14th and 20th level. Grotesques may learn bardic masterpieces they qualify for instead of feats or vigilante talents.
3rd level provides +4 to saves versus fear, energy drain, death effects and necromantic effects , replacing unshakeable. The bonus increases at 9th and 15th level. 6th level’s vigilante talent is exchanged for allows for the use of Perform (keyboard) or Perform (percussion) instead of Intimidate for demoralization purposes and gains +1/2 vigilante level to the check. Furthermore, saves versus fear effects caused by the grotesque are made at a -2 penalty, increasing by -1 every 5 levels thereafter.
The inexorable killer’s melee and thrown weapon ranged attacks inflict +1d6 damage versus targets subject to fear effects – cool: The ability covers both the regular fear conditions AND those featured in Horror Adventures. This damage increases at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and if he is the source of the fear, he also gets +1 to attack rolls against the target, with scaling of +1 at the same levels that get the bonus damage upgrade. When using a terror strike thus, starting at 2nd level, the killer can Cha-mod times per day as an immediate action heal 5 hit points per terror strike’s bonus damage die. 3rd level provides a bonus to track victims after having struck them, as well as gaining a bonus on checks made to demoralize that target – he may only have one such victim active at one time. Solid. 4th level yields aura of menace and 6th level upgrades terror strike’s damage out put: The bonus damage is doubled versus unarmed and flat-footed foes: Kudos: Improved Unarmed Strike, natural attacks etc. are exempt from that. 18th level resurrects the slain killer 1d4 years after he has been dispatched – and an ally of the killer can sacrifice 10 people as a substitution material component to call the killer back from the dead. While this provides a sort of immortality, at 18th level, this makes sense and can be countered…and it’s really, really flavorful.
Nightmare prowler vigilantes receive a modified class skill list as well as a decreased number of skills per level –only 4 + Int-mod. They also lose proficiency with medium armor and are proficient with simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice. The archetype casts spells as a psychic, but uses Charisma as governing attribute for spellcasting, replacing 4th, 8th, 10th, 14th and 16th’s level’s vigilante talent. An important limit: The archetype can only cast spells with the evil, fear, pain or mind-influencing descriptors from the psychic and sorc/wizard-lists. 5th level provides the option to 1/day as a full-round action duplicate ethereal jaunt for up to class level rounds. The prowler can’t attack while in this form, but his spells may affect sleeping, meditating or unconscious creatures – such targets also take 1d6 slashing damage per spell level, waking up on a successful save 10th level allows the archetype to affect creatures suffering from a number of negative conditions and 20th level delimits the ability. This is a very potent archetype; personally, I think that the bonus damage should allow for its own save or at least half damage upon making the save, but that may be me. If you enjoy the obvious Freddy-style of the archetype and want it to be sufficiently deadly…well, up to +9d6 guaranteed damage per spell can do that.
Strange Invaders replace vigilante specialization with the omicron beam, which can be fire Intelligence modifier + class level times per day, in a 5 ft. wide, 30 ft.-line, dealing a base damage of 1d4 untyped (not a fan of this, but it IS at least properly spelled out!) damage, increasing the damage output at every odd level. And yeah, Ref-save halves, so that remains palpable. Really interesting: Invaders exchange the penalties and bonuses gained by morale/fear-effects; I LOVE this, idea-wise, but I do think that morale bonuses, switched to penalties, should then allow for a save. The appearance ability tree at 5th level is replaced with losing type and subtype, becoming basically a type-wise non-entity; additionally, the archetype treats cold damage as nonlethal damage starting at this level. The talents of the archetype interact with omicron beams, allowing for shaping of the beam – and the consumption of those eliminated via the beam. There is a remnant “End” in one of the abilities, though.
The towering terror increases HD to d10 and reduced skills per level to 2 + Intelligence, but loses all armor proficiency. Instead of vigilante specialization, the character is permanently affected by enlarge person and monkey fish, while also gaining slam attack (need to default to primary here) and a natural AC bonus equal to Constitution modifier, with 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter increasing the size. It’s a bit of a pity that higher level terrors can’t control their size-increase – the size-increase can be detrimental, particularly at higher levels. Starting at 3rd level, the archetype no longer takes size penalties in urban, mountain and water terrain, which is pretty cool. 6th level yields the option to inflict double damage with slams versus unattended objects. At 18th level , the character gets to choose one of several abilities, from grab to trample. Since the character gets a size-increase at 12th level, losing both 12th and 18th level’s talents for this does make sense.
The final archetype would be the witchspawn, who is always hovering 1 inch and halving weight, with +2 to ref-saves. 5th level yields a fly speed (not flight speed) equal to base land speed, but fails to specify maneuverability – boo! The archetype can summona rotten skeletal arm within 30 ft., +10 ft. at 3rd level and every 2 class levels thereafter. This arm is treaed as a primary natural attack inflicting 1d6 damage (damage type?) , using Charisma to govern attack and damage bonus. The arm lasts for Charisma modifier rounds, and has ¼ of the vigilante’s hit point. Would that be current or maximum hit points? What if a vigilante has less than 4 hit points? No idea. The arm can make Disable Device checks at a -2 penalty and at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the vigilante can summon forth an additional claw when using this ability. Here, the limb is suddenly classified as a claw, which allows for the defaulting of damage types, at least. 7th level increases the critical threat range to 19 – 20, with1 4th level increasing it to 18 – 20.
2nd level yields a non-harmless hex, but these may only affect a target damaged by an arm, as though using Hex Strike. However, triggering the hex is a swift action. 8th level and every 6 levels thereafter yields another hex, with 14th level unlocking major hexes. 3rd level yields hex ward instead of unshakeable. 10th level provides the option, to, as a full-round action, use the arms to drag creatures into solid objects, dazing them on a failed save. 17th level allows for the inflicting of negative levels via concerted claw attacks…which is slightly problematic. It only refers to “claws”, not the claws called forth by the ability, making this very potent for vigilantes who have claws themselves. 20th level unlocks a grand hex.
The vigilante also gets to choose from 2 new social talents – one for 2 traits and one that nets an aura that penalizes saves versus fear-effects and Perception…but also yields an initiative bonus, dismissable at-will as a free action…really interesting! Two thumbs up for this one. The pdf also sports two vigilante talents – one for a second slam attack and one that nets a corruption manifestation sans having to acquire the associated corruption, though the manifestation may not have prerequisites.
The nice tradition of sporting vendettas as nice roleplaying angles is continued in this pdf. The pdf also sports haunted items – which may not be created – these are basically horror-themed items, like whips that animate to lash out, bottles containing grudges…these items are flavorful and ooze cool horror-tropes – big kudos there. Beyond these, eldritch items, also intended as adventure hooks, can similarly not be created or fully understood, including weird infrasound instruments, bolts of etheric silk or the strange last hourglass. Nice: The pdf does offer magic item properties for crafting purposes that interact with Horror Adventure’s expanded fear-system – for this alone, this may well be worth getting for some campaigns.
The pdf comes with a bonus pdf penned by Mark Gedak and Perry Fehr – it depicts the Blood Scarecrow monster (with neat full-color artwork) at CR 4 – who not only gets a throwing pitchfork, but also the ability to choke foes and fly in moonlight. Oh, and paralyzing gaze. It’s a brutal foe for CR 4 and definitely a worthwhile challenge for heroes, unlike many, many iterations of the trope.
Editing and formatting are very good to good on a formal level; however, on a rules-language level, while the pdf gets a LOT really well, often complex operations, it does sport some hiccups that act as slight detriments, sometimes influencing the rules-language. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf’s full-color pieces are pretty damn cool. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Aaron Hollingworth’s growth as a designer, when compared to book I, is pretty evident: The designs are bolder, more unique and provide meaningful alterations to the base chassis, with very strong themes for all options. The book risks more and for the most part, in spite of the risks and higher complexity of the abilities, it does a better job at what it sets out to do; I found myself smiling at many pieces of content here, though the rules-language does stumble in a few cases. With a bit polishing in that regard, this could have been one of the best vigilante-supplements out there. Scratch that, even with these hiccups, it still is a pretty impressive book and one of my definite favorites regarding option books for the class. In fact, more so than any other book of vigilante supplements, this one may be worth getting even if you don’t use the class for PCs – as an NPC-toolkit and due to the inspiring items, this has something to offer beyond the options for the class.
While not perfect, this comes still with a definite recommendation at 4.5 stars, and while personally, I love this, in my official capacity as reviewer, I have to account for the minor flaws and thus can’t round up. Still, very much worth getting if the content mentioned even remotely intrigues you!
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