Apart from being a roleplayer and like many gamers, I’m an avid fan of Anime, and one of my favorites is Saint Seiya, known in my country as Knights of the Zodiac, so when I heard the author of Akashic Mysteries and Akashic Trinity was working on a new akashic class inspired by the Zodiac, I was intrigued. But how was the result? Read on!
32 pages of beautifully illustrated raw content, which include:
-The Zodiac base Class, with the BAB, HD and STs and proficiencies of a cleric but with 4 skill points, and the Essence progressions of a Guru (that is, 1 point per level). The class’ main ability is Constellations, a suite of abilities that lets the Zodiac summon something based on one of the twelve Greek zodiac signs by getting unrecoverable essence burn (of course, as long as the summon exists). Each constellation has at least two forms from four: Armor (a suit of armor that is auto-enhanced by a +1 bonus per each even level that can be changed), Champion (an actual summoned creature), Equipment (an actual temporary magical item that, unlike veils, does use up the slot) or Weapon (again, auto-enhanced). The signs are divided in 4 elemental groups, each group allied and opposed to another element, and the Zodiac gains a bonus the more summons of one element (later allied too) he has. Oh, and every summon can be enhanced as an essence receptacle too!
Apart from this special akashic abilities, the Zodiac comes in two very, very different flavors. At first level, the Zodiac has to choose between being a mystical Lunar, specialized in summoning Champions and getting potent veilweaving abilities (with a non-standard chakra bind progression, getting the up to six feats from the Access Chakra line, two from each tier) plus enough extra essence to surpass even the Vizier!, or a warlike Solar, who gets improved proficiencies (heavy armor plus martial weapons), and gets to use its class level as BAB for attacks using their Constellation arms and for feat prerequisites, plus getting enough bonus feats (one every even level from the Combat, Akashic and Teamwork feats) to make the Fighter jealous.
Apart from these abilities, the Zodiac gets improved essence capacity like every other akashic class, improved synergy when summoning Constellations from the same elements (plus allied later), an ability similar to an action point from the old d20 Modern systems (damn, Modern has become the new old), adding a 1d6 to a roll after rolling but before learning the result, improving the die to d8 and later to d10. Finally, each specialty has its own powerful capstone.
-Twelve Constellations based on the Greek zodiac. As I mentioned, there are 12 signs divided in 4 elemental groups, with each having 3 signs. Each sign has 2 or 3 possible forms of summoning, each element but water getting 2 signs with 2 abilities, and Air, Earth and Fire getting one sign with 3 abilities. All signs but The Scales have a Champion Form, 9 have an Equipment form, 5 a Weapon form and only 2 an Armor form, giving a grand total of 27 different abilities, all accessible to all Zodiac. However, the Zodiac has to pay in Essence burn, with the Champion form of the Waterbearer being the most expensive, using a whopping 12 Essence!
-17 veils, with many repeated from Akashic Mysteries, counting 7 new veils and most with an elemental or stellar feel.
-3 archetypes, one for Fighters specialized in the new Perihelion Pauldrons, one for Cavaliers that mount champions of the Constellations and later can summon their other forms, and finally one for Wizards, who replaces School and all bonus feats for mastery of energy types and the Aurora Lenses.
-12 Feats, of which 7 are brand-new and 5 are reprints. From the new, we get 2 Astrologist feats to dabble in Constellations, 3 that offer more combat options, each one inspired by Chess, a Expanded Veilweaving for those that want to manifest more than one veil when dabbling into akasha and a combat feat that depends on the first and second section.
-4 akashic traits, being equipment, combat, magic or social the categories of each.
-11 favored class bonus for the core and plane-touched races. In a by-now typical Sayre fashion, this includes the role of Zodiacs in the communities along the mechanical bonus.
-Stats for 10 of the champions, excluding only the elven ranger champion of The Archer constellation, which is really, really handy!
Of Note: The class itself is really inspired! The two flavors of Zodiac are very different and make me wonder if a third is possible. The whole idea of an akashic class sans veils is something that has intrigued me since the Incarnum days, and with the Solar Zodiac, my wish has been fulfilled. And the Lunar makes for a wonderful summoner replacement in an akashic-only campaign.
Anything wrong?: The class feels a tad strong. Lunars get more essence than Viziers, and Solars get almost as many bonus feats as fighters, on top of the possibility of having powerful custom weapons and armor, changeable on a daily basis! Also, the Constellations feel a bit unbalanced among the elements:
-Fire has 1 armor, 2 weapons, 1 equipment and 3 champions
-Earth has 1 weapon, 3 champions and 3 equipment, but no armor
-Water has 1 armor, 2 equipment, and3 champions, but no weapon and getting only six abilities!
-Air has 2 weapons, 3 equipment and 2 champions, but again no armor!
Having no water weapons is especially grating, since under the Undine FCB section it mentions, and I quote: “Add 1 point of cold damage with the weapon form of a water element constellation…” But this has been fixed with the introduction of newer cosmologies.
Only Fire has both weapon and armor, feeling the best element for Solar Zodiacs. I wouldn’t mind, but man, Earth has no armor? I would change one of the equipment of earth for an armor, and just plainly add a weapon to one of the water constellations. I would have loved if each element specialized in one of the summoned forms, maybe fire for weapons, earth for armors, air for equipment and water for champions, and being weaker in their opposed specialty. This way, fire wouldn’t have armors etc. This are just random thoughts, however, but please, at least add one weapon to the water constellations (an harpoon for the fish? Or maybe a net or trident, or both?), or change the FCB entry for poor Undines LOL! Speaking of favored bonuses, Orcs get a full +1 damage when using constellation weapons, which not only tops all the elemental races’ FCB, it tops other classes’ abilities, like the Swashbuckler, but as a FCB! If a FCB is supposed to be 1/6 of a feat, weapon specialization gives you +2, so I would tone it down to 1/3 of damage, maybe ½ since the base constellation weapons are not that strong.
Finally, there are many white spaces, and for some strange reason the License section at the end of the book is HUGE, like 4 pages! For a “40” page release, this is not what I expected. This, on top of the repeated material, really lowers the bang for your bucks. I mean, why do they mention the Cave Fisher or the Axe Beak from the Tome of Horrors? Don’t want to sound rude but, something tells me there was a problem with this section that no one saw, maybe copy paste? The last Akashic release had only one page for all this info! This is disheartening because the book’s art and layout is effing gorgeous!
What I want: a high level feat that gives you access to the 13th constellation, the snake, who may have the four types of summon and might be counted as allied to all the elements but opposed to none, with maybe sonic damage as its bonus... but I’m rambling. Apart from this, a wholly Eastern themed Zodiac with the Chinese signs as their constellations, using wisdom and monk weapons instead of charisma and martial… I have to get this idea to the lab like, right now!
What cool things did this inspire?: A SOLAR ZODIAC DRESSED IN THE FULL PLATE ARMOR OF THE CRAB, ARMED WITH THE FLAIL OF THE SCALES, AND YELLING SPECIAL ATTACKS ANIME-STYLE. Well, I’m a big fan of Saint Seiya after all. And the ability to dabble in constellations is really nice for other akashic users, and I will surely take some of this feats to have a champion fight at my side.
Do I recommend it?: Well… If you don’t have any of the Akashic material out there yes. If you are a huge fan of Akashic magic and don’t mind some repeated material then HELL YES! If you are lukewarm and on the fence, especially for the repeated material, then I have to say “maybe”. I will give this book 4 stars, because even if I really liked the new material and consider it 5 stars material, I have to take one off because of the problems I mentioned. If the white spaces were filled with more constellation goodness (at least a water weapon LOL) or even a sample character, I would forget the problem and give the full 5 stars plus a high 5 to the authors.
So, Hall Kennette is a prolific author that has been kind of focusing on Akashic magic supplements. He has made several new classes, with the Stormbound and the Volur being the most prominent. In this book by Lost Spheres Publishing, he presents us a new akashic class, the Promethean. Is it as good as the Volur? Let’s see!
What’s inside?: Not counting covers, table of contents and legal stuff, 48 pages for 9 bucks, which includes:
-Introduction: Here the author talks about one of the areas not really explored in akashic magic before, basically talking about Lovecraft-y kind of occult and alien stuff. Great way to start the book!
-Promethean Base Class: Before I get into the class, the name comes from the titan Prometheus, who gave the forbidden knowledge of how to use fire to humans, which is a nice name for a class themed around occult knowledge.
Anyway, the Promethean is a veilweaving class, with a cleric-like chassis (medium BAB/d8 HD, good Fort and Will saves, simple weapons and light armor proficiencies, plus bucklers), with 2 skill points to fuel 20 class skills. They have 3 main abilities.
Veilweaving: Promethean have strong intelligence-based veilweaving abilities (good, since most recent veilweavers have defaulted to charisma), going from 1 to 8 veils shaped during their progression and having all 10 binds (one at every even level); they have their own veil list which includes veils for all 10 slots, even if some slots have only a few options; their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of akashic classes. To empower these veils, the Promethean gets 1 point of essence per odd level, and 2 each even level, ending with the same essence of a Vizier but getting more at lower levels. It is worth mentioning that their veilweaving is not their only class feature that depends on essence, the other being Forbidden Knowledge (read below).
Promethean Obsession: The “archetype” of the class, each obsession grants the Promethean an ability at levels 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, 17th and 20th levels. 4 are included in this book (in its own section after the rest of the class is presented). Adaptationists can mutate their forms to have natural weapons chosen from a big list, they fight and endure like a warrior class, and get some “adaptations”, which are unique talents of the subclass that makes the character evolve. Doppelgängers are shapechangers who can sneak attack (up to +7d6), steal faces from corpses and making them unidentifiable, consuming bodies of corporeal creatures and even undead and gaining some of their abilities, to the point where they get to wear what their victims were wearing! Their shapechanging abilities improve, gaining more abilities of the chosen form and being able to become bigger or smaller (up to huge and diminutive), and startling those whose shape they have taken. My favorite obsession from a player perspective!
Fleshsculpters might sound similar to the previous two, but whereas the Adaptationists mutates and the Doppelgänger shapechanges, these mofos instead disfigure and impair those who they touch! They gain a melee touch attack as a standard action that deals 1d6 per Promethean level of supernatural, irreducible damage, that also has a rider effect if the victim fails a save, for 1 round plus 1 more for every 2 levels. The penalties are varied, and increase every few levels, to the point where the victim can get, as an example, up to -5 to attacks or AC after a failed Will save. This are curse effects, and while they don’t stack with themselves, the Promethean can apply different penalties each time they use this ability against the same target. They can also use fleshsculpting to buff their allies. At the start of each day, they can sculpt their flesh to give them a special ability from a long list. Later levels unlock more abilities, and they can give their allies more than one, or even make changes permanent! And at 20th level, those they fleshshape permanently become immortal! Since permanent fleshsculpting has a monetary cost, rules for buying such enhancements are given, which is beyond cool, and it also includes the possibility to buy temporary fleshsculpting. While not my favorite, this subclass opens up tons of possibilities and has incredible world-building potential!
We end the subclasses with the Thoughthunter. Like the others, they have a base offensive ability where their arms become a mass of tendrils, which they can use to attack and grapple and even mentally damage those grappled by their tendrils. They can also hear the surface thoughts of those near them, and by concentrating they can focus on the thoughts of one creature. Later levels warp your mind in a way that it makes them more difficult to attack mentally, and those who try to read their minds get damaged. Later levels improve both abilities, but at 17th they become an illithid-lite, having to consume the brains of sentient beings to survive. Eating a brain gives them access to some of the owner’s memories and knowledge, unless the creature was immune to mind-affecting effects.
Forbidden Knowledge: The final ability of Prometheans is a kind of class talent gained at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 18th levels, chosen from a list of 11. Almost all of them are essence receptacles, and some of them include up to 10 points of essence empowerment! Also, some have side effects. As an example of some of them, Abundance of Eyes makes them grow numerous eyes throughout their body, making them more difficult to flank and also getting bonuses to Perception and Sense Motive checks, which are increased with essence. Glimpsed the Infinite burns their eyes, but lets them see clearly within 30 ft (more with essence), and every point of essence increasing what you can see, from magical auras, to alignments, to intents and finishing with a kind of x-ray vision. Seeds of Life lets them prepare a vessel similar to the clone spell. I didn’t find a single useless one, nor did I find a must have, which is difficult from a design perspective.
All in all, the Promethean is a weird, dark veilweaving class that will work wonders in the hands of both players and Game Masters.
-3 new feats: Esotery Sculptor is open only to Fleshsculptors, improving their damaging touch and also opening magic-item crafting. Essence-honed Flesh is useful for those who fight unarmed or with natural weapons, can give enhancement bonuses to both with essence, but has its own, unique maximum essence capacity of up to +5, so it is great for low level Gurus, essence-using Druids and of course the Adaptationist Promethean.
-3 magical items: Cloning Vat is an item that improves the Clone spell and the Seeds of Life forbidden knowledge. Elixir of Fleshsculpting come in many prices, and each tier can change or enhance the imbiber in different ways, all tied to the Fleshsculptor obsession. Finally, Forbidden Tome is an item that can improve your Forbidden Knowledge class feature as if it had more essence invested (up to +3), and you can benefit from more than one, but each affecting a different FK.
-Veilweaving: This section gives you the basics of veilweaving, which almost lets you use this book without Akashic Magic. There is no mention on suppressing veils though. However, it includes a new veil descriptor, Fleshwarp, that states some differences from other veils, mainly that they don’t act like supernatural abilities and more like extraordinary, which make them very difficult to affect.
-19 new veils: After the veilshaping section, new veils are unceremoniously spewed to the reader, which kind of feels thematically fitting to the book LOL. They come divided in several veil sets (though there is no mention if only these veils are in the sets), an important distinction since there are some abilities out there, most of them by the author, that deal with veil sets. Since there are too many, I will present the veil set and describe one of the veils:
Dreams of Power is a 3 veil set focused on dreams. Nightmare’s Eye is a headband veil that includes the [sleep] descriptor, which while I couldn’t find as a spell descriptor, is useful to have and know that elves are probably immune to it. Anyway, it lets you cloud the minds of those you focus on, making them drowsy for 2 rounds, with essence increasing the duration, and the creature can even fall asleep. The headband bind damages those who fall asleep.
Shapes of the Primordial is a 5 veil set focused on changing the veilshaper’s form, so all the veils in the set have the new descriptor. Leaping Gait is a feet veil that improves your jumping, to the point of jumping so fast that only part of the distance counts towards your movement for the round.
Trappings of the Old Gods is a 5 veil set, with a Lovecraftiang myth theme. Embodiment of the Gate gives you the ability to project a 5 foot aura, and you can decide where you are in that aura for the purposes of your attacks and attacks of opportunity, and if you provoke an AoO, the attacker must succeed in a Will save to be able to attack you (not a fan of adding extra rolls, it would have been better to improve your AC). Essence increases both the Will DC and the aura’s area. Shoulder bind makes you aura difficult terrain, and you have the option to roll to see if you are there or not there, losing your action but becoming very difficult to hurt, and the body bind makes that mandatory (although you can still make AoO).
Warsculpter’s Menagerie is a 6 veil set, focused again in changing your chape, with all veils having the new descriptor, but this set makes you better at combat, with all of them open to the Promethean and Daevic classes (some of them are open to others too). Behemoth Flesh is a chest veil that makes you denser and thus have greater weight, but this gives you improved bullrushing and overrunning capabilities, to the point where you can hurt those affected by your maneuvers. Essence improves your density, becoming even more apt at said maneuvers and improving their damage. The Chest bind has a glitch, mentioning the body bind in the text (chest is mentioned in the veil and the veil bind name, but body is mentioned in the text); anyway, it makes you actually bigger, with size bonuses and all (+8 size bonus to strength? GREAT!)
Appendix: Here we can find information about the Dimension of Dreams, one of the new places added to the game in Occult Adventures. Another guest is the Fleshwarping item creation feat, coming from Horror Adventures, and coming with two sample items, also from the book mentioned. After this we have 7 pages of legal stuff, which after many books I have become immune to them LOL.
Of Note: The marrying of crunch and fluff is strong in this book, something that is missing from other akashic releases that feel more general. The class is very interesting, serving as a kind of dark reflection of other akashic classes.
Anything wrong?: Apart from some misspellings here and there, and glitches like the one in the last veil I described, some of the abilities feel really strong. Untyped damage should not be that common, even if it has some caveats.
What I want: More information of the class and its place in the world and uses of its rules. Secret societies, monsters, NPCs, more of everything! And maybe an anti-promethean organization!
What cool things did this inspire?: Imagine a less futuristic Cyberpunk-like setting, but instead of cybernetic enhancements, you get warped flesh… It sounds effin AWESOME! I would love to play/narrate a campaign like that! FLESHPUNK, HERE WE GO!
Do I recommend it?: This book is gross in the best possible way. Creepy veilweavers is something that akashic magic sorely needed, and here Mr. Kenneth delivers in spades. IMHO, this is the best book penned by the author to date! Even with all the problems mentioned, I think this book deserves no less than five lightless stars from this reviewer, plus a tentacly hi 5 to the author!
The Spellweaver is a new class by Lost Spheres Publishing, penned by Hal Kennette, one of the most prolific authors of akashic magic. But wait, the class is called Spellweaver, is it an arcane or an akashic class? Read on!
24 pages of content (not counting covers, ads etc.) for 9 bucks (it is 8 bucks right now), which include:
-The Spellweaver class: After a short fluffy intro we learn that akashic magic is like the grandparent of arcane magic, and spellweavers represent the midpoint between this evolution. The fluff is cool but might not fit in every campaign world, but of course being fluff it can be changed.
Anyway, Spellweaver is both a veilweavingand spellcasting class, with a magus-like chassis (medium BAB/d8 HD, good Ref and Will saves, simple and martial weapons and light and medium armor proficiencies, and can cast without incurring spell failure, ), 2 skill points for 14 skills (which include all knowledge ones, perception, and use magical device). A strong chassis if I may add.
If you were wondering why I wrote the obvious reference to the so-called "theurge" classes, it's because Spellweavers have modest intelligence-based veilweaving abilities and intelligence-based spellcasting. Their veilweaving goes from 2 to 6 veils shaped during their progression and having 6 flexible binds (similar to the Zodiac), and use the Vizier veil list... but they don't get the special Ring slot, so even if they have them in their list, they can't actually shape Ring veils. Anyway, apart from this little glitch, their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of akashic classes. To empower these veils, the Spellweaver gets 1 point of essence per level, like most Akashic classes out there.
Then there is their spellcasting, and it is... weird. While they get cantrips in the standard fashion, they don't have spell slots, and instead prepare up to one spell per level plus their Int modifier of the maximum level they can cast (including metamagicked ones), which are drawn from both the wizard and magus list (similar to the hunter), up to 7th level, and cast these spells by shattering their veils. Shattered veils are suppresed for 10 minutes! And any essence invested is burned and recovered when the veil reshapes! Talk about bold design! This makes the game of essence juggling even more difficult (I would add another exclamation mark but I might be overusing it! oh, sorry). Depending on the veil's chakra slot, it gives the spell a special bonus based on the amount of essence invested (hands for example gives a +1 to attack rolls per essence point, while body gives a +1 natural armor bonus per odd point in the veil).
Since they cast with their veils, these become harder than other veilweaver's. They also get combat casting and their improvements, plus some bonus feats. They can also autoheighten spells to their max level they can cast, and can apply metamagic on the fly, and they get some nifty bonuses when their veils and spell share a descriptor.
Finally, the Spellweaver includes 2 general Favored Class Bonuses for any character, plus TONS of support for many other (principally core, akashic, and 7 seraphs races), although some of these seem a bit too powerful (one that increases DC for certain spells with no mention of stacking with feats).
-3 Archetypes: Martial Spellweaver exchanges cantrips and bonus feats for some sphere of might progression. Psiweaver is the psionic version, having powers known from both psion and psychic warrior but not from disciplines (good call). Sphereweaver would be the full "champion" class that uses spheres of might and magic (wait, that sounds familiar), and spheres of Akasha. I guess you could extrapolate and make a divine and psychic spellweaver for even more ATs.
-1 magic item: Veilweaver beads, which basically lets you reshape a veil from a specific standard slot 1/d.
-1 feat: Elemental Spellweaving is a versatile feat that lets you change an spell's element by shattering a veil with a different elemental descriptor.
-25 spells: Fitting in a spellcaster book, these include spells that interact with veilweaving, something that was included in the Magic of Incarnum book but not in Akashic Magic. Make a character's essence to become uninvested, a version of antimagic shell that only works against akashic magic, max all essence receptacles of a character, create temporary veils, burn essence, brake or remake veils... lots of fun stuff. Interestingly, all 25 of the spells contained herein are available to all spellcasting classes, so everybody is invited to the party. Very useful if your game uses lots of veilweavers.
-3 new veils: Circlet of Magic Manipulation is a head/headband Vizier veil that lets you dispel magical effects and then use them against your enemies. Records of Akasha is a hands Vizier veil that gives you a powerful book where you can write anything and everytime you shape that veil, you can find the information you wrote bfore... it also works as a very powerful spellbook, which you can merge with one or more "mundane" ones; this could be problematic in the hands of a high level Vizier. Finally, Spellweaver's Spike is a wrists Vizier veil that gives you a short sword, and it will make Magi jealous, since it gives you a ghetto spellstrike! All in all, three powerful veils that are on the verge of OP, but since they are Vizier only (even if the Vizier list is used by other classes, including the more combat able spellweaver), I think they are ok.
-Veilweaving Section: This includes a more polished presentation of the section we have read in other Akashic magic books, including some semi-new stuff like the [enhanced] descriptor.
Of Note: The spellcasting engine and how it works with standard veilweaing is like giving a juggler some extra thinks to juggle, which will be many players' cup of tea. I know I would like to play a veiled faux-Magus!
Anything wrong?: Some of the stuff is damned strong. I would consider all interactions before allowing the side content, like the spells and veils.
What I want: A psychic and divine hacks!
What cool things did this inspire?: A full order of elven spellweavers that broke from bladesingers, or that are their ancestors, would be flavorful. Also, an evil necromancy-loving baddie would rock!
Do I recommend it?: Yes! The class look like a puzzle, like a challenge to play. Everything in this book ozees cool, even if it feels powerful. I will give it the full 5 spellwoven stars. Great work!
So, Hall Kennette is a prolific author that has been kind of focusing on Akashic magic supplements. Here, he teams with Christen N. Sowards under Lost Spheres Publishing for this book, which is like a crossover between Akashic magic and the Spheres system. Can they pull it off? Let’s see!
What’s inside?: not counting covers, index and legal section, 48 pages for almost 9 bucks, which include:
-The Sphereshaper base class (SS from now on):
This class inherits a lot from the vizier. It has the same proficiencies and class skills, along with the same BAB/HD, saves, essence progression, chakra binds, improved essence capacity, veilshifting and even part of the capstone ability, but gets less veils (6 at top level compared to 11).
They get an ability at first level called Akashic Affinity, which lets the SS choose one Mystic Attunement from those available to the vizier, or get a access to some veils outside its veil list, or a Mana bond ability which increases his MSB and MSD and gets some synergy with other casting classes and serves as an essence receptacle. Any of the abilities chosen progresses at the same levels as the Mystic Attunement of the vizier. Also at first level, they get another choosable ability called Mnemonic Insight, from 3 options: Arcane (which functions just like the Eldritch Insight vizier ability), Martial (counting as fighters for feats and getting a changeable Weapon Focus feat and some extras), or Spiritual (a domain, no spells but also works as an essence receptacle). It seems that you can change the choice every day, since in the cap ability it mentions that you can also change your Insight, but the description of the ability is cut. Finally at first level, they can use their veilweaver modifier and level for attacks, just like with weapon-like veils, but for also for any sphere talent.
The class also gets Sphereshaper’s Talent as a bonus feat at each even levels. What is that? I will mention it below. The class ends with half a page of favored class bonus for 31 races!
-24 Sphereshaper Veils: These are so different from standard veils that their special rules take a page. Basically, each veil grants you access to a specific Sphere and a talent, but not a package. If you want to progress in those spheres, there’s where the Sphereshaper’s Talent comes into play. When shaping veils for the day, you get to choose a talent from any of those granted by veils for every time you chose the feat. Wait, what? Yes, while I’m not an expert at the Spheres system, you get an unbelievable amount of customization, changeable each day. Since you don’t gain spellpoints or Martial Focus natively, you can BIND, not invest, a point of essence invested in this veil (which prevents reallocation for the day). With that chassis and the limitations of the veils, I think it is not unbalanced. However, I wouldn’t allow them as options for the Shape Veil feat.
The veils themselves have cool names and abilities. Choosing at random, Cernavog’s Blood Hunger grants you the Berserker sphere and lets you shape a powerful great axe that deal 3d6 for medium and gives you temporary hit points each time you hit a creature for the first time each round, stacking with themselves and those granted by the berserking ability, and when bound lets you track those damaged by the axe and add some bleed damage to the axe’s blows against them. Lich’s Grasp grants you access to the Death sphere, but the ghost strikes made are melee touch attacks, damage with negative energy and instead of healing, shaken undead creatures ignoring immunities; when bound, the ghost strike are treated as weapon attacks, allowing for multiple uses in a round.
-5 Archetypes: Aeshmic Daevic exchange their non-passion veilweaving, all chakra binds but body (ouch!) and almost half their essence to become a blended trained low-caster, gaining a sphere talent each level; intriguing! I would have tied the passions with specific spheres, but that is something I can do on my own. Sipahi Gurus lose a lot of non-philosophy abilities to become adept combatants, and they can invest their Martial Focus as if it was a special point of essence (or two or three at higher levels) that augments even the Sipahi’s essence capacity, really cool! These two archetypes are interesting, changing the Daevic into a more pally-like class, and grounding the Guru into a more physical combatant.
The next three archetypes are Veilweaver Sphere takes on each of the three original akashic classes. All classes lose their normal veilweaving and essence pool, and all but the Daevic also lose improved essence capacity (must be an oversight in the Daevic’s case), in exchange of becoming low, mid and high casters, although they use their class level as their caster level when determining effects from the veilweaver sphere, but not for prerequisites. As Sphere Casters, they start with two bonus talents and a casting tradition, and also gain the Veilweaving sphere (which normally gives you access to one veil, but not in this case) and their class’ Tradition advanced talent (which basically add all the class’ veil list to their known veils). So, how do they empower their veils without a class essence pool? They can condense and draw essence, by spending two spell points, they get a point of temporary essence that last until you recover your spell points, and you can burn this temporary essence to get a the same number of temporary spell points that last for 1 minute. They can also get bonus essence to their pools by taking essence talents (each giving a point of essence). Viziers also get a variant of their Eldritch Insight class feature and two special abilities: extra veils shaped during their careers (up to three) and being able to use their caster level as their BAB when using weapon-like veils and veils with the [enhanced] descriptor.
-New Class Options: Here we find a Sphere’s version of the Wrath passion (which changes the passion skills gained and adds some caveats to the other features), two 3-point specialization abilities for the Incanter (Might of the Speheres and Veilweaving), and two prodigy Imbue Sequences (Essence Burst and Essence Crash). In this section we also find two favored class options for all races and the three Veilweaving sphere classes: 1/6 of an akashic feat or 1/5 of a Veilweaving sphere talent.
-Two Prestige Classes variants: The two prestige classes from Akashic Mysteries get the sphere treatment. The Sphere Amplifier doesn’t require multiclassing, is a high caster and gains a talent every level, and DOES gain an essence pool. They can use a spell point to directly increase the power of matching veils (3 options possible). The Sphere Black Templar is a rework of the original to function under the Spheres system.
-Veilweaving Sphere: This sphere is ambitious. It tries to open all the possibilities of veilweaving to Sphere casters. It starts with an alternate Divination talent called Divine Akasha, but after that, there are pages after pages on how to integrate veilweaving to other sphere casters. Just by gaining the Veilweaving sphere, you get access to a single standard veil. After this, you get access to essence talents (which all give you a point of essence, like most akashic feats), bind talents (just the ability to bind veils, not the extra gained from the feats), and like in Spheres of Might, a lot of feat and class features were transformed into talents. Basically, you can build a mostly standard version of the akashic classes, or can go wild and either give them a lot of standard sphere magic, or give veilweaving to standard sphere casters.
-Akashic Magic and Veilweaving: This is the section where you find the all the basic information for veilweving and its interactions with magic. I would normally complain about yet another repetition of this section, but with the inclusion of the Sphereshaper, you could potentially play without any other book (although all of the archetypes). There are also some unusual interactions between veils and sphere talents, and that is a plus.
-5 Feats: Akasha-infused Sphere lets you infuse a talent with essence, working at a higher level. Destructive Essence increases the damage of the destruction sphere’s blast with “akashic” damage; it is not called as such but it has been appearing in the author’s works, so I will call it that. Essencebound Metamagic lets you give a specific effect a metamagic you know by binding essence, and while not said, it doesn’t follow the maximum essence capacity. Sphereshaper’s Talent is the Sphereshaper’s best friend, since it lets you wildcard tons of Sphere talents both of Power and/or Might. Wildform Chakra is the last one, improving your natural weapons when in another form gained from the Alteration sphere or the Transformation feat.
-Akashic Magic casting tradition: In the vein of other traditions, it includes magic type (akashic), casting ability modifier (any mental), 3 general drawbacks (akashic spells make each spell a veil, being able to sunder it, imbued power can be chosen twice and severely limits the targets of your magic, and magical signs) and 2 boons (essence empowerment lets you invest essence in it to gain a caster level bonus by burning that essence, which doesn’t start to recover until the effects ends; essence pool lets you chose up to 5 general drawback to get an essence pool). Not mentioned under the traditions, there are two Veilshaper sphere-specific drawbacks, one that impedes you to learn veils but grants you an essence talent (good if you want to empower spheres and the like with essence), and another that doesn’t let you convert spellpoints into essence.
The book ends with a conversion of Akashic Catalysts, and some other additional rules like the controversial Enhanced veils (although I really dig that you can use a veil as an implement), conversion of 7 veils from Akashic Mysteries into Enhanced veils, a section on descriptors (important for both veils and sphere magic), and the inclusion of the Eldritch Insight vizier ability… and a w hopping, 12-pages-long legal section.
Of Note: The short fiction at the start of the book is really nice. The variety of characters you can makes by just the base class and the two first archetypes alone increases exponentially. I am a fan of the Sipahi and will make one ASAP! The sphere veils are really intriguing and worth exploring!
Anything wrong?: To be frank, the book has little content that can be considered new. I noticed a couple of glaring editing mistakes, and the legal section should be put in a Tag of Holding (TM).
What I want: I would have loved the Aeshmic to include passion traditions, and maybe change the class a bit more since the original passions, while cool, kind of shoehorn you character builds a little.
What cool things did this inspire?: A campaign centered around the Akashic Records and rebuilding the world and its magic after a cataclysm would rock!
Do I recommend it?: If you are a fan of the Spheres system to the point where it is the only magic system you use, then by all means. But if you wanted a synergy of akashic magic and spheres while maintaining them separate, then I would think about it. All in all, the authors took the monumental task of joining two of the most flexible alternate magic systems for PF1ed, and I dare to say, they succeeded. I will grade this 4 stars because of the editing mistakes.
This publisher in general and this release in particular is one of the reasons I love 3pp releases so much. Is it more effective than a core-rulebook fighter? Yes. And that is what I'm looking for with 3pp stuff. Not just more mechanically "effective" but something with a real feel and personality. The core stuff is the entry to the game and doesn't challenge the player or the DM too much. As it shouldn't. But with Braggart we get something crafted and imaginative that is going to make the GM think, make the player think. The character you can bring to the table with this is going to spark and shine. I want more releases like this, ones that inspire me to create memorable characters.
DM'ing for a highly optimized group, this class doesnt seem way out off line - if at all tame compared to some other options (i.e. Synthesis)
Its flavourfull and playes pretty solid cinematic (using techniques from CotP).
Nonetheless, it proved a ill suited concept for super optimized games, as most class features depend notonly on hitting, but hitting way above ac (which can be hard with i.e only having a 45% hit rate with its best attack or concealment). not triggering the Flair will impact the class Massivly.
the magic sphere using Archetype can clearly negate many of those problems by using selfimprovement sphere Effekts and can Provide the classes strenghts with greater ease.
all in all i like the class, though it can be unreliable At Times - in low optimized groups this class will most likely outperform most of the other martial core options, though most Systems do that if i'm honest.
The Braggart is a new practitioner class that uses the Spheres of Might system. For those who don't own that system, or aren't familiar with it, this book includes a selection of abilities and options from it so you don't need to buy Spheres of Might in order to make a viable character.
But your Braggart is going to be viable pretty much no matter what. The important thing to know about this product is that it's made for City of 7 Seraphs games, which tend to be significantly higher-powered than most Pathfinder games. For example, the Braggart essentially gains the Paladin's bonus to saving throws and the Monk's bonus to AC in one ability, and can later spread that to their allies. They can also duplicate and extend morale boosts, and there are some very powerful morale boosts in the game.
However, I don't actually agree that it's overpowered. I know experienced players who read the above statement are probably raising their eyebrow right now, but the Braggart is mainly a powerful martial combatant. Being really good at combat isn't the same kind of narrative power as a Wizard with 9th-level spells. It's still stronger than I'd suggest for most games because it could overshadow many other combat types, but it's not actually as game-breaking as it might look at first glance. Also, any GM allowing this should know what they're expecting and be adjusting things accordingly, so there's that.
That's the reason for my score here. It's stronger than other practitioner classes, but it's also intended for a high-power setting and actually is kind of appropriate for City of 7 Seraphs stuff. I can recommend it for high-power games, but not regular games. If you're looking for a strong combat class, this more than meets that criteria, especially if you have even a mild amount of system mastery. If you're looking for a flavorful class that's about the same power-wise as existing options, this is not the right choice.
Since the release of Sage, anything regarding Spheres of Power and Might has been, for the most part, looked at carefully to avoid repeating the mistakes of the class.
The Braggart and some of the new talents absolutely represent a leap in power floor that is grossly abhorrent.
From class features alone, the class comes swinging out of the gate with 25 talents over 20 levels alongside a slew of powerful class features. Some of which make a critical mistake of typing another stat, especially Charisma, to AC and saves (before allowing you to share that with your allies) let alone the fact that Flair as a mechanic rewards the already optimal method of stacking to-hit as high as possible. Furthermore, the class fails the infamous bag of helpless rats check regarding flair.
Should you decide you have enough talents for your build, it can easily start converting class features into bonus talents (instead of being locked in like a Conscript) whnever it suites. Combined with the fact it gets a class feature to negate any difficulty in triggering its supposed overwhelming success class features makes the class a remarkly power crept chassis to extant content without the reputation of being mediocre, which the core spheres team addresses regularly due to many overly conservative archtypes in the core release of spheres of might.
The stress archetype is very poorly designed. Making a martial use Burn but named differently so everything that currently exists doesn't help with it is ill-thought out and painfully ignornant of the less poorly balanced version on the Spheres of Power section of content.
The casting archetype shows the author wasn't aware of Ultimate Spheres of Power (frankly, I think they got all their knowledge from the wiki without actually reading the How to X sections) as it assigns a CAM when CAM is part of tradition now.
Next, the absolutely wildly busted ability that is the talent Nolstalgic Callback. Not only does it allow you recoup expensive resources, for example an extended empowered casting of a very powerful Spheres of Power talents from the mind sphere, it also allows extension of normally exceedingly short duration morale bonuses. This functions as both resource duplication and action economy cheating, and it applies to the entire team. It also functions on it self, allowing ad-nauseam extention of buffs that could otherwise be negated, dispelled or counterplayed, and the broken morale based class features of the Braggart itself.
All in all, I can't believe something this ridicously powercrept was released in such a state that means it almost competes with the lofty throne of the Sage class and can not honestly reccomend content from this book in any game attempting to not invalidate years of content production and balance.
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Sorry to let you down so badly. We do want to note that the clarification of enemies only has been made for "bag of helpless rats" check. We will assess other talents and designs for potential errata based on your feedback. Thanks.
This class-supplement clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 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.
This class uses the initiator system featured in Dreamscarred Press’ Path of War-books, but does not necessarily require them – as a nice courtesy that avoids book-flipping, we get all reference material herein; this includes the Eternal Guardian, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon disciplines, as well as Pathfinder Unchained’s Stamina-engine.
If you do not like Path of War’s design decisions, you might want to read this review in its entirety nonetheless; there is a good chance that the voltaic might work for you and your table, even if Path of War is generally not deemed suitable for the type of game you’re playing.
In case you are new to Path of War, it should be noted that the sub-system assumes a power-level beyond what PFRPG-classes usually offer; it is closer to a power-fantasy than other subsystems released for PFRPG, and operates under different design-paradigms than standard-PFRPG. I strongly encourage you familiarizing yourself with the system in depth before introducing it in your game. In can be a godsend for some tables, but it can also break the game for others. That being said, I review materials supplementing sub-systems within the context of their respective sub-systems, so please bear that in mind – this review takes a look at the voltaic in the context of a game that has determined that Path of War works for them.
Okay, that out of the way, let’s take a look at the voltaic! The class gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as all armor and shields, including tower shields. The voltaic has full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, and begins with 3 maneuvers readied, and increases that up to 12, though it should be noted that the voltaic is pretty different from other initiators, which are tied to new feats, so let’s talk about two feats here.
The first of these would be Spark of Inspiration, which requires a BAB of +1 and no levels in a martial initiator class or martial maneuvers from another source, preventing abuse there. This feat nets you a stamina pool and the ability to spark in combat; the feat lets you spark when an enemy critically fails to hit you, or when you critically hit an enemy, and also nets you the Eye of the Storm stance – more on that later. If you dislike this, or have one player who just seems to be too lucky (in spite of what the laws of probability dictate!) there is an XP-based variant as well. Good! Why? Well, two sessions ago, one of my players, for the first time in over 20 years, failed to roll at least 2 crits in a single session.
Anyhow, the basic idea of sparking is using a new maneuver bia a kind of stress-unduced mid-battle insight, treating their BAB as the initiator level, but still needing to meet all other prerequisites. When a character rolls a natural 20 on an attack roll, they can choose to replace the critical confirmation roll with an Intelligence check vs. DC 10 + the level of the maneuver to be learned. On a success, the character learns a single strike or boost they qualify for, from any discipline that counts the weapon that scored the critical hit as a discipline weapon. The maneuver is then placed into the character’s suite of maneuvers as a readied maneuvers. Alternatively, when an enemy rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll versus the target, the character may attempt to spark, learning a counter instead. If the check is successful in the latter check, the counter is automatically triggered in response. Finally, when performing a skill check in combat and rolls a natural 20, the character can attempt to spark and learn a boost, with the skill corresponding to that of the discipline. The CR of the creature thus used must be at least equal to the character’s class level, avoiding abuse there. A hard cap is imposed to prevent abuse: A character may only spark 1 + Intelligence modifier times per level, not including temporary increases to Intelligence. The list of maneuvers readied via sparking can include up to 2 + ½ BAB (minimum 1), with a total possible maximum of BAB + primary initiation modifier. An excess can be used to replace a previously learned maneuver with a new one. This may also be done via 15 minutes of uninterrupted rest.
Psionic and spellcasting character takes a penalty to Intelligence checks made to spark equal to their highest level spell or power or SP; racial SPs are not counted for the purposes of this limitation, and interestingly enough, akashic options are accounted for as well, using the total number of binds unlocked as the equivalent of the highest spell level known. This is an elegant take. Once a maneuver has been learned, the sparking character does not use the usual recovery methods; instead, the character has a stamina pool equal to character level + Constitution modifier, and using a maneuver expends points equal to the level of the activated maneuver. A character with 0 stamina is fatigued, and the character gets to recover Constitution modifier points such points by taking the total defense action, and the pool is fully replenished after 15 minutes of rest. But what of Stances? Well, stances are learned via the Learn Stance combat feat, which has a similar exclusivity-cause that prevents other initiators from taking it, and the feat may be taken multiple times.
Now, this engine might look pretty simple on paper, but it actually creates a rather unique experience in play – in many ways, it could be likened akin to a more anime-esque way of treating how maneuvers are learned (which is perfectly in line with Path of War’s aesthetics), and it feels, as a whole, very organic; sufficiently so that I can see some groups generally preferring it to a sufficient degree to make a switch to this variant initiation in its entirety. In an interesting manner, the engine inherently rewards exposing the martial character to risk, learning new maneuvers as a consequence of being exposed to danger – the whole angle feels surprisingly right when employing it, and makes the engine feel more martial. I seriously like it.
But let us get back to the class at hand: The voltaic begins play with martial flexibility, allowing them to take a move action to gain the benefits of a combat feat for 1 minute, with 3 + ½ class level (minimum 1) uses per day, and feats with limited daily use take their assortment of daily uses from this array as well, so no cheesing there. At 6th level, two feats may be thus retained at a given time, with one available as a swift action, two as a move action; one may be used as prerequisite for the other. 10th level improves that to three at a time: 1 feat as a free action, 2 as a swift action, three as a move action; at 12th level, one combat feat may be gained as an immediate action, three as a swift action; at 20th level, any number of combat feats may be gained as a swift action, but in all instances, each feat counts as a daily ability use. The voltaic begins play with Spark of Inspiration. 2nd level nets Learn Stance, with 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter netting an additional Learn Stance.
At 3rd level, we get the high voltage ability, which adds +1d4 electricity damage to the voltaic’s natural attacks, unarmed attacks and manufactured weapon strikes, which explicitly stacks with shock et al. This die roll is also added to the Intelligence checks made when sparking in a rather cool way. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the die size of this die increases by one step according to a well laid-out progression in die-sizes. This bonus damage may be suppressed or reactivated as a free action taken once per round.
At 4th level, the voltaic chooses one of 4 paths of the storm, which proceed to grant scaling benefits every 4 levels, including the capstone, so this one should be well-contemplated. The path of the echoing thunder lets the voltaic retain one feat from martial flexibility until the class feature is reactivated, with 12th and 20th level increasing that by +1 feat, and 8th and 16th level netting Extra Stamina as a bonus feat. The path of focused strikes nets Weapon Focus, and when martial flexibility is used, the voltaic may select one additional feat, but loses them all during any round they make an attack with anything other than the Weapon Focus weapon. 12th level nets an additional martial flexibility bonus feat; 8th level nets Improved Critical with the focus’d weapon, and 16th level Critical Focus. 20th level provides the option to manifest said weapon as a weapon of pure lightning, which is treated as a +5 weapon dealing electricity damage.
The path of the rolling thunderhead nets additional bonus combat feats, making this the most prosaic of the paths. Path of storm’s flurry, finally, is my favorite, as martial flexibility increases the high voltage die size while active (two die-sizes at 16th level), and the voltaic, when making a full attack with a single weapon, gets a 30-ft.-range ranged touch attack as part of that attack, dealing high voltage as bonus damage, with a -2 to atk as a payoff for such flurries. The range of these increases at 8th level to 60 feet, and 12th and 20th level provide iterative attacks here. This is a very cool core engine, and it could be justifiably be used to build a whole class around it.
At 14th level, the voltaic gets static shield: The first time each round that the voltaic deals electricity damage to a target with high voltage, they add the number rolled on that die as a deflection bonus to AC for 1 round. At 18th level, half that amount is added as an insight bonus to saves for the same duration. Electricity damage reduced to 0 does not trigger this effect. Once more, the static shield ability is a compelling one, and could justifiably carry an entire archetype with a finer differentiation and flexibility – I genuinely like it. The class comes with favored class options for ceptu, elfves, gnomes, humans, oread, sylphs and wolgers.
If the above weird races were no indicator, and in case the logo meant nothing to you: The voltaic comes with a whole page of unique characters for the context of the phenomenal City of 7 Seraphs campaign setting, including anon-binary oread, mirrorkin, rhyzala…the flavor-centric write-ups are genuinely great, and I wish we got full stats for them. Really nice and flavorful, and I’m happy to see that we get more material for C7S!
I got a big chuckle out of the header for the “sparketypes” – love me some unobtrusive humor to lighten up crunch! These archetypes are intended to allow other characters make use of the sparking engine. The unlimited warrior fighter loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency in favor of 4 + Intelligence modifier skill points and an expanded class skill list. Spark of Inspiration is the first-level feat, and 10th level’s bonus feat is replaced with the ability to use stamina as a buffer to prevent falling to 0 or fewer hp: I like that one. The capstone presents a delimiter for sparking.
The deathseeker rogue gets simple weapon proficiency as well as a single exotic or martial weapon of their choice; trapfinding is replaced with Spark of Inspiration, and the archetype uses class level as BAB for maneuvers readied. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the rogue talents gained then are replaced with target weakness. This ability allows the rogue to decrease the size of their sneak attack damage die to gain ghost touch, increase them, but make the attack mind.affecting, set the damage to 2 per die and transform it to force damage, or reduce sneak attack damage die amount to impose negative levels on a failed save. These all are interesting, and could conceivably carry a more complex design as well. As an aside: A moderately talented designer or GM can make this archetype work easily with variant rogues such as the legendary rogue – just saying.
Finally, the volt dancer unchained monk must be chaotic, and gets Spark of Inspiration at 1st level as the bonus feat. Ki strike’s DR-overcoming abilities are replaced at 3rd level with storm strike, which allows the monk to use ki as a swift action to change damage types to cold, electricity or sonic. 10th level’s ki power is replaced with average maneuverability fly speed equal to fast movement bonus, with 12th and 15th level improving maneuverability.
Now, the pdf also presents a whole new discipline, the spark of battle, which has Acrobatics as the associated skill, and the weapon groups heavy blades light blades and close weapons. We begin with the customary list of maneuvers by level, and then proceed to list the maneuvers in alphabetical order, which is slightly different from the level-based presentation in the reference material, but that is a purely aesthetic gripe. One unique property of the discipline, unsurprisingly, is that many maneuvers have a Special-line that allows for unique tricks if the initiator has the Spark of Inspiration feat. Take the very first ones, Aerial Dash – it’s a boost as a swift action that increases speed and lets the initiator walk through air, falling if not reaching solid ground…though the use of stamina can keep them aloft! Aerial Step is a lower level version that allows for controlled descents. The Backfist level 1 strike lets you execute a weapon and unarmed attack at the same time, with -2 to atk for both…and here, the use of the Spark of Inspiration angle is perhaps more interesting, as it lets you 5-foot-step between these attacks, even if you have already!
Bladestrike, the level 1 counter, is also exciting – it is one of the counter that let you, unsurprisingly, counter an attack by targeting an enemy weapon with a…sunder attempt! Yeah, I know! I expected to read about an easily-cheesed skill check as a substitution attack roll here, as that has always been my primary issue with the whole Path of War engine….but no skill check here. In fact, the discipline is wholly BEREFT of the more glaring core problem of Path of War’s martial discipline-engine, in that it does not substitute skill checks for attack rolls. Not once. Instead, it uses skill checks with the associated skill in order to ENHANCE the benefits of the respective maneuvers, or to determine the extent of their effectiveness; in the latter case, the discipline shows a strong awareness of how easy it is too boost skills via items etc.
To give you an example: Soaring Falcon Flurry is a level 7 strike that is initiated as a standard action. The initiator jumps into the air, and makes a DC 20 Acrobatics check, making a single ranged touch attack versus a foe within 30 ft., who takes 5d6 sonic damage, and is staggered for 1d4 rounds on a failed save. For every 5 points by which you beat the DC, you get an additional such attack against a different target, up to a maximum of 6 total attacks versus 6 targets. If you have Spark of Inspiration, you can spend a stamina point to treat the result of the Acrobatics roll as a 15. This has a proper cap, a potentially devastating damage output, and yet can’t be cheesed. It has this awesome anime/WuXia-aesthetic that I love, is appropriately powerful, and yet won’t break the game. Or take Skyscream, which increases the damage die size it causes if you make your Acrobatics check. Grounding Rod lets you use Acrobatics in lieu of a saving throw, but only versus electricity damage, which might sound lame at first…but you get to redirect the attack!
I absolutely adore this discipline. I mean it. Did I mention that the strikes, boosts, etc. are consistently typed with descriptors? Heck yes.
The pdf closes with the aforementioned reference material, which takes up 22 pages, with a general recap of the martial initiator system’s rules taking up another 2.5 pages.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on both a rules-language and formal level; I noticed no significant issues in this book. Layout adheres to an elegant, nice-looking two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks and all.
Christen N. Sowards and Michael Sayre have done it; they achieved a vision that I had since the beginning, since Path of War first hit digital shelves: They have used the powerful engine, the amazing anime/WuXia-esque aesthetics of the system, and stripped it of the things that can be easily used to break the game, cheese attacks, etc. I am incapable of crying due to joy (I instead enter a flabbergasted mode of stammering where my usual eloquence falls by the wayside), but if I were capable of it, this might well have done it; in many ways, it showcases what I’ve been saying all along: Path of War doesn’t need any of its broken components, of the aspects that needlessly limit it, to work, be fun, or succeed at its design goal. In the future, I’ll just point at this masterpiece and rest my case.
Power-level-wise, and regarding the playing experience, the voltaic is a potent class – it’s not intended for gritty low fantasy, obviously – but it works within the design paradigms of the upper end of the game. If your game tends to favor lower powered characters, I have a little suggestion for you that anybody can implement: Limit the voltaic to the new discipline. Done. You’ll have a powerful character, but not one that’ll break your game.
The balancing employed here is sublime, and if anything, being set against the reference material herein, which is btw. not close to the highest power-level you can get with Path of War, this difference in quality will be evident.
In short: The Voltaic is Path of War, thoroughly – it breathes the aesthetic, it is exciting to play, and showcases how well you can use the system… all without Path of War’s more problematic parts. And we get a novel, fun alternate initiation engine that you can customize to boot! I frickin’ adore this book. I’d recommend it even to people like yours truly that limit Path of War use to certain types of games, but love e.g. akasha, psionics or pact magic. I really found myself wishing that we had a whole revision of Path of War to the standards set herein – such a book would been all but mandatory in my games. This is absolutely phenomenal. 5 stars + seal of approval, recommended not only to fans of Path of War. This also gets my "Best of"-tag, as it's imho the best Path of War-design to date.
This massive expansion for the akashic system clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 9 ¾ pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 ¼ pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
Okay, so, first things first: This book is a combination of a massive akasha expansion and a planar sourcebook; this is insofar interesting, as the cosmology featured is intended for use with the PHENOMENAL City of 7 Seraphs campaign setting; and because that implies a pretty radical departure from what we usually get to see for the themes featured.
What do I mean by this? Well, as many of you know, I have devoted a significant part of my life to studying Scandinavian cultures; as such, the Norse myths hold a very special place in my heart: From music (huge Wardruna/Hugsjá/Skuggsjá-fan; plus: Viking metal!) to language to literature, to pretty much everything else, this is just my topic; the only time when I truly feel at ease, like I’ve arrived where I am supposed to be, is when I’m in Norway. If you’ve read the sǫgur (plural for saga), you’ll know about the rather unique outlook on life, so far from the constant dichotomies that our current society struggles with. You’ll also know that the usual way to depict Norse themes in RPGs focuses on the low fantasy end of the spectrum. This, obviously, does make sense. When RPGs do dive into the high-fantasy end, it often is more inspired by Marvel’s slaughtering of the themes – again, understandable, considering the vast impact they have on particularly American pop culture. Apart from Rite Publishing’s Valhalla demiplane book, I know of no attempt to do so for a contemporary RPG.
This, then, as far as RPGs are concerned, is unique, in that it champions a high fantasy approach to two myths, with the Norse being one of them. Before we start, there is one further thing to note: Even if you do not care about adding to your cosmology, the book has A LOT of crunch, so integration into pretty much all settings is rather simple.
We begin with two new planar traits here: Surging Essence. These can be found on planes with potent akashic echoes, and here, akasha users can concentrate to gather energy as a full-round action to gain 1 temporary essence for 1 minute. Constellations thus summoned vanish when the temporary essence dissipates. Surging essence can have a descriptor that limit the veils and abilities available for the essence to be invested in. Furthermore, the presence of descriptors as such can have consequences (not smart for the righteous to gather the fragmented souls of the damned, and vice versa!), and in the case of the more potent option, temporary alignment changes might result. It should be noted that the book does feature rules for planar infusions and that the 3 Conduit feats for them have been included, so no, you do not require the Planar Handbook for PFRPG to make full use of this. These infusions are presented for both myths covered here, and while I was not a fan of Planar Adventures’ decision to make the bonuses thus granted untyped, the book does mirror this decision; so no, this is not an oversight, but in line with the core engine presented.
We begin with an at-a-glance write-up of Valhalla, including infusions and prime movers – here, the plane is defined as chaotic good, and we are introduced to a variety of locations and persons, as well as the einherjar-blooded aasimar, who gets +2 Constitution and Charisma, cold, fire and electricity resistance 5, a +2 racial bonus to Bluff and Intimidate, darkvision 60 ft., and when they are reduced to below 0 HP for the first time on a given day, they are healed as per cure moderate wounds as a SP, using class level as caster level – shouldn’t that be character level?), and also gain a temporary essence. As a whole, on the strong side of races, but not to the point where I’d consider them to be unbalanced.
We also get a new nexus convergence for Valhalla, which includes the option to deal sonic damage with planar detonation, but at the cost of a decreased damage output. Higher tiers allow for increasing penalties to the hit target, calling forth the spawn of Fenrir and, at high levels, valkyries, and at tier 4, we have 3/day breath of life, which also is autocast on the nexus, if uses remain. Really cool! The planar attunement allows for simple switching between planes and the option to take essence burn to declare an attack a save-or-die for giants, which is pretty suitable. These rules components are VERY precise and show an extensive familiarity with the finest of rules conventions for PFRPG – the new nexus material, in short, is very well-designed.
Valhalla also gets a pretty massive new set of veils – Asgardian Saga. The nexus class is the one who gets full access to Asgardian Saga…and there are a couple of bits here that made me smile very widely: Each of the veils gets a brief flavor-text, and I really loved to read e.g. the one for Geri and Freki, which correctly mentioned the Úlfhéðnar. Call me elitist, but I believe that RPGs can really broaden your horizons, and the notion of RPG-players as individuals who are genuinely interested in a wide variety of things, the assumption of intelligence and a desire to learn, is something near and dear to my heart. It’s just a bit of flavor, but if only one person out there actually looked up those weird letters, this was already worth it. But I digress. And before you ask: The names of the respective veils use the anglicized spelling – so “Bifrost” instead of “Bifröst”, etc.
Which brings me to the first veil – Bifröst Boots, which has great utility and soft terrain control uses – you get to make facsimile Bifrösts, and as the chakra bind for feet, gain AC boosts against targets standing on the bridge – oh, and you do not provoke AoOs, which makes this a great skirmishing facilitator. Geri and Freki nets you wolven clothing that helps with handling animals, as well as the ability to summon a wolf animal companion at class level -4, minimum 1, as though a druid. You can’t spam the wolf, though, and essence invested enhances the wolf and animal handling – and yes, enough essence can offset the level-penalty; and yes, I did check this regarding some pretty in-depth comparisons, and it checks out beautifully. The veil’s chakra bind for the body is super versatile – it lets you call a second wolf, gain a bite + Pack Flanking or have a brooch that lets you command wolves and associated creatures. Flexible, varied, cool. Gungnir is a long spear that may be thrown, and it returns to you, provided your hand is free. Interestingly, this did not use the returning quality, instead electing for a smoother implementation in the context of this veil. The spear is also more potent, particularly when wielded while mounted, if the proper essence is invested, and with a chakra bind to the wrist, a whole smörgåsbord of customization options and scaling enhancement s become available. Oh, and in that case, it also enhances your AC via shield bonus. Huginn and Muninn (Fun, and utterly irrelevant digression: I see two ravens EVERYWHERE. There hardly goes by a single day where I see two of them. Not one, not 3, always 2…) boost Knowledge checks, allow you to be considered to be trained, and even for rerolls. The chakra bind to shoulders nets you animal companion ravens through which you can see and speak, use them for line of sight, etc. – awesome utility! And yes, this gets interaction with pre-existing companions right. Liar’s horns enhances Bluff and Diplomacy, and with the head chakra bind, it helps you infiltrate, allowing you to change appearances, etc. – if you invest enough, you can also help your allies this way.
Mjolnir is a massive thrown warhammer, which rewards essence invested with bonus electricity and sonic damage. The chakra bind to the hands enhances it, and punishes attempts to e.g. sunder it painfully. When bound to the wrists instead, we have a damage upgrade by two die-steps for the bonus damage, as well as the option to immediate action teleport (including mount!) within 10 feet of the target, which might qualify you for a nasty combo. Mjolnir is the unsubtle DPS blast to Gugnir’s versatility, mirroring in design the themes of the mythology. Very nice. Odin’s Noose is AMAZING. As in: Gamechanger. Sure, it helps you with Knowledge, etc. When you first shape the veil, you can reduce your maximum hit point total by 5 to gain a veil FROM ANOTHER VEILWEAVING LIST. And before you scream “unbalanced”, as I was almost tempted to, rest assured that it still has the caveat that you need the slot to shape the veil, so no exclusives scavenging. When bound to the neck chakra, you get (greater) scrying, depending on how much essence is invested. Sif’s Golden hair is a defense veil, enhancing your AC, and provides light, with the headband chakra bind providing AoE hair-based grapple/trip! (One of the current PCs in my campaign, a voodoo-doll style Cha-based halfling witch with dreadlocks will love this…) Sleipnir enhances your Knowledge of the planes and riding skills, with the bind allowing you to conjure forth an ersatz phantom steed with scaling benefits and plane shifting capabilities. Finally, valkyrie’s chain is an excellent, non-speed-reducing armor that scales with essence invested; the chakra bind for the chest slot fortifies you against death effects and also has the breath of life on self trick.
I love this entire set. It made me seriously contemplate a nexus Asgardian warpriest/champion of the Aesir – not in the sense of the warpriest class (which I dislike), but in the sense of the concept. Absolutely amazing.
But the book is called “Emperors and Einherjar”, so what about those emperors? Well, unless I am mistaken, these refer to the Xia dynasty’s culture heroes that followed the so-called Three Sovereigns from northern Chinese mythology. (Apologies if I’m mistaken there; it might also refer to Jinmu-Tennō – the material seems to be more inspired by this, than a direct representation!) The kingdom of 5 emperors also comes with valid infusion rules, and is a true neutral realm – and since balance is so important in the cosmology of the City of 7 Seraphs, the pdf does introduce an imho overdue [neutral] subtype, including easy to implement rules. We are introduced to the courts of 5 emperors (pearl, gold, crimson, jade, violet), which all feature a different neutral-component alignment, notes on personae and locations of interest, and here, the conveniently reprinted Amateur Astrologist feat comes into play – unless you already are playing a zodiac: We get a full array of zodiac constellations for the Chinese zodiac, which coincidentally eliminates one of my main gripes with the zodiac class, and they are awesome – tigers with electricity attacks, dual-wiled-enhancing sais, climbing and swimming-enhancing snake armor…okay, these are “cool” options, and from rooster to rat, there are cool things associated with those animals…but guess what? The book manages to make “The Sheep” cool. I kid you not. Customizable armor that can be “fluffed up” to escape grapples and enhance DR and cold resistance granted! That is genuinely USEFUL, fun to play, and utterly hilarious! You can’t touch me! I’m too fluffy!! XDDD And you can fire bolts of lightning that may fly around corners. Don’t laugh at the sheep! Seriously, I need to use this in game. ASAP. “But wait”, you say, what about those companions? Well, the book has companions ranging from auroachs over giant hares to…well, sheep. And yes, these check out.
And yes, we obviously get a proper convergence and planar attunement as well. It should also be noted that Expanded Cosmology and Noble Astrologist allow you as feats to dabble into these further. Expanded Cosmology has a bug: It grants access to all forms of a constellation in one feat – it is evident that this should be a Zodiac-only feat, and as such, the prerequisite should JUST be constellation class feature; Amateur Astrologist should not be an alternate means of qualifying for this feat.
If you’re more on the anti-hero side of things, you’ll be happy to know that the dark shogunate as an opposition to the kingdom exists, including a proper convergence. Akasha gets a 5-veil set here: The O-yoroi of the Obsidian Ronin consists of 5 veils, of which only the eclipse has them all available, while other classes miss out on some. Izanami’s koma-geta enhance your own Acrobatics and penalize Reflexes and initiative of enemies capable of seeing you, with the chakra bind to the feet allowing you to ignore difficult terrain, including magic terrain, and enough essence nets you freedom of movement. The bind to the belt also nets you air walk with scaling movement increases. Izanami’s nodachi (shouldn’t that be Izanagi?) causes bleed damage and can potentially blind targets temporarily, with the hand chakra bind adding precision damage versus foes flat-footed or denied their Dexterity bonus, and the body chakra bind making your critical hits save-or-die – and to add insult to injury, those slain may rise as shadows under your command.
Ronin’s Horo rewards you for moving with bonuses to Intimidate and AC, and the shoulder chakra bind lets you capture ranged attacks like bullets and arrows based on ammunition in the veil. Seppuku is a bleed-damage causing wakizashi, the incarnation of the infamous suicide-blade, with the hands chakra bind allow you to one-hand wield two-handed weapons, and the wrist bind is brutal: Turn the blade onto yourself for serious bleed, and choose a living creature within 60 feet: That creature also starts taking that bleed damage on a failed save! This bleed can only be halted by SERIOUS damage from an ally, or by living through the ordeal. Pretty awesome! The sōmen of shadow is an oni-mask that enhances your Will and makes you count as larger for Intimidate purposes, with the head chakra bind allowing for enlarge person and, provided you have enough essence invested, giant form I.
The final plane included would be the Cloud stairway, which is supplemented by a unique Style-chain, the Mistmask Style – this style is akashic and begins as a Disguise-enhancer that emphasizes the plane’s kinda-neutral-ground/anything could happen nature, and in its final feat, lets you gain some evolutions. I am 100% confident that this is indeed a nod to Mark Seifter’s brilliant Masquerade Reveler class. Some nitpicks: At one point, the pdf imho hilariously, and that may be an Easter egg, calls the style “Myst Maskstyle” instead of “Mistmask Style”; secondly, only the Mistmask Style feat should have the [Style] descriptor, since styles are limited regarding action economy, what can be active, etc. – the follow-up feats should only have the [Akashic] and [Combat] descriptors. Other than that, a very cool and flavorful style!
The book also contains an array of akashic feats, which, apart from the ones already mentioned, include a means to be Lattice-Born (tap into nexus convergences), more versatile planar detonations, and feats to enhance characters maintaining multiple veils froma given set: With Disciple of Charon, for example, your attacks become lawful and planar detonation gets bonus damage if you have two or more veils shaped from boatman’s ensemble. I like these, as they reward at least a degree of thematic consistency.
The pdf concludes with stats of the CR 6 azata bralani, ghaele, sovereign dragon, etc. as references. These are here for completion’s sake (and I think the nogitsune oni was originally released in a Jade regent installment), so that’s certainly appreciated. Less appreciated: The formatting of the stats is messed up. Some are entirely in italics, bolded and non-bolded text are inconsistent, etc. – were it not for the fact that these are only here as reference material, I’d knock down a star for them. I know, it’s irrational, but such obvious guffaws can rile me up. NOTE: For the purpose of this review, I will completely disregard this reference material.
Editing and formatting of all but the reference material is very good – from bonus types to complex rules-language, the top-tier designs here have been properly implemented. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard, and that artwork on the cover? Interior artwork is just as original, and just as high-quality. Seriously impressed. The pdf comes with full nested bookmarks, making navigation simple. The book comes with a second, LITE version for slower pdf-readers.
Michael Sayre and Christen N. Sowards deliver a phenomenal book here, one that acts as a basic primer for some inspiring planes as well as a grand expansion for particularly the zodiac and nexus; while other classes also get some neat materials, fans of these two classes in particular will celebrate this book. And I count myself among them. The first Akashic Realms book is a top-tier book of evocative, meticulously-balanced material, one that has but one hiccup on a mechanical level I noticed, namely Expanded Cosmology, as noted above. That being said, this book is genuinely inspiring in the best of ways. I now want to make an akashic einherjar with a magical, fluffy sheep-armor. And I mean, I REALLY, REALLY want to make one. This book is VERY crunch-centric, and yet, it evoked more inspiration than many longer flavor-centric books! In short: This is a fantastic offering, and a must-own expansion to the akashic system. If you’re curious about the zodiac, and haven’t taken the plunge, it also acts as a teaser/massive expansion for the class.
Is it always perfect? No. But it got me more excited about building characters than I’ve been for a long time. Were I to take the formatting blunder in the reference material into account, this’d lose a star, but that would be a punishment for providing a convenience service, something I’ve never done, and which would imho send the wrong signals. As such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. Oh, and since I loved this book as much as I did, this also receives a nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2019. Highly recommended!!
Another fun little expansion book with good options, one of these, I forget which unfortuntately has a reference to something for the Nexus class that hasn't actually been released yet, but otherwise quite happy with the purchase.
Fantastic little book, especially if you're interested in the Zodiac class. The setting stuff is neat but not necessarily for every game, the content provided in terms of additional options though is really great.
This supplement clocks in at 23 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 16 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, what are Bloodborn? Well, at one point, there were those that came before – collectors of lore and knowledge, this ancient empire implemented a unique plan to withstand the inevitable fall of their empire, electing not for the preservation of the self, but instead of the things they achieved in a supremely selfless gesture. Thus, they crafted the Sourcerunes and the Bloodwells – when these are seeded with the blood of 2 compatible beings, thus generating the bloodborn, heirs to an ancient empire. Mechanically, the bloodborn are augmented humans who receive +2 to an ability score of their choice, and they choose two skills to represent the blood donors – these become class skills. Subject to the GM’s discretion, this might allow the bloodborn to engage in skills familiar to the blood patrons. Due to their unique genesis, bloodborn have a -2 penalty to saving throws versus death effects and can’t reproduce naturally. The dual heritage has a unique effect, with the echoes of conflicting memories growing ever strong. If the bloodborn remain single-classed after 1st level, they incur a circumstance penalty equal to the number of class levels beyond the first to all d20 rolls; if this penalty exceeds the highest mental ability score modifier, they even become insane! This is an AMAZING notion I really like – however, RAW, taking a single other level eliminates this effect when not using the variant multiclassing rules from Pathfinder Unchained. When not using those, consider instead adding the following to the rules-language:
“When the class level of a multiclassed bloodborn in a single class exceeds the total combined class levels they have in other classes by more than 1, this penalty applies as well.” There, fixed that for non-Pathfinder Unchained multiclassing for you. :)
Now, what’s with those Sourcerunes? Each bloodborn begins play attuned to two such runes – one of these is the primary Sourcerune, the other being the secondary Sourcerune. 6 Sourcerunes are provided, and yes, these do include drawings that showcase them – love that! Each Sourcerune has a primary and secondary benefit, and the first would be the Atkai, who may use Charisma as governing spellcasting ability score for spellcasting or manifesting, or instead choose a single class and make the supernatural or spell-like abilities be governed by Charisma. The secondary ability score is an alternate favored class option, granting access to a single spell known. The Muo rune may instead use Wisdom as governing modifier as a primary benefit, and as a secondary benefit, we have a channel energy enhancing alternate favored class option. Essal, unsurprisingly, use Intelligence as their governing spellcasting ability score, and the favored class option alternative granted from the secondary benefit nets a racial bonus to a skill – important: This does NOT count as ranks, so no cheesing of prerequisites! Good call there! The Juhn can use Constitution as the governing spellcasting…you get the idea by now, right? The secondary benefit of that family can enhance e.g. ki or arcane pools as an alternate favored class option. The Jhi family can learn to cast via Dexterity and their secondary benefit nets ¼ bonus feat. Sho, as you could picture by now, nets Strength and either a martial weapon proficiency or half an exotic weapon proficiency.
Okay, before we continue: I do not like seeing the physical ability scores as basis for spellcasting; HOWEVER, considering the limitations and enforced multiclassing of the base race, this had a rather intriguing effect – it rendered a whole plethora of multiclass builds and concepts suddenly valid. While there are bound to be some that are exceedingly potent, the race can help you with other components, and do so rather formidably: Let’s say you’re playing a 15-point-buy campaign, but want to play a class with MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependence) – this can help somewhat mitigate that. The concept looks horribly broken on paper, and you can indeed generate VERY potent combos – but it’s not as easy as you might think, and it actually works in favor of plenty of unique character concepts – so yeah, I do consider this to be a wide-open, but inspiring component of the race’s design.
This is not where the pdf stops, though! Instead, we are introduced to the concept of Sourcerune Resonance: Depending on which runes you chose, you get different unique abilities that may be triggered under the right circumstances, which can just be using abilities on consecutive rounds, or e.g. require using abilities from the same class in subsequent rounds, etc. Let’s say, you’ve chosen Atkai as your primary rune, and Muo as your secondary one, right? When you use a spell, granted ability or power within one round of using a spell, granted ability or power from a different class, the second effect will have its level of usage (caster level, manifester level, class level for the purpose of scaling abilities, etc.) increased by 1 – or you can increase the save DC, if any, by +1. If you have Atkai-Juhn (Atkai primary, Juhn secondary), if you thus alternate abilities granted from different classes or use ones from the same class, you get temporary hit points equal to the effect’s level, with the temporary hit points overlapping, so no stacking to high-heavens. That’s good. Even better: The rules language prevents infinite healing exploits! Since the effect’s level is the governing metric, cantrips and the like can’t be abused in conjunction with hit point transfer. Very clever. And before you ask: Yes, the pdf is very much cognizant of the term “granted abilities” not being standard rules language, and defines the term properly. And yep, with the right resonance, you can get Weapon of the Soul and a mindblade.
This is easily the most mechanically-unique player race I’ve seen in a long, long time. But does the supplemental material hold up?
Well, first of all, we get not one, not two, but 24 (!!) new [Runic]-feats. Why are there so many? Because the help build on individual Sourcerune Resonances. Let’s take soulgrace, which is the Muo-Jhi resonant power – it provides a +1 luck bonus to a penalized roll; with the proper feat, the duration of this bonus extends to 1 round, or until the penalty ceases. There is also an interesting one, namely Imprint Rune, which lets you meditate with other bloodborn, replacing the feat with a feat the other bloodborn has that you qualify for. Cool! Quicker rune-drafting, bonus to atk and damage when attacking targets that failed against an effect powered by your Soulrune Resonance – we essentially have a feat-based expansion of the base combo-reward engine championed by the base Soulrune Resonance frame. I am not a fan of the feat that lets you increase threat range and multiplier; multiplier should cap at x4, and threat-range should have a caveat that prevents undue stacking…but I don’t consider this feat to be OP. Why? Because it has a maximum daily use limitation – the verbiage here “Before you must reset” is not perfect, but yeah. Really cool: There is a feat that lets you, when resting, switch primary and secondary rune! This essentially provides a gestalt-lite engine, two different modes – love it! Other feats allow for the suppression of visible runes, and as noted before, there is a mindblade lite engine. A lite-version of martial flexibility may also be found – and yep, it’s only available t one resonance, thankfully.
The pdf also presents two prestige classes, with the first being the bloodstone adept, wjo requires aforementioned feat to reverse primary and secondary rune, as well as 5 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana)…and he needs access to past-life or ancestral memory. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 7/10 spellcasting/manifesting/feature progression. In that way, this 10-level PrC is akin to e.g. Everybody Games’ take on PrCs – which is a good thing. The adept may, at first level, enter an 8-hour trance too channel an alternate self. This self has the same statistics and racial bonuses, and the runic self must have one level in common with the bloodrune’s adept, but may redistribute the class levels among the classes they have. The runic self is balanced by having levels equal to character level -2, and may differ from the original character’s alignment by one step. At 6th and 10th level, the character gains an additional such self. At 4th level, these selves may be character level -1, and at 9th level, they may be of equal level of the character. However, the text does not state this – it’s obvious that this was intended, but the “Greater Bloodrune Recall”-text is missing. :(
At 2nd and 7th level, you get a blood self, which is similar, save that the blood self must share class levels with the bloodborn’s patron donors (the people that spawned the bloodborn), and the alignment of these may diverge up to two steps from the bloodborn, as long as it’s towards the blood patron’s alignment. Cool. 3rd level and 8th level net a bonus feat (though the text does not mention the 8th level). At 5th level, we have the ability to 1/day lets you act as though an alternate runic or blood self, with the full compliment of powers. The text here contradicts the class table, stating that a second daily use is gained at 9th level, while the class table states it’s supposed to be 10th level. The latter is obviously correct.
The second PrC is the zenith caster, who requires two metamagic feats, Knowledge (Arcana) 5 ranks and access to spells or powers of 2nd level from two or more classes. These fellows get d6 HD, 2 + Int skills per level. Interesting: At each level except at 1st and 5th, you gain spells/powers/etc. known as well as caster/manifester level increase as though you advanced in one of your original classes; at 1st and 5th level, you ALSO get an increase in CL/ML etc. in your LOWEST CL/ML/etc. class. The ability also uses the Source concept of many Lost Spheres Publishing books to add some caveats here. At first level, the PrC lets you choose two classes with different Sources, increasing CL (and, I assume ML etc. – though that’s not spelled out this time) by +1. This increases once more at 4th and 7th level. This is called “tidal magic”, and at 2nd level, you can select a metamagic feat – you can sacrifice a spell or spell slot from one of your tidal magic sources to apply the metamagic feat to the other tidal magic source chosen. The class feature includes a limitation on maximum spell-level enhancement, and the complex ability sports a caveat that prevents abuse – you have to sacrifice a spell slot or spell prepared of at least the metamagic feat’s spell adjustment. And yes, does take psionics into account. 5th and 9th level net bonus feats. You select an additional such metamagic feat at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. This one is cool – a feasible dual-caster metamagic specialist that is not overpowered. Interesting indeed.
The pdf also sports two new psionic powers: Destabilize resonance is cool in that it ends your resonance effect as an immediate action to let you make a touch attack that deals, what I surmise from descriptor etc., MUST be force damage – the power does not state this in an obvious oversight, though. Rune lock is also cool and lets you temporarily lock down your resonance effects. The pdf also offers two new spells – hide sourcerune, and the mighty curse seal sourcerune – both do exactly what you think they’d do.
The final page of the pdf contains new mythic path abilities – universal path abilities include extended resonance duration at 1st tier, and a potent enhancer to the number of runic feats possessed for the purpose of their benefits at 3rd tier. The Archmage path allows as a first tier ability to invoke a drafted rune more often; at 6th tier, we have a cool ability to be reborn as a bloodborn upon being slain. The Master-of-Shapes (see Lost Sphere’s Mythic Paths booklet) gets the 1st tier ability lets you consume a slain bloodborn, gaining essentially another secondary sourcerune – or a primary rune, if you’re no bloodborn. Minor nitpick: The feat referenced here is called Tertiary Attunement, not Tertiary Sourcerune. The Scion-of-High-Sorcery may, with the right 1st tier ability, gain access to the SOurcerunes by tasting a bloodborn’s blood. The Will-of-All, finally, gets a 1st tier ability – and here, something has gone wrong with the sentence structure, and an “r” is missing; essentially, you make a connection between your Sourcerunes and that of a bloodborn , and you get the resonant benefits of this connection.
Editing and formatting are a bit of a weak spot of the pdf: While the rules-language deserves to be called good for the most part, there are a couple of obvious formal snafus that, in parts do influence the ability to immediately comprehend some components. Oh, and missing ability? Big no-go. Layout adheres to Lost Spheres Publishing’s two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports multiple unique and high-quality full-color artworks – original pieces, mind you! Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Christen N. Sowards’ bloodborn made me wish for one thing – that this got a final editing pass. Why? Because I genuinely LOVE the race. Yes. Ole’ cynical Endy actually likes a race. The supplement fills a very distinct niche, and does so with panache aplomb – it is ambitious, cool and genuinely fun. The concept is inspiring, and as a whole, I adored the race. This’d be a straight 5 star + seal of approval file, were it not for its glitches, and try as I want to, I can’t ignore them as a reviewer. The core feature of the race requires an additional sentence to smoothly run with non-unchained-multiclassing, and while the engine works smoothly and surprisingly well, there are, time and again, these small hiccups…and a few greater ones. I honestly should be rounding down, but I genuinely, seriously enjoyed the material herein, its snafus notwithstanding – and hence, I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars….and for the race, for what it brings to multiclassing…this does actually get my seal of approval, for those components are seriously inspired.
This installment of the Classes of the Lost Spheres-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
All right, so, the paramour, chassis-wise, gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, and if they have a Heartbound partner, they get a weapon proficiency of that character as well. They have ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, and add their Charisma bonus to AC while in light or no armor and unencumbered, which increases by +1 at 3rd level, and every 6 levels thereafter, for a total maximum of +3.
Wait, heartbound? Well, yeah, this class is all about the power of love, and as such further builds on Transcendent 10: Heartbound feats. As a brief recap: Heartbound feats require that both partners have a Heartbound feat to work…but they don’t have to have the SAME feat, which makes them more flexible than, say, teamwork feats. Speaking of which: At first level, the paramour selects a heartbound, teamwork or combat feat as a bonus feat, with an additional feat gained at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Teamwork feats must be shared by the partner, though they may be retrained as Forlorn feats (see Transcendent 10: Forlorn Feats).
The unique component of the class engine here would be “Tides of Passion”, which builds on the new “Ardent” condition – this condition is triggered upon seeing the Heartbound partner take damage, gain a negative condition, or by dropping beneath 50% of your maximum hp. This condition is exclusive to beings with Heartbound feats or paramour levels, and grants a +1 morale bonus to saving throws “or -2 versus mind-affecting emotion effects” – pretty sure that this should either read “or a +2 morale bonus…” or “and a -2 penalty…” Which of these is correct, though? I can’t say. Being ardent for more than Constitution modifier + paramour levels leaves a character fatigued. This is problematic on several levels. For one, the condition is not actively triggered by a character – RAW it just happens. This potentially can lock out e.g. Heartbound barbarians out of their rage…which, come to think of it, kinda makes sense on a narrative level, guess I finally know why Conan took so long to settle down. However, on a mechanical perspective, being locked out of your class feature due to fatigue is not fun. Additionally, the condition specifies no terms by which you can dismiss/end it – so, if you’re stuck in a really long battle, you’re screwed, particularly since the fatigue incurred has no rage caveat – it has no duration, which makes it default to “until rested”; again, very problematic.
Anyhow, tides of passion grants you a 1d4 pool, which increases by +1d4 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. When you get the ardent condition, you roll your dice, and commit the result as a free action. At first level, these may be committed as temporary hit points. Complaint here: As temporary hit points, they should have a caveat that prevents their redistribution to avoid abuse via triggering of negative condition-ardent and infinite hit point redistribution.
Starting at 2nd level, and ever even level thereafter, the paramour receives a so-called expression. Multiple expression benefits from multiple paramours don’t stack, and expressions that interact with psionics temporarily grant the psionic subtype. 17 expressions are provided. There is a means to add fire damage to melee or ranged attacks – and if you lose your love and become Forlorn, this instead works via cold. Channel heartfire lets you fire the committed points as rays, with the bonus to atk increasing the longer the expression is maintained. This should have a maximum caveat. On the other hand, I really liked the means that lets you apply the dice result as a shield bonus to your adjacent partner. There also is Heart’s Magic, which lets you choose one spellcasting class and spell. You can expend 2 points from your tides of passion per spell level to gain the ability to cast it as a spell-like ability, using your paramour class level as caster level. Each time you use this to create the same spell effect, you increase the cost by 1, and the spell can’t exceed in spell level the number of dice in your tides of passion pool. The ability can’t duplicate expensive material components. Minor nitpick (and I mean minor) – its reference to the same exhausted effect might be considered to be a bit subtle. While both are not perfect, I certainly respect how their engines operate, and frankly, enjoyed them both for their complex operations. The psionic version here is different, instead granting you Wild Talent and a power from a chosen class, with a surge-lite enervation as a downside.
Heart’s resolve acts as Iron Will for purposes of prerequisites, and lets you apply the tides of passion dice as a morale bonus to Will saves; alternatively, you can apply the dice as a bonus to damage with atk, SU, powers and spells versus the target that triggered ardent. Inspiring cry takes a swift action to activate, and allows you to outsource your tides of passion, heart’s redoubt or one expression benefits to an ally in close range, losing the benefits during that time, with lingering effects lingering on the ally instead of you. Another expression nets you a teamwork, with the heartbound partner counting as having it; with inspiring cry, you can make the partner actually have it as a swift action – okay, for how long? No duration is stated. We also have the option to gain an Intelligence-, Dexterity-, Charisma- or Strength-based skill as a class skill, to which the dice may apply. Another expression lets you use tides of passion dice as sneak attack dice for the purpose of prerequisites. Okay. Another expression lets you have a true friend, and you get Heartbound benefits for this fellow. Another expression allows you to commit two points from the pool to add a +1 morale bonus to attack rolls for 1 round. This one suffers from not getting the bonus type verbiage right – only the highest level morale bonus applies, and in the absence of a direct stacking with itself caveat, this does not work as intended.
Heartbound is gained at 3rd level (and the ability name is a bit unfortunately chosen); it also does not state at which level it is gained in the text, requiring defaulting to the class table. The ability nets you btw. a ranger’s Track or an at-will status for the heartbound partner. At 7th level, we have 1/day overflowing, allowing you to use a single swift action to commit tides points to temporary hit points and activate up to two expressions, gaining an additional use every 6 levels thereafter.
9th level nets the aforementioned lingering passion ability, which extends the duration of expressions and the temporary hit points by one round (two rounds at 17th level), which is odd in conjunction with spells, abilities and powers with a duration greater than a round – are these supposed to last only for a round? If not, is their duration increased by a round? This is odd. Starting at 10th level, 12 so-called greater expressions may be selected, including untyped damage boosts (sigh), temporary boosts to Wisdom, Intelligence, Dexterity or Constitution, granting the heartbound partner Wild Talent’s power points…yay? The power is RAW not included, and at 10th+ level, the scant few power points won’t cut it. These also include an upgrade for the atk-boost, better shield bonus granting, and a means to prevent the expenditure of spells/powers. There also is a Whirlwind Attack variant and more teamwork sharing.
There are three capstones provided, which include additional benefits, redirecting effects to you, away from your partner, and upgrades for magic.
The class comes with the narcissist archetype, basically a partner-less paramour with slightly better defenses and three unique expressions (regular, 10th level greater, capstone). It’s a decent system tweak, but not exciting. The pdf contains 20 Heartbound feats, and their balance is unfortunately as wonky as I feared. While in psychic or telepathic contact with your partner, and the fellow gets psionic focus, you can “roll to achieve psionic focus.” In Pathfinder, you don’t roll to gain your psionic focus. Even if the details in the verbiage worked, though, this’d be broken, as it can be used to bypass one of the most crucial balancing components of the psionics engine; at the very least, this should be level 15+. What about free heightening/extending of spells etc. whenever your partner targets you? On the other hand, we have the option to select a single spell from the partner for the tides of passion-granted spellcasting. Filial Devotion allows you to treat an ally as being heartbound to you. I did like the synergy with the Echo-class that one yielded. Being able to cast personal effects on the partner is super strong for multiclass characters (since the feat does not limit the ability to the paramour’s lite-spellcasting)…you get the idea. Puzzling: There is a rage-sharing feat that seems to have overlooked how the ardent condition and rage don’t work with each other. Beyond these heartbound feats, we have also 3 class feats that allow for split expressions, gain an extra expression – you get the idea.
The final page is devoted to a huge list f favored class options, which include exotic races like the darakhul, the psionic races, noral, vishkanyas, etc. Some entries here labor under the misconception of there being a thing such as “holy” damage – there is not. Other than such snafus, these generally did tend to be solid.
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the supplement gets high-complexity operations right and bungles the basics, going so far as to undermining the basic foundation of the class’s engine. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with nice, original full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with extensive, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable.
This is an early work by Christen N. Sowards, and it unfortunately shows; where the echo class was rough around the edges, but functional, the paramour’s issues at the very core of its per se interesting engine hamper its functionality. Additionally, its individual options, be they expressions or feats, are simply not balanced well. And that is a genuine pity, for I really ADORE the theme of the devoted partner; I think we need more of that in gaming. And the bits of genuine talent and smart components? They are here. This class is far from unsalvageable, but it will require a serious design addendum to work as intended. All in all, I can’t recommend this class, unless you’re willing to invest your time balancing and streamlining the content. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.
Okay, so, now that I’ve finished covering the entirety of the Book of Beyond series at the request of my patreon supporters, let’s talk about the subscription/bundle offering as a whole. If you want to see detailed reviews of the components, check out the individual reviews – if you click on the “Book of Beyond”-tag on my homepage (or search for it, you’ll have them all conveniently listed.
The greatest weakness of the series, as a whole, is that it mainly suffers from its editing not being as precise as it’d deserve to be; there are a lot of little niggles to complain about, and yes, there are a few options herein that imho go too far regarding power-levels.
That being said, Christen N. Sowards’ massive Book of Beyond series is genuinely much better than I expected from the small indie outfit that is Lost Spheres Publishing. He has not only grown as an author here, he has retained a core strength of his designs: Never be boring.
The Book of Beyond series manages to tickle out a lot of new and innovative concepts out of good ole’ Pathfinder’s first edition, and it genuinely displays a love for third party content, for subsystems.
And, of course, there is the question of bang for buck. You get two really creative, high-concept mythic paths, a ton of cool occult and psionic material, and then there is the massive luminal power book, which is itself chock-full with creative and experimental options; not all of these may be for every game, but for those looking for something creative, such as the Liminal Gestalt-lite engine? Heck, you will grin from ear to ear.
I won’t be using the entirety of this series in a given game, but I sure as hell will continue using content from this series. In fact, in spite of the massive amount of work that analyzing this was, I found myself genuinely enjoying my time spent analyzing this.
If you and your group consider yourself to be veterans of Pathfinder’s first edition, do yourself a favor and check this out – it may be rough around the edges, but it genuinely rewards you for sticking with it. In spite of my OCD-frustration with the editing snafus and glitches, I found myself looking forward to returning to this series time and again, and each of the books sports several components I sure as hell will be using. And yes, this series requires that a GM be capable of assessing the power of individual options in the context of their game – as noted, many options herein reveal their full potential in the hands of capable players.
So yeah, this is rough; it’s not perfect, but I have always preferred ambition and innovation over formally perfect, but safe and boring files. As such, my final verdict for the entire series will be 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.