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Stock Art: Shadow Octopus
by Stephen C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/15/2016 12:10:27

This piece came in really handy for writing a sea-based module especially as Jacob Blackmon has a nicely generous definition of reasonably changes, allowing me to recolour the piece as I needed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Shadow Octopus
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Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
by Raymond S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2016 17:40:56

I will be running this game in a week. In the meantime, I've been reading it and this is an insanely good DCC module. It has so many things to recommend it. The zero level generator is great for a human only sword and sorcery setting. The tables for random loot and special items are interesting and well done. The plot is well thought out and layered througout the module. The monsters/encounters are good/twisted/cool. The potential patron/diety with a full write up as both are fantastic.

If you like DCC and you like a good sword and sorcery setting, this is a sure bet.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death Slaves of Eternity (DCC)
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Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2016 04:00:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this eternal mage guy? The class gets d6 HD, 2+Int mod skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing armor (and gain no proficiencies there). They also get 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves - so, we have the classic full caster chassis, right?

Kind of. Spellcasting is radically different. Eternal mages draw their spells from the wizard spell list and are spontaneous casters - as such, Charisma is their governing attribute for spellcasting. An eternal mage begins play knowing 4 0-level spells and 2 1st level spells. Additional spells are exclusively gained via level progression and caps at 5 1st and 2nd level spells, 4 3rd, 4th and 5th level spells and 3 spells of the remaining levels. Unlike other spellcasters, high attributes do NOT provide bonus spells known. At 4th level and every even level thereafter, an eternal mage may replace a spell known with another of equal level, imposing a hard cap on retraining as well.

Now here's the thing: No spell slots, no spells prepared - eternal mages instead have a balancing mechanic called eldritch burnout: When using a spell or spell-like ability of 1st level from ANY class they possess (yes, ANY class!), they gain a number of eldritch burnout points equal to the spell's level. For every such point they possess, eternal mages take a cumulative -1 to their caster level for ALL spellcasting abilities they may possess, including SPs. For every 2 points of eldritch burnout, the DCs of all spells and SPs decreases by 1. At the end of each round an eternal mage suffers from eldritch burnout, he recovers 1 point of eldritch burnout. Eternal mages reduced to 0 caster level via eldritch burnout can't cast spells or SPs, but they still can cast cantrips.

Additionally, an eternal mage has a harsh further limit imposed on spellcasting: They may only maintain one non-instantaneous or permanent spell at any given time, with new castings potentially immediately ending the previous effect. At 7th and 14th level, this limit is improved by +1 effect in place at a given time. At 1st level, the eternal mage also chooses 3 schools: Abjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation - they may only learn spells of the universal school or the three schools thus chosen. So, that would be the limits imposed on the basic framework of infinite casting. An additional school is unlocked at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.

Starting at 2nd level, the class gets arcane overdrive points equal to Charisma modifier + 1/2 level. (I am pretty confident that this should be eternal mage level and not general class level.) As a free action, the eternal mage may spend up to 1/2 class level of these points to ignore an equal amount of eldritch burnout incurred and when this reduces eldritch burnout to 0, the class instead regains 1 point of eldritch burnout. At 13th level, the eternal mage may mitigate 2 points of eldritch burnout per overdrive point expended. At 19th level, whenever such a point if used to reduce the amount of eldritch burn incurred, the eternal mage may freely add the "empowered, extended or persistent metamagic feat to it", which is a slight formatting/rules-language hiccup.

This pool refreshes after resting and also acts as the resource for eternal secrets, the first of which is gained at 3rd level. Unless otherwise noted, an eternal secret's activation is a free action and save DCs, where applicable, are equal to 10 + 1/2 class level + Cha-mod. As a minor formal nitpick: New eldritch secrets are gained every 3 levels thereafter, a sentence absent from the text, but evident from the table. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 40 such eternal secrets are provided. They range from gaining a familiar to being capable of spending overdrive points to increase the reality of a given spell...and if you want to go metamagic, you will need to do so via eternal secrets as well. Some overlap with an arcanist's counterspelling prowess can also be found herein and the secrets also allow blasting specialists to ignore certain amounts of energy resistance. t should also be noted that the class features a pseudo warlock blast tree, with progressively more potent shapes, allowing for the expenditure of overdrive points to generate unytped arcane energy blasts. The secrets also contain means to reduce eldritch burnout gained by 1. There also is a means to cause foes nearby to gain eldritch burnout as a standard action, recovering 1/2 the target's HD worth of eldritch burnout - smart, since that renders the ability scaling, kitten-proof and while I am not 100% comfortable with the 9th level move action variety, I can see why it's there.

Starting at 4th level and again at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the eldritch burnout is decreased by 1; in the case of a reduction to 0, the character recovers from 1 eldritch burnout at the end of his round

To sum it up - with eternal secrets, the spellcasting utilizes a cooldown period that can be modified/mitigated by a static, non-replenishing resource as a balance-mechanism. Starting at 6th level, the class gets an experimental spell -basically a spell wild card of any level except the highest level they can cast, which can be changed upon resting. Said spell increases burnout by 1, though- At 11th level the spell may belong to the highest level they can cast, but burnout increases by a further 1 in such a case. 17th level unlocks a second experimental spell.

As a capstone, the class may ignore the effects of eldritch burnout of up to 20 points, basically delimiting the caster level and DC decay of the class.

The pdf also features archetypes, the first of which would be the artillery expert, who would be the specialist for the untyped blasts I mentioned before. Instead of requiring the secret, they gain a modified version for free, with higher levels focusing the modifications of overdrive to instead enhance the respective blasting capacity. The second archetype is the dead eternal, who must choose necromancy and may select witch hexes as eternal secrets and with aracen artillery, the class can gain a specialized combo-secret that adds lesser artillery damage to the effects of hexes and the capstone providing not 1, but 2 grand hexes. The master specialist gains only 2 schools instead of 3, but gains +1 spell from the specialty schools at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 6th level providing the arcane school secret instead of the eternal secret at that level. Imho, this one may be slightly too powerful, considering that the archetype still learns additional schools at higher levels.

As has become the tradition with Purple Duck Games, the book contains a TON of favored class options, not only for the core races and the planar ones, but also for the variable and diverse cast that populates Porphyra. It should also be noted that these generally don't consist of the cookie-cutter variety...so yeah, kudos.

The pdf concludes with Alain Marcus, a sample 1st level eternal mage.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed some very minor hiccups here and tehre, though they do not influence the tight rules-language employed. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard and the pdf has no artwork apart from the cover. It should be noted that the pages are A5-sized (6'' by 9''), making this the briefest Legendary Classes installment so far. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Let me come clear from the get-go: The very concept of N. Jolly's eternal mage is something I loathe as a person. NOT because I am against infinite casters; far from it; but because the very framework of using spells in an infinite capacity is not something the system was built for; spells vary greatly in power and from AoE-damage to hard terrain control and debuffs, the game-changer effects in battles are usually this powerful because they are restricted. Beyond that, a world in which any type of infinite casting is possible radically changes dynamics; whether it's teleport-couriers, whole battalions of unerring magic missile firing mages or endless summoners who just replace their squashed minions. I don't want to play in such a game world; I don't want to GM it. It's quite literally one of the things that made me settle on Pathfinder as opposed to other systems. It doesn't fit with my personal aesthetics and it is the reason all the infinite or nigh-infinite casters I use are severely restricted regarding hard crowd control and the like.

THAT BEING SAID, I also really admire this framework. The talent of the designer is clearly evident in this class, with the restrictions and cool-down mechanic in game working surprisingly smoothly; while you can spam the same spell over and over if you make the build that way, it is regulated and discouraged, at least at low levels. If anything, I was surprised to see how well the class works at low levels, how smooth the cooldown-engine runs and how exceedingly important that reservoir becomes very quickly. I was also positively surprised to see the class not coming out as something broken in the classic definition of the word. While many of its drawbacks can somewhat be mitigated by sufficient spells in a can, it is nevertheless really impressive from a design-aesthetic point of view to see the class take a system designed as a limited resource and generating a complex framework that is basically infinite. I thought long and hard, and it is my fervent belief that this is probably as close to how you can make spells infinite as you can without breaking the game; this does not change the fact that the class is, system-immanently, built upon a wobbly foundation regarding spells and their power-curve. This does not change the fact that the introduction of these guys in a given world represents a paradigm-shift that modifies completely how the world works.

And this is where the pdf laves me torn like crazy; on the one hand, I, as a person, absolutely LOATHE the repercussions of this class; I'm into the nit and grit, believable worlds, internal logic, that sort of thing. On the other hand, I consider the engine of the class, even when I disagree in quite a few instances regarding the power of options (untyped damage, too much eldritch burnout reduction for my tastes, too many schools gained...) a thing of beauty; you see, if I wanted a less powerful eternal mage in my game, I could easily tinker with the engine and make a less powerful version of it. If the notion of casting infinite spells and the repercussions for the game world would intrigue me, I'd do just that. It's honestly no rocket science and dead simple...which bespeaks the quality of the engine employed.

Now, as far as rating this, I picture this as one of the instance where I can't possibly encompass all of my audience: On the one hand, conservative and simulationalist gamers will loathe the living hell out of this class. I do. On the other hand, I am absolutely positive that there is a significant amount of people who don't care about the minor peculiarities of in-game logic or just want to go full-blown high fantasy..or simply wanted an exhaustion-style caster. These folks will probably love the eternal mage to bits and consider me a spoil-sport of epic proportions for harping on "unimportant" details when the class works surprisingly well.

Usually, I'd thus settle on the middle ground considering an oscillation of these proportions; however, considering that the very notion, if its consequences appall you as much as they do me, you already know to steer clear of this guy. Which leaves the "like the idea"-crowd...and for you ladies and gentlemen, this class will be fun indeed; while pretty strong in its default iteration, a halfway competent GM can potentially nerf it without any hassle by restricting schools, decreasing burnout mitigation options or simply adding a damage-type to the blasts. As a reviewer, I have to take that into account...as well as the fact that, while built on a foundation on sand called spells, the class remains surprisingly stable; as long as the GM takes close stock on how unlimited (with a cooldown) availability of a spell will change his game, I can see this class delivering fun moments in games that enjoy the concept. While it will never ever get even close to my home-game, the class thus deserves a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Eternal Mage
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Monsters of Porphyra 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2016 08:26:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of the massive bestiaries for the Porphyra campaign setting clocks in at a massive 226 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page introduction (containing thanks for the contributing authors and contact information for the artists involved - kudos for providing that at such a prominent spot!), 4.5 pages of SRD, 1 page blank/back cover, leaving us with 215.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

I have received this bestiary as an early access file and have been working on this review ever since; beyond that, this is a prioritized review and was moved up in my review-queue at the request of my patreons.

The first two pages of this bestiary provide an explanation on how to read the statblocks and use the creatures herein. We begin without much fanfare or ado with the very first monster herein, the Absinthian Hardwood - which makes a great example of what to expect in this book...or at least one example that highlights one facet of it: At first glance, we get a tree-like monster...but what does that have to do with one of my favorite alcoholic beverages? Okay, it does have a neat array of SPs, but depicting these trees in actual game is intriguing, since they usually do not fight; they let others do the dirty work. The tree grows sweet, aromatic fruits that are highly addictive and thus generate cultists of addicts pretty quickly; said cults are then tasked to spread the taint of these trees. Horrific in theme, the artwork provided for the tree reflects that nature. Another example for a great idea is the arbogeist - when a treant or similar plant creature perishes in horrific agony, these undead are created. That doesn't seem too novel to you? Well, the build itself has multiple unique tricks up its sleeve and rewards smart players with an exploitable weakness-section. But yes, there are cool plant creatures herein - one of my favorites being Rotwood: This powerful magical disease warps plants and wood and shapes the components into exceedingly lethal engines of destruction, infecting all it touches - equal parts puzzle boss, endgame adversary and ridiculously powerful agent of destruction, it breathes tons of creativity.

Porphyra, as a patchwork planet, is incredibly diverse and as such, its monsters should reflect some concepts beyond the common - and we do get some ideas here that are evocative enough to make you grin: Picture exploring a dungeon, when you suddenly see a gooey pool of resplendent slime that grows wing-like protrusions, glows and flies around? Yep, that would be Angel Jelly, positively infused and rather kind. We all know the trope of the gigantic intelligent turtle, ancient and benign, right? Well, enter the archaic one. At CR 18, these incredibly long-lived beings are consumed by a crushing ennui, bored literally out of their minds by an existence that has gone on too long, seeping corruption and taint through their very pores. Speaking of such powerful foes - be wary of small islands - there is a very real chance that it may actually be an extremely deadly apex-predator jellyfish that hunts by posing as an islet until creatures step on it...and then the nightmare begins.

Hybrid creatures and internal connections between critters have also been an easy means to generate a sense of cohesion - and this book introduces an intriguing cultural tidbit: Aranea mages, hating to slay their rivals, proceed with the custom of magically rendering them insane; the offspring of aranea thus punished and various spider creatures can be found within these pages. The barzakhi, aka astral masters, would be a new race that is remarkable for several reasons: They are enslaving interlopers from the realms beyond the mortal sphere, yes - so far, so classic...but they a) have significant psionic abilities and b) have heads that are pyramidal with a single eye on each side. What might sound goofy is actually pretty creepy and evokes a ton of the tropes we cherish from conspiracy theories and novels...with homebases of electrified spheres of alien metal, they also quote a classic of literature...so yeah. AWESOME. (As a minor nitpick - one of their abilities refers to an "Astral Noble" instead of an "Astral Overlord" - but this I mention only because it is the one type of glitch you are likely to encounter herein. Oh, have I mentioned that they EAT SPELLS and throw them back as blasts at you? Yeah, pretty awesome!

Now if you're like me, you'll enjoy a certain sense of "realism" in your games and, as I've come to realize, shortage scenarios, whether due to siege or generally a grim tone can provide some very intriguing results. But what do necromancers do when they run out of material? Well, they create beseiged undead, that's what. Taking for example a ton of human skin, stitching it together and filling it with sand may create slow undead, but the visuals are great and you still have bones and muscle tissue to make other monstrosities. Love this idea!

I also consider, at least to a significant degree, the type of animal-like beings that populate a world to be a pretty crucial component regarding the generation of immersion and the book does something interesting with those efficient predators: Take the centipede-like centioch - it's tail has no less than three stingers, each with a different poison. Beyond the mechanics, I certainly know that many a thieves' guild will try to get one of these...feed one huge vermin and get the chance to milk three poisons? Sounds like a smart deal...that requires capable assistance. Yes, I will have my PCs cart one of these things into a city. The logistics alone should be more than interesting to watch... If you're looking for a more companion-compatible creature, you may want to look at quillback crocodiles - powerful predators with defensive spines. Among the "should be goofy, but is not" hybrids, the crow-wolf hybrid manages to actually look pretty nasty. Colossal spiders that weave webs of crystal (some played Brütal Legend!) are pretty cool...as are the cricket-like daemons that feast on maximum bloodshed. (On another note - the artwork for these fellows is glorious!)

I am a big believer in the fact that some unique bosses benefit a bestiary - one of these herein would be the fallen demon lord Gu'Dabana the Choker: A 4-armed, white-furred monstrosity, eyeless with a rat's slavering maw and the ability to possess mortals. Oh, and he actually utilizes the EXCELLENT Assassins of Porphyra material, having his own cult of these professional killers. Since we're talking creatures of the Abyss right now: Demons fused with the signature porphyrite or bone-club-wielding, massive simian herds of the fallen can be found...but they miss out in levels of WTF when compared to the Carceratos devil: These things decapitate foes rendered helpless and then fuse the head and body with their obese form...both of which, eerily, remain conscious and in agony, only dying once the creature is slain. This damned if you do, damned if you don't-level of effective despair-generation feels perfectly devilish to me. Two thumbs up! And yes, unique devil included - Kram-Hotep, lord of the twilight pyramid.

If you're into classic folklore, you may wish to take a close look at the dread devourer worm - at CR 30, it is an incredibly tough, beyond tarrasque-level unstoppable monstrosity well worth of the legend. Regarding humanoids, we do get renditions of the races featured in the Fehr's Ethnology-series - including one of the six-limbed dhosari. While I am not the biggest fan of the race, the absolutely stunning artwork provided here most definitely deserves recognition. The pdf also features three new classes of elementals - death, metal and wood elementals, all of which do their theme pretty well. Now, if all of this sounds too focused on themes for you, let's take a look at the emph as a great example for a mechanically unique being: This incorporeal aberration may occupy up to 9 adjacent squares in any configuration; alternatively, these squares may overlap and increase the creature's density, acting as buffs. Very cool.

For all people with a phobia of clowns, the chaotic evil facada outsiders, themed around the suites of tarot, make for delightfully twisted adversaries. New giants are included in the deal alongside highly conductive cuprum golems or beings crafted from godflesh....wait a second. Yep, in case you were wondering: The good ole' godflesh golem from one of my favorite 3.X-books has been updated for PFRPG herein. Would you rather fight an animated, malignant gallows that can sense your hatred? And what about that doodle on the wall that just moved? Yes, these would be golems as well and they stretch the term and its meaning, but are distinctly golems still.

Shepherds of all things creepy and crawly will certainly appreciate the significant array of verminhive golems and speaking of creepy -the chorion hag's artwork gets my award for most disturbing artwork in the book: A corpulent, eel-like undulating form with bony, quasi-insectoid claws, blended faces and the ability to clone creatures in her bloated womb, this thing is a delightfully twisted perversion PCs will love to defeat. Remember when slimes and molds still were dangerous, when they multiplied upon being hit, again and again and again? Enter the hypermiotic template.

The interesting thing, though, is that even when a given creature, like the tired trope of the ice-burrowing worm, is featured, it has something going for it - in that case, no icy breath attack, but rather the option to spit forth highly corrosive salt, generating effects akin to acid pit. Fans of Eastern mythologies will enjoy the inclusion of the Kuchisake-Onna, the vengeful spirit of a mutilated woman. Folklore of only seldom tapped in cultures is used to great effect herein, with e.g. the Nang Tani from Thai culture receiving their own treatment - I wholeheartedly applaud the book for delving into these cultures and bringing some part of their rich heritage to the game. Take the obake; the classic oni was translated into a doddering old man, whose back has fused with a hive of wasps. Yes, that actually is frightening.

Better known tropes also feature herein: The narwhale, for example - ho turns out to be a benevolent, intelligent being herein - with an accompanying masterpiece to call these creatures. Oh...and two-words: Jousting ostriches. Companion stats included. Speaking of whales, one word: Skywhale.

Want something unique and distinctly high fantasy: The qutrub. These guys would be lycanthropes...but instead of gaining an animal-based hybrid form, their alternate form is undead. Come on, you know there is a good story in here! Speaking of stories: This is very much bestiary in the format: Statblocks upon statblocks...but the creatures actually do feature notes on how they behave on Porphyra and more information than usual for this type of book; better yet, once in a while, we get excerpts from folklore, poems or simply legends pertaining the respective monsters, providing additional information for their use.

What's cooler than a motherf*** pterodactyl (2 cents if you got that obvious reference)? Well, what about one that spews lava and has scales of obsidian? Yes. Did you think the classic chimerae were bad? Mantigorgamera. Lavishly depicted, these deadly things are manticore-gorgon-chimera hybrids...and what sounds ridiculous is actually really, REALLY deadly. Less deadly and actually kind a cute: The Mark 1 Mulitpurpose golem roboter. If you're like me a fan of proteans, you should know that none other than Todd Stewart has contributed three new ones to this book...and they are awesome. What about aboleth-controlled cephalopods with stingers in their tentacles? Have I mentioned the 4-headed space mosquito swarms? No? Well, now I have. The vorpal vole? The 4 unique and new yaksha that not only provide great takes on their respective roles, but also cool builds?

While we're at builds - the book does contain monster-building advice and material from the bestiaries, expanded to CR 30, a massive glossary of monster abilities (including formatting notes), summaries of subtypes, uncommon feats used (including ceremonial feats), monster cohorts, familiars and animal companions (with page numbers). The appendix also features monsters listed by type, CR and terrain and role. Unusual spells utilized and taken from 3pps are also found here - all in all, this section makes navigation of the book easy, comfortable and quick.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no accumulation of significant issues; both on a formal and rules-language level, the book is neat and the statblocks I did reverse-engineer sported no significant issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck games' printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights. The different artists used this time around work to the book's advantage: While there is ONE artwork I didn't care for in the book, from Jacob Blackmon's signature style to old-school paintings and truly horrific pieces for the nastier critters, the artists complement the creatures in question very well. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked for your convenience.

Main authors Perry Fehr and Mark Gedak, with additional monsters by Russ Brown, August Hahn, Julian Neale and Todd Stewart have crafted one massive book here. But let me take a step back first: Mark Gedak has a patreon that has by now produced this book; the second of the massive Porphyra bestiaries. Book 1 was good; a fun and well-written bestiary and a quality-wise neat tome.

Against the usual trend, Monsters of Porphyra II blows its predecessor clean out of the water. Are you looking for mechanically creative abilities that provide a unique combat experience and tactical challenges? there are creatures for that inside. Want something owlbear-goofy but also cool? Included. Some creatures drawn from more exotic folklore? In here. Utterly unique creatures and cultures, campaign-endbosses, puzzle foes? All inside. No matter what you're looking for in a bestiary, from the wholesome to the horrific, from the fantastical and purist to the off-the-walls weird, this one delivers.

More importantly: There is no suck inside. I did not find a single creature that felt tired or bland; It's either the artwork, the unique signature abilities or the combination of both that add a sense of the "want to use" to these critters. I mean, it actually makes one of the most tired concepts ever, the ice worm, feel pretty creative. Similarly, when creatures from obscure 3.X OGL-books were upgraded, the upgrades often include twists and different flavors that render them fresh and distinct. The lore sections, prose and the like help render the back-to-back reading experience more fulfilling as well.

...

I have no formal complaints. There are some very minor hiccups here and there, but they are so few and far in-between and don't influence the functionality of the critters. For a book of this size, that is a true feat. Oh, and consider the fact that this one was made sans a huge KS-budget, instead thriving on continuous, dedicated work. It's one thing to have a burst of inspiration; constantly generating creatures with this level of quality is a feat. Magical beasts feel magical, dragons feel draconic; folklore beasts are close to their source-material or make it cooler than in our mythology. Animals and vermin feel effective and pretty realistic and like they make sense. In short: This is an absolutely stellar bestiary for a more than fair price point.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the bestiary formula; I prefer my creatures with a ton of back story, ecologies, etc. Blame it on my old-school origins. Most bestiaries I end up liking thus have a lot of flavor text. Monsters of Porphyra II does have a bit of it..but still is a bestiary. And guess what? It's probably as close to "I love everything" as a monster book of this size is ever bound to get. This is one of the best monster supplements out there in the 3pp circuit, with more inspiring creatures in it than I would have expected. As noted, book 1 was already very good...but it is here that the authors take a huge breadth of themes and topics, mechanics and go full-blown all-out. To me, not a single one of the critters herein felt phoned-in; they all feel like they were made with a passion that translates very well from the pages. After reading this book, I found myself sketching a sequence of adventures featuring a ton of the critters herein - and that is something that only rarely happens as far as bestiary books are concerned.

So yes, get this! Monsters of Porphyra II is a phenomenal resource of creative critters of all types, shapes and forms and deserves the highest accolades. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Porphyra 2
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 11:26:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? If AAW Games' critically acclaimed Rise of the Drow has taught me anything, then it's that modern gaming had lost some of its sensibilities; when the saga took the wonder of the 2nd edition's Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and the general notion of believable environments and infused it right back into the subterranean realms, I was ecstatic. The underworld hadn't felt that alive, that wondrous, in a long, long time.

So, this little pdf can be considered to be something of a mini-dressing file: The idea is as follows: The things in the underdark need to eat, right? Well, fungi grow below and so, the pdf does contain subterranean spore groves for your perusal. in power-level, they are rules-interaction-wise mostly at the lower scale and the pdf works as follows: You have 12 entries to determine weird fungi; then, you determine the size of the grove with a d12, which also modifies all subsequent tables, so yes, size does matter here.

Next up, you determine the food value to be scavenged from the grove...and then the effects. Sure, the shrooms might be poisonous...but there is similarly a chance that one of 8 strange effects may kick in upon consumption. These range from mild hallucinations to bonuses to Cha or medicinal properties, and while slightly more precision here pertaining conditions, bonus types and the like, the basic functionality is there. A sample hazard table modified by the number and CR of PCs is included, with hazards and foes ranging from CR - to 7. A little table to determine fungal themed monsters is next (15 entries strong and pretty much what you'd expect) and 12 non-fungal sample monsters (standard underworld fare) can be used to include here.

The pdf concludes with a sample hazard - the CR 3 cyan fungus, which sends discus-like projectiles towards anything nearby when subjected to light. The fungus is awesome, though the rules-language for the attack and damage is a bit jumbled.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting is very good on a formal level; on a rules-level, there are some minor deviations, but none that break the material. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column, printer-friendly standard in A5-size (6'' by 9''). The pdf has a nice one-page artwork of a vegepygmy in full-color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Perry Fehr's little pdf has the heart at the right place: The visuals are nice and while it does not reach the level of evocative wonder of RotD's fungal jungle, that's not the goal - this is a great fungus fields generator and it does not purport to be more than that. The new fungus is pretty cool and something I'll definitely use.

All in all, this little pdf is a fun addition to subterranean gameplay and particularly lower-level underdark adventuring will benefit from the quick and easy food generation tables here; for longer or survivalist treks through the lightless depths, this can be a boon indeed, though I found myself wishing it had devoted more time to the fungi and provided slightly more in that terrain, less to the pretty generic sample creatures encountered tables. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - an inexpensive, fun and very useful little pdf, but one that falls short of what it could have been. Still, whether it's Second Darkness, Rise of the Drow or the quasi-defunct Throne of the Night - subterranean campaigns will enjoy this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Spontaneous Subterranean Spore Groves
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Craft Points - Redux
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/29/2016 11:28:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Purple Duck Storeroom series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Well, before we do - many of you will know already that I'm a pretty big fan of Downtime-rules, crafting and the like. But the matter of the fact is that not all campaigns will take to these rules to the same extent; indeed, there are campaigns where time is of the essence or where, within a vast dungeon-complex, establishing a crafting base, keeping it secure, etc., represents a complication that is simply not desired by either group or GM. As a person, I am firmly in the camp of believers that this can be a truly awesome and evocative experience...but I absolutely understand why quite a few groups dislike the notion.

It is for said groups that this system was created. To craft an item without spending the normal labor time, a character with an item creation feat can pay 1/10th of its market price in craft points (minimum 1, rounded up). The character also must pay 1/2 the item's market value in GP and once these are spent, the item is finished the next day. The rationale is that the character had been working on the item for a while and only now has finished it. Anyone helping in the creation of items can contribute craft points - characters with the appropriate craft feat can contribute full craft points, while those that lack the respective feat can only contribute them on a 2 for 1 basis - for every 2 points spend, they pay for 1 craft point.

Magic items require a Spellcraft check versus DC 5 + CL; failure of more than 5 on this check results in a cursed item. You may reduce craft point cost by spending more time on an item - for every 100 sp worth of work as per the Craft skill, you decrease the craft point cost by 1.

A handy table provides some examples for items made with this system and their respective costs. Beyond these, the pdf provides Craft DCs Redux - quarterstaffs and slings or casting plaster would be very simple DC 5 items, for example, while e.g. alchemical dragons or CR 16+ traps would be extremely intricate at DC 35. The system is very simple and easy to grasp and 2 sample examples help illustrating the use of these DCs.

The question obviously remains - how do you get craft points and prevent them being spammed like crazy? Well, a 1st level character has 100 craft points and every subsequent level nets the new level times 100 additional craft points. Creatures of Int 3 or higher also have craft points as though their HD was equal to the level. Creatures too dumb to Craft (less than Int 3) don't get craft points and familiars, eidolons etc., i.e. all class feature creatures, don't get craft points. A handy table collects craft points gained by level and total craft points accumulated. And yes, the ardent reader may have noticed that the limitation imposed on craft points means that there is a kind-of-but-not-really crazy prepared flexibility inherent in the rules presented - though whether you perceive that as a bug or feature depends, ultimately, on your own stance.

Now obviously, this necessitates a closer look at the item creation feats and indeed - the pdf does take a look at them - including the creation of technological and psionic items, with a handy table providing the number of craft points the respective item creation feats net you. These do include craft feats for the creation of alchemical items and master work items as well as a feat that can be taken multiple times to allow for craft point accumulation; basically, in order to offset a sudden, massive influx of instant masterwork weapons, the system imposes a feat-tax on them, which does make sense, as the instantaneous generation of these items would by every craftsperson would detract from the intended flavor...and it does retain an emphasis on the importance of specialists that would otherwise be lost.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column 6'' x 9'' standard and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks, but doesn't necessarily require them at this length.

Mark Gedak's Craft Point Redux rules, to make that abundantly clear, are not made for me or my group; I am firmly in the planning/deliberation-camp; heck, we have a whole private board for planning, downtime activity, etc. and regularly checking it and taking a look what the characters do "in the meanwhile" is a pretty constant source of joy for me. That being said, I know that not all parties have this luxury; there are con games and groups that only rarely meet...or that simply don't share my love for the nit and grit of planning and simulationalist gameplay.

While the craft points introduced here represent an abstraction I won't use in my own games, I certainly see the significant merit this system can have for groups that want to focus "on the action." For such groups, this represents an intriguing and very simple system you can introduce without much hassle or fanfare. The book-keeping is minimal (apart from craft point tallies) and the implementation elegant, the explanation of the system didactically feasible.

Oh, and this is "Pay what you want." You can actually get this installment for exactly 0 bucks, check it out and then leave a tip you'd consider appropriate...and it is my staunch belief that for some groups out there, this will be a godsend of a file. For what it is and considering the no-risk nature of this pdf, this is very much worth 5 stars. It may not be for me as a person, but it sure may be just what your group wanted!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Craft Points - Redux
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Kineticists of Porphyra III
by Vladimir C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 08:22:26

N. Jolly follows up his outstanding design from the two previous kineticist-focused books in ths third entry of the KoP series. Unlike the previous two, this one doesn’t include new elements, which was a good decision. There is so much you can do with new stuff, but there is always more you can do with the old. As usual in the series we get some fluff for the Porphyra campaign setting. After that we get straight to the Archetypes:

Corpse Puppeteers are the necromancers among the kineticists. They exchange a couple of infusions wild talents for the opportunity to have corpse companion that works similar to a druid’s animal. Interesingly, chaokineticists raise them as undead, while corpokineticists raise them as constructs! Also, they can do some bioengineering and can make their corpses evolve, in the summoner’s eidolon meaning of evolve! One thing that the archetype doesn’t mention is, when you finally get Expanded Element at 15th level (you lose the 7th level instance of the ability), can you take the other element (void/viscera) to have a different type of companion? And since you can have two companions, can one be a construct and the other an undead? Anyway, an outstanding archetype that really expand the boundaries of kinetics!

The second high-concept archetype would be the Dimensional Ripper. This archetype focuses on small portals that give you tons of tactical options! If you have seen that Dragon Ball where Goku fights a giant monster that attacks him via portals you get the idea of the DR. This archetype is open only to void, aether and time kineticists, but choose wisely for your element since this archetype loses both instances of Expanded Element. This archetype is sooo different from the standard kineticist that it takes around four pages of the book! In this case I would have liked a new element: Space, but maybe Spatialokineticist sounded too silly. But still, it would have made sense since we have Time already, and in that way the rift use could have been expanded upon in the future but we’ll see. Also, telekinesis is already covered by aether, so having teleportation covered would have been nice.

In the last book we got a kind of pally hybrid, but with the Dread Soul we get an anti-paladin kineticist IN CONCEPT. This archetypes covers even more space than the Dimensional Ripper, and have some exclusive powers. Note that while you can’t be good, you don’t have to be evil, so you can play a cool neutral anti-hero! We finish the archetypes with the Elemental Brethren, a so obvious idea that it wasn’t done before! This archetype is open to the “genasi” races, in pathfinder that means ifrit, oread, suli, sylph and undine. This one plays a lot with racial abilities and feats, and note that you specialize into the element from your race (you get to choose in the case of sulis), and while you lose both instances of Expanded Element, you instead get ONE improved version at 10th and get a different kind of omnikinecis at 20th. Cool racial archetype!

After that we get Elemental Saturations for the new elements of the series. These expand on the idea introduced in Occult Realms, an official supplement by Paizo. Basically, elemental saturations are areas where the element is more present, but apart from being cool vacation places for kineticists, visiting one opens one small ability for everyone and an exclusive wild talent for kineticists.

Then we get new composite blasts for many combination of elements, both old and new. This section is interesting because it introduces new mechanical options that deviate from the ones in Occult Adventures, increasing the mechanical niche of the kineticists.

The same can be said of the new infusion section, which contains ways to increase range, deal bleed or splash damage, demoralize targets, dismiss outsiders among others. The new wild talent and combo wild talents section does the same, but among the options there are taken from the Dimensional Ripper, which takes out some oomph from the archetype and reinforce my idea that a new element would have been a better option, but at the same time, it opens the possibility for existing characters to get some of the DR’s toys, or just to dabble in them instead of focusing.

New to the series is a new concept called Elemental Mutation. These are kind of templates for the class that give you not only benefits, but also drawbacks accompanied by suitable fluff. You can only have one mutation, and I suppose you get them at 1st level since it doesn’t really say. There is no mention of being able to lose the mutation also.

The book finishes with a feat section (with some directed at Dimensional Rippers), followed by some new magical items with the kineticist in mind, including an artifact. Finally, we have an 11th level Dimensional Ripper NPC, showing a possible build for aether kineticists and including some Porphyra background fluff. All in all, another stellar work by N. Jolly, and one that really shows how far he can take the kineticist class!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticists of Porphyra III
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Legendary Classes: Quartermaster
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/25/2016 06:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Classes-series clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 26.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The quartermaster is the lord of equipment - as a framework, the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor proficiency. He may disarm magical traps as though he was a rogue and traps disarmed by him can be re-armed as a move action. The class may use Appraise instead of Perception to spot valuables and also use the skill to identify magic items. The class gets half class level to Appraise, Craft, Disable Device and UMD and all of these skills are governed by Int for the quartermaster.

At first level, the quartermaster receives resources equal to his Intelligence modifier, minimum 1. This behaves much like grit or panache, though the points do have an anti-kitten-abuse caveat (YAY!) and inflicting negative conditions via devices or directly can restore a point. The quartermaster unsurprisingly also gains deeds; unless otherwise noted, they can be used multiple times per round, though reduction of resources points is only applied to the total, not per activation. Some of the deeds require certain pieces of equipment to perform. The starting tricks of the class are already pretty interesting: There is, for example, a deed to throw nearby allies a given item, granting them temporary proficiency, provided the quartermaster has it himself. Crafting of makeshift tools and weapons is also one of his tricks.

Equipment bonuses and masterwork bonuses are doubled for the class and a quartermaster may use broken items as though they did not have that condition. 3rd level unlocks exceedingly fast (free action drawing of weapons, sheathing, reloading...wait, reloading? Yes, this would be an issue to be aware of: If you're not using firearms balanced by massive reload action-economy penalty, this is no issue...but if you do, I'd instead go for a reduction instead here. Pretty cool: One minute of set-up work can be done in a single move action. That collapsible tub or altar? Fwhump and it's there! That armor? Pretty quickly donned. Also at third level, the quartermaster may apply to bonus granted by dangerous devices to one of his attacks. What is dangerous devices? Well, at 2nd level, any piece of equipment that is not a weapon or trap increase their DC to spot and resist by +1 and attacks with them by +1. Furthermore, these bonuses increase at level 4 and every 2 levels thereafter. Oh, and yes, the damage for the item becomes +1d6 of its usual damage type (including nonlethal damage caveat for items that usually don't inflict damage), +1d6 at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter, making this somewhat sneak-y. And yes, you can beat ogres with rotten fish to a pulp. Fans of Asterix will definitely get a smile out of this ability. To avoid abuse, this damage may be inflicted once per turn, which provides a cap not dissimilar to the cryptic's. Starting at 3rd level, dangerous device bonuses versus objects are always applied and from kicking doors in to using Disable Device to break them in, there is some serious sapper vibe going on here.

But back to the deeds:3rd level also unlocks further mastery regarding the perception of traps and at 7th level, repurposing e.g. stills and similar devices to make it "look like an accident" is possible...and exceedingly fun and creative. The 7th level ability is Thrift is also intriguing: Items with charges or daily uses can be used by the quartermaster sans expending a use/charge by instead substituting points of resources, with magic items costing 1 point of resources per charge and one-use magic items costing 2 points of resources; mundane items are free. This is at once an interesting ability and one that can be problematic - considering the fact that CL or cost of the item in question do not feature in, this can be abused like crazy, right? I have bashed stuff like this before...so how does the class offset this issue? It is simple and friggin' genius: This ability only works if the quartermaster has 3 of the items in question or more. That unique staff or total destruction? Nope. You still can get a lot of mileage out of items, but you won't get infinite healing and nor will you unintentionally break the game with the class when an adventure assumes a powerful, unique item. This is simple, elegant and genius. Finally, there would be weapon leverage, which allows adds constant bonuses to weapons with specific types or qualities: All flails are treated as though the quartermaster had Improved Reposition, for example. Additionally, the weapon groups/qualities have associated bonus actions that require points of resources and either a swift or immediate action to activate.

11th level allows for more costly, but longer lasting item-use instruction and 11th level provides universal equipment tricks at the cost of points of resources. Which brings me to the second focus of the class: Starting at 2nd level, the quartermaster gains the Equipment Trick feat and extends the benefits of the feat to those he instructs in the use of the item-type. The feat is gained an additional time every 2 levels thereafter. At 11th level, even those not covered via the feats can thus be temporarily gained. Starting at 11th level (and increasing in versatility at 15th and 19th level), the quartermaster can imbue certain qualities in objects, making them e.g. count as adamantine etc., thus alleviating the DR/resistance-bypassing issue that improvised weapon specialists get sooner or later. Starting at 15th level, easier take 10s may be nice...but imho cooler would be the option to destroy costly magic items to generate bursts of magical energy depending on item CL and school...or...and they can deal nonlethal damage versus constructs and then take them over. 19th level provides animate objects, AoE air walk and a costly wish. On a nitpicky side, while these modify the base spells and their effects, it's slightly odd that the airwalk-granting deed is SU, while the other two are SP - I assume this is due to the free action activation, but imho, the potential AoO would still be justified here. This is just personal preference and will not feature in the final verdict, though.

You probably have expected it, so I'll just come out and say it: Yes, the class has a crazy prepared ability, which would be deep pockets. This allows the quartermaster to carry 50 gp times class level unspecified equipment and the ability interacts properly with the other class abilities like makeshift item creation etc. The ability has a "reasonable carry"-caveat for unwieldy objects. Now here's the thing: Of all the numerous iterations of such an ability, this is only the second that managed to get the "no specific items"-caveat right; combined with the unwieldy-objects-caveat and a "separated from equipment"-caveat...

DRUMROLL

...this is, ladies and gentlemen, the VERY FIRST CRAZY PREPARED ABILITY I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO ISSUE WITH!! It happened. I can't believe it. So beautiful... _

Starting at 3rd level, the class may substitute Disable Device for Craft skills pertaining the use or repair of items (but not their creation!) and 4th level unlocks an interesting one: Weapon specific feats like Weapon Focus are applied to all weapons he is proficient with. 5th level allows the character to acquire gear beyond what would usually be available in a given setting and also nets evasion. At the same level, quartermasters may spend a full-round action to inspect the gear of a creature standing attention to convey his pack rat ability's benefits...and yes, this can be applied to vehicles. Pack rat? Yep, gained at 2nd level, medium load or encumbrance is treated as light instead, but sans affecting carrying capacity. (Note to self: My girlfriend has this ability - she is at least a 5th level quartermaster!)

At 5th level and every odd level thereafter, the quartermaster also gains one "uncommon" proficiency - firearms, exotic ranged weapons (should exclude firearms), shields, siege weapons...you get the idea. At 9th level, buying more than10 or more identical items, the class gets all at half price...but when he resells them, he'll get blacklisted...so no abuse here either. (And yes, this makes ammo dirt cheap...but at 9th level, we're beyond the levels where that matters too much even in most low magic groups.) Improved evasion is gained at 13th level and at 17th levle, when attacked by a trap, the class may Reflex save even against Will- or Fort-using traps

The class comes with a ton of favored class options that include uncommon races like kitsune and ratfolk as well as some Porphyra-races like the Xesa....and they tend to be interesting: 1/7th of a move action exclusively to manipulate objects can make a real difference in play and comes sufficiently high-priced to not upset lower level gameplay. Kudos for not phoning those in!

Next up would be the feat-section, which not only reprints Equipment Trick for your convenience - it also provides means to increase the range of quartermaster abilities or equipment tricks with range. And yes, the pdf explains that this is NOT telekinesis. Earlier deed access (with a trade in towards Signature Deed at 19th level) can be found herein and is one of the instances where I have to be an A-hole: This feat has the (Resources) subtype, but does not specifically note resources as a prerequisite, which can become problematic with other deed-using classes. And yes, I am aware of the intent here, but RAW, that's what's here. Extra resources, multiclass support and Improved Brace, which reach fighter builds will LOVE complement this section.

Of course, the quartermaster is about equipment...so what about armored boots in different qualities and oversized caltrops in different power-levels? Yes, you can have colossal 64 lbs. caltrops. Friggin' cool! Safety nets, mithral poles...pretty neat!

Oh, and then there would be a TON of equipment tricks - including ones for blankets, anvils, balloons, censers, furniture, scabbards, horns, maps, mirrors, prosthetics, soap water, sunrods...and I haven't even scratched the surface yet! We're not talking about one trick either, but about multiple per item type! The respective prerequisites make sense in their context and the pdf closes with a sample level 1 furnace elf quartermaster.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting adhere to the tighter examples; while there are some deviations from the default rules-language like "count" instead of "treat" in some cases, the language manages to actually cover the highly complex operations in a precise manner when it counts; all deviations I noticed were purely aesthetic in nature. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with purple highlights and the pdf has no artwork apart from the nifty cover. Yes, this means that this is a VERY long, very dense book for the low asking price. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, though they only point towards the chapter headers.

Carl Cramér's quartermaster was a class I had absolutely no desire to playtest. I'm not a fan of deeds being fixed and prefer player agenda/choice. I have not seen a single class or ability that managed to get the crazy prepared aspect 100% right and this class is built around just that. Urgh.

You know, sometimes I'm really glad I do this reviewing thing. I would have totally missed out on an awesome class. The bonus damage it can dish out makes the quartermaster relevant in combat, though the primary focus will be support; but unlike many a class, this one is not just about skills or a set array of parameters and stratagems. I remember some blurb talking about this being teh wizard of skill-classes and I'd actually disagree vehemently. While the quartermaster does share in common that his whole trick set-up and trap-making boils down to an option array not unlike spells, the class plays best in the hands of spontaneous and creative players - whether they be kids or adults, the class can deliver brutal slapstick that is mechanically relevant or be an awesome representation of the non-explosion-based sapper/trapper/handyman-trope.

Yes, the pdf has some minor rough edges like the feat, the weapon proficiency group hiccup and a couple of minor rules-language guffaws. Know what? Ignore them. The only reason I mentioned them in the first place is because I have to as a reviewer.

This class may not be perfect, but IT IS GLORIOUS.

No, really. It will take a bit to understand it. Playing it actually helps get a feeling for the action economy and the vast potential this has. Think of these guys as non-psionic cryptics with a mundane flavor that are efficient support-characters. I love this class. It may stumble in some minor cases, but instead, it gets the big things right; the highly complex rules-operations like the crazy prepared bit, the bonus damage bit, etc. All of this, however, does not really account for the best thing about this class: How it plays.

The quartermaster is, in short, ridiculously fun to play. Let me reiterate: Back in 3.X, when I ran "Night of the Living Dead" in my Ravenloft campaign, it was for 7th level PCs (as opposed to 1st level, for which the module was designed) and I rewrote...everything. I basically went full blown zombie apocalypse. My players had no ammo left; no charges. Melee weapons were breaking left and right (I'm a bastard)...so, at one point, they started looking through their backpacks and found soap, shovels and the like...and proceeded to get creative to...well. Not die. To this day, one of the stories that always comes up is the one, where the kensai threw a shovel and decapitated neatly a zombie with a crit, creating an avalanche on soapy terrain. This class is this scene, made into a class.

Unlike a wizard, who has a set paradigm of effects codified as spells, the quartermaster has items. Items we partially know in real life. As such, we have a stronger connection to them...and an easier time getting creative with them. In short: Much of the joy this class offers stems from the hard-coded rules for effective innovation this framework offers. Creativity has a higher role here than with most prepared casters...and it's what makes this class so fun. Don't get me wrong - the quartermaster is NOT a weak class; it does have mechanical oomph enough. But the most fun with it will be had by the die-hard roleplayers that really like coming up with uncommon solutions...and in such, this class, as strange as it may sound, actually feels like it brought a bit of that old-school feeling back, when PCs improvised with items much more because not everything was buried beneath a wall of feats/abilities.

This then, to me, would be the crowning achievement of the class beyond its precise take on complex concepts: It does account for and codify PFRPG's requirements regarding the precision of feats and ability-availability...but at the same time allows this jury-rigging improvisational element back into the game in an imho unprecedented capacity. I've been doing some serious OSR gaming these days...and this class brings some of the flair beyond the rules, some of its free-form spirit to PFRPG without being sloppy. I know that quite a few of you out there will love it for that.

In spite of its minor flaws, I've rarely had this much fun picking a class apart...and this is where my reviewer-job becomes a bit annoying. You see, formally, I probably should rate this 4.5 or 4 stars...but that would neither account for its achievements on a mechanical level, nor for those regarding sheer FUN. Those of you who want flawless mechanics in even the most miniscule part of the pdf or a flawless editing may consider this to be a 4 or 4.5 star file, depending on how you weigh it.

However, personally, I have always been true to rating according to my passions when they flare up this highly, something that happens all too rarely these days and much less so in a concept if seen so often...wait, correction: A concept I have seen botched so often. The quartermaster gets it right. It's a class that emphasizes ROLEplaying and clever players without dropping the ball regarding crunch and explaining it away.

It is a crazy prepared class that manages to get a huge array of things right. It is, more importantly, a fun, unique and rewarding class...and one I wouldn't want to miss in my games anymore. Were it not for the hiccups, this would be a candidate for my Top Ten-list. I can't do that, but as written, I'll still rate this 5 stars and add my seal of approval to it. Get this one - it's rewarding, unique and fun.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Classes: Quartermaster
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Kineticists of Porphyra II
by Vladimir C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 05:40:55

Oh Captain Planet how I miss you... erhm, let's not deviate from the review. N. Jolly does it again! Like the previous volume, KoP2 includes archetypes and elements, but in this book the author delivers higher concept game design with a clear influence by other media, like comics and anime. We start right away with archetypes! The Divine Conduct is kind of a pally hybrid, getting some divine healing and anti-evil options. Then we have the anime-inspired Dragon Pact Kineticist, who gets its powers from, well, making a pact with a dragon (duh!). These guys get some exclusive options with a dragon theme, and their relationship with the dragon is a roleplaying goldmine. After that we have the Fusion Kineticist, a master of two elements while losing access to all others. Perfect if you want to start from level 1 with a character concept like this, or if you want to play something like Gill the boss from Street Fighter 3 (cheap bastard by the way). We follow by another hybridy archetype, the Hex Kineticist, who gets a familiar and some hexes. Of these options the only one I don’t really dig is the Hex, but that’s only a matter of personal taste. My silly attempt a title with humor notwithstanding, N. Jolly present us with two new elements with Poison and HEART… well, it’s Viscera really BUT IN MY CAMPAAAAAIGN. Rambling aside, Toxikineticist’s Poison adds acid to the energy damage possibilities as well as controlling and debuffing abilities, while Corpokineticist’s Viscera looks like it came straight from a Mortal Kombat crossed with that guy from Naruto… bloody skulls, bone armors, eviscerations, you get the idea. These guys feel more like meleers than other types of kineticist. After this we have plenty of infusion wild talents for the new elements and many are compatible with old ones as well, followed by a similar but way larger list of utility wild talents. Finally and like the first KoP, we find a couple of feats and magic items plus a drow dragon pact kineticist with poison and void as elements… what a girl! If you liked the first KoP, you can’t really go wrong with this gem. Also, perfect if you want to give kineticists a darker bent, since both elements can be considered “evil”. I highly recommend this book even if you don’t have the 1st one. It is also a must if you plan a kineticist only or gestalt campaign. Kudos on the author and a well deserved 5 star rating!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticists of Porphyra II
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Kineticists of Porphyra
by Vladimir C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 05:35:30

One of the most interesting and fresh classes from Occult Adventures is the kineticist. Loosely based on the mechanics of the old 3ed. warlock, the kineticists is your "all day magic, all day blasts" class, but having an elemental flavor akin to the Avatar series.

It was the most discussed class in the playtest and I bet my d20s that it is the most used one as well! Even Paizo released more material for the class right away.

But well, here we are with a deceptively-called book, Kineticists of Porphyra, that has actually 1 page of flavor for the Porphyra campaign setting, and the rest of the material is mostly setting neutral with a short paragraph here and there about Porphyra.

Right away we get a presentation of the new archetypes:

Cerebral Kineticist: These guys are Int based instead of Con, and suffer mental conditions instead of reduced HP when they get Burn. They also get acces to all Knowledge skills. Perfect if you want to play a scholar kineticist.

Elemental Avatar: Perfect for indesicive players and fans of the Avatar series, these guys start the game having access to the 4 classic elements, including one blast each. They get some extra limitiations and will never dable in any other element, so be aware of that.

Elemental Scion: For those wanting to focus only on one element, these people do more damage with their element from 1st level. Perfect for those of us who like the idea of specialization, something the original class should have been able to do.

Kinetic Duelists: For those who like to get into melee, this class has it all. Expanded weapon and armor proficiencies pluss greater melee capabilities at the cost of range. Unlike the other archetypes, these Duelists offer a completely different playstyle.

After th archetypes we are introduced to new elements: Light, Sound and Time, each accompanied by their respective blasts, elemental defenses and composite blasts, including a focused for those who double-dip in them.

Then we get to the biggest part of the book, with tons of new infusions and utility wild talents. Two things of note, most of the infusions and wild talents are for the new elements (as expected), but a couple are for the new elements introduced in Occult Origins. Wood and Void really needed the influx of new toys, but if you don't have access to that book you will have some unusubale ones.

We finish the book with a small section on new feats and a sample character.

Final Thoughts: All in all an impressive offering of new toys for kineticists. I was particularly impressed by the new elements, since each has a distinct flavor and a mechanical role.

If you are interested in the class or want to have a kineticist-only or gestalt campaign, you can't go wrong with Kineticist of Porphyra! Easely 5 stars.

PS: If you weren't impressed with the author's other book, the Chi Warrior, this is a completely different beast!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticists of Porphyra
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Kineticist Codex
by Vladimir C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 05:31:28

Kineticist-specialist author N. Jolly brings us the equivalent of the NPC Codex class section for the kineticist, with a twist. It is designed with the Porphyra campaign setting, and with very minor tweaks here and there it is completely usable in any setting.

As in the NPC Codex, we have 1 kineticist per level for a grand total of 20... however, unlike the NPC Codex, N. Jolly uses a wider range of options. From the races we can find an elf, a human, a half orc and a half elf... from that, the author runs the gamut from kitsunes and tengus and oreads to other 3rd party races like elans, oaklings and more. The builds also use archetypes from the Occult Adventures book.

Apart from the diversity of builds, each NPC has a "boon", obtainable by the players if they play their cards right, a welcome addition to the at time monotonous presentation of the NPC Codex. Also, each and every character has a short paragraph describing a bit of back story. It's a shame that the book limits itself to one page per character, which reduces the amount of background that can be presented, especially in the latter builds which occupy way more space since they have more abilities.

Even when we already have 2 more "official" elements, and a couple more from the author's own pen, in this book we find "only" the main 5 elements. Since this Codex already goes above and beyond its immediate homologue, the NPC Codex, this is not really a bad thing and leaves space for a follow-up Codex.

All of these great NPCs have only one understandable problem. None of the character has a picture, understandable since it would have increased its production cost, and hence the price of the product. Worse, while all of them are introduced by a quote, they don't have a description! A picture is worth more than a thousand words, but if there are no pictures and no words, well.

As a Codex of kineticist characters, this book delivers. It is only hwen you try to picture the characters when you realize there's something odd. But apart from that, the "meat" of the book is excellent. I will give this book a 4.5 (rounded up), but if either a picture or a short description was added, this book would get the full 5. Congrats on the author!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kineticist Codex
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Cryptics of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/23/2016 10:25:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Porphyran class options-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, though it should be noted that the pdf comes in the A5-size one-column standard, so when printed out, the format would be more of a booklet style.

All right, so let's take a look at the character options in this book, which hit us right after the introductory fluff with the first archetype, which would be the chaos bringer, mainly intended for the classic and evocative erkunae, who have first been introduced to the canon of Porphyra in the Fehr's Ethnology-series. As befitting the theme of chaos, the archetype may add a touch of chaos to any power manifested, changing its parameters in an unpredictable way: Generally, 1 -6 delivers one of two negative effects; 7 -14 delivers the "neutral/none-too-inconvenient" effects (like different target chosen within a splash damage radius) and 15-20 providing the beneficial tricks. That being said, there are a couple of rough patches in the mechanics here - for example, the splash damage: Is an empty square an eligible target or not? What if there is no eligible target in the radius? Similarly, the chance to pay 0 power points or get a 50% damage increase can be pretty potent, considering the array of abilities that can grant d20-rerolls. While this does not make the archetype's base premise broken, it can lead to problems for some groups. This replaces Scribe Tattoo.

On the plus-side that I actually consider pretty well implemented, Pandemonium Disruption changes the creature type choice mechanic when gaining psionic focus, instead randomizing it and allowing for potentially multiple types, alignment types and "none" as well as "all." The interesting component here would be that the cryptic's pattern must be attuned to a creature type and usually, the attunement is an enforced part of the gaining of psionic focus - with this archetype, a lucky chaos bringer has a very good reason to basically keep the psionic focus attuned to all, providing a reason for them to maintain the focus instead of expending it. Which, per se, is nice. On a downside, the ability in no way specifies that the chaos bringer may only use this randomized attunement to a creature type in stressful situations, meaning that gaining focus and expenditure at a given adventuring days' start would be repeated by a cryptic whenever he had the time to do so - basically, as long as the archetype has enough time, he'll end up with "all", which is a pretty severe abuse that could have been mitigated by a simple caveat. Hampering truth-seekers and their spells and power, better saves versus charms and compulsions, control over thoughts read and a chaos-apotheosis-style supreme insight complement an interesting, if not perfect archetype.

Next up would be the enigmatic paradigm for the eventual race, who gains a bonus equal to Int-mod to AC and CMD while wearing no armor, carrying not more than a light load and maintaining psionic focus, thankfully including stacking caveats for monk bonuses and the like. Speaking of which - instead of the trapmaker and proficiencies, we get the unarmed damage progression and feat-wise capability of a monk here as well, setting the tone for this archetype, with Patterned Strikes being gained at second level instead of the usual insight. Similarly, starting at 6th level, these guys gain a flurry, though thankfully the archetype steers clear of combining patterns with that, restricting it to unarmed strikes. You don't know the Patterned Strikes feat? Well, it is one that will not get anywhere near my table - it allows you to add disrupt pattern to all your unarmed strikes, including iterative attacks, thus breaking the usual restriction of disrupt pattern, but while excluding the combined use of both this melee and ranged use of the ability. Here's the problem: Flurry + full disrupt pattern per attack. Nope, not getting near my table.

The underappreciated and delightfully weird Xesa plant-race, who alter their disruption to instead work via strange seeds in the target, causing damage to creatures and healing plants...and there we go, disqualified from my games. Disrupt pattern is a non-limited resource and considering the sheer array of plant races available, this means infinite healing from level 1 forwards, for the whole group if the plant character has a means of sharing hit points. OP and needs a hard whack with the nerf bat, which is a pity, since the floral-themed visuals of the archetype are pretty cool. The Dragonblood Judiciar is damn cool - they can deal nonlethal damage with their patterns and are experts at tracking foes and bringing them in alive. Pretty evocative: Starting at 6th level, when properly sentencing a foe according to the facts, they gain bonuses and better defenses against the foe. As a capstone, the archetype goes Judge Dredd with "I AM THE LAW" (Imagine me going full Stallone here), gaining save-or-suck blasts.

The Qi'tar nightrunner replaces the absorb option of altered defense with scaling miss chances, with better free-running/parkours and proper cat burglar tricks, including the option to mitigate failed Stealth checks 1/target per Stealth attempt with Bluff to create a distraction - very much obliged. I really like this archetype, though this is as well a place as any to mention that editing isn't as precise on a formal level as in some other PDG-releases - lower case "stealth", "verses" instead of "versus" - there are a couple more typo-level glitches in the pdf, though they admittedly do not usually hamper the rules-language.

The Avoodim Purifier increases the damage output versus outsiders (all of them, not only a subtype) and gains several abilities to enhance his knowledge versus outsiders as well as the option to add this variant of disruptive pattern to melee attacks performed with slashing weapons instead of swift trapper...which is pretty potent. Let's take a look: The ability does specify that it is the exception to the 1/round caveat - so far, so good. The problem lies within the contradictory wording, which makes me believe that some sort of balancing caveat was lost somewhere: "A purifier can use his disruptive outsider as part of any or all attacks made with slashing weapons he makes." and "The purifier cannot use this ability as part of an edged melee attack and as a ray attack in the same round." So, what is "edged"? Can it or can't it be used? I thought it was slashing melee exclusive, so why the ray caveat? I think I know what the ability was trying to preotect abuse-wise against, but as written, this does require some clarification. As a capstone, the archetype has an apotheosis, which is relatively cool as far as that type of conventional design goes and the higher levels allow for planar allies.

The pdf also features new feats for the cryptic, 7 to be precise. These generally deal and interact (or are part) of the respective archetypes, with Chaotic Favor allowing for the modification of the chaotic roll as part of manifesting a power to be modified by +/- 1d3, with erkunae gaining +1d4 instead, exacerbating the aforementioned reroll power's strength. The Chaotic Power metapsionic feat unlocks a lesser variant of the archetype class feature for non-archetype adherents, with the same caveat. Enduring Defense has the following benefits: "You can the benefits of the enduring defense class feature that you otherwise would not have." - I am pretty sure there's a verb missing here and while I can guess what this is supposed to mean...it's nonfunctional. Extra Sentencing allows for more sentene uses by the aforementioned Dragonblooded archetype. Floral Growth is a bit like a gardener variety of a psionic Brew Potion - which is nice, though explicitly stating the activation action and mechanics would have helped here - one can extrapolate those, sure, but e.g. the usage of "wearer" does imply that these growths take up slots which they may or may not do. Parkoud Climbing would be a solid take on the aforementioned nightrunner archetype's tricks in feat-form

The pdf provides three new insights, which allow for the upside down change of sequence of iterative attacks regarding their base attack bonus (Interesting!) - though, as a word of warning, in groups less mathematically versed than mine, this could slow down the gamelplay, as the cryptic is thinking which totality of his iterative attacks is more efficient. Also: My group at least rolls atk, damage, atk, damage...not atk, atk, atk, damage, damage, damage... So depending on how you play, this may be pretty useless. The follow up insight provides complete control over the sequence, which sounds intriguing on paper, but will slow down gameplay in even math-savvy groups, while retaining the predecessor insight's issues. Finally, there is a metagaming insight I really dislike on a personal basis: Move action to learn an enemy's AC, CMB and CMD. No range or the like required. IF your group likes these types of abilities, cool - I really don't.

The pdf also provides 10 psionic powers, which include a multi-energy ray, crystalline shackles...the general visuals an intent is pretty cool. Unfortunately, the wording does not always live up to the precision required. Crystalline Shackles, for example, limits movement to "5 foot movements, with an Acrobatics check DC 20 to move at half speed." Does this movement count as 5-foot steps when the Acrobatics-check is failed? Is there a consequence for attempting the check and failing (no movement)? The rules-language could have easily been streamlined to where is did not feature this unfortunate wording. A teleport + distraction-clone-power is imho too low on the level scale, lacks information pertaining the control of the duplicate and lacks the teleport-prevention caveat for ability/power/spell interactions...well, you get the idea. All in all, a well-intentioned array of powers that can be streamlined into properly working...but also a section that misses the precision I would have wanted the concepts to feature.

The pdf does have new magic items as well - gloves that allow for the blending of hidden pocket and containers, jackets of hidden pockets and a torc that makes powers look like they originated elsewhere - pretty neat. The pdf concludes with new materials, the first of which would be godsmind crystals: Holding such a crystal "reduces hit points by 1 per hit die." This NEEDS to be maximum hit points, otherwise sequence, healing etc. come into play. Also, "A character can use the crystal to cause 1 hit point of damage per hit die they have to another creature, but they take the same amount of damage." Untyped damage. No DR-interaction. No range. "In the hands of a psion, they are able to infuse power points into so that the creature takes 1d6 points of damage, while still taking 1 hit die of damage per die of damage they deal." Okay, there is so much wrong with that sentence. To give you a brief impression: Only psions? How much power points? What's a "hit die of damage"? I get what this is supposed to do, but the wording isn't functional even before going into disrupt pattern interaction. The second item would be a godmind crystal gavel...which obviously suffers from the base material being horribly broken.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a mixed bag - while, in the beginning, the issues pertaining rules-language were pretty minimal, the latter pieces of content did somewhat decrease in quality. On a formal level, the pdf does have more glitches than I am accustomed to in Purple Duck Games books by now. Layout adheres to the 1-column, relatively printer-friendly full-color standard with some nice artworks, though astute readers may know them from other publications. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Scott Dillon's Cryptics of Porphyra is not a bad book, let me make that abundantly clear. In contrast to many a book featuring racial archetypes, the book tries very hard (and succeeds) in blending the unique flavor of the respective races with the archetypes associated with them, so that's a plus. However, at the same time, there are a lot of hiccups on both formal and rules-aesthetic levels that decrease the overall functionality of the book to the point where I consider precious few rules-components to be on the level of precision I expect and require in my games. Unlike many a supplement, these can be salvaged by a competent GM/rules-dev/editor, but I can't rate the potential alone here, particularly considering that several of the components herein focus on a rather brutal escalation of cryptic damage-output that may be too much for some groups. As a person, I like this book significantly more than the array of problems would make you believe, but as a reviewer, I have an obligation to my audience. Let's not beat around the bush: This needs work. It has some gems in it, but they do need refinement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars...and unfortunately, I can't round up for this one.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cryptics of Porphyra
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The Sighted Seeker
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:19:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This prestige archetype clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, prestige archetype? Well, yeah. In case you're not familiar with the concept, check out my page and a tag/quick search away, you'll get all the reviews for them. Concept-wise, the idea is to basically roll a PrC's features into a core class, making it more akin to an archetype/variant class. Originally invented by Carl Cramér for Purple Duck Games, this concept has been pretty intriguing...so let's take a look at whether it translates well to the psionic context!

The sighted seeker as presented herein is based on the PrC of the same name and utilizes the chassis of ranger and marksman as basis. The class gets d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and begins with 1 power point, scaling up to 99 at 20th level. Powers known-wise, we begin with 1 and scale that up to 13 at 20th level; the maximum power level available is 4th. Powers are chosen from the seeker powers list (with the noted exception of Expanded Knowledge) and the governing manifesting attribute would be Wisdom. Proficiency-wise, the class gets all simple weapons as well as all light, projectile and thrown martial weapons as well as bucklers and light armors. Skill-wise, they get 4+Int-mod skills.

At first level, sighted seekers receive Urban Tracking as well as their first favored prey - against said creatures, the sighted seeker gets +2 to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive and Survival checks as well as +2 to atk and damage and save DCs. They may also make untrained knowledge checks against them. Humanoids and outsiders have the subtype caveat. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the class chooses another favored prey and increases the bonus granted by one of his favored preys by the same amount as above - the save DC-increase is pretty nasty, but in my playtest, the ability checked out, considering the low maximum power level.

At 5th level, a sighted seeker may expend 3 power points as a standard action, provided he is able to unquestionably identify a creature by its deeds - the traget creature becomes a mark and is treated as favored prey with an additional +1 bonus; if the creature is already a favored prey, the bonus increases to +2 instead. This ability, known as "Mark Prey", enhances quite a few class features.

2nd level allows the sighted seeker to read the wind: While psionically focused to expend a swift action to gain a competence bonus equal to Wis-mod to ranged attacks until the end of the round, usable 3+ class level times per day. While I'm not a big fan of two attributes to atk, here this does somewhat offset the MAD component of the class. At 3rd level, the sighted seeker may gather information every 10 minutes while in a crowd, with bonuses pertaining marked prey, making them excellent hunters.

At 2nd level, the sighted seeker must choose one combat style: Finesse, Sniper or Volley are available: These diverge from the usual concept of combat styles quite a bit: At 4th level, they have a style skill: This skill gets scaling bonuses. Also at 4th level, each combat style gains a style technique, which can be activated via the expenditure of the psionic focus: Finesse seekers can use this trick to perform a selection of combat maneuvers at range, sniper can add Wis-mod to damage and volley specialists and volley specialists can grant themselves an additional attack as part of a full attack, but this does not stack with other abilities like haste...until 15th level, when it does. On a nitpicky side, this one does lack a few italicizations, but otherwise is precise.

Cooler and rewarding from a player's perspective: Starting at 6th level, the sighted seeker gets a style mantra - this is a bonus that is maintained for as long as the prestige archetype maintains psionic focus: So yes, there is a reward for keeping and for expending it, making for interesting and valid tactical choices. Kudos! Each combat style also grants style abilities, the first of which is gained at 6th level, with additional ones being unlocked every 4 levels thereafter. Finesse seekers focus on tricks like negating uncanny dodge or adding negative conditions. Snipers can significantly increase the power output of single shots and shoot through creatures - a 10th level sniper (as a nitpick: The ability ought to note the level it's gained, though it's obvious from context) shooting a creature has a pretty high chance of annihilating it, as befitting of the concept...and sans breaking the math. Volley specialists can combine movement and less accurate attacks, split missiles, etc.

At 7th level, a specific array of powers gets a special new augment to make powers last longer and 8th level and every 3 thereafter net bonus feats. At 9th level, the class gets seeker's analysis: Perception is enhanced with two new uses to find evidence and analyze material; similarly, Knowledge is enhanced - yes, this actually does make sense and provides non-combat utility, something often missing from martially bent classes. At 12th level, sighted seekers may expend power points to determine the authenticity of a given source and grant bonuses. 13th level unlocks quarry, 14th level 1/week hypercognition and 16th level provides remote viewing with enhanced potency versus the mark. At 18th level, metafaculty can be manifested 1/week and 19th level provides improved quarry.

The pdf comes with favored class options for blues, dromites, duergar, elan, femanx, forgeborn, half-giants, maenads, norals, ophiduans, qi'tar and xeph -all of which seem balanced and fitting, though there's a cut-copy-paste-typo "unless the you has selected." Cosmetic, though.

The pdf also features a sample character, Tikki Mantracker, a blue, who comes with a level 1, 5, 10 and 15 version.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the weakest component of the pdf - there are a precious few italicization/typo-level glitches, though these never truly hamper rules-language...which is precise, to the point and well crafted. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard, with the exception of the introduction page, which instead features a 1-column standard. The pdf has no art apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Mark Gedak, master of Purple Duck Games, delivers one of the very best prestige archetypes released so far: The sighted seeker is a truly fun class to play: With combat utility and out of combat tricks, powers and an interesting action economy, balanced and versatile options and a diverse, yet focused niche, the class is very rewarding: The perfect bloodhound/hunter - equal parts relentless huntsman and Sherlock Holmes, the sighted seeker makes for a truly rewarding playing experience that does not fall into the traps such builds could feature. The class is fun, well crafted and rewarding both in and outside of combat, which is a big thing, at least for me.

All glitches that are in this book are cosmetic and while I wished the class had a unique capstone for each style, that ultimately is a personal preference and not something to hold against this pdf. In short: I really like this one - the few hiccups herein are minor and certainly do not hamper the appeal of this cool class. The class, just fyi, should work equally well in high fantasy and lower fantasy contexts, so yeah - nothing of significance to complain about. Ultimately, in spite of the minor hiccups, this prestige archetype is extremely rewarding: Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up and since I really liked it, this also gets my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sighted Seeker
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Orcam of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/19/2016 08:47:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' "...of Porphyra"-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 31 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief piece of introductory fluff, we are introduced to the Orcam's racial stats: The race receives +2 Con and Cha, -2 Int, are medium, have a land speed of 30 ft, a swim speed of 40 ft, low-light vision, cold resistance 5, gain hold breath, are proficient with spears, tridents and nets, gain a +2 racial bonus to Ride checks when riding whales/dolphins and underwater, they may, as a move action, emit an echolocation pulse to locate objects and creatures within 30 ft. - this one can be suppressed by silence. Okay, from the base set-up, we get a powerful race approximately on par with aasimar etc., but one whose benefits are pretty circumstantial - in aquatic campaigns, they obviously excel, whereas on primarily landbased campaigns, the race works pretty well with less powerful races. The race has a unique thing going for it and gets formatting completely right, something pretty rare.

Next up, we take a look at society, alignment, adventuring, etc. - and in the cultural department, the race does have several unique components as well, first of which would be their nomenclature: The race features a "Deep Name", to be pronounced underwater, as well as a airbound name - and this makes sense to me. It may seem negligible, but it is these little tidbits that good roleplayer latch on to and generate whole angles out of. The race features a proper array of age, height and weight tables to supplement it and comes with 7 race traits for your perusal: From slightly better initiative to bulky frames and improved flanking, the traits are relevant, appropriate for their power-level and get the bonus type right.

For more customization options, the race features a total of 9 alternate race traits: These include a primary natural bite attack (which actually is properly codified in every way!), self-only blood rage 1/day, tremorsense while in contact with water and only pertaining creatures also in contact with the body of water, darkvision and light sensitivity, better social skills, better aiding others, Small orcam, natural armor instead of cold resistance or +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha as alternate racial traits. The array of alternate racial traits is well-balanced against the abilities they replace, the rules-language is precise...and once again, I am left with no complaints.

The pdf also offers 7 racial feats - and here, I can finally complain properly about something! Yeah! The Dorsal Fin feat that increases swim speed...lacks the "ft." after the increase. ... Yeah, sorry. The feat also allows for direction changes underwater, just fyi. Longer range echolocation under water (and 20 ft. on land), gaining a gore attack, speak with animals with aquatic creatures, minor DR and bonus to Escape Artist...intriguing. Orcam rangers (or those characters with favored terrain) can take a feat starting at 5th level to change favored terrain and there is a feat that allows for the better wielding of weapons underwater. The race also gets a racial combat style, the Shark Style - the base feat generates bleed damage when you score multiple hits and helps when fighting underwater; the follow-up feats allow for rend bonus damage versus bleeding foes and free demoralize attempts versus foes bleeding - even if you're not interested in the Orcam AT ALL, fans of sahuagin may very well get this pdf for this chain alone...it's pretty damn awesome! There is also an okay teamwork feat that slightly increases damage output when flanking with allies and adds demoralize to crits. The metamagic feat, at +1 spell level, adds splash damage to AoE-spells, which is a nice concept. In a minor nitpick: The feat only mentions minimum damage - which could be read as applying to attribute damage and becomes problematic when combined with fixed damage spells (or maximized ones) - a good GM can easily read the feat as intended, but a tad bit more precision here would have been nice.

The pdf also provides the overdue greatspear as well as the gut razor, which is particularly potent when used in coup-de-grâces as well as the glove-less scaly mail variant of scale mail. Magic item-wise, there is an enchantment for composite bows that allows the wielder to change Str-bonuses - for an applied use of it, a lethal bow can be found here. The ambergris amulet has defensive properties and denotes you as a healer among the orcam. We do get the at this point obligatory electric eel armor, though admittedly, the execution isn't bad. An Octopus shield that can flail its tentacles and fire ink is pretty cool and a water-themed staff complements the section - all in all, a precise, well-crafted array of items.

The spell section is interesting - blood rage grants stacking bonuses to Str and penalties to AC for damage incurred (with a cap, thankfully), variants of scent-masking and a octopus-inkjet-style variant of expeditious retreat is cool. The 4th level spell Land Shark lets you go bulette! Cool!

The pdf also features racial archetypes/class options, 3 to be more precise. The first of these would be the order of naumachy cavalier order: These guys can't issue a challenge against a good or neutral target - which brings me to an issue: What if they do? Is the challenge attempt wasted? What about action economy? Not sure. The challenge bestows a +1 dodge bonus to AC and +1 insight to saves, which increases by +1 for every 4 levels. They may also only issue challenges while wearing light armor and carrying no more than light load - all in all, a very restrictive challenge. 2nd level provides a paladin's detect evil and 10th level 1/day smite evil at 1/2 levels. 8th level lets the order choose a terrain from a limited list and shout orders as a swift action to grant allies within 50 ft. bonuses and 15th level nets the mount the aqueous simple template, which is a bit late.

The Deep Sea Patroller hunter archetype gains an aquatic companion and, instead of animal focus, nets the companion several toughness-related bonus feats and, at 8th and 15th level, the powerful stalwart ability and its improved cousin, respectively.3rd level offers amphibious for hunter and companion, with higher levels providing darkvision. 6th level provides a life bond that allows for limited saving roll rerolls and the means to take excess damage when a companion would be reduced to below 0 hp, instead reducing it only to 1 hp. Instead of woodland stride, the archetype can pass easily through corals, sea weed etc. - though I'd be interested in whether this also applies to damaging terrain. 12th level nets a +3 favored terrain and 15th level provides a continuous freedom of movement for the pair.

The next archetype would be the Searager bloodrager - and here, we have something odd: Tidal Wave Blitz reads "This works as bloodrage, but when a searager charges an opponent he counts as one size category larger for when making a bull rush or overrun attempt." I am pretty sure something went wrong here - does this benefit only apply while bloodraging? I also am pretty sure that there's an excess "for" here. The archetype also gains the woodland stride variant - the same question as above applies. 6th level unlocks cure spells, though the pdf fails to italicize them properly. At 7th level, these guys can conjure forth shields of water as immediate actions.

The pdf thereafter continues to tell us about the orcam's take on respective adventuring classes, including occult classes and those introduced by Purple Duck Games - I like this section, as it provides a better feeling for the culture of the race. This section is btw. also supplemented with a significant array of favored class options, which include the ACG and OA-classes as well as Infinyte, Illuminatus and the like. The section generally is solid. The pdf concludes with a sample level 1 orcam barbarian.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are excellent in both formal and rules-language departments: The bonus types are clear, the rules-language precise. While there are a few hiccups, these tend to be minor ones. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 1-column layout standard that results in A5-sized (9'' by 6'') books - something to bear in mind regarding the page-count. The pdf sports glorious, original full-color artworks of male and female orcam and comes with bookmarks for each section, making navigation pretty comfortable.

Derek Blakely's Orcam are a cool race - they have a unique trick, are generally balanced as one of the stronger races and are diverse enough. Their culture is intriguing and, unless you're playing a nautical campaign with a lot of water where all other PCs are landlubbers, the race shouldn't unbalance a given group. So yeah, only GMs going for a "airbreathers on the sea/underwater"-style of campaign may want to be a bit careful here - these guys are good in the water! (Then again, if you're using Cerulean Seas' more powerful aquatic races as well, this will fit in just perfectly.

For the most part, the pdf is absolutely meticulously crafted with an eye towards cool options and balance at the same time - the race-section, the items, the fluff - all feels like a project of passion and it shows and translates to that. At the same time, the class options are the weakest part of the pdf: The cavalier order is very restrictive and the other two archetypes have evocative tricks, but also don't reach the level of precision the other content features. They also, conspicuously, are less precise in the formatting-department.

Now that being said, the damn cool Shark Style, the evocative race itself and the nice cultural tidbits included do make this race a welcome addition to environments both aquatic and non-aquatic: Due to the lack of requirement to actually stay wet etc., the orcam make for a viable, nice race to include among the PC-approved roster. One more interesting coincidence: While their culture does not necessarily point towards this and while their nomenclature obviously stems from "orcas", that's only one letter away from orc - so if you're bored by the old green-skins and want something unique and different...why not use these? I certainly have ideas on how to introduce these fellows in my game!

Ah, the verdict. Well, try as I might, I really like these guys and the author shows care and a precise grasp of rules only rarely seen..but considering the minor hiccups, I can't go with an apex-level rating; for that, the jaw-dropping archetype/class option/whatever is missing. For the more than fair price point, this does remain a very good, if not 100% perfect purchase, though. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Orcam of Porphyra
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Unarmored and Dangerous (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/12/2016 10:06:02

An Endzeitgeist.com

This massive sourcebook clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page of front cover, 1 page of editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with...yes. 82 pages of content. That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's take a look!

This book, just fyi, is not a collection of classes in the traditional sense - instead, the goal of this book is to provide a unified set of traditions to codify martial arts in Pathfinder. The pdf does this by introducing martial "ways" - like the Way of the Void, which adds Wisdom-modifier to AC and CMD, even when flat-footed and to touch AC. The Way of Life does the same for Charisma, but loses the bonuses when becoming flat-footed. Both work only when unarmored and unencumbered.

The Way of the Mind adds 1 point of Int-mod per class level as a dodge bonus to AC and CMD, but only while armed with a melee weapon and not denied Dex-mod and the martial arts style works with regular (non-large) shields and when wearing light armor. Way of the Body get their Constitution modifier as a circumstance bonus to AC and may stack their bonus with natural armor and enhancements thereof as well as with shields, but the AC does not enhance for CMD or touch AC. Way of Force assumes that the character has some means of erecting force armor. Finally, Way of Armor is considered to be the armor-wearing option for the characters. So that would be the classification of (already existing!) defense options that can be gained via classes, archetypes et al.

Next would be martial strikes, with a handy table that breaks down base damage for Small, Medium and Large sizes by BAB (and includes non-martial artists) - martial artists using an unarmed strike get Improved Unarmed Strike and thus, the monk-y damage types are covered here. After a brief discussion of weapon groups, we dive into archetypes for the respective classes that allow you to basically add martial arts to existing classes, grouped for your convenience by the Way the archetypes adhere to - and yes, this is the reason why I bothered to explain the respective way-classifications in detail. They are useful to bear in mind for designers, sure - but beyond that, understanding them once allows you to basically create your own archetypes pretty easily.

Now, as for the Way of the Void, we have 3 archetypes - the Iron Inquisitor, the Path of Spirit Cleric and the Void Fighter. All of these have in common that they gain not only the Wis-modifier to AC, they also gain scaling further bonuses to AC at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, following the guidelines as presented above in the brief discussion on the way of the void. The respective archetypes also feature a proper unarmed fighting damage progression, that increases the damage-die size at BAB +4, +8 and +12, respectively. While this is a minor deviation from usual rules-language, which tends to codify the like in levels instead, it is a functionally sound one. Obviously, the exchanged abilities differ from class to class, with the loss of proficiencies in the armor department being a unifying theme. The inquisitor also loses track and domain, the cleric domain powers, spells and spell-slots, though the cleric does get a modified skill-list including Acrobatics etc. to make up for this. The fighter, finally, would be the most complex of the modifications, gaining a modified skill-list (but, alas, no upgrade to skills per level - poor sap is still stuck with 2 + Int mod...) as well as a +1 bonus to Reflex saves that increases by +1 every four levels beyond second, replacing thus bravery. Armor training is lost in favor of 3rd level evasion and 19th level nets DR 5/- instead of armor mastery, with the capstone replacing weapon mastery with gaining an auto-confirm for one type of weapon (and a multiplier increased by 1); if unarmed strikes are chosen, the character gains 18-20/x3. Additionally, the character can no longer be disarmed when wielding this weapon. Nice one! This would be as good a place as any to note that each archetype presented herein comes with a sample character, drawing upon the rich variety of races available in the Porphyra-setting.

The Way of Life, the Charisma-governed array of archetypes, provides a total of 4 such archetypes, though their balancing is a tad bit more complex, with none of them providing a straight and narrow concept applied. The Child of Wild Ranger, for example, does receive his bonus to touch attacks in a conscious deviation from the established base-line and gains uncanny dodge at 2nmd level instead of the combat style feat. (It should be noted that, as far as I read this, the choice for combat styles still must be made here, to ensure the integrity of follow-up abilities in the class progression - only the feat is lost, not combat style per se as a class feature. This is something to bear in mind and may be an oversight or not - I assume competence here due to the rather deliberate wording, but still felt that prospective readers might want to be aware of this peculiarity.

The Noble Savage Barbarian (EZG flashes back to "Introduction to Cultural Studies" and the tropes of the noble savage...) may enter a disciplined rage - basically, the archetype can burn 2 rounds of rage per round instead of one, allowing the character to utilize rage powers, but not benefit from other benefits of rage. The character can freely switch between regular and disciplined rage and duration stacks with regular rage benefits for fatigue cool-down, unless it is the only rage employed, where the character no longer takes the fatigued condition. Starting at 5th level, 1 minute of disciplined rage translates to 1 round of rage burned, with 9th and 13th level increasing the ratio to 10 minutes and an hour, respectively and 19th level unlocking the option to always use rage powers...which is very strong. Uncanny dodge is gained at 3rd level and its improved brethren at 7th and indomitable will being unlocked at 15th.

The archetype pay for these powers with trap sense as well as DR and also gets an expanded skill-list. Overall, I may be weary of powerful barbarian archetypes - the general notion that barbarians rank among the most powerful melee classes is something I'd immediately sign, having experienced the brutal annihilation that 3 power-gamer barbarians with vastly diverging builds have brought upon foes at my table. This archetype, as a whole, does not lose any crucial features and takes a limited resource, namely rage powers, balanced by their limited availability, and amplifies their availability by factor 10, then factor 10 again and then factor 60. Do the math. The system of the class is not made for this and it simply begs to be abused to all hell. Another issue would pertain rage-cycling tricks - if e.g. 10 minutes of disciplined rage count as 1 round of rage and the barbarian ends it after 2 minutes, does that allow for yet another use upon restarting the disciplined rage? If so, does it resume at the 2 minute mark? I assume no, but I am not sure, since the archetype does manage to cover interaction between rage and disciplined rage, but not within it.

The Oracle of the Way goes a different route, beginning play with Improved Unarmed Strike and, when unarmored and unencumbered, adds Cha-mod to her dodge bonus to AC and CMD, applying it against touch attacks as well and losing them when encumbered or deprived of Dexterity mod to AC, replacing armor proficiencies and the oracle's curse. The martial strikes damage-die progression can be gained via the selection of one of the archetype-exclusive revelations, which also includes significant bonuses to Acrobatics, Evasion, Fast Movement, Stunning Fist and Uncanny Dodge - the basics of martial arts. However, the oracle may never select a revelation that grants an armor bonus.

Finally, the uncanny monk gets uncanny dodge at 3rd level, its improved brother at 7thand pays for that with Still Mind, otherwise being a pretty straight conversion of the monk to the Cha-based way of martial arts.

Next up would be the archetypes for the Way of the Mind, with the Magus getting two of them, the Canny Magus and the Magus of the Mind. The canny magus replaces medium and heavy armor proficiency with canny defense and moves improved spell recall to 13th level. Straight and simple. The Magus of the Mind has no armor proficiency and proficiencies with monk/oriental weapons and also gets canny defense, replacing the armor proficiencies, but also gets the martial strike damage die scaling and moves Improved Spell Recall down to 10th level - this would be the more monk-y variant, basically. Canny Rangers are proficient with light armors and shields only, get a modified skill list, fast movement at 4th level, uncanny dodge at 7th and improved uncanny dodge at 13th. 10th level makes all jumps long and provides full speed while balancing/climbing. All in all, a solid take on the concept. The Canny Rogue is basic, replacing trapfinding with canny defense. The Canny Summoner loses armor and shield proficiency in favor of Canny Defense. Quicksilver Alchemists, finally, get a modified proficiency list, canny defense replacing swift and instant alchemy and the option to generate quicksilver oils, which modify the extracts-list. This modification, though, also means that the alchemist loses basically the own-body-transformation extracts.

The Way of the Body provides 5 archetypes, the first of which would be the Animal Adoptee, who gets a modified skill-list as well as an extension of prohibited armors, but also the Constitution-based Way of the Body - and no, it does not stack with wild shape's natural armor bonuses. The Brave Barbarian exchanges armor proficiencies with Way of the Body, noting that rage does not increase the AC gained thus. The Grizzled Ranger adds Acrobatics to his list of class skills and exchanges armor proficiency with Way of the Body. The Iron Man Fighter does not gain a suit - quite the contrary; he gets a modified skill-list as well as Way of the Body, but pay for that with armor training. Armor mastery is instead applied to being unarmored. The Scarred Alchemist similarly exchanges his armor and shield proficiencies with Way of the Body. All in all, more linear, basic archetypes here, maintaining thus more multi-archetype potential.

The final way, the Way of the Force, covers 10 archetypes: The Dandy Bard gets a modified proficiency list, losing out on, among other things, armor, but gains mage armor at 4th level as a 1st level bard spell and may stack its bonus with bracers. The Force Knight cavalier loses all armor and shield proficiencies, but starts play with the option to generate a +7 armor of force that can be enhanced with spells etc.; but such enhancements do not stack with 4th level's ability to stack bracers of armor on it. The bonus granted by this armor is +7, which is pretty hardcore at 1st level, particularly since the armor comes with a matching shield of force. 4th level unlocks 1/day mage armor that can only affect the mount and 6th level allows for the creation of force weapons that get the ghost touch property...and may be enchanted. Question, though: They are generally not considered magical as in getting +1 bonus, only for affecting creatures, so how do you calculate further enhancing force weapons? Alas, no idea. I'm generally weary of this archetype - with an indestructible armor at 1st level, the archetype is too dip-prone for my tastes, with only expert trainer and the 6th level feat-gain paying for these powerful tools.

The Ghost Hunter Rogue gets the mage armor/bracers-combo, with the SP for mage armor starting off at 2/day, +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. At 3rd level, the rogue gains at-will disrupt undead, which can be used in conjunction with full attacks and sneak attacks. Additionally, he inflicts full damage versus incorporeal foes and may inflict sneak attack damage on them. Additionally, the SP may be used in melee and increases in potency and range, with high levels allowing for other creature types to be affected. This does replace trapfinding and trap sense, though, requiring the expenditure of a rogue talent to be able to disarm magical traps. Ghost Knight cavaliers get s a modified proficiency list and begin play with a destiny that powers the SPs and SUs of the knight as a narrative device. These knights get the ghostly armors and shields of the force knight, with the same trepidations applying, but this one also helping with Disguise-checks...+10. OUCH. 2nd level replaces the order ability with perma ghost touch on weapons wielded as well as SP mage armor for the mount. The mount is replaced with the third level ability to gain a phantom steed (1/day; at-will at 6th level; 9th level: As a swift action; 12th level: As an immediate action; 15th level: Steed becomes incorporeal), basically eliminating the need for mount-y cool-downs after it perishes. 4th level replaces expert trainer with an extra-dimensional weapons cache (!!) and 8th level replaces the order ability gained there with 1/day ethereal jaunt. The final order ability at 15th level is replaced with an extension of ghost touch to all allies within 60 ft. I like this one's fluff, though I consider it slightly too powerful for what it takes - see above for the dip-issue and adding the steed and cache...makes for a cool archetype, yes...but also one that is imho a tad bit too good.

The Guard Maid Paladin gets the force aura/bracer combo as well as the force shield, but pays for it with armor and shield proficiency. The archetype also receives the Body-guard-Ward theme, replacing aura of good and may smite threats to the target, greatly enhancing smite's versatility. Lay on hands may only be used on herself and her ward and instead of detect evil, scaling bonuses to Profession 8servant), which may be used as a replacement for Perception, are gained at 2nd level. 4th level nets the extra-dimensional weapon cache and spells that usually affect only evil creatures apply their benefits versus threats to her ward - OUCH! Divine bond must be a weapon. 14th level makes all attacks within 10 feet count as lawful and 17th level provides DR 5/- and immunity to compulsion spells and SPs, with allies gaining a save-boost instead. As a capstone, the archetype increases DR and adds banishment to smite. I like the theme of this archetype, though the force-trickery PLUS the significantly improves smite and spells render this one too strong in my book -at least while the smite lasts. Once the daily array is done, the archetype loses quite a bit of power, making the playing experience a bit swingy.

The Protégé Bard gains a familiar at first level and the usual mage armor/bracers-synergy of the Way of Force, including loss of armor proficiencies. At 1st level, the protégé gains a patron audience - a powerful entity that may gate in the bard, thus allowing for a great rationale for absentee players to vanish. Furthermore, high levels provide more interaction options here and limited control for the bard - a VERY cool ability that is basically narrative gold if handled correctly. Just FYI, it replaces deadly performance and the familiar kills off countersong and distraction. Instead of bardic knowledge and jack of all trades, these bards also add patron spells to their bard spells known and 10th level nets commune at-will. Easily one of my favorite archetypes herein.

The Robe Magus is once again a simple one - replace the medium and heavy armor proficiencies with the mage armor-trick, but also add scaling bonuses at higher levels to retain its viability. The Robed Summoner similarly loses the armor and shield proficiencies, but may stack mage armor and bracers and also gets 6 force-themed spells. The Shield Maiden Paladin would be the light-version archetype herein, with modified skill lists, no armor proficiency and a force armor akin to that of the ghost knight, including the Disguise bonus. Her shields are ghost touch and her divine bond is modified to apply to her shield instead. 8th level nets SP fly on herself (and mount) +1/day at 8th level and every 2 levels thereafter, with 11th level granting overland flight as an alternative and 17th level making the ability at will, replacing aura of righteousness thus. No complaints about this one. The Shining Cleric get the force armor (only at +5 AC, though) and replace channel energy with basically the sacerdote's untyped ray (see my review of Legendary Classes: Sacerdote for this one) and the shield as well. Shining inquisitors lose proficiency with shields and armor and gain the same sacred aura as their cleric brothers as also gets the force shield.

All right, the pdf has even more to offer, though; it also features a total of 5 new base classes, with each exemplifying one of the martial arts codified herein. The first of these would be the Boxer, who gains full BAB-progression, d12 HD, 2 +Int skills per level , proficiency with simple and close weapon group weapons as well as with shields. Boxers may not wear armor or use shields or carry something in two hands and gain, obviously, Improved Unarmed Strike. Boxers add class level to damage, +1/2 class level with two weapons or shields. He gets the canny Int per level to AC and CMD and adds Con-mod as natural AC. At 2nd level, the boxer gets the Block class feature, which lets him perform a competing attack roll against an incoming attack - on a success, he blocks it, with every 5 levels thereafter allowing for +1 block per round. After such a block, however, the boxer is staggered for 1 round, which cannot be mitigated. I assume this to also offset immunity to being staggered and it's the reason why I'm not rattling off my usual disdain-for-swingyness of competing rolls rant right now. Higher levels provide more bonuses to atk and damage, resistance versus certain conditions, more AoOs and 3rd level (+ 6th, 11th, 16th and 20th) allow for the progression of the chosen boxing style, which can be likened to orders or similar linear ability-suites. 3 boxing styles are provided, with haymakers allowing for his weapons/unarmed attacks to count as two-handed, 6th level dazing blows...generally nice. At 16th level, the style lets you perform one attack as a full-round action. If you hit, it's automatically a critical threat and damage multiplier is enhanced to x3. Ouch, particularly considering the significant damage bonuses of the class. 20th level provides crippling criticals here, with reduced speed, attribute damage, etc..

Stylists are defensive and agile, allowing them to follow up blocks with AoOs. Swarmers would be the TWF-specalists here, with high levels allowing for a 10 ft-step instead of a 5 ft-step or a 5 ft-step in difficult terrain.

The second class would be the fencer, who gains full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons as well as light armors and shields. They get canny defense, Weapon finesse, add fencer level to damage in melee when one-handing a weapon (+1/2 level when employing a buckler) as well as parry, riposte and the like - this is basically a twist on the duelist as a base class (with all that entails - I'll spare you my usual rant here), though one that also features an order/bloodline-akin set of fencing schools, somewhat analogue to the boxing styles mentioned before...oh, and there are 13 of these and they modify much, much more: Agrippa, Bonetti, Capo Ferro, Carranza, Firentine, Ghisliero, Grazzi, Hard Knocks, Hayd’n, Melane, Military, Tibault and Yeoman can be selected. These schools have requirements (Agrippa can only be used with Weapon Finesse weapons and may not be sued in conjunction with off-hand weapons or shields, but off-hand ranged weapons such as throwing daggers are permitted.) and grant abilities at 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 11th, 16th and 20th level. And guess what...in spite of not being a big fan of the parry mechanic...I consider this class to be pretty much the most faithful and coolest take on the fencer; personally, I actually prefer it over the swashbuckler, since tricks like Weapon Bind and the ability array as such generally maintains the flair of the historic inspirations for the styles...this would be my default fencer class in a magic-less swashbuckling game. Granted, I'll make the class more modular and convert swashbuckler options to more customization options to enhance player agenda...but still: Kudos!

The Lin-Kuei gets 3/4 BAB-progression, all good saves, d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, the monk AC-bonus, fast movement, proficiency with a smattering of oriental weapons and lethal sneak attack, which increases to up to 7d6, but does not apply when flanking a foe...oh, and guess what: The class has a minimum damage-caveat to avoid shuriken-sneak attack exploits! KUDOS! And yes, via so-called secret techniques,basically the talents of the class, these guys can get lethal flanking, use shuriken to flat-foot foes, poach among ninja tricks and render targets charged flat-footed against the character. With 4th level ki pool, evasion and uncanny dodge etc. and basically a significant array of monk tricks, these guys can be pictured as a powerful (never thought I'd write that in the monk context!) hybrid of monk and ninja...and boy, me likes. While pretty potent and definitely better than rogue and monk, these guys make for pretty much a perfect class for the quick-footed martial artist and prove to be a more than cool addition to the fray! Another winner here!

The Mystic Dancer gets 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, ingrained unarmed strike progression, d8 HD and 6+Int skills per level as well as a modified proficiency list (barring armors) and Cha-governed spontaneous spellcasting, drawn from the bard list. They may not apply Still spell to any spells, but may apply Silent Spell to them. They use Way of Life (i.e. the Charisma-based martial art) and can best be pictured as a monk/bard-hybrid. Now this is a personal preference, but I consider the full bardic spellcasting and skill upgrade a bit much here...though, admittedly, the class should probably not completely outclass the bard, since by now the class has a lot of unique material to utilize. Still, in comparison to a core-only bard, the mystic dancer will probably win...if not restricted, for the performance they use is dependent on movement, which may well be the most deceptively cool balancing mechanism in the finer details I've seen in quite a while. In play, this relatively simple restriction proved to be a rather intriguing tactical component...so yeah...another interesting one here and one I'd allow in my games!

The final class herein would be the Swordmage, who gets full BAB-progression, d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, good Fort- and Will-saves and no armor proficiency. They can cast a limited array of spells (up to 4th level) from the magus spell-list and must prepare their Int-governed spells in advance. They treat all magus and sorc/wiz spells as on their list for spell-trigger purposes, with 3rd level allowing them to use sorc/wiz spells for crafting purposes. They get Scribe Scroll at 2nd level and begin play with the full +7 AC-bonus force armor and the capacity to use a force shield. At 4th level, the swordmage can cast spells with somatic components with his weapon hand and 5th level nets an arcane pool, which, among basic enchantments, allows at 9th level for the swordmage to cast spells ritualistically from the sorc/wiz spell list, provided he has the scroll - combat utility here is almost zero, mind you: Beyond a level-restriction, it also takes at least 1 minute to do so, which maintains a sense of balance here. Spellstrike is gained at 8th level and higher levels allow for the expenditure of arcane pool points to move as a swift action, Quicken magus spells and line of sight/effect-dependent short-range teleport...alas, lacking the declaration as conjuration [teleportation]-effect...but at 17th level, that's probably not that important anymore anyways. This one is easily my least favorite of the classes introduced herein, it being basically a full BAB-twist on the magus, a kind of arcane paladin. It's not a bad take on the concept, mind you. In fact, it's one of the better takes on it...but it also is not too unique in how it plays, with the somatic component being probably the most defining feature of its playing style.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - Purple Duck Games has really taken care to make sure that the formatting is precise and functional here. On a rules-language level, there are quite a few deviations here and there - most notably a lower-case attribute here, a "Constitution bonus" instead of modifier there when it should be modifier...for the most part, these do not hamper the rules themselves, but they can be a bit annoying if you're as anal-retentive about things like this as I am. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard that still is very printer-friendly. Artwork deserves special mention here: The book has A LOT of artworks for the unique characters featured herein, with many gorgeous 1-page artworks...kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks pointing to each class, archetype, way...the book is easy to navigate.

Carl Cramér, Julian Neale and August Hahn deliver in this book...something completely different than what I expected. This is not a WuXia-toolkit like Dragon Tiger Ox; neither is it Path of War or the Martial Arts Guidebook - this book, in a way, is much more down to earth and compatible with your average Pathfinder group. Why? Because it basically codifies the already existing martial defenses that stand in for armor and defines them as entities. After that, it proceeds to apply said defenses as ready toolkits to existing classes, showing you the easy modifications you need to make. Extrapolating a relative value for them and applying them further is rather easy at this point - and it may be the coolest thing about the archetype-section. I won't lie - that section of the book did not wow me from a creativity stand-point...but it incited an understanding for the mindset behind applying the respective martial arts to base-classes...and if I'm not sorely mistaken, that's ultimately the idea of this book.

This is further enforced by the base classes introduced here - for while not all of them did blow me away, a couple actually did...to the point where I want to use them, play them even. That's a pretty big deal, considering the limited space allotted to them. And yes, they lack favored class options. However, while certainly not perfect, the central achievement of this book, to me, lies in its didactic component. A halfway crunch-savvy GM can take the ideas herein and run with them, making a whole array of unique martial arts-y classes that end up being more artsy (haha -sorry...will punch myself later for that) than the didactically-used archetypes herein. To me, this book teaches by showing and evaluating and it does so in a surprisingly concise manner, in spite of hiccups here and there.

How to rate this, then? Well, here, things become a bit difficult - you see, for me as a person and designer, I liked this book much more than I would have imagined...mainly because I wasn't consciously aware, not thinking of these defenses as codified "ways", but rather as yet another set of class abilities. This book did generate an awareness for me I value rather highly. Beyond that, the book actually sports no less than three classes I can see myself using and enjoying...in spite of all of them being relatively simple and me gravitating usually towards the complexity-monsters. So, once again, this book has some serious plusses. At the same time, I consider a couple of botches in the rules-language, rare though they are, unnecessary and some of the balance-decisions to be a bit off, particularly regarding the force armors and shields.

The fact remains, though, that this is basically the easiest-to-apply unarmored-martial-arts-y-toolkit for Pathfinder I know of; no new system to learn, no complex modifications - choose a base class or an archetype (most of which retain compatibility with as many archetypes as possible) and there you go. This book probably won't blow you out of the water, but its achievement lies in its gentle, unobtrusive teaching, in its simple-to-add options to the game. I can't rate this 5 stars, even though I want to...but I will rate it 4 stars. And, at least for me and from a designer/homebrewing-perspective, this very much is a superb scavenging ground that slowly but steadily grows on you and provides quite a hefty dose of food for thought and basic chassis to embellish and build upon. Hence, I will also add my seal of approval to it, with the caveat that for simple plug and play, this does somewhat lose a bit of its appeal. If you do not plan to tinker with it, consider this a 3.5 - 4 stars-file instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Unarmored and Dangerous (PFRPG)
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