DriveThruRPG.com
Close
Close
Browse









Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:21:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of Divergent paths clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this guy? The short reply would be that this is a kineticist archetype employing the Path of War rules.

As such, the roil dancer's power-level adheres to the increased power assumed by Path of War and obviously is intended for high-power gameplay. Low fantasy/power-rounds need not apply. The pdf assumes that you have Path of War Expanded and if you do like the Path of War system, there is frankly no reason you shouldn't have that one already.

Roil Dancers add Perform and Spellcraft to their class skills and, discipline-wise, may choose Elemental Flux, Mithral Current, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon. A roil dancer begins play with 3 maneuvers known, all of which may be readied. He learns up to 15 maneuvers and may have 7 readied at any given time. 4th level and every even level thereafter allows for the retraining of a given maneuver and roil dancers may learn maneuvers of up to 6th level. Roil dancers begin encounters with all maneuvers readied. At 1st level, he knows once stance and learns another one at 4th, 7th, 11th and 13th level, replacing thus the infusions gained at 4 level and every 4 levels thereafter.

The presence of elemental flux has pretty much made that clear, but the archetype also receives animus equal to 1 + initiation modifier (minimum 1) at the start of his first turn. Each turn after that, the archetype gets +1 animus. Roil dancers receive an additional animus in every round in which they initiated a maneuver. Animus vanishes 1 minute after hostilities have subsided. When the roil dancer initiates a maneuver with his kinetic blade, he may expend animus to reduce the number of burn he takes - 2 animus reduce burn by 1. Additionally, maneuvers that allow for the execution of multiple attacks may be enhanced by spending 3 animus, gaining 1 additional attack with his kinetic blades.

We need to talk about those: 1st level provides kinetic blade as a bonus wild talent and may use it as part of initiating martial maneuvers that use weapons and also reduces burn cost by 1 when doing so. If a given maneuver allows for multiple attacks, his kinetic blade obliges to accommodate the maneuver's requirements and additional blades may be employed, potentially with different effects. Full attack maneuvers allow for two kinetic blades. In the case of ranged maneuvers, the blade can be thrown 30 ft. and the benefits may be used in conjunction with kinetic blade.

Okay, got that? Great, for I do have a minor question: The animus expenditure that allows for extra attacks when using a maneuver: Do these additional attacks also benefit from the effects of the maneuver? Or are they vanilla kinetic blade attacks? I assume the ability to allow for the execution of multiple kinetic blade attacks to conform with multiple-attacks-granting maneuvers, but since the ability does not specify whether the number of attacks is still capped by the maneuver (or neither does it say anything about full BAB or the like), it could be read as meaning that you can exceed the number of attacks granted by the maneuver with extra, animus-powered kinetic blades. Beyond that, maneuvers that feature an animus augment can be further enhanced - by accepting 1 point of burn, he can augment the maneuver further, even beyond the usual limits...which frankly is nasty, even for Path of War's power level.

The elemental focus chosen by the kineticist component of the archetype carries over to both Solar Wind and Elemental Flux - regardless of active element, the damage is defined by the element chosen: Aether deals slashing damage, wood positive energy damage ( See Seventh Path...or a sidebar for that one...), etc. - it should be noted that physical damage types are treated as magical and subject to DR and that any resistance ignoring benefits instead reduce DR appropriately.

The roil dancer's gather power is tied into the animus ability: it costs 1 point of animus to gather power as a move action, 2 to gather it as a full-round action. In the former case, he regains one expended maneuver; in the latter, he regains his initiation modifier expended maneuvers, minimum 2. Roil Dancers with supercharge recover an additional maneuver. The significant power of the maneuvers he receives is somewhat reduced by the decreased progression of kinetic blasts -a roil dancer begins play with the default value, but only increases kinetic blast's power at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Metakinesis, thankfully, only applies to the blast itself, not any damage caused by maneuvers or stances used in conjunction with it. Roil Dancers also lose the ability to quicken kinetic blades/whips.

The pdf also provides 8 feats: Augmented Elements nets you a simple blast from any element, but at a burn cost increased by 1. It also grants you the psionic subtype, unlocking psionic feats etc. for you and may be chosen at 1st level. Inner Fire is pretty nasty and frankly, I'm not sure I'd allow it near my game: For the expenditure of your psionic focus, you reduce the action needed to alleviate burn: If you take a swift action, you count as though you had used a move action. if you take a move action, you're treated as though you had gathered power for a full-round. Sure, it's a robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of situation, but it uses an infinite resource to significantly enhance the action economy of a conservation method of a limited one. In the context of Path of War, it works, but in less high-powered games, this should receive a bit of scrutiny, considering its 1st level availability. Kinetic Duelist nets you TWF kinetic blades. AWESOME! Mind Afire is also cool: If you use a non-Con-attribute to determine hit points, you may now use it for burn, DCs, blasts, etc. Ripple in Still Water lets you stack kineticist levels with ki pool-granting class levels for purposes of ki pool-size and for kinetic blast base damage. Basically the monk/ninja/kineticist multiclass feat.

The pdf also features three feats with the Gather Power-descriptor: Number one is awesome: After gathering power, blast adjacent (or 10-ft. away if you gathered as a full-round action) foes with burn. Solar Flare adds a dazzle/blind to your power gathering and Syphon Vitality (shouldn't that be "siphon"?) offers the sickened condition - the durations/saves are feasible, balanced and cool and make gathering power more rewarding...can we have more?

Finally, the pdf also sports a magical item, the flicker gauntlet, which costs a paltry 1000 Gp and may hold an item of up to 20 pounds for up to 1 minute...oh and they match your active elements with appropriately colored swirlies! Fashionable!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - in spite of the significant complexity of the subject matter, there is not much to complain in that regard - kudos! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' nice 2-column full-color standard and the original piece of artwork is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity and with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - nice to see that level of consideration.

Forrest Heck's Roil Dancer is an impressive, precisely oiled machine that manages to blend two complex subsystems almost seamlessly. Apart from the one ambiguity in the animus-options, I have found nothing worthy of complaints. Balance/power-wise, the roil dancer should fit seamlessly within the high-powered gameplay assumed by Path of War. The feats deserve special mentioning as supplemental material, for while I consider some to be problematic in more conservatively-balanced rounds, they do feature some serious gems that will see use in my games beyond the confines of Path of War. They need scrutiny when employed in less powerful games, but as a whole, even divorced from the pdf, can offer some serious fun - particularly the gather power feats are a concept worth expanding upon.

Now usually, I'd frankly round down in this case, since the one ambiguity I found is pretty crucial to judging the power of the archetype...but at the same time, I am pretty sure I have deduced the proper intention from context AND the level of crunch-density and complexity offered here makes this inexpensive pdf very much worthwhile. It is thus due to the overall difficulty and the ambition (and execution to match it!) of the designs here that I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:49:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. While SP-gaining is presented as an option, the pdf does champion the approach of exchanging those for spontaneous spellcasting, which is drawn from the cleric list for the hound archon and based on Charisma. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The hound archon featured herein adds message as a cantrip to his list, greater teleport as a 6th level spell.

The second monster class herein would be the succubus, who also uses the cleric spell list and Charisma as governing attribute; at 2nd level, she adds detect thoughts, suggestion, tongues and vampiric touch; charm monster at 3rd, dominate person at 4th and ethereal jaunt, greater teleport at 6th level.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - the hound archon's base racial stats would be +2 Str and Cha, normal speed, they are outsiders with the good subtype and darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +2 to Stealth and Survival and +1 natural AC.

The monster class gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, full BAB-progression, good Fort-and Ref-saves and covers 6 levels. The class begins play with a 1d6 bit attach that increases to 1d8 at 4th level as well as change shape based on beast shape II, but only canine forms - first only Small canines and 3rd level unlocks Medium canines , 5th Large canines. The ability didn't italicize the spell properly. The class begins play with 9 + HD SR and 2nd level provides +10 ft. land speed. Every even level of the class provides +2 natural AC and 3rd level immunity to petrification, 6th level electricity. 3rd level also provides scent and a secondary slam attack at 1d4; 4th level nets DR 5/evil, which increases to 10/evil at 6th level. 4th level provides truespeech and 6th nets the signature aura of menace.

The three supplemental feats allow you to sniff out lawbreakers, smell evil...and the scaling bonus damage feat the astral deva installment had. Still not sold on that one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the hound archon is a bit more conservative: He gains +2 Str, +2 Con, +2 Wis and +4 Cha. As a whole, the hound archon ends up being pretty strong, but still remains within the realms of what is acceptable within most gaming groups. I wouldn't allow him in 15-pt-buy/rare/low magic-campaigns, but that's it. Nice job!

The succubus presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, are outsiders with the chaotic and evil subtypes, darkvision 60 ft., fire resistance 10, electricity resistance 5 and poison immunity as well as +1 natural AC. They also gain +2 Perception and +4 Bluff, for an overall imho slightly too strong base array of traits.

The monster class of the succubus is 8 levels long and gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and begin play with 1d4 claws that increase to 1d6 at 6th level. She also begins play with 10 + HD SR. 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter provides +2 natural armor. The Perception of the succubus increases by +2 at 2nd, 4th and 6th level. 2nd level nets gliding wings, which get upgraded to full functionality (50 ft., average maneuverability) at 6th level.

3rd level nets alter shape based change shape (italicization missing) and at 4th level, the defenses are upgraded: Cold and acid resistance 5; electricity resistance 10 and upgrade of fire resistance to 20. At 8th level, acid and cold resistance are upgraded to 10. Also at 4th level, DR 3/cold iron or good is unlocked, which is upgraded to 5/cold iron or good at 6th level, 10/cold iron or good at 8th. 5th level provides telepathy, with a range-increase at 7th level. Also at 7th level, the racial Bluff bonus increases to +8. At the final level, the succubus unlocks immunity to both electricity and fire and energy drain. The reference to suggestion in the latter ability once again lacks italicization.

The succubus' supplemental material includes Flyby Attack, Profane Gift, the nice feat for redeemed evil outsiders and Full Immersion, which lets you fully take on the personality of your disguises, even versus detect thoughts. Nice one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the succubus gets +2 Str, +6 Dex, +6 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +14 Cha...and this does not include the "+2" that fails to note the attribute it's supposed to apply to. That's 36 points. +7 to Cha-based DC. Insane. Overpowered. Not suitable for any campaign I'd run...even before taking the MASSIVE resistances/immunities into account. How this one can be in the same pdf as the hound archon...I have no idea.

The pdf ends with a nice glossary for our convenience and we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Pit and Pinnacle's title couldn't be more eponymously named - while the powerful, but well-tuned hound archon represents a pinnacle in the series, the succubus represents the very worst the monster class-series has to offer, OP in all but the most powerful/who cares about balance/minmaxy environments.

How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, I'll settle on exactly the middle -at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/07/2016 07:36:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The pdf begins with an interesting set of observations and fluff pertaining the interaction of psychic magic and psionics; it may seem odd, but to me, the two always felt radically different and the pdf points this out rather well: Psionic magic stems from internal forces, whereas psychic magic is gained from an external power - so yes, establishing distinct leitmotifs here males very much sense to me and is a nice lead-in for the first Occult/Psionic-crossover book. In case you haven't thought about the two systems in that way, the introductory section certainly helps generating a holistic perspective here.

But we're here for the eponymous living legend...which, in theory could be classified as a soulknife archetype. Well, in the same way you could call the psychic a wizard archetype. The living legend is a massive tweak of the engine, basically a whole new class. Let me reiterate: The archetype gains an extended class skill list, adding Linguistics, all Knowledge and Perform skills to the class skills available. They employ Intelligence instead of Wisdom as a key ability modifier. These beings are also the protagonists of their own legends . thus, each day, they can meditate to prepare themselves for a character archetype via a 1-hour séance. At the end of the séance, the living legend chooses two legendary spirits from a cadre of 7 to inhabit him for the day; a living legend can only hold these two roles per day, so choose wisely. One of the roles is active and one passive and they can be switched as a swift action (starting at 13th level, Int-mod times as a free action per day), but regardless of whether active or passive, the living legend is subject to the spirit's influence, taboos, etc. The active role conveys benefits: A lesser power at 1st level, intermediate power at 4th, greater at 10th and supreme power at 16th level. A living legend may choose to not be beholden to one of the roles' influences, but loses the benefit of the role's narrative for the day. Breaking a taboo nets a -2 to atk, damage, ability- and skill-checks, as well as saving throws for one hour. The penalty is not cumulative, but its duration extends on subsequent violations. This eliminates psychic strike and the blade skills gained at the respective power levels 4th, 10th and 16th.

The roles thus chosen also determine the precise mind blade and both the iteration for the active and passive role are available. Each of the mind blades the archetype has may be customized in their own ways.

Changing roles can automatically reshape the mind blade. Starting at 1st level, the living legend also receives the benefits of a feat as determined by the active role - for Archmage, that would be Precise Shot, for Marshal Lookout, etc. - and yes, if he has the feat, he may choose another appropriate for the archetype. Not all blade skills are available for the living legend, but instead, they can select some unique blade skills designated as legendary stunts. While tied to a role, they can be employed regardless of role and they have a minimum level of 6th; apart from that, they act like blade skills and compatibility with blade skill-based archetypes and prerequisites is maintained.

The tricks granted are interesting: For one, laying a psionic mark on foes, penalizing attacks versus all but the living legend, expending psionic focus to generate a crashing, conical wave of piercing/slashing blade fragments, adding the brand of the heretic as a debuff, hiding in shadows, putting a kind of psionic mine on foes...the basic array here is damn cool. But what does that have to do with the active role? Well, each of these tricks has an additional benefit when you're in the appropriate active role: Archmages can e.g. generate an energy blast cone instead of one based on physical damage. At 20th level, the living legend's stories allow the character to be brought back from the dead by just knowing the stories and casting the appropriate spells (which are not italicized), without needing a body. Oh, and immunity versus soul entrapment and the like. As a minor complaint - the ability end with "He does not gain" - a part of the sentence seems to be missing here.

Now, obviously, the class chassis stands and falls with the legendary roles based on the mythic paths - so what do we get? Well, for once, the authors understand the design paradigm of Occult Adventures. Utility beyond numerical bonuses, flavorful tricks, breadth and, more importantly, hard-wired, amazing roleplaying hooks. The archmage, to give you an example, may choose as a taboo either eschewing all faith in the divine, use magical/psionic solutions over mundane ones or be driven by vast curiosity. Each of the spirits comes with a favored location, notes on influences and sports a narrative - these would be appropriate bonuses, as mentioned before: In the archmage's case, that would be insight bonuses to Int and Int-based checks equal to the maximum enhancement bonus of the mind blade, which is a significant, but feasible bonus. As a mind blade modification, the archmage employs raw mystic might, which translates to a ranged weapon! The active powers granted allow for the use of spell trigger/completion items, a bonus versus creatures analyzed, adding a burst to mind blade attacks or 1/day poach a sorc/wiz spell. Pretty amazing!

The champion's narrative supports your Strength- and Strength-based checks and provides access to any mind blade shape but technological weaponry. The active powers provide significantly enhanced defenses versus spells and save-prompting tricks, allow you to add maneuvers to regular attacks, move up to your movement as a swift action (or even free action!) or generate, at the highest levels dead magic/null psionics fields. Guardians get enhances damage soaking, with better AC, DR/resistance and the option to interpose yourself between allies and assaults...and late in the game, even ignore an attack completely! Hierophants may inflict nonlethal damage, get narrative bonuses, unsurprisingly to Wis-based checks, receive limited channeling, etc. The marshall grants the expected teamwork/tactician/buffing tricks and the overmind is interesting - not how psychic strike's lost? Well, with this role, you can still have the blade count as charged, allowing for the combo tricks inherent in that mechanic. Oh, and telekinetic throw, mental detection of nearby beings...you get the idea. the trickster does just what you'd expect.

The pdf also features a new crystalline focus item class for the living legend, the crystal bookmark, which may be used to increase the enhancement bonus of a storied sword and thus is appropriately high priced in its 3 iterations. For our convenience, the feats employed by the class have been reprinted here (thank you - seriously, love the comfort here!) and the pdf does also offer notes on particularly high magic/psionics campaigns (using e.g. the Path of War power level) and notes on how to customize the archetype to work in such a context.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though not perfect - the missing sentence fragment in the capstone is a bit jarring. On a rules-level, this is meticulously precise and well-crafted - highest level complexity wording, waterproof and airtight. Kudos! Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing evolution of Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and is nice. The artworks provided, with a pastel, somewhat anime-like aesthetic by Christina Olszweski are gorgeous and fit the theme well. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - kudos for going the extra mile!

Psionics Augmented, as a series, has been a somewhat uneven experience for me; There are some aspects in the books that I had to nerf in my games, that point towards a higher-powered playstyle as the core target demographics of the books. It was always my contention that a good engine can carry either...but in the end, PA: Soulknives suckered me in. I should have bashed that one at least a bit, but couldn't bring myself to do it, because the playing experience was too cool. Still, I couldn't help but ramble on about suggested modifications etc. and expected, to some degree, to see that as a kind of leitmotif from now on.

I was wrong.

The Living Legend is one of the most compelling archetypes I have ever read. I completely rewires the soulknife, even beyond what PA: Soulknives offered...and goes one step further. It understands the design paradigm, the emphasis on ROLEplaying Occult Adventures championed and sacrifices nothing of Dreamscarred Press' crunch complexity or precision. The living legend, even in the hands of a novice, is a powerful, rewarding playing experience, though one that will not even break 15-pt-buy games while still working in high-powered high fantasy/psionics/point-buy environments. Beyond the system's complexity and rewarding nature, the expertly woven fluff of the archetype adds to the option immensely. I want to play this guy. In short: Excellent mastery of crunch and fluff, anathema to cookie-cutter, bland designs and wholly new concepts galore. If this is what we can expect of Dreamscarred Press taking on the Occult, consider me utterly stoked for more!

Congratulations to lead designer Forrest Heck and Kevin Ryan, Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher - this is one excellent supplement and the first Psionics Augmented-book I can unanimously recommend, sans any sense of hesitation. 5 stars + seal of approval...and just short of being a candidate for my Top Ten due to the scarce few minor hiccups.

Seriously, get this...and write the legends of your characters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Fey
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. While SP-gaining is presented as an option, the pdf does champion the approach of exchanging those for spontaneous spellcasting, which is drawn from the druid list, based on Charisma for the emancipated dryad. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The emancipated dryad featured herein adds charm person as a 1st level spell to her list, suggestion as a 2nd level spell as well as deep slumber at 3rd level.

The second monster race/class herein, the satyr, draws arcane spells from the bard spell list, casting them spontaneously via Charisma, but add summon monster I - VI to their spell list at spell levels corresponding the number of the respective summoning spell. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The emancipated dryad, race trait-wise, are fey with normal speed, +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, the option to speak with plants at-will (not italicized properly)...oh, and they are independent of their trees, making them suitable for adventuring.

Racial class wise (which spans 6 levels, just fyi), they get d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. 2nd level and every even level thereafter provides +1 natural armor. The class nets simple weapon proficiency as well as use of spears and longbows. At 1st level, they gain a massive +6 to woodcrafting and is always treated as using masterwork tools. 2nd level nets DR 1/cold iron, which increases to 3/cold iron at 4th level and 5/cold iron at 6th level. 3rd level nets wild empathy, 5 tree meld (which does not italicize the reference to meld into stone) and 5th level also makes speak with plants constant, though it's not italicized.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the dryad receives +6 Dex, +2 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +6 Cha, for a total of 22 attribute points gained, though their impact for power-gaming purposes is decreased due to their dispersal. Testing the monster class left my hesitation regarding it by the wayside. I'm good with the dryad as presented and would ue her in all but the lowest-powered of games.

The satyr-race presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, is a medium fey with low-light vision and gains +2 to Perform (wind instruments), Perception and Stealth as well as +1 natural armor.

The 8-level monster class receives d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. Satyrs begin play with DR 1/cold iron and increase that to 3/cold iron and 5/cold iron at 4th and 8th level, respectively. The class also nets a horn attack at 1d4 base damage, which increases to 1d6. Starting at 2nd level, the satyr can focus his magic in pipes, with a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 HD + Charisma modifier to negate and an "only once in 24 hours"-caveat. Playing or continuing to play requires a standard action. 2nd level, these can be used 1/day and duplicate charm person, 4th sleep , 6th suggestion, 8th fear ...but none of the spells are properly italicized and the text refers to harpy instead of satyr.

At 3rd and 7th level, the satyr's natural AC increases by +2 respectively and 3rd level increases the Stealth bonus to +4, 5th increases the bonus similarly to Perform and at 7th level Perception is thus enhanced. 5th level nets +10 ft. base land movement rate.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the satyr receives +4 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Int, +4 Wis +6 Cha for a total of 22 points gained. The attribute-distribution over the levels, akin to what the dryad receives, is diversified enough to maintain functionality for the purpose of power-level of the satyr - no balance-concerns on my part.

A total of 6 feats are provided: Using Wis or Cha to determine bonus hit points, gaining a hoof attack, +4 to perception in woods and Survival to avoid being lost, drinking as a move or swift action...okay, I guess. Murmur of Roots nets a limited tremorsense in wooded terrain and Pied Piper is a cool one for the satyr, allowing them to call forth rat swarms - statblock provided, just fyi. This feat's amazing!

As always, we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs, but we do get a nice glossary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary cut-copy-paste glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes: Fey ranks as one of the most refined from a mechanical point of view: In spite of the powerful tricks, the monster classes maintain a sense of balance I very much welcome. While the pdf has a couple of formal hiccups, this still remains one of the best installments so far. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Fey
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Savage Races I
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:07:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

We begin with the bugbear, who, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium goblinoids with normal speed.

Racial class-wise, they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor for each of the 3 levels of the class. At 1st and 3rd level, they get +2 Str, at 2nd level they get +2 Dex. Proficiency-wise, bugbears get simple weapons + morningstar ad javelin as well as light armor/shields. Perception and Stealth are always class skilsl for the bugbear and 2nd level nets scent. 3rd level increases the racial skill bonuses to +4.

Second up would be the gnoll, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium (gnoll subtype) humanoid with normal speed.

Racial class-wise (2 levels long, just fyi), they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor at 1st level as well as scent. 2nd level nets +2 Str...making this a lopsided, but still excellent and balanced take on the gnoll. Proficiency-wise, the class nets simple weapons, light & medium armor and shields - since the tower shield caveat is absence, those are included, which is a nice touch.

Thirdly, we're introduced to the playable ogre - who gets +2 Str and Con, -4 Int and Cha, begin play as Medium with 30 ft. movement, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor and the giant-subtype.

The racial class covers 4 levels and sports 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as medium and light armor and shields, except tower shields. Ogres get +1 natural armor upon taking the first ogre class level, +1 at 3rd level. 2nd level provides size increase to Large size and 3rd level nets +10 ft. base movement rate.

Attribute-array-wise, the ogre receives +8 Strength, +4 Con and -2 Str over its 4 levels - which makes them as lopsided as intended, but shouldn't mechanically break the game.

The pdf also provides an array of 12 feats reprinted and slightly altered - including Snapping Jaws, Vestigial Head and similar gems. Beyond these, the pdf provides two feats by DSP, one of which has previously been published: Lurker in Darkness, the amazing option to not auto-fail versus numerous Perception-modes is still a total gem. The second, Stupendous Strength lets you wield two-handed weapons one-handed or one-handed weapons as light weapons - nice take on the oversized weapon trope.

The pdf concludes with the handy glossary for the supplemental racial rules. As always, neither age., height or weight tables, nor FCOs or the like are provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version.

Jeffrey Swank's savage races are as lopsided as you'd expect them to be - they're focused on the physical aspects and aren't as well-rounded as I like my PC-races...but for what they try to be, namely proper representations of the monstrous races in a balanced context, they are awesome. Low-point-buy groups may consider the ogre to be nasty, but ultimately, none of the races/classes herein will unhinge any game they're used in...unless the other players REALLY suck at making characters that are efficient. Balanced, solid and nice, this is an inexpensive, nice little book and showcases how talented the designer is. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races I
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Undead
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:30:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

This pdf contains two such classes - the first of which would be the Deathless Ghost, who, race trait-wise, gains +2 Int and Dex and is undead with 50 ft. darkvision, normal speed and here things become interesting: Deathless Ghosts aren't incorporeal per se- they have no Strength-score and use Dex instead and may only benefit from ghost touch armor and no natural armor bonus. They get +4 to Stealth and Perception.

The 3-level racial class gets d8 HD, 4+Int skills,3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and begins play with channel resistance +2, which increases to +4 at 3rd level. 1st level also may use a corrupting touch as a standard action, causing 1d6 x HD damage (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha-mod DC), save halves. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but it's true to the original creature. The ectoplasmic form nets a 10% miss chance at 1st level, which increases by +10% per class/character level; said chance is halved for spells, magic attacks etc. They gain Cha-mod to AC and 3rd level nets immunity to flight and a 30 ft. perfect maneuverability flight. 2nd level increase the Stealth-check to +8.

Attribute bonus-wise, the racial class gets a total of +4 Cha. Undeath makes fragile and the lack of options to improve via items offsets the powerful tricks this one gains beautifully. Powerful, but not overly so. I like this one!

The second playable undead herein would be the ghoul, whose basic racial traits are +2 Str and Int, being undead and gaining darkvision 60 ft. These guys get 2 racial class levels, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The racial class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, a 1d6 bite, 2 1d4 (1d6 at 2nd level) claws (properly codified) and +2 Dex at 1st level. 1st level also has +2 natural AC 2nd level also nets +2 Dex, +4 Wisdom and Charisma and provides ghoul fever and the signature paralysis.

The pdf also contains a total of 11 feats: These allow deathless ghosts to drain attributes from others, healing themselves. Someone hand me that bag of kittens, please. Urgh. A Frightful Moan, gaining the full incorporeal subtype, possessing foes telekinesis, Poltergeist-style, with a cooldown and high-level Rejuvenation complement the ghost...oh, and have I mentioned manipulating weapons?

There is a feat to use Int or Cha instead of Con for Fort-saves, a cool feat that nets you skill bonuses when you eat brains, gaining a burrow speed...or becoming Old as Dust - which means you're VERY hard to destroy - and is cool!

As always, we get a nice glossary, but no age-, height or weight table or FCOs/traits.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no significant complaints. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The artworks are solid and partially stock, but nothing to write home about. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this point.

Jeffrey Swank's undead are impressive - particularly the deathless ghost, which screams OP by being incorporeal AND undead actually worked better than expected when picked apart. The ghost is impressive and cool...and I do like the Old as Dust feat - it's just cool. That being said, there's the unnecessary, failed kitten-test and the ghoul falls flat on its face in comparison: Kobold Press' Darakhul are the superior take on playing a ghoul, simple as that. More flavor, more options, better balance. Where does this leave this one? As a nice installment that certainly has more universal appeal than the previous installments. While not perfect, it's certainly a step in the right direction. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Undead
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

The earth elemental's base racial traits are +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Int. Earth elementals begin play as Small and are outsiders with the earth and elemental subtypes with 20 ft. speed, 60 ft. darkvision, +3 natural armor.

The 16-level racial class gets d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons as well as good Fort-and Will-save progressions and full BAB-progression. 1st level provides a slam attack at 1d6, which increases to 2d6 at 12th and 2d8 at 10th level as well as 2d10 at 13th level. At first level, the elemental may step through 5 feet of earth or stonebased difficult terrain each round, including the option to use this ability to 5-foot-step. They also start with tremorsense 30 ft., which imho is too early. The ability doubles its reach at 9th level. 2nd level provides Improved Bull Rush as a bonus feat as well as earth mastery.

Starting at 4th level and every level thereafter, the natural armor of the earth elemental increases by +1. 6th level nets DR 1/-, which increases to 5/- at 8th and 10/- at 13th level and the attacks are treated as magical. 4th level makes the earth elemental Medium, 8th Large, 10th Huge. 7th level provides 1/2 speed as burrow speed and 11th level nets earth glide.

Attribute-dispersal-wise, the class gets +22 Str, + 8 Con for a total of +30. This is ridiculously paradox - +11 to atk and damage basically take the assumptions of AC of even max'd characters and throw them out the window...then again, the math, system-inherently, starts coming apart at higher levels anyway...and the singular focus on the physical side of things actually make the earth elemental less problematic from a balance point of view than similar entries in the series.

The pdf sports 4 feats, which include Elemental Jaunt for 1/day plane shift, adding 1 point of acid damage to weapons (stacks with corrosive, which is not italicized) and better saves versus acid attacks and spells. Finally, there would be Groundbreaker, which is a cool ability that lets you rise and emit a shockwave that can render foes prone.

The pdf concludes with the usual glossary and, as always, no age, height or weight table is included and neither do we get FCOs or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I only noticed minor, formal hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's earth elemental is a "Hulk, Smash!"-melee-focused beast, but we expected as much from the base creature. Interesting here would be that the balancing, in spite of the melee focus, is actually much tighter than in other monster classes releases so far. I can see myself allowing these guys, depending on the context/campaign style. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Erinyes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:14:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred Press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. Another issue that playing monsters entails would lie within the arsenal of SPs at their beck and call - an issue that the series handles via an optional, but recommended replacement of spells instead of SPs - for the erinyes, this would be bard-like, Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting drawn from the cleric list, with minor image added at 2nd level, fear at 3rd and greater teleport at 6th level.

Base race trait-wise, the erinyes receives +2 Dex and Int, is a medium lawful and evil outsider, gains darkvision 60 ft., fire resistance 10 and immunity to poison.

The racial class covers 9 levels and sports d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and the class begins play with simple and martial weapon proficiencies and +2 natural armor, which increases by a further +2 at 5th and 9th level. They also begin play with SR 10 + HD, which is somewhat strong. At 2nd level, they can see perfectly in darkness.

2nd level provides gliding wings that upgrade to 50 ft. flight at 6th level (good maneuverability) and 4th level provides acid and cold resistance 5 and upgrades fire resistance to 20. The former increase to 10 at 8th level. 5th level nets DR 5/good and provides telepathy (range increases later). At 6th levels, these furies may use a 50 ft. rope to entangle foes as though affected by animate rope (spell not italicized) and may hurl the rope 30 ft; the DC here is Dex-based, just fyi. 8th level provides fire immunity.

The pdf provides 4 feats: Flyby Attack and the secondary wing attack-trick as well as Redeemed Soul, which helps good characters with the evil subtype (nice!) and a feat that unlocks 1/week commune with the dark masters as an SP.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the erinyes gains +4 Str, +8 Dex, +6 Con, + 2 Int +8 Wis,+10 Cha for a total of 38 attribute points, not accounting for those gained by the base race. This is, much like in the astral deva installment, too much for my tastes - the +5 spellcasting/SP-DC alone is NASTY. That being said, it's not as bad as in the deva's case, though it'll probably cause some issues in less high-powered games.On a plus-side, I spotted no hiccups this time around among the abilities and the general dispersal of when what is gained can once again be considered to be well-crafted. The pdf does come with a glossary of rules for types etc. that is handy to have.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - apart from the missing italicization of one spell, I noticed no botches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports an okay artwork. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Jeffrey Swank's erinyes is less OP than the astral deva...so that's something. It still won't get anywhere close to my games, considering that it gains more attribute points than most groups use as a base point buy for a class that has 6+ skills, good HD, full BAB-progression, etc. Yes, I am aware how outsiders work. Yes, I know what the goal here is - and frankly, at least I can see the erinyes being of some use for some games; it does gain more attribute points per level on average, but it has less levels to escalate. I still would advise extreme caution when using this one and won't ever allow it near my minmaxing players...but I can get why someone would like this. While nowhere near balanced in my book, I will hence settle on a final verdict of 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform....unless you're planning on running a really high-powered game, in which case, this will probably be right up your alley.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Erinyes
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Monster Classes: Astral Deva
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:11:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 3/4 of a page empty space, leaving us with about 6 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. Another issue that playing monsters entails would lie within the arsenal of SPs at their beck and call - an issue that the series handles via an optional, but recommended replacement of spells instead of SPs - here, this would be bard-like, Cha-based spontaneous spellcasting drawn from the cleric list, with invisibility and see invisibility added at 2nd level.

Now, the series acknowledges that it does ignore balance in some cases to faithfully reproduce the respective creatures. No matter how you stand on this decision, the matter of fact remains that it wouldn't have hurt to simply provide a faithful rendition AND a balanced one. That's at least my point of view...well, so how does the Astral Deva work: These guys get +2 Str and Cha, are medium good outsiders, have normal speed, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +4 to saves versus poison and their monster class has d10 HD and 6 + Int skills per level. They gain proficiency with simple and martial weapons.

Their racial class begins play at 1st level with +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 at 2nd level and every level thereafter to a maximum of +15. 1st level also nets a primary natural slam attack at 1.5 Str-mod damage that begins at 1d4 and increases to 1d6 and 1d8 at 8th and 15th level, respectively.

Astral devas also start first level with 10 + HD SR, which is very strong; most comparable options begin with 6 + HD and increase to 11 + HD at one point. 3rd level unlcoks immunity to petrification, 6th level cold and 9th level acid. 4th level nest indefinite change shape and 4th truespeech. The basic protective aura is gained at 5th level and provides +2 to AC and to saves of allies within 20 ft., increasing the bonuses to +4 at 9th level. 12th level makes the aura double as magic circle against evil and lesser globe of invulnerability. 5th level unlocks gliding wings, which are improved to 50 ft- fly speed at 10th level with good maneuverability, increasing that to 100 ft.

6th level has an issue: If an astral deva hits a foe twice with a melee attack in a round, it's save or stun - with increasing durations. Considering how easily you can get flurries and similar tricks, that can use a further limitation in my book. 7th level nets uncanny dodge, 9th DR 5/evil that increases to 10/evil at 15th level. 10th level, the class increases base movement rate on land by +10 feet. Framework-wise, the monster class has full BAB-progression and good Will- and Ref-saves.

The class also provides attribute improvements: A total of +14 Str, + 8 Dex, +10 Con, + 8 Int, +8 Wis,, +10 Cha are gained over the level progression. That's a total of +58 attribute points, not counting the 4 the base race provides. That translates to better than better than full BAB-progression (+7 atk + damage), + 4 Initiative and Ref-saves, +5 hit points and Fort-saves, +4 skills, +4 Will-save and +5 DC. It's not as bad as if the deva could choose where the boosts go...but it's still pretty bad. And no, regular attribute gains, items etc. are not included either. It's literally almost thrice the attribute array of most games.

I don't object to racial classes providing attribute bonuses; quite the contrary. I think racial classes should provide the like to make up for the loss of class features. The Astral Deva, as presented here, gets a lot of skills, spellcasting, better than full atk and all the abilities noted above. When used in conjunction with a 25-point buy game that has enough loot, it works; for lower point-buys, it is pretty OP, particularly when multiclassed. Less high-powered groups should certainly take care and contemplate at least prohibiting multiclassing and similar options. Which is a pity, for if you take the excessive attribute bonuses away or at least reduce them, you actually have a solid framework - from attacks to ability-gains, I don' have a problem with anything but the minor stun hiccup and the excess employed in attribute bonuses.

The pdf also features a total of 4 feats, including Flyby Attack, the ability to sense lawbreakers, the option to gain Wing Attacks (secondary, locked behind BAB +5) or inflict +1d6 damage versus evil foes, +1d6 per 5 character levels. This bonus damage automatically overcomes DR, energy resistance and immunity. Not a fan of those, as pretty much everyone knows by now. The pdf also features a handy glossary/reference array that sums up outsider type etc. - handy indeed! There are no age, height and weight tables and the pdf offers neither traits nor favored class options, in case you were wondering.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a formal and rules-language level, with the one stun hiccup mentioned before. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Additionally, it comes with a lite version that is more printer-friendly.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes will be a rocky ride for me, I foresee that. On one hand, the dispersal of abilities exhibited here makes me hopeful for it, since it shows concern, care and knowledge. The astral deva presented here is very solid and the spellcasting option recommended by DSP actually proved to make the class more rewarding and balanced to play than the SP-array. This, alas, on the other hand does not change that the attribute bombardment the deva receives, to ALL ability scores, which ultimately makes the option problematic and too strong. I really hoped that this would finally bring me the playable angel I wanted, considering that Rite Publishing's In the Company of Angels, uncharacteristically for the series, provided an OP option that needs serious nerfing. Alas, the same can be said here.

I look forward to more in the series and for some of you that read this review and thought "What's his problem? That sounds amazing for minmaxing etc.!" this may be what you wanted; very high-powered games will enjoy the astral deva here - as for myself and quite a few GMs I know, this will get nowhere near their game. My final verdict hence will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Astral Deva
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Akashic Mysteries
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2016 07:03:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

It has been coming for a long time - the completed Akashic Mysteries book, which clocks in at a mighty 97 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 92 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The simple reply would be "fixed incarnum with a Silk Road flavor." If that does not ring any bells, let me reiterate. Akasha is a type of magic that is utilized most commonly via veils that are channeled through conduits in the body called chakra. Every creature is supposed to have a finite amount of essence in their being, which is called essence pool. Essence is typically not expended, but veils and other akashic effects require it for activation and thus, essence needs to be assigned to a specific function. This is done by investing essence into the receptacle, which can be a veil, an akashic feat (more on these later) or ability. Reallocating or investing essence, unless otherwise noted, is a swift action. The process of harnessing veils is called veilweaving and thus, the classes here are known as veilweaving classes. Progressing in these unlocks new chakras, which allow for veils or function of veils or other akashic abilities to be used in ways that are based on the veil in question. Each veil is associated with a chakra and veils do not interfere with magic items worn in that slot, but no two veils can occupy the same chakra. However, some veils may be employed in different chakra, often with different effects depending on the chakra used...however, one veil may not be in use for two or more different chakras. You can only ever have one veil of a given type in effect atone time. The general chakra available are Hands, feet, Head, Wrists, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, belt, Chest, Body - though some classes can gain unique chakras. Veils interact with magic as though they were magic and SR applies against most effects, but not versus auras or AoE abilities unless otherwise noted. Veils overcome their own SR automatically. Veils manifest as physical constructs that may temporarily be sundered and suppressed, with hit points and hardness of the veils depending on the level of the veilweaver.

Concise rules are provided regarding descriptors, identifying veils, etc. Now there are a couple of more basic terms we need to cover: Some feats and veils require the binding, rather than the investment of essence - this means that the essence is "stuck" in the receptacle for 24 hours or until the user shapes veils anew after resting. If such a receptacle is sundered or disjoined, the user takes essence burn equal to the total of the invested essence. Essence burn eliminates essence and requires 1 minute of quiet contemplation per point of essence burn to recover. Temporary essence points, if granted by anything, are burned first and may not be recovered. Veils do not require active concentration to maintain, but upon the veilweaver falling unconscious, they are suppressed until he regains consciousness. Veils sundered while the veilweaver is unconscious are destroyed and cannot be redeployed until he has rested. Finally, there would be essence capacity, which denotes the number of essence points that can be invested in any given veil, feat, class feature, etc. - these would be 1 for the first 5 levels and then increase by +1 at 6th and every 6 levels thereafter.

Veils are generally described in a format, that provides their name, descriptor(s) (if any), class that may form it, slot(s), saving throws, a brief fluff text and then the benefits of the veil, followed by an essence benefit section for invested/bound essence. The Chakra Bind section denotes the chakra and the class level at which it becomes available for the class in question (very handy reference!), which minimizes page-skipping. (G20 for Guru 20, for example.) Kudos!

Okay, the first thing you'll note is that that the terminology has been cleaned up when compared to the earlier WIPs - the respective verbiage makes sense, is self-explanatory and if this sounds complicated, rest assured that it isn't necessarily once you have grasped it: Basically, you have points that you move around to make magic stuff. Sometimes, you need to fix the points, sometimes you temporarily lose them, but generally, you'll be pretty flexible in moving around your points of magic stuff. The veils can be powered by the magic stuff and you learn to use them in more ways as you gain experience. Much like a cool button or temporary tattoo, the effects of veils depend where you wear them. That's about as simple as I can explain it.

Anyways, we obviously need to re-evaluate the 3 akashic base classes released so far in order to ascertain whether/how they have improved. If you are not interested in this section, skip ahead. The text is modified, where appropriate, to reflect the changes made (quite a few!), but if you're already familiar with the akashic classes and don't care about the nit and grit, go ahead. It should be noted, though, that the classes have changed quite a bit since their original iterations.

Class Breakdown-section

Daevics gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields (but not tower shields), full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. The veilweaving here is different from the other two classes, but there are similarities - the DCs, if appropriate, is DC 10 + number of essence invested in the veil + Cha-mod (making Charisma the governing attribute here and decreasing the DC from the WIP to more generally palpable levels), but there is a crucial difference to default veilweaving - the veils granted at 1st, 4th, 9th and 15th level must be selected from the list of the chosen passion, whereas the other veils gained operate like standard veils, meaning the progression is from 0+1 to 4+4 over the 20 levels of the class. Essence is gained at 1st level, increases at 3rd and scales up to 10 for a net of every 1/2 progression. Chakra binds begin at 2nd level and scale up to 6, with progression being Feet, Hands, Wrists, Shoulders, Belt, Neck, Chest. On the minor engine-tweaks, 5th level nets +1 to saves versus enchantments, which scales up by +1 every 3 levels thereafter.

Now I noted the existence of passions - these are chosen at first level. When a daevic invests essence into a veil of a passion (called passion veils), it counts as being invested in all passion veils, meaning that the very scarce essence pool makes investing points here more efficient. However, at the same time, power escalation is prevented by an explicit rule that forbids synergy with veil-specific feats, effects or catalysts, though you CAN also bind them as normal veils and circumvent these restrictions (but also foregoing the passion veil benefits), adding a further dimension to these veils. Three sample passions are provided, and all modify the list of available passion veils to choose from, the class skill list and all ultimately change how the class plays, so what are they?

The first passion would be desire - which allows 3rd level daevics to use Charisma for Appraise and may replace both Dex and Int as prereqs with Cha for the purpose of feat-prerequisites, offsetting some, but not all strain that would otherwise be burdened MAD-wise on a full BAB character. The in-game rationale for this, while not perfect, at least is sufficient for me - why do I mention this? Because I get pimples from the default "I'm so good-looking I hit foes"-rationale employed by some abilities out there. So kudos! Bonus-feat-wise, they gain Precise Shot and Willful Throw. An interesting option - at 6th level, a passion mutates into one of 2 choices - here, this would be love or avarice. Love provides an NPC-companion that is pretty powerful (-2 levels or -3 CR for less humanoid ones...) - but it does not stack with Leadership. Furthermore, as a balancing caveat, eidolons and similar creatures are dismissed on behalf of the paramour and the character thus chosen may not be a full spellcaster (or full-spellcasting equivalent class like the veilweaver). Daevics that follow the passion of avarice add the returning and called abilities if within the daevic's possession for more than 24 hours - however, the abilities are lost again upon willingly giving them to another creature. On the nitpicky side, there are some minor formal glitches here. At 12th and 18th level, this ability improves regarding action economy and adds unnatural lust to the weapon thus thrown, respectively.

The second passion to choose would be dominion, which focuses on two-weapon fighting with a shield. (TWF at 3rd, Improved Shield Bash at 5th, Shield master at 8th, if you want to know the details.) The 6th level selection allows for the choice of either benevolence or tyranny, with the former providing a scaling, temporary teamwork-feat-granting ability, while the latter provides demoralize support as swift actions with scaling bonuses.

The final passion, wrath, has some nasty tricks: Whenever the daevic bull rushes or overruns a foe, he may execute an AoO against the foe before moving the foe, though this powerful effect is somewhat countered by the lack of gained bonus feat - instead CMB and CMD increase at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Wrath may transform into justice or vengeance at 6th level, with justice providing access to the vital strike feat-chain...and the option to execute the Bull Rush/overrun-granted AoOs with Vital Strikes added. As for vengeance:1/round full-attack against a target when succeeding a Bull Rush or Overrun, but only with natural weapons and only against said target. This ultimately boils down to a meat-grinder -only shreds and gooey bits remain in the path of such a daevic. The changes to the passions made here are unanimously awesome and help keeping the daevic powerful sans being too strong. Absolutely beautiful, as far as I'm concerned.

At 9th and 15th level, the essence capacity of the passion increases by a further +1.

The Blood Bind ability's write-up fails to mention that it's gained at 12th level (which one glance at the table confirms, but still a minor aesthetic hiccup) - but it is interesting: It provides essentially an additional slot, into which the daevic can bind Neck, Head, Headband and Body slot veils, but whenever he does that with a non-Blood veil, he takes twice the essence invested damage each round and when reassigning veils, which means it can't be abused. Nice! The capstone is a boring native outsider-apotheosis and can reassign veils via 1-hour meditation. Odd - the daevic gains the body-slot at 20th level, which means that prior to this level, he can bind body veils only to the blood slot.

All in all: Vast improvement over the original iteration. Let's move on to the guru, shall we?

The Guru base-class gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made - more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru receives a 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested in the veil + Wis-mod, making Wisdom the governing attribute.

I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch - if a guru invests at least one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + Wisdom-modifier bonus damage, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC's path. A guru may invest into this ability as a swift action, and for each point assigned, the nonlethal damage inflicted increases by +1d4, though it can only be used in conjunction with weapons granted proficiency-wise by the philosophy of the guru...one of which contains shuriken. Because that didn't yet have enough exploits. Then again, the ability specifically says "a weapon" - singular. Which would mean ONE shuriken...and I'll stick with that reading...in dubio pro reo and such...

1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power - you can't write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks - the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1/day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.

At 2nd level, gurus learn to sunder veils particularly efficiently, allowing them to expend stunning fist uses in conjunction with gentle touch to suppress veils/spells and deal damage to undead or constructs, in spite of them being usually immune to nonlethal damage.

The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack - this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + Wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs - penalizing one attack mode, decreasing movement rate, decreasing shield and Dex-bonuses and high-level blinding, stunning and exhausting foes can be found amidst these effects. These last for Wisdom modifier rounds and a single target may only be affected by one such disruption at any given time.

7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence bound, though essence invested in this limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. So yeah, no abuse! Yay! 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of constructs. As a minor nitpick, we once again have to consult the table, since the ability doesn't say the level it's gained. 16th level provides the option to expend Stunning Fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. As a minor complaint here: The pdf sports several spells not italicized and captalizes gentle touch here as though it were a feat, not an ability...but this is aesthetics and doesn't impede the book's worth.

The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes - cool and surprisingly powerful!

Now I mentioned philosophies - a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon weapon proficiencies. The first of these would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities and amounts to 1/2 class level, which it may never exceed. Essence burn taken to activate an ability nets this guy 5 times the burn taken temporary hit points. In addition, the akasin can take 1 essence burn to execute veil of positive energy as an SP at full caster level. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible via 1 essence burn, as is shooting rays - which deal an untyped damage that is more potent vs. the undead. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but the save to negate blindness and halve damage is neat. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light - it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability with brilliant energy. As a pretty cool note, though - the mirrored property does help against this, which eases my grumbling.

The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit at 10th level - oh, and it has a no-negation caveat. 13th level provides immunity to blind and dazzled and provides a daylight aura that can be resumed or suppressed. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds. Now this looks much worse than it is in game - it is spam-proof. See, that's why I playtest these classes - this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers. Finally, 19th level nets at-will teleport between light sources

The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic - it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp - interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I'm still not 100% sold here - though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this - limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis at 7th level is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement and 13th level nets Grab that can be applied to larger sized creatures depending on essence invested, while also increases the grappling capacity. 16th level provides AoE unarmed attacks and 19th level nets a paralyzing attack for Stunning Fist expenditure that also restores essence burned one a failed save. It now has a hex-style caveat, which is neat.

The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater's tanky playstyle - via 1 essence burn, they can tie themselves with aether to foes, penalizing them and gaining bonuses against them...and targets thus affected that miss him result in essence regain. He can have one aether tie in effect at any given time, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. These ties last for Wisdom modifier rounds, which, by action economy and the power of math, makes kitten-ing the ability not a smart move. At 4th level, vayists may use essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or blur or mirror image themselves. 7th level nets essence burn for getting back up as a free action, even when it's not his turn (nice ship around of the free action ambiguity!). 10th level nets alter winds, air walk and river of wind and is solid. 16th level features the option to make at-ranged whirlwind attacks with weapons teleporting back and 19th level provides a continuous freedom of movement. Significantly tightened concept-wise!

All in all, in every way superior to the previous iteration of the class!

Onwards to the vizier, shall we? The vizier receives d6, 2 + Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, bucklers and simple weapons. The class has 1/2 BAB-progression and, uncommon for a full caster, but not unheard of, good fort and will-saves. The vizier's veilweaving is governed by Intelligence and follows the 10 + essence invested + Intelligence-modifier formula for save DC calculations. The vizier's levels count as arcane caster levels for the purposes of qualifying for feats, PrCs, etc. Viziers may invest essence in wands, staves or wondrous items that use charges, with the usual essence capacity limit modified by improved essence capacity (+1 at 3rd, 11th and 19th level - note that save DCs for veils also increase by the same amount at these levels) at later levels still applying. Essence thus assigned is considered to be bound and may not be redistributed, but the essence does act as charges for the item in question, though 9th level spells may not be activated with it. Items with essence invested in them do not require UMD-checks to utilize. Still not 100% sold here.

What do I mean by this? Warning: Nitpickery afoot. Surprisingly, I'm not complaining about items with few charges being left as treasure to have some "smart bombs" here; What I'm not sold on is simply the flat-out "no UMD"-section AND the non-scaling nature of this ability. What if the players find a wand with precious few charges or a unique staff and can just flat-out use it? I am aware that these are fringe-cases, but it would theoretically allow the vizier to utilize charge-based items beyond his level's capacity (if the DM foolishly drops them into the treasure...) - and there is a pretty easy solution that prevents the issue: Just make the highest spell level of the item the governing factor for whether or not you have to UMD and make it scale with class level progression, by e.g. tying it to twice the character's essence capacity. Now, yes, the base ability isn't broken, but I maintain that such a solution would be much more elegant and prevent fringe-case abuse.

A 1st level vizier begins play with 2 veils and 1 essence and increases that to a total of 11 veils and 30 essences at 20th level. A vizier may invest up to character level essence in a given veil or receptacle.

Viziers receive instant access to all veils on the vizier's list. Chakra binds are gained at 2nd level in the progression of Hands, Feet, head, Wrist, Shoulders, Headband, Neck, Belt, Chest and Body. The vizier does gain access to a unique veil slot: The Ring slot, which is unlocked at 9th level; at 15th level, viziers may bind and shape up to two veils in the Ring slot. At 3rd level, viziers gain veilshaping and may use a move action that provokes AoOs 1/day to unshape and instantly reshape an existing veil, though the rehsaped one can't be bound to a chakra until the vizier has meditated for 1 hour. At every 4 levels beyond 3rd, one additional veil may be reshaped and the ability can also be used an additional time per day.

The capstone allows for at-will instant veil-reforging via aforementioned veilshaping - and whenever the class uses the veilshaping ability, he regains 3+Int temporary essence that lasts for 3 rounds and may only be used to power the veils just formed.

Viziers also receive a kind of bloodline-ish linear ability chosen at first level - a total of 3 are provided. These are called paths of mystic attunement and they very much define how the class plays.

The Path of the Crafter grants a bonus equal to 1/2 class level on all skill-checks made as part of the crafting process and may bypass crafting requirements by increasing the DC. That is pretty powerful. Allies within 30 ft. that activate a magic item to cast a spell, treat the caster level and DC of the activated item as +1. That is nasty, but will also make the vizier rather popular with his adventuring companions. Okay, where things get rather unique would be in one particular ability - transfer the essence. This allows you to meditate on items and exchange their bonuses and special abilities. - Found a cool weapon, but don't have the proficiency for it? Just exchange the enchantment with those on your trusty sword. I applaud the fact that you can't cherry-pick abilities and really like this component. Now, on the other hand, wand/staff charges can also be exchanged if the items have the same highest spell level - a fitting restriction, but one I'd suggest to be supplemented with an analogue caster level (or lower) restriction to prevent spells that increase their potency with caster level having their charges cheaply upped by using charges from items that do not scale with CL. Once again, not a bad glitch, but rather one that can easily be fixed. The ability does feature a caveat that prevents use with artifacts or cursed/intelligent weapons, though. The path also grants item creation feats and a decreased craft-price at higher levels.

The path of the ruler is all about granting a scaling 30 ft.(60 ft. at 9th)-Will-save/Sense Motive debuff aura, with selective exclusion of up to Intelligence modifier allies, who also get a bonus instead. Enforcing a reroll at high levels is nice, but when compared to the benefits granted by the other paths, the path of the ruler feels pretty bland to me.

The path of the seer increases movement of all allies within 60 ft. by +5 ft, +5 ft. more at 9th and 17th level - neat. Now the interesting part comes next - the seer learns teamwork feats and for each point invested, the class may share ALL teamwork feats granted by this ability (1 is gained at 1st, 5th, 9th and 13th level) with one ally within 60 feet. Additionally, veils tied to Hand or Feet may be shared alongside with allies, who may invest essence in them, but not benefit from veil bind in the shared veil and they neither gain the benefits of the seer's invested essence. High-level (17th) seer-viziers may freely retrain the teamwork feats. See, that one is a competent, powerful commander-style path and once again, mops the floor with the relatively uninspired ruler-path.

Once again, some nice revisions made here.

End Base Class Section

One crucial difference that sets apart Akashic Mysteries from similar alternate magic systems is the sheer wide openness as a central factor of the design - this system was made to allow for dabbling, gestalting and similar processes and as such, this book does contain a lot of options for classes beyond the 3 I have covered so far, so let us dive in and take a close look, shall we?

Okay, so the first class covered would be the psionic aegis, who gains 2 1-point, 4-point and 3-point as well as a 4-point customization: Beyond the obvious chakra bind and veil shaping, there are some cool mechanic twists here that make me really grin; contemplation, for example, lets the aegis expend power points to make receptacles or veils counted as though they were invested with essence, providing a nice game of resource management I enjoy. Making essence via the ectosuit similarly is a neat concept. Speaking of cool: The Buraq animal companion (yep, you read right!) archetype basically replaces several of the usual tricks with some veilshaping, emphasizing the instinctual and universal nature of akasha: Two thumbs up!

Barbarians looking to tap into the power of akasha will like the rageshaper, who replaces 5 of his rage power with veils and temporary essence while raging, which also makes for a great representation of the trope of the hero who can only tap into supernatural powers while raging (as seen in a gazillion anime). The resonant song bard replaces the base performances with the Hands of the Bard veil and 1/4 (min 1) class level essence. Now here is where things become interesting: At higher levels, the veil separates from the bard for a kind of spectral, externalized threat. The psionic and criminally underestimated cryptic class replaces the enhanced disruptions with veilweaving at -3 levels and a fluid realignment of altered defense tied to his veils as well as a power point/essence-interaction akin to that shown by the aegis. Once again, this makes for evocative gameplay and interesting tricks. The swarm master dread gains the pretty awesome vizier's veil-selection (at a lower progression, obviously) as well as the Pestilence Cloak veil, which, once again, he can utilize in utterly unique ways, separating from the dread and even becoming real! Oh, and swarm form at higher levels! Heck YES! The hashasheen gunslinger can cling to walls, generate akashic bullets (somewhat similar to my own etherslinger) and fire on the run - apart from the class I wrote myself, this certainly now ranks as one of my favorite gunslinger options. The akashic warrior fighter is the first archetype here I don't really like - it basically replaces bravery with an akahsa-based variant and allows the character to invest essence in armor or weapons, but ultimately, the archetype doesn't add much beyond at least some numerical flexibility. Better than the base fighter, but not as amazing as most archetypes herein.

The snake charmer magus is a whip specialist who blends arcane power and spellcasting, losing spellstrike, spell recall, etc. - however, for arcane pool points and essence invested in the whip, he can generate cool defenses - a neat take on the whip-wielding, quick magus. The adaptive gunner marksman gets the cool contemplation psionic power/essence-combo game and uses the amazing Hand Cannon veil, getting even a unique style to interact with that one, which lets him doe amazing psionics/veilweaving-combo-stuff, like combining both cannons into one when expending the psionic focus for increasingly devastating blasts. The mysterial monk once again features a complex and evocative game of resource-management that is based on the interaction of veilweaving and ki as well as featuring a neat array of veilweaving in lieu of e.g. slow fall. The yaksa caller summoner binds lesser daeva (the entities associated with the daevic) instead of eidolons - said beings have veilweaving and said yaksa may bin essence in the caller, enhancing spell slots and veil sharing is also part of the deal. Pretty neat veilweaving summoner variant. Fans of Path of War may enjoy the veiled lord warder, who regains essence when performing gambits as well as limited number of day veilsharing with allies - beings affected by this that crit, generate temporary essence. All in all, neat.

The book also contains 13 talents for rogues, investigators as well as slayers that provide a neat array of tricks to dabble in veilweaving for these characters. Note something? Like the lack of complaining about them? Yeah, the options here are damn cool! The pdf also sports 2 PrCs, the first of which would be the 10-level Amplifier, who gains 1/2 BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level as well as full spellcasting/veilweaving progression - the amplifier basically is a akasha/spells-theurge...and if you've followed my reviews, you'll note that I'm usually not too impressed by these guys. However, for one, he works with psionics as well and when spell and veil descriptor match veils, the class gets some cool benefits to choose from that scale with the levels, providing a cool game of mechanical interaction that actually makes the PrC interesting to me.

The second PrC covers 5 levels and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Will-progression, d8 HD and 2 + Int skills as well as full veilweaving progression. These guys gain touch attacks that deal 1d8 per class level + Con-mod, which also grants temporary hit points and temporary essence. This temporary essence can, at 2nd level, be used to create debuffs zones. Thereafter, the PrC learns to render those it defeats into zombies, poison the essence of foes (unique mechanics) and finally, create undead via his tricks. Neat!

The pdf also contains new races, the first of which would be the amazing gamla you can see on the cover - yes, camel folk. Yes, they are cool. These guys get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, are Large, have a speed of 30 ft., use undersized weapons (nice balance), gain desert strider, endurance, gain +1 bonus essence and a sickening spittle usable 1/minute. A powerful race, but still within the acceptable frame and one that gets a wide array of core class/akashic class and warder FCOs. The race also supports two alternates, the Alqarn (rhinofolk), who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis (making them more physically lopsided than I like them), but slow and steady does somewhat diminish what would otherwise, thanks to ferocity and gore, be too close by the barb-race. Feelkha get +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex, are similarly slow and steady and gain a trunk that can be used, much like the rhinofolk's horn, in conjunction with essence more effectively.

The second race would be the reptilian sobek, who gain +2 Str and Cha, -2 Wis, slow and steady, water adaptation, +2 to Stealth in certain environments, a natural bite attack at 1d6 that can be enhanced via essence and a sweeping tail. Once again, we get FCos for the core classes and the akashic ones. The nameer and sohofaat are alternates here - the tigerfolk nameer are warmblooded, have regular movement and camouflage in other environments and the race does have essence-enhanceable claws. The solhofaat (turtlefolk) get +4 Con, -2 Dex and a shell that can be enhanced via essence, a bite that can't be invested with essence, but a shell that can be. I usually tend to hate +4 as racial modifiers, but considering the slow swimming speed as well as the fact that Con does not allow for a lot of abuse/powergaming, I'm mostly good with this and leave it with my usual "Take heed!" warning for GMs of low-powered games.

The suqur get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, 20 ft. land movement, low-light vision, 1 point of bonus essence and may glide. They gain talons and investing essence in the gliding wings lets them fly, which represents an investment I'm willing to give a pass; obviously, this can cause problems in low-level modules, but the totality of the race's traits is sufficiently subdued to make this work for me. Once again, we get nice FCos and the race comes with two alternatives: The Hibkha (Ibisfolk) get +4 Int, -2 Str and Con, has 30 ft. movement and ignore non-magical difficult terrain, which makes the Int-powergaming more ridiculous. Not getting anywhere near my game, this one may be the first thing in the book I actively dislike. The Nisr vulturefolk get +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha and may fortify their iron stomachs with eseence to resist poisons and diseases and eat about anything. Age, height and weight tables are included for our convenience. Favored class options of the new classes for the core races (minus half-orc/half-elf, plus orc) can also be found.

Alright, but one of the main draws of Incarnum back in the day was the relative ease by which other characters could dabble in its tricks - a component akashic mysteries translates masterfully to PFRPG by not only aforementioned class options, but by the vast array of feats. Basically, you can learn to access chakra slots via these and, as hinted at above, feats with the Akashic-descriptor can be invested with essence for greater effect, fortifying the body, spells, enhancing charges...Building on Deadly Aim, rage, studied strike, channel energy - basically, you name the class feature and there will be some unique trick that you can enhance with these feats - the handy table covering the feats alone is 1.5 pages long. Essence-based, less boring variants of Toughness that count as Toughness for purposes of prereqs are neat. Unfortunately, there is also some problematic content here: Life Bond, for example. This lets you basically transfer hit points via touch to allies. Solid, right? Well, for each essence invested in the ability, you increase healing by +5 hit points, which means that two or more folks with this healing each other can generate infinite healing. It'll take a while and probably won't break the game in most rounds, but I know that I'll put hard cap on this feat in my game...but consider this just a tentative complaint, since otherwise, the array of options presented herein are evocative and make for a LOT of tinkering options - the chapter adds a massive tweaking strategy to everything, considering that most feats grant essence!

Now, the veils...this massive book contains basically ~20 pages of these and they are, ultimately, what makes of breaks the system...and they are amazing. No, seriously. Unlike many an alternate system, Michael Sayre has provided a significant array of unique benefits that you otherwise never get to see - like vorpal-immunity. I also mentioned the friggin' handcannons, right? What I can't really possibly hope to convey is the nature of these: Take a veil that grants you a tail slap - so far, so boring, right? Well, for essence, it also nets swim speed and for chakra bind, we gain 5 ft. AoE-trip as a unique attack! Even relatively conservative skill-boosters get such unique tricks, with one providing very high-level viziers a means to become truly frightening rulers, commanding up to 100 HD of creatures...Dr and Ac-granting defenses, temporary hit points that slowly regenerate, gauntlets that deal "electric" (should be electricity), sonic and cold damage, miss chances, spell-interactions for chakra-bound veils, mantles of insects. A nice touch: even the veils that employ veilweaving level instead of BAB have a rationale for how viziers and daevics can end up at the same potency when using the veil -it may not be much, but it is these nice little touches that show how much the authors care about a sense of in-game coherence. Oh, have I mentioned the Spiderman-style spinnerets? Now, personally, I'll add a cooldown to the dragon-like breath-weapon-granting veil, since I really don't consider infinite AoE-damage, even in small cones, to be something I like, but this is, again, a rules-aesthetic decision, not one based on me considering the veil OP. Oh, want veils rather by slot than alphabetically? Guess what: Second table included. Breaking each of these down in their components would exceed the frame of this review, considering that I already talked about quite a few of them in my review of the previous books; just note that no infinite healing exploits sprang right at me, though healing options are included.

A total of 3 weapon special abilities, akasha-enhancing catalysts, blood chakra-interactions...these items generally work well...but are only half the deal. You see, the mirrored property I mentioned before? It's included herein. As are a selection of spells and material that act as reference material to avoid annoying book switching. Kudos and thank you for that.

Where was I, oh yes, beyond the items, we get two new monster subtypes, the akashic and daeva...and new monsters, including a new akashic dragon! The monsters sport amazing artworks and, as many are daeva, provide gorgeous, original artworks that evoke unique twists on Hindu-deities and other, lesser-known mythological creatures, like the Yaksha. These monster builds can generally be called "challenging" and range from CR 5 to 22, sporting unique tricks even before the whole veilweaving thing comes into place. This brief bestiary, if anything, made me want a whole bestiary of such creatures and should be considered a worthy closer to this book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are a bit hard to talk about here; you see, this review is not based on the "this will go to print version" of the book, but rather on the pdf-version prior to that. The positives first: Considering the length and density of the material herein, I am pretty excited to note the precision of the rules-language. Formal glitches are also pretty few and far in between, with e.g. the first "Alignment"-line in the book being one of the exceptions. One of the most prevalent issues would be that, unlike all "finished" Dreamscarred Press titles, I noticed quite a few formatting hiccups, like non-italicized spells and minor internal incongruencies regarding some of the material. These are universally not game-breakers, though. Dreamscarred Press has a history of cleaning up their books before going print, so I'm willing to give the company a pass on that for now; it's just something to bear in mind when you're expecting to dive right i. In my usual qualification, this would be situated between good and okay in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version - kudos for providing that! Artworks are a mix of stock art and original art in full-color and particularly the original art deserves being mentioned as high-quality and amazing. Srsly, making the camelfolk look cool is truly great! The pdfs come with excessive, nested bookmarks that render the use on electronic devices very easy.

Lead designer Michael Sayre, with assistance from Andreas Rönnqvist, Andrew Stoeckle and Jacob Karpel has created a monument here. Yeah, I know, sounds like hyperbole? I'm not kidding, though. When I think "alternate magic for PFRPG", akashic mysteries is now right up there with psionics, pact magic and the numerous systems crafted by Interjection games' Bradley Crouch. The overhaul the classes got in comparison to the previous releases shows a quickly improving grasp of mechanics of top-tier complexity and the ability to sift through feedback to garner the gems amidst the complaints and invalid bickering - the final book presented here blows its WIP-components straight out of the water. The beauty of the mechanical tweaking and math underlying the system is impressive and the reason I adore this book more than quite a few options out there: It doesn't matter if you're playing a low-powered 15-pt-buy or nigh-superhero 25-pt-buy; it doesn't matter if you're going for low/rare or high magic - the akashic system supports a vast selection of playstyles and is ingenious, smart and just rewarding.

Beyond that, it may be one massive array of exceedingly dense crunch, but it is one that doesn't leave other classes behind. Finally, the system actually manages to evoke, in spite f the scarcity of fluff, a unique thematic identity that you may easily reskin/eliminate, yes - but you can also roll with it. The number of components I'd consider problematic herein are TINY considering the density and size of this book. Oh, one more thing: I HATED the fluff of Incarnum. I hated its execution and only used it for gestalting back in the day; this one, I love. It is refined, strong but still balanced and one gigantic beast of evocative material. This will become a staple in my games for years to come and establishes Michael Sayre as one crunch-designer to really watch, as one in the highest echelon.

If anything, I want the expanded and augmented sequel book now and a full-blown bestiary and NPC book to boot. Yes, I actually like this that much. The fact that the system, in spite of the vast amount of moving parts, doesn't crumble under its own weight is impressive indeed. I'm rambling. What I'm saying is: Get this, you won't be disappointed! It's not (yet) perfect, but it is one of the most inspired crunch-books to land before me in the last couple of years. My final verdict will clock in at unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval and denote this, even sans improvements, as a candidate for my Top ten of 2016 and an EZG Essential. Now excuse me, I have a lot of tinkering to do...

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Kineticists
by N. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2016 19:37:39

Hey all, N. Jolly here looking over Psionics Augmented: Kineticists, a book I'm sure a lot of people have been waiting for my opinion about. Rather than delay, let's get started

What I liked

-Starting with a bit of info about how magic and psionics work together was pretty nice, and a good tone setter for the book, something that I appreciated myself.

-I love the Avant Guard kineticist, I really do. It's fun, creative, and puts a great spin on the base class. Getting an astral construct that can be modified helps keep it new while also staying true to the original class. It also has nice text to keep it from being barred from other archetypes, a very nice touch. There's a lot of intelligent design here that shows a deep understanding of the class, and I really enjoy it.

-The new feats were all nice additions, giving opportunities for interesting multiclass as well as strongly integrating the psionic side of the product into the kineticist side. Fire Starter and Inner Fire were huge additions in my opinion, although kinetic duelist may be too strong for some games.

-As a whole, I like the new infusions and wild talents, as they're fun inclusions into the already wide array of 3p talents we've already seen. However...

-Slow burn is an interesting variant for how to play the class, and I think it's a nice change, making for a completely different experience while still holding onto the core mechanics of the class.

What I was indifferent towards

-The flicker gauntlet from the Roil Dancer is here, and while I like it, it's a reprint, so it's just so-so here.

-The new athanatic essence and sound blast are fun inclusions, but they're both shoehorned in, with their mechanics feeling a little janky. Both are heavily unresisted types, and while wood did need something (even if athanatic essence with wood infusions doesn't make much sense), sound blast was a bit too much for me, especially if you're already going air. You could also argue that even though you can apply infusions to it as though it was air blast, those aren't added to your wild talent list, meaning other elements that take it might not be able to learn infusions that work with it, but a sensible GM should overlook that issue.

What I disliked

-I didn't feel like we needed text about how archetypes worked in the opening, it felt like it wasn't vital to the content. Same goes for Astral Constructs being reprinted in whole here, this feels like it could have simply been referenced.

-Unfortunately, I didn't care for the Gambler archetype myself. It has issues with feeling like it's not even a kineticist itself, instead feeling like another class with kineticist leanings. While functional and strong, it felt lacking in some ways, and burning wager could have used more wagers to really fill it out, as I found myself mostly a fan of Double or Nothing over most others. It's a 6th level psionic caster without a lot of things tethering it to the base class, making it an odd duck for those who wanted more kineticist content.

-...The amount of wild talents is certainly lacking, making this hard to buff any existing kineticist. With only 2 infusions (one for the athanatic essences) and 3 utility wild talents, the amount of customization that this book grants for existing elements is almost nil.

Final Thoughts Overall, the content in this book is very solid as well as finely balanced. Forrest Heck shows her knowledge of the class in a lot of the design choices made in here, and Avant Guard certainly has a place at my table. You won't be disappointed in a lot of the content in this book, but at the same time, it doesn't do as much as I would like to expand the base class, feeling very insular about how it changes things. I harped on the Shifu for the same reason, so I can't leave it alone here.

This is a very well done product, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to play their kineticists!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Kineticists
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Steelforge: Book 1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2016 04:54:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of Steelforge clocks in at 16 pages,. 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 1/3 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief foreword by the authors, we dive right into the respective items contained herein and the first item-class already makes pretty much clear that this is NOT a standard magic item book - we begin with 3 inexpensive types of auto-loader magazines for crossbows. What do they do? Well, they make crossbows on par with bows. Thank you. That being said, I am a more than a bit weary of the ability to copy enchanted bolts in an infinite capacity - once you insert a bolt, the magazine copies the bolt's properties on other bolts contained herein - insert mundane bolt, add one powerful magic bolt, get infinite copies of the powerful bolt. This would be utterly broken, were it not for the VERY smart caveat of it being impossible to taking any bolts out of this magazine sans destroying them, putting a hard cap on the number of bolts you can copy. This catapults the item class immediately from problematic to all awesome. Chest-slot-assigned natural armor enhancers, corsets that enhance your saves, girdles of protection and the like can also be found here.

In case you need that spelled out: The items here utilize other slots than e.g. the standardized slots - which may be a blessing or curse, depending on your take: While I really like the fact that now cloaks and rings aren't necessarily occupied to make the high-level math work, this also allows for some optimization tricks that weren't possible before. Since this issue is pretty much system-immanent, I will not penalize the pdf for it. That being said, I did notice an uncharacteristic glitch: The construction prices of the aforementioned corset are equal to the market prices, which is an obvious error. (As an aside: I do believe that prices could have been used to account for the value of the respective slots and some balancing here, somewhat offsetting the gained flexibility, but I digress.)

This is not all, though - hate seeds allow you to utilize the dread's paranoia terror (cool!) and ironbody cloaks contain temporary hit points, which help in particular to offset the squishiness of some characters at high levels...or in high damage output games like those employing Path of War or similarly optimized characters. Headset-style earrings are damn cool and tie in well with collective rules and dimensional anchor nets have been a staple in my games for a while - nice to see them represented here as well! Seriously underpriced at 12K, Steelwalker's Boots may add to the flexibility and flow of combat by allowing 1/2 movement in conjunction with full attacks, but they also cheapen all skirmishing builds I know. I'd hate this item like crazy, were it not for the fact that, unless you actually hit, you are staggered, making this a high-risk/reward item I actually ended up liking!

There is also a nice take on transferring magic enchantments from items to items (somewhat akin to Interjection games' glyph wrappings).

More important would be the highly versatile charming trinket-systems: There is a bracelet and necklace that can each hold charms, with a ton of them provided in two groups, included upgrades for Claim-limits, ki points, etc. Nice customization array, though its flexibility and low price point, while cool, may not be what every GM is looking for, they do sport some serious value.

This is not all, though: We are introduced to the 3rd-level flightbreaker spell and the absolutely glorious endeca's gregarious gravity slime: Somewhere between intelligent slime and item, you rub these slimes on weapons, attack foes and watch them do their magic. The slime is AWESOME and evocative and comes with a rather cute artwork. No complaints.

The pdf also feature the gravity slime master PrC, which covers 5 levels and adds a total of +3 BAB and Ref/Will-saves as well as two levels of class feature progression, d8 HD, 4 +Int skills per level. As a minor nitpick, Dreamscarred Press has established a time-frame in concrete time for per-encounter abilities that is not reprinted here, in spite of the PrC using such mechanics. The PrC can launch damaging, DR/resistance-ignoring untyped damage dealing gravity slimes at foes - while I have no balance concerns here, I still wished it wasn't untyped. The gravity slime master also receives a gravity slime guardian at first level, basically a kind of variant eidolon that gains a series of free evolution, but no pool of its own or magic item-sharing with the master. And yes, at higher levels, it gains more evolutions and can act as a mount. The gravity slime master's launched gravity slimes get additional, hampering effects at higher levels and starting at 3rd level, this impact ability extends to gravity slimes added to weapons. Really evocative little PrC.

The final chapter of the pdf covers a topic near and dear to my heart: Combating the Christmas Tree syndrome. This section pretty much is worth getting the pdf on its own. Why? Well, while most of Dreamscarred Press' recent offerings have been geared towards high-powered gameplay, this chapter will provide a ton of benefits for pretty much all groups I can think of: Rare/Low magic campaigns can employ it and its massive table to codify the value of saving throw bonuses, armor class bonuses (by type) or resistances to be added to items, allowing for customization of more unique items and adding their benefits. Since the enhancements are listed in steps, they do take the slot component into account. This section is pretty minimalistic, yes - it basically covers the must-own enhancers to make the math come out right. I absolutely love it. The section is made primarily for GMs and can prove to be extremely helpful when pricing items that feature these options among others - from legendary items to legacy items, these humble two pages will see A LOT of use in my own game. One note, though: In spite of the non-stack caveats and very precise presentation here, I'd suggest GMs keeping a tight control over these rules, since, again, system-immanently, the added variety does allow for combos otherwise impossible. This is very much a feature in 99% of the cases, but it can be a bug, in spite of the section doing everything right.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on both rules-language and formal levels - with the one exception regarding prices mentioned above, but that one is pretty obvious as well. Layout adheres to an elegant 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, it comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos for going the extra mile there!

The authors of this pdf Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Anthony Altovilla and Forrest Heck have crafted an intriguing pdf here: All crunch, steelforge's first book is not a traditional item book; instead, it could be best described as a design-paradigm toolkit that provides item-options and tricks to customize your game. More importantly, several of its items address some gaps in the system; in particular, the temporary HP granting items can be a true blessing for high-powered gameplay. Other aspects of the pdf provide increased flexibility for magic items, interesting variants and options as well as some serious designing help for DMs looking for an easy price-cheat-sheet for the modification/design of legendary/legacy weapons or an end to the Christmas tree syndrome, making this pdf a valuable asset for lower powered games as well. That being said, considering the nature of this pdf, I do believe that some guidance for GMs regarding the ramifications of introducing some contents herein would have been helpful: This is basically a massive engine-tweak, but it does require a bit more understanding of the consequences of adding the content than I consider necessary. While this does mean that the pdf remains very focused on the crunchy aspects, it also makes it a pdf that requires some serious thought on behalf of the GM on which options to employ in the end.

It should be noted, however, that thinking about this is rewarded; Steelforge's Book I has some truly glorious ideas and the gravity slime is a cool concept that can, engine-wise, certainly be expanded in future releases. I consider Steelforge I an excellent book that only misses my seal of approval due to the fact that it, as more of an engine-tweak than a traditional item book, could have used more didactic guidance for less experienced GMs. Still, consider this well worth getting - my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars,. rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steelforge: Book 1
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
by N. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2016 11:40:25

The Roil Dancer was a project I first saw in its beta stages, and it's grown a lot since then. For those of you who wanted a kineticist with a bit more 'punch', you'll certainly get it here. The archetype itself does well at blending the power of Path of War with established kineticist content, although those using it in a now PoW enviroment might find it a bit strong due to PoW's higher optimization curve.

With a fun little magic item and a few flavorful feats that also help this archetype shine, you'll certainly be able to get a lot of value out of this content.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/01/2016 05:06:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1/2 page blank, leaving us with 13 1/2 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a selection of new blade skills for the soulknife to use: 34, to be precise - several of which, just fyi, are archetype-exclusives. In these cases, they sport the archetype's name in brackets, acting as an additional prerequisite to the ones pertaining other blade skills. To give you an example: Animal Senses nets you low-light vision and scent as well as +2 to Perception, but is only available for the Feral heart and requires the form claws class feature to take, basically adding the sensory aspect to the claw-theme. Blade Rush is pretty brutal - it allows for the swift action expenditure of the psionic focus to move up to the soulknife's speed as a swift action...which is strong. Where the blade skill does overshoot the target a bit is with the caveat that the soulknife provokes no attacks of opportunity with this movement. No "from adjacent targets" caveat - just flat-out no AoOs. At the same time, minimum 6th level does alleviate this a bit...but still, for less high-powered games, this is a very potent option and should probably be nerfed. Its follow-up allows the soulknife to move up to her movement speed as a full-round action (no AoOs!) and make a single melee attack at highest BAB -2 against each target she is adjacent to. The "adjacent" caveat is the only thing that keeps me from engaging in a full-blown diatribe here. Still, this is arguably MUCH better than any form of full-round attack you can usually perform, unless you're only fighting against one adversary (when action economy outclasses the foe against the average adventuring party anyways). The one balancing feature would be the psionic focus expenditure, which prevents you from spamming this move. The minimum level? 8th. Not any high-level trickery. 8th. This one completely outclasses similar one-use abilities granted at high levels, has only a resource determined by action economy and is rather overpowered for its minimum level.

That being said, as much as I consider this one problematic, the pdf also has some absolute gems that work for pretty much every game - Caltrop Spray, for example, where you break your own mind blade to create more potent psychic caltrops that can tell friend from foe for cool soft terrain control. Starting at 10th level, these guys can also expend their psionic focus to fold space as a standard action (move action at 16th level+), allowing for a level-wise great take on the phasing soulknife. And yes, there is actually a BALANCED low-level phasing trick for the soulknife as well - at 4th level, via Ghost Step, which has strict action economy/focus requirements and played rather neat in my games. Knife to the Soul enhancers, psionic focus-based dispels etc. can be found and combining the soulbolt's empowered strikes with unarmed attack/natural attacks is cool as well. As a minor nitpick "Deadly Fis" is missing its "t" in the end - but that's a typo. Similarly, empowering natural weapons. Manyshot mindbolts, better deadly shields and mind armaments. I am somewhat weary of improved psychokientic discharge, which lets the soulknife perform empowered strike full-attacks at range.

On the plus-side, a whip-shaped mindblade that can cause 1-round dazes on failed saves is cool, though the daze should probably specify that it's a pain-effect, at least judging from the fluff of the ability that justifies it via "intense levels of pain." Very cool for multi-limbed creatures: There is now a blade skill for more than 2 soulknives at once! Kudos for stitching that hole! Increasing power points, psychic grappling hooks (!!!)...pretty cool. Have I mentioned the platform they can now make? It can be slick, elastic...whatever the soulknife desires and has the concise rules to support it. Yeah - this is UTILITY beyond combat, ladies and gentlemen! Gaining psychic strike if it had been traded away, firing psychic strikes as blasts (or 10-foot splash bombs), gain mind armaments (see below) and there is a unique one: Speed of Thought + Mental Leap, with psychic strike's charge as an alternate means of paying for the expenditure required by the secondary abilities. Cool! Soulbolts can now also learn to form melee mind blades. I am not a fan of foregoing psychic strike charge to ignore all hardness or DR at 4th level - the lack of scaling regarding both render the blade skills problematic for some tables - I know I'll ban that one in my games or at least introduces a scaling mechanism that allows for the continuous progression of the ability instead of full-blown DR ignoring. Oh, and we have an infinite healing crap-ability. Deal only 1/2 psychic strike damage to heal this amount. Can someone hand me the bag of kittens and a HP-to-ally-transferring ability, please? Then we'll have infinite healing not only for the soulknife, but for the whole group. Blergh. A simple minimum-HD-caveat that scales with soulknife-levels would eliminate the issue, as almost all similar designs do by now. You may not consider it an issue, but I do - to me, such an exploit represents sloppy design and the low point of this supplement.

Okay, next up are the archetypes and one word of warning - they are COMPLEX. As in: They modify A LOT and certainly are not cookie cutters - we get really big ones here, with the Augmented Blade being the first. This archetype is basically THE option for all those rounds and games where the idea of a ghostly/energy-style soulknife didn't work with the feeling of the campaign: Instead of a mindblade, the augmented blade archetype gains a psicrystal, which is then attached to weapons to e.g. coat them in crystal or sport similar means of visual customization. Beyond that, the psicrystal can be attached to a variety of items, augmenting them in unique ways - and this works on a rather fluid basis, allowing for quick slotting and a lot of variables you can change on the fly - and yes, this renders the archetype rather fun to play, particularly considering the fact that the archetype learns to split the psicrystal AND has Metaforge/Aegis multiclass information. Absolutely GLORIOUS archetype that basically "unlocks" the soulknife for settings where it would not work, replacing basically the core class mechanics with new ones...and it thus plays differently, too! A prime example for a great archetype!

The second one would be the brutality blade, who uses Charisma as governing attribute for the soulknife class features and may manifest rage blades, which may not be thrown, must be single blades and they increase the enhancement bonus of the mind blade by +1, allowing the brutality blade (always hear Mortal Kombat's theme music when I write this, but that just as an aside), with 7th and 13th level increasing the bonus by a further +1. The rage blade can be maintained for 4 + Constitution modifier rounds per day, +2 per class level beyond 1st. Upon dismissing the blade, though, the brutality blade loses psionic focus and is fatigued for 1d4 +1 round, during which he may not regain psionic focus. Additionally, the brutality blade has a 10% chance to suffer psychic enervation when manifesting this godblade style mindblade on steroids, risking 2 times class level damage. So, as you see, the archetype basically functions as a barbarian-y soulknife on steroids with a sprinkling of wilder as for its base functionality. This becomes more apparent with 4th level, when the brutality blade gains the raging surge that adds +4 to Str while the blade's out, +2 to Con at 8th level, further +2 to both at 12th, Strength increases to +6 at 16th and both to +6 at 20th level. 5th level unlocks free action rage blade manifestation...but the archetype also gains unique wrath augments, basically specialized blade skills. For example, when using a rage blade, the brutality blade may, as a full-round action, expend psionic focus to jam the blade into the ground to duplicate Whirlwind Attack as soon as 4th level, balanced by the rage blade requirement. Growing in size as per expansion with claws of crude knives, expending psionic focus to reroll Fort- or Will-saves as immediate actions (again: Better balanced than mettle!), causing bleeding wounds and gaining a raging euphoria that can be shared with allies or a focus-based rend...the options are powerful, but well-placed regarding minimum-levels and feature glorious visuals. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues and no longer suffers from a chance of psychic enervation. This archetype is superb - and its mechanical possibilities are not even close to being covered here - the enervation, rage blade and unique mechanics practically beg to be further expanded. The archetype plays like a completely different class and does so gloriously - it is one of the coolest godblade-style archetype/classes I've seen in quite a while and generally can be considered to be a cool, well-balanced addition to the game.

Thirdly, the psychic armory can be seen on the cover - with a panoply of blades circling her, she begins play with 1 + Wisdom modifier light and one-handed such blades, 2nd level unlocking an additional 1 + Wisdom modifier two-handed blades. These blades may not be used to attack in melee and are only quasi-real, until hurled psychokinetically at foes - and yes, they can be used to perform AoOs in melee range with proper rules-language covering all the bases. Expended blades replenish upon the armory's next turn. This panoply of weapons may not be used in conjunction with wielded weapons or off-hand/natural attacks, but the base damage-types employed may be changed for each weapon group used in the panoply of blades. Special abilities still require extensive meditation and may not be fluidly switched. I already mentioned psychokinetic throws, which basically translates to using Wisdom instead of Dexterity to determine ranged atk with the panoply and also adds Wisdom to damage, with regular light weapons duplicated having a range increment of 20 ft. and 1-handed ones a range-increment of 15 ft. 2nd level also unlocks throwing 2-handed weapons from her array with a range increment of 10 ft. Here's the unique thing, though: The armory may, as a standard action, direct the panoply to a place within medium range and have it explode in a 20-ft.-burst, using all her blades for the round in favor of 1d6 damage per class level + enhancement bonus, Ref-save halves, with the rules actually covering the blending of damage types and their substitution. 3rd level allows for the panoply to apply soulknife mind blade enhancements by weapon group and 5th level lets the armory call forth her panoply as a swift action. As a capstone, the archetype can maintain his blade even in null psionics fields sans issues.

Oh, and the archetype comes with more than one page of unique blade skills that allow for the panoply to gather into a temporary mind blade of a more traditional bent, increase the reach of the threatened area by +5 ft., increase the range, flurry with the panoply a limited amount of times per day at range (here, the pricing with minimum level 14th is appropriate) or use an opposed attack roll to counter another as an immediate action. While personally, I dislike the mechanic due to d20 vs. d20 being rather swingy, your mileage may vary here. Making the panoply lines, expand to becoming difficult terrain (and threatened area!) or form a barrier - the options are truly evocative. Oh, psychic armory...how torn am I regarding you. You see, this one is obviously in flair and style something more suitable for high-psionics/magic campaigns and for these it works OH SO WELL. My personal disdain for the d20 vs. d20 blade skill notwithstanding, the archetype is just so beautiful. Its three assortments of preconfigured mindblades are very powerful and, honestly, may be a tad bit too powerful. Similarly, unlimited 20 ft--burst long-range attacks that deal class level x 1d6 + enhancement bonus physical damage outclass A LOT of builds and classes out there. Alchemists can take their bombs and go home, sobbing, for example - at least until iterative attacks allow for outclassing of these blasts....but then again, the panoply's blast of blades is ALWAYS a standard action. You fire this burst...and then you're standing around with not even a weapon in your hands. You threaten nobody. If you get outmaneuvered using this ability, you're basically screwed very hard until your next turn, bereft of all the cool tricks you have. This makes the archetype play in a very unique manner - you need a bit of tactics here. The panoply also has another...potentially pretty nasty component - it can have multiple weapons in the panoply bearing psychic charges, which is a pretty big deal. Then again, can you see the class charging its blades and firing them? This is basically one of my favorite video game bosses of all times, the archetype (extra brownie points if you can guess which one I'm referring to!). The psychic armory can deal a lot of damage, is flexible, consolidates Dex and Str into Wis for her attacks...and honestly, I should be screaming OP by now. It...kinda is. For low-powered, conservative campaigns, this one should probably be reserved to powerful puzzle-bosses. In high-powered high fantasy/psionics-campaigns, though? OMG. While personally, I'll nerf this gal a bit, I absolutely ADORE this archetype. Sure, I wished it was a bit more conservative...but she plays just so beautifully!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level and impressively good on a rules-level - this book may have a some minor typo-level hiccups, but it engages in very complex rules-operations and manages to do so very well. Layout-wise, the pdf adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdfs also sport nice, full-color artworks.

Chris Bennett has delivered a solid, massive piece of capital letters CRUNCH here. The pdf contains A LOT of material on its pages, with a very satisfying crunch-per-page ratio. Furthermore, the quality of the crunch, generally, is top-notch. You will not find any bland cookie-cutter designs herein and, while sufficiently mathfindery and combo-heavy to make the optimizers happy, this pdf excels in its concepts.

Yes, I consider the skirmishing blade skill to be underpriced. Yes, I consider the failed kitten-test to be simply unnecessarily sloppy in an otherwise extremely precise and evocative book. Yes, the psychic armory is not for every campaign. So, this is my warning: Conservative groups using psionics for less high-powered games should carefully run each component by the GM.

And this is as far as the grouchy, complaining part of my personality gets with this one. As you probably have gleaned from the above, my complaints rang this loud within the review because I absolutely adore more than 95% of this book. As in squee-level adoration. As a person, I couldn't care less that the psychic armory is too powerful for the default, non-high-powered campaign; I adore it. The brutality blade and the augmented blade are absolutely awesome for less high-powered tables and all three archetypes have in common that they damn well rock my world. They are basically what archetypes should be like. In fact, lesser designers would have probably sold them as full-blown friggin' base classes. Not only do they sport completely different visuals, they actually play radically differently, with the new array of blade skills filling holes in the rules that needed filling and providing cool, new options.

Yes, I may have complained about a few pieces herein...but the significant majority of content herein is just BEAUTIFUL. As in crunch-masterclass-level awesomeness. This is basically a book that put the middle-finger to all bland +1/+X abilities and modifications and cookie cutter archetypes. Its totality may not be for everyone; but I can guarantee that every single table out there that uses a soulknife will find something in this pdf they fall in love with. High-psionics campaigns NEED the armory in them. Low-powered games or those that dislike the laser-y flair need the augmented blade. Seriously. No exceptions for either. I'd also like to emphasize the sheer density of this volume - no broad borders, no filler - this pdf may look brief, but it really isn't, with very tightly formatted rules-text, you get a lot of bang for your buck here.

What I try to express with my inane rambling here is simple: I love this book. In spite of its flaws and hitting some serious pet-peeves of mine. I took about 5 minutes to modify (as in: Change min-level, add cool-down, the like.) a couple of pieces of crunch for my table and that's it - I have pretty much a truly superb book in my hands, one that is allowed in my main campaign, mind you. Even before these minor modifications, the book must be considered a must own addition for psionics-using tables; not one that should just be flat-out allowed for all, but definitely one that enriches all games it touches. And that, dear readers, is more important that nitpicking, my own pet-peeves or disagreements pertaining power-levels and pricing of a scant few abilities. While I don't consider this to be mechanically perfect, I thus will still rate this 5 stars + seal of approval - considering the complexity of the material, the amount of greatness and the unique playing experiences this offers, penalizing it for its minor flaws would be a disservice to the file. Yes, it's that evocative. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this would be a top ten candidate.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/28/2016 11:10:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what are these? Focused disciplines, basically are advanced disciplines; ability-array that modify the discipline in question's non power-related abilities. As such, each has replacement abilities they replace with the new ones. Each discipline (minus athanatism) gains 4 such focused disciplines, so let's take a look!

Clairsentience begins with the aura sight ability at 8th level - as long as you maintain psionic focus, you can see the alignment of creatures, with the expenditure as a swift action allowing you to see the intensity of the aura, 14th level lets you smite evil at 1/2 class level 1/day (+1 every 4 levels thereafter), except it applies to any creature with an alignment different than yours. I'm...not a fan of this one, to say the least. I already dislike detect abilities that are at-will, but thankfully, players tend to forget these. This one's always on, which is extremely annoying from a GM and internal setting-logic perspective: When a significant array of people can see alignment sans even trying, hiding your alignment becomes even more annoying and may wreck quite a few of assumptions of modules. Not gonna get near my table.

Falsehood Allows you to expend your psionic focus, starting at 2nd level, to penalize the next two d20-rolls of a foe within 30 ft, with 8th level providing a 20 ft. AoE-bursty variant. Both allow for no save, but ultimately won't break the game. Reading provides, at 8th level, a retroactive bonus of +2 to an attack roll or saving throw 1/day, with every 2 levels increasing the bonus by +1 and adding 1/day use and 14th level allowing you to share the benefits with an ally. Also at 14th level, the discipline has another annoying metagame ability -1/day learn a creature's alignment, lowest and highest ability score and what classes it has levels in. If you also expend your psionic focus, you also learn the 3 highest skills and the creature's HD. Not a fan. Terror adds 2 rounds of shaken to creatures failing to save versus your clairsentience powers, with focus expenditure increasing that to frightened. Every 4 levels thereafter increase duration by +1 round. This one...is nasty. 14th level nets you an always-on-while-focused 10 ft. aura that works somewhat akin to a hex; on a successful save, the target's shaken and becomes immune for 24 hours, on a failed save, the target becomes panicked for 1d4 rounds. Personally, I think the immunity caveat should apply to the whole ability, not only to the successful save, but that may be me and is just a design-aesthetic preference.

Metacreativity sports the crystal discipline...and it has a problematic component: Crystal shot allows the psion to expend his psionic focus as a swift action to fire a 30 ft.-range, two range-increment piercing lance of crystal, with x3 crit mod. The lance can (but does not have to!) use Int-mod instead of Dex-mod to calculate atk. Base damage is 1d8, +1d8 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter. On its own, this is not problematic, but the increased damage output, particularly for multi-class'd characters, can be nasty. At 8th level, the base damage of the ability is added to attacks with all manufactured weapons while maintaining focus. Guiding provides bonuses to all attacks against foes within 25 ft, with 14th level allowing you to expend your psionic focus as an immediate action to double the bonus for a single attack made within 30 ft. of you. Plasmic lets you create a skill-enhancing ectoplasma tool and 14th level makes your tools really potent. Steel allows you to expend psionic focus to temporarily buff your AC versus an incoming attack and 14th level provides an always-on-while-focused +5 shield bonus to AC.

Psychokinetists may opt for Blaze, which nets fire resistance and the option to temporarily extend its benefits to allies while damaging nearby foes. 14th level allows you to reduce the fire resistance of foes versus your fire-based powers, with creatures sans resistance being treated as though they were vulnerable to fire. Additionally, resistance reduced to zero results in fire damage for nearby creatures...which is a bit odd: So, does this damage also apply if a creature has no fire resistance? The rules could be interpreted either way.

Boom adherents add 5-ft-radius minor sonic damage to single-target powers and 8th level adds deafened for 1 hour to sonic-based single-target powers. Somewhat wonky: "You may expend your psionic focus to affect all creatures within 5 feet of the creature instead." I assume this only applies to the deafened condition and that the target still is affected. Chill similarly reduces all movement speeds of creatures affected by your cold damage dealing powers, but including AoEs this time around...which is pretty OP regarding terrain control. Oh, and it has no duration or means to cure. Speaking of which: 14th level lets you expend psionic focus to stagger foes - even on a successful save, but only for 1 round! Still, considering the power level of the staggered condition, this is OP.Spark grants you bonuses for successfully caused electricity damage for short periods of time, with high levels allowing you to reduce the duration to extend the benefits to allies within 20 ft., but only a limited amount of times per day.

Psychometabolism specialists can opt for the adrenal discipline, which nets you scaling dodge bonuses to AC and Ref-saves when manifesting psychometabolism powers and allows you to add buffs to your personal-range psychometabolism powers. No complaints here. Animalia adds an augment option to all psychometabolism powers to enhance your physical attributes at 8th level and 14th level allows you to retaliate when successfully critically hit via AoOs with bonuses, but only a limited amount of times per day. Second Gear enhances your movement rates while focused and 14th level allows you to manifest two powers that require a standard action or less as a full-round action, with your manifester level being the cap regarding total power point cost and +1 use at 16th, 18th and 20th level. Significantly stronger than resilient body and metabolic healing...not a fan. Storage nets you basically a built-in bag of holding and 14th level allows you to empty this pocket in an explosive burst as a standard action, dealing 2d6 per cubic foot you filled. the bag starts with oen cubic foot and gains + 1 at 4th level and every two levels thereafter. oh, and no save to halve the damage.

Psychoportation specialists that specialize on bypass may teleport 20 ft as a move action when expending their psionic focus and the ability contradicts itself - it says once "at-will" and then goes on to state daily limits that increase...so, which is it? Starting at 14th level, you may "gain insight on a single Stealth check to hide equal to your class level" -that should probably be "insight bonus," since "insight" on its own is not a thing in PFRPG. Drive allows you to short-range teleport willing allies, with higher levels providing group-ports. Labyrinth allows you to bypass tremorsense and blindsense and at 14th level, you gain skill-bonuses to Survival and Knowledge (geography). Retrieval lets you call unattended objects nearby to your hand, with 8th level providing a free returning to thrown weapons.

Telepaths may elect to specialize on channel: This allows you to link minds with a single creature...and unwilling creatures get no save to resist. Can you see the gaslighting plot? 14th level allows you to send messages to targets you linked with in the last week - which is generally cool and allows for some cool tricks. Specialists of the closed discipline allows you to render a creature temporarily deaf and bereft of telepathy, with higher levels increasing the damage you and your allies cause against the target. Personally, as much as I dislike it, I'd have made this precision damage due to internal consistency of the system. Informants add 1/2 level to all Knowledge and Diplomacy checks while focused and, on a failed Stealth check, they may, at high levels, reroll with a bonus when they expend their focus - a cool ability, but at 14th level very late. Mystique adherents can break a LOT of plots: They can concentrate on a target...and the ability is wonky as all hell: "As a standard action while you're psionically focused, you make a Sense Motive check. One intelligent creature within 30 ft. of your choice must then make a Will save." Okay, against which DC? the usual 10 + 1/2 level + manifester mod? The Sense Motive result? No idea. On a failed save, you gain 5 hours (!!!) worth of the creature's memories, +1 hour for every point by which they fail the save. Not functional as written can wreck A LOT of modules. The 8th level memory implant is similarly problematic - "If they fail, you convince them that they experienced something that they didn't actually experience. They may use your Bluff modifier instead of their own when convincing people of this." The "may" here implies that they can choose, which they shouldn't be able to. Also: The implanted memories lack specifics: Can you implant memories that supersede others? Can you rewrite a whole life? No idea, since the ability fails to specify the extent of its powers.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level are top-notch. On a rules-level, it is less consistent in its internal terminology than I've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press - "expend your psionic focus" versus "expend psionic focus" and similar cosmetic hiccups can be found here, with some pieces of rules-language being simply not as clear as it should be. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version. Artwork-wise, the focus lies on fitting stock art.

Sasha Hall's expansion for psionics, let me reiterate that, isn't bad. Considering the tight wiggle-room that the concept offers, there are some seriously cool options here. If you don't share my loathing for metagame-y abilities, the pdf will gain a bit of appeal. At the same time, though, the overall pdf is uncharacteristically inconsistent for a Dreamscarred Press offering. The power-ratio of replaced abilities is off in quite a few places regarding the abilities replaced and comparable abilities offered in the very same book. That is one issue this has; the second would be that the book does have a couple of internal hiccups: The telepathy-lock-down, for example: Can it be used to sever the connection to a collective, as employed by the tactician, vitalist, etc.? The focused discipline hampers "all telepathic abilities" - which is NOT a defined term in the context of Ultimate Psionics. There are quite a few of these issues here and they accumulate. This may not be bad, but it does fall short of the standards established by Dreamscarred Press. In the end, this is a mixed bag and hence, my review will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 127 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates