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Second Edition Classes: Cabalist
by Chris D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2021 21:32:40

An intriguing new class for PF2, which happens to explore a fair amount of the territory that the canonical Witch class does -- the cabalist has a familiar and serves 'mysterious entities that are well beyond anyone’s understanding'. It's a bit more focused than the Witch, exclusively an Occult caster where the Witch can partake of all four of the traditions, and whether either of those choices is a strength or a weakness is entirely subjective. On the whole, I think it offers enough of a different take that it could replace the Witch in campaigns with an Occult focus, like many horror-tinged settings, but I'm uncertain of the notion of allowing them both to exist in the same setting.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Second Edition Classes: Cabalist
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Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium
by Thomas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2021 13:31:54

Full disclosure, I was a backer for the Kickstarter for the Forest Kingdom Compendium and even had two fey queen sisters added as rulers to one of the kingdoms. More, as a GM and Player I look more towards substance of lore, world building, and rules which allow me to make interesting characters. Measuring game mechanics and crunch is not my strength.

Still, I will try to be as objective as possible. Which means starting out, I have to say I love what has been offered and may even making a campaign with this using Wardens of the Wild as well as the other main resource.

This proved just about everything one might need in creating a more wilderness campaign anywhere from Arthurian Legend, to exploration and the pioneer frontier, building your own kingdom despite the dangers of the unforgiving land. Where the forest is felt to hold the greatest mystery and challenge.

From Explorer who maps out his travels, to the Fey Mesmerist that focuses on different branches of magic such as enchantment, illusion, nature, to light and shadow. There is the Greenweaver Kineticist, to the Hidden Guardian a mix of paladin ideals with the ranger focus. The Huntsman who calls on older spirits then many mediums, and the more satire or humor loving Jester Bard, to the healing focused Knight-Surgeon. or the Cavalier who choses to be the protector of the forest by joining the Order of the Woodlands.

Finally, one of my favorites, the Unseelie Ovate who is a more casting focused Druid who forgoes a domain or animal companion for magic of the admittedly darker fey as well to transform into a fey themselves. Throw in the Fey Spell Lore from Ultimate Intrigue and you can add even more spells.

You have different kingdoms to use, each with flavorful characters and interesting settings, no magic and magic items, rules and ideas for adding the fey into your campaigns, to rules and resources needed involving Royal Tournaments & Fairs.

The new spells may need to be taken with consideration, as magic is often the most concerning or divisive aspect of many games when it comes to balance, yet I haven't so far seen anything which stands out as being an issue personally.

I'd like to make special mention of feats section, especially the Shade of the Woodland line for evils Druids and villains for a more nature focused campaign. A line of feats which in Pathfinder lore make a character a servant of the dark and twisted god Zon-Kuthon. These feats, the way they interact with each other and help form a character is fascinating in and of itself. I have spent hours trying different ideas or considering how they could come together in created a character or encounter.

Great job on these and the other feats, perhaps leaving a player or GM wondering how they can get together the feats they want and what they have to take out. Just remember, Fairy Blessing or Shade of the Woodlandare feats which are a prequequisite to most of the rest and in some cases both.

All in all, I feel the Forest Kingdom Compendium is a great resource and in my opinion well worth the cost. It may not be for everyone, but for others it could be a well loved resource.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium
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Ultimate Strongholds
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/09/2021 13:36:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This (final) installment of the Ultimate Campaign plug-ins clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 1 page lead-in + Table-Index (nice), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review via direct donation.

Okay, so we start with something rather nice, namely a cost differentiation via furnishing quality levels: The supplement introduces 4 new quality levels – 2 below (destitute and poor) and two above (wealthy and extravagant) for rooms, with corresponding effects. Good catch: All rooms take at least a day to make and the cost of a room may not be reduced below zero when skimping on its actual properties. This is just the start, though: The book does something I really wanted to get, and that is materials: The book establishes wood as the baseline for room construction and then proceeds to provide a massive table that lists thickness, hardness, HP/inch, costs (in GP and LB), cost of gold and goods per wall segment, and labor/time factors – and the materials are vast: Want that lead-coated lab? Possible. Want elysian bronze or frost-forged steel? Force fields? Well, guess what? Now you can! Did I mention the option to make even stuff from frickin’ viridium? And yes, magical treatment is included. This table is massive, makes sense, and is awesome. Want paper walls? Or ones of frickin’ angelskin or griffon mane? Well, guess what: This has you covered.

The pdf also provides the means for room augmentations: Concealed doors, secret doors, fortifications – really cool! This is a strong start for the supplement indeed!

The pdf then proceeds to do something useful: While I know that my players prefer to exactly plan out dimensions of a building etc., I know that not all groups are interested in that sort of thing, so if your group prefers handwaving such details, you’ll still get two different methods that let you quickly calculate the size of a building, one if you haven’t decided on squares for each room, and one that works if you have. This is smooth, and many a table will welcome the increase in speed this offers. Minor nitpick: There is a pg. XX remnant here, but it only would have pointed back 3 or so page, so there’s no comfort detriment here. At a later point, there’s a Table x-5 reference that should instead point to 2-5, but once more, not a deal breaker.

We proceed to cover exterior walls and roofs, including their augmentation possibilities, which include parapets and embrasures, buttresses and more. Windows and the like are covered before the next section that made me smile from ear to ear: MOBILE BUILDINGS. Including walking, rolling, flying, teleporting, etc.! :D Yes, now you can make your own Baba Yaga hut! You can make your own anime-style rolling fantasy-tank fortress! And we get more: Dumbwaiters, dimensional locking, extra-dimensional rooms, stable and sealed environments…and yes, of course, fortifications are also covered.

…know what? It’s really funny. The engine presented so far has actually inspired me as a GM to tinker with the material. It has inspired adventure ideas I need to try out. And we’re just 11 pages in at this point.

The book adds another level of strategy and tactics to stronghold creation, in that it actually takes the terrain into account, with material costs by location! I love this. Chapter 1 is already a resounding success, as far as I’m concerned.

Chapter 2 then proceeds to deal with siege warfare, classifying materials by Structure Points (SP), with conditions damaged, breached and destroyed offering some sensible differentiation, and yes, HP per inch are also provided, allowing you to seamlessly run the respective environments in either “level”; the table has the rather nice additional property of actually allowing the GM to judge, at a glance, whether that spell actually managed to make a dent in the wall. That instance of the party using a wand of lightning bolt to blast through a wall? One glance at the table, and an experienced GM is set to go. Siege-weapon assembly with workers required, costs, weight, etc. is also handled: a heavy trebuchet clocks in at 10 tons, for example, and dismantling it requires some serious damage output! From double to repeating scorpions to springals, this chapter once more delivers and put a big smile on my face. Of course, where there are ranged siege weapons, there’s bound to be ammo, so from caustic shots to fetid (manura, corpses) shots to grappling bolts, there’s a lot going on here…and yes, we obviously also have escalade ladders, bridges, etc. Once more, this is a gem of a chapter.

The book then proceeds to talk about how these downtime-rules-level building rules influence the game on the kingdom-rules-level, which includes accounting for the Ultimate Rulership options and the bombardment rules in Ultimate War. Kudos!

Want more fantastic elements in the game? Well, chapter 4 has you covered, presenting exotic materials like bone or ooze as well as elemental stronghold rules such as sky castles or water fortresses, including unique hazards that can help drive home how unique these places are: Staring through a floor of solid cloud/air can be disquieting, slamming into a torrent of water acting as a wall rather painful – you get the idea. Really neat. If you are less inclined towards the elements, and more towards the fey, you’ll be happy to hear about the crystal palaces, hedge forts…or places with hive walls. Or flesh walls. Or web walls. And what about a castle that literally is a ghost/spirit? Well, guess what? Rules included. Awesome.

The pdf then proceeds to introduce the notion of stronghold spells: Spells that (optionally – and I recommend adhering to that) work only within a stronghold to which the caster is attuned over a multi-day process. This pretty lengthy process also allows for the writing of some cool modules: Hold the fortress until the archmage has attuned to the stronghold! Nice. The spells include means to animate artillery, a battering ram like force bolt, and e.g. a very powerful spell that makes e.g. bardic performance apply to the entire stronghold (cool and sensible in fortress combat under the limitation noted before); extended consecration/desecration that applies to the entire stronghold, animating defenders as undead, making the fortress absorb (or emit) light, an extended variant of expeditious excavation, magical seals, creation of cauldrons, warning against aerial assaults (a magical air raid siren)…and there is a mighty spell that makes it really hard to outcast the lord of a fortress, wo gets some serious counterspelling mojo. This last spell is pure gold and makes sense in so many ways. I have read so many PFRPG spells at this point, it’s not even funny. As such, it should be noted that some of these managing to get me as excited as they did? That’s a big thing.

Next up is the castellan 5-level prestige class, which gains up to +3 BAB-progression, +2 Fort- and Ref-saves, +3 Will-saves over its progression, 4 + Int skills per level, and requires both Intelligence and Charisma 13+ as well as multiple skills at 5 ranks…and a serious inventory of the stronghold. (As an aside: I like story-requirements like this.) Castellans get an investigator’s inspiration, treating their castellan levels as investigator levels and stacking levels for the ability, if applicable. While in their stronghold, castellans can move unimpeded in darkness, through crowds, etc.- - they literally know their stronghold like the back of their hands. Oh, and this includes bypassing difficult terrain (if it’s relatively static), traps, and free action opening of doors, including secret ones. Oh, and they can use a swift action to trigger traps they bypass with a 1 round delay. Chasing these guys in their home turf will not be fun for the poor sods that attempt it! They also have a very keen eye for disturbances in their chosen demesne.

2nd level lets the castellan expend inspiration while making a save in their stronghold, adding +1d6 to the save. The castell and all allies at least 2 levels lower gain a +1 morale bonus to atk and damage and a +1 dodge bonus to AC while in the stronghold. These bonuses also apply to skill checks when operating siege engines. 4th level upgrades that to +2 and lets allies who gain this bonus within 30 ft. of you ignore difficult terrain and gain the door trick. You also get to use inspiration as a standard action to inspire competence or courage as a bard (again, stacking if applicable). 3rd level allows the castellan to use their inspiration to duplicate a variety of magical effects pertaining to the stronghold, including some of the new stronghold spells.

At 3rd level, we have a +2 circumstance bonus on all opposed checks in the stronghold, immunity to feat and a +2 morale bonus on all saving throws (+4 vs. mind-affecting), and, if a spellcaster, immediate action inspiration use for counterspelling. This level also allows for object related magics via inspiration-expenditure. 5th level nets Leadership (or an upgrade for it) and the option to teleport around within the stronghold via inspiration use. I’ve seen a lot of PrCs. This is a great one. It’s focused without losing its theme, it has some seriously cool narrative tricks, and manages to capture the feel of the concept very well. Kudos.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very strong on both a formal and rules-language level; with the exception of the XX-remnants noted above I noticed no issues worth complaining about. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the artworks provided will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. Now, there is one thing that made me grit my teeth: This book has no bookmarks. NONE. For a reference pdf that you’ll use time and again, with tables and all; that’s a SERIOUS comfort-detriment as far as I’m concerned. If you only want to go for the pdf, detract a star from my final verdict. Personally, I’d recommend getting print + pdf anyways for this.

Ben Walklate and Jason Nelson deliver pure frickin’ excellence. … Want to know more? Okay, so, if you’re using the kingdom building rules, this s a must-own purchase, but you already know as much by now, right? Well, even if you are NOT interested in kingdom building AT ALL, if you couldn’t care less, this is STILL worth its asking price. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to play a badass siege scenario? The castellan PrC can make for a truly frightening boss for a party to face down…or intercept! The stronghold spells will require some serious thinking and tactics even from the notoriously powerful PFRPG adventurer group trying to best a stronghold, and the plethora of siege weapons and their stats alongside the wealth of cool global features for fortresses is useful in regular dungeon design as well. In short: This is a fantastic purchase even if you really don’t like the regular kingdom building/mass combat rules! So yeah, this is an apex-level product, Legendary Games at their very best. It’s good enough that I can’t bring myself to strip a star of my final rating for it, in spite of the annoying lack of bookmarks. However, there is one thing the book has to lose, and that’d be my “best of”-tag, which it REALLY deserved; for a module, I might have shrugged off the lack of bookmarks, but for a rules-book, that really hampers the utility of the pdf. Hence, my final verdict will “only” be a resounding recommendation to pretty much all fans of PFRPG’s first edition, with 5 stars + seal of approval. For use at the table, get print; other than that, there is no caveat that diminished the unadulterated joy I felt when tackling this book and its content.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Strongholds
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Star Classes: Envoys
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2021 07:15:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreon supporters.

So, this pdf starts off with a somewhat troubling observation that was pretty widely-spread at the start of the system’s genesis, namely that the envoy is too weak. This notion is one that is understandable, as it is born from the approach of looking at the envoy as though it was a PFRPG-class; it is still an assertion that doesn’t hold up to actual playing experience. The envoy is an excellent support character in SFRPG, with unrivalled Stamina replenishing options, among other things. The envoy isn’t strong in the sense that their direct damage output is concerned, but in the way in which they act as a support character and damage multiplier for other classes. They are, in a way, both the party face and commander, and unlike the bard, they have a lot of different routes to go by.

In order to put the “weak” envoy class into context, let us take a look at it before going into the nit and grit of this book.

The envoy’s clever feint lets you select an enemy you can sense and make a Bluff check. If you FAIL, the enemy is flat-footed against you through your next turn. If you SUCCEED, this extends to the entire party. This is a LOT for a standard action, one of the best reliable debuffs there are. Dispiriting taunt is also a potent reliable option. At 4th level, with clever attack, you get that for free. Mathematically, alternating between Clever Attacks and full attacks will net you a higher DPR than sticking to full attacks – even if you’re on your own, without the impact this has for your allies! Combo’d with convincing liar, this is even more brutal.

Get ‘Em lets you retain your damage output due to the activation action, and doesn’t require a skill-check, so it’s consistent. Improved get ‘em makes a strong option even better. Sudden shift is a great commander repositioning gambit that is super useful and phenomenal for realigning the battlefield. Same goes for hurry – while it doesn’t seem to be as potent on paper, cover and positioning are more important in SFRPG (they make up the equivalent of 3 – 4 item levels in AC!) than they were in PFRPG, so yeah – potent even in its base version. This is btw. also the reason watch out is pretty darn awesome in all but melee. This one is particularly hardcore when combo’d with an operative. And the improved version? Grant an ally an extra standard action SANS RESTRICTIONS. Don’t quit allows you to help ignore save or sucks.

Inspiring oration is a gamechanger that can and will make the difference between success and TPK more than once. Inspiring boost is better than the mystic’s spells for instances where you need to keep the party going through multiple encounters…etc. And that’s just the basics.

Add to that the solid chassis, and you may not be out-DPRing the operative, but frankly, I’d rather have an envoy in my SFRPG party than a mystic in most circumstances. Also, know that the envoy has grenade proficiency, and that they can cause choking and are super cheap?

The envoy doesn’t have to be a fighter if they don’t want to be one—you can actually play a pacifist envoy and still contribute to the game without sucking. They are an excellent support/buffing/debuffing class that has a ton of no-limit abilities and transcends all comparable SFRPG-classes, and if you want to play any type of leader-style starship captain? Envoy. The class is incredibly cinematic in its playing experience, and frankly, I’ve never seen an envoy not rock in play.

So yeah, I think that the central premise underlying this supplement is WRONG.

That being said, let us take a look at the suggested modifications to the envoy class: The pdf suggests providing an additional expertise talent at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter, rather than every 4 levels. Additionally, the pdf suggests Extra Resolve as a free bonus feat at first level, as well as Combat Familiarity for free. Additionally, this pdf suggests getting rid of the prerequisites for any envoy improvisations, and if you do meet these prerequisites, you get the rapid action improvisation for the improvisation as well. Rapid action is a new 4th level improvisation that lets you choose on envoy improvisation that doesn’t require an attack roll from you or your ally, reducing the action to activate by one step. The improvisation may be applied up to twice to another improvisation, and it may be chosen more often. This is very strong – and ultimately not that rewarding, as it gears the envoy towards doing the same thing over and over instead of diversifying the tactical options.

The pdf also suggests one envoy improvisation per level, and at 10th level, the rapid action improvisation for all envoy improvisations. The pdf does note that these should NOT all be used at once, and that they should be added if the class doesn’t perform in the way you want to.

The pdf then provides two archetypes: The engram channeler has alternate class features at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12th level, and the 2nd level ability nets an untyped +2 bonus to Engineering, Mysticism and Physical Science, and this bonus is also added to allies benefiting from Aid Another. 12th level provides a tale 10 option, take 20 with Resolve expenditure. The 4th level ability lets you meditate to manifest an incorporeal engram with KAC and EAC 15 as well as 1 Hit Point per level and SU flight using your skill bonuses. Problems here: ACs don’t scale, and if it’s destroyed, you lose “all engram-based abilities” for the day – okay, what’s that? All archetype-granted ones? This should have been clarified. At 6th level, we have the means to use a standard action to “trace a path up to 60 feet long” and make one attack targeting EAC. All enemies in that area take “1d6 electric[sic!] damage” – allies are exempt, and you are proficient and gain weapon specialization with it. Okay, this is not how the like is phrased in SFRPG. Also: 1d6?? At 6th level?? WTF. This should scale.

The second archetype is the polymath, whose alternate class features are at 2nd, 6th, 9th and 18th level. 2nd level nets Second Identity, one of the new feats herein, as a bonus feat, and you may choose it multiple times, selecting a new theme each time. Second Identity lets you choose another theme, and switch between your themes in a process that takes one hour, but thankfully not the ability score bonus. 6th level lets you make Disguise checks (not capitalized properly – quite a few formatting snafus in the book; skills and Resolve often erroneously in lower caps, for example) when changing identities to escape notice. 9th level lets you spend a Resolve Point to change identities “As a full-round action.” SIGH This action does not exist in SFRPG. 18th level lets you have the benefits of two active themes at once.

So, what about the improvisations? 2nd level has an option to ignore immunity to mind-affecting effects with your envoy improvisations, which is something I can get behind, but probably would situate at a higher level – or, even better, make the immunity selective and scale with class level/CR where it applies. Beyond the aforementioned rapid action, we have the option to spend a Resolve Point to make up to Charisma modifier allies not surprised when you aren’t. Anatomical exploit is a bit weird: When you or an ally deal damage, you get to spend a Resolve Point to add your expertise die to the attack’s damage roll. Hint: This is usually NOT worth spending a Resolve on. Oh boy, +1d8+3 damage at 17th level. If you spend Resolve on this ability, you’re frankly doing it wrong. Adding a penalty to saving throws to the effects of get ‘em can be found here; get out there lets you spend a swift action and a Resolve Point to select an ally – this ally acts on your initiative count -1, rather than on their own. At 12th level, this applies to Charisma modifier allies. Okay, so what if the ally has already acted before the envoy? No idea. The weird thing here is that this improvisation RAW exclusively works if the envoy is faster than the ally. On the plus-side: Spending a reaction and a Resolve Point to make an ally reroll their save, with a per-rest caveat? Yeah, I can see that one!

The 6th level improvisations include an option that requires you spend 1 Resole Point and a move action and it provokes enemies into attacking you, but also grants allies AoOs versus them if they do. 10th level upgrades this to also include you. Considering that making an AoO requires a reaction, this one is a risky gambit. Compare that to continued inspiration, which lets you, as a standard action, extend the effects of an active envoy inspiration that usually lasts until the end of your next turn. This applies to allies within 60 ft. Okay…by how long? By a round? No clue. The ability doesn’t say. Using Resolve to change the flat-footed, off-kilter or off-target penalty to a crippling equivalent of your expertise die? Oh, and what about replacing the benefits of your covering fire, harrying fire or flanking to expertise die for one round? Brutal. This should definitely specify that the effects only apply to a single target per use. Compare that with push onwards: That one lets you, as a move action, grant an ally within 60 ft. an untyped +1 bonus to saving throws, and a save to prematurely end an effect on them, with 10th level upgrading that to AoE. The upgrade is very strong – the base version? Not so much. I also don’t think that a flat end should be here; since Don’t Quit already is perfectly serviceable.

The 8th level improvisations include expert attack sans Resolve expenditure, Intimidate when an ally affects or damages a target, and reaction inspiring boost? Can see that one.

The pdf also provides an array of new expertise talents that include broader proficiencies, the option to add expertise die to an ally’s check via aid another. I also liked the option to forego adding the expertise die when intimidating targets already shaken to increase condition severity. Indeed, the expertise talents with their options to forego adding the die for various effects. 1/day planar binding as a SP is interesting, and avoiding zone of truth etc.? Yeah, I like that. (As an aside – in this section, the persistent lack of italics for spells, which are sometimes presented in lower caps, sometimes as though they were feats, really irked me.) Depending on your build, always getting to roll expertise die twice and taking the better result can be a bit over the top.

After this, we have an extension of skill uses: For example, using Bluff to appear as though an attack was lethal, or fool targets to think that another person made an attack. The latter can be very strong, just fyi. Calling for a truce and striking bargains, feigning death and manipulating your vocals, intuit assumptions and relationships – this section is pretty nifty and interesting. The new feat section includes rendering allies adjacent to you immune to being flat-footed, which can be pretty potent. Substituting a guarded step for an AoO, executing a combat maneuver or making an attack against a creature missed by an ally can be found. Another feat lets you substitute a critical effect that hit a target within the last round for your own – not sure if this is worth the feat. Reduced penalties for Deadly Aim exists, and Escape Route makes you not provoke AoOs when moving though spaces adjacent to your allies – this one is pretty epic with its tactical implications. I also liked Squad Maneuvering, which lets you take a guarded step as a reaction when an ally moves through one of your spaces. Squad Flanking is over the top: When you and an ally are adjacent to a creature, the creature is automatically flat-footed against your attacks—note that this is not an envoy-exclusive feat, and it has no prerequisites. Unbalanced Attack is pretty much…well, unbalanced. When making a combat maneuver versus a flat-footed target, you execute against KAC, not KAC +8. Remember: Another feat makes flat-footed versus you pretty much a given. Still, as a whole, there are more feats here I enjoyed than ones I’d consider problematic.

The pdf closes with envoy creatures – a CR 16 vesk, a CR 18 copper dragon, a CR 9 human, a CR 10 devil, a CR 5 android, and a CR 6 oulbaene. The latter has the boldings missing in the offense section. The dragon lacks them in the first section. Statblocks featuring fly speeds don’t specify whether they are Ex or Su, and the devil lists a maneuverability of “good”, which doesn’t exist in SFRPG – that should be “average.” So yeah, couple of snafus here – the creatures are usable, though.

Conclusion: Editing is weird and oscillates between being very precise and well-done, and being problematic. The same can’t be said about formatting – it’s just bad. If something has a formatting convention in rules, there’s a good chance the book misses it. I expect better from Legendary Games. Layout adheres to the series two-column full-color standard, with full-color artworks, some of which will be familiar to fans of Legendary Games. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Matt Daley, with additional material by Jeff Lee, Lyz Liddell, Jason Nelson and Mike Shel, delivers a somewhat uneven supplement here, probably due to the different authors at work here.

For a context that explains a lot: This book was released right in the time of the early days of the system, when the backlash to the envoy was in full swing—it took time to get used to the class, and as such, I think that the suggested power upgrades can and should be ignored. Thankfully, the book isn’t all about ramping up the power-level of the envoy, though it does require close GM-scrutiny—some aspects are imho OP. The incisions into the action economy of the class can end up being very strong, and I also think that quite a few of the options provide pretty excessive numerical boosts. That being said, at the same time, I can see several genuinely cool options in this book, and I’ll definitely pick a couple of them and add them to my game’s roster. Still, as a whole, the book is not a particularly unified experience regarding quality and power-level of its content. Now, usually, I’d consider going slightly higher for the gems herein, but considering the consistently and annoyingly flawed formatting here, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Star Classes: Envoys
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Alien Bestiary (5E)
by William M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2021 20:06:53

The bestiary has proved an invaluable time saver, not just for the aliens in it but for all the old school monsters that were converted to 5e!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Bestiary (5E)
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Faerie Mysteries (5E)
by C M W B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2020 13:47:40

This is such a fun resource! I had a blast terrifying and befuddling my players as they explored the haunted woods that led them to the door of Baba Kawa, the hag that had been tormenting their village.

Reminding me a little of the haunting rules from Pathfinder, the various mysterious (and other things) explored here are a fun way to explore a fey wonderland, akin to the new environmental effects in Tasha's, but with a bit more depth.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faerie Mysteries (5E)
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Sentence of the Sinlord
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/24/2020 08:39:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 84 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this module is intended for level 20 characters, and mythic ones at that…mostly, that is. You see, the introduction of the adventure actually lists difficulties by mythic tiers, and these assessments are VALID. And yes, the module can be tackled without mythic powers, but that makes it one of the hardest modules ever, and means that pretty much every single battle risks TPKs. Still, if you’re like me and want a combat-puzzle par excellence, this might be worth contemplating. I generally recommend it for mythic tiers 1-5 for the best results; sans mythic tiers, it is ULTRA-brutal. The module also makes use of a TON of books and assumes serious PF1-familiarity. Then again, it’s a capstone – and not just for an AP. In a way, it’s a loveletter to the system and to what only PFRPG delivers with its intricate, strategic combats.

And to Golarion.

Much more than any other Legendary Games supplement, this makes a TON of use of the setting; from Castle Korvosa’s cellars to obscure metaplot references, the module features A LOT of little tidbits that the savvy fan will notice and appreciate. But how? Well, here’s the thing: While Legendary Games can’t well use Paizo’s IP, the renamed components are VERY CLEAR, and in the beginning, a handy list of terms/names is provided. With these, the module is one name-exchange away from being pretty much a module steeped in obscure Golarion lore. I love that, particularly considering that it’s an alternate post-finale-ish module for Return of the Runelords.

At this point in time, PF2 and the AP are old enough that the existence of New Thassilon is not a SPOILER anymore – but this module poses a question: What if? What if the final runelord Sorshen (here genderswapped as Kazsethil, the fellow on the cover) had a bid for global dominance like the others and stuck to evil guns? That one phenomenal bid for all or nothing, that bookend to the age of rising runelords? This module follows this train of thought, and I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that the module’s structure and challenges, to a degree, remind my of ole’ Karzoug and Xin-Shalast, and similar high-fantasy scenes from various APs. In fact, it almost feels a tad bit more audacious, more willing to embrace ultra-high fantasy – and that’s a good thing, for structurally, this is a kind of dungeon with a planar theme. In a relatively clever bid, it does not try to limit the capabilities of the characters, which is a good thing. Indeed, the module walks a good tightrope when it comes to making the party actually explore the dungeon instead of bypassing it – so kudos for that. While I personally prefer event-driven/grand scale operations in high-level gameplay, this does an admirable job when it comes to making an ultra-high-level group actually crawl through a dungeon, so kudos there.

While we’re on the topic of structures and formal criteria: The module has hyperlinks for less commonly used spells, etc., we have read-aloud text, etc., and while I haven’t reverse-engineered all statblocks herein, I did the math for a couple, and was actually duly impressed. While there are glitches here and there, these tend to be in sections that matter less, like a ranged weapon for a melee-focused combatant, etc. Unless you’re diving into the nit and grit of the numbers, you won’t run into issues on the rules-front GMing this.

I own both the pdf and the PoD-softcover; the latter has no name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer. And which brings me to something I usually don’t mention in my reviews. Ever wondered why there aren’t more high-level modules? I mean, okay, they are hard to run, and harder to design…but that’s not all, right? Right. You see, high level adventures tend to sell not particularly well. They’re a small subsection of a subsection of the market, and this module, in many ways, feels like fan fiction that managed to get published. WAIT.

I do NOT mean that in a disparaging way! Not in the slightest! Some of the best Ravenloft material ever written was penned by fans! And in many ways, this module reminded me of the good ole’ Kargatane and Fraternity of Shadows, save that its content, well, is for Golarion. What do I mean by that? Well, for a Legendary Games book in particular, the shoestring budget is somewhat evident. The maps are not impressive, at best okay and certainly are not as strong as many Michael Tumey has made in the past, and no properly-sized keyless player-facing versions are included, and the maps have 10-ft.-grids, which is a HUGE pain in a game where pretty much all abilities are based on 5-ft. grids. So yeah, you’ll have to redraw all maps. That SUCKS. I hate it.

The majority the full-color art will be familiar for many GMs; particularly the layout irked me a bit: The lower border is reminiscent of the Horror-plug-ins in style (which is nice), but out of some strange glitch, the lower page border and the red seven-pointed star are very pixilated, which makes the lower border look messy. As a consequence of the pixilated lower border and the less than appealing maps, this is not an aesthetically-pleasing module. These rough edges also extend to the editing part; while the module can be run in a clean manner, there are quite a few hiccups, including rules-relevant (but minor) ones that do accumulate throughout the module.

And yet, it does have something that many, many published adventures lack. An audacious love of the subject matter that oozes from every damn page of the module. The tactics and builds themselves help running the complex encounters, and from creature choice to scenes, the module pulls no punches.

Heck, if you want to hear this module’s whole appeal made awesome-cheesy metal track, listen to “Beast in Black – Unlimited Sin” – the back cover’s tagline is by no accident an indirect variation of that song’s chorus. Picture the bombastic melodies and synth blasts of that track made module. That’s this adventure. And I mean this as someone who adores this track. This pumped up, hyper sense of epic conflict? Yeah, that’s the tone of this module down to a “T”.

Okay, this is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first combat pitches the party, as they try to stop Kazsethil, against two elite guardian troops (CR 18), a draconal agathion (CR 20) and a CR 20 paladin. Yep, you heard right – Kazsethil, as the runelord of lust, has a surprising variety of devoted minions in the highest echelons of power, including characters that can be made to see the error of their ways; the module also spends quite some time explaining the individual character’s reasonings and how they may or may not remain loyal – for example the CR 21 nosferatu sorcerer, who may well be aghast when he realizes that he’s nothing more than a disposable guard dog…

From here, the trail leads to the Crimson Ziggurat (including notes on how teleportation’s a bad idea through a pillar – and we then turn to the paradisiacal gardens of the runelor…äh, pardon, “sinlord” – essentially the “high-level plant/beast”-level, where the party has a chance to face off with a giant swarm-blooded 18-headed mythic hydra. CR 23/MR 8. This build…made me cackle with GLEE. Glee, I tell you!! It’s such an EVIL build. Love it. Of course, the PCs may also run afoul of an ancient paradise dragon and 4 planetars. You know. As you do. Just one further encounter. Oh, and yes, mythic dimensional lock and mythic guards and wards in place.

To make that abundantly clear: I am smiling a very wicked smile as I’m typing these words. And that’s the start. From here on, we venture into Kazsethil’s proper dungeon, where highly volatile damaged portal tables: What about a massive miniature city that acts as a kind of imprisonment focus? Or a stone colossus that is the prison of a frickin’ INFERNAL DUKE? Heck, his concubines are CR 18 succubus mesmerists (yes, PLURAL), izfiitar proteans. Oh, and super high-level vampires, infernal champions and more await en route to the catacombs, where familiarity with Thassilonian magic and its themes is truly rewarded. Here, the eldest lamia, hemodynamic clockwork fiends and psychic lich arcanists await alongside soulbound warmongers. No, that’s not the level’s boss encounter.

See what I meant with “this module does what only PFRPG delivers” – in many ways, each combat herein, to some degree, is a brutal test of strategy, power, and genuine system mastery skill. The trompe l’oeil magus kensai that wields the sword of lust being one particularly noteworthy monster of a battle. The sepulchers of the other runelords, represented by runeplated akaruzugs, even have a whole page-table of infused attacks/custom SPs. And then, below, there is the Shining Elder, the creator of rune magic (CR 26/MR 10; and if that looks too puny for you, guidelines to ramp the fellow up to CR 30 are included…) – defeating this ally of Kazsethil may well restructure the order of magic (a perfect explanation for changed rules if you’re planning on transitioning to PF2, introduce Spheres of Power, akasha or Grimoire of Lost Souls or something along those lines in your next campaign!).

Oh, and all of that? That’s but a prelude in comparison to the true finale. You see, Kazsethil seeks to merge with the very fabric of nature, becoming essentially a cosmic law – and he’s not dumb enough to face the PCs alone. Colossus. Advanced elohim. Runeslave Runegiants. Sinspawn champions. A full-blown, fully statted ultra-high level adventuring group. Oh, and Kazsethil. Good luck. Your players will need it. All those tricks, all that experience? The party will need it. Desperately. (As an aside: If you wanted to use Spheres of Power in your next campaign, the book has you covered, and the whole “creator of magic/paradigm change" has help for adjusting the boss there…)

The module concludes with an alternate 8th sin (doubt) and items/artifacts as well as a feat and aforementioned hemodynamic construct template – and the rune of transgression spell.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules language level; on one hand, the highly complex high-level builds are better and more inspired than I expected to see, but there also are quite a few minor hiccups, though none that truly impede the module. Layout, as noted before, is weird – the pixilated lower border really irked me. In combination with the lack of player-friendly maps sucks; the maps aren’t particularly impressive, and use a 10-ft.-grid, which makes running tactical combat in PFRPG a huge PAIN. You’ll need to redraw all of them for 5-foot-squares, as the module really requires that level of tactical precision in combat. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover, as noted, doesn’t have the name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer.

Oh boy. Matt Daley’s “Sentence of the Sinlord” is a really tough cookie for me to review. Because it is, in many ways, a pretty flawed adventure; the requirement to redraw maps alone, and the lack of player-friendly maps, is a pretty big downside, particularly considering how tactical this module is. How finely-calibrated the combat encounters are to push the PCs to the limits and beyond. This, all on its lonesome, would usually sink the module on a personal level for me.

The shoestring budget is very much apparent, and in some ways that are not only not as aesthetically-pleasing, but frankly inconsiderate. The map-redraw situation alone is a big no-go. I should punish this module for it and rate it down to the vicinity of the 3-star region. And yet…

…to say it with aforementioned song: “Unlimited Sin, Unlimited Power – that’s the price you must pay” – that was my credo when I prep’d this. But why would you bother dealing with that, when there are so many other modules out there?

Well. There are almost no adventures out there that deliver what this one does – this level of challenge, this level of audacity and full-blown embracing of apex-level combat action. In many ways, Sentence of the Sinlord is a resounding success that OOZES passion from every page, testament to the love that the author professes for the game and setting in the introduction.

If you are like me and value substance over style, value ambition and creativity over perfection, then this may well rank among your favorite modules for the system. Heck, with the sheer number of ultra-deadly high-level builds herein, this module could be scavenged for super-enemies and campaign endbosses for years.

In a way, this reminded me in some ways of Coliseum Morpheuon, save that it was built with PF’s by now increased power-level in mind. And that is a high, very high compliment. Since Rite Publishing has gone semi-dormant right now, feeling this vibe once more made me smile from ear to ear. I know that Steven D. Russell (R.I.P., my friend) would have approved of this module.

As a reviewer, this leaves me in a precarious position: As a person, I’m saying “screw the flaws, I’ll fix the downsides, this is too cool”, but as a reviewer, I genuinely should trash this module. I don’t want to.

So, once more: This is a flawed module. This might be a 3-star module, perhaps even a 2-star module, for you; if you just want pretty original art and maps, this is not the module for that. If you want an audacious, deadly, tactical love-letter to Golarian and the age of runelords, then this will make you smile from ear to ear. As such, I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. And since I, as a person, really loved this, it does get my seal of approval. I want to see the author write more modules. I’d love to see if he can maintain this level of energy throughout a whole campaign. There is a joy here that is impossible to fake, and if you want to see more, more high-level modules, more adventures that dare to be this deadly, this difficult, this joyously high fantasy in the best of ways, then please get this adventure. This deserves a spot in your collection, in spite of its flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sentence of the Sinlord
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Star Classes: Solarian
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/23/2020 13:17:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

So, this supplement begins with a discussion of components that the supplement defines as problematic at the table – these are, for one, MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependency) of Charisma, Constitution (though to a lesser degree due to how SFRPG operates), and Dexterity/Strength, depending on the build; this is a factor that could ostensibly be deemed to be intentional, though I do agree that the solarian suffers from needing to split their focus thus. The second factor is a BIG one, and one that is impossible to dispute – the solarian has dead levels: On level 5, we have a resistance increase for solar armor, on level 15, we have the same + 1d6 for solar weapon. That kinda sucks and is really not fun. One of the things that PFRPG improved over 3.X was to make most levels fun and unique. So yeah, filling these? Great! All for it!

This supplement operates under the central premise of making the solarian more powerful, so that’s something to bear in mind here.

As such, the supplement begins with abilities suggested to even the playing field a bit for the solarian – these include number-tweaks like expanded proficiencies (heavy armor, longarms, grenades – oddly all capitalized, as though they were feats; indeed, quite a few abilities are presented thus, deviating from formatting conventions), making Strength or Dexterity key ability modifier, use Charisma instead of Dexterity to determine AC, use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Stamina gained, or using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity to calculate attack rolls with solar weapons or blasts.

Regarding flexibility, upgrades suggested are making them learn a harmonic revelation or both of a photon and graviton revelation. The suggestion to provide an additional manifestation or strengthened manifestation at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter (highly recommended – it kills the dead levels), or an ability that lets them retrain a stellar revelation when using sidereal influence. (Also an ability I’d recommend – makes the playing experience more versatile, and sidereal influence’s level and time-requirements prevent abuse) Good call here: The supplement doesn’t simply leave the GM alone with the new material, and advises caution regarding use of too many “substitute Charisma for X” type of abilities. The suggested tweaks, as presented, provide some customization options, but leaves the control firmly where it belongs - in the GM’s hands. While slightly more guidance would have been appreciated, but what we do get here is already something I very much appreciate.

Speaking of things I appreciate: Easily one of my least favorite things about SFRPG in the beginning was, that it simply didn’t offer that much regarding compelling lore pertaining to the respective classes; I still think that the Pact Worlds book could have done more there. Anyhow, the supplement provides quite a few cool lore justifications for the existence of solarians, which include cosmic radiation (cool for a somewhat comic-book-like feel), being an agent of fate…and one I’m particularly fond of, where notions of absolute moralities are dissolved. As someone who has always been vocal about hating alignment systems, particularly within the complex realities of more advanced civilizations, that one struck a chord with me. 6 of these complex explanations are provided, and I genuinely liked all of them.

The pdf then proceeds to provide the stellar beacon archetype, which grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level: At 2nd level, we have a means to gain stellar mode – and if you already are a solarian, you gain 2 points of attunement per round, rather than 1. This is a potentially very strong change, as it decreases the speed to become fully attuned by 1 round, unlocking zenith revelations sooner. Considering that the payoff is a single stellar revelation, this is a very powerful option, particularly when combined with the basic notion of getting more flexible revelations, as suggested before. 6th, 12th and 18th level provide a stellar revelation – so no change for solarians? Well, not quite: If you are a solarian, you can choose zenith revelations at 12th and 18th level instead. At 9th level, we have the Inverted Being ability, which lets you choose one revelation of equal level and opposite attunement for each one you possess. By meditating 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point (not capitalized properly), you can exchange any of these revelations for their opposite.

This archetype is interesting in a couple of ways: For one, it allows for valid dabbling in the solarian engine for non-solarians. For solarians, it provides pretty much a straight power upgrade, in that it allows for quicker zenith manifestation access and an increased emphasis of the duality-concept at 9th level. It also puts me as a reviewer in a very weird position: On one hand, it is, pretty much by design, a VERY strong option, and one you’d be a fool to pass over, if it is allowed in your game. As such, it would be easy to complain about it being overpowered in the context of the solarian class as presented….and indeed, the quicker access to the solarian’s “finishers” is something that requires careful observation, as ALL future zenith revelations or those from other sources are balanced against requiring the set-up time being required. Getting rid of it can become problematic rather fast.

On the other hand, this archetype’s intention is to let you get sooner to that “cool” stuff. The question on whether you’d consider this archetype broken or amazing is ultimately wholly contingent on whether you think that the solarian’s modes play as they should. Do you want the set-up period and play a grittier game? If so, then you should not allow this archetype – for your game, it might tip the balance in an unpleasant manner. You should also be very much careful with zenith revelations and how they operate when using it. If, however, your group is gunning for a higher-powered playing style, and if the set-up of zenith revelations struck you as bothersome, then this archetype will be a godsend, and operate consistently at its intended powerlevel. While zenith revelations still require some oversight, the archetype may well drastically increase your enjoyment of the solarian class in your game. So yeah, for certain games, this is awesome. I just wished that the book clearly spelled the intended design goals to allow GMs to make an informed choice there. An explanation there would have certainly made this more newbie-friendly.

The supplement then proceeds to present two new solar manifestations: Solar amplification increases the DC of both stellar and zenith revelations by 1, +1 at 9th and 18th level, and the ability also nets you ½ solarian level as a bonus to maneuvers executed with stellar revelations. RAW, zenith revelations are excluded from this bonus; not sure that this was intentional, but I assume it was. Solar form nets +1 to all saving throws, which increases to +2 at 10th level (providing a bit of alleviation for the common save-complaint), and nets you twice solarian temporary hit points, with fast healing equal to your solarian level. The latter aspect is highly ambiguous regarding its verbiage – does the fast healing apply universally, or just to the temporary hit points? This needs clarification. Much to my chagrin, the pdf also fails to specify whether and how these interact with the solarian class graft.

Unless I miscounted, we have 24 new stellar revelations. This book introduces a new category of those, so-called harmonic revelations, which count as neither photon, nor graviton, and are active in both attunements. While I get the design goal behind that, I also do think that these somewhat dilute the duality leitmotif of the solarian class on a rules level. I am not a fan of this.

The vast majority of new revelations are harmonic ones, so I’ll just explicitly call out those that aren’t. Among the 2nd level stellar revelations, we have the means to get an additional solar manifestation, which, well, is kinda understandable, but once more, is future-proofing-wise perhaps not the smartest choice, considering that the class ability provides a scaling, constant benefit for the class. Amplified attunement nets you an insight bonus to EAC and KAC while graviton-attuned, while photon-mode nets you a scaling bonus to movement speed while photon-attuned. Both grow in potency at 9th and 18th level. Attunement Pool changes the attunement engine in an interesting manner: It lets your attunement grow to 4 + Charisma (should be capitalized) modifier attunement; when you use a solarian ability that would render you unattuned, you instead reduce this pool by 3. I really love this one. It’s a great investment for epic battles and unlocks some neat combos. Minor nitpick, though: Ideally, the ability should specify that you still can only use abilities that’d cause you to become unattuned if you have at least the 3 attunement required. It is very obvious from context, though. There is also a revelation that makes your solar weapon optionally a 60-ft.-range blast, which can’t be modified by crystals.

There are 8 6th level revelations, the first of which nets you 1 attunement whenever you damage an enemy with an attack. … WTF??? Okay, so this completely delimits attunement. With AoE attacks of any kind, this’ll allow you to scale up to the maximum of even the expanded attunement scale very easily, very swiftly. Compare that broken piece of WTF-ery with +1d6 damage output increase for solar weapon or blast. Or the pretty nifty option to get a solar weapon for each hand, which also gets weapon crystal interaction right. A revelation that nets you plus Charisma modifier uses of limited use revelations, or additional means to target specific targets, excluding targets from AoE revelations – the majority of these options tends to fill a plausible and per se well-wrought idea. Not having sidereal influence end in combat is also an interesting take, and there are means to upgrade the solar manifestations. Higher level revelations include “spending 2 resolve points, you may cast Plane Shift” ([sic!] as an example of formatting hiccups), with the added benefit of working for space ships as well, increasing drift. The latter part here? That’s REALLY cool. Not so cool: SFRPG does not have “full-round actions”; one of 16th level harmonic revelations includes the option to spend 1 Resolve Point to maximize all damage a target takes (NO SAVE); for another point, you also apply critical effects automatically, and any hit is a critical hit. While this ability may only affect a single target once before you need a 10-minute Stamina-replenishing rest, remember that there’s a revelation that lets you affect a target + Charisma modifier times with this! Oh, and guess what? There is also one ability that renders the target utterly invulnerable until the end of your next round. It has the same caveat, but…again…can be prolonged with a revelation herein. No DR, no resistance – flat-out immortality! Fall into a black hole (a proper one), be subject to a god’s smite or a planet destroyer supergun. You can take it. Unscathed. Yes, it requires a full action (erroneously referred to as full-round action) and is high level, but seriously? When compared to the regular 16th-level revelations, these latter two provide ridiculous damage boosts or defensive boosts. And know what? Solarian is DPR-wise already pretty damn good. That wasn’t the main issue of the class.

The book also provides 3 capstone revelations (one for each mode) – 1/week rebirth, a devastating proper mini black hole, and a mini supernova (that actually deals proper damage). I liked all of these, its glitches regarding action names and formatting notwithstanding.

On the photon side, we have means to replenish charges, which can be problematic – if you’re playing a resource-heavy game, this eliminates any energy-shortage you can construct, provided the solarian has enough time on their hands. (It also would allow for evil empires to construct solarian batteries, etc.); for 10th level revelations, we have a nice Glow of Life for allies (with a limit) that I really loved, and a means to increase a ship’s speed – I LOVE this one and wished there had been more options here that focus on ship combat and general utility; as many solarian players will be able to attest, ship combat as a solarian can use a couple of unique tricks and meaningful things to do.

The graviton revelations include a massive 10-hex extension of an aura that tanks ship speed (awesome), and a boost for defy gravity or gravity boost. See, these provide breadth, and that’s something the solarian can really use!

The pdf also features 10 new zenith revelations, which includes moving struck targets around while graviton-attuned, Stamina replenishing while fully attuned (not a fan), or what about a light doppelgänger who can act as an alternate origin for your revelations and who can switch places with you? That is AWESOME and incredibly cool. Rapid manifestation is hard to stomach: While fully attuned to one thing, you decrease the action your revelation activation might take from “full-round action to a standard action”, standard action to move action, move action to swift action.” This doesn’t work with ones that let you execute attacks. Now, combine this passive ability with the ones for max damage or invulnerability. Or the others. Or what about the zenith revelation that all but eliminates the duality notion, which makes you no longer lose attunement in photon/graviton if you attune to the other, adding +1 attunement in both modes automatically at 17th level? These are presented right next to a zenith revelation that makes a creature striking you in melee take 1d6 fire damage per 2 solarian levels, Reflex save halves.

The supplement also provides a full page-table of new weapon crystals – I genuinely liked these. No problems there. Beyond that, the pdf provides weapon mods – essentially modifications for weapon crystals that make the weapon count as cold iron, adamantine, change damage types, etc. At item level 8, targeting EAC seems pretty brutal, particularly for just 2,100 credits…and the level 18 true strike infusion bypasses all hardness, damage reduction and energy resistances – that should be scaling, numerical values, not a flat-out “I ignore everything.”

The pdf concludes with 5 solarian creatures, which aren’t always perfect: The CR 13 hemeros aeon, the CR 2 reptoid, a CR 8 dwarf, the CR 18 void prophet, and the CR 11 corona dragon. The aeon has darkvision listed twice, and its resistances are both off by 3, though the latter is probably intended – resistance 13 as per aeon is less elegant than the value of 10 it has. Apart from minor hiccups like these, the statblocks tend to be usable, though.

Conclusion: Editing is per se good on a formal and rules language level, though the same can’t be claimed for formatting, which is consistently off, and inconsistent in how it’s off. It kinda irritated me. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with neat full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley’s Star Class book on solarians is frustrating for me, because the majority of its issues can be boiled down to presentation, fine-tuning, and context.

On the one hand, we have a smattering of content designed to expand the options available for the solarian, within the context assumed by the class.

On the other hand, we have a significant number of pieces of content designed to delimit the class and increase its power-level.

These two categories of content are neither clearly divided, nor does the book really explain the vast impact the collective of the options herein can have on the solarian.

Where a single revelation might make for an engine tweak that, in conjunction with the modifications to the core chassis, can fix the disadvantage regarding sheer numbers the class suffers from, the combination of all these tweaks escalates the power-level of the class significantly beyond its brethren.

In many ways, this book feels like it was once two documents: “Solarian Expansion.docx” and “Solarian Power Increases.docx” – and both were just thrown together.

Moreover, the hypothetical second document, “Solarian Power Increases.docx” suffers from losing its individual contextual frameworks: So, we have the core engine tweaks, got it. We have a power-boost archetype, got it. Then we have revelations designed to provide a power-boost beyond the power-boosts already established, and not all of these have been designed with the care they needed.

All address these, to some extent, similar issues.

Once you start combining all these options to enhance the power of the class, you’ll get a pretty darn brutal beast. And I get it. I can see the intent behind the individual tweaks.

Functionally, the solarian is not a hybrid class in PF1’s style – instead, it is a frontline fighter with a bit of utility thrown in, perhaps 1/5th of its role in the party. But that utility is what people gravitate (haha) to – it’s what makes the solarian special. And it is the thing that this book obviously tries to bring to the prominence and put front and center. And I LIKE that per se, but wouldn’t that have suited an alternate class better? This feels like a desperate attempt to hammer a core chassis into a shape it’s not made for.

I can also get behind the notion of broader applicability of solarian abilities that seems to have been the design goal with quite a few of the materials herein. Heck, I ADORE, and I mean ADORE the fact that this book sports quite a few tricks that allow solarians to be more useful in star ship combat. Same goes for the sidereal expansion (which helps re skills and breadth of options), or the notion (if not the implementation) of getting both solar weapon and armor – there is a lot herein I absolutely LOVE, particularly in the instances where the pdf expands the breadth of options, rather than the solarian’s already pretty impressive DPR.

But on the other hand, this book’s fix-type options to increase perceived flaws in the solarian are not existing in a vacuum; rather than that, they offer for the means to combo them, and when you combo serious power upgrades, the effect quickly can become exponential. There are things that are a matter of taste (dual attunement) that should have some balancing caveat, sure. I wouldn’t call an individual revelation herein broken (with the notable exception of the max damage and flat-out immunity ones), but their combinations are frickin’ savage and OP in the context of any SFRPG game I’ve seen or run. Even if you use them without the further power-upgrade by class fixes and archetype. Combine all of them, and the result will be PAINFUL, not only equalizing with e.g. soldier math-wise, but transcending it.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. In many ways, this feels like this, at one point, wanted to operate a bit like Legendary Rogues or Legendary Fighters: Explain a problem, present different ways to address the problem, and provide the means for the GM to reach an informed decision.

This book has all the potential of such a stand-out supplement, one that provides means to customize the solarian in an informed manner, according to the requirements of your individual game. Think about it as such: Let’s say, you see a power-level issue. In your opinion, the solarian is -2 power levels behind a comparable class. Okay, so Fix A provides a +1, Fix B another +1. A series of stellar revelations provide anything form a power level increase of +0 to +2. Even with a simplified numerical sequence, the issue becomes apparent, when in fact, some of these would rather behave as escalating multipliers. The problem is that none of the individual increases are bad per se; you can see their intent, their tweaks, etc. – but when you combine them? Ouch. This needed context.

Only, instead of providing context, warning the GM from the implications and power-level increases that individual pieces or combinations of the content herein can offer, everything’s lumped together, implying a parity of power and attempted synergy with brutal results that I refuse to believe is intentional.

And that is a huge, damn shame. You see, even though the formatting here is a long shot from Legendary Games’ usual precision, this book contains GEMS. Components that had me smile from ear to ear. And yes, I’ll be using content from this book in my games.

But as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can’t recommend this book as presented. Even with the significant amount of formal glitches present, this could have been a 4.5-star offering, and certainly something that could have warranted a seal of approval. But the book requires that the GM not only carefully reads the entire book, they also have to carefully, meticulously vet the content and decide which of the perceived issues of the solarian class in game may or may not have sprung up in their game. And then understand the implications of allowing the content herein. And most importantly, the combos this content allows for.

In short: You need a deep understanding of the game’s balance to prevent this book from catapulting the power-levels of the solarian off the deep end. If you do, then this book might well be one of your favorite solarian supplements out there. If not, then, well…you have been warned.

Ultimately, I can only recommend this book in a very limited capacity; for most tables, this will not be worth the hassle of balancing its entire content versus the core solarian – and while I love many of its components in a vacuum, in conjunction with each other, they quickly become broken. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Star Classes: Solarian
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Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (5E)
by William M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2020 16:26:21

This was a great, well prepared introduction into the Legendary Planet adventure path. My players are still exploring the galaxy over a year later with no signs of stopping. The gradual introduction into the different aspects of the AP allowed us to not get bogged down right at the start just running up with a few characters they had interest in trying.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (5E)
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Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
by Jacob M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2020 20:31:39

The best PF2e class I've seen so far when it comes to design. Balanced while following through on the spirit of the original, while giving you a lot of cool and fun options to pick from at every level. This class has convinced me to run a PF2e campaign when the official classes could not.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
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Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2020 05:46:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, so this review will diverge from my usual format, as I’ve already covered the entirety of the AP. As befitting of a review of the campaign as a whole, I’ll focus on the overarching entity, the AP as a whole, if you will. I’ll also provide some brief commentary on the individual modules in relation to the campaign.

It should be noted that I’ve been a backer of this campaign, and that I backed for PF1e – not because I liked 5e or SFRPG less, but because the pitch of the sword and planet AP using mythic rules really tickled my fancy. As such, the following is based on the PF1e-version of the AP.

If you take a look at my ratings of the AP-installments, you’ll notice that I LIKE this series. Very much. That being said, this doesn’t mean that the AP doesn’t have some issues, so what follows should be taken in context – the AP does many things that Paizo APs suffer from as well, and the dissection of some components to follow stem from a position of someone enjoying the campaign’s individual installments. Still, I can very much picture that some people would have issues with some aspects of the series. This review should be understood as me vocalizing my issues with the entirety of the AP as a cohesive whole.

As such, the following will contain SERIOUS SPOILERS for the entirety of the AP. I won’t go into details per se (that’s what the individual reviews are for), but you get the gist. If you want to play in this AP, please stop reading NOW.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first thing you need to know about the AP, is that, while there are two ways to start this, only one of them is actually viable on a narrative level.

One of these was the notion of beginning with “To Worlds Unknown”, with the module starting essentially in medias res. This is per se a solid IDEA, but that’s all it is, as the AP’s main motivation for the VAST majority of the AP is easily the weakest aspects of it – the primary assumed motivation for the PCs is that they “do the E.T.”: They want to go home. I’m so not kidding. If I’d be in the PC’s shoes, I’d be happy. They are thrust into this wondrous, fantastic series of planets, and still, they are assumed to want home as a driving force – only that, at one point towards the end of the campaign, they suddenly are supposed to want to end the threat of the evil civilization to save, bingo, their home. Even if, by manner of outgame party consensus you can get your party to go that route, this very tenuous thread of connective tissue makes no sense when starting with “To Worlds Unknown.” This weak core motivation also invalidates pretty much all the options in the Player’s Guide, which you btw. also should not hand out to the players if you choose the introduction that actually does work:

“The Assimilation Strain” was billed as an optional prologue, when it’s anything but “optional” – it’s mandatory. It establishes the PCs in their own world, ideally with the players thinking that we’re going for a regular fantasy campaign. Then, the Ultari Hegemony and their allied races happen to the world – though that is not evident at first. The Assimilation Strain transitions from cookie-cutter fantasy opening to horror via a bait and switch, and then switches things up once more, as the PCs find the Sword & Planet source and enter the genre properly, if you will. This mirrors the classic trope of the genre, establishes the PC’s home, and also the danger that can befall their home if the Hegemony is not stopped. This prologue thus establishes the tenuous thread that will have to hold for the vast majority of the campaign. Do not skip it.

Ideally, you know your players well enough so you can judge whether they’d like the AP, and pull off this bait and switch – if it works, it works REALLY, REALLY well. Again, do not skip it.

“To Worlds Unknown” begins with the same relatively dark theme and goes for a prison break, while then establishing the largest strength of the AP for the majority of its run:

Its, for the most part, pitch-perfect grasp of the whole Sword & Planet genre. The planets evoke wonder, are marvelous, and add stunning set-piece to stunning set-piece. The sense of wonder is excellent. If exploration of wondrous vistas is what you’re looking for in the AP, then rest assured that this’ll deliver in spades.

Indeed, the first 3 adventures focus on this sense of wonder: “To Worlds Unknown” is the establishing shot; “The Scavenged Codex” is a huge scavenger hunt for an important item, and “Dead Vault Descent’s” tide-locked planet is FANTASTIC in the best ways.

This first third of the AP has few issues – “The Scavenged Codex” forces the PCs to work with a truly despicable NPC early on, and this might rub some people the wrong way; that being said, this railroad can be managed to an extent by a capable GM. “Dead Vault Descent” is a fantastic adventure, but it actually does not progress the story. It’s a clear “You princess…äh…way home is in another castle…äh, on another planet”-scenario. Other than that, I consider the start to be super promising. However, one of the weaknesses of the AP would be that it, like MANY, MANY Paizo APs, lacks unifying tissue and consequence. “The Scavenged Codex” and “Dead Vault Descent” both set up significant consequences for the worlds they take place on – consequences that are of no real concern thereafter. Similarly, like many Paizo APs, one can’t help but get a sense of an episodic structure – the modules aren’t particularly well-linked, nor do consequences between modules carry over particularly well.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Player’s Guide feels oddly tacked on to the AP. It doesn’t do a good job at providing alternate motivations for alien PCs that did not go through the prologue. The alien PC races are pretty darn strong, and as replacement characters, well, that’d work in a way. It’d have been nice to get some suggestions from where such characters derive the unique mythic power that allows for instant adaptation to other worlds, though. Introducing new PCs could have been handled better. Speaking of adaption: I may well be alone with this, but I like survival aspects, so a hard mode where the PCs don’t get this ability to instantly adapt to new planets would have been an awesome addition for groups that enjoy dealing with minutiae, hazards and the like, who want planning matter more. Oh well.

Making the new bodies the consequence of experimentation between Prologue and “To Worlds Unknown”, perhaps with some negative consequences as well, could have rendered the whole “Bring down the Hegemony”-angle more personal. But yeah, if you hand out this guide alongside the prologue, you’re spoiling things, and a player’s guide should NEVER spoil the AP.

These first three installments are what I’d call the “Wonder-Arc” – it’s all about the wonder of these realms, high pulp, high danger, all awesome, all with different themes. “Dead Vault Descent” in particular stands out, its tidelocked planet and challenges eliciting a sense of melancholy, foreshadowing the night to come.

Oh boy. “Confederates of the Shattered Zone” – in hindsight, I should have rated this one lower. It’s a full-blown thematic whiplash. Suddenly, we travel into a quasi-space-Victorian setting that can be best likened to the videogame “Sunless Skies”, save with quasi-Nazis thrown in; it’s oppressive, grimy, and takes some cues from the Pathologic franchise (which I LOVE) in its strangely, yet compellingly-dissonant and anachronistic elements. It’s an industrial age nightmare in space. I should love it to bits, but I really, really don’t. Richard Pett is a fantastic author, and his dark visions are haunting – but here, it simply doesn’t fit the tone of any other part of the AP. At least not in how it’s implemented. The massive module establishes a baseline of factions and implies a long-term game here, but can’t develop it properly; in many ways, this feels like a mega-adventure in its own right, cut down to module size…which really hurts the module and its overall place in the AP. If you run the AP as written, I’d STRONGLY suggest expanding the entire section, so it can actually start to shine; or, well, if you cut any module from the AP, it probably should be this one. Also, because it then adds this weird kyton-fueled Hellraiser-ish angle towards the end, including what should be a cataclysmic event for the PCs, something that should be a huge climax, but which is ultimately relegated to a few paragraphs of text, when it should be a whole sequence of its own, with rules, challenges, etc. – I really don’t get why the finale here is a cut-scene, prefaced with a pretty vanilla dungeon. Cut the dungeon, make the cut-scene-ish finale rules-relevant.

I love this setting, this module’s potential, but its implementation left me less enthused. I really, really dislike it in the context of this AP. It doesn’t fit in either with the first half of the AP (including the horror-ish prologue!), nor with the second half of the AP. It’s this odd middle part of the AP that feels excessive and suddenly dark just for the sake of being dark. Its end also implies consequences that, bingo, aren’t ever properly touched upon again.

Again, I’d love to see an AP in this setting, but as part of the Legendary Planet AP? Well, here, I genuinely think that it suffers from obvious cuts, and/or from ambition exceeding the scope of what the formula can provide. It also reads like it was supposed to have more pronounced consequences on the overall plot, which I don’t really see happening.

Thankfully, the second arc of the AP, which I’d dub “The War against the Hegemony” once more takes up the themes that fit the saga per se better. The war beneath the waves depicted in “The Depths of Desperation” is epic once more in the heroic, wondrous sense; supported by mass combat rules and conflicts with ginormous foes, this is a great turning point in the dynamics; “Mind-Tyrants of the Merciless Moons” further builds on this: Tim Hitchcock delivers pretty much Sword & Planet themes in a nigh-perfect manner; he gets it. The original pdf release was pretty flawed in formal aspects, felt rushed regarding several rules-components, but these glitches have been dealt with, rendering this a high point of the saga. (Even though I still maintain that getting high-level PCs to engage in a regular dungeon crawl isn’t that smart.) Still, kudos to Legendary Games for making this one shine. I just wished that the last pass had been executed before I had my backer copy of the massive hardcover sent to me…hope this’ll be handled differently for Aegis of Empires.

And then, there is “To Kill a Star” – a milestone of an epic high-level adventure, this finale of the AP very much justifies running the campaign. It’s epic in all the right ways. I’m super happy with this finale in pretty much all ways. It’s a mega-adventure in its own right, and an excellent one that doesn’t try to limit the party, instead working with its vast capabilities. My one complaint with the second arc of the AP is its sequence, not in plot, but in narrative escalation: In “Mind-Tyrants of the Merciless Moon”, we have the high-level translation of themes and playstyle from the first arc: It’s about the wonder of the strange places, brutal combats, and splices in some more epic scales. I love that. The problem is that it follows a module featuring a full-blown war against the Hegemony. We have a war in” Depths of Desperation”, with the PCs taking on armies and huge threats, and the move back towards the wondrous explorer/resistance angle, striking at a key asset of the Hegemony. In some ways, this sequence feels like a scaling back; having the escalation move and build organically from the mostly personal level in Mind Tyrants to the global in Depths to the interplanetary in “To Kill a Star” would have kept the sense of escalation intact.

So, whenever someone asks me whether I’d recommend this AP, I ask two questions: 1) Do you want a strong story, or are wondrous locales more important to you? Because Legendary Planet excels at presenting the sense of wide-eyed wonder that I want out of the genre. The plots WITHIN the modules all work well enough. But its overarching story, particularly considering what connects the modules and consequences that carry over? In that regard, the AP is pretty damn weak. For comparison, I reread a couple of Paizo APs, and saw many similar issues in a lot of them, which, I think, may stem from the fact that the direction of the individual authors needs to be stricter, or more focused, or both. Or, well, someone to actually rewrite the completed AP to tie things all together and make it, you know, a narrative where story-threads matter. While certainly not perfect, particularly in the mechanical aspects (which SUCK!), the Zeitgeist AP, for example, does this a lot better – keeping NPCs and how the party acted relevant. Implementing consequence. Legendary Planet is not good at that. I wouldn’t recommend this AP to someone looking for a captivating story. Villain-wise, the Hegemony is no more or less plausible than comparable villain-civilizations like Star Trek’s borg or Star Wars’ empire; I had no problem suspending my disbelief in how they work, and particularly when they actually become proactive, i.e. in “Mind Tyrants of the Merciless Moons” and “To Kill a Star”, they really came off as supremely dangerous. It’s this looming presence throughout, but, like in many Paizo APs, there isn’t much chance to establish direct opposition early on – however, I didn’t care as much here, because the enemy, well, is the Hegemony. An empire. Not a single enemy, and as such, you’re not expected to create a personal rapport. That’s a smart angle. But back to the second question: 2) How good are your players at PFRPG? Legendary Planet excels, with no doubt in my mind, and beyond what many comparable series offer, in the mechanics department. This AP makes perfect use of potential that only the uneven, wide-open math of PFRPG offers, of all those plentiful options, to provide truly challenging and evocative combat. I can’t reference a single campaign that consistently manages to hit this precarious level of being truly challenging for veteran players without becoming unfair or simply an assortment of save-or-sucks. While the story may not be true impressive, the overall DESIGN of the challenges herein tends to end up in the highest tiers. This is particularly impressive, considering the escalation that mythic gameplay adds to these aspects. You might need to do some fixing on a narrative level; but unlike the Zeitgeist AP, you won’t have to redesign a whole atrociously-bad subengine or fix combats and stat highest-tier, huge monsters. Legendary Planet’s combats are meticulously-crafted for strategy, tactics, etc., and supremely-rewarding in that manner.

If your players tend to curmbstomp through Paizo-APs, then this’ll get that excitement back to the table’s combats. Unlike in most published modules, I only very rarely had to optimize enemies, slap templates on them, etc. – this is, design-wise, one of the best campaigns I’ve seen.

To summarize: While the individual stories told in the modules work well enough, the overarching story of the AP is easily its weakest component. It’s weak regarding consequences that transcend modules, and doesn’t have proper decision-based branching on a micro-or macro-level going on. On the plus-side, the creativity of the wondrous expanses is top-tier, the pacing within individual adventures is great, and the variety of challenges posed is evocative and great. This handles the wonder, the sense of being thrust into unknown worlds, exceedingly well; it hits its genre aesthetics and tropes really well, and in a concise manner. For the most part. (cough Confederates /cough)

If you’re looking for a challenge and can take the AP for what it is, it offers a truly fun campaign. I you want an intricately-woven, intelligent storyline beyond the narrative shortcomings many comparable APs offer, I’d recommend choosing another campaign to run. I can see this AP clock in as anything, ranging from 3 stars to 5 stars for an individual group. Personally, the excellence regarding design components helps me forgive the issues in the narrative. On a plus-side, the flaws in the overall story being not that intricate do mean that AP is super easy to dismantle, expand, and scavenge from – it’s very easy to replace components of the saga, exchange them with your own material or other modules, or elaborate upon an individual chapter.

How, then, am I supposed to rate this AP, as a whole, as opposed to my ratings for the individual chapters? In the end, I think that the weaknesses in the overarching narrative fabric of the AP needs to be represented in some way in the final verdict. To state this once more – for me, as a person, this works well; I can deal with the narrative, expand upon regions, add consequences, etc. If you enjoy the like, then this may well be a 5 star + seal level AP for you.

But I can’t write my reviews based solely with this perspective in mind. As such, my final verdict of the entire saga as a whole, as opposed to individual installments, would usually not exceed 4 stars, but there is another factor to this: Pricing. Considering the amount of content, this AP is a steal. We get art and map folios, and the equivalent 0f 8 (!!) modules, with the finale being a mega-adventure in its own right, for $50 in pdf; $109.99 pdf + print. This is a STEAL. This has more than 700 pages of top-tier content. (Not counting the art and map folios that are super helpful in the age of COVID…) For that price. You don’t have to be a math savant to realize how good this bang-for-buck ratio is. Hence, I feel justified in adding at least half a star, and round up. Oh, and the AP gets my seal of approval. It’s not perfect, but I still love it to bits.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
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Arcforge: Psibertech
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/10/2020 05:02:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first expansion of Arcforge (actually the second half of the original document, to my knowledge) clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 64 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This book requires the first Arcforge book, and for full use, you should also be using Ultimate Psionics and Akashic Mysteries.

Okay, while the book doesn’t start that way, let us begin as always, by taking a look at the class options presented within this book – these include two new archetypes, the first of which would be the biomech speaker druid, who adds Knowledge (engineering) to the class skills and gains a mech, as well as “biomech pilot” (should be capitalized) as a bonus feat, replacing wild empathy and nature bond.

This feat requires a bit of explanation: It nets you a partially biological mech, which unlocks a whole array of unique mech enhancements, which includes share spells, 25% to negate critical and precision damage that can be taken multiple times to upgrade to full-blown immunity, or treating integrated weapons as natural weapons. These benefits are potent, but considering the dual tax, and the per se plausibly minimum level requirements, they are valid. But back to the archetype: 4th level lets the druid 1/day as a standard action exchange one of the mech enhancements for another; 6th level and every 2 levels thereafter increases that by another daily use, and 8th and 12th level improve the action economy. The capstone delimits this daily-uses wise and replaces wild shape. Instead of resist nature’s lure, we have an untyped +4 bonus to saves versus Ex/Su, Sp and Psi-like abilities of biomechs, robots, and bio-engineered critters.

Before we go to the second archetype, we have to talk about the robot engine featured in this book, the modular robot engine: In addition to the robot subtype’s properties, the book champions them having Upgrade Points (UP) equal to twice the robot’s CR, minimum 1. Additional upgrades may be slotted on to a robot, granting +1 CR for every 2 UP beyond the normal amount, and if possible, these abilities have a saving throw DC of 10 + ½ the robot’s HD + the robot’s Intelligence modifier. For creators of robots, Improved Robotics nets +2 UP for any robot made (does that increase the robot’s CR for cap-purposes or not?). Most upgrades cost between 1 and 2 UP, with a few also offering a cost of 3 UP. These include additional modes of movement equal to base speed (including clumsy fly or burrow), an additional attack (both 1 UP), Dex to damage, all-around vision…there are a ton of cool ideas here, but the individual value of the upgrades oscillates rather drastically. Let’s take aforementioned movement mode upgrade: It places the same numeric value on climb or swim speed as on burrow speed, which is valid for a monster-customization engine. There is also one upgrade that is called “Autodestruct core”, which deals 1d10 times HD damage in a 30 ft.-radius as a full-round action, with half damage being fire, the other slashing, Ref halves. At higher levels, this also irradiates the area. Cool, but destroys the robot. Compare that to threat range +1 for all the robot’s attacks (which RAW even stacks with keen et al., which it really shouldn’t) or a threat multiplier increase by 1, which has no maximum cap. Both of these cost 1 UP. Notice something? Formatting is sometimes weird: “The robot gains burn (1d6) with attacks of a certain type.” – look no further than this to realize how important formatting is…making a melee attack work as energy-based is valued the same way as causing 1 Constitution damage on an established or maintained pin.

To make that abundantly clear: I like the robot customization engine! And heck, as a quick and painless GM-customization tool to make robots more potent and versatile it is absolute GOLD. The problem here is akin to others in the first Arcforge supplement– the almost obsessive system transparency between subsystems that are not, or no longer, balanced for parity. In many ways, the core issue of the robot upgrade system lies that it is not as finely balanced as a class option among its own options due to originally being a GM-facing tool. Okay, that’s something one can deal with. However, the system is opened to players, and to other subsystems, and that’s a really bad call. The mech engine, for example, has obviously not even cursorily been balanced against the robot upgrade system. You don’t have to be an experienced crunch wizard to see the disparities here at a glance.

One of the mech enhancements introduced herein, for example, nets you 1 Upgrade Point – this upgrade point can be spent on bonafide fly speeds, boosters, etc. – compare that to hover stabilizers or the feather fall-based modified aerodynamics enhancements in the first book. Need more? In the core engine, only mechs with the quadruped/threaded body type could gain a climb speed – well, now that limit’s been thoroughly squashed. In many ways, this small mech enhancement that allows for robot upgrades to be used for mechs is SUPER-broken and needs to die; it compromises the per se solid core engine for Arcforge mechs established in the first book. Thoroughly.

Unfortunately, this annoying lack of concern with system parity can be seen in some other instances. There’s e.g. the new feat chain that upgrades your astral constructs with upgrade points (because we all know that astral constructs really need a power upgrade /sarcasm) or the option to add the aggregate template (more on that below) by adding AIs stored into the thus created astral robot. The idea here is AMAZING. Let me make that abundantly clear. I also love the world-building implications this has. Execution? Not so much. This book introduced the Biomech Construct psionic feat, which applies the biomech template to any astral constructs you create, and you can choose options from an enhancement menu or the metamorphosis powers of the same line, which is pretty potent as a whole. At one point, I am pretty sure that parity between power points and BP/corresponding abilities was considered, and the feat would be potent in that context; however, the final iteration of the Arcforge-systems has gone another way, which also destroys this assumption of parity.

The integrator aegis is a more complex archetype – this one gets rid of astral suit, but instead modifies their own body, which means they can wear armor. They get access to a limited array of aberrant customizations, and begins play with two robotic enhancements (see above) twice at 1st level, once at 2nd, and once at 12th level. Reconfigure is replaced with the inorganic property that provides a pretty darn impressive list of growing immunities. This theme is also emphasized by cannibalize suit being replaced with an option to ignore a whole array of negative conditions with limited daily uses. And yes, that’s flat-out “ignore” – not suspend or delay onset, ignore. And the character even gets hardness that scales, with all implications of hardness, and as a capstone, has a construct apotheosis. The aegis also features generally available customizations to gain weapon emulation, the ability to mimic psibertech, gain robotic upgrade points, or apply the astral suit’s bonus to touch AC. These general customizations should be taken with a grain of salt – I do not recommend any but the weapon emulation and the psibertech mimicry to be introduced – bingo, once more we have system-crossovers that pretty much go beyond what’s feasible. Robotics enhancement would, for example, net you an UP as a 2-point customization, which can be…well…overkill.

So yeah, the robot upgrade engine and how it pertains to robots on their own? Valid, fun and cool. How it interacts with other sub-systems? Broken. These crossover options need to die in a horrible nuclear fire, or the material needs desperately to be rebalanced to the power-levels and assumptions of the respective systems that they connect to.

The pdf then proceeds to provide specialties for technological daevics, the metahumans – essentially akin to passions, opening the flavor of the class and expanding it, which is a cool angle. Two are provided, the cannoneer (fixation) and espionage (vigilance) specializations. The cannoneer gets Perception, Stealth and Knowledge (geography) as skills, and the passion veil list includes the new tech-themed veils from Arcforge: Technology Expanded (with micro-missile gauntlet and nanite cloud delivering two veils usually exclusive to vizier and helmsman), as well as gorget of the wyrm, armory of the conqueror, courtesan’s cloak, sentinel’s helm, and lashing spinnerets, the latter usually being a guru/vizier-exclusive. The pdf also introduces a new veil, namely daevic aspect, which the specializations/passions both get – but interestingly, the effects differ by specialization. The core benefit for fixation would be a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls and AC, for vigilance, it’s be +1 (untyped, should probably be insight) to saving throws and skill checks against creatures you have identified. This differentiation also pertains to the chakra bind to blood. The cannoneer (fixation) gets a 20% constant miss chance, as per blur (spell reference not in italics), as well as a threat-range expansion of 1 with all ranged weapons used, explicitly applying after the Improved Critical feat or keen. Not a fan of threat range stacking per se, but not necessarily broken at 12th level; it should be noted that weapon and weapon property lack formatting in the pdf. Espionage (vigilance)’s blood chakra bind instead nets 30 ft. blindsight, +10 ft. per essence invested, as well as improved uncanny dodge as a rogue of the daevic’s level. Notice what I didn’t talk about? Yep, essence invested. The veil lacks its essence invested section, and e.g. Fixation provides no reason to actually invest essence in it beyond the base benefits outlined above. Pretty sure that’s a glitch.

Anyhow, back to cannoneers: 3rd level nets Precise Shot, 5th Deadly Aim, 8th level Improved Precise Shot or Pinpoint Targeting sans prerequisites. 6th level nets one of two aspects: Sharpshooter lets the character use a full-round action to make one shot, making a number of attacks they normally could execute, even with weapons that can shoot only a limited amount of times per round; for each hit, they deal damage and add it together, and if even a single attack was a critical threat, one confirmation roll at the highest BAB suffices. I am EXTREMELY torn on this one; on one hand, it is a good example of representing the one-shot-kill style of snipers; the damage this can accumulate, particularly on crits, is insane. Then again, that’s exactly what the ability is supposed to do. So yeah, it might not be for every game, but I actually like it, with reservations. If you need a nerf suggestion for a grittier game, make the 2nd iterative attack the only one that is consulted for critical confirmation; with a good build, this still will yield a reliable amount of critical hits, but not as much as the “one confirmation suffices”-angle.

Cannoneer requires the use of the armor penetration rules already previously mentioned in Arcforge: Technology Expanded (as an aside – they are one reason why I believe that this book and the first one were, at one point, one massive tome that was split); however, the rules actually are here, and the benefit increases armor penetration by 2, and all creatures adjacent to the projectile’s impact point or line of fire for automatic weapons are treated as if caught in a splash weapon (save based on class level and daevic’s Charisma modifier), with 12th level and 18th level increasing the radius of the splash by 5 ft., and the armor penetration by 2.

Let us briefly talk about armor penetration. That would be a kind of variant rule that is applied to weapons, with a proper table added: To explain the scale: A light crossbow or light pick has AP 1, an atom gun AP 14; muskets and revolvers, for comparison, clock in at AP 4. AP does pretty much what it says on the tin – it bypasses the respective value of armor. This value is enhanced by the enhancement bonus, if any – a +2 revolver, for example, would have an AP 6, value, the revolver’s base 4, plus 2 for the enhancement bonus. I like the idea behind AP per se – weak weapons like crossbows etc. definitely can use a power upgrade, and AP does deliver that, and the excessive-looking AP-values at higher level start making sense courtesy of a simple rule: It gets rid of that “attack touch AC”-caveat of firearms. Now, I do think that some of the higher AP values are a bit excessive, but having tested playing with the AP rules, I actually found myself liking them quite a bit. While my pretty conservative tastes would reduce the higher AP values and increase the lower ones for a more even playing field (that would also make tanking more viable and interesting), the notion behind this system is one I can definitely get behind. The Piercing Attack feat introduced herein increases any AP value of your weapons by 2 if you maintain your psionic focus, and by expending the focus, you can also apply the AP value to deflection, sacred or profane bonuses to AC.

The second specialization/passion for the daevic gets Perception and any two Knowledge skills, as well as HU.D. from Arcforge: Technology Expanded, as well as sentinel’s helm, courtesan’s cloak, dreamcatcher, collar of skilled instruction, essence of the succubus, cuirass of confidence and bloody shroud, as well as aforementioned, slightly problematic daevic aspect. 3rd level nets an untyped +2 to Knowledge skill checks and the ability to make them untrained, as well as the option to, as a swift action, make Perception and Knowledge checks. Rules syntax here is a bit ambiguous: Is that a swift action for both? Or a swift action for either? Additionally, we have a +1 DC-increase for veils used against identified creatures, which increases by a further +1 at 8th level and every 5 levels beyond. 6th level allows for the choice between optimizer and saboteur; Optimizers get the tactician’s strategy and one strategy, with an additional one unlocked every 6 levels thereafter; these use Charisma as governing ability score. Unfortunately, quite a few strategies don’t work for the daevic, as they are contingent on being a member of a tactician’s collective, which is a class feature the daevic does not have. No alternate means to determine eligible allies is provided either. Yep, another point for my assertion that Arcforge struggles when attempting to blend systems. Saboteurs gets 1d6 sneak attack and the unchained rogue’s “debilitating strike”, with 12th level and 18th level increasing the damage dice by +1d6 and the option to apply an additional debilitating strike effect whenever the ability is used. Why did I use quotation marks above? The class feature of the rogue is not called “debilitating strike” – it’s called “debilitating injury.”

The pdf also provides the psiborg racial variant for the noral race: +2 Constitution and Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, starts with a psibertech piece’s basic augmentation and treats their level as +1 for its purposes, and an increased implantation value of +1/2 character level (min 1) as well as a decrease of the Heal check to install cybertech by 10; the variant loses symbiotic resistance and surge for these. Androids can choose three new alternate racial traits for a similar start play with a basic augmentation, Small androids, and a bonus feat in place of nanite surge. Forgeborn can replace fearless with a piece of psibertech and its basic augmentation. There is more interacting with the eponymous psibertech: The Crystal Psiborg feat transforms a psicrystal into a piece of psibertech, granting you its base augmentation, but eliminates its autonomous ability to move; I don’t think doubling the personality based benefits in this context was the best call, though. Feat-wise, an Android or construct can choose the True Machine feat, which nets you full construct apotheosis, the robot subtype and 1 UP, or the clockwork subtype sans winding requirement. This feat may be taken at 1st level. Seriously, this feat is not a good idea – I’d rather recommend basing the like on a player race properly designed to account of the copious immunities of constructs. It’s not like we don’t have enough of those. Alternatively, if you wish to salvage the feat, I’d strongly recommend implementing a scaling mechanism that lets the player choose new immunities from the construct’s lists as the levels progress. Otherwise: Kill this with fire. It should also be noted that soulknives and zealots can use blade skills/convictions to tap into the psibertech engine so prominently featured above.

Which is also what we should talk about next, for 15.5 pages are devoted to psibertech. Cybertech is interesting, in that it blurs the line between item and class feature: A psibertech implant may be chosen in lieu of a power known, feat or selectable bonus feat; if the character does not have a manifester level, they use class levels in a class granting Wild Talent to determine manifester level-based benefits. A character must first choose the respective basic augmentation before choosing an advanced augmentation; if the character has 3 advanced augmentations, they get the ultimate augmentation at 20th level. HOWEVER, psibertech does occupy a slot and has an implantation value, and they have a weight. Unlike regular cybertech implants, these psibertech pieces can, as you can glean, not simply be bought…or can they? After all the information on individual psibertech benefits, there is a note that provides global pricing for psibertech crafting: 5K for the basic augmentation, +20K per advanced augmentation, and +50K for the ultimate augmentation; twice that price for being bought and installed. This latter section is one I’d be careful with, but do appreciate as a whole: Adding these costs to the class feature angle might be a way to keep the psibertech power in check for less high-powered campaigns. It should be noted, though, that in comparison to regular cybertech, psibertech is VERY low-priced. 1/day full-round action to replenish all power points is certainly worth more than 100K gold.

There is one aspect about psibertech that I consider extremely problematic and broken, regardless of campaign power level. You guessed it. Mechs can get psibertech if they have the proper body parts. Thing is, the pdf doesn’t really explain whether the pilot has to pay for in class features, whether the crafting is the only thing, or any limits – is psibertech a mech enhancement? Not that it’d matter. Psibertech as a sub-system has no semblance of power-parity with regular mech enhancements, and it’s very much obvious that this section was pretty much a very ill-conceived afterthought, as psibertech’s rules language never intersects properly with that of mechs, making cross-interaction very wonky at best. You guessed it: Kill it with fire. Scratch that, make it “Kill it with untyped damage.”

To give you an idea of what to expect: At the same implantation value of comparable cybertech, the arm of the augmented blade acts as a mind blade or call weaponry, which replaces your hand as though affected by graft weapon. Rules syntax isn’t 100% clear here in whether this means that only that hand is lost while the weapon is drawn, or whether the benefits of graft weapon also are assumed to apply. It could be read either way. The advanced Augmentations (header not properly bolded) include threat range increases of +1 (which do stack with keen, but NOT with static threat range increases, retain usefulness in areas where psionics don’t work, a critical multiplier increase of up to x6, or making it count as a DR-bypassing material chosen from adamantine, cold iron or silver. I think adamantine should have a minimum level here. The capstone ability nets auto-confirmations of critical threats. (Yes, there’s a lot of missing formatting here, unfortunately.)

The collectivist’s mental uplink requires a collective to do anything (and should probably specify this as a prerequisite), and allows you to add willing creatures as a move action, and expend psionic focus to add a willing creature as a free action. This is potentially very strong, but the “willing” caveat does prevent abuse via Unwilling participant etc. and a breaking of the offensive capabilities of the collective engine. The advanced augmentations here include making all collective members count as having your teamwork feats for the purpose of the psibertech augmented creature gaining their benefits, a shared awareness of creatures regarding concealment, and a very powerful one: manifesting powers through collective members – but that last one is actually properly kept behind 15th level and another augmentation as a prerequisite. Remote viewing through members is included, and the capstone doubles collective members.

A psionic tattoo-based one can be found, and there’s one that provides the ability to morph and infiltrate, including options to fortify their mind, deliver false readings, etc. There also is an athanatism-themed enhancement that could be thought of as somewhat themed in line with Death Stranding (which I btw. grew to absolutely love after hating it for the first 10 hours…) There also would be one that allows for psychometabolism powers to double duration (doesn’t stack with Extend Power); nomads gain mobility-enhancers (which include altering teleportation destination by up to half base speed – very cool!) – and yep, the nomad still has to have “line of site[sic!]” to the destination, but that’s at least just a typo. With mech pilot’s bond, you can teleport your bonded mech to you (again, this should have a prerequisite that, you know, it requires an actual bonded mech to do anything…), and a vocal enhancer can improve the mind-affecting abilities of the target. Interesting, btw.: There is a piece of psibertech that has construct-apotheosis as an advanced augmentation – only here, it’s locked behind a proper minimum-level-requirement. On a minor meta-level complaint, some bonuses here probably should be circumstance bonuses, as that’s usually the bonus type associated with regular cybertech. Some of these augmentations, just by the way, are pretty much game-changers. If you have plating of the psion-killer, you get the ability to choose an advanced augmentation to fire off a 30-ft. radius dispel psionics with ML equal class level (should be character level), usable every 5 rounds. This is very potent, but also pretty darn cool, and at 16 lbs. weight and implantation 3, it does have a cost. Flat-out power immunity for any power to which PR applies is locked behind 12th level, as another example for the augmentations provided here. I am not a fan of the one that nets you slowly replenishing technological charges and charges of psionic items, and replenishing the entire power point pool in 2 hours? Ouch.

An incorporeal phantom lite also ranks among the more potent pieces here. Fans of Path of War also can psibertech that interacts with Path of War Expanded’s sleeping goddess, which does, among other things, allow for the substitution of expending 2 readied maneuvers instead of psionic focus. This one is very powerful, but that’s what fans of Path of War know and expect. There also is an interesting piece of psibertech that eliminates the limitations of cybertech – only up to implantation value works at once, the rest becoming latent, and with an advanced augmentation, they can have two pieces of cybertech that take up the same slot, active at the same time. MOST of these are pretty well-balanced. Most. Not all. Temporal schemer’s interface, for example, has a cool base power – automatically notice delayed powers or those set up triggered. Cool! An advanced augmentation nets you, however, the option to make a move action to get as second swift action. That can be EXTREMELY powerful. Don’t do it. Seriously. Swift actions are extremely valuable. This should have, at LEAST, a 15th level minimum prerequisite. Readying a full round worth of actions is also insanely strong, and it introduces a whole can of worms. As a whole, I love a lot of the psibertech ideas – pretty much all of them. But their internal balancing, even without the subsystem-spanning issues, imho would have warranted further finetuning to ensure that the material is on a singular level.

The magic/tech item section includes a means to fire ranged touch, rays, cones and lines through weapons to add their enhancement bonus to the attack roll or save DC, doubled charges and ammo capacity for just the equivalent of +1 (x5 for +3 in the greater version), injecting weaponry, etc. – the armor penetration rules also are featured here, with AP-ignoring armor, laser-weapons increasing AP, etc. – some interesting ones here. Combined weaponry is interesting (but should specify that components lose e.g. finesse if not both of them have that property…); an modification that decreases charge uses, means to withstand psionics/tech-negating fields and 3 regular cybertech types are also included: One is essentially a template-based slavecollar, one decreases psychic enervation chance (with a limit). Realignment chips are interesting, if very low-priced– at 36,400 GP, they allow for the swift action regaining of psionic focus, though each subsequent use renders you first fatigued, then exhausted – and this DOES have a caveat that prevents abuse, bypassing immunity. Kudos for that! It’s in instances like this that the series shows how good it can be. A couple of neat items (balanced against the Armor Penetration-rules) are provided alongside two new artifacts, including the mighty mech/robot-crafting Arcforge.

Apart from the 4.5 pages of aforementioned robot customization engine, the last 30 pages of this module deal with creatures – first, with a whole array of new templates. These include sample statblocks, and feature the biomech template, data phantoms, a variant mindborn template, a template for modular constructs, one for the aforementioned slave-angle (shell), synthetic creatures, the anti-magic spellspurned and one for radioactive creatures. I did not reverse-engineer all of the sample creatures, but at a glance, the builds and templates generally are neat and interesting. The robot section ranges in CRs from 2 to 16 and includes terraformer bots (looking like birds with drill-beaks), and seriously ends the boot on a useful and versatile note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are, like in the core book, very much uneven – psibertech sometimes gets high-complexity stuff right, only to botch in the easy parts. Formatting is often very inconsistent, but less so than in the first book. This pertains to rules-language as well, which oscillates between “I’d allow that in a heartbeat” and “what were they thinking” – the latter applying primarily to anything regarding attempts to crossover between subsystems. The pdf sports a nice array of old and new full-color artwork. Bookmarks are annoying – the first part of the pdf is bookmarked with a few lines, but after the daevics, the entire template and robot and item section has no bookmarks, making navigation of these parts a pain.

Matt Daley & Michael Sayre’s Arcforge: Psibertech shows many of the same issue of the core book, but also does many things better: Within the individual frames of reference of the individual subsystems, the content tends to be cleaner than in Arcforge: Technology Expanded. While internal balancing isn’t often as tight as it should be, if you do exert some caution, you can get some seriously neat mileage out of this book. There’s this part of me that loves this book.

And then there is the part of me that is infuriated by the plethora of formal glitches and uneven balancing, and more so, by the absolutely broken links between subsystems. These aggravating afterthought-like crossovers that compromise the systems they intersect with; both psibertech and the robot upgrade system have no business intersecting with the regular cybertech (pricing all off in comparison) or mech engines (balancing of UPs vs. mech enhancements all off); considering that the core book already had its issues in the core engines and how the engines of classes and sub-systems interacted with the mech-engine, adding these on top is asking for a colossal cluster-f - and not in the fun way, but in the “how the f does this line up” kind of way.

In short, when seen from solely a design/balance perspective, this is broken as all hell.

Dear lord, this is a rough beast of a book, and one that clearly shows that it desperately needed some serious playtesting, development, etc. – this, like its first book, could have been a milestone. It oozes cool ideas. But, and there’s not questioning that, it does fall short of its lofty ambitions.

And yet, while I consider this book DEEPLY flawed, I also can see it having its appeal: If you take care, eliminate the broken bits, and want to flex your design muscles a bit, it’s actually a book that’s surprisingly easy to redeem (provided you can handle the complexity of the subsystems): Rebalance a few components, limit psibertech and nerf a few parts, kill off the system-crossovers, and there you go – psibertech is a book you’ll get a TON of mileage out of. For me, as a private person, I can get a ton of fun out of this!

As a reviewer, however, I can only rate what’s here, not what I wish this was, or what I can make the book into for my table. I have to rate this book for what it is.

And it is a flawed book that shows glimpses of true greatness time and again, but still falters. Worse for the system-inherent context, this book compromises the mech-engine, which already was struggling under the none-too-great class option components in the first book, even further, at least if you are not careful and realize how broken those system-crossovers actually are. Considering that aspect, I should rate this lower than the first book; probably around the 2-star vicinity.

However, idea-wise, and within the systems presented, the book also does a lot right. Moreover, the extensive bestiary section is super useful for the GM, and, it covers almost half of the book, it needs to be weighed accordingly. As such, I actually do consider this book slightly better than the first one, but it’s still an incredibly uneven book, one that makes the first Arcforge book more uneven as well; hence, my verdict will be 3 stars. If you are a very crunch-savvy GM (or simply not concerned about balance) then consider this to be a full-blown recommendation; if balance matters to you, do yourself a favor and bear my warnings in mind. I thought long and hard, and while I really wanted to rate this higher, round up, etc., but I just can’t justify doing so. The book has too many serious and pronounced issues to warrant doing so. For me, as a person, it’s a good book that inspired me to flex my design muscles, but as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can only recommend this with reservations and very pronounced caveats.

As an aside: One of the authors has expressed a desire to revisit this series at one point. I’d LOVE to see that. Arcforge is one of those frustratingly-rough books that really shows potential, and this holds true for this second part here as well. Now, the first book and this one were probably part of an original document, split in production; the following installments were not, so I’m looking forward to seeing how/if they improved upon the lessons learned here and engines crafted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arcforge: Psibertech
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Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/31/2020 03:35:01

This is a pretty well thought out and balanced book with enough options to make pretty much any kind of kineticist you want. The risk reward of accepting burn in this book is much MUCH better, it's still punishing but doesn't make your character useless. Which this is the biggest issue the kineticist had in 1e. Before going too deep this is definetly worth double the price they are asking. There are just a few issues.

As with many releases this does have a number of typos, and the electricity kineticist is absent from the elemental defense feature at level 17, I assumed that following the pattern set by the other elements it is an upgrade from the 5th level elemental defense bringing reflex to legendary. Otherwise the typos aren't too distracting, and are easy to understand what was meant.

There are two main balancing issues that I can see, the extended range (1st level), and extreme range(4th level) feel a bit too low level, extended range changes your blasts from a range of 30ft to a range of 120ft or 300ft with air blast, extreme gives you 500ft or 1000ft with air blast. Those are very big jumps for such a low level requirement. I would add one more range feat to set it at 60ft, start the feat tree at 4th level, 8th level, 12th level.

The other balancing issue I can see, which is both a small and big one, is Kinetic Revivification (14th level), when you heal a creature with kinetic healing you remove their wounded value. This is very powerful, though you need to go down the specific choices to get there, and you can only cast kinetic healing so many times as a focus spell. Having it lower the wounded value by 1 or 2 would be fine or having the target be bolstered to the effect for 24 hours would balance it out, but completely removing it messes with the threat of death in your game. I know this won't be seen as an issue in everyone's gaming group, but I'm just putting it out there.

My last and final issue is that all but one of the highest tier of infusions are for fire and force, the only other one being aether, air, water. There isn't one for all of the types, and there are 4 or 5 elements that just don't get one at the highest tier. Now there are still a huge selection of infusions, but I am just a bit disappointed that the last set you get which only has 4 options is pretty much just for fire and force. I understand that most people will play a pyro, but I like making electrokineticists and cryokineticists. This is just a minor gripe though.

As for what I loved, the options really play into the feel of the elements, with a class feat for each element a few general class feats and some mixed element feats for every level. There are multiple ways to do the same thing with different elements so you almost never feel locked out of a certain kind of build based on your element. The capstones feel like capstones, with things like using your lightning to teleport to anywhere you can see by transforming yourself into a lightning bolt, or creating a tidal wave hitting all creatures near a shoreline 5 miles wide and 1 mile inland with your water blast damage or you can just flood the area over 10 minutes and deal no damage if you want.

This is an excellent product, and I am very excited to incorporate it into my gaming group, I know I didn't gush over it as much as it deserves, but it's a big book and I complained about maybe one page worth of things.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
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Vast Kaviya
by Justin H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2020 15:45:31

I love this product. The quality and work that went into is superb. If you like low magic gritty and serious campaigns, this product is for you. They do a great job of helping reinforce the primitive setting with weapons made out of bones and antlers. The races and classes are flavorful and well thought out. Highly recommend.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vast Kaviya
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Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
by Matthew C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2020 21:47:51
The Book of Exalted Darkness and The Book of Celestial Heroes are two books by Legendary Games set in a setting called Askis. I’ll be reviewing the core setting, and the two books seperately. I played two campaigns side-by side for both books from levels 1-20: an evil party and a good party, with both campaigns being linked and in competition with each other. To be more precise, I’m 98% done-I’m about two sessions short of finishing it as of this writing.

I will warn that I used a lot of homebrew and I modified the setting of Askis to be a planet in my own spelljammer-esque setting (the campaigns took place entirely on Askis, but interstellar politics did affect the storyline). Note that this is also a full-spoiler review intended for DMs, so beware. -Matthew Campbell

The Setting of Askis: To my understanding, the train of thought that led to the publication of Askis is attempting to create a setting that’d be great for an evil campaign. The premise they went with was a world run by the forces of good, in essence an inversion of the premise of settings like Tyranny’s Territus. This is a “post-campaign” world of sorts: imagine a world where your typical good-aligned party has had a campaign all the way to level 20 and succeeded in their goals masterfully. In essence, Askis is a divine magic version of Ebberon. Whereas Ebberon has undergone and industrial revolution due to arcane magitech, Askis has undergone an industrial revolution due to divinely-powered magitech. They’ve discovered a resource called “Inaequa” which is a sort of holy-fuel. Machines powered by it only work in the hands of good-aligned creatures. This has caused the planet to become a sort of utopia where the forces of evil have been pushed back. The world is now run by demigod-like, level 20 adventurers. The utopian government is dependent upon 9 “spheres” (holy gifts of sorts, virtually none of which are sphere-shaped). BoED asks the party to destroy these spheres, and the BoCH asks them to save them. Personally, I feel they should have capitalized on a sort of magic-versus-science war. The mechanics presented even sort of represent this: They introduce the good-specific Inaequa technology, while also introducing an evil-specific magic school. Unfortunately, they instead have the primary forces of evil be mad scientists, and don’t have many technology themed heroes. This is a rather sad missed opportunity. It also creates a little bit of a headscratcher: if technology is powered by Inaequa...just what are the mad scientists using? Admittedly this question is easy to headcanon around (likely arcane artifice or mundane technology like batteries). If I had it to do over again, I’d probably have reflavored the mad scientists as wizards. One of the evil players-a druid-did play the sort of character I had in mind: A fanatical luddite trying to bring down the industrial system. The concept of Inaequa is very cool, to the point that I wish it was in more settings. I’d encourage-even beg-DMs to include Inaequa engineering as a sort of divine counterpart to Artifice if they have artificers in their setting, even if they’re not planning on playing in Askis. It’s the real killer app of this setting. It’s also perhaps a shame-if one completely outside of its creator’s control-that both books were released long before Ebberon: Rising from The Last War, as there’s a lot it could have benefited from (well, if not for copyright reasons anyways). I’d suggest reading ERTLW and including stuff like The Warforged and The Artificer class. Indeed, it’s also a shame there isn’t an Artificer subclass for Inaequa, though admittedly the Battlesmith works pretty well for this (just replace force damage with radiant), as does Jonoman3000’s Lightslinger. The Greasemonkey’s Handbook is also a great companion to this setting, as Inaequa-powered ATUMs would be epic.

The Book of Exalted Darkness: The Book of Exalted Darkness is a spiritual successor to The Book of Vile Darkness, both a guide to running an evil campaign in general, and a guide to playing evil campaigns in general. As a setting for an evil campaign, Askis works pretty well. It’s a setting run by a monolithic force of good, which makes the villains underdogs. You might not root for them per se, but you can at least admire their valor. Similarly, it creates a setting where evil can plausibly be a happy family-they need to work together, because their enemies are very strong. Evil is a cause the villains intend to fight for. Keep in mind, though, while The BoED doesn’t “force” anything per se, and staunchly condemns virtually everything it depicts (it is an evil handbook, after all), it seems to anticipate the PCs being very evil, which can be a bit of an issue if people would rather play more Bowser or Doofenshmirtz-esque villains (though admittedly, less gratuitous forms of evil are pretty easy to play with the stuff you find in the PHB). My evil party got pretty odd, as some players wanted to play cartoony-villains while others wanted to play more realistic terrorists. The party ended up being a bit like what would happen if Jessie and James teamed up with Pol Pot. For example, the sample starting adventure it gives, Killing The Golden Twins, essentially depicts the players committing a school shooting (more specifically, they’re sent to assassinate two specific teenagers while they’re at school). The book does remind the DM that it depicts some rather uncomfortable topics, and the book in general does a good job warning them to make damn well sure the players know what they’re getting into when running an evil campaign. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer an alternative adventure or suggestions for alterations, so you’re stuck either with this one or making up your own. For what it’s worth, my players did give me permission to run this adventure (which I told them involved going to a high school to kill two teenagers), though they didn’t quite seem to realize what they were emulating. They ran into the school literally guns blazing, killing security staff, then were a bit taken aback (not angry or anything, mind you) when it dawned on them they were, well, shooting up a school. Everyone agreed to not kill any students except the twins. For an alternative starting adventure, I’d probably suggest something along the lines of kidnapping a princess. It’s cliche, sure, but I’d argue that’s often a good trait for a starting adventure to have. Plus, I’d argue starting adventures should be a bit more light-hearted, and then bring down the heavier stuff later (especially for ‘wham episodes’, if you will). This is true even for evil parties, have them start out more ‘harmless villains’ then get them to commit increasingly darker acts.

The other big elephant in the room to consider is The Divine Biologis, or “The Divine Virus'' as I tended to call it. This is one of the spherse of Askis, a disease that remains dormant in a person for a period of time and activates if the person commits sexual assault or rape, in which case it turns them into a sort of good lycanthrope called a Divirulent Hound. It’s an interesting quandry to be sure, and there’s even some non-evil reasons to want to destroy it (the government sponsoring the existence of a bioweapon is rather creepy). Having said that, the most obvious reason, especially for card-carrying villains, is being pro-rape in some manner. Obviously, not everyone would be overly comfortable with playing that sort of character, even in context. I’d also argue a card-carrying, mustache-twirling villain who drew the line at rape would actually love the divine virus: It not only deals with a form of evil even they reject, it does so in one of the most mustache-twirling ways possible. There’s no strict obligation to actually destroy it, mind you, but it does feel odd to not destroy one of the spheres if they’re going for a completionist run of sorts. Personally, here’s my recommendation: don’t have the virus be a latent disease or connected to sexual assault directly. Instead, have it be a sort of good counterpart to traditional lycanthropy: the Divirulent Hounds are pseudo-werewolves that exclusively hunt down and infect evil humanoids. While Askis is a great setting for an evil campaign, they do cheat a bit in two ways: some of The Celestial Heroes are secretly evil, and Inaequa itself is actually secretly damaging Askis and needs to be destroyed in order to save it. I’m not overly fond of either twist, personally. I consider it bad form when using a villain protagonist (or villain protagonists, as it were) to make their antagonist a hero who is secretly evil or a "Designated Hero" as TV Tropes would call it. It undermines the point of an evil-perspective story by turning it essentially into another form of good-perspective story. In truth, I’d actually encourage the DM to give the enemies they fight moral victories of sorts-the enemies might die off in droves, but let them die heroically. My players, at least, liked it when that sort of thing happened.

Plus, a lot of villains are portrayed as believing the forces of good are secretly just as bad as they are, and they’re more moral for admitting it. I could see Quickfoot and the like confirming this worldview. Personally, I think this is a stupid worldview and I don’t think giving it any sort of confirmation is wise, even here. Even if its premises are true (they aren’t), shamelessly admitting that you’re evil does not make you better, it makes you worse. With Inaequa specifically, one of the more interesting things about it is that it-and the effects it has on society-can be pretty unnerving in a way, but it’s not actually evil per se, even when you think about it. For example, one could argue it harms free will, but does it? It’s not like it’s a mind control device. It simply stacks the deck in favor of good. It’s enough of a quandary that giving it a dark secret makes it less interesting. This is true of Askis’s society in general: In many ways, it’s a rather creepy and dystopian society if you’re an evil person, but that doesn’t mean the society is evil.

The real meat of the book is the new mechanics and subclasses added. It adds two new ability scores: Sin and Sanctity. Sin represents how evil you are in a sense, while sanctity represents how good you are at pretending to be good to magic items and the like. For example, sin lets you corrupt Inaequa devices, while sanctity lets you use them despite being evil.

Personally, I did not use these scores (roll20 doesn’t support them), but I do like them. If you decide to not use them, however, the trick I found was to use wisdom in place of sanctity and charisma in place of sin whenever the rules call for a sin or sanctity check. Wisdom here represents “the ability to suppress evil thoughts in order to trick alignment-detecting magic” and Charisma represents “your overwhelming hatred and will”. One class it introduces is The Mad Scientist. Mechanically, it’s very similar to a Warlock, though I think it’s a bit better. Not a bad angle to take it, since the Warlock is all about ‘blasting’, but I will recommend The Artificer class over it. There are also some prestige classes, but I never did look at them.

Regarding the subclasses, I’ll express my opinions on some of them in order:

The Abyssal/Infernal Domain: Fiend-worshipping clerics are practically something that should have been in the base game. So uh, good job. Circle of Necrobotony: A logical place to take an evil druid, though it does overlap quite a bit with The Circle of Spores. Gruesome Salvager: Basically it’s a ranger that cuts off other creature’s body-parts and grafts them onto itself. That’s awesome. Gray Knight Warlock Patron: Basically, if Mordenkainen was a Warlock rather than a Wizard, this guy would be his patron. Has a lot of anti-magic powers, which fits the flavor pretty well. Gray Druid: Older edition druids who like to maintain the balance of good and evil. A small issue with it and the Gray Knight is that this setting doesn’t really give a ton of room for neutral characters. Masquerading Heretic: Basically if you want to pretend to be good, this is the class for you. It gives mechanics to fool magic and the like that detects alignment. Warrior of Darkness: Making an evil-flavored fighter must not have been easy. This one mostly works, for the record, though it is a little complicated. Essentially, it scars itself. The Meat Patron: The Warlock’s flavor is the one that best lends itself to evil and general spookiness. The Meat Patron has a lot of competition, but it manages to rise above and beyond by being an inner voice of the warlock that drives them to eat human flesh. Uh, yeah, that’s pretty creepy. Even the description is creepy. Vile Magic Wizard: To be perfectly clear, if nothing else, this is the reason why you should buy this book. Or, more specifically, the Vile Magic School. Initially, I assumed that necromancy covered evil wizards, but this manages to be distinct while being at least as evil. My favorites are blood bullet, blood spear, and savage break. Savage break lets you rip a bone out of somebody and then toss it at someone else, and Blood Bullet lets you use your blood as a projectile. Plus, every spellcasting class can learn Vile Magic, which is amazing. Sadly, my players seldom used it, but it’s something you can throw at good-aligned PCs to great effect.

The Book of Celestial Heroes The Book of Exalted Darkness created a setting that’s pretty cool, and as such, it made sense to make a book for more conventional heroes in it. As a setting for a good party, it mostly works. However, I would make a couple changes. For example, the book says that there is little unexplored wilderness. Personally, I would change this: have it so there are a lot of ruins of the world from before the Utopian Dawn, and many regions of wilderness, especially in the Samovi continent. Samovi, incidentally, is also a great place to put dinosaurs (something every campaign setting should have). The reason being to give them something to fight despite the utopian world. Not every danger is necessarily ‘evil’ as we know it. It might also be utopian in the cities, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t small amounts of evil or danger beyond. The book implements new subclasses, but sadly no druid or warlock (aside from the ‘grey’ ones that are also in the BoED). This is especially a shame for The Warlock, as The Warlock is the class that most needs a ‘holy’ subclass. The good news is: if you happen to own Xanathar’s Guide, you can use The Celestial Warlock Patron and The Circle of Dreams. As for other subclasses:

Holy Spirit Primal Path: Basically, you get possessed by angels while raging. I had overlooked this one while playing, but now that I’m re-reading it, I kind of love the flavor of that. College of The Celestial Song: Basically, it’s a worship leader. I’m very glad this exists, as the angel playing a harp sort of deal is a great way to take a bard. Oath of The Angelic Warrior: Y’know, when I heard they were making a Paladin subclass, I was worried. A ‘holy’ or ‘good’ themed Paladin is incredibly redundant. Luckily, they pulled it off in the form of the Angelic Warrior. Basically, you Paladin so hard, you actually gain angelic organs. Inquisitor Ranger: A ranger that hunts down evil creatures. If you’re expecting to fight evil, then this is a great class to have. It is a bit overpowered, though, so I might suggest make its Champion Against Evil feature a once-per-day deal. Samaritan Rogue: I once was in a campaign where this guy played a rogue who was a good natured, pacifistic kid guile-hero. This is the subclass I wish the DM had let him play. Holy Arcane Tradition: The Holy Magic School has a few issues. The first one is the name. “Holy” magic implies divine magic, which isn’t necessarily how it works. I’d suggest changing the name to ‘Exalted’ magic or something. The other thing is simply that there aren’t as many cool new spells here, and not every class can learn every Holy spell. There are two stand-out spells, however: Lance of Light, and Holy Hand Grenade. That last one’s spell text is the best thing ever.

Of course, the coolest thing in Askis is the Inaequa. As with Vile Magic for the BoED, This is the main reason, in my opinion, to buy this book. Again, I recommend DMs consider putting Inaequa as a sort of variation of Artifice in their games even if they’re not in Askis and make Inaequa weapons special magic items. Still, not every DM is liable to follow that advice, which is a shame. In any event, here are the Inaequa subclasses:

Inaequa Inventor: A good counterpart to the Mad Scientist using Inaequa goodies. I’m mildly disappointed it focuses on healing-I’d rather it had focused on radiant blasting, but it can do that too. Besides, most classes need a healer subclass. Apparently, playing with Inaequa devices requires one to follow a lot of bureaucratic rules and dodge a lot of red tape, but Inaequa Inventors are so intelligent-and perhaps crazy-that they can actually read, understand, and follow EULA agreements. College of Inaequa Tinkering: Essentially, these are people who would be Inaequa Inventors, but bend the rules of their EULA too much. Their more dangerous methods of experimenting cause them to be sent to a special college instead. I will say it’s a little odd to have a charisma-based technologist class in this context, but it works I suppose as something between an Inaequa Inventor and the Deviant Technologist below. The Deviant Technologist: These folk tinker with Inaequa so much that they’re basically shunned from all academic institutions. Apparently, Askis takes EULA agreements very seriously. I’m not 100% sure why Askis doesn’t want people playing with Inaequa. I mean, I suppose corrupted Inaequa devices can blow up in your face, though that’s solvable with the proper training. Tucker Quickfoot might be the answer. Inaequateer Ranger: I accidentally named this one when I proposed the name ‘Inaequateer’ at some point while looking over playtest material to its creators. And I didn’t even get my name in the credits, tsk tsk (just kidding). I was actually proposing it as the name of what would become the Inaequa Inventor, if I recall, but it works well for the Inaequa Ranger too. Anyways, The Inaequateer is a warrior who specializes in Inaequa weaponry. Personally, I would have went for a fighter subclass for this, but Ranger works quite well too, especially since you’ll mostly be using guns in all likelihood.

Probably my biggest issue with Inaequa weapons is that virtually none of them can kill, or even bring an opponent down to zero hit points, unless you take a certain feat. This might not sound like too big a deal, but it is enough that a lot of my players stayed away from Inaequa weapons until the the late-game.

The book also has two classes, The Exemplar and The Feywalker. Regarding Exemplar: At first glance, I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of The Exemplar is. It appears to be a cross between a fighter and a paladin. I suspect it could work if you wanted a superhero class, which is admittedly something I’ve wanted. That isn’t to say it’s bad, I just am not sure why it exists. Feywalker: You get a fairy godparent, essentially. While I’m having a little trouble nailing down its precise identity, it does do much better than the Exemplar in that regard. They’re a martial class that gains a bond with either Fey, Beasts, or Plants and gets a companion in the process. Apparently, it’s supposed to be somewhere between a druid and a Warlock.

Oh, one quick sidenote: Having some of the celestial heroes be secretly evil actually works for The Book of Celestial Heroes. I still am not overly fond of Inaequa destroying the world (since it means you have to destroy it, getting rid of something that makes the setting very unique), but it does fit the themes here much better. Having it turn out that some of The Celestial Heroes are evil also works great and can be a nice conspiracy to uncover, especially since they’re the people they work for. This could be something almost Deus Ex-like. I attempted to subvert this, personally: I decided early on Inaequa and the Celestial Heroes were actually quite good, but I did have Mordenkainen show up to the Good Party to try to persuade them that The Celestial Heroes had a great evil within them and that Inaequa was destroying the world (these claims were untrue in my version of the setting, though Mordenkainen believed them). However, the more good-leaning characters saw through it and the more mercenary characters simply didn’t care. A bounty hunter PC attacked Mordenkainem mid-sentence and a difficult fight ensued, which (impressively) they won.

Overall: The two main features of either books are Vile Magic and Inaequa, both are things I do love.Having said that, there are a few things that are superfluous (like the Exemplar class), better done elsewhere (like the Mad Scientist class), and some stuff that’s just rough around the edges mechanically. Personally, I would recommend it pretty strongly, but do be prepared to put in some work to smooth things out. If you like Ebberon, you’ll like the Askis setting. The Vile Magic from Exalted Darkness is useful even if you aren’t running an evil campaign (you can hand it to your NPC villains). Honestly, I wish the setting had more people talking about it. I could see it really taking off, especially if people tried making their own homebrew and stuff for it. I’m expecting to miss this world, too, and almost wish to run this campaign again. Admittedly, though, that’s in large part because I grew quite a bit as a DM and now have a more solid idea of what I want to do with the setting and my own. If I had a new group of players, I’d probably give another swing at it.



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Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
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