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Stray Spells (Racial Guide)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/06/2017 05:30:46

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so the idea of spells becoming sentient humanoids isn’t new, but surprisingly, I have never seen the concept to be actually applied to a playable race, so the pdf does tread some new ground here. We begin the pdf thus with the “biology” if you will, of these sentient spells. Stray spells are, per se, immortal, though in practice, they always run the risk of being transcribed – this is a kind of Highlander-esque process where they can consume each other – the process takes 10 minutes, but more on that later. Stray spells are grouped in categories, depending on their spell school, with some specifics included – stray spells born from dispel magic, for example, tend to end up as loners…after all, their raison d’être would be the destruction of other stray spells – interesting nurture vs. nature angle for roleplaying here.

Speaking of interesting roleplaying opportunities – in a process not unlike transcription, two stray spells can fuse, budding basically into the analogue of offspring in an agendered, somewhat hermaphroditic process that could, e.g. generate fiery hail storm stray spells or even more interesting combinations – the only limits here, from a narrative point of view, are the ideas of those involved.

Racial trait-wise, stray spells get +2 Int and Dex, -2 Con, are medium native outsiders with a 30 ft. base speed. While sleeping, they gain a 50% miss chance, which is weird – does it stack with other miss chances? I assume no. “Anything that affects incorporeal creatures affects them.” You get the idea here – the racial traits, while understandable, don’t really adhere to the default formatting conventions, which may irk some of you. I felt the need to mention that, but let’s move on: They gain darkvision 60 ft. A stray spell can transcribe helpless stray spells or casters that are capable of casting 6th level spells or higher (or SP-equaivalents) when coup-de-gracing them, gaining temporary hit points equal to thrice the highest spell level the creature could cast or twice the creature’s HD if it was a stray spell, whichever is higher. These hit points last 1 hour and thankfully don’t stack with themselves. Stray spells “automatically makes an opposed caster level check against any attempt to dispel them, using their full character level as their cast level.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. A) That’s not how dispel magic or comparable checks work. B) How does this there even need to be a check (by whatever weird mechanics that’s supposed to happen), when the stray spell makes the check automatically?? They take damage upon failing the check and make end up being transcribed by the victor. But…I though they automatically make their check? That’s when it finally dawned upon me how that ability works: Basically, the roll a character level check against dispel attempts; they don’t automatically “make” the check, they just roll it, as a kind of saving throw substitute. -.-

After my initial annoyance over the rather wonky wording subsided, I found myself enjoying this drawback. As living spells, they are detectable by magic…and they have a spell form: They choose a spell of 3rd level or lower – as a standard action, they can turn themselves into a one-handed spell completion item that can be used by uttering the stray spell’s name as a command word. They use their highest mental attribute modifier as governing attribute modifier. A stray spell may be cast a number of times per day equal to 6 + the HD of the stray spell, minus 2 x the chosen spell’s level…which would translate to 3rd level spell access at 1st level. This is very strong, considering the potential AoE-damage output or the option to gain fly et al. at 1st level and should, as such, have some careful GM oversight due to the wide open nature of spells. Big plus: What can be used and what can’t while in this form are generally concisely codified and e.g. DR possessed translates to hardness, they have ego, etc. While not in any way a reliable indicator of power, they do come with RP-values, if you’re using them to gage general potency.

Random starting age and height/weight notes are included, as are favored class options for a couple of classic classes and some classes by LRGG. The racial paragon class does not get a favored class option, being already exclusive for the race – this class would be the stray king, who gets 2 + Int mod skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor and shields, excluding tower shields. They have full BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Spellkings may transcribe spellcasters of 2nd level or higher and non-spell-completion/trigger items, provided the Cl of the item is equal to or less than the Max Spell Level (which starts at 0th and increases to 9th) – transcribing items never yields temporary hit points, only spells.

Wait, what? Well, the class gains transcribed spellcasting: Upon transcribing a creature, the stray king gains 1 spell the transcribed creature knew or 1 spell used in the construction of an item. The stray king thankfully can only hold ½ the character level (should probably be class level) spells this way; the original spell of the stray spell does not count towards this maximum. The maximum spell level they can transcribe thus is similarly capped per level and such spells may be spontaneously cast, with Charisma being the governing spellcasting attribute. Stray kings begin play with 1 +1/4 stray king level starting spells thus known…and, as you may have gleaned, the existence of the class has some seriously cool roleplaying ramifications – which the pdf acknowledges and talks about! Kudos there!

The spellcasting engine of the stray king, just fyi, is not your run of the mill system either: Instead, the class begins play with 4 stray energy and increases this amount every level – casting a transcribed spell requires an expenditure of stray energy points equal to the spell level. The stray energy amount scales up to 40 at 9th level, which remains pretty conservative – and that’s a good thing, considering that the class can pretty much cherry-pick from diverse spell-lists, provided they kill the foes… 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a metamagic feat and 3rd level yields the option to add 1 metamagic feat to the stray king’s original spell sans level-increase. Starting at 10th level, 2 may be added for free to the stray king’s original spell, 1 to any spell the class has. This is wonky and less elegant than it should be, considering the diverging level-increases of metamagic feats – tying the mechanic to the level-increase of metamagic feats would have been a more balanced and elegant option here.

8th and 16th level increase the speed of transcription and 12th level nets, 1/day “per 2 Charisma modifier” (wording could be streamlined) the option to regain a bit of stray energy via transcription. The capstone yields a second racial spell. At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the stray king class receives an enhancement, basically the talents of the class. These do come with roleplaying implications (Cool!) and some are accompanied by compulsions, which may temporarily be suppressed with a Will-save. They are intended as roleplaying catalysts and not as penalties – and it is nice to see the pdf state that as such for the GMs out there. The enhancements are interesting in how they interact with the class engine: Clear vision, for example, allows the stray king to add Charisma modifier to Will saves instead of Wisdom modifier and provides basically an evasion equivalent for Will-saves…but only while he has 1 illusion spell known. So yes, these enhancements interact with the current spell array known, thus rewarding diversification over specialization in the chassis of the class. A scaling, translucent armor that may be a bit overprotective, automatically transcribing undead (which leaves a somewhat nasty scent on the spell king that may offend some NPCs), swift action more flexible alter/disguise self variants, shifting temporary hit points gained from transcription to nearby allies – there are some really interesting and creative tricks here. On the annoying side – these are not properly codified by type – no idea whether they count as Sus, Sps, Ex…

A total of 8 feats are included (one of which lacks bolding for the Prerequisite and Benefit headers) that allow for the retaining of more spells, stray energy, the ability to cast the racial spell while not in spell form, extra uses in spell form, Sr equal to 10 + character level + highest mental attribute versus your chosen spell, which can be upgraded to apply to the whole school of the spell…interesting collection.

The pdf also features two sample stray king characters, Kaleido Skop, a stray spell bard and Dirk Chein, an inquisitor. Beyond these, a template allows for the creation of spell-based monsters and comes with a sample spell beast.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not bad, are also not exactly good: Beyond some formatting hiccups, there are a couple of oversights that impede playability (ability types) and some wording choices that are a bit unfortunate. That being said, the material herein DOES work and the playtesting this received does indeed show. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

While the option for a 3rd level spell at 1st level mho needs a nerf unless used in high fantasy/high-powered contexts, this pdf ended up impressing me more than I thought it would: The race of stray spells is saturated with roleplaying potential galore and, in spite of the wide open nature of the race, it manages to retain a sense of manageable balance much better than what I expected. Ian Sisson, Christos Gurd and Scott Gladstein have, as a whole, created one of the precious few new races that really feel different, that offer an interesting playing experience. The race is smart and fun and, as a person, I really, really like this pdf. More so than I frankly should, considering the hiccups, glitches and minor inconsistencies; with a picky dev, this would be 5 stars + seal of approval material, no questions asked. That being said, in spite of loving this pdf, as a reviewer, I must unfortunately take the hiccups and glitches into account and they do drag down what would otherwise be an excellent offering. Thus, my official verdict can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

If you’re willing to work a bit with the pdf and if you’re willing to look past the imperfections, you’ll have a diamond in the rough, though!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stray Spells (Racial Guide)
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Shapeshifter (Base Class)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/13/2017 06:36:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This new base class clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon.

All right, so another take on the shapeshifter? This'll be interesting! Chassis-wise, the class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level as well as proficiency with light and medium armor and simple and martial weapons. They get full BAB-progression as well as good Fort-saves. At first level, the class gains a pool of primal energy equal to the class levels. Primal energy can be spent or invested - reallocating these points is a standard action and spent points replenish after 8 hours rest. At 5th level, points may be reallocated as a swift action, at 10th level as an immediate action.

Starting at 1st level, the class gains visages, which are prepared - 2 at first level, scaling up to 13 at 20th level. Visages prepared may be changed via 1 hour of meditation. This can be done up to twice per day: The first time, this fatigues the shapeshifter, the second time it exhausts the shapeshifter. A new visage level is unlocked at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter - so yep, there are 10 levels of visages. Visages, somewhat oddly-named, can be considered to be less pronounced modifications of the body of the shapeshifer - they represent a cross between talents and spells - like talents, they provide continuous bonuses, but like spells, they must be prepared and can be switched. It is an interesting set-up and one that actually makes the class feel distinct. We can find electricity damage added to unarmed strikes, extra arms (sans combat capability, thankfully), the option to squeeze into tight spaces, natural attacks and armor - interesting tricks here! Primal energy may btw. be invested in natural attacks to upgrade them to primary attacks and the shapeshifter may grow mouths from legs, horns from hands, etc. and thus may have multiple variants of the same natural attack. Have I mentioned fleshpockets? Firing spines?

The flexibility these options offer and the choices available make the shapeshifter a potent class from the get-go, one that quickly increases and allows for the duplication of summon spells, use primal energy to heal, boost saves, create deadly toxins, grow internal extra brains...the abilities grow progressively strong, but know what's absent, for the most part? Means to regain primal energy. While switching and passive abilities are free, the big whoppers and more potent tricks also mean that the flexibility decreases - I have rarely seen a class that makes you want to spend a resource so badly...and not spend it at the same time! While the highest levels allow for very limited energy regaining via autophagy (no, you can't cheese it). The section, just fyi, is massive.

Starting at 2nd level, the shapeshifter gains predatory focus - he can study a target within line of sight as a swift action, gaining an untyped bonus of +1 to atk versus that creature, which increases by a further +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. In addition to this bonus, predatory focus has an additional effect, with 8 choices available. These include bonuses to critical confirmations (which upgrades to autoconfirms at 15th level), ignoring parts of DR (taking different types of DR into account) or bonuses to Knowledge checks. The power levels of these choices oscillates quite a bit. Slightly problematic: Using focus as part of an initiative check. Does this count as a swift action? does it end being flat-footed? I assume no, but I'm not sure. On a cosmetic side-note, a sidebar has been formatted as another ability here, which is, formatting-wise, a bit annoying.

Starting at 4th level, the shapeshifter gains the power to consume the essence of a creature via the mantle class feature. In order to do so, they must kill a creature who is the target of the predatory focus, gaining the mantle associated with the creature. A mantle requires an amount of primal energy to work, requiring investment. Only one mantle may be active at any given time and investing primal energy is either a swift action or used in conjunction with the shapeshifting ability that allows for primal energy reallocation. The ability, while working smoothly, could didactically be phrased a bit better: As I see it, you may gain the mantle upon slaying a creature with the focus, but it only becomes activated upon investing primal energy. I admit to being first slightly confused by the sequence here in absence of a duration for the consumed essence, but yeah. Consider this just me complaining at a high level.

A total of 9 such mantles are provided and their activation costs range from 1 to 3 primal energy. It should be noted that these provide scaling benefits and thus also increase the activation cost at higher levels - with the exception of two mantles, who only have a fixed cost. Mantles grant abilities at 4th level, 9th level, 13th level, 17th level and also sport a capstone ability each. There are interesting abilities here - let us take the aberration mantle, as an example: If you make a Will-save, the prompting creature must succeed a save against the same DC or be affected by confusion for one round. 9th level provides a very potent debuff: Targets suffer -2 to saves to resist fear effects and the shapeshifter gains a +2 bonus to Intimidate as well, with both scaling - and creatures affected by the shapeshifter's fear-effects take an equal penalty to AC, attack and damage rolls. In combination with some options out there, this can make for pretty crippling debuffing. 13th level yields a morale bonus suppressing aura and at 17th level, they are aware of such bonuses and may flip them via primal energy expenditure into penalties - pretty cool! As a capstone, they get a bonus after slaying foes that may be granted to allies.

The Mantle of the beast nets either Fight or Flight when below 1/2 maximum hit points: The former lets you reroll minimum damage (not just weapon damage - that should have a caveat) and increases the damage output by 1, while Flight makes them no longer provoke any AoOs from creatures they are aware of...which is VERY, very strong. The abilities activated may btw. be switched as a swift or immediate action. This duality extends to the options at higher levels, including double rolls for attack or saves. 13th level provides the option to add a full attack after a crit confirmation, with a bonus, no less, and when in flight mode, they may perform immediate attack actions when subjected to a critical threat. This mantle is exceedingly potent, to the point where I wouldn't allow it - and yes, I am aware that the 1/2 max hit point caveat is intended to provide motivation to not have these constantly unlocked, but making abilities available all the time sans this bloodied-style limitation and making them less potent would have imho made this one run more smoothly.

The construct mantle, with save rerolls, SR and 13th level spell immunity that is powered by primal energy expenditure makes for a really cool and potent anti-magic defense option (with high-level options to converse dispersed magic into force damage bursts!) - really like that one! The mantle of the dragon nets draconic tricks (properly codified claws, natural armor and energy resistance (or DR) based on the dragon used to trigger the ability. The free 9th level breath weapon may look like a bit much, but subsequent uses require primal energy expenditure and cooldown, preventing spamming as well as imposing a hard cap. Once again, a well-wrought mantle. Fey can yield an immediate action Bluff feint, including self-granting concealment, with higher levels allowing the use of the ability when a foe misses. Alternate effects like dirty tricks are unlocked as well. The mantle of man is also interesting - it focuses on better social skills and features some cool social tricks, like using primal energy to not have creature attitudes worsen towards them or undermine hostile mind-influencing magic. Nice one!

The ooze mantle allow for the free movement into the square of other creatures and may even attack creatures within them - here, a sidebar dealing with reach etc. would have imho made sense to explain the various interactions that this uncommon option provides. At higher levels creatures that share squares with the shapeshifter at the start or end of the round take acid damage - and at following levels, Con damage is added to it (with a save to negate) and this damage nets temporary hit points, 20 per creature within...which is eminently cheesable. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens for massive amounts temporary hit points, please? The plant mantle nets tree stride and photosynthesis as well as high-level terrain control - no complaints there. The undead mantle begins with the negative energy affinity-like positive/negative energy change (healed by negative, harmed by positive) as well as temporary hit points. At higher levels, they can add negative energy damage to attacks, replenishing the temporary hit points of the mantle. These hit points are also used as a resource for becoming e.g. incorporeal at 13th level. Once again, an interesting mantle!

Beyond the base class and its various mantles and visages, we have 3 archetypes - one for the barbarian, one for the druid and one for the rogue, all of which can be summed up as losing a bit of their base tricks in favor of access to the visage engine of visages up to 7th level. Two feats allow other classes to dabble in the engine, while two other feats net temporary hit points for polymorph-spells casting casters. Fleshy Foxhole is OP - it lets you use items while merged with your form, which can prevent means of destroying them. Similarly, and I did not think I'd say that at one point, the Extra Primal Energy and Extra Shapeshifting feats, which net +4 primal energy or +1 visage (or two, if they're lower than your highest level visage) prepared are BRUTAL. They are both so good, taking another feat is basically pure foolhardiness, which is not a good sign as far as I'm concerned. While they have caps of how often you may take them, I'd strongly suggest capping them unless you're playing a really high-powered game.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting have two sides herein: On one hand, I was really impressed by the rules-language. While its wording deviates from a couple of standard conventions, it manages to get complex concepts done right and does so, as a whole, sans serious hiccups. On the formal editing level, we have minor plural hiccups, doubled letters and the like, so not so perfect there. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column full-color standard with original pieces of full-color artwork - many of which are actually quite cute, like the little oozes on the ooze-mantle page. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Designer Dayton Johnson had a really tough job here: One) I have literally analyzed more than 5 base classes dealing with the subject matter...and if I take archetypes into account, it gets worse. Two) He did not go the easy, standard route - the class does NOT use the eidolon chassis or that of the aegis or similar classes - instead it presents its own subsystem with a vast assortment of unique abilities, many of which are actually rather creative! This is NOT a phoned-in class - it is unique and creative.

In particular, the resource-management that lies at the heart of the shapeshifter is a true joy to behold: The game of switching visages is absolutely amazing and seriously fun, with a ton of combos hardwired into the class - it feels, at times, almost like a class penned by Bradley Crouch in that regard, and I mean that as the highest form of compliment! At the same time, the free access to all visages once the respective level unlocks, combined with the mantles, makes the shapeshifter a VERY potent class in the hands of an experienced player. GMs running a gritty or less high-powered game should consider implementing alternate restrictions, perhaps limit the visages available and nerf some of the mantle options a bit. What I'm trying to say is that the nitpicker within me could make a case that this class may be too strong, but I honestly don't want to. Why? Because I really love how it plays. While I will adjust the chassis and details of the class for my game, the playing experience presented by the shapeshifter is rather impressive - if I were to rate just the engine and how it behaves, I'd consider this an easy 5 stars. However, I do have a couple of complaints regarding some options herein and their power and similarly, but to a lesser degree, the glitches do annoy me a bit.

How to rate this, then? Well, for me as a person, this is a 5-star+ seal file for the engine tweaks I'll take out of it and for the actually creative and interesting options it has. As a reviewer, though, I do have to take my balance concerns and the hiccups into account, though, and from threat range increases that lack the stacking caveat to the other tricks, there is quite a bit to be potentially munchkin'd. I could rate this down to 3 for them, but that would not even remotely do this justice. Just note once more: This is a VERY potent option and not for low-powered games!

All in all, this drags my official verdict down to 3.5 stars, rounded up since it does not deserve being called mediocre - it is an exceptional, creative class, though one that imho needs a bit polish from the GM. If you don't mind the editing and are confident you can balance and tweak it, then get this ASAP - this is one cool class!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shapeshifter (Base Class)
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Tome of Advanced Item Use
by Dylan T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2017 20:04:01

This book begins with a vaguely pretentious and somewhat condescending introduction. I happen to like artificer classes and new items thank you very much.

After that we get the collector base class. they get heirlooms, magical items that function only for them. TL;DR, If you want to play a class that is defined by the gear that they use, play an Occultist (from paizo’s occult adventures) or one of the myriad archetypes that gains that classes implements class feature. Even if you take away the abilities that are far too powerful, all you have left is an uninspired mess of a class that tries to use things that other classes get as supplements to their abilities as class features.

To be specific the collector has several problematic abilities. Their main class feature, their heirlooms take the form of magic items of up to a certain price. This price starts small and improves as the collector gains levels. While the value of the heirlooms progresses thought the collectors career, it stops mattering after 8th level. At that point the collector can select minor artifacts as heirlooms. This allows them to gain a sphere of annihilation as an heirloom. While this is rather difficult to control when they get it, it is still kill anything with no saving throw and there are a handful of ways to make it much easier to control. While this is the most egregious example of what you can do as a collector, there are still plenty of minor artifacts that are only slightly less disruptive to play. The collector can also recharge magic items that have a limited number of uses, multiple times if they take the bond (the rage power esque pseudo feats that they gain access to every other level) this moves a wand of cure light wounds from a smart investment to 50d8 of healing a day. As early as 3rd level. This is an absolutely insane amount of healing that no other class can put out until they begin approaching 20th level.

There are a handful of other things like the ability to cast a spell from a wand twice in the same round and a bond that allows you to add 1/4th your level to your AC, along with a favored class bonus that does the same thing, making you obscenely difficult to hit. Also noteworthy is what’s missing from the class, namely any way to improve the save DC or caster level of any magic items you have, making items that cast spells non-competitive at higher levels.

There’s also the questing knight hybrid class. I don’t have access to the other class it draws upon (the fighting man) so I’ll decline to comment on this. I do note however, that it doesn’t get an heirloom at 20th level, making its capstone worthless.

After the collector is the Sacred Smith, this is by far the coolest concept of the three classes presented, but needs some heavy modification to work at the table. Their primary class feature is sacred forge, the ability to, over the course of 1 minute, create something from nothing. They have 10 pounds of matter that they can create every 24 hours, plus an additional 10 pounds per level they have. Unfortunately I don’t see anything that prevents them from just making gold with this ability, worse at 4th level they can make items created with this ability permanent, allowing them to, in essence, turn half their pool of matter into gold every day. (TIL: 50gp weighs 1 pound). At 9th level they can make magic items with their sacred forge ability. This doesn’t take any more matter than usual, and therein lies the problem. Most magic items don’t have any listed weight, meaning that the collector can make them for free and need only pass a check that is honestly pretty trivial (10+1/200th of the items price, rounded down. This DC gets even lower as the sacred smith progresses in level). A wand of cure light wounds is 1 oz and requires a DC 13 check to make. Trivial amounts of resources for positively insane returns.

They also have a few Battlesmith Trainings, rage power esque pseudo feats that they gain access to every few levels. Most of them are pretty solid, save that they expend only a pound or so of matter, which returns after an hour. That’s a lot of book keeping for very little expenditure, that’s more irritating than anything else. There are a few outliers, one gives you an enhancement bonus to damage rolls to bludgeoning weapons. But you get an ability before that that lets you give any weapon you make an enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls that progresses at a faster rate. One gives you access to Dominate Monster (on creatures with the fire subtype) and Control Construct at 10th level. Those are 9th and 7th level spells respectively, and while they won’t come up every time, when they do, they’re absolutely devastating. Dominate monster lasts for a day per level and control construct is almost guaranteed to work if the sacred smith has ranks in spellcraft.

The sacred smith has a single archetype that allows them to trade out one of their abilities for the ability to create constructs via the animate objects spell, and later the craft construct feat. The last class in the lineup is the magician; they use a variety of props that mimic the powers of magical items in combat. While not particularly interesting, it is probably the most balanced of the classes.

Props are, as mentioned before, mundane items that the magician can turn into magic items, at least for a few rounds. They can only be slotless wondrous items, and the amount of gold they can cost varies by level. They can do this once per day per 2 levels they have. Unfortunately, they never get the ability to improve the save DC of these items, rendering there in combat use questionable at later levels.

They also gain secrets, ways they can modify certain magic items to gain certain effects. Most of these are pretty cool and I don’t have much to complain about. Although some of them give the magician bonuses on concentration checks and reduce arcane spell failure chance, niter of which were things the magician had to worry about, not having any spell casting abilities.

There is also a variety of new equipment tricks (from the adventurer’s armory book, a fact mentioned nowhere in the section). Most of these are solid choices, but some are pretty bad, dagger dance lets you do something you could already do, and hypnotic knuckle roll lets you spend a move action to give creatures a -1 on attack rolls for a round if they fail a will save.

There are also a handful of feats for intelligent magic items, a section of the game that’s better off being forgotten about.

Lastly there are a few rogue talents and magus arcana. These are all pretty solid, the magus arcana that lets you get a bonded item and later make it intelligent are pretty good, but I’m not sure how it works if the magus takes a wand with his arcane bond and makes it intelligent. Normally magic items with charges are explicitly not allowed to be intelligent items.

Unfortunately, most of the content in this book is unusable as presented, so I cannot give it a very good rating, but there are some gems in this book if you’re willing to put the work in to fix them.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Advanced Item Use
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Alternate Paths: Social Characters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/04/2017 09:30:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive installment of the Alternate Paths-series clocks in at 87 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with an impressive 83 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This book was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

So, what is this book? One could picture this supplement, as a whole, as a spiritual heir to both Ultimate Intrigue and Campaign, but I'll get more into the nit and grit of that later. In case you have not discerned that - this may not be the book to get if you're looking to run a murder-hobo dungeon-crawling campaign - the focus here is on intrigue, social iteration, etc. As such, the book assumes use of the downtime-rules from Ultimate Campaign. The pdf then provides a couple of considerations for characters and for what it means to be "civilized" and some general assumptions there - this ties into the dichotomy between primal and civilized characters, which is also represented by a few favored class options grouped not by class, but by what end of the primal/civilized-dichotomy the character represents.

We move on from here to considerations on certain types of deities - these represent general tropes of urban gods and come with the proper array of domains and the like. In an interesting conceptual twist, some deities are classified as predatory, meaning that they don't have followers in the traditional sense, but that they are basically "worshiped" by falling prey to the: Drugs, as an example, would one such concept. I do like how this influences potentially the meta-considerations of the game and we also get to know about locational deities.

Now, beyond this, we are introduced to the concept of social "caste" - the pdf acknowledges that this may not be the best word to describe the system, but, as a matter of fact, it makes sense - if you take a look at how historical societies worked (and continue to work, to a degree), you'll notice that the notion is not only restricted to pseudo-Indian environments. Social caste may be advanced via certain classes in the book and a feat can also be used at character creation to inherit caste. It is interesting to note that the higher castes come with a required minimum level - if you want to take levels in the 3-level socialite PrC, for example, each level will have new minimum level requirements, which thus means that upper caste characters will generally have a higher level than lower caste beings. The PrC nets, just fyi d8 HD, 6 + Int mod skills. It sports full spellcasting progression and nets a social path bonus each level - more on those later. For the purpose of the PrC, PCs start as "strangers" and progress through the 3 castes. Each of the castes has several distinct social paths: These include e.g. crime bosses gaining an income as well as a bonus to Intimidate and Bluff versus lawful creatures. Commanders gain morale bonuses when attacking professional soldiers and beings in your organizational hierarchy cannot deny you proper requests...but all of those paths also come with a social responsibility - these are similarly tied to roleplaying, with the example of teh crime boss requiring the boss to keep his charges safe, while the commander, obviously, is beholden to the structures of the military in which he serves.

Being famous or infamous, a physician or the like all can be found. In the middle castes, we can find merchant princes, ministers and bannerman, while the lower castes contain ascetics or champions - I kinda wished we got a bit more of these - 4 lower versus 7 upper caste paths show the system tilting a bit towards the more prestigious occupations. That being said, the system does engage in something that does rub me the wrong way: We get "misc. bonuses" in quite a few of the abilities granted by these paths - know how many bonus types PFRPG has? Do we really need another one that is not clearly defined? Not a fan here, particularly since some have been codified according to proper types.

The pdf also introduces a mechanic for social combat - unlike Ultimate Intrigue's verbal duels, these social combats are designed to be pretty rules-light and may take place in combat. As a standard action, you roll 1d20 and add the number of skill ranks (NOT the easily cheesable skill's value!) and the associated ability score modifier - the skill must qualify as being a social combat skill, obviously. Yes, these are concisely defined. The DC would be 10 + 1/2 the opponent's HD + the highest mental ability score modifier of the target opponent. If you exceed the target DC, the opponent takes 1d6 nonlethal damage per 2 ranks in the skill used. If you exceed the DC by 5, you also gain an edge. Social combat is a language-dependent, mind-affecting ability. A character defeated primarily by social combat gains the yielding condition - it cannot take hostile actions, may only defend themselves and is considered defeated - it should be noted that the GM retains some control here.

I mentioned edges - there are three of these and only one may be spent per social combat. These may be used to reduce the number of damaging d6s rolled taken from social attacks, can add +2d6 to the social combat damage, or add +4 to a social combat roll. It should be noted that this section does not specify an activation action, which it should - it is pretty clear from context that using an edge should not require an action and is considered to be part of the respective proceedings. The mechanic is precise, mind you - just complaining about the oversight of this formality.

A further aspect that influences social combat would be determination - these would be the creature's willingness to stay in combat: Determination is equal to the creature's highest mental attribute + the creature's HD. (As a minor nitpick: HD are usually noted first in such formulae.) Now, pretty interesting: The determination of a creature is modified, according to situations: A parent protecting his/her offspring, would e.g. double determination, while convincing peasants to rise up against a hated despot is much easier and halves their determination.

So, how does social combat run? Well, the result of using this system is that wise-cracking heroes can deplete pretty efficiently the determination of otherwise superior, but brutish/dumb creatures, getting them to stand down/see the error of their ways. Since determination is tracked individually, larger amounts of foes can make for more rewarding combats, while combats versus few or singular enemies can be solved decisively and quickly. Whether you like that or don't depends very much on your game's playstyle. That being said, the simplicity and elegance of the system allows for VERY easy GM-customization: You can run these social combat rules completely without determination...or you could use determination as additional "social-only" temporary "hit points" that kick in upon reaching 0 hit points, if you want to. So yeah, I am not the biggest fan of the default system, but I very much enjoy what you can easily do with it.

All right, next up would be 3 new classes: The noble gets d8 HD, a whopping 8 + Int-mod skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Proficiency-wise, the class gains access to simple weapons, hand crossbow, rapier and all one-handed non-exotic firearms as well as light armor. At the start of each social encounter or verbal duel, they gain edges equal to Charisma modifier +1/4 class level, which are designated as noble edges. I assume that these do not adhere to the usual "1 edge per social combat"-rule, but I am frankly not sure. They begin play as a member of the upper class and gain a social path, as per the previous rules. Noblesse oblige, however and thus, each noble must choose and adhere to a given ideology: Personal glory, group glory, organizational glory, greater good or movements may be chosen and all have in common that they feature restrictions for the noble and also determine cases in which edges may not be used. These are concisely defined. The noble begins play with renown and increase that to great renown at 5th level, incredible reknown at 9th, fabulous reknown at 13th and regal renown at 17th level. And yes, these are concisely presented.

Second level yields social graces (another is gained at every even level thereafter) - in case you have not figured that out, indeed, there is some overlap between the social aspects of the vigilante class and the noble Instead of such a social grace, teamwork feats, social combat feats, social caste feats or the aforementioned social bonuses may be gained.

2nd level also yields the ability to talk down foes - when inflicting non-lethal damage via social combat, they may enhance their damage output, temporarily inflict negative conditions and allies may be targeted to grant them temporary hit points. This, weirdly, mentions an ally saving against it, which is not something the social combat rules here sport as a default. At 6th level, the push button ability allows for the expenditure of noble edges to determine the attribute of the target used to defend against a social attack. Beyond that, depending on the attribute chosen, the noble may choose one of two different effects to generate associated effects, ranging from calming targets to treating damage rolls as 4s or granting more temporary hp. Starting at 7th level, the noble may use noble edges to talk down foes as a swift action, but may not exceed one talk down attempt per turn.

3rd level allow for the combination of regular and social combat attacks. 4th level allows for the use of edges to grant morale boosts to themselves (only one per round and here, noble edges and regular ones are distinctly set apart, clearing up any confusion there...but still, wished that the base mechanics had noted that.). 5th level provides basically evasion for Will-saves,, which extends to all allies within line of sight and earshot at 19th level. 11th level increases talking down social damage, while 15th level increases the steps attitude is moved via Diplomacy and Intimidate. As a capstone, we get immunity to mind-influencing effects and auto-confirmed crits in the area of renown. And yes, the immunity can be suppressed. The class comes with FCOs for the base races and some more exotic ones from LRGG's oeuvre.

Furthermore, the class comes with a massive list of aforementioned social graces as well as advice on playing a noble - which centers on both elaborating the class mechanics and the roleplaying aspects of it. We even get suggestions for different "types" of noble and fitting social graces. All in all, I enjoyed this class more than I thought I would, in spite of the few hiccups, it is generally a worthwhile option.

The next class would be the legionary, who gets d10 HD, must be non-chaotic, and receives full BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 6 + Int skills per level and proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields, including tower shields. The class chooses a unit type at first level - these unit types are assigned social classes and receive their own class features - each day when assigning tactics, this type may be chosen and the social classes act as a limitation here. From quicker flurry-like thrown attacks to bonuses to atk and damage when they have not moved, the respective unit type features generally are interesting and fit the themes. They also scale with class levels. As always, I am not a fan of per encounter abilities, which e.g. the triarii sport (insert my long and at this point, well-known rant why this makes no sense). Cool: Second level yields bonuses to AC when receiving a morale bonus or sharing a teamwork feat and may share spaces with allies, which can be rather potent. They also get a kind of wildcard equipment ability called "arsenal" at 3rd level, which may not be cheesed. Magical arsenal is unlocked at 8th level, which can be galling for some GMs, but yeah - I can see it work in some campaigns.

3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yield a teamwork feat and 4th level grants access to the first so-called legionary tactic, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. Galling: The wording here is messed up: Beyond a bear/bare-glitch, the wording here contradicts itself, implying two base tactics at 4th level versus the 1 it previously states - it requires checking the class table to deduce which one it is.

The legionary tactics are associated with the aforementioned unit types and two per unit type are provided. While these generally are pretty cool, the downside of the limited choice is that there won't be much variation between different legionaries of one caste. At 10th level, 1/3 class level of them may be reassigned as a swift action...which, considering the limited selection, is less potent than you'd think.

6th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield Skill Focus in a skill (or a noble's social grace) - these also include unlocks and double as increases in rank. The capstone nets massive social skill bonuses and automatic critical confirmation versus professional soldiers. I really like that "professional soldier" is defined here concisely - and so is "citizen"...but frankly, that should NOT be hidden in a class capstone. Considering that this is not the only ability referring to these concepts, it should have been properly defined in the base terminology employed by the book. The class sports a few favored class options.

The third class featured within would be the showman, who receives d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, must be non-lawful and gains 4 + Int skills per level as well as a custom proficiency list. Showmen are subject to arcane spell failure - the showman gains spontaneous spellcasting of up to 6th spell level, drawing from his own spell-list.

The signature ability of the class, gained at first level, would be a phantom blade - a magical blade that may be drawn as a move action...and yes, Quick Draw etc. is taken into account. When attacking with this weapon, Charisma is used instead of Strength for calculating damage (the rules-language is a bit wonky here, referring to score instead of modifier) and the showman may expend spell slots to increase the damage output of the phantom blade. It attacks, fyi, touch AC. It should be noted that damage type of this bonus damage and the phantom blade is not properly codified either. Targets hit by the blade may succeed a Will-save - if they do, they greatly reduce the damage output of the blade. Also slightly wonky: The conjured, versatile phantom blade is eligible for use with Weapon Focus, which makes all kinds of no sense and renders interaction with other abilities rather wonky. 5th, 117th and 17th level increase the potency and reality of the blade as well as the damage-types the blade may use - which provides a clue that the bonus damage and base phantom weapon damage should not by untyped, but rather the same as the weapon duplicated. 7th level allows for the sacrifice of spells to increase the save DC of the blade.

Starting at 3rd level, the class gains Weapon finesse and always treats the phantom weapon as finnessable. He also gains the first so-called bladewarp, of which there are two types: Shapes and effects. Only one effect may be applied to any given phantom weapon, but any number of shape bladewarps may be applied. Another one is gained at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. These are very potent and interesting, allowing you to strike at enemy spellslots/unused spells, confusing targets etc. Effects add power, while shapes allow for unique twists, but at the cost of making the blade easier to see through.

2nd level provides a bonus to Perform and more gold earned as well as the first carnival trick, with more being learned at 4th level and every even level thereafter . these represent the talents of the class. While the above hiccups did not bode well for the class, I was more than a bit positively surprised by the carnival tricks featured herein: We get the ability to basically teleport within illusions by stepping into the fantasy, readying counters to actions via skill-checks and knowing smiles or the ability to instill an identity crisis in the target that may well be more real than the poor hapless sod imagined. In short: These talents are really creative and make for cool poaching/hacking options, even if you don't plan on using the class as written.

13th level provides more reality for illusions, further enhancing this reality at 19th level. Minor nitpick: Spell-reference not italicized. The capstone eliminates the blade's save and increases the DC of his illusions. The spell-list's spells are not italicized and the class gains, once again a couple of different favored class options.

Now, while the base class has couple of unnecessary hiccups, it does come with a per se pretty intriguing archetype: the ringleader replaces spellcasting with an ability to generate temporary clones - and the archetype manages to concisely define and reign in this most difficult of abilities to prevent cheesing in a thoroughly concise and impressive manner. Instead of enhancing phantom baldes via spellcasting, he may expend clone uses to increases the damage output versus targets. Carnival tricks are restricted to a degree and 3 unique ones are presented. Additionally, 4th level and every 6 levels thereafter replace the carnival trick gained there with upgrades to clone staying power, with 10th level increasing the daily array of clones beyond the usual scaling of the base ability. Pretty cool: Shell-game-like switching of positions and at higher levels, the destruction of a clone can yield confusion to foes and reflexive swapping. This archetype is really nice and extremely hackable - I really, really enjoy it.

From here on out, we get 7 new spells - layout-wise, their pages sport quite a bit of free space - more than two could have fit on a given page, but that's a cosmetic complaint. From making targets seem buffoonish to making targets look like you (in a variety of versions) or the conviction of being attacked by chickens or other fowl, the spells are pretty nice. Magical very important papers help lending a sense of authority to the PC - but it should be noted that it has a couple of minor formatting deviations. Beyond the usual "extra" class feature feats, the chapter with new feats contains feat-based access to social paths, further enhances their bonuses or allows you to be part of more than one caste via Man of Two Worlds. Similarly, the paths and the social combat system entwine here, granting special attacks to e.g. Academics and sporting the [Social Style] descriptor - a type of bearing in a social context, if you will - otherwise, they can be switched akin to regular styles. And yes, much like regular styles, they sport 2 follow-up feats each and can be considered to be intriguing.

The final section of the pdf provides a significant array of different political services, codifying the arranging of relationships, assassinations, bribes, buyouts, etc. - these are well-codified with examples and descriptions, etc. - and both sources and modifiers are included, ending the pdf on a nice note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, traditionally a weak point of LRGG's offerings are generally good - while there are a couple of minor formatting hiccups and some abilities that could use a bit of refinement, as a whole, this represents a step up. On the big plus side, for the most part, this book does actually interesting things, often complex ones, and excels in some seriously difficult rules-operations. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with a blend of b/w and full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed and nested bookmarks.

Scott Gladstein, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have created a supplement here that I like more than any previous one in the series: While I personally loved the ascetic character-installment's esoteric tweaks, these did require a lot of GM-skill and consideration to properly use and this book is significantly more player-and GM-friendly. That being said, the book has, beyond a few editing hiccups, two crucial flaws that keep it from reaching the lofty praise I'd otherwise heap upon it:

One, the terminology and its definitions is didactically, not that well organized. Having to look up e.g. the definition of being a "professional soldier" in a capstone is not something I consider to be wise. Secondly, and more importantly in my book, the per se very cool social combat system presented herein could and should be a bit clearer in its presentation - and it honestly is stunning to me why the pdf does not elaborate for a page or so on the means of tweaking its baseline.

You see, the math of the system is pretty solid for what it seeks to be, but the default use creates a very distinct and pretty social default mode of operations...and that one may be one some GMs loathe. HOWEVER, the system, with absolutely 0 work on part of the GM, can be tweaked to enable for play in pretty much any campaign and playstyle you want to use. I can see the math, how it works in various campaign types and how it must be tweaked to accommodate them at one glance...but the same may not hold true for all customers. It is baffling to me why the pdf does not explain the repercussions of e.g. ignoring determination, of increasing/decreasing it, etc., when it is quite evident that some serious work has gone into the social combat mechanic. In short, even if you're like me and don't like the default, which provides pretty speedy resolutions, you may well want to take a closer look here - the system offers much more than what one can perceive at first glance.

The classes contained here are on the solid-to-good level: They offer unique tricks as well as sufficient customization options, even though a few minor hiccups can be found. The showman feels a bit like an odd man out - while per se not a bad class, it doesn't really tie in with the leitmotifs established here. I generally do like the caste-system mechanics and the favors, though the former could have used a bit of expansion.

How to rate this, then? Well, the balancing here is pretty good and similarly, even potent and high-difficulty tricks have been codified rather well. While the pdf does have a couple of hiccups that would see me usually penalize it further than I do in this review, I did draw a lot of inspiration from this book and that is something I rather cherish. If you expect perfection from a supplement and some rules that immediately let you go to town, then this may not be what you're looking for. However, if you're willing to work with the book, perhaps expand it a bit and do some tweaking, then you most assuredly will get your money's worth here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Social Characters
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Alternate Paths: Social Characters
by Walter B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/20/2017 04:44:03

Alt paths social characters is the 6th entry in little reds alt path series. This time around they’re focusing on adding more social elements to the game, in much the same manner as paizo’s ultimate intrigue book. That book is called out in the introduction as another book that readers should consider picking up. That’s a nice little touch that most 3rd party books don’t bother with.

Content wise the book starts off with a bit of introduction, telling the reader what sort of games the content in the book is useful for, namely politics, money, social influence that sort of thing. These are traditionally areas that Pathfinder underperforms in.

Next it delves into civilized vs. primal a method of classifying a character that’s sort of akin to alignment. Declaring a character as primal or civilized gives them access to an additional option for their favored class bonus, this is a list of options available to all classes. While that’s certainly a novel design space, the primal options seem to be significantly better than their civilized counterparts. In addition to providing bonuses to more valuable things like initiative and spell damage rolls, all but one of the primal options can be used in any situation. However, the civilized options are all restricted to urban environments.

The next entry gives a series of archetypes for deities, roles that are more fitting for the sorts of gods worshiped by people in cities. Towards the end of the introduction it also talks about divine classes that worship these deities often don’t have a proper church but are instead unknowing vessels for divine power. That sort of works if you treat the deities that use those archetypes as vague-ill defined concepts, unknown to mortals I recommend ignoring that last bit if you give those deities names and history. Otherwise you’re just making it harder for your players to explore your setting. There’s also another much shorter section about making regional deities. After that the book goes on to introduce a social cast system, which lets you make characters with a more distinct place in the world. This is similar to the 5e background system. Social castes are tiered based on character level this is done by progressing in a prestige class, progressing in a social class from this book or taking a feat that has different benefits based on when you took it. I’m not that big of a fan of tying social roles to what is essentially a character’s capacity for violence, but it’s functional.

All of the social castes have a set of bonuses, sort of sub roles to help validate your character. So not every member of the upper class is a landed noble and not every member of the lower class is a pauper. In addition to the benefits of having a certain social bonus characters also have a responsibility that they need to fulfill in order to maintain the benefit of their social bonus. The usefulness of these bonuses vary drastically, most of the upper class bonuses amount to free money of varying amounts and bonuses to skill checks. Most of the middle class bonuses just give you skill check bonus, two notable exceptions include the academic, who gives you two extra skill ranks (that you can lose…) and the merchant prince who buys stuff for 20% less. They also have the ability to buy basically anything given enough time. The example provided is for the deck of many things. This is an artifact and the game takes great pains to make it clear that only the GM can choose to dole those out on a case by case basis. In return they need to move down right comical levels of money (2000 gp per level) every month. Most of the lower class bonuses are a bit more reasonable, the champion has easy access to master work weapons and armor and the wheeler and dealer can pretend to be a member of the higher castes. One notable exception is the ascetic; they gain a small ki pool like a monk. This is more useful for the monk class features it gives you (extra attack, +4 AC, +20 foot move speed) then anything that’s listed in the bonus, so I’m assuming this is unintentional on little reds part.

Next we come to the social combat rules, a lighter version of the verbal duel rules presented in paizo’s Ultimate Intrigue. Unfortunately these rules are aggressively terrible and I can’t recommend you use them.

Making a social attack is a standard action where you roll 1d20 + the ranks you have in a social combat skill and that skills modifier. The DC for this check is 10 + your 1/2 Opponent’s HD + Their highest mental ability score modifier. Math savvy readers might recognize this as the formula for determining a save DC. An odd choice as a character’s “social attack” is about twice as high as what characters add to their best saves. Beating that DC means that you inflict 1d6 points of non-lethal damage per two ranks you have in the skill you used to attack with. If you inflict more damage than your targets determination (1/2 their HD + their highest mental ability score modifier) over the course of the fight they yield, meaning they stop being a factor on the battlefield. Social combat is explicitly a mind effecting affect.

So this has a whole slew of issues, the math is half-handed. HD, and by extension skill ranks scale faster than CR does so opponents are going to hit harder and more frequently than players do. This is the exact opposite of how pathfinder’s combat meta normally works. Furthermore players can’t even use this system at 1st level because they can’t have two ranks in a skill yet. Because social combat deals nonlethal damage it interacts with defensive abilities in a bunch of weird ways. Damage reduction is the most effective defense against social combat, and if you wanted to social combat a vampire, too bad they’re immune to non-lethal damage (and mind effecting effects to boot). And when social combat does work, creatures have so little determination that if everybody does it then creatures yield within a round.

Next we get into the classes section of the book, starting with the noble. The noble has 1d8 hit die, 3/4ths BAB, 8+int skills per level and a good will save. Nobles start as a member of the upper caste and get a social path bonus from that list. Nobles start any sort of encounter with a number of edges equal to their charisma modifier +1/4th their level. For one of ultimate intrigues verbal duels, this is way too many as the most basic function of edges in that system is to roll a check one additional time per edge spent.

These edges can only be used when it furthers the nobles ideology class feature, but those are robust enough that you’ll be able to use them most of the time. The noble also gains renown as the vigilante talent of the same name. Nobles have a few other class features, social graces a rouge talent-esque pseudo feat system, they can spend edge to add their charisma modifier to attack and damage rolls and a will save equivalent to the monk’s evasion ability. The only other ability they have that’s problematic is their push buttons class feature. This class feature expands the nobles options when they successfully use social combat on a creature. This has several options but the worst offenders include a calm emotions spell, rage and suggestion none of which allow for a saving throw and two of which usually mandate that the caster stop to concentrate on the effect I cannot tell if the noble is bound by those rules as well. Special mention also goes to the befuddle option, which gives the target a penalty on will saves equal to 2+1/2 the nobles level. That’s how you calculate a will save, which means that the Noble can completely take the teeth out of the will save of anything he fights. At 20th level they gain their “a king uncrowned” class feature. This renders them completely immune to mind affecting effects, thus they are immune to social combat, which means that I as a GM can no longer use those rules in any fashion.

After the class features proper we get a two page dissertation on how to play a noble, this mostly states information that was obvious when reading through the class, I guess that could be useful for a new player, but it did take me out of the experience a bit. The last paragraph also mentions that you can only make a social attack on one creature at a time; something that I did not feel was made very obvious in the actual social combat section. After that, then we move on to the list of social graces, the classes’ equivalent of rouge or vigilante talents. These are mostly fine, but most of them are rogue and vigilante talents anyway.

The next class is the legionary, a d10, full BaB, with 6+int skills per level and a good will save. The class is a teamwork oriented martial character, much like the cavalier. As they progress in level they can choose to improve their social caste or take a few other types of benefits. They also gain a unit type, class feature that allows them to specialize in a specific form of combat. The legionary can swap their unit type at the start of each day, as long as they fit into that unit type’s social caste. This is unusual as you lose access to some class features as you progress. None of these are too egregious, there’s one for throwing stuff, one for hitting stuff, one for blocking stuff, one for buffing their allies and one for riding horses. Each of these roles has a few talents that are associated with it that give you a bonus while you have that role. These talents can be swapped out once per day. They also have some bonus teamwork feats, the ability to retroactively decide they had a particular type of weapon all along, and the ability to pick up skill focus or some of the nobles social graces. Their capstone is a massive bonus to social combat checks against citizens and auto confirming critical hits against soldiers. Most of this class looks ok, but I do note that they have three different class features that can add 1/3rd their level to their AC, all of which could apply simultaneously. That and the lack of a good fort save as a martial character is fairly crippling.

And last in the class line up we have the showman. A 1d8 3/4ths BaB class with 4+int skills and good reflex and will saves. The Showman is an illusion wielding thespian that can conjure a phantom blade, an illusionary shadow weapon to strike down his foes. They gain up to 6th level spell casting, which is charisma biased. The bulk of their class features revolve around improving their shadow weapon, adding effects to it by lowering the DC required to disbelieve it. I’m not a big fan of this dynamic, most of the things you can do to a phantom blade are pretty savage (confusion, stacking dexterity penalties, convicting a creature that you lopped off its limbs, ect – you can do all of these simultaneously). Some of of the penalties they take from this can be canceled out by taking things that make their phantom blade less useful (taking the average for damage or having the blade only work on one creature). However they also have other class features that boost the save DC of their blade to ridiculous levels, like adding the level of a sacrificed spell slot to the save DC or forcing a flatfooted creature to take a penalty on the save against their phantom blade. These abilities are completely independent of lowering the phantom blades save DC. You can apply all of the penalties to a creature that I listed before and not decrease the save DC at all.

The showman also has a variety of carnival tricks, ways to bamboozle his foes that don’t use his phantom blade. Most of these abilities are fine, save that they use that infuriatingly low social combat DC and are fully fledged skill checks, meaning that they’re even more likely to succeed. The ones that do this are also crippling debuffs many of which can effectively take creatures out of a fight for multiple rounds.

The showman has a single archetype that trades spellcasting for the ability to make duplicates of itself.

The book also features a few new spells, including the ability to make other people look or act like you. There’s also a magic item that lets you pretend to be someone important. These are all actually pretty cool.

The book also has some class support feats and some feats for interacting with the social rules, the social combat stuff is particularly problematic. There’s a feat that keeps characters from making social combat checks if you inflict social damage on them, a feat that gives you even more bonus on social attack rolls. There are also some social styles which are cool, except for using that DC that’s too low. There’s also a feat that lets you add your base will save to the DC of checks to influence you with social combat which makes the system almost useable.

The book wraps up with a collection of services that you can buy, there’s an impressive array of services listed, everything from assassinations, to bribes, to economically destabilizing a region. Most of these services are comically expensive, but the book spends about a half a page saying that the prices can very significantly based on who’s doing them and that using services to pay for other services is totally acceptable.

All and all alt paths social is the weakest entry in the alt paths series, it has some neat subsystems in it, but all of the serious crunch is basically worthless.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
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Alternate Paths: Ascetic Characters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2017 07:15:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive pdf clocks in at 86 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 82 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf was moved up as a prioritized review in my review queue at the request of my patreons.

And now for something completely different! In the grey area between the divine and psychic spheres, there lies a character's personal philosophy; at last those of us prone to contemplation and self-discovery will know these notions and, indeed, in various media, we often have philosophies clash, as their chosen champions and Weltanschauungen clash on the fields of battle. This conflict of ideologies goes beyond the political border and draws its sustenance from a primordial, internal wellspring of conviction. As such, the concept of personal potential for divinity represents a crucial aspect of this book's take on make, so if the divine is uniquely and expressively tied to the acts of deities and their agents in your game, the base notions will require a bit of expansion.

In conjunction with the material herein, the first chapter, depicting diverse philosophies, would represent an interesting expansion regarding the different alignment based class features present in the PFRPG system: Philosophies are contextualized with parallel and opposed philosophies, creating a different interaction; the pdf manages to concisely codify the translation from the two-axis default system. As a nice bonus, the base array of philosophies presented herein could easily be expanded upon and/or combined with more, should the GM require the like. This would btw. be as good a place as any to note that wise sayings and proverbs grace almost every single page. At the lower center, you get a new one, often a tantalizing one.

Why do I mention that now? Because it shows the level of care and going the extra mile that sets this apart as a book that shows that it is near and dear to the designer's heart. Another subsystem introduced herein would pertain forms of awakening that radically change and alter how a character plays, depending on the form of enlightenment sought. Each of these awakenings generally has 4 steps, and these begin with a major penalty that slowly mutates into a strong and powerful boost, often a rather gamechanging one. A character with e.g. a loss of self identity may not refer to him/herself by name or as an individual and may be targeted by touch spells while within 30 ft. However, further, the character may actually cast personal spells on those nearby, which represents an exceedingly potent option, as you all are aware. The presentation of the awakening mirrors its theme, depicting the respective steps in a zig-zagging motion - very interesting and nice mirror of the theme. Being treated as all genders or all alignments represent other, massive boons for those following these paths to enlightenment....heck, you can even be disbelieved.

So yes, as you may have noticed, these awakenings to some higher principle are extremely potent; infinite use temporary hit point buffers can be, for example, gained by those studying detachment, while others may automatically reincarnate. Judging the balance of these options, ultimately, is simple not possible in the traditional sense; they radically change the way the game works for the character in question and have serious repercussions for the realities of the gaming world. In a world, where such quests are far-spread, the conflict of nations can become a truly nightmarish metaphysical hellscape, as philosophers of detachment stoically battle with the eternally reincarnating neighboring nation. On the other hand, if you are looking for ways to represent mechanically the exceptionalism of PCs striving for enlightenment of the respective senseis and masters of their kind, then you'll have a one-stop-shop for unique and potent boss-options. In short, this can act as a template for characters or whole worlds and whether these options are balanced or not within the context of your game hinges greatly on the roleplaying required from the player, the prevalence of the concept, etc. - it may not be for everyone and not always perfect, but oh boy, I love it. I mean it. We need more here. Can I please have cosmic indifference in an expansion to supplement panlocation? Extremely evocative and suffused with gorgeous, perfectly chosen public domain art. Big kudos for this chapter.

The next system presented here would be slightly more conservative, namely the investiture system. Basically, each character receives an investiture bonus that begins at +1 and increases by +1 at 5th level and then again at 8th, 12th and 16th level. The character also begins play with a maximum of 2 investitures and increases that to up to 7. Finally, we begin play with one aspect and increase that to up to 11 at 20th level. Basically, the idea here is to use one's aura to enhance a diversity of items, allowing player choice in that regard. As such, while there is some thematic overlap with PFU's automatic bonus progression, the precise representation is different nonetheless. You see, weapons and unarmed strikes can get bonuses to atk and damage, armor and shields to AC, and other items can be laced with bonuses to saves. Bingo, this is basically an answer to the Christmas Tree syndrome, and, more importantly, to the "boring numerical magic items you need to make the numbers come out right"- issue faced in many a game. This also means that PCs will not necessarily drown in magic items they have no use for, so in particular for rare magic games or games of groups that prefer magic to feel magical, this represents an easy way to make the retain the system's numerical feasibility. Beyond that, the aspects, presented much like in the same formatting as feats, allow for a degree of customization that is intriguing - we have the classic elemental bonus damage special weapon qualities codified thus, for example.

The elegant thing here would be that you can either just award them as you'd like per the suggested level progression...or, due to the easy feat-like presentation, make them a type of martial arts school/feat-type for low/rare magic games. Beyond that, some aspects actually allow you for quicker investiture or extra tricks - so now, this is not a simple system, but one rather a relatively easy system that can be implemented in a variety of ways.

Thirdly, we are introduced to a variety chakra system - using this system consumes the 1stm 7th and13th level feats and they are unlocked in a specific order, with benefits generally scaling . All chakras may be opened as a move action, and require swift action concentration to maintain, with 7th level providing the option to open chakras as a swift action as well and 18th level allowing the user to gain two benefits at once. Chakras may be identified and disrupted via various means, with the root chakra at the base of the ladder available from the get-go. Subsequent chakras are unlocked at 4th level and every even level thereafter, with open chakras penalizing the character's Will-save, making the constant maintenance of open chakras a dangerous proposal. Each of the diverse chakras has at least 4 different abilities for having the chakra open, with benefits ranging from SP/spell-duplication to a variety of other options that include pretty early true seeing. Somewhat annoying: spell-references and the like here tend to sport nonstandard formatting. My least favorite of the 3 systems, mainly due to the overlap and the "all in"-type of the system; either you get all or nothing and the flexibility is pretty pronounced. I can see this system to be somewhat problematic.

The first base class contained herein would be the flowmaster, who receives d10 HD, 4 +Int skills per level, full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves. The class begins play with Throw Anything and Catch Off-guard and begins play with the option to render himself flat-footed as a free action; if rendered flat-footed thus, he can recover as a swift action. While thus rendered flat-footed, the flowmaster gains a bonus to AC equal to 1/2 class level "to a minimum to her Dexterity modifier" - does this mean that he gains a minimum bonus equal to his Dex-modifier? I assume yes. Enemies also gain no insight bonuses when attacking flowmasters. 2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a so-called eccentricity, which would be akin to a talent of the class, including Douglas Adams' Aboyne, which translates to significant bonuses versus opponents whose competence exceeds that of the flowmaster. The class can also use a touch-attack to make himself flatfooted and also make the target of his attacks flat-footed and may even fight while asleep.

The class also receives scaling damage with improvised weapons as well as evasion; beyond that, we do receive a skill check bonus when attempting something radically new. 4th level yields the interception ability, which presents counterattacks versus foes that miss the flowmaster while within their threatened area; these do begin with multiple options at 4th level, 8th level, 10th level, 13th level and 18th level providing new abilities. These generally are very cool, though e.g. the 18th level ability puppet, which allows the flowmaster to define a swift action or determine the target of a single attack on the creature's next turn, could be more precise. At 5th level, the flowmaster may execute an unconventional strike instead of a regular attack, which does receive a bonus, but also basically adds a "misfire" - on a natural 1 or 2, he hits himself. Instant-drawing imporvised weaponry, scaling DR and improved evasion complement the archetype. All in all, a pretty cool, unconventional martial artist class. And yep, favored class options for the core races as well as some exotic LRGG-races would be included here.

The second class herein would be the Ajna, who gain d8 HD, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 4 + Int skills per level and spontaneously may cast psychic spells via Wisdom, of up to 6th level, drawing upon their own spell-list. proficiency-wise, they receive only simple weapons and light armor. As a move action, the Ajna can render herself helpless, as she generates a projection that must stay within 60 feet, +10 feet per level. This projection may be maintained for 4 + Wisdom modifier levels, +2 levels per class level thereafter and, cool, temporary increases of Wisdom do explicitly not feature in this array. This projection sheds like, is incorporeal. Cool: The projection shares items etc. and the pdf lists the projection's incorporeal benefits are included for your convenience. They also begin play with Third Eye. Utterly OP: 2nd level Ajnas can execute melee attacks versus targets within 60 ft. +10 ft. per level - I don't have an issue there, but I do have an issue that the ability ignores line of sight/effect and that it converts damage into the very powerful force damage. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the character receives self-discoveries...which partially are a bit weird, featuring e.g. DR/force - when energy types usually use resistance instead. Here, the pdf is also pretty inconsistent, sporting force damage rays that deal significantly less damage than the aforementioned at range melee attacks. Increased projection etc. are included here, as is a haste like bonus attack at the highest BAB.

Starting at 3rd level, an Ana and his body may swap places as a swift or immediate action - this should probably be codified as a conjuration (teleportation) effect. At 6th level, the character may use rounds of his projection to power telekinesis, with higher levels yielding astral projection and the like. I really like the projection base mechanic and the concept of the class, but personally, I feel that this one needs some polishing; it feels very rough around teh edges regarding its benefits and pretty front-loaded. The concept could also, imho carry more.

The pdf also features a new source of power, named kashoom, a kind of cosmic energy that may be channeled with the proper forms and stances. The Kashun class would use strange martial stances to do just that. The class receives d10 HD, 4+ Int-mod skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Ref-saves as well as proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light and medium armors. They begin with 3 poses known and increase that to up to 10 at 20th level. A kashun in such a pose cannot benefit from a style or stance and wearing heavy armor instills 25% failure and they require concentration and may be entered as a free action. Starting at 2nd level, he may once per round as a swift action, transition from one such pose to another, firing an arc of cosmic lightning at a nearby target. Kashun become aware to breaching of planar boundaries at higher levels and, at 4th level, when not moving, the kashun can generate charge tokens, which may be expended to charge crackling energy into his attack, with 8th level improving the charging process. The class later takes a penalty to Intimidate, but also is bolstered regarding Diplomacy and fear effects.

At 1st level, the character also chooses a resonance, a linear bloodline-like ability; 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield another benefit based on the resonance chosen; these also influence aforementioned cosmic lightning ability. It should be noted that these follow-up abilities are not linear, though, allowing for some choice. These include gaining charge when moving around, increased movement rate, modifications to the pose-restrictions, etc. Beyond the resonance-specific ones, the pdf also sports several options that are universal, i.e. that may be chosen by each resonance. The poses are pretty interesting, with each one featuring at least 2 different, deadly tricks - including, once again, at-range force-damage conversion of strikes and e.g. short-term temporal stasis to negate hits, but no - can't be cheesed here.

The massive pdf also features a significant array of feats to pursue: Several of the feats are intended for use in conjunction with the chakra-system presented herein; but beyond those and the class enhancers you'd expect, there also are quite a few very cool feats that make sense from both a narrative and conceptual point of view - e.g. one that lets you employ Heal to suppress/alleviate a variety of mind-influencing conditions. Cool! Past Life Regression and Obsession allow the character to dabble in past lives, though admittedly, I prefer Legendary Games' iteration of that concept. The base Chakra-using feats from OA have been, just fyi, been revised to work in conjunction with the system herein. Pretty cool: Dragon Tiger Ox' classic [Qinggong]-feats are expanded, gaining three nice, new options. The pdf also provides a complex 5-feat chain of feats that represent the Opera Style of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, etc., allowing for the minor imitation of Style feats. As a nitpick - usually, not all feats in a Style's chain have the Style-descriptor - only the basic Style-feat, since feats with the descriptor require entering the style.

The pdf concludes with the vajrayana monk archetype for the monk/unchained monk and the guru ajna, who both are focused on the chakra system. Finally, the enlightened barbarian is pretty cool (yep viable for regular and unchained barb) - they get more skills per level, but must spend those on mental pursuits and the rage feature is altered to allow for concentration and yield bonuses to mental attributes, with the 2nd level allowing for mental attribute dependant feats. Solid.

Conclusion:

Editing and particularly formatting are a bit of an issue here: While rules-language, for the most part, tends to be pretty precise while juggling complex concepts, we find, time and again, diversions from the established standards, particularly regarding the formatting of spells etc. And yes, there are instances where that makes reading an ability problematic and more cumbersome than what it should be. Layout adheres to a nice, elegant 2-column full-color standard, sports neat full-color artworks and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.

One can see the different authors of this pdf: Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have delivered a pdf that sports A LOT I absolutely adore. The philosophies, the modularity of investiture and awakenings, etc. are amazing and provide, particularly for advanced GMs comfortable with crunch-operations, some amazing material. Similarly, the flowmaster is damn cool; the ajna is innovative and the kashun has some seriously cool tricks...but the devil is frankly in the details here. The ajna's hiccups in particular, the readily available force damage etc. make an impression as though something went wrong there. Similarly, and more grievously, the editing and formatting is unfortunately not as consistent in those sections as I'd love them to be. The presentation of the revised chakra system can also be slightly confusing at first reading - you should definitely be familiar with the original. There is a lot I could complain about in this pdf, a lot to nitpick and tear apart.

Thing is, I really don't want to do that. Because I actually am pretty positively surprised by a lot herein. The flowmaster can actually reproduce the fighting style of Voldo, one of my favorites from Soul Calibur; the kashun's poses, while sometimes problematic, similarly have some serious coolness and provide an interesting playing experience...and I adore 2 out of the three sub-systems presented in the book, in spite (or because!) of the massive impact they have on the game.

It is also pretty apparent that this pdf is a labor of love; you can feel the heart's blood oozing from this pdf and not one of the options in the book is bland cookie-cutter design; all options have some seriously complex and intriguing tricks that set them apart, make them feel distinct. As an advanced GM who is perfectly happy to modify content, tweak crunch, etc., I really, really like this pdf.

In fact, I really wish this had received a thorough editing pass by a very strict, nitpicky PFRPG-dev.

I am the nitpicky bastard, but this book still should be considered to be an amazing offering for the select demographic it's aimed at. It's not, let me make that clear, a book you'll just whip out and play with. This does require a bit of work, but it's worth it. The concepts in this book have candidate for Top Ten-level potential, but with the glitches and hiccups that are here, I can't rate this as highly as I'd like to - the highest I can go with this book, alas, would be 4 stars, though I really, really want to recommend this particularly to people who are looking for some seriously cool tweaks for campaigns. If you're an advanced player or GM and look for a radical change of pace, for something fresh and actually INNOVATIVE, chances are that you'll absolutely LOVE this pdf (or like me, parts of it!) and will gladly look past its issues. I enjoyed this more than many more refined books with better editing. This is, in short, the very definition of a diamond in the rough. I can't slap my seal on this, but think of about 2/3rds of this book as pure, glorious amazingness.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Ascetic Characters
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Heroes of the Waves (A Polynesian Sourcebook)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/25/2017 13:07:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 41.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

So, what is this? In one sentence, it is basically a toolkit to play a fantasy campaign based on Polynesian culture. This in itself already adds some value to the book for me. Beyond Tolkienesque fantasy and mostly Japanese-inspired Anime or Chinese WuXia, it is pretty jarring that we don't make half as much use of those fantastic cultures and mythologies our diverse species has spawned in our games.

We begin with a two page introduction (though parts of the second page are blank space and then beginw ith basically a cultural primer: We learn about "Mana", which constitutes as a term the equivalent of Gottesgnadentum, the divinely-ordained right to rule; "Tapu" would be the origin of the word "taboo", while "hara" denotes errors in the eyes of gods. "Pono" is the term for atonement for transgressions. Similarly, there was a profession-based, loose caste-system that is explained here; while not as rigid as that of the Indian culture which we nowadays mostly associate with it. Something I wasn't aware of: Kahuna can mean different things - when added to a word like a profession, it can denote expertise in that field, while its second use is basically somewhat akin to "priest". If that sounds confusing, you can use the Maori term "Tohunga" instead.

Now, a specific cultural circle will result, ultimately in a changed array of assumptions and the pdf guides you through these. First would be the absence of metal; there were no land mammals, which obviously meant no farming and significantly different domesticated animals. Similarly, there would not be one culture, but rather an extensive pluralism. All magic is considered to be divine and the vast amount of islands mean that each can easily serve as a self-contained module - and the closed ecosystems there are fragile, which allows for an interesting angle, should you choose to pursue it. Armor was, considering temperatures and the omni-presence of the sea, pretty much non-existent and impractical and as such, the pdf provides a nice AC bonus by level, which is dubbed mana - three such progressions are provided, beginning at +6, +4 and +2, respectively, and scaling up to +34, +30 and +25 at 20th level. The adaption of this system to other classes is dead simple: You look at armor proficiency and then, depending on the default proficiency, you determine the scaling AC. It is pretty obvious that characters sans armor proficiency don't get Mana at all, but from a didactic point of view, it would have made sense to explicitly spell that out.

In the absence of horses etc., Ride (Dex) is replaced with Seafaring (Wis). This new skill is used to handle ocean travel, faster travel, etc. - and similarly, the skill may be used to prevent capsizing when fighting e.g. in a canoe; and yes, Acrobatics may be used for that one as well. Judging depth and determining underwater obstacles, fishing etc. - the skill is concisely presented.

Okay, the basics out of the way, we look next towards the respective classes: Paizo-classes (excluding the ACG, OA, etc.-classes) and LRGG-classes are discussed and categorized in 4 groups: Classes that require no work to fit a Polynesian setting, ones that require some work to make them fit, those that need some serious explanation and those that are simply inappropriate - they'd require mechanical tweaks as opposed to thematic modification. Similarly, races are appropriately codified: With some tweaks, the genasi-style elemental races make sense in a Polynesian context. Similarly, gnomes are thematically appropriate, but the classic Tolkien-races are not. Merfolk and Gillmen fit the bill as well and LRGG-races are discussed similarly.

Speaking of races: The samebito would be an aquatic humanoid with slow speed (never modified by armor or encumbrance) and they gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, gain a swim speed of 49 ft., are amphibious. They gain fast healing when completely submerged in water, up to a maximum of 2 x character level per day. They also have a 1d3 primary natural bite attack. As a whole, they are appropriate for every game and should not unbalance even gritty games. Well done. The menehune gnome subrace, replace gnome weapon training with an untyped +4 to Swim and Seafaring. (Personally, I would have preferred racial bonuses here.) They also replace the hatred trait with double carrying capacity.

The Nawao (Wild Men), weirdly, come with RP-values when the other races did not, but that's a cosmetic inconsistency. Similarly, the racial modifications of ability scores (+2 Con and Wis, -2 Int) are not properly formatted, but otherwise functional. They are monstrous humanoids, gain +2 to Intimidate, +4 to Stealth and +2 to Survival (all proper racial bonuses) and have darkvision. They also gain +1 to damage rolls with simple weapons and may 1/day fly into a frenzy upon taking damage, gaining +2 Str and Con, -2 to AC for 1 minute. The bonuses to Stealth and Survival may be replaced with Stealth and Knowledge (local).

The gaunt, blue-skinned and red-haired Turehu follow the same formatting-choices and gain +2 Cha and Dex, -2 Wis and always treat Perform (wind instrument) as a class skill. They have a 20 ft climb speed and gain +2 to saving throws. Nice: They are afraid of fire and take a penalty when near one. They also gain this penalty when eating "cook food" - an "-ed" is missing here, but I like the flavor here. They may also cast bane and bless at will, with Cha governing the save-DC. Problem: The ability is not properly codified as SP or SU; the presence of a codified caster level (equal to character level) does retain functionality, though. All in all, apart from cosmetic hiccups, a well-crafted racial chapter.

The pdf also features 2 base classes, the first of which would be the Kahuna. The class receives d6 HD, 8+ Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and prepared divine spellcasting governed by Wis of up to 9th level.To prepare spells, the kahuna creates a makeshift prayer hut (or uses an existing one) to communicate with the spirits. Now, kahuna begin play with an interesting ability - they may cast forbid action (reprinted here for your convenience) as a swift action a number of times per day equal to 3 + class level + Wis-mod. A creature may, however, ignore the tapu pronounced by the kahuna, even on a failed save - this, however, results in a penalty that scales over the levels to ALL d20 rolls as well as auto-failure of critical hit confirmation rolls. This allows the kahuna to deal with crit-fishing characters, which is pretty neat. At 5th level, the kahuna may instead employ greater forbid action for 2 uses. 10th level adds a confusion-effect to the breaking of a tapu. AT 15th level, all enemies within 10 ft. per class level can be affected by a tapu, though this use of the ability costs 4 daily uses.

3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter, the kahuna chooses a Craft, Profession or otherwise skill-represented talent of vital importance to the community, gaining the skill unlock powers for the chosen skill, with skill ranks still being required to determine the effects. The capstone makes the kahuna count as having at least 1/2 class level ranks in every skill. Nice: If you're not plaiyng with skill unlocks, alternate benefits are provided. The class also comes with its own spell-list and favored class options for the races featured here + Oread and Undine as well as LRGG's Lun'la.

The second class may be familiar to those of you who have LRGG's Alternate Path: Martial-pdf. The Tataued Warrior gets d10, 2 +Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields and prepared divine spellcasting guided by Cha, drawn from the ranger's list with certain modifications. These spells are unlocked at 4th level, analogue to the ranger. At 5th level, spellcasting is modified via the option to blood cast: As a swift action, the tataued warrior may cause spell level nonlethal damage to himself to change a prepared spell to another spell he knows. Minor complaint: Does this require concentration-checks/count as receiving damage for the purpose of concentration? I assume so, but I am not sure.

One of the coolest aspects here would be that following battle protocol is written into the class with ritual weapon: Upon commencing battle, a swift action sign of respect nets first a defensive bonus, with 6th level unlocking the option to use Cha-mod instead of Str for damage rolls and 10th adding both attributes to damage with the ritual weapon. I am not the biggest fan of dual attributes to anything, but as a whole, the execution here is solid. I mentioned the ritual weapon: This is a ritualistic object that may be empowered to act as a +1 weapon, with the state of empowerment lasting class level + Con-mod round. 4th level unlocks a variant form and allows for the changing of said forms via a ceremony, with every 4 levels thereafter increasing the potency of the weapon. That being said, the flexibility regarding enchantments and their scaling benefits is offset by a fatigue cool-down after use, similar to barbarian-rages. The scaling here is pretty conservative, just fyi, so even low-powered groups should be able to use this one. For high-powered groups; I'd suggest improving the enhancement-bonus granting-progression of the ritual weapon.

The second defining class feature beyond that, though, would be tataus, gained at 1st level and every even level thereafter, codified by level - and being awesome. New tataus are unlocked at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level and their benefits cover a wide range: Beyond the usual suspects like skill bonuses and bonus feats, there also are some unique benefits: Being able to use Stunning Fist in conjunction with the ritual weapon constitutes, for example, one such benefit. Starting with the options unlocked at 3rd level, the tataus gained also feature a drawback that often make for great roleplaying catalysts - the tatau of the goat, for example, requires that you frequently add a goat sound to the end of your sentences. Another tatau may make octopi consider you an attractive food source and draw them to you. What about gaining proficiency with all martial weapons and 3 exotic ones and being able to treat all manufactured weapons as ritual weapons? Yeah, that allows for the true master of arms playstyle...but it also makes all non-simple weapons wielded fragile... These drawbacks add a nice roleplaying component to the class and provide justifications for the spirit-suffused and superstitious cultural context. Really cool!

6th level unlocks the battle chant, which translates to +1 attack at the highest BAB as part of full-round actions and +2 to Intimidate checks, with a duration of Con-mod rounds and a swift action activation. 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter provides +1 daily use. The capstone of the class allows you to choose from up to 5 super-tataus that include a free true ressurection the first time you die each day and SR, or auto-confirming crits, for example. Pretty cool! The class comes with favored class options for the respective races featured herein, plus ifrit and merfolk.

Now, the next component of the pdf is particularly suitable for less high fantasy games and would pertain the condition introduced herein: Broken Bones, which can render the target shaken and produce penalties. As a minor formatting hiccup, two spell references are not properly italicized here. The pdf also provides a total of 6 new feats, three of which represent a new style, Kapu Kuialua, the art of bone breaking - the base feat allows you to break bones with each damage-causing attack; the follow-up extends that to weapon critical hits and the third, to grapple checks. Adding broken bones via stunning fist use expenditure to trips is also included. The final feat nets you the option to ceremoniously sacrifice a spell slot to increase your Mana-AC-bonus. There is also a "barbarian talent" (should be "rage power") and a bone-breaking antipaladin cruelty. A total of 7 mundane weapons (including two-handed martial finesse weapons) can be found as well.

The pdf sports 4 magic items: two types of tooth to call forth sharks, a hook that generates islands (in 3 levels of potency) and an enchanted surfboard. All have in common, that their spell-references are improperly formatted and lack italicization, though they otherwise are pretty cool. We conclude this pdf with 6 Hawaiian and 6 Maori deity-write-ups. These remain pretty basic, with one paragraph per deity, and unfortunately sport discrepancies in the domain selection: Kane, for example, sports 7 domains, while Ku only has 5. If that was intended to balance domains of different potency, I couldn't really make out the reasons for the choices made.

Conclusion:

Editing is pretty good on both a formal and rules-language level, but formatting is less consistent: From the presentation of races to the missing italicizations, there are a couple of avoidable glitches here. Layout adheres, apart from the 1-column intro, to a 2-column full-color standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The full color artworks are solid. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

From the cultural notes to the concepts herein, there is a lot to love about this book. The Seafaring skill, bone breaking mechanic and class array generally are nice, with the tataued warrior being a rather cool character and the kahuna representing a powerful option indeed that has some cool crowd-control tricks. More importantly, this represents a great first step towards making your own Polynesian inspired campaign (come on, folks - write that campaign setting) - or to simply add material to a certain ethnicity that's pretty prominent in the Razor Coast. So yes, this is a good book and a fun offering I enjoyed reading.

At the same time, it could have been a tad bit more refined - the glitches that are herein make it unfortunately impossible for me to rate this as highly as I, as a person, would like to. Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson, Ian Sisson and Christos Gurd have, however, crafted a toolkit I can recommend for anyone looking for a great first step into Polynesian culture - even if you're just looking for ideas to scavenge, this has something to offer. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I cannot round up. I do encourage you to pick this up -we need to send a sign that non-WuXia, non-Tolkienesque fantasy does exist and does have fans and people that want something different.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes of the Waves (A Polynesian Sourcebook)
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Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/06/2016 23:24:21

This is a fantastic offering from LRGG. My home group has introduced some of the classes into our roster of options with great success. The Adventurer is offers great flexibility for our veteran players and has a fun take on the "Crazy Prepared" trope with resourcefulness class feature. The Thane offered an alternate route for our Ogre-Blooded Human to explore his heritage and alllowed him really "grow" into his role. Finally, the Undying has won a soft spot in our GM's heart. The group has found a new meaning of paranoia as every potential enemy could explode and self-resurect at a moments notice.

The alternate feat rules for the Weapon Focus line has a rousing success and has gone a long way towards making feat choices feel more useful. I personally love the [Feral] feats and hope to see more support in the future, possibly in Alternate Paths: Primal?

This is a fantastic book and I look forward to updating my review as more of these classes see actual play at our table.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
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Gonzo 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2016 02:47:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This book clocks in at 419 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with...414 pages of content.

...

..

WTF, 419-pages?? Seriously, I had various iterations of the playtest-doc since last year. It's the only reason you're seeing this review NOW. This has been moved forward on my review-queue as a prioritized review...and doing so was smart, for this book has been in circulation among playtest classes for more than a few months This is seriously the biggest book of CRUNCH I have ever reviewed, even taking the one-column layout into account...and it would completely break my format. So how to review this?

All right, let's establish some standards, shall we? I am not going to go into an in-depth analysis break-down of each ability, since that would bloat this review to an extent that helps no one. Instead, I will give you a brief class-by-class breakdown and then provide my general assessment of it, all right? Great!

The architect is a 3/4 BAB-progression class with a good Will saving-throw, d8 HD, and 4 + Int skill points. These guys let you create towers based on environments present, with a scaling number of active towers at a given time. He may also choose to summon improved versions at 5th level - these count as two towers active. Towers are created as a standard actions and have different base stats depending on resources used in construction. Beyond that, they have a mobile weapon's platform. Gravity-towers, elemental towers...quite a lot of types are provided and the class has 3 capstone super-towers...though presentation here is slightly inconsistent - the table erroneously calls these "citadel cannon" instead of grand tower and one of them has a somewhat not really required reference to a tower being only a possible choice at 20th level - which already is the case for the whole category and makes the presentation slightly more confusing. The titan archetype is a full BAB one and uses towers to supplement his increasingly mechanical body and gaining size and towers to be added to the body - complex and unique.

The atomic adept is a 3/4 BAB class with a good Fortitude saving throw, d8 HD, 4 + Int skill points, and 6th level casting - with a unique twist: While the class has an extremely small Int-governed spell list, they are defined by radiation: These guys are kinda like warlock-y type of blasters, with scaling rays that inflict radiation damage (treated like negative energy, minus option to heal undead). Here's the interesting component, though: These blasts can only be performed safely a number of times per day; any blast thereafter inflicts double the amount of rads on the atomic adept. Spells also influence the rad count with a somewhat chaotic chance of incurring a meltdown against himself. The higher the rad count a creature has, the more severe the negative conditions incurred, with rest, spells etc. being capable of reducing rad-count. Sufficient natural or regular armor also reduces rads incurred. This class is odd - there are VERY powerful talents that let you gain full progression for the blasts, for example...but at the same time, you may inflict this damage upon yourself when suffering a meltdown...and while the class has not the finesse of e.g. the Interjection Games ethermagic-system, the overall balancing of the class is interesting in that it can pull off a lot of powerful blasts, but is very limited in their function. Personally, I gravitate to more customization, though I do believe that the rad-system has a lot to offer - via other classes and expansions, there is a ton of potential here. That, and I do like the chaotic nature of spellcasting here. The mad bomber replaces nuclear strike with radiation damage dealing bombs as an alchemist - which may, due to the daily limit of bombs, be more suitable for less high-powered games...though there is some issue regarding blowing all bombs at once. If the bombs were intended to not have a daily cap, then this needs some balance-finetuning - unlimited bombs = better damage output than the base class. Overall my least favorite class in the book and the one I can see having the most issues.

The battle butler (or battle maid) is a full BAB class with good Reflex- and Will- saves, d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points that treats expensive clothes as armor. They specialize in Dex-based and are somewhat bodygaurd-ish, choosing a creature as their contract and defending them. More become available at higher levels they can select more people. Unlike many full BAB-classes, they have a bunch of non-combat utility tricks, including massages that can get rid of exhaustion/heal attribute damage. And yes, the ability has anti-abuse caveats. What about perfect memory? The interesting component with the class would be the service meter - this meter fluctuates when the master is struck and oscillates between providing bonuses (or penalty) to critical hit confirmation rolls and damage bonuses - the interesting component here is that the class gets damage-bonuses when they also have penalties to critical confirmation rolls. The table and system are simple and play rather interestingly. The class also features the new butler weapon group and several appropriately-themed weapons. This will make a whole lot of Otakus very happy! If you haven't noticed, btw.: The battle butler does undergo a rigid conditioning - and sometimes, something goes wrong - cue in the rapscallion archetype, who begin with empty service meters, but may exert more control over them.

The chessmaster gets 3/4 BAB-progression with good Reflex and Will saves, d8 HD, and 8 + Int skill points. They utilize edge points gained in combat and skill challenges and providing advice to allies actually yields results - the perfect class for all the "I know better than you where to place your character on the grid"-type of players...and providing bonuses makes listening, for once, viable and also gain edge points when their suggestion is carried out. These points they can use to return the favor by giving that action a boost via edge points- and yes, this may actually result in proper teamwork. They also get the option to set-up gambits, with prereqs, costs, triggers and effects - higher levels unlock new gambits and allow for new customizations of old ones. Interesting: At higher levels, the chessmaster can provvide advice to the enemies - when the enemy follows the advice, the chessmaster gains edge points; if not, the chessmaster can penalize him. Very interesting mastermind/tactician-style class. The trickster archetype swaps two abilities and replaces plans and coordination with a limited spell list.

The chimney sweep is a full BAB class with good Fortitude- and Reflex-saves, d10 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. They gain soot points via chimney sweeping, which they can use to create concealment at first, and gain other benefits at higher levels. They can see through fog, mist, and soot without penalty, and gain various tricks based on soot - generally, think of these guys as polearm/concealment fighters and soot-point based bonus precision damage. Okay, but very limited specialist.

The croupier gets full BAB-progression with a good Reflex and Will save, d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points. The croupier receives the Sense, which makes hostile attacks of ever-increasing natural attack rolls fail - e.g. natural 2s. When a foe misses him, he gains Sense points, which may then be expended to modify e.g. d20 rolls: Think of the mechanic as somewhat akin to a Charisma-based version of grit, but based on being missed. Additionally, weapons like pool cues and cards are part of the deal - and important: The class can conjure forth cards and throw them at foes, with the suits becoming relevant when chosen via one of the class's talents - with e.g. hearts offering healing, clubs debuffs, etc. Billiard-based combat tricks and chaotic firearm use or limited bardic abilities complement a chaotic, but interesting class. Archetype-wise, the cheater can use his tricks to influence the rolls of others - basically, the more misfortune-themed variant of the class. The second archetype, the pool shark, would be the specialist who manifests a cue ball of force energy, usable in conjunction with a couple of unique rounder talents...including a mechanically novel crazy eight ball that may suddenly change course...

The davatti gains full BAB-progression and good Fortitude- and Reflex-save-progression, d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points. The interesting point here being that they can move 4-dimensionally - in the directions of ana and kata - to illustrate the concept for 3D-thinking: Imagine you're a denizen of Flatland (2D) and can move into the depth or height of your world - 4D-movement works similarly, but obviously lacks as poignant an illustration since our own perception is attuned to 3D. Mechanics-wise, this class can be summed up as the perfect skirmisher - since they can short-burst teleport/4D-move to just about any space, they are supremely agile and make hit and run tactics pretty awesome; since their4D-movement is still restricted by movement-type, this movement can't be cheesed. Also truly intriguing: Non-4D movement charges their "manabar", i.e. the points they can expend to modify their tricks via talents and the like. That's not all, however - the class also sports a highly customizable "nth blade", which interacts in some instances with these mechanics - basically, we get a skirmisher with a highly customizable blade type. Pretty impressive class! The archetype for this class provided would be the deja-vin - instead of using their powers to phase around, these guys can try to force creatures to repeat their previous actions to the best of their abilities, including, obviously, modified warp talents.

The dynamancer gets full BAB-progression and a good Will saving throw, d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points. Inspired by Gurren Lagann et al., they can fire beams of love...that deal love damage. Evil foes take more damage from this, but have an easier time saving against it. The interesting component, here, is momentum - being hit (or hitting a foe) grants the class momentum, while it also may expend said points...and even go negative, incurring penalties for doing so. And no, can't be cheesed/kitten'd. In combat, the class has a BAB that is different from the listed amount, clocking in at CR of the opponent, with class level +3 (later: class level +5) being the caps. Aforementioned love ray can be supplemented and expanded upon over the levels to result in compulsions and signature styles (including gender fluidity of those hit or breakdancing). Additionally, the gain handicaps, which allow for different uses of momentum - blind dynamancers can spend momentum to gain blindsight for a limited time-frame, for example. They also get an aura at higher levels that prevents creatures with a low Charisma from approaching them and a sufficiently whacky capstone. Archetype-wise, there is a somewhat tactician-y one, the greaser, who may lend signature styles to allies, for example.

The guide has 1/2 BAB-progression, good Reflex and Will saves, d4 HD (no, you have not misread!), and 8 + Int skill points. Have you seen the infamously stupid D&D cartoon and thought the GM as a character was a good idea? Have you ever played Ocarina of Time and NOT wanted to bash Navi's wispy bauble to smithereens? Well, there are guides. Guides serve the Storyteller, who prefers happy endings and thus sends out these fellows to guide heroes. Hence the name. These guides can change into tiny bubbles (with elemental traits) - even though the text confusingly once states that their form is diminutive and can basically provide all those support tricks: Mage Hand, Knock, high-level limited wishes, 1/day raise dead at the cost of being reduced to -1 HP, swift/immediate action cures - think of these guys as the support globe that hopefully isn't as annoying as the more infamous rendition in video games. Balance-wise, these guys are very fragile and their limited offense capabilities make them an uncommon playing experience. Unassisted flight at 1st level may prove to be problematic for some campaigns, though admittedly, the fragility of the class does help here a bit - a few well-placed arrows and you had a guide... One note: At 2nd level, these guys may cast magic missile at will, providing an easy and convenient way for very reliable damage. Depending on the precise nature of your campaign, this could prove to be an issue, thought it won't be in most. Fairy godmothers replace bauble form and some tricks with Cha-based spellcasting from the cleric's list and generally is a significant change of the feeling of the class.

The henchling gets full BAB-progression and good Fortitude saves, as well as d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points per level. The class is pretty ingenious in that it takes the old "who carries the loot"-discussion and puts an end to it: These guys do. Not penalized by encumbrance, they are superb at carrying huge amounts of gear...and actually benefit from it: You see, the primary weapon of these guys is the pack - basically, they can enchant their back packs, bags or the like and are particularly adept at bludgeoning foes to death with all the loot gathered. Interesting: Melee splash damage...and yes, you actually WANT to carry around increasing amounts of gear, since the higher your level, the higher the bonus damage for progressively higher weights carried around will be. Damn cool idea and uncomplicated, easy to grasp execution. Archetype-wise, the merchant, a rather complex one, can provide a significant number of quality of life improvements and the option to ferret out rewards for things/foes defeated is interesting as well.

The henshin hero is a full BAB class and has good Fortitude- and Will-save-progression, d10 HD, and gets 4 + Int skill points per level. These guys have a trinket à la Power Rangers that allows them to assume a special form a limited amount of rounds per day; while thus transformed, they gain tension points for passing rounds and defeated foes. These points act as a resource to power special tricks, including enhancers to the bonus damage-dealing finishers. The talents of the class include mounts, better action economy, explosive finishers and transformations - the whole array of tricks you know from the genre. Beyond the modularity this framework offers, the henshin hero also may choose one from a metric ton of leitmotifs, which cover bases from space to the alignment axes - these basically act as somewhat order-like/bloodline-like ability-suites that unlock new tricks at higher levels and provide modifications of the aforementioned finisher moves. Morph rangers are, obviously, more teamwork focused.

The magical girl gets 3/4-BAB-progression, good Fortitude- and Will-saves, d8 HD, 4 + Int skill points, and 6th level Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting. Magical girls are a hybrid between the henshin hero and the magus classes, and thus also gain a transformation as well the ability to gain and use tension, with finishers being untyped damage-blasts. Her motif acts more like a witch's patron, essentially a list of bonus spells. They also gain spell combat and some magical girl powers that blend magus arcana and hero powers and may expend transformation rounds to power spellcasting or dispel effects. Interesting: They can modify their finisher to work as AoE- basically, Sailor Moon, the class. The magical girl and henshin hero may btw. modify their trinkets via the empathetic device archetype to make their defining trinkets slightly sentient. Fused heroes, in the meantime, do not have such trinkets at all, working via different attributes and gaining a unique overdrive state, which can prove to be rather risky.

The monster cowboy gets full BAB and good Fortitude- and Reflex-saves, d10 HD, and 6 + Int skill points. They gain the gunslinger's gunsmith ability and, more importantly, a monstrous companion that acts like an animal companion (though the list is expanded to include e.g. gorgons, hydras or shambling mounds...), and gain the ability to ride pretty much anything you can imagine: With the exception of humanoids, incorporeal undead and oozes - even if they're not willing. While initially, this is done mainly to hassle the foes and gain advantages over them, things change once steel points enter the fray; these can be used to attempt to force creatures into submission via Handle Animal checks, though it is a mind-affecting effect. Beyond SPs gained by brands and the subversion of the will of branded foes, these guys They also have the ability to perform extra tricks with lassos and nets. Monstrous mount-choices, obviously, are part of the class presentation, though I really would have loved to see a pseudo-Chocobo here...oh well...riding owlbears is pretty awesome. And FYI: Since riding fellow adventurers doesn't really help the class, it thankfully steers clear of the minefield that is one PC riding another...

The multiman gets 3/4 BAB-progression and a good Reflex save, d8 HD, and measly 2 + Int skill points. Their main ability is creating clones - at first 1 at a given time, later up to 4. Clones are created as a swift action 4/day, +1/day for each class level, lasting for class level rounds, minimum 3. Clones are restricted in the actions they can perform and observant adversaries may pick out the prime multiman. Clones are rather fragile to begin with and draw upon a collective pool of resources. Impressive: The disarm/item-duplication-cheese options are covered. The class becomes more interesting pretty fast, with customizable clones (e.g. remote-detonation clones or ones that fly/are invisible) providing options via two separate suits of talents. Oh, and obviously, the class also gets some serious teamwork-vibes going on. Archetype-wise, the mitotic man is similar yet different, splitting off clones by mitosis, with consecutively powerful ooze traits gained instead of mirror manipulations. I am a bit weary of these guys, but then again, the visuals are glorious.

Class number 15, The phantom thief, gets 3/4 BAB-progression with good Reflex- and Will- saves, d8 HD, 6 + Int skill points, and 6th-level spontaneous Cha-based spellcasting. Billed as a hybrid of the rogue and the bard they also get a pool of panache, the ability to fight more effectively in light or no armor, and the ability to spend panache to sneak attack. They later gain a number of tricks to allow them to steal various non-physical things, amongst other abilities. The class has the crazy prepared option among the talents (which works well and can't be cheesed, though it lacks the "no-specific-key" caveat)...and can steal abstract concepts - from memories to attitudes, these guys come off as the mythic tricksters with a slight touch of the magical. If you're familiar with a lot of 3pp-books: Think of these guys as a pretty powerful take on the Abstract Thief that works much better than the class of the same name. My favorite version of the concept so far - kudos! The bagman archetype of the class is the gift-giving specialist, just fyi - and yes, you could make conceivably battle santa with this one.

The sparkle princess has a 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fortitude- and Will-saves, d10 HD, 2 + Int skill points, and Charisma-governed spontaneous spellcasting of up to 4th level, though spells may be cast alternatively via sparkle power. Sparkle princesses are ruthless, savage killers, honed by fighting devils in a nightmarish demiplane of Hell, dread Candyland ruled by the Chocolate King, where everything is tooth-achingly sweet and the devils assume cutesy-wootsy forms, tempting children into the plane where most are either devoured or pressed into slave labor. They utilize special snowflake powers that can be powered by their sparkles...or they perform atrocities, which are sparkle-powered modifications of their respective attacks. Including the severing of limbs. Obviously. (Yes, rules included.) They also gain an animal companion or can establish a bond with their allies. Information on the demiplane is provided, as is the +2 Cha and Con, -2 Int half-construct teddybear race. ...the sparkle princess may not be mechanically the most novel of options herein...but oh boy do I love the class and its notion. Oh, and there is the mother archetype who can reselect all mommy powers it comes with at 16th level - via the aptly-named "Best Mom Ever"-ability.

The thread maiden is similarly a 3/4 BAB class with a good Will save, d8 HD, 6 + Int skill points, and 6th-level Wisdom-based prepared spellcasting. They can see the threads of fate, which results in a rather unique perspective on the world and creatures - think of her seeing things basically as though we all were sackboys/girls from Little Big Planet. Depending on the specialization chosen, they can unweave magic, take away the qualities (or types) of creatures or objects. Additionally, special attacks, so-called snips, allow for the expenditure of unused spell slots to provide pretty nasty debuffs.

Finally, the ungermaw gets full BAB, plus a good Fortitude-save, d10 HD, and 4 + Int skill points. These people can draw in air with such force it delivers targets closer to his gnashing teeth. They get a bite (proper primary/secondary codification provided) and are defined by hunger - they must eat twice as much as a regular character and still are never sated. They gain a number of talents, mostly focused on consumption as they progress, making their bite more deadly, allowing them to exhale to push people away, and even the ability to feast on magic itself...and yes, swallow whole. The cannibal archetype of this class, while technically not correctly named, gets abilities depending on the creature eaten.

The pdf also sports archetypes beyond the aforementioned ones:

Abductee clerics replace channel energy with the option to deal nonlethal damage...however, there is a chance that the target is abducted and subject to alien experimentation. Interesting one. Broodmother summoners are the harbingers of insectoid or otherwise weird symbiotes - instead of an eidolon, they can caused touched creatures to be infected and then mutate. They get less creatures to be summoned, but may cause damage versus those infected, as a capstone even providing a killswitch. The Comrade paladin...is a holy warrior of the ideals of Marxism, devoted to bringing down nobility and bourgeoisie. The coward rogue is permanently shaken and deals minimum sneak attack damage - but may inflict its cowardice on others and even learns to modify his levels of fear - a lot of unique talents included. Interesting archetype-concept.

Pretty cool, particularly for all interested in modern-style gaming, the ranger-archetype of first responder, with paramedic, firefighter and police officers being represented. The folken barbarian hails from a strange land and has a blend of superstition-style abilities (yep, hex) and signature weapons as well as the option to stir the hearts of those that listen to him using his native tongue.

Glitch sorcerors are interesting enough to be almost considered their own class and rank as one of my favorite sorceror archetypes EVER - getting rid of the defining bloodline and all that's associated with it, these beings regard reality as a simulation and may tamper with in, hacking the world itself: This allows them to swap creatures with other creatures, for example. Modifying DR or hacking resistance also are...interesting. The significant, potentially game-changing power comes at a price, though: Each time the glitch hacks reality, reality recoils. The GM has an assortment of options, from problematic objects to worsened starting attitudes...and yes, this can lead to very unique situations. I really like this one, though it does require a quick-thinking GM. Still, a campaign with these guys and Rite Publishing's Metadventurers could be absolutely hilarious! Goblin rogues may elect to become battle clowns (including an assortment of goblin jokes) and harpy witches replace hexes with belittling, vile insults.

The impersonator PrC gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and 7/10 spellcasting progression, a bonus feat at 1st and every 3 levels thereafter...and generally, has the fine-tuning depending on the persona he impersonates: A Schwarzenegger impersonator gets different class skills, applies better weapon training to different weapons than a Bruce Lee impersonator, for example. 6 sample icons are provided. The Slimelord PrC gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, 1/2 spell/extract-progression, 1/2 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-progression - by studying oozes, they can lob oozy bomb-like globs at foes, get different slime forms and progressively take on ever more oozy traits...but at the cost of progressively losing Charisma. Oh, and yes, there is a new deity: Baygorth, the elderslime, whose favorite weapon...is green and needs to smell like peaches. That's it. provided you can make a weapon adhere to these criteria and do so...well, you got it. And yes, you can take Weapon Focus (Green and Smells Like Peaches). This section also introduces us to the humanoid oozes called Rezumar, who get 2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int and have a couple, but thankfully not all ooz-y traits...and make for an overall balanced race, though I wished it had more space to shine.

One of the oddest archetypes I have ever seen would be the Master Familiar - a familiar who gets a wizard thrall. Kinda awesome! The Nascent deity oracle archetype selects a dominion from a list of cleric domains, with provides a prerogative and a list of class skills, replacing the mystery and mystery bonus spells. Not a big fan of this one, mainly since I've seen the concept done better. The negotiator inquisitor is a slick, silver-tongued guy with some battle-butler-synergy and ooze chemist alchemists get a symbiotic ooze (erroneously, he's called "mad experimentalist" once here) - basically an ooze companion that can be enhanced by extracts, but the alchemist does lose bombs. Unfortunately, I've seen that one done before in a bit more unique manner by Flying Pincushion Games. Pacifist fighters are perhaps not perfectly named, but they do provide a solid means of depicting a face-fighter that does not kill his foes. Pyrotechnicians are bomb-specialist-alchemists with full BAB and Ex bombs as well as no spellcasting - mainly useful for non-magical settings; in the fantastic context, I've seen this trope done better.

On a high note: Rancer cavaliers get orthellas - magical motor-cycles. Awesome, though I wished there were more than the two sample ones provided here. Speedster monks increase their damage, the more they have moved and become progressively faster (think Flash or Quicksilver, light edition), while starchild druids gain a psychedelic outsider companion and the option to animate dreams. The take on the Storyteller archetype, here provided for the bard, has weaponized books and can conjure forth legends of old.

Of course, in a book of this size, one should not be surprised to see feats - and indeed, from Dance-Fu fighting style to Percussive Maintenance Style or Sissy Slap style, there are quite a few rather funny ones. The feat-section also provides a lot of options for the huge array of classes (and archetypes) herein - e.g. the harpy does get a couple of feats. Nice, btw.: You see the associated class at one glance - in optional brackets behind the feat-name. Very helpful! Firing a bow with your feet? Possible. Also cool: Elemental Phobia: it nets you resistance versus the element, but makes you react with dread when faced by it...and yes, upgradeable. A fascination-inducing Puppy-Dog gaze, a personal theme song-feat...this book earns its title.

The book also sports new gear - metal jaws, cloudpress and darksteel, nacreous silver...quite a bunch of new materials can be found...oh, and yeah, there even are a couple (5) cool combat drugs. Books of lewd desires or bullets that talk with you while sticking in your body...have I mentioned the "Oh Dear Mother of God why would you do this"-chain that can discorporate into a spider swarm on command?

Sooo, and right now I come to a chapter that may single-handedly make some people buy this book, even those that don't care at all for a single class herein: Mecha-construction rules. You get build points, various frames, engines, weapons, defense systems, movement systems, special systems - in one word: Easy to grasp-rules (with Build Point-progression rules for Mecha-XP, if you will - slow, normal and fast progression...), different sizes, different generators - the set-up is simple, yet works...and may well be a great start for a whole book of mecha...the system's relative simplicity certainly would allow for a lot of expansion beyond the ~20 pages devoted to it! I love this chapter and its rules, but on a nitpicky side, explaining how the system works in detail would have been didactically smart - while it becomes evident upon reading what the components do, clearly explaining all components, not just the basics before going into the system would have made it a tad bit more user-friendly. Then again, it's so easy to grasp, you won't have any issues.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are...honestly much better than I expected. In a book of this significant size, there are surprisingly few glitches herein. Kudos to Morgan Boehringer, Christina Johnson and Rahul Kanojia. Layout adheres to a 1-column full-color standard and there is a LOT of playful, original full-color art herein. On the downside, I don't really like the one-column standard for books like this (more page-flipping) and I'm no fan of the font. Both are subjective points and thus will not enter the equation regarding my final verdict. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and a second b/w printer-friendly version -great to see that one!

Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson, Ian Sisson, Sasha Hall, Mark Nordheim, Christos Gurd - congratulations. This book is the biggest crunch-book I have ever reviewed. It took me forever to get done and I honestly expected the reviewing process to devolve into pure pain somewhere along the way. It didn't. This is due to several facts:

1) This book opts to go the high road: You won't see any lackluster combinations of old class mechanics herein; even in hybrid type classes, the results are unique and have their own unique schtick.

2) Almost all of the classes feature some kind of very distinct and novel mechanic - granted, I dislike some of them personally, but I have to applaud their creativity and said dislike stems universally from personal tastes. You can e.g. reduce rads via magic pretty easily; in my games, this would be a problem; in others, it may be required for the mechanic to be considered worthwhile - bug or feature? You decide.

3) Overall, there are no downright broken components herein. There are some strong options herein, but they universally are circumstantial in their power and focus: Obviously, the glowing Navi-thing must fly...is that an issue in your low-level game? It can be, but it doesn't have to be.

4) This book, honestly, is great for serious games as well. The davatti, for example, will certainly see use in my games, no matter the tone.

5) This book is never, ever BORING. I have seen A LOT of different crunch books and quite a few...well, feel somewhat redundant to me at this point. This one, for the staggering majority of its vast page-count, managed to keep me entertained while reading and analyzing it.

How to rate this colossus, then? See, this is where it gets tricky for me - I have encountered a couple of instances where the rules-language or presentation could have been a bit clearer. I didn't like everything...but on the other hand, this is pretty much a colossal grab-bag of options, a scavenger's toolkit that allows you to play basically Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, use tropes like the battle maid, skirmish through space or play a friggin' fairy godmother...or a psychotic sparkle princess. Not all options or power-levels will be appropriate for every campaign. Not all classes will be to your liking...but chances are, you'll find a lot of damn cool material (or rules-inspirations) in this book. Ever wanted to play Ghostrider? There's an option for that. And then there's the bang-for-buck ratio. ~$0.04 per page. You'll be pretty hard-pressed to find a book of this imaginative potential with such an impressive bang-for-buck ratio. While there are some hiccups herein, the totality of the book deserves praise and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars...and since I loved a lot of the imaginative and innovative options herein, I'll round up and while not all components inside deserve it, I will still slap my seal of approval on this massive book for the multitude of components inside that I do love. If you want to see something radically different, take a look at this tome - there is so much to love here, even if you end up loathing some components, it's well worth the investment!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Tome of Wicked Things 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/03/2016 05:33:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.25 pages of SRD, leaving us with ~12 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

We begin this supplement with the slasher base class, intended to allow for GMs to duplicate the gruesome sprees of Jason, Michael Myers etc. The base class receives d12, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light and medium armor, full BAB-progression and, interestingly, good Will-saves. Slashers obviously need to be evil and are intended primarily as antagonists. A slasher begins play with the accursed ability, which nets a pool of curse points they can use to power their class abilities. Said points are interesting in that they can hold up to 2 times class level + Charisma modifier. They get +1 curse point when they see a creature die, +2 if they kill it themselves. Curse points refresh at the stroke of Midnight. I'd usually start my kitten-test-schtick right now...but in the case of this class, that seems kind of stupid. Yes, slashers WOULD kill kittens to replenish curse points.

Slashers instinctively understand every language, but cannot articulate any, being relegated to grunts, moans and the like. Also at first level, the slasher chooses a tragedy from 6 presented - these can be likened to bloodlines or orders in that they modify the list of class skills and, in some cases, proficiencies. Each such tragedy confers multiple boons upon the slasher, but also an array of weaknesses. Let's take a look at "Cursed One", as an example: These guys receive SR 11 + class level as well as an oracle's curse (with tongues being not allowed - nice catch!) - but weakness-wise, being targeted by a hex temporarily inverts their fast healing, dealing damage instead (this could be a bit more clearly spelled out) and wielding magic weapons whose bonus exceeds 1/3rd their level similarly sabotages their fast healing. Finally, each slasher has a preferred target - here, that would be any creature with a CL or at least 1 SP.

Knights of hell receives a mount and heavy armor (and tower shield) proficiency as well as an upgrade for the infernal template at 4th level. They are weak to holy symbols and good weapons and target non-evil creatures. The remorseless killer triples the amount of bleed damage caused and instantly kills creatures reduced to 0 HP, but they are weak to law-aligned weapons and symbols and target such creatures. The restless avenger never grows tired and needs no sleep and gains Endurance at 1st level. Any damage caused by the slasher renders the target tired for 3 rounds. They are weak to chaotic-aligned weapons and when they are reminded of their first act of vengeance...or subject to the tolling of bells. The seeker of power can duplicate a limited array of spells from the sorceror/wizard-list via curse points. Unfortunately, the ability is not specified as SP and thus, I have no idea which attribute governs the saves - I assume Charisma, but I'm not sure. If the slasher casts spells thus, he does take damage, though. They are weak to silver/cold iron and target outsiders. Finally, there would be the tortured child tragedy, which is immune to fear effects and increases the DC of such effects caused by +2. The tragedy also grants a level-based bonus to atk and damage versus creatures that are smaller. Their healing is inverted when hearing a baby cry, when they're confronted with a memento/effigy of the torturing parent and they target humanoids.

Also at 1st level, slashers receive a calling card - this has a 60 ft.-radius: Torches may double effectiveness and turn into weird colors. Weird melodies (Freddy comes a-knockin...) can penalize concentration, the chill of the grave or water turning into blood - these effects are not subtle...but they are cool...and can be suppressed as a swift action. Also at 1st level, the slasher receives a weapon of grief, in which he is automatically proficient. When wielding this weapon, slashers may expend one curse point to deal + Cha-mod damage versus good-aligned creatures noted in the preferred target-line of his tragedy.

At 2nd level, the class can deliver a single attack as a full-round action - if the attack hits, he deals 1 point of attribute damage or bleed damage, increasing by +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. He may also expend curse points equal to the amount of this damage inflicted to accompany the first attack of a full attack to add said effect to the first attack. This ability could be a tad more precise in its wording. At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the slasher may choose one of the talents of the class: These include more weapons of grief, Bleeding Critical, hideous laughter (not properly italicized) as a curse point-based SP. (Yes, this one gets SP and CL right.) One talent also allows for instant healing as a response to seeing a nearby creature killed. Literally feeding on fear (and even healing via fear) and an option to go unnoticed as well as the option to hamstring foes can be found herein. And yes, with the right talent, slashers can detach their head or double the range of their calling card. Off-screen teleportation into a hiding place/concealment is represented by curse point-based dimension door, oddly not codified as Sp, but as Su, which means that CL-info and the like is slightly problematic here. Higher level slashers may deal both attribute damage and bleed damage at once. Oh, and there would be the option to force killed targets to emit a scream, resulting in AoE-demoralize. Invisibility as an SP is also nice and a second calling card is fun as well. Hunting down specific creatures and reflexive teleport to stand behind doors, curtains etc. complement some cool, if not always perfect abilities.

At 3rd level, the slasher gets a scaling short-range fear aura. At 4th level, the slasher gains fast healing 1 as long as he has at least 1 curse point. Fats healing increases by +1 at 8th level, +1 every four levels thereafter. The inversion of fast healing noted in the tragedies deals twice the fast healing's amount as damage, btw. 5th level nets 30 ft. lifesense (blindsight, only for living creatures) and 10th level provides 1/day a free reflexive raise dead. As a capstone, this rising from the grave instead works via true resurrection within minutes (instead of raise dead's hour-countdown)...oh, and the slasher sends his victims straight to an evil-aligned underworld...and killing creatures nets the slasher HD of creature killed x2 HP.

The pdf also introduces a new races, the Grinn - 7ft. tall boogeymen with elongated limbs and digits and look somewhat like walking corpses - they may be rather eloquent...or brutal killing machines. Grinn obviously are fey, suffer from light sensitivity, get low-light vision, darkvision 60 ft and get +1 to Intimidate and Knowledge (Nobility), which also are always class skills for them. This can be replaced by more nasty grims that champion slaughter with 2 1d4 claw-attacks - I assume the default her, but specifying primary/secondary would have been nice. Their defining, eponymous feature, though, would be their dreadful smile. This is a mind-affecting fear-effect that works like a gaze attack and causes targets to be temporarily shaken, with a hex-24-hour cool down, but also scaling DC. Nice balance between keeping the gaze relevant and preventing spamming here. The race does feature age. height and weight-tables, which is neat to see. The pdf also sports 4 feats for the Grinn, which unlock a smile that panics/paralyzes at balance-wise appropriate levels (kudos!), free Intimidates after hitting with both claws and the scent-quality, but only for creatures suffering from fear-effects.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, though I've seen Little Red Goblin Games do better in that regard - there are some typos, abilities not properly classified as SP when they obviously should be that and similar minor hiccups in the rules-language, though admittedly, they tend not to influence the feasibility of the respective material. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson and Ian Sisson have crafted a book... that I like more than I should. Quite frankly, this book hits a couple of things that usually irk me to no end - small imperfections that just...gall me. But know what? For once, I honestly don't care that much. Why? Because I'm a huge horror-fan (d'uh!) and have seen more slasher-flicks than I can shake a stick at - actually, I've analyzed quite a few of them properly...but that's for another topic. The slasher herein is interesting, because it captures rather well in mechanic terms how those killers operate. The class also does a great job mirroring the impeccable advance of the slasher, meaning the class can work in player hands in an evil game...though its class featured can be cheesed...by design.

The odd thing here is that I'm not 100% positive whether this is aimed at players or at GMs - for the GM-side, the class may actually be a bit too balanced for its own sake. For the player-side, I abhor the kitten-cheese of curse-point-replenishment, particularly when an easy tying of the curse point replenishment to the tragedy's preferred victims would have offset that. Similarly, I love the more creative, narrative weaknesses (tolling of bells, etc.) but while I consider the alignment-based ones balance-wise justified, they fall somewhat behind in visuals and potential. This class leaves me very much torn.

Regarding the grinn - well, here, I have nothing to complain: The race should work in all but the most low-powered of games and is evocative in its fluff. While I wished it had some FCOs for good measure, I enjoy the race and look forward to using it when I one day get to run e.g. Richard Pett's The Blight.

How to rate this, then? See, here, things become VERY difficult for me. Craftsmanship-wise, there is a lot to love...and quite a bit to dislike as well. So I'll leave this up to you, my readers: If you want perfect craftsmanship and minor hiccups in the abilities irk you, then you will probably consider this to be a 3 star-file. If you're looking for a scavenging ground of ideas and crunchy tricks, then this will certainly deliver - for you, this will probably be a 4-star file. Similarly, if you're playing an evil campaign and both you and your GM are fine with gentlemen's agreements/minor modifications, this will do its job well and should be considered as a nice, inexpensive purchase. My final verdict will thus fall in-between, at 3.5 stars...and because I really enjoy the grinn and the subject matter, I will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Wicked Things 2
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Sage (Character Class)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2016 04:32:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Sages as a class receive d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-Saves and proficiency with simple weapons. They are subject to arcane spell failure when utilizing armor or shields. Unsurprisingly from the chassis, the sage is a full caster that draws spells from the sorc/wizard spell-list and learns them at the same rate as the sorceror. Here's a divergence from established tropes, though: In spite of being a spontaneous caster, the sage's governing spellcasting attribute is not Charisma, but Intelligence. They still get Eschew Materials at first level.

The defining class feature for the sage, though, would be meditation, an extraordinary ability. A given sage can meditate for 4+Wisdom modifier rounds per day, +2 rounds every level after the first. Temporary enhancements to Wisdom do not grant additional rounds of meditation and the ability is replenished after resting. While meditating, sages receive a +4 bonus to Int and +2 to Will-saves, though the Int-increase does not net you skill points or the like. Additionally, spells cast receive a +1 bonus to their caster level, but this does come at an interesting cost - the base speed is reduced to 5 ft., 0 ft. if her speed already was 10 ft. or less. Additionally, meditating sages receive a penalty of -4 to Str and Dex and cannot make skill-checks based on them...oh, and they're flatfooted. A sage may end a given meditation as a free action, but remains befuddled for 2 rounds per round spent in meditation - this translates to -4 Int and Wis. Being subject to any effect that causes befuddlement while already befuddled renders the sage confused instead and entering meditation is impossible while befuddled.

All right, let's drop the pretense - the sage can easily be summed up as a full caster class that utilizes the design paradigm of the barbarian and as such it should come as no surprise that the sage begins play with a meditation power and receives an additional power every two levels thereafter, read: every odd level. Said powers can obviously only be utilized while in meditation. The meditation powers themselves un a rather diverse gamut of options - for example, one nets you scaling spells available only in meditation: First just a 0-level spell, but at 18th level, you also get up to 4th level spells - though the spells thus gained only remain available while meditating. Another two meditations allow you to treat the SR of e.g. evil or good creatures as lower than it is while meditating. At 6th level, you can teleport 30 ft within line of sight as a move action, somewhat offsetting the sage's crippled movement - nice, though imho this should be designated as a conjuration [teleportation]-effect for purposes of interaction with other mechanics. Similarly, sages with another power may use their out of meditation movement...provided they end the movement adjacent to an enemy.

There is also an option that allows you to freely change elemental types of spells cast (and gets the descriptor-caveat right - kudos!) or gain a familiar that only is present in meditation. Levitation while meditating can also be found among the options here and there also is an immediate action retributive bull rush based on Wis versus targets daring to come close to the sage. 1/meditation touch-spell maximization is nasty.

As for the other class abilities: I'm not a fan of adding two attribute-modifiers to any skill, so unsurprisingly, I don't like the addition of Wis-mod to all Knowledge and Spellcraft-checks at 3rd level.8th level provides essentially evasion for Will-saving throws while in meditation and 10th level upgrades meditation bonuses to +6/+3, respectively, with the capstone further increasing them to +8/+4.

At 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the sage receives an advanced meditation (5 such abilities are provided by the pdf, which is a bit sparse) - these can be considered modifications of a basic meditation - you enter them as a swift action, but can't revert back to a regular meditation. Only one advanced meditation may be in effect at a given time. The first of these allows the sage to damage herself to deal additional damage and also causes continuous damage while maintained - think of it as sudden death mode. Deeper Meditation allows for even better SR-penetration, while delving into cyclopean mysteries increases CL and upgrades the maximum damage dice cap of spells, but comes at the price of confusion after exiting the meditation. Studied Meditation allows you to pay for metamagic benefits with meditation rounds, while isolated meditation increased chances to hit and threat ranges of spells. The capstone ability of the class allows for the activation of two such advanced meditations at once.

The pdf goes on to present the Conduit, which is erroneously referenced as "sage" in the proficiency-list, which is modified to include the favored weapon of the conduit's deity. The conduit's spells are drawn from the cleric spell list and are not prepared in advance (though the write-up here contradicts itself by stating before that they are prepared in advance...nasty cut copy paste error...). Uncommon once again - they are governed by Intelligence, not Wisdom. Instead of the knowledge-bonuses and the will-evasion, conduits receive the Divine Conduit ability at 3rd level, which allows for channel energy, with a radius of 15 ft. This effect may not be suppressed and deals/heals 1d6 at 4th level (which is odd - is it 3rd or 4th level??), +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter. Okay, if you can't see the glaring issue here, let me enlighten you: This is always on. Not only in meditation, ALWAYS. ON. Infinite AoE-damage (which renders evil conduits basically incapable of interacting with anything but undead), it also represents infinite healing. I am pretty sure this is supposed to be only active while meditating, but ultimately, RAW, that's what we get - and as such, it won't get anywhere near my table.

The pdf also sports 6 new feats: More meditation rounds, +1 meditation power, expending 3 rounds of meditation as a swift action for +Wis-mod damage with damaging spells (do the expended rounds count towards the befuddlement period? - No Idea.), a feat that can be sued once per round when piercing SR to get +1 meditation round (effectively maintaining the allotted rounds), better skill-use in meditation and a feat for access to a bloodline power while in meditation.

The pdf also sports 4 unique magic items: A sensory deprivation helm that nets blindsight in meditation, a torc that allows for other classes to enter meditation (or adds +3 rounds) that is pretty underpriced at 8K, a ring that lets you ignore befuddlement at the expense of damage (or reduce confusion down to befuddlement) - but again: Does this allow for the renewed initiation of meditation or does it simply offset the penalties? No clue. There also are sandals that increase movement speed and grant sages access to a meditation power. Slightly annoying: The magic items deviate from formatting standards, lacking spell-italicization and the usual bolding of Aura, CL, etc.

The pdf closes with 2 new spells, touch of befuddlement and waves of befuddlement - the latter has an instantaneous duration and renders all creatures in the cone befuddled, no save...but does not specify for how long. The touch is solid and nice.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect - there are some deviations from formatting standards to be found here. At the same time, some potentially nasty cut-copy-paste-errors and ambiguities have crept into an otherwise clean array of rules-language exhibited in the class. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has some nice, original pieces of artwork. The pdf also sports bookmarks, though oddly, the archetype is absent from them - which doesn't really surprise me.

Why? Where the base sage is clean and precise in its depiction (for the most part), the conduit feels very much rushed, less refined and basically non-functional. Jeff Gomez, Dayton Johnson and Scott Gladstein seem to have created a solid, if brief class that could have used some more choices with the sage: In playtest, the class performed exactly as I expected: Basically, the sage is somewhat akin to a sorceror that can go hulk: It's pretty satisfying to start wrecking foes with enhanced magical potency. The cool-down means that you have to choose your meditation wisely and that buffs suddenly become more viable if their duration is long enough to survive the befuddlement cool-down. Similarly, meditation-cycling can make for interesting flows in long battles. Let me state this explicitly: The sage would be OP, were it not for the movement decrease and the vulnerability this imposes - even the best sage remains FLATFOOTED when meditating, which means a sage is only as good as his minions/fellow PCs - one rogue can literally instagib him...and this makes for a rather interesting dynamic. I ended up really liking the sage, in spite of some rough edges and me wishing it had more advanced meditations and meditation powers to choose from.

At the same time, the conduit is broken and the supplemental material, unfortunately, does not reach the level of refinement of the base-class, sporting several unnecessary issues that could have been easily eliminated. What remains, thus, is an interesting, powerful base-class that sports a unique playstyle, hamstrung somewhat (see what I did there - crippled movement, hamstrung...okay, I'll drop a buck in the bad pun jar) by the accumulating issues beyond the basic framework of the class. Hence, unfortunately, I can't rate this as high as I'd like to - my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sage (Character Class)
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Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/03/2016 04:13:14

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at...wait...what? 119 pages? Okay, this'll be a long one. Of these pages, 1 page is devoted to the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 116 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, there are classes herein - a lot of them, and they are defined pretty much by their cultural niche and concept - being labeled as exotic classes, since they may be more specialized than a given class, but still taking the same niche. So no, these do not count as alternate classes. Rules-wise, we are introduced to so-called "trappings," items, which, much like e.g. an arcane bonded object, is a defining item for the class - 4 feats allow for the utilization of such trappings in additional ways, limited negation of disarms, functioning after being broken or rerolling confirmation rolls. Clothing can, via one feat, grant the benefits of the endure elements spell while wearing the trapping - which is not bad, though I wished the feat was slightly more precise regarding the benefit applying to the effects only. Feral Feats may be taken in lieu of rage powers or favored terrain. War feats can only be used AFTER initiative has been rolled. In an interesting rule, the pdf codifies morale and suggests bonuses for the side which currently is dominant in that regard, a system supported by 3 feats.

The pdf also suggests house rules for e.g. allowing skill-boosting feats like Athletic to grant the skills as class skills and a rules that allows for a 1-round period of grace for killed characters to be healed...which is a bit odd, once death magic and non-damage-causing magic enters the fray. I think this rule was intended to apply only to hit points, but still - not a well-presented rule. I do like the idea of granting favored class status to a PrC in addition to the base class. The notion to 12-hour retrain favored enemy and terrain is problematic from a rules-perspective, though understandable. The flexibility is nice, but the lack of retraining cost makes it a bit too easy to switch in my book. The book also champions normalization of groups via an easy mechanic and sports a retro-active crazy-prepared (within reason) option to retroactively have bought certain items. While this works in GUMSHOE, the presence and significance of such a rule makes the game progress smoother and de-emphasizes careful planning - whether you like that or not depends ultimately on your own forte.

Now usually, I'm a big fan of realistic, simulation-style combat, but shieldbreaker may go a bit too far, making shields take damage when blocking weapons, rendering the item-class even more...less optimal. Using reposition to halve shield bonuses? Now that one I can easily get behind - makes sense to me and is concisely presented. Are you looking for a combat option that emphasizes more savagery? Well, in theory, making each attack provoke an AoO that is executed AFTER the attack may sound like a good theory; in practice, though, this rule makes the already impressively powerful ranged weapons more powerful. From a fluff-perspective, an assumption of general illiteracy makes sense and is something I used in my games before. Another rule makes combat MUCH more deadly - weapons with one rule deal their damage die + enhancement bonus as bleed damage and an easy fatigue/exhaustion-threshold makes sense. Chances of big creatures knocking smaller ones prone also makes sense. The book also has a rule that means when an attack hits touch AC, but not regular AC, the character would receive the attacker's Str-mod in damage still - I also experimented with this rule in dark fantasy contexts and it is interesting, though it further emphasizes offense over defense. Making weapons grant bonuses to AC make sense, though the limitation is not my favorite. Allowing for Con-check driven ferocity when downed below 0 HP is also something I tried in my games. Personally, I'm not a big fan of regaining 1 hp stable status upon landing a killing blow on a foe.

All of these variant rules can be used and combined and three sample arrays of rule-combinations are provided.

All right, that out of the way, let us take a look at the significant array of new base classes (9, to be precise). The first would be the adventurer, who gets d10, 6+Int skills, full BAB-progression and only good saves. They also get simple and martial weapon proficiency and a bonus feat at 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter. The adventurer can grant himself luck bonuses as free actions 1/2 character level times per day and receives wild-card crazy-prepared of items equal to 100 gp times character level, to be upgraded to 1000 gp times level. While the items adhere to a weight limit, the free and easy access to magic items can be an immensely unbalancing factor, depending on your group: Need scrolls that protect you versus the elements? Got them. Amulets that increase the carrying capacity of the fighter buddy? All ready.

Now in some campaigns, this may be nice and something a given group enjoys. Personally, I loathe the ability with all my heart and consider the limitations not strict enough. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the adventurer receives a talent that include counting as having access to all spells for crafting purposes, quick drawing items from backpack etc., very limited healing (that could use a scaling mechanism to retain its relevance). On the plus side, spellcasting scavenging is represented in a surprisingly concise manner that even takes classes like palas or ranger's decreased CL into account - kudos! At higher levels, the adventurer may preroll a limited number d20s and later substitute them for rolls, with the capstone allowing for rerolls of all d20-rolls and an even more freeform item-generation. While I get that in some campaigns, the crazy-prepared ability can be a true blessing, in others, it may well be a truly annoying alien element that can spoil the fun of other players that like planning ahead...and the balancing control of GMs on item availability. While I belong firmly in the second group and would not allow this ability sans some serious restrictions and nerfing, as a reviewer, I have to swallow my distaste here. On the plus-side, I do enjoy that this guy is a martial that is useful beyond combat thanks to skills etc. In the end, I consider the class a little bit too strong due to its powerful chassis. Nor for every group, but definitely a class some groups will love.

The Athlete base class has d10, only 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons and light armor as well as automatic proficiency with sports equipment, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-progression. The athlete begins with the option to use his determination to reroll failed rolls, with saves and skills receiving a bonus on the reroll attempt, with every 5 levels increasing the bonus granted by +1 and also providing +1 use. More important and defining, though, would be the position class feature: The position offers an array of changes, including, in e.g. the defender's case, an upgrade of HD from d10 to d12, better BAB-progression or swifter movement. Additionally, each such position allows for additional uses of determination. A new position is learned at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Beyond this chassis-modifying ability-suite, athletes are obviously defined by their sports, which provide bonuses depending on the sport - somewhat inelegantly called "skill bonuses", but the rules are clear enough in their intended meaning. For the purpose of feat prereqs, athletes use their full level and they also receive inherent physical attribute bonuses at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. 8th level nets evasion and higher levels provide take 10-options for related skills and even a take 20-option at level 20. The class is supplemented by baseball and soccer-weaponry. An okay class, though the few skills somewhat limit it in non-combat environments.

The Gladiator gets d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency in simple weapons, gladius, light and medium armor and also a school of combat, which further modifies the proficiencies, bonus feats and specific special tricks the class learns -Bloodpit Fighters, for example, get sneak attack, while the dimachaerus reduces two-weapon fighting penalties and can even get bonuses in the end...so yes, these have an inherent scaling. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net maneuver specializations that go beyond the base feats, employing gladiatorial points. When the gladiator does something that would make him grant a performance check, he may use the point to power class features and the like - the synergy of renewable resource-management and performance combat is pretty awesome and allows for some rather unique options. Fighting for the gods, life and death of those vanquished, are determined by a coin toss - which is surprisingly tense at the table in actual play. This gladiator did not look as cool as it actually played on paper - I really like this beast, as it manages to make performance combat matter sans crowds. Two thumbs up, though, once again I wished it had more non-combat utility. Still, a great class that has been added to my homegame's roster! (FYI: I upgraded skills per level by +2 in my home game.)

The Guardian gets d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all martial and simple weapons and all armor, including tower shields. While wearing a shield, these guys may expend attacks of opportunity to interpose himself in the line of foes threatening his adjacent allies. To do so, he attacks with +Dex-mod and +shield-bonus versus the target's AC. And no, I'm not complaining about competing rolls here since the ability retains roll vs. fixed value as a paradigm. On a success, the guardian becomes the new target of the attack, which is probably the best designed level 1 bodyguard ability I've seen so far. It should come as no surprise considering the focus of the class, that shield tricks and a charge that ends with e.g. Heal-checks or similar aids to allies are part of the deal, though I found myself rather surprised at the ease and simplicity of this design - and why it hadn't been done before. Speaking of shield tricks - these allow you to one-hand two-handed weapons, but at the cost of not being able to perform more than one attack in a full-round action. Better nonlethal damage output, SP shield other and both numerical options and more allies to be shielded complement a tightly focused class that plays surprisingly well, making armor and shields matter. A rewarding choice, though I'd once again advise for +2 skills per level. Still - kudos! I'll certainly be using these guys!

At d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves , 4+Int skills and proficiency in simple weapons, light armors and shields, the inheritor is defined by the legacy of her name and honored ancestry. Basically, you get trappings as well as an ability-suite called lineage, defined by two characteristics like "Beloved" or "Wicked" that provides a modification of class skills and also determines the boons the class gains. The class begins with 1 boon and receives +1 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter and they do include attribute bonuses. Additionally, inheritors can channel their ancestors as a swift action, a total of 1 minute per level per day - some effects of the boons chosen only become available while channeling. Additionally, the class is defined by hereditary attributes/the option to substitute mental ability scores for attack-bonus calculation and defense; alas, the high level option of 2 attributes to attack are a bit too much for my tastes.

The Tataued Warrior gets d10, a trapping, 2 +Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields and prepared divine spellcasting guided by Cha, drawn from the ranger's list with certain modifications and probably is the best example of what I'd consider an exotic class: Following battle protocol (e.g. formal bows) provides benefits for the class, including the possible substitution of Cha-mod in attacks and later even damage-rolls. The defining feature of the tataued warrior, though, would be the ritual weapon, which can be activated as a swift action. Once powered, it acts as a magical weapon. That being said, the flexibility regarding enchantments and their scaling benefits is offset by a fatigue cool-down after use, similar to barbarian-rages. The scaling here is pretty conservative, just fyi, so even low-powered groups should be able to use this one. For high-powered groups; I'd suggest improving the enhancement-bonus granting-progression of the ritual weapon. The defining class feature beyond that, though, would be tataus, gained at 1st level and every even level thereafter, codified by level - and being awesome. While combat utility is here, the tataus provided often feature a drawback at higher levels, providing ample roleplaying potential and justification for superstitions. Furthermore, they allow, when wisely chosen, for actually relevant out of combat options. 6th level self-haste via battle-chants and flexible spell preparation/exchange-options complement an interesting class I really enjoyed, particularly thanks to the significant array of choices this offers!

Thanes receive d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and the great club - and that's pretty much in on that front. Defined by size and brawn, the thane is basically the bully of the battlefield, increasing accuracy and damage output against targets smaller than him. It should then come as no surprise that the class features size-increase (a brief table of weapon damage progression for larger sizes would have been appreciated here) and is particularly adept at using big weaponry. The class also receives a talent selection, but still constitutes my least favorite base class herein so far - reason being that its limited proficiencies, skills and its size can be a severe hindrance: There are dungeons too cramped for large creatures and the added space occupied cannot offset a second character. Furthermore, the lack of defensive options of the class makes it play like a bully: A nasty punch, but can't take one himself. The thane is basically, in spite of size and potency, a pretty bad glass cannon and the magus provides the more interesting playing experience in that field.

The Undying has d8, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all armors and simple/martial weapons. The undying receives scaling bonuses versus fear and pain effects, but pay for this conditioning with the requirement to obey orders. Here's the deal of the class: You want to die. The first time you die each level, you're resurrected as per true resurrection (CL information would be appreciated for magic-suppression-interaction), +1/day at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.However, undying already die at 0 HP - but the cool thing here is that, when they resurrect, they unleash so-called phoenix arts, the first of which is gained at 4th level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter: From bursts of light to devastating flame-novas and AOE-heals, these are pretty much awesome. Only one burst can be applied, +1 at 10th level and the class receives further abilities themed around the extremely evocative concept. Okay, if you've read my review of Rite Publishing's "Secrets of the Divine: Madness, Death, Justice, Healing," you'll know that I really like the idea of a campaign focused on returning characters. If you're like me, this class elicited a "Hell no!"-response nevertheless - when it shouldn't. You see, while powerful on the defensive side and while the deaths seem incredibly strong, the class is in a bit of a dilemma: In order to work at peak efficiency, the undying has to die - which makes it more vulnerable. The bursts are very powerful, but they need to be just that...and the increased vulnerability of the class further helps here. It's surprising, but in playtest, this one turned out to be very much killable and balanced, particularly due to scaling issues against mind-control. Yes, you have your nigh-unstoppable undying...but you may want to be careful with that enchanter over there...oh, and actually being mind-controlled and then slain by your allies is a valid strategy here that should result in no bad blood. This class plays completely differently from any class I've seen so far. Ambitious and oozing flavor, these guys are theme-wise by far my favorites in this book and may be worth getting the book all on their own!

Okay, you may very much call me out on this one, but I'm not sold we actually needed the Wrath class, a hybrid of rogue and inquisitor. Paying for rogue abilities with the inqui's spells, their eponymous wrath can be pictured as an always-on judgment with singular targets. That being said, this 3/4 BAB-progression class does have something some other martials herein lack: Non-combat utility galore. Oh, and the rogue talents the class can exclusively access are superb - there is, e.g., one that allows the wrath to suppress divine energy (channeling, spells...) and another that allows you to fluidly poison weapons after crits. Or what about the genius ability I'll scavenge for inquis, which allows the wrath a massive (+20) bonus to notice invisible foes? (Yes, that sneaky invisible guy will SWEAT in his corners and try hard not to move...) I was pretty much surprised by this one in that I actually liked some design-decisions here and enough unique material to set it apart versus the parent-classes - so kudos there!

This book also contains PrCs galore, all but one (the Storm Envoy) featuring full BAB-progression over their respective 10 levels. Seeing how this review already passed its fifth page as I write this, I shall be brief. The aforementioned Storm Envoy would be a legendary courier you employ when you need things delivered to hostile places like war zones or the abyss. Storm Envoys receive increasing speed as well as agility-related options (e.g. Acrobatics at full speed), self-haste and the option to utilize their vast speed to duplicate spells, from teleport to mirror image by tapping into the resource-management of the PRC. All in all, a cool one.

Speaking of which: The Mystic Seeker would be a representation of the famous, eerily accurate blind fighter trope, managing to get blindsense/sight-progression down rather well - though the interesting component would not be the limited true strikes they can unleash, but rather the high-level option to completely re-do one of their turns, explained by their preternatural insight. Interesting!

The Lone Wolf would be just that - a powerful representation of the solitary skirmisher, the savage soldier that loses animal companions and t5he like, but finds so much more potency in their solitude, including immunity to fear, but at the expense of their cynicism thwarting any morale bonuses. The PrC is iconic and cool.

The Frog Knight would be an agile knight - D'uh - and can jump really well; additionally, he's pretty great at amphibian warfare tactics and provides nice synergy with Dragon Tiger Ox's more differentiated (and tactical!) unarmed attack rules. Sure, this is a bit of an odd PrC, but still a cool and valid option.

Commandos are basically Rambo-the-PRC, with great stealth and several specializations that include limited spells, barbarian rages and the like as well as a focus on ambushes -and here, the commando is downright OP: Gaining a limited number of special, additional solo surprise rounds per day - basically, before rolling initiative's done, these guys can get a free surprise round out of the deal. In the hands of an experienced player, these guys can be true nightmares - while I like the flexibility and design of the chassis, I'm not too big a fan of the PrC's numbers.

Finally, there would be the Bogatyr of the Dying Light - sworn to hopeless causes, there only traditionally are 23 of these knights only unleash their full potential against foes stronger than they are - including, at higher levels, ignoring DR. The PrC also gets resolve and some neat offensive and defensive tricks, making these guys not only flavorful, but also pretty iconic and rewarding to play.

Beyond all these classes and PrCs, this massive book also sports 6 pages of feats - why else would I have explained the [Feral] and [War]-descriptors in the beginning of this review? So yeah, there are quite a lot of feats herein, including a follow-up-feat for Weapon Focus that extends its benefits to all of your proficient weapons, nonlethal damage causing demoralize-attempts and the obligatory class-enhancing feats. The book also sports traits o further emphasize the rival-trait and a feat to grant yourself temporary hit points 1/day. Now, as you know, I'm not a big fan of revising feats unless there is a specific reason - adding grapple to Weapon Focus' options would be one such case, while the revisions in particular of the critical-feats here make sense to me. That being said, this obviously is a matter of taste. The pdf then closes with a rather impressive amount of unique weapons, ranging from Qian Kun Ri Yue Daos to heavy rapiers and dire kukris.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a rules-level are surprisingly tight for a book of this size. On a formal level, though, there are quite a few glitches like its/it's, missing letters and the like. The PrCs are also inconsistent in their listing of iterative attack-bonuses or their omission. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with each class receiving a great full-color artwork. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The team of designers of Little Red Goblin Games (here Scott Gladstein, Caleb Alysworth, Christos Gurd, Ian Sisson and Dayton Johnson) have surprised me with this book. You know why? because I've seen a lot of martial classes and, for the most part, specialist martial niche classes end up feeling to me like they could have been handled via archetypes in most cases. Not so here - each of the classes herein has a complex framework of abilities that justifies the classes standing on their own. The PrCs sport high concepts and make sense as classes not immediately available - they get the "Prestige"-component right, something many, including Paizo's, often fail at. There is a more important factor, though: This book follows the first commandment of design in all instances: "Thou shalt not be boring!" Achieving this is harder than it sounds when you're confronted with a jaded bastard like yours truly.

While not each and every component herein is perfect, there certainly are instances in this book I'd consider absolutely glorious: The Undying is narrative potential galore for the GM and a very uncommon experience for the player and it alone is book-seller-level awesome. The Guardian is really cool as well and I do enjoy the tataued warrior - much more so than I thought. While the Adventurer will never get near my games, I know it will find its niche out there. Add to that some rather cool PrCs and we have a book that lacks any objectively bland content - we could argue about some design decisions of commando and wrath, sure, but still - the significant majority of this huge book of crunch saw me smile and even inspired me in some cases...and ultimately, I'd rather have some awesomeness and some components that slightly over/undershoot their mark than a grey paste of blandness that's perfectly balanced.

The majority of content herein is well-crafted, if plagued by none-too-precise editing here and there and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars with a recommendation if the content even remotely interests you - you'll be hard-pressed to find a better bang for buck ratio and it's been a while since a single crunch-book has seen as many classes being allowed in my games ...so yeah...this is one of those cases, where components of a book actually excited me. As a reviewer, I may not be able to give this five stars for its formal and, sometimes, balancing flaws- but the components I love definitely justify slamming my seal of approval on this book. Hence, my final verdict will be 4 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Paths: Martial Characters
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Necropunk Advanced Player's Guide
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/18/2015 07:16:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion book for LRGG's glorious, innovative Necropunk setting clocks in at 122 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page list of kickstarter-backers, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with a massive 117 pages of content - now this is a lot of material, so let's dive in, shall we?

This massive supplement's central theme would be war - and it does show - from the introduction onwards, we obviously dive right into the matter at hand - an explanation of how the diverse ethnicities of the Necropunk setting handle the concept of warfare. Now, where's war, there are vehicles and if you're like me, you love the concept of vehicles and have changed the overly demanding requirements of driving skill-checks in lieu of more friendly DCs - it should come as a relief, then, that Little Red Goblin Games also have identified this issue and make driving work easily - unless you want to execute some complex maneuvers. Something I never got in certain sci-fi setting is also addressed - a focus on faster, smaller spacecrafts: Swarms of small vehicles simply are more lethal than unwieldy huge crafts. The revised driving rules provided for the vehicles are quick, concise and fun - and should be considered great indeed. Moving on the Z Axis and the component of height is also addressed, though I'd suggest you check out "Companions of the Firmament" for more detailed and diverse aerial combat solutions - the combination will work in Necropunk's space just as well as in a fantasy context.

Vehicle combat and highjacking other vehicles are also covered in the detail one would want - attacking engines, bridges, etc. - all part of the deal, with sizes making an impact. The section also covers vehicle materials and diverse vehicles maneuvers and vehicle conditions before introducing the unique and very odd vehicle designs - the Ewgee Bladderwort, for example, captures the technology/organic cross-section that defines necropunk aesthetic: These also provide artworks for quite a few of them, including lotus-shaped ships or ones that look like d12s with odd, three-fingered fleshy-arms extending from them - an aesthetic somewhere between Lexx: The Dark Zone and never seen before - cool!

We also get a new base-class with the Pilot. Pilots receive 5 PPI, d8, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort-and ref-saves and a 3/4 social bonus progression. Pilots may tap into the T'jek to make their own fortunae and enhance attacks, craft-checks, saves, etc. and receive bonded vessels. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, a pilot may select a maneuver, which include options to wilder in fighter's toolkits, granting ships temporary evasion via barrel rolls or even temporarily double the acceleration. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the pilot may tune up his vessel, optimizing ramming capabilities, armor, maneuverability, etc. and this theme is also reflected in the options that are available as a capstone, allowing you to truly make your bonded vessel the stuff of legends.

Okay, so the next chapter is about the Partisan and teh Zeitgeist - no, not related to me or the Zeitgeist movement, but rather the intangible conglomerate of a people's consciousness. Partisans can be considered the leaders and champions of an age, someone that taps into the flow of possibility. They receive d8,PPI 7, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, full Social-progression, good will-saves. As idealists and champions of people and ideology, they choose a cause and/or faction and treats these somewhat akin to deities in other settings - with titles, social tricks to quickly get bearings of rooms and the like as well as smites, you'll note something - the partisan, unabashedly, is a more charismatic paladin, a champion of a cause without the component of magic - and I really like this class!

In the wonderful tradition of Necropunk, we also are introduced to new languages, variations thereof, and yes, dead languages - I did enjoy the inclusion of Norse as a dialect of Old English (being fluent in both, yes, they are this similar - though, as the book asserts, there are significant differences...) and after this glorious little chapter, we get a significant array of new items: From biolocks to anti-radiation medication to organic computers to fast-growing, acidic vines, the items herein are INSPIRED and even if you do not use Necropunk, with some reskinning, you can use quite a few of these in different settings as well. Ball turrets with upgradeable blindsense up to dragonflys, infrasonic soundwave detonations - there is a lot of nastiness to be found herein.

Particularly interesting for story purposes would also be the rules for assassination-costs and yes, deadly melee weapons are part of the deal as well and includes the new shovel weapon group as well as quite a few nice full-color illustrations of the weaponry. Where there are offensive options, there also are defensive ones - hazmat suits, skirmisher pattern bone skins...or what about a gravity sink that accompanies the Ramses Casing? Do you have a ghoul? well, you're in luck, for now, you can have your very own Igor as a faithful assistant! Now, as before, I am only touching on the very basics here - why - because there are A LOT of modifications, grouped by technology tier, to add to armors etc. - many, many micro-templates that exponentially diversify the options available for the discerning customer - and yes, this does include penalties and flaws of certain designs. Now while I do adore this system, I noticed some minor formatting issues regarding bolding here and the penalties, for example, don't always line up - blindness/deafness is less grievous than being paralyzed, for example, though both flaws have the same value. Some minor tweaking would have helped here.

Now since the topic is war, one would be remiss to forget to mention the feared atomic priesthood - much like the necromancer's guild, this organization has a dread monopoly, the monopoly on A-packs, atomic bombs. And yes, concise rules for these weapons of mass destruction, including degrees of sickness for radiation poisoning and the creation of e.g. power plants etc. have been covered - we for example receive the information on how much a given world spends on energy a year - so yes, if you want to go for a resource-scarcity effects. The atomic brotherhood's priests, btw., also are featured as an archetype of medics, which come with its own code of conduct - said priests can also generate anti-radiation supplies as well as regenerate ability drain or damage faster. Pilots may elect to become an admiral, particularly adept at teamwork. Chevra fighters are those that bury the dead - masters of fighting with shovels, they are deadly cyber-gravediggers, the stewards of the dead, including high-level options to entomb foes or even burrow through the earth in rather quick ways. H'shen welshen pilots can be considered the welshen equivalent of the admiral, while the R'zo pilots can be considered the more combat-inclined pilots.

We also receive an array of prestige classes - and were I to analyze them step by step, this review would be bloated even further. And yes, some indeed are PRESTIGE classes. Advisors, for example, require an Int of 22+. Yeah. Ouch. As masters of deduction and reading people, they have a mechanism of anxiety points that can be used to duplicate spell-like effects or achieve unique things, with each trick being assigned to a skill. Anxiety points can be countered by indulgences that range from sleep to vices and self-mutilation. The PrC can be considered a truly interesting social scion, a nice representation of the smart character that has an incredible, unfiltered perception and thus suffers the strain from it, with ample roleplaiyng potential hardcoded into the very way the crunch works. Black Cards are similarly interesting - belonging to a secret cabal of immensely powerful and rich brokers, these people are ridiculously rich - their black cards allow them to purchase just about anything their hearts desire. So yeah, if you wnat to play the CEO with the exclsuive space station/terraformed asteroid, the guy who rubs elbows with the cadre of secret movers and shakers, then this is the PrC for you -if you can afford the 1-million-buy-in...

Darrig are specialized assassins that utilize fear as the tool of their power - with PPI-powered fear-pheromones and options to instill unrest or tamper with the minds and memories of others, the darrig are interesting. with their subtle hypnotic suggestions, though annoyingly, spells, when referenced, are not italicized. Living Lions are immune against fear, may exert their will to heal themselves - and that's about it. Some armor training, some bonus feats - pretty boring when compared to most necropunk options. The Necronaut, once again, is a return to form - a character that hears the whispers of death, these guys can feign death and see the future when nearing death. Beyond that séances and ethereal out of body experiences provide for a cool PrC - as a cool bonus, the class also provides help for vanilla PFRPG-conversion, with a capstone "reduce-to-0-hp"-touch making for a fitting endgame. Snipers...well, are snipers. Apart from a bolding glitch, exactly what you'd expect from such a class - I'd btw. recommend this class as a means to make crossbow snipers relevant in vanilla PFRPG. The Swordslinger PrC chooses slashing weapon and greatly increases BAB and damage-output, while also gaining talents etc. - these include one-handing two-handed weapons, more AoOs, etc. - solid. Thoughtguards would be diplomat/psychic-combo-classes with enchantment SPs and the like - okay, but nothing to write home about.

Now where there are vehicles and war, there better be mass combat - and indeed, that's what we get - with technology-factors, crafts etc. as well as squad rules, this system allows for some quick calculations that help you determine the winner of a combat. In contrast to such off-screen combat resolutions, direct squad combat provides a slightly more hands-on option to resolve this. Still, I would have loved mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign fully converted to Necropunk - with phase combat and all.

We also, of course, get a significant array of new feats and also new uses for skills to repair vehicles etc., also as service, making codes, etc.

The pdf ends with an awesome short primer of handling Graveworlds, including some pregenerated ones and an iconic image of one of the threats found thereon...

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of minor glitches, from formatting to wording, which could have been slightly tighter. Still, for a book of this length, the formal criteria are pretty impressive. Layout adheres to Little Red Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard with awesome original artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Dayton Johnson, Caleb Alysworth - gentlemen, you have done a good job! The Necropunk Advanced Player's Guide is a massive crunch-book that adds a vast array of options to the Necropunk world - the atomic priesthood, the vehicles - there are a lot of awesome options herein and more often than not, the options indeed are FUN.

They add a massive dimension to the game and expand the setting in meaningful ways. Indeed, this is a huge grab-bag and some options herein would work rather well in mainstream PFRPG - indeed, I'll be converting quite a few bits and pieces herein. Now while I love the pilot-class, the fluff of the partisan and the vehicles, there are also some components I wasn't that impressed by - some of the archetypes and PrCs obviously are less inspired than others and quite frankly, overall, I expected perhaps too much. I would have e.g. very much loved further options for phase combat trickery with vehicles and similar far-out options.

Now don't get me wrong - there are great pieces of crunch herein, but at the same time, when compared to the Ewgee and Welshen-books, while the crunch herein may be better on average, there just isn't that much fluff, and that was what blew me away in those faction-books. It took me forever to nail down this component, but while the crunch is more refined, I did also feel like it was less ambitious and does not do too much with the unique mechanics provided by necropunk - where are the unique tricks with Zero-G-combat and phase combat? Vehicles that enhance social combat (propaganda cruisers)? More unique tricks regarding radiation and the iconic organization in charge of atomic blasts? Yes, the advisor PrC etc. does sport some awesome ideas, and yes, some of the content herein had me cackle with glee...but still.

Perhaps I love Necropunk too much. You probably know by now how much I adore this setting, its worldbuilding and utterly unique premises. I want fiction and many, many more books - but to me, Necropunk never was about even more archetypes, PrCs and options, it is about the world, the unique concepts - and yes, they are expanded, but the feeling remains that I would have loved to see more of this superb universe. After careful deliberation, I determined that this is my own problem - I can't penalize a crunch-book for not sporting enough fluff. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars (the half star due to the aforementioned glitches and some a bit filler-ish components), rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform. Personally, I'd still prefer the two faction-sourcebooks, more flawed though they may be, over this one. Still - a must-buy for fans of necropunk.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Necropunk Advanced Player's Guide
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Gonzo
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/12/2015 03:44:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at a massive 65 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages blank, leaving us with 60 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, one note before that - this pdf comes with a second version that provides a 2-page layout, but for the purpose of page-count, I opted for the one-page version. Got that? All right!

So this book kicks off with a definition of what "gonzo" is - in short, it is an experiment in testing out the malleability of pathfinder, of providing weird ideas, in being somewhat bonkers. It also aims to retain the functionality of the system and maintaining enjoyment for everyone - hence also the first chapter, which defines a core aesthetic for the campaign and provides some rather sound advice for DMs - not only when using this book. Fun fact - the very first example of what this book is about is actually something I ran - a massive 80s-metal-inspired dungeon crawl with Blue Öyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" in the background - theme and music conspire to make the game more immersive. Other sound advice herein pertains the "anything 20/1"-concept, which translates to awesome successes...and failures at tasks - and why not? I've been using exactly this in quite a few of my games for great effect. Gestalting is also touched upon (no WuXia sans monk-gestalt, righto?), as is the importance of terrain. The one thing I'd disagree on would be the "few and easy names" - then again, I have a private board for my group, including an ever-growing compendium of names, places and factoids.

The first new base-class herein would be the Craven - these guys get full BAB-progression, d10, 2+Int-modifier, good fort-saves and all proficiencies - a martial class in the traditional sense. The class, however, also is an expert-appraiser and suffers from its greed - the craven has a hard time turning down bribes and consuming valuable objects. Optional physical change, which include money-signs in the eyes and the like can also be added for an extra-level of weird. Mechanically, the craven can sacrifice up to his class level in gold to add a similar amount to the weapon damage roll of a single attack. At later levels, each such attack also spawns a wooden coin (a so-called discount token), which can be used as a substitute gold piece to power craven abilities.

Beyond that, he may consume gold by flinging it as deadly weapons at adversaries (scaling in level, btw.), eat it to heal himself (thankfully with a scaling, daily cap) and of course, receives quite a bunch of fitting enhancements regarding the acquisition of money - from the illegal to the legal venues. Higher level cravens can prevents death by paying hefty fees. The capstone nets him the midas touch and an array of talents allow for solid customization options that include using discount tokens gained. The class also sports platinum as a material for weapons etc. and certain class features interact with this precious material. Whether or not you like the craven very much depends on whether you as a DM wish to have very tight control over WBL - the craven can literally eat a party's funds and requires a cooperative group; conversely, in campaigns with an abundance of funds, the craven's commerce-enhancing abilities can prove to be too powerful; the balancing via gold just begs to be abused like crazy, with both healing and damage bonuses being ultimately less expensive than via similar one-use items. I get that, it's kind of the premise of this class, but it does render this class very experimental Other than that, his mechanics are rather solid and, when handled with care, this guy can work as a pretty interesting, cool addition to a given group.

Next up would be the 10-level PrC Living Bomb: d8, 2+Int, 3rd level arcane spells prereq, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort and will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression, d8 HD. The Living Bomb gets a class feature that is indeed odd - they can combust spontaneously character-level times, dealing damage die in fire damage -equal to the HD used to power the explosion. A barbarian 1/wizard 5/living bomb 2 may for example use the class feature 8 times per day. Now each explosion is tracked separately and also adds the Int-modifier to damage- 1d12 barb 1/day, 1d6 wiz 5/day, 1d8 Living Bomb 2/day. Got that? Well, the more PrC-levels you have the more dice you add - at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, the amount of damage dice available for each of the explosions is increased by +1. I like this ability and generally, its wording is very concise - though I still had to read the ability 3 times to properly get it - a terminology for the explosion die etc. would have helped here, but that's not my gripe with this one. The ability takes a standard action and isn't that powerful. However, it is a readied omni-evasion: "The living bomb is also reduced to dust as if by disintegrate. At the start of the living bomb’s next turn if he is alive he reforms and is staggered for 1 round." This allows you to avoid just about anything with it - dragon's breath, etc. And this would be too strong, wouldn't it also eat the readied action. Also, technically, the reference to disintegrate is wrong here - the living bomb only takes a few hit points (minimum, btw.) damage and does not take the massive damage assocaited with disintegrate. Technically, when you are disintegrated, you also are dead, which clearly does not apply to the Living Bomb, so while the ability is clear in its intent and mostly concise, it could have been slightly clearer still.

Now what's rather interesting is that the combustion leaves the living bomb staggered - and the energy build up is not strictly voluntarily. Indeed, these guys receive eruption points by using Empower Spell or by being subject to crits. Upon surpassing a threshold, they explode (painfully, I might add), unless they release the pressure before. Other than this, the living bomb is a specialist of making the most of Empower Spell - not only do the class specializations potentially get rid of the level-increase, they can also significantly increase the potency of the metamagic feat. Additionally, higher level living bombs may elect to deal cold damage with explosions, draw others closer with spontaneous implosions and add spontaneous combustion effects to creatures reduced to 0 HP (sans the whole disintegrate-thingy). Shaping the blast is also possible at the cost of power and mundane enhancements for disabling devices and creating alchemical explosives are also covered by the PrC.

The Living Bomb is very complex in its mechanics and if you haven't noticed by now - the AoE-potential of these guys is SICK. A properly made character with this PrC is DEADLY - not per se due to the explosion/implosion tricks (though the chain reaction can be the ultimate mook-sweeper), but rather due to the Empower Spell-increase in potency. Now granted, 3 levels of spellcasting is a hefty fee, but I still maintain that you should be very careful about allowing this guy - the PrC is not per se broken, but it CAN be broken and provide some very nasty war-mage AoE-sweepers. On the other hand, it allows for an actually unique character concept/build far beyond what most PrCs can accomplish. So yeah - impressive, but, like the titular explosives, living bombs need to be handled with care.

D8, 3/4 BAB-progression, 2+Int skills, good will-saves and simple weapon/light armor proficiency - the mime base class does not, at first, look too impressive. Mimes also loose progressively the ability to create sound - later, they do not produce any and can even extend their silence to objects touched. Perhaps that's my own thing, but I suddenly see creepy mime-serial-killers making an appearance in my campaign... This communication breakdown allows mimes to communicate surprisingly fast and well with their charades...a benefit that does not extend to other PCs. At 2nd level, the mime receives character level + cha-mod masquerade points, which constitute the resource of the class.

They also choose a masquerade, with an additional one being unlocked at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Each masquerade unlocks e.g. new class skills or proficiencies to be added, bonus feats and often, enabling tricks that help other characters - the rogue-inspired masquerade, for example, can increase the damage of other characters in a sneak attack-y manner. The interesting thing here is that the effects all deviate rather significantly from just copying the base class - which is the awesome part. Now where things get really odd is with neutral energy - mimes can channel the utterly absurd neutral energy - it provides temporary hit points and using it requires an odd gesture or the like as a swift action. If this gesture is repeated by an affected creature, the creature is healed for this amount. If not, the creature instead takes damage equal to the amount of temporary hit points left. This AoE-swift-action-control trickery can be significantly more interesting in play than on paper - especially if you're using a lot of 3pp classes that utilize swift actions. Now where I have an issue would be the peculiarities of the wording and scaling of the ability - regarding wording, temporary hit points usually are not "destroyed" and a couple of strange rules-semantics choices made the ability more opaque than it ought to be. Secondly, the amount of temporary hit points is equal to the Performance bonus of the mime - and we all know how easily skills can be blown through the roof. Why not adhere to a more linear scaling of e.g. twice the ranks +3 for the class skill bonus? Would prevent undue escalation...then again, seeing this book, undue escalation may exactly be the intent here, seeing how the capstone also uses the total perform bonus...

For added complexity, mimes may at later levels combine multiple of these masquerades at once.

Mimes also receive a significant array of talents to choose from for further customization options. Walls of force can also be created, alas without specifying the action required. Temporarily duplicating combat feats in action is also pretty awesome, especially seeing how later levels do not require the mime to meet the prereq...

The Mime was a surprise -IRL, I do not like them. Other people consider clowns creepy, I always considered mimes worse. They give me the heebie-jeebies. This class, though, can be one of the most hilarious enabler-classes you can imagine - from the charade to the mocking, enabling tricks, a mime is a fun addition to a given table, alas also one that could have used slightly better streamlining in some abilities and rules semantics.

At d10, 4+Int, full BAB-progression and good ref-saves as well as uncommon weapon proficiencies, the next base class, the Punk, is in one word, awesome. Indeed, mechanically, the class may be one of the best choices for gestalting and certain high-flair concepts - why? Because these guys are melee-centric, yes - but their focus is very much on the vertical: They are masters at moving out of range after attacking, can expertly launch themselves into the air and deliver devastating attacks from above. They also learn significant parcours-tricks and can combine them with their fighting style and increasing base speed into a surprisingly fun class - oh yes, tagging, bonuses versus lawful outsiders etc. are all part of the deal, but even if you loathe the fluff, you actually get one awesome, mobile melee class here that can pull off unique stunts - like air-juggling foes, leaving impact craters when crashing down, etc. Even if you strip away the delightful fluff, this class pretty much makes for an awesome mobile fighter addition, including remaining in the air for short bursts - in game, this made Devil May Cry-style antics rather easy and played exceedingly well. This class is awesome and my only gripes would be some minor rules language hiccups - when an ability that only allows for attacks from above, for example, specifies " The punk may only make an attack delivered after

falling or jumping from a higher surface.", that may easily be misconstrued as a terrible restriction, when it pertains only "such an" attack, a "gravity gain" attack. Conversely, while it is clear that the ability means to say that the punk can execute an attack after falling on a foe, provided he has the action to do so, the pdf does not explicitly state this, rendering action economy slightly more opaque than it out to be. Conversely, the ability to launch 5 foot into the air on a successful attack should provide the caveat that this is not a 5-foot-step and that it does not provoke AoOs - the interaction here did cause some initial confusion at my table. Still, seriously, try this one - it can be exceedingly fun to play and provide "See what I did there"-moments. Two thumbs up, my favorite class from LRGG so far!

The penultimate base-class herein has the most badass illustration I've seen in ages (full color, more than one page viking/black-metal dude with a guitar that deserves being called a weapon...) and receives d10, 2+int, full BAB-progression, good will-saves and may utilize instruments, a bunch of which are provided, as weapons. A rockstar's message increases in potency from cosmetic to significant and they may use perform in lieu of a skill, depending on their genre, with possibilities being pretty much endless. Someone has clearly been playing Brutal legend, for, as a standard action, rock stars may deal sonic damage to everything around them - via two abilities, rock-out and solo. Both look pretty much identical at first, but the combination possibilities with other class abilities differ - planning the two becomes important later in the class when the sequence of abilities used in a combat changes the benefits granted.

They may also substitute their perform check for AC as an immediate action while wielding an instrument - generally not a fan of this since it leads to minmaxing the skill and competing throws - personally, after some quick math, I'll houserule that as a fixed value of 15 +Perform ranks + 3 + cha-mod for faster combat and less enticement to min-max the skill. The class also receives talents that allow the rockstar to essentially become larger than life and yes, the class also features a kind of second form with the stage persona and the capstone (how could it be any other song? "The Show Must Go On")allows the rockstar to pretty much ignore all impediments but total annihilation to continue playing - just because he's lost both arms does not mean he can't play the guitar anymore. Kudos to anyone who got that Metalocalypse-reference and groaned. What can I say - I've played brütal legend thrice, am a goth and metalhead...how can I not like this class? The rockstar is solid, versatile and cool - I just wished he had a bit more exclusive talents, but I guess we can't have it all.

The final class herein would be the Toon, aka "Who framed Roger Rabbit?" - the class. Toons get d10, 2+int skills, full BAB-progression, good will-saves and AC/CMB-bonuses that scale up to +5. Proificency-wise, they are proficient with all simple and improvised weapons, but with no armors. The toon may prestidigitate at will...and should. Why? Because the resource that powers his antics is laughter - by spending this resource, he can do all the Warner Brothers tricks you can fathom and do the impossible - however, pointing this out actually requires the toon to spend more laughter. The toon also becomes more and more like a caricature and can take ridiculous high falls. Also cool would be the gutterspace - whether its deep pockets or something similar, a toon can bring forth the oddest of items - with a chance of instead getting something rather odd. Other than that, an array of combat feats etc. make sure he can dish out nasty damage. Solid one, though the resilience factor of toons could have used more representation - as written, the class is pretty squishy.

The supplemental feats for the classes contain the obligatory +x limited resource class ability-array as well as e.g. more control for rock outs, options to stun devils in musical contests or reduce the speed of foes instead of dealing damage via rock out or solo. Pretty solid.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. Considering the imaginative, unconventional mechanics herein, the rules-language is also much more concise than what I've seen in "easier" mechanics. Layout adheres to, as mentioned, a 1 or 2-page standard and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks are mostly in full color, original and awesome.

Scott Gladstein, Thomas Lee Hornyak Jr, Christos Gurd, Dayton Johnson, Caleb Alysworth, Jeremiah Zerby - gentlemen, the acclaim Gonzo has received is pretty much well deserved. This is, indeed, at least in my book, the most refined Little Red Goblin Game-pdf I've reviewed. The rules-language with its eclectic concepts and innovative twists on the rules does not lazily recombine existing pieces, instead opting for something new with each and every class - and I love it for that.

At the same time, though, some of the classes herein can turn pretty problematic - the Craven in the context of WBL-deviations and the Living Bomb in particular can work superbly for some games, while being utterly broken in others, so careful consideration is in order here. Now at least partially, that's a system-inherent issue, granted, but it does remain one.

Now the surprise of this book would be the Punk-class - I expected to hate it and instead love it to death, with a fitting reskin, this becomes in a fixture in my games and in the context of WuXia et. al, this will work just as well and might constitute a great alternative to monk-gestalting. Indeed, I'd seriously consider this class one of the best gestalt-options I've seen in a while. So yeah, people, I love this!

Now granted, I am biased towards the Rockstar and adore the concept, but kept on wishing its interaction and sequential gameplay reached the level of complexity supported by Interjection Games-composition magic - I will probably make a crossover class at one point. Nothing wrong here, mind you, just me preferring things a bit less straightforward...and the class essentially already has the sequential nature built in, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.

So all's fine and dandy? No, there are, as mentioned above, several minor issues in the rules-semantics that weigh heavily when used with the more complex of options herein - but then again, I honestly prefer innovation over perfection.

And there is the layout. The font used, a typewriter-style old-school font, makes reading this book harder than it ought to be...and it cheats. The font has no italicization/bolding and while class abilities are red and blocky and easy to distinguish, the lack of italicization for spells etc. has been excruciatingly annoying for me. It makes reading so much slower and required more concentration to read the class abilities - there is a reason for the formatting convention and this flaunts them. Especially when providing complex concepts like this book does, the nonstandard layout and formatting can make understanding some abilities harder than it ought to be.

So yeah, there you have it - the thing is disliked most was the font. The rules-issues, where present, still leave the RAI pretty much obvious. Now that being said, if you want an easy, quick conventional book, then this is not for you - this book is one of the most experimental books I've seen for PFRPG and I applaud its guts!

Do I recommend this? Heck yeah! Even if you just are looking for abilities and ideas to scavenge, this provides both in ample spades. While not every class is for every game, just about all of them could be reskinned to some extent and introduced to most settings and a distinct joy is evident on the pages - plus, I really enjoy the fact that none of the classes took the easy way out. Not one class herein could be mistaken for another class or archetype - they are resoundingly distinct.

No, this is not perfect or for everyone, but it is an exceedingly fun, innovative book - and while its font, glitches and slight balance-concerns here and there prevent me from rating this the full five stars. In fact, were I to rate pdfs only on their formal properties and not also for the benefits of their imagination, this would probably fare less well - Gonzo is pretty much a a diamond that still needs to be polished. I'll still settle for a final verdict of 4 stars - while I firmly believe that the concepts herein deserve my seal of approval, the execution of the complex mechanics sports a tad bit too many hiccups for that and, depending on your personal preferences, you may consider the blemishes that are there to be more serious than I did. When adapting these classes for your game, you will probably need to do some minor tweaking here and there - at least I'd suggest doing so.

Still, in the end, I'll take courage and innovation over retreading anytime and I encourage you to reward the designers for the unmitigated joy that oozes from these pages, for the high-concept ideas, by checking this out...

Now excuse me, I have a certain Devil May Cry-style class to reskin for the upcoming Hell's Rebels AP...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gonzo
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Good Samaritans #1
by Lucus P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2015 20:45:35

Solid artwork, interesting storyline. Was going to give 4 stars, but the pricepoint pushed me to 5 stars. I'll be curious to see how it all develops!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Good Samaritans #1
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