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Lost Paths: Voltaic
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/06/2020 05:51:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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.

Conclusion: 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.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Paths: Voltaic
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Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/06/2020 06:42:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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.

Conclusion: 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!!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
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Akashic Realms Volume 2: The Quiet Lands
by Eric C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/12/2019 10:43:17

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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Realms Volume 2: The Quiet Lands
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Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
by Eric C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/12/2019 10:41:44

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.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
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Races of the Lost Spheres: Bloodborn
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2019 13:04:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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.

Conclusion: 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.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Races of the Lost Spheres: Bloodborn
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Classes of the Lost Spheres: Paramour
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2019 12:53:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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.

Conclusion: 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.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of the Lost Spheres: Paramour
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Book of Beyond Work-in-Progress Subscription
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2019 08:22:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond Work-in-Progress Subscription
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Book of Beyond: Psionic Paths
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/18/2019 08:22:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 29.5 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.

All right, after a brief introduction to the concept of power source origins, we start with lists of psionic powers, organized by classes, then levels. Particularly fans of the cryptic and dread will be rather happy to note quite a bunch of material for their classes. It should be noted that different classes might have different power point costs for the powers herein. Why are source origins relevant? Well, for example, disruption shield nets resistance bonuses to saving throws versus effects from a given source – the augment btw. allows for additional source origins to be specified, increase the bonus, or manifest the power as an immediate action. Duality lets you select an additional source origin, making your psionic abilities count as though drawing from that as well. What about imprinting a spell from one spellcaster to another sharing the same source? Or care for source interdiction, which locks out one source? Yeah, the latter in particular makes a lot more sense to me than the default flat antimagic shield. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s take a look at more of those powers, shall we? Actify penumbra lets you lace shadow plane effects in shadow creatures, shadow spell- or fear-effects, and on the following round, damage caused by the targeted effect or creature takes 2d6 additional damage; shadow creatures also get a boost to saving throws and natural armor – the boost to saving throws is not properly codified regarding bonus type, but the power does come with two different augments. Very cool, on the other hand – amplified occlusion targets a creature and makes it perceive cover etc. as larger; astral epiphany nets a summoned creature a combat feat for which it qualifies, and with the augment, you can add feats on top of that, using the original feat granted by the power as a prerequisite for the follow up feats. HOWEVER, these follow-up feats RAW do NOT qualify for further prerequisites, so you still can’t get an entire feat-tree this way.

There are also some tactically potent high-level tricks herein, like astral redirection, which allows you to redirect spells, powers and supernatural ability with a touch range. I love this, though its per se precise rules-language is missing an “if”, which can render understanding it a bit tougher than it should be. This is, alas, not the only instance of such a glitch: In the next power, we have a “level” missing – it might be obvious what “1st astral construct” means to some, but I can also see this cause confusion. Diversify summons is an interesting one that lets you change summon monster/nature’s ally critters called forth, with augments allowing you to affect higher spell level versions. I like it, because it can be used defensively and offensively, and the augments allow you to take control as well – and yes, unwilling summoners get a save. What about using summoned creatures to erupt with force damage. This can be very, very strong when handled in a smart manner, but is solidly situated and requires setting up.

Autoarchive is interesting, in that it allows you to engrave a SPELL (not, that’s not a typo!) Spell Mastery style in the astral plane – and this can be [Network]’d, and with augment and power points expended, you can overwrite your prepared spells with encoded ones and encode higher level spells. What about cleric/oracle-specific buffs? Yeah, notice something? These powers don’t operate exclusively in the psionics paradigm – they are explicitly designed to provide interesting interactions with other classes. What about the immediate action dweomerfreeze, which lets you suspend spell effects with a proper manifester level check– and personal spell effects may be defrozen; this can allow for some serious cool tactical combos. This is so cool, save that it should probably specify that the manifester level check is against the target’s caster level check, or 10 + caster level. RAW, the check is against the caster level, which is ridiculous and would allow even a mid-level character suspend a level 20 caster’s effect. Then again, that MAY be intended, considering it’s a 4th/5th level power, so in dubio pro reo applies.

Speaking of interesting: There is a psionic variant of mirror image, called dusk duplicants – the interesting thing here, beyond augments, is that there is another power that allows you to lace spells or powers in your duplicants, which release upon the duplicant’s destruction. In the hands of tactically-minded, clever players (or NPCs!) this can be gold. Speaking of which: What about an echo-class style mimicking of effects, save that it’s a quasi-real [shadow]-version? Or what about a shadow-based blue magic style ability that is strenuous on the manifester, but lets you gain low-CR supernatural abilities? Indeed, the themes of light and dark add a unique dimension here: With echoed illumination, you can target a shadow magic effect, and generate an illumination double of the effect – the less real the shadow effect, the more real the illumination effect will be: If a shadow effect, for example, is 30% real, the illumination double will be 70% real. This is potent, and another example of unique combo tricks championed herein. Super interesting: There is a power that lets you gain an idea of a proposed course of action for one round, making future shadows one of the most GM-friendly and yet super useful clairsentience/divination effects I’ve seen in a while. Kudos!

Cool: What about a low-level means to get psychoprosthetics? That power is so cool, I think it could carry its own archetype. Using power points to replenish your ally’s spells, scattering senses to see through multiple realities…did I mention the massive 4 shadow infusion powers? These can instill descriptor-based weaknesses, decrease how real targets are, erode their defenses, etc. What about rendering incorporeal targets corporeal? Or what about forcing a transitive plane to overlap with yours temporarily? Or what about making effects less real? This is a pretty damn awesome selection of powers.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are okay, but not impressive – I noticed a couple of typos, missing single words, etc., some of which rendered the rules slightly harder to grasp That being said, on a rules language level, the book fares MUCH better, and manages to juggle high-complexity concepts with more panache than you’d expect. Indeed, apart from nitpicks, this book does a pretty good job in that department. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with a few rather nice full-color artworks included. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards never does boring or redundant – and this holds true herein more than I expected it to. This book provides a broadening of psionics in themes, with particularly the transitive planes becoming more important; the source mechanics, as noted before in my reviews of Lost Spheres Publishing books, makes sense to me as well. The powers herein are rarely straightforward – and are better off for it. These are made for tactical combo gameplay and emphasize the tactics of the party, emphasize cooperative aspects of the game, and I genuinely love seeing that. Conversely, the power level of these powers is often very much contingent on the system mastery of your group: In the hands of the right group, these can deliver devastating, brutal combos; that being said, you’ll have to work for those. There is a great reward ratio for smart players here, and while powerful, I personally really, really liked this book.

If this had received a thorough sanding off of its rough patches, this’d be a 5 stars + seal of approval file, but as provided, I can’t go higher than 4.5 stars. If you don’t mind the typos and small glitches, round up; otherwise, round down. Personally, I’ll round up due to in dubio pro reo, and due to plenty of these effects making me come up with some seriously cool strategies for my adversaries…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Psionic Paths
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Lost Paths: Voltaic
by Vladimir R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2019 21:29:08

A different approach

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

The Voltaic is a classbook by Lost Spheres Publishing, written by some of the authors of the City of Seven Seraphs. While it builds on materials from other books, namely the Path of War initiator system by Dreamscarred Press fueled by the Stamina rules from Pathfinder Unchained, it presents a different approach to combat but, is it any good? Read on!

Before going to the contents of the book, I have to mention that I come from The Tome of Battle, the D&D 3.5 predecessor of the Path of War. I have both books, but have no experience neither playing nor mastering a Pathfinder initiator. Also, while I have experience with some parts of Pathfinder Unchained, the Stamina system is not one of them. I, however, have the Beyond Monks 3.5 books, which used stunning fist as a kind of currency to power special attacks, so the idea is the same. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Tome of Battle/Path of War present a special maneuver system similar to spells, but for martials; in short, it is a way to give cool toys for warriors so they don’t full attack all the time. The Stamina system is similar, giving old feats combat tricks empowered by stamina points, thus presenting more options for warriors in general but specifically for fighters.

What’s inside? 40 pages of content for x, which include:

-The Voltaic base class. This class looks like a Frankenstein monster on paper, having the Martial Flexibility of Brawlers, the maneuvers of initiators, and the Stamina rules intended for Fighters, but they strangely blend really well with the theme of the class, a sum greater than its parts. Like all initiators, it has a powerful chassis, having d10 HD, good BAB, 4 skill points per level, 2 good saves, and the proficiencies of a fighter, including tower shields. Strangely enough, the Path of War includes a new Knowledge specialty, martial, which is not a class skill of Voltaics.

They gain Stamina via the free Spark of Inspiration new feat, which not only gives them a free Eye of the Storm stance from the new discipline, but also a Stamina pool and the ability to “spark”, which I will cover later. There is a slight glitch here, since under the bonus feat it is mentioned that you cannot take Voltaic levels if you don’t meet the prerequisites, but the feat has a +1 BAB as one of them, so RAW it means you have to have a +1 BAB to take a Voltaic level.

Speaking of stances, the Voltaic gets some free ones over their careers, 5 over the free Eye of the Storm. They also get to add some electricity damage to their attacks, which goes up from 1d4 to 1d12 over the levels and stacks with shocking enhancement and the like, and also can add the first roll to their AC and even their saves at very high levels. Finally, they get a built-in archetype called Path of the Storm, which covers 4 archetypical warrior roles for a variety of builds and dictates the class’ capstone. Overall, a very powerful, versatile class when compared to a vanilla Fighter, but in the context of the Path of War it feels balanced.

After the class there are several favored class bonuses for a couple of races, some core, some from the Co7S and one from Akashic Realms 2. Unlike other books where Michael Sayre has worked on, this one doesn’t include the role of the class within the race’ society (bummer).

-8 NPCs. Following FCBs, we get a whole page dedicated to Co7S Voltaic NPCs, 8 to be precise, with enough information to build them and customize them for your games. My favorite are the mirrorkin whose names are palindromes.

-The Sparking System (variant initiation). The star of the book, sparking is a cool, innovative way to learn martial maneuvers. Sparkers have, like all initiators, maneuvers known (Initiator ability modifier + lvl) and maneuvers readied (2+½ lvl). However, you start your career with 0 maneuvers, and when you roll a 20 in an attack roll or a skill check in combat, or a foe fails with a 1, you get a chance to “spark”. What is that? When you spark, you learn a maneuver from a level you have access to and get it readied, coming to you as a flash of inspiration. If you would like to learn a new maneuver, you will have to leave some of your readied maneuvers empty. The other difference is that, unlike standard initiators, your maneuvers are never spent; instead of spending maneuvers, you power them by using Stamina points (1 per maneuver level), which you get from the Spark of Initiation.

This approach addresses one of my least liked parts of the Initiation system, which is the lack of tactical differentiation of using your highest level maneuver instead of a lower one. Do I start with the big guns and risk running low of steam? Or do I use my low level tricks over and over to always have something cool to do? This replaces the highest maneuver cycling that I saw happening in my Tome of Battle days (100 fire damage? again?). This system also works better as a story telling device, giving plenty of options for a good Game Master to describe why John the Voltaic learned X maneuver when Z happened. Heck, maybe Voltaics are the first initiators, inventing maneuvers from circumstances, which later could be codified and taught to more traditional initiators.

There are a couple of things I don’t agree with, though. One, is that there is no mention of what disciplines can Voltaics or other Sparkers can learn maneuvers from, and second, Stamina gauge starts full; something I really like from other systems where you use your most powerful maneuvers to close a fight after building up some kind of gauge or pool, which could be easily house ruled by having the Stamina pool start at half and then letting users get an extra point or two every round by doing or not doing certain actions.

-3 Spark Feats: Two are the foundations of the Sparking system (free for Voltaics), while the other expands upon it. Perfect to dip in the system or jump on the boat for existing characters. However, the base Spark of Inspiration feat, in the context of what a feat gives you access to, is really powerful and game changing. Any kind of access to the feat should be considered beforehand.

-3 archetypes, covering the fighter, the rogue and the unchained monk, all of them “sparkers” who get Spark of Inspiration as a bonus feat. The Unlimited Warrior archetype for the fighter gets more skillpoints, an ability to prevent a deadly attack with Stamina points, and can spark at will and piggyback a combat maneuver when sparking with a strike. Deathseeker rogues have a kind of meta-sneak attack, where they can change the damage to do cool things like changing d6s for d4s to ghost touch, or d6s to d10s but dealing mind-affecting damage. Finally, Volt Dancer monks seem pulled out straightly from a Manhua (Chinese comic), being able to deal stormy damage (cold, electricity or sonic) with their attacks instead of physical, and can even fly!

-The Spark of Battle martial discipline. It is associated with the Acrobatics skill, and with close weapons and heavy and light blades. Apart from that, Initiators who have the Spark of Inspiration feat can spend Stamina on some maneuvers to empower them! How cool is that? Anyway, it has 33 maneuvers, and I will cover the lowest and highest level stance, plus one maneuver of each type. Eye of the Storm is the 1st level stance and it just let you “spark” easier, plus it is a freebie when you get the Spark of Inspiration feat. Stance of Storms let you “airwalk”, with the possibility to spend Stamina to walk faster (airjog?).

Electric Slide is the lowest boost, letting you move through an occupied space, making an opposed Acrobatics check against your opponent’s CMD to knock him down, with Stamina increasing the movement. Volt Dance is one of the few counters this discipline has (4 I think?), of 3rd level, which lets you teleport to the origin of an electrical attack if within 60 ft., and giving you a free attack if within 30 ft., doubling both distances with the expenditure of a Stamina point. Stigmata of Storm is the highest maneuver in the discipline, a 9th level strike, that gives you five attacks, beginning at full and adding a -2 to each subsequent attack. Each successful attack does normal weapon dmg plus 5d6 sonic AND 5d6 electricity damage, plus extra effects depending on the number of successful attacks, including bleed damage, blindness, deafness, and these two can be permanent… AND you can spend an extra Stamina point (why wouldn’t you if you are already spending 9?) to change the bonus damage dice from d6 to d10. Woe to the one at the receiving end of this one LOL. To be fair, we are talking about 18th level adventuring and you would be spending a lot of resources, which takes us back to my preferences of “sparking” over normal Initiation because of maneuver cycling.

In Tome of Battle some of the higher level maneuver had pre-requisites, normally a certain number of maneuvers from the same discipline, but I noticed none here, and I don’t know about Path of War, but that will let the cherry picking of maneuvers via feats.

We also get references to the Initiating system for people who don’t own any of those books, including everything you have to know to play initiators, including 3 other disciplines, being Eternal Guardian, Thrashing Dragon and Solar Wind. The formatting of these 3 disciplines’ maneuvers’ lists differ, as do the presentation of the maneuvers themselves compared to how Spark of Battle presents them alphabetically while the other three are by level. While it’s mostly a cosmetic difference, in the lists each maneuver includes its type (stance, boost, strike or counter), which is very handy.

Of Note: The Voltaic is an interesting class, as is the Spark of Battle discipline, but the real gem of the book is the sparking system as I mentioned.

Anything wrong?: The formatting differences of the disciplines is a bit grating, but not too bad. Also, the power and fantasy level of martials is going way up, which may not be suitable for some tables.

What I want: While I’m not the biggest fan of the Path of War, I would like a system that works like the Momentum engine which slowly fills a pool; so, do you rock now? Or do you own later? I mentioned an option before, so I may fiddle with that to fine-tune Sparking to my personal tastes.

What cool things did this inspire?: As always, great design inspires great stories and characters. I will try to convince my group to try Path of War in PF but with sparkers, to avoid the old 9th level maneuver cycling. The storytelling possibilities of Sparking and its unstable nature will surely be game changer.

Do I recommend it?: IMHO, this book is for people who want to add more oomph and mysticism to martials, or want to introduce the Path of War in a different way, or for users of PoW that want to try new things. If you are in one of those groups, I can recommend it 100%. I would give this book 4 electrical stars, because of the things I mentioned; however, this book has really, really good art and layout and the maneuvers visuals are just plain cool, so I will add half a star to that, rounded up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Paths: Voltaic
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Book of Beyond: Liminal Power
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2019 13:23:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 66 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

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

As before in the series and in Lost Spheres Publishing’s offerings, we begin with a brief synopsis of sources of power, that, in a way, pre-empted how PF2 thinks about magic, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned – if e.g. the source of power is entropic, that’ll be a different experience and flavor from drawing power from the temporal. This is further underlined by correlating sources of power with planes, with some suggestions provided. In a way, these source super-descriptors, as the pdf rightly points out, could be likened akin to e.g. magic being arcane, divine or psychic. In a welcome notion I did not expect, things like e.g. ki are contextualized within the super-framework thus presented. And yes, I know that many groups won’t mind, but I can’t help but grin when such operations are concerned. Perhaps it’s my academic background, but my games tend to codify and quantify magic and such sources of power in a similar manner, emphasizing a kind of “rule”-array that governs how they behave and function. But that as an aside. This also extends to explaining the difference between Astral and Ether, and the respective correlations to psionic and psychic disciplines, respectively, which is once more a helpful way to think about their co-existence. Indeed, this extends to noting how classes and potential retrograde users can be codified within this frame of thought, INCLUDING classes such as the shadow-themed classes by e.g. Interjection Games’ Ultimate Antipodism, Rogue Genius Games’ shadow-themed classes of Lost Spheres’ own shadow-themed offerings – which, to my pleasant surprise, included the echo in that category. Indeed, the pdf then proceeds to explain signature expressions of transitive planes within the context of magic.

The theoretical underpinnings that grant context to the material in question out of the way, we begin with a selection of 8 archetypes, with the first being the darkside defender fighter, who replaces the bonus feat gained at first level with Liminal Self. This is a character created as per the cohort rules outlined in the Leadership feat (or, if you’re using Everybody Games’ Ultimate Charisma, the rules there); this character only exists in a dreamscape in mind and spirit, a part of the unconscious mind. As a full round action, you may relinquish control to said character. You choose one mental ability score modifier that this entity is in charge of, as per mind swap, for up to one round per selected ability score modifier. (As a nitpick, this is referred to as “attribute modifier”; the original self, meanwhile, is set adrift in the unconscious dreamscape, and might potentially (subject to GM’s discretion), be accessed via dream-related spellcasting, such as dream travel. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the character gets to call upon this Liminal Self an additional time per day, up to the chosen ability score modifier rounds per such daily activation. However, doing so is super-draining, and renders the character fatigued as well as expending all power points, spell slots and daily use abilities. Kudos: stacking of fatigue-related conditions is properly codified. The feat may be chosen multiple times, with each additional time offering an additional such persona. In essence, this feat provides an engine for limited gestalting, which is, obviously, system-immanently powerful, but the stringent limitations imposed upon this feat do mean that this option retains viability without breaking the game. Personally, I would have appreciated a caveat that prevents exploitation by characters that are immune to fatigue, but this is a relatively simple caveat to add, and the conditions are the least of the feat’s drawbacks. So yeah, color me duly impressed. Since this feat-based Liminal Self engine features in quite a few of the archetypes, let us take a slight detour and discuss the feats herein that build on this pretty potent chassis, all right?

At 5th level, you may take Persistent Self, which increases Liminal Self’s duration intervals to minutes per level instead of rounds per level…which is a very unfortunate inconsistency, as the base feat’s duration is not tied to levels, but to ability score modifiers – so, which is it? That being said, it remains possible to extrapolate the use of the feat properly: Since Persistent Self increases the interval unit of activity from rounds to minutes as its benefit, it may still be employed, though the confusion resulting from this inconsistency can be a bit jarring. Potent Sleeper, also available as soon as 5th level, allows you to make Liminal Selves be within 1 level of your character’s level. Unconscious Awakening lets you roll an opposed Will-save versus the Liminal Self persona when you have the unconscious condition – if the Liminal Self wins, it awakens while you are unconscious, and if the core persona’s body is below 0 hit points, it gets half its maximum hit points as temporary hit points for the duration of control. This can be a pretty potent last second save effort, and might be construed as too much for lower-powered games, but within the context of the material presented herein (and the core feat’s already potent quasi-gestalting), this should not break games featuring this engine. Sleepwalker’s Soul requires both the former feat and Persistent Self, and makes the Liminal Self take control for the entire duration of your sleeping, but at the cost of waking fatigued/exhausted, etc. Finally, Lasting Manifestation, which requires Persistent Self, allows you to choose to have the Liminal Self in control until it is subjected to a “negative condition” – a list here would have been appreciated.

Okay, got all of that? To summarize: The Liminal Self feat tree is essentially a (relatively) balanced attempt on introducing a gestaling-lite engine, and it does its job relatively well. That explanation out of the way, let us resume talking about the archetypes for which this is relevant. The darkside defender’s Liminal Self may not be a full BAB-class, and when the character drops a foe to 0 hp, contested Will-saves with the Liminal Self are in order; if the Liminal Self wins, it takes over as a free action, and remains in control until affected by damage or negative conditions. Okay, cool. … Wait. There is an issue here. Did you spot it? I did provide a bit of a hint before. You see, standard Leadership assumes 7th level as prerequisite, and as such, the standard cohort-engine doesn’t work too well for low levels. (Read: Not at all.) That would render the Liminal Self engine nonoperational at low levels, and indeed, also affect archetypes herein. I honestly almost didn’t notice that, though. Why? Because I’ve been playing with Alexander Augunas’ excellent leadership-from-level-1 rules, which can be found in Ultimate Charisma, for AGES. And with those, the engine is fully operational. So yeah, let me state this clearly: You should be using Ultimate Charisma if you want to make use of the Liminal Self engine. Without it, the engine has a big blind spot.

The feats at 2nd and 16th level are replaced with the ability to select a weapon. A masterwork quasi-real shadow weapon manifests when the Liminal Self takes control. The weapon turns magical at 6th level. 3rd level also provides a kind of shadow armor, with the type improving at higher levels, replacing armor training and mastery.

Also at 2nd level, we have the dark rage class feature, which is essentially a barbarian’s rage that triggers when the Liminal Self takes control, save that it provides a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution and upgrades that to +4 at 12th, +6 at 20th level. Additionally, this counts as a rage and rage power, and allows the archetype to take the Extra Rage Power feat with 5 of the fighter class’ bonus feats. This replaces bravery and the bonus feats gained at 6th and 12th level. I kinda like this, but without enhancements of weapons and armor, the shadowy accoutrements are not exactly useful; this is a cool concept, but one that essentially needed to be a full-blown class hack, with more tricks for the shadowy items. On the plus-side, as written, it is an archetype that, despite of the gestalt-angle’s sheer power, retains its viability even in more conservative games, which can be considered to be a big plus. Whether the totality here is a bug or feature, ultimately, is contingent on your personal preferences.

The grinning shadow rogue archetype also is based on Liminal Self (replacing trapfinding), and the Liminal Self may not have sneak attack; the archetype has the same chance for the Liminal Self to take control, and also has the shadow-weapon-angle; only this time around, the poor rogue loses two rogue talents; considering that it’s, well, the rogue class, the archetype would have done well to not neuter the poor class further with the none-too-potent weapon replacing two vital talents. Indeed, the archetype is nigh identical with the one for the fighter, save that the rage here is more unique, as benefits apply to Strength and Dexterity instead, and its rage power options pertain to rogue talents instead of feats.

Psions can choose from one of two archetypes, with the first being the mirrormind, who replaces discipline and discipline talents with mirror power: This supernatural ability lets the character choose one type of source super-type, as per classified in the introduction. The mirrormind may expend psionic focus to imprint a spell or power of the chosen source they witness in use. No action to activate is given, though free and immediate are my guesses; then again, readying might be an option as well, so some sort of clarification would be nice. For one round per point of Intelligence (NOT Intelligence modifier!), the mirrormind can manifest this power or spell by paying twice its level or power point cost. The level of the spell or effect is the same as witnessed, and material components of 1gp or more need to be supplied. That being said, RAW, only the LEVEL of the power or spell is constant; this may either be intentional or not, but RAW, the mirrormind could use powers and spells with multiple forms of augmentation and level modification via e.g. metamagic/psionic tricks. I am not sure if that is intended, as the “mirror”-name evokes a theme of copying the exact parameters of the witnessed effect, but either interpretation is possible. 7th and 14th level provides an additional source that may be duplicated. 10th level allows the mirrormind to retain one such imprint indefinitely, and as a capstone, they may retain one indefinite imprint per spell/power level. (As a nitpick: A reference to the previous class feature is erroneously called “power” AND capitalized – the combination of these two rules-language slips tripped me up for a second.)

The second psion archetype would be the phrenic surger, who loses the bonus feats gained at 1st, 5th and every 5 levels thereafter. The archetype gains a phrenic pool equal to ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, and a phrenic amplification, plus an additional one at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. For the purpose of amplification, the power point cost is correlated to spell levels. All in all, an interesting engine-tweak.

While we’re on the subject of psionic options, there also is a new aegis archetype herein: The mnemonic guardian does not create an astral suit, and instead instills its powers with relics, making it feel more occult in a way. The archetype is primarily defined by unique customizations: For 1 point, we have ancestral focus, which nets you a lite-version of an occultist’s mental focus pool, and indeed, ties in with the 2-point customization that nets an occultist implement school that nets the resonant and base focus power to the armor. The other customizations, ranging from 1 point to 4, are a tree, and also build on the 2-point customization, allowing for the expenditure of power points to manifest the respective implement school’s spells as psychic spells.

While we’re on the subject of occultist-adjacent psionic options, there also is a new wilder-surge within, the nostalgic surge; the wilder forms a bond with an item, and the wilder may invest power points in said object while surging, with surge modifier applied. For one round per class level, the wilder gains the resonant power bonus of a single occultist implement correlating to the item. Psychic enervation dazes the wilder until the end of their turn, and loses the invested power points. Surge bond nets a spell from the occultist’s spell list,, which may be manifested at the wilder’s level while the object has power points invested. Okay. At what cost? No idea. Extra Focus Power is gained at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. I like the basic premise, but this needs some finetuning to work as intended.

The pdf also presents a new occultist archetype, the shadowed keeper, who has a massive twist to its core engine, altering the focus-engine and introducing temporary focus, which may be invested as a swift action – it basically makes the investment operate with a higher oscillation. The shadowed keeper has ½ class level (mo minimum specified) + Intelligence modifier mental focus points. For each creature reduced to 0 hit points near (5’’ per class level) the shadowed keeper, they gain 1 point of temporary focus, and temporary focus lasts for 1 round per shadowed keeper level until 12th level, where this extends to 1 minute per shadowed keeper level, and 1 hour per class level, at which level this increases to hourly intervals; they don’t have the ability to maintain the generic focus usually provided. The downside here is readily apparent: You really want to carry a bag of kittens around to slaughter for your boost. At 4th level, shift focus is replaced with a +1 insight bonus vs. necromancy, athanatism and death effects for every implement invested with temporary focus. I like where this goes, but I maintain that the kitten-failure is unnecessary; plus, the flux of focus could have carried more.

But let us get back to psionic options – there are two new cryptic insights: Structural resonance lets the cryptic target objects when gaining their psionic focus, ignoring hardness. This decreases disrupt pattern’s damage die size to d4s, and every round you use this consecutively subtracts 1 from the damage total dealt. Does this reset immediately? After resting? The second option would be entropic redistribution, which lets the cryptic designate a second creature type when gaining focus; when damage is done with disrupt pattern to the first type,, as an immediate action, the cryptic can heal a creature of the second type for the same amount This may be used up to Intelligence modifier times per day. Super cool. The pdf also features a kineticist utility wild talent, which has a formatting that somewhat deviates from the standard presentation; it essentially acts as a more limited kineticist’s plane shift.

The momentus psychic warrior replaces warrior’s path with rising kinetics. As long as they maintain psionic focus, after the first successful attack, the momentus gains 1d6 active energy type bonus damage that bypasses power and spell resistance. With each successful hit, the archetype gets 1 temporary power point that can be used to manifest or augment powers with the active energy type. These temporary power points dissipate at a rate of one point per round, and you get basic kinesis of the element corresponding to the active element for class level round after triggering this. This can easily be cheesed as soon as you have more than one attack per round, as you can stack up infinite temporary power points by slaughtering kittens. This makes the core of the archetype-engine broken. Next. The Phobius mesmerist replaces painful stare with a dread-like untyped damage-causing touch attack, with hypnotic stare’s effects requiring a swift action and only deliverable via this touch. Consummate liar is replaced with +1/2 class level (minimum +1) insight bonus to Intimidate. The archetype may choose dread terrors instead of mesmerist tricks. At 6th level, terrors may be delivered through the touch attacks. They may have any terror active, altering mesmerist tricks and manifold tricks. Touch treatment is replaced with a fear-aura, and at higher levels, we have fear immunity and the ability to similarly fortify allies under trick effects.

Kyoudai Games’ Thunderscape-Thaumaturge also gets a new legend, the mystic, who has good Will-saves, Psychic Sensitivity, 2 +1 per level spirit points, and may use occult skill unlocks an additional time per usage period per Charisma modifier. When you gain this legend, you choose Charisma modifier +1 1st level spells from mesmerist, occultist and psychic, which you may then cast as SPs 1/day Emotion components, if any, must be provided. At higher levels, an array for 2nd, 3rd and 4th level may be chosen, and active aspect or folk magic traits granting SPs get +1 Charisma modifier uses while this legend is active. This is VASTLY superior to pretty much all other legends available to the class. For comparison: Sneak attack progression versus multiple levels of SPs and use increases.

So, this covers the archetypes – but before we get to the second major crunch chapter, it should be mentioned that the feat-chapter also provides means to e.g. combine akashic essence and residuum from Ultimate Antipodism in a potent, but overall plausible manner spending residuum for increases, etc. can also be found. Occult/psionic crossovers are another leitmotif here, with e.g. the means to expend psionic focus to temporarily enhance resonance or activate focus powers. Feats to enhance the interesting burden/boon spells may be found. There also is a feat to gain a Residuum pool that can be built upon for echo-lite action, and there are e.g. means to spend shadow points to enhance psychic conjurations, etc. Extending phrenic amplifications to other effects may be overkill, and there are more feats for additional daily use class features. Modifying summon monster with imprinted creatures…notice something? This book takes a TON into account – heck, there is even material for pact magic and Everybody Games’ Paranormal Adventures here. Using phrenic pool to enhance Psionic Fist/Weapon, spend residuum to decrease the cooldown of spirit granted abilities, etc. – some seriously interesting, but also sometimes VERY potent stuff here. There also is a feat that is a psionics/psychic crossover that nets you essentially an implement with a single resonant power – this tackles highly complex stuff. The chapter also features two new, nice flaws.

The lion’s share of this book, though, is devoted to prestige classes, 9 to be more precise – and if I went through these PrC by PrC, this’d be a 20+ pages review, so I’ll be brief. The first would be Astral Antiquarian with a ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression and full spell/power-progression, as well as d8 HD and 2 + Int skills per level. This one can be qualified either by magic or psionic power, and object reading is a base theme. The PrC nets essentially an occultist-lite experience and provides 7 implement schools for psionic disciplines, including athanatism – and these actually are more interesting and precise than the previously noted archetype/class option tricks, featuring e.g. means to make undead temporarily susceptible to mind-affecting effects, dive into the mind of a corpse and rewind their memories. There are some seriously cool high-fantasy detective tools here, crystalline caltrops, energy torrents, etc. – it’s an interesting PrC, with the implements potentially interesting beyond the confines of the PrC.

Blackblade Breakers require a residuum pool, d1ß HD, full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression and 4 + Int skills per level. This fellow is essentially a fellow specialized in defeating shadow-users. A solid little PrC, if not one that’s blow you away. Dreamsealers get d8 HD, 2 + Int skills, ¾ BAB-progression, full progression for spells/powers from two sources: These are interesting, in that they are psionic/psychic healers that can temporarily shut wounds via dreamseals – these instead act as temporary hit points, but are accompanied by essentially minor evolution packages, as the power of the dreamseal sports lesser metamorphosis/metamorphosis. Additionally, higher levels offer location-swaps, and yes, there are limits in place. This fellow is super-.interesting, and actually one of the PrCs I’ll be using. Kudos! The Eye of the Storm similarly has dual source full progression, ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level. Either psychic or akin to the wilder, these beings may designate binder, casters, manifesters, etc. and roll a die, chaotically influencing their powers. Add primal magic events, and we have an interesting chaos-supporter.

The gyreblade gets full BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Will-save progression, 8 levels of dual-source spell/power progression, 4 + Int skills per level. This class essentially fuses two manifested or summoned weapons – one is the flow, one the riptide; this lets e.g. a soulknife act as a transmutation occult implement or vessel for a kinetic blade infusion. And yes, this is kept in check, and the PrC comes with its own talent array: Verdant blade, shadow blade, shadow assassin, vital blade, etc. – there are plenty of lesser known class options that may be fused thus. This is wide open, and potentially interesting, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily a compelling one for most tables.

The shadowed packmaster gets full dual-source progression, ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, d6 HD and 2 + Int skill per level. This one is interesting, as it lets you undersummon creatures/astral constructs by expending other spells/power to create additional shadow creatures at decreased reality; higher levels add additional critters, though the table nets an additional increase at 9th level, which is not noted in the rules-text. That being said, there is some seriously cool stuff going on here, as these shadow beings may be expressed by the opposite element – acidic earth beings causing electricity damage and having the air subtype, for example. Furthermore, we have Astral Construct augment menus for these.

The souldancer gets 3/4 –BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, 8/10 manifester progression, d8 HD, 2 + Int skills per level, and it’s once more an interesting one – it’s a PrC focused on possession as an angle. Tribeminds get d8 HD, ½ Will-save progression, 2 + Int skills per level…and here we have the PrC that further expands upon the Liminal Self-based engine, creating a great class for solo-games, jack-of-all-trades-fans, etc. – this is a potent fellow, but once more an interesting and fun option. The trinity mage has a ½ BAB- and Will-save progression, 2 + Int skills per level – and its progression of spells/powers/etc. is kinda interesting, as the PrC is contingent on the notion of heavy multiclassing with three different power-sources as such alternating between progressions. The PrC gets trinity points, and so-called sequences, which grant benefits for varied source-resolution; essentially, the PrC provides options that make a thoroughly subpar choice interesting and play differently. They are potent, but they have to be potent to account for the dispersal of focus. This is an extremely tough design and acts as a kind of magic combo-system. Big kudos for this one, in spite of some minor rough spots.

The pdf then proceeds to provide some advice for campaigns tapping into luminal themes, as well as two new psionic powers, one of which is a shadow-based Astral Construct ability grant, and the second lets you manifest the luminal self and interacts with the feat. The pdf also features three astral construct menus and the metamorphosis stuff for reference.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, but the pdf does feature a couple of typos…and on a rules-language level, the book often manages to execute super-complex operations, but also stumbles a few times in ways that influence mechanical integrity. I seriously wished that a strict and nitpicky editor had gone through this with a fine-toothed comb. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the pdf features some seriously nice full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards’ love for Pathfinder 1 is readily apparent here, particularly for all the amazing things that the third party community has brought to the game. There are a ton of top tier complex multiclassing/overlapping options herein, allowing you to blend a vast variety of different options. As in all of his designs, it’s definitely “go big or go home” regarding themes. While there are problematic aspects herein, they never ever are boring. They almost always do something unique and creative. Even after all these years of PF1. That’s a serious achievement. Additionally, there is an undercurrent here – there are parts that aren’t great, yes. But there also are components that I genuinely consider to be genius. That seriously warrant getting this book – at least for me.

But what about you? Well, how many 3pp-resources are you using? If the answer is “a lot”, then chances are that this one will add some serious oomph to your game. The pdf provides quite a few potent options and requires some serious mastery of the Pathfinder 1 system – this book obviously is intended for veterans of Pathfinder 1, and frankly, it made me seriously ponder how to integrate its some of its content into my games – something that rarely happens anymore, because I just have so much. At its weakest, this book feels like an excellent first draft of a book, with quality oscillating from “almost perfect and inspiring” to “should go back to the drawing board for minor refinement before it’s fully functional/cool.” Honestly, I could warrant rating this as low as 3 stars for what it is – a mixed bag with brilliant highlights, but also some pretty nasty lows. Do not flat-out allow the entire book; the balancing is not always consistent, though in parts, this is system-immanently due to the vast amount of sources and crossovers herein.

That being said, let’s take the target audience into account; hardcore PF 1 fans with a ton of experience with 3pp-material. And this demographic? At this point, I think you fine people are system-savvy enough to iron off the rough patches and use this book as intended. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, courtesy of the imaginative components and strength of the book’s visions. Quite a few components herein would be seal of approval level, but as a whole, this is as high as I can justify. Still, if you’re a PF1 grognard or simply a fan of novel things done with a d20-based engine, then give this a try. Chances are you’ll find something that’ll blow your mind.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Liminal Power
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Akashic Realms Volume 2: The Quiet Lands
by Vladimir R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/16/2019 12:54:18

This Fantasy is not Final (wink wink)

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Following the awesome AR1, Lost Spheres Publishing presents us with volume 2. The content, however, is a bit different from volume 1. But, is it any good? And what’s up with my FF wink in the title? Read on!

What’s inside? 40 pages of content (disregarding cover, legal stuff etc.) for 7 bucks, which include:

-5 akashic races: So here we start with the FF cameos, inspirations or whatever you want to call them. All the races in the book are akashic, having the akashic subtype, an extra point of essence, and a natural ability that can be invested with essence. Also, each race comes with many favored class bonuses, for classes that “make sense” from a big part of Pathfinder class catalogue, including many 3rd party. Some of them are novel, like gaining bonuses when manifesting their racial patron constellation.

The first race is the Cactuar… I meant Cactus Folk, which are small plants. Like Ghorans, they lack most immunities of the plant type save sleep effects, and apparently are genderless. They are fast and have a natural armor, plus their spines give them a natural form of attack and defense. Like their FF counterparts, they have a chance to counter attacks with a needle spray.

Next we have the Tonberries… Sorry, Creepers, another small plant folk that look like humanoid turtles. Why the plant type? Who knows! Personally I would have used monstrous humanoid but eh. They are really adept with small slashing weapons, to the point that a lot of their favored class bonuses play with that idea, and can even invest essence in that aptitude! Also, their eyes glow in the dark. And they DO have vestigial gender even if they reproduce asexually with their own spores.

Mogbears… er, Morphbears look like Ewoks with dragonfly wings, although their racial ability recolor them… reminding me of the Carebears LOL. They can glide and invest essence in their wings to fly… very badly at first, but by now anyone knows how problematic this can be with flying ranged warriors or, worse, summoners. They can attune to one of the elements and get a flavorful ability (don’t worry, a cute tattoo doesn’t appear in their bellies). If they don’t attune, they get extra essence, over the one they already get from being an akashic race, which make them great akashic users. Oh, and they are magical beasts.

Wolgers are a race of natural predators with both canine and feline characteristics, and they are normally RED (wink). Their most unusual characteristic is… they don’t have hands! They can’t wield weapons or cast spells with somatic components, heck they can’t even wear gloves or shape hand veils! To compensate, they can use two pair of magical boots AND can shape, and later bind, two feet veils. They are magical beasts, have natural armor and a bite attack, later developing claws and all are treated as primary natural attacks. Finally, they are blessed by Baha... the Sky King, having a natural electrical aura which enhances their natural attack and damages those who touch them, and they can invest essence in their ability to deal more damage. My spider sense (TM) tells me this ability will be more powerful in the long run, having a lot of repercussions like being in a grapple, swallowed, and even touched with a beneficial effect. Thankfully they can turn off this ability.

Wyrmkin made me yell BANGAI at first, but they are basically PC drakes. They are also magical beasts, quadrupeds, and have wings, having the most unusual characteristics of both Morphbears and Wolgers. They can also invest essence in their wings to fly better.

Finally, we have three variant races: Akashic elves and tieflings, plus essence-less humans.

All in all, a mix of really weird, over-the-top races that may not cater to everyone, but I bet my GIL that you will find two or three to your liking. Also, they don’t have to be PCs, they can work wonders as NPCs too!

-A third Zodiac cosmology: The Quiet Lands cosmology doesn’t only present new toys for the Zodiac, it also includes a new ability for Champion aspects of constellations, which all of them have: a “dismiss” effect. This ability strongly resembles FF summons, where the creatures appear to do a single, powerful effect and then vanishes, leaving the summoner with essence burn. However, each Champion has a “trigger” for this to happen, and some of them happen so often that it makes the manifestation of champions a tactical decision, since it can hypothetically leave you burned out of essence. Also, this extra “dismiss” ability is balanced by the fact that all Quiet Lands constellations only have one more form besides Champion. Also, half of the champions are really expensive to manifest, the highest costing 11 points! And, you know… one of them is a fricking dragon! As for other forms, we have 5 equipment pieces, 3 weapons, 3 armors, and a shield that is considered both weapon and armor. Speaking of FF, each of the constellations strongly mirrors one of the iconic summons of said saga, which is awesome! A few retouches here and there and you have THE FF summons!

-12 Feats: The book includes 6 reprint feats: the three Planar Infusion conduit feats, the three Astrologist feats, Amateur and Noble, plus Expanded Cosmology; it’s worth noting that, while reprints, the last one has an interesting clause not present in the original feat: you actually CHANGE one constellation from your repertoire for one from a different cosmology. Why? I don’t really know but my guess is that it was done to prevent too much elemental stacking. There are 6 completely new feats, 5 of which have racial requirements; one of them, geared towards natural attackers, lets you channel a weapon constellation into one of your natural attacks! The last one bears (mogs?) special mention, since it builds on Essence Rejection and lets those inferior beings that can’t use any akashic magic the possibility to do so by using Crystech. Wait, what? Yes, Crystech is a new way to introduce akashic magic in a campaign via pseudo-magical technology.

-Magical Items: With one new item and one humble sidebar, this book includes a whole trove of pseudo-magical items, one for each veil in existence! The new item is an akashic Materia-like “Aspected Crystal” that can be used by akashic characters to eek some temporary essence, but their real use appears to be powering Crystech. The crystals normally have a type of essence (like fire, darkness, good, etc.), meaning that they can only power certain abilities and Crystech items.

-One Plane: The Quiet Lands While the previous book tackled many planes, this one tackles only one. I prefer this approach since it permits the authors to explore and give more depth to the location. So, the Quiet Lands are called so because, while not a “resort” plane to go on vacation, it has a quietness of spirit, having traits that prevent and interfere with aligned outsiders, their entrance, summoning, and even their sole presence! The Quiet Lands also feel way more connected to the City of Seven Seraphs campaign setting, and even to the first volume of Akashic Realms, as should be. That book, however, is not necessary. There are many factions in the plane that want to take control of the aspected crystal sources. And, while I’m not a master of FF lore, many things give me a strong FF7 vibe, but I may be wrong. The plane is divided in six parts, each one detailed and accompanied with locations of interest and a couple of important NPCs. The details are scarce but enough to start a campaign there.

-11 champion stat-blocks: Like the previous books that include a Zodiac cosmology, this volume include the stats for all the champions, saving the players and game master time and letting the game master to use some on the fly. There are 11 because two constellations, the Phoenix and Thunderbird, share the Roc as their base champion.

Of Note: If someone told me this book included FF-inspired races, I would have thought Viera, Bangaa, Nu Mou and Moogle, with maybe Lunarian or Half Esper. But making iconic FF monsters into PC races is amazing! And the new cosmology expands the possibilities of the Zodiac class, AGAIN! The dismiss effects rock, and I can see enterprising game masters giving dismiss abilities to constellations from other cosmologies, maybe with a feat tax.

Anything wrong?: There are some writing and editing mistakes but most are ignorable. The most offending one is the Phoenix constellation having the air type, since the Thunderbird already shares a Champion form to also share the type. The worst one, however, is in the description of the Brionitic empire, since it cuts short the introductory description of the plane. Also, in my review of the Zodiac class book I mentioned that it is a really strong class. Well, the new cosmology has some really powerful options, some of which completely overshadow others from previous cosmologies. The Sultan of Fire and Leviathan’s weapon forms are really strong, and give you a ranged attack. The Sultan’s give you half your level in fire damage dice, making Nexus glee with delusions of stacking those dice with their blasts. Leviathan, however, gives you physical damage dice! While arguably fire is the weakest element since a lot of creatures resist it, and some creatures will have both damage reduction and fire resistance, Leviathan feels like too much. Both weapons only receive half the normal enhancement compared to other weapon manifestations (+1 for every 4 levels instead of every two), but the damage increase is too much IMHO. And the races also feel strong. While I thank the boldness of the authors with the unusual races, I also think some of their abilities completely overshadow more standard choices. I mean, why play a Halfling Vizier when you can play a Morphbear? They can have 2 more essence AT FIRST LEVEL! AND CAN FLY!

What I want: The aspected essence concept BEGS for expansion. You could make all the genie-kin races akashic just by changing their spell-like ability for one point of aspected essence (or just give it free, since those races suck when compared to aasimars or tieflings LOL). Also, why prevent the aspected essence to be used however you like? Why not make it so but with a plus? Maybe you spend your fire aspected essence crystal into your weapon-like veil, and it gains the fire descriptor and either deals some bonus damage or changes elemental damage to fire? Or it works as normal, but when shaping a veil that shares the descriptor it is shaped as if your veilshaper level was one higher? Or maybe when descriptors match it increases you essence cap by one? Oh, the possibilities! Also, to this date there is no option to manifest the same constellation with different forms, so there is a little design space there.

What cool things did this inspire?: An expansion for the other cosmologies via giving their champions a dismiss effect, but with a feat tax. Also, the favored class section can give ideas for other races’! And the cosmologies themselves, now with 3 different ones, can inspire enterprising game masters to make their own for their home campaigns! I KNOW I will make one at least!

Do I recommend it?: While volume 1 was bold, this one amps that boldness to new heights. FF fans will have a blast identifying all the winks in the setting, while others will relish in the amount of fresh options for building characters. I give this book 5 star-shaped Materias and a high five to the authors!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Realms Volume 2: The Quiet Lands
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Book of Beyond: Spells of Boon and Burden
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2019 11:39:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Book of Beyond-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 6 pages of SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the pdf begins with explaining the goal of this book – it seeks to provide a sense of unique identity and being “the best” at something for psychic magic – something that sets it apart from the arcane. The witch is included in a heavy manner as well. Conceptually, spells of boon are spells that provide benefits to allies at a cost to themselves. Spells of Burden, on the other hand, tap into the concept of spiritual balance. Both general concepts make sense from a metaphysical pointo to me, and as such, fit the theme of psychic magic. Undercasting is also explained. The spells are designated with the help of their respective descriptors.

After this introductory explanation, we receive a variety of spell-lists for psychic casters, by class, then spell level – as mentioned before, the witch is fully included as well. The presentation of the spells then provides them in alphabetical order, with Spells of Boon as a category coming first – good decision! A total of 29 spells of boon are provided. Going through all of them one by one would be redundant, so to give you an idea: Boon of Crimson Vitality, a second level spell, lets you accept a scaling amount of bleed damage, while an ally gains an alchemical bonus of +2 for every 2 bleed (erroneously called “blood” here) you incur. The bleed effect lasts for twice the spell’s duration, or until removed. At 5th level for spiritualist, 6th for the other occult classes and 7th spell level for the witch, we have Boon of the Drifting Form, which paralyzes you, but makes the recipient creature incorporeal. Boon of Floating Grace nets a creature +2 dodge bonus to AC, and fly speed equal to base speed, but renders you prone. This one, alas, is a spell that needed some clarification. You can end the prone condition by just standing up, which, I assume, is no option while under the spell’s effects. Furthermore, the spell does not specify a maneuverability class for the fly speed. This is somewhat exemplary regarding the problems some of these spells have – Boon of Dancing Steps does not type its bonuses, and e.g. Boon of Flowing Stone provides a primal bonus – a bonus type that RAW does not exist. Since this is the ONLY instance where I could find this bonus type in the Book of Beyond, I assume this to be a remnant of a version-revision. So yeah, while the integrity of the rules per se is there, there also are a couple of instances where the book could have used a slight polishing to iron off the few kinks that remain.

Wait! Why am I not screaming fire and brimstone? Why did I, of all conditions, choose the one with “prone” as an example? Simple. You see, the spells can’t be cheesed. Immunity to a condition does prevent you from casting the spell. This is per se a great catch. However, RAW that does not prevent you from gaining immunity AFTER casting the spell – the descriptor should specify that becoming immune to the condition accepted also ends the spell. It’s an easy modification for the GM to implement, but it’s one I’d strongly suggest adding.

Boon of Dual Minds lets the target make saves twice, once at their own value, and once using yours, but the caster is stunned. You can buff allies, granting them atk bonuses (properly codified!) and suffer the effects of various degrees of fear, as you literally grant them your courage. Boon of Imbued Vision grants an insight bonus to AC and an untyped bonus to Strength and Dexterity-based skill checks, as well as the Blind-Fight (erroneously lower-case’d) feat and uncanny dodge, but you’re blinded. Problematic from a balance point of view would be an extra move action (at the cost of the caster being staggered) as a first-level spell, and the enhanced action, which, as soon as level 4, bestows an extra standard action, +30 feet to all movement rates, but at the cost of the caster being unconscious. Ouch, right? See, this is why I explained the importance of airtight anti-abuse-caveats and provided the examples above –particularly because these boon spells? Swift action casting time, all of them. I adore the concepts and implementation, and assuming that the descriptor isn’t cheesed, they do make sense at their respective spell levels. They are still something to handle carefully as a GM, but flavor-wise and regarding execution? Yeah, I’ll be using them.

Let’s proceed with taking a look at the spells of burden, right? There are 6 of these spells here – however, they exist for a ton of spell levels each, making ample use of undercasting – they generally range from level 1 -9 or 6, with one instead capping at level 5. Burden of the Barbed Blade. This burden has you make a CL-check, with the target DC based on the creature’s HD, and causes bleed of BAB – ½ HD, rounded up; the target may accept a penalty to atk to prevent taking bleed, and the higher level iterations can cause fatigue, exhaustion and staggered once the target has taken a certain amount of bleed. The spell, obviously, does not affect full casters – something it specifies, rather elegantly, in its target line.

Burden of the Brilliant Soul imposes a penalty of CL, with the option to instead take “psychic damage”, which is something that does not exist in PFRPG. Psychic crush (and analogue spells in SFRPG as well, fyi!) cause untyped damage, yes – however, they are mind-affecting, which this spell-family is not. That is either a glitch in that regard, or an erroneous reference to the 5e-damage type. Burden of the Hungry Regalia is super interesting, in that it makes the items of the target hunger – accept negative levels, or the items cease working. Particularly at mid- to higher-level games, one damn cool spell. Same goes for the amazing Burden of Power’s Weight that actively discourages stacking ton of defensive incantations – for every effect, the caster can gain an enhancement to CL…or the target can dispel/dismiss the effects. I love this. At higher levels, this one also deals force damage, which reminded me of one of my favorite obscure 2nd edition spells. Burden of the Ready Mind enhances your CL for prepared spells the target has – but, you know, they could opt to lose them? I love the emphasis on choice etc. Burden of Sanguine Strain is a bleed spell that, conversely, can inflict pain on spontaneous spellcasters.

Finally, there would the spells of equivalence – these are interesting, in what they do – armor of influence (and its weapon of influence compatriot spell) allows a medium to enhance armor, with influence as a cap – the spell references a whole array of special armor qualities (not properly placed in italics) that may be added in a limited manner at higher CLs. Bloodrush causes untyped damaged based on already existing bleed effects. Very interesting, if a bit hard to grasp at first – the 5 Child of Suffering spells, which require that the caster has some sort of illusory duplicate. If so, and the caster takes damage, the spell may be cast as an immediate action. This grants you temporary hit points and siphons an amount of the pain you feel from an injury to the duplicate, which may attack on your turn as a touch attack in melee, inflicting damage. Successful attacks make the duplicate vanish. I like how this builds on mirror image etc. A mind-affecting diameter that deals damage to those inside or beyond it, and there is a spell that increases damage by distance – both of these should have maximum values, as they are cool, but can end up being very deadly in the hands of ingenious players. As a nitpick: These spells you say “You deal insert dice formula…” and never specify “damage” or types – being mind-affecting, I assumed that being untyped was intentional here. What about lacing negative conditions in your mirror images, and then potentially affecting those that destroy the images? Yeah, cool! Or, what about making your mirror images bobby traps of negative energy? Yeah, these are very cool.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se generally very good regarding integrity, attempting to tackle complex concepts beyond what we usually expect. In the details, the same can’t be claimed – I noticed both a few glitches, missing damage types, slightly odd verbiages, and an array of small hiccups. These, in a way, feel very much like they could have been avoided. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the full-color artworks are impressive – excellent, even. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Christen N. Sowards can claim one thing for absolute sure – he does not do boring. I have yet to see a book from his pen that does not attempt something that, at least in concept, makes me smile, and this is no different. Even after I’ve read more than 5000 Pathfinder spells, this managed to maintain a sense of being fresh and unique in a way I frankly did not expect. And the design-goals formulated in the beginning, of making spells that feel both properly occult AND give the classes some stuff that they do better than others? Heck yeah, resounding success. As a person, I really adore this little book. As a reviewer, I had to grit my teeth a couple of times – the book consistently almost gets high-complexity operations and the like done with pin-point precision, only to stumble in details. These usually do not break the rules, but they can generate ambiguities and represent wholly unnecessary imprecision in what would otherwise be an inspired book. Considering all of these, I frankly should round down, but then again, if you’re confident in your ability to add these small tidbits and make sure the small hiccups don’t adversely affect your game, then this is a surprising little treasure trove. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Spells of Boon and Burden
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Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
by Vladimir R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/27/2019 20:11:15

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

So, another Akashic book by the master of the Akashic system Michael Sayre, after the two previous mind-blowing ones… can he maintain the quality? Read on!

What’s inside? Not taking into account the covers, credits, and legal stuff, we are left with 39 pages of content for 8 bucks, which include:

-4 planes, which includes enough information to run a campaign there. There are planar traits (with a new akashic essence planar feature), locations, inhabitants and even ties with the City of Seven Seraphs campaign setting! Apart from that, each section includes new PC game material, from a new aasimar variant, Planar Conduit feat options, 3 new Nexus convergences, a new akashic style feat chain, to a whole 12 sign cosmology based on the Chinese Zodiac! The planes are Valhalla (a chaotic good plane), The Kingdom of the Five Emperors (a true neutral plane with 1 realm for each alignment component), the Dark Shogunate (a kind of “Hell” for the Kingdom of the Five Emperors, opposing balance), and the least developed of all, the Cloud Stairway (kind of a new transitive plane).

-15 new veils: Divided in one set of 10, the Asgardian Saga, and one of 5, the O-Yoroi of the Obsidian Ronin, these veils get away from the middle East flavor of the original Akashic Mysteries book, and embrace a Nordic and a Japanese flavor. Not only that, the Asgardian Saga veils represent iconic items or features of the Asgardian pantheon, which lets you build a kind of akashic priest in concept! The Asgardian saga is fully accessible to the Nexus class, and the O-Yoroi is fully accessible only to the Eclipse, which is an interesting departure from the norm established in Akashic Trinity.

-18 Feats: This section include 15 feats, not counting the Mistmask style feat chain found under the Cloud Stairway. Here we have the reprint of 3 conduit feats, which allow you to become a living conduit for a specific plane’s energies (conceptually great for a Nexus). We also get the Amateur Astrologist and Noble Astrologist reprints from the Zodiac book, which are great if you don’t have said book. Why? Because having one or both of these feats gives you access to a constellation’s power without being a Zodiac. Speaking of which, if you wanted to have access to a constellation outside of your cosmology (say, if you wanted a water weapon for your Greek cosmology Zodiac wink wink), you could access one extra sign with the Expanded Cosmology feat.

There is an unseen problem with this feat, since you can access it via Zodiac class features OR the Amateur Astrologist. Where is the problem? You see, the Amateur Astrologist gives you access to all manifestations of a sign, except for the champion, but the Expanded Cosmology doesn’t. This makes the Noble Astrologist feat almost completely obsolete, since if you wanted to dabble in signs, you could chose a sign without a champion form and then get access to other signs complete array of manifestations via Expanded Cosmology.

Finally, we have the new Convergence feat type especially tailored to the Nexus class. For each veil shaped after the first from the same group, you get a nifty bonus, and an extra one if you get all veils from a set. You are not a Nexus? Don’t worry, you can access Convergences through the new Lattice-Born feat. There is one weird glitch here, since the Dark Shogunate full set of five veils are only available to the Eclipse class, and only two to the Nexus. This makes it a suboptimal choice for the Nexus, and even for the Eclipse since they don’t get the planar detonation ability to get full use of the feat. Anyway, the planar detonation class feature gets expanded with the Versatile Detonation feat, which lets you deal the other two types of physical damage, slashing and bludgeoning, plus the ability to invest in the feat to augment the damage and features of your detonation. Great addition!

-Creature Appendix, which include all creatures relevant to the book, be them Zodiac sign champions, veil-created allies, or planar denizens. This is a very handy feature!

-12 Chinese Zodiac signs, divided in the classic 4 elements with 3 in each. Unlike it’s Greek counterpart, ALL signs have a champion form, and each element nicely has access to 2 armors, equipment and weapons. This translates into 36 abilities, 8 more than the standard Greek cosmology, but then again it is so balanced that I won’t complain and instead fill in the blanks for the Greek one so both cosmologies each have 36 abilities.

Of Note: The idea of having new planes that are not demi-planes just because, is groundbreaking and I applaud the departure from tradition. The Convergence feats reward Nexus for their loyalty, and the Chinese Zodiac cosmology is a great addition to an already great class.

Anything wrong?: Is not a secret that I’m a fan of all things akashic, and I really, really enjoyed this book. HOWEVER, as a reviewer, I have to comment on the problems of the book. There are a couple of writing mistakes here and there, which is understandable, and under the aasimar variant there is a “species” bonus, which I THINK is either from Starfinder or PF2. Also, there are some design oversight that I already mentioned. Noble Astrologist is almost useless now, the new cosmology is a better choice with its greater number of options, the Dark Shogunate veils and Convergence feat don’t work that well together, and the Asgardian Saga veil incudes two weapons, which makes the Convergence feat capstone kind of weird. I mean, you can shape all 10 veils, but you can’t wield two wepon-like veils like that. And god, the legal sections is HUGE!

What I want: I would have loved to get more info about the planes, which are the star of the book. I would also have liked at least one humanoid champion, like the Archer from the Greek cosmology for the Chinese one. I STILL want more convergences, and veil sets tailored for other classes like Radiants and Gurus. And that Vol. 1 in the title makes me salivate.

What cool things did this inspire?: By now, there are a lot of weapon-like veils, and if you add the weapon form of constellations, it could make for a nifty archetype that focuses on them, maybe inspired by Archer Gilgamesh from the Fate/Stay Night anime… I would play that!

Do I recommend it?: YES! It is one of the more inspired akashic books since the original, and deals with many untouched themes and design spaces. Normally, I would take one star off from the score because of the many problems this book have, but the great things greatly overwhelms the bad, so 5 Asgardian stars from this reviewer.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
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Akashic Realms Volume 1: Emperors & Einherjar
by Jacob F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2019 15:25:33

Fantastic addition to the options available to nexus and zodiac. The new cosmology provides another choice for the zodiac at first level, but also allows a bit of double dipping with the expanded cosmology feat. Looking forward to that concept being expanded with more cosmologies in the future. New convergences for the nexus manage to provide mostly unique effects, and are as flavorful as all the options from Co7S. New veils, of course, are exciting as well. Many of these can be used by other veilweaving classes, making this supplement useful for all akashic characters.

True to its title, this book has very little that can be used by non-akashic characters. Some feats are available without any veilweaving ability, but they will all provide greater benefit to veilweavers and essence-using archetypes. If you like veilweaving, and especially the nexus and zodia, buy this supplement. It is absolutely worth it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Herald Mythic Path
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2019 12:37:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mythic path clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 /2 a page blank, 4 pages SRD, 1 page back cover (erroneously referring to the Mythic Paths of the Lost Spheres book), leaving us with 7.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, like in the Wielder path file, this recaps that Lost Spheres Publishing’s supplements have the concept of different sources of power: The power-sources are arcane, divine, entropic, material, psionic and temporal. There is one more thing to note: The pdf introduces a rules term, namely the “source entity” – this entity is basically akin to the Wielder’s bonded item – the source of the mythic path’s power and the linchpin of the abilities presented within. The source entity may be anything, from a deity or outsider to a cosmic principle to a thing from beyond.

That out of the way, the mythic path grants 5 hit points per tier and begins by granting one of three “Channel the Master”-abilities. The first, “Fist of the Master”, nets you a slam attack as appropriate for your size; you may expend a use of mythic power to ignore hardness and DR as though the slam was adamantine for 1 minute. During this time, you also add tier to damage rolls. The second choice, “Breath of the Master”, lets you, as a free action, expend one use of mythic power to ignore a condition for 1 round per tier. Thirdly, “Dreams of the Master” lets you expend one use of mythic power as a standard action to manifest a psionic power or spell of your choosing of a power level equal to half your tier. Two problems: 1) This RAW does nothing at tier 1 – it lacks the “minimum 1”-caveat. 2) This should specify that it can only duplicate spells or powers of a casting time less than 1 minute; otherwise, this ability could be used to standard action-cast rituals, which is clearly not intended. As always, one 1st-tier path ability may be taken to gain an additional one of these abilities.

Unless I have miscounted, the pdf provides a total of 29 different 1st tier abilities, so what can heralds do? Well, there are some genuinely unique path abilities here, case in point, alien presence. You select one power or spell of half your tier or less that has the[mind-affecting]-descriptor possessedby your source entity, and emit it constantly in a radius of 30 feet per tier, with save DC, even if it usually does not have one, of 10 +1/2 HD + tier. You may spend a mythic power to activate or suppress the aura, and it remains in effect until you become unconscious – as a balancing tool, the ability has a hex-caveat: If a creature saves, it’s immune for 24 hours. Fits the herald theme very well. Calling tier-based henchmen, gaining access to psychic skill unlocks as well as a divination spell or clairvoyant power to use at will may be found. Scaling AC-bonuses that may be temporarily enhanced by mythic power expenditure, and there is an alternate surge that, while potent, prevents you from using mythic powers while in effect and ends with a period of exhaustion. There is a path ability that lets you use Breath of the Master to ignore multiple conditions at once.

As in the wielder-pdf, a peculiarity of the pdf is that it does not explicitly point out prerequisites required; while these are obvious, it’s something to bear in mind – this does require some system mastery. As a nitpick – the ability for additional condition suppression erroneously refers to “immunity”, which isn’t actually something it does….which becomes more relevant with another upgrade, which extends the duration of breath of the master. Cool: There are two path abilities that let you use mythic power to absorb energy the source entity is immune to, and use it to heal or replenish limited resources. Based on these path abilities, there is another that lets you temporarily help creatures touched this way as well; here, the prerequisite is properly called out. These abilities can be further enhanced and allow you to store energy, and you can unlock additional energies. I really like this path ability complex. There also is a means to spend a move action to share your experiences with the source entity; Fist of the Chosen can be combined with SP or Psi-like abilities granted by a series of path abilities that net you SPs or Psi-like abilities. Nitpick: These SPs/psi-like abilities should specify in the context of this combination that they can only apply if casting/manifesting time is 1 full round or less to avoid long cast exploits.

Gaining access to hypnotic stare, and building on that, painful and bold stare, is also covered. Limited access to an implement school, and bonuses to the influence threshold of the medium are also covered – the alter in particular is nice to see, considering that the medium badly needed means to increase that cap. Boosts to Knowledge skills (not properly capitalized) and slow, but perfect flight (which can be sped up with mythic power) makes sense. There also is a means to get limited access to an oracle mystery, and a medium spirit-like power, which represents the presence of the master. Wildcard feats and limited evolution points, allowing the master to speak through you, and bestowing source entity related enhancements to weapons or scaling telepathy complement this selection.

The pdf features 13 3rd tier abilities, which include immunity to an environmental condition or effect per tier (this could use some specifics), the ability to travel from planet to planet (cool!), share your flight, unleash stored energy in blasts, enhancement of aforementioned presence (for really nasty auras) and similar enhancements of the previous abilities. What started as a hunter’s skill boost to track down targets at 1st tier now allows you to track teleportation effects, and you may lesser evolution surge. Tapping into the source entity’s power for surges and communion can also be found here.

The pdf also features 7 6th tier abilities, which include mythic power-based plane shift/interplanetary teleport (spell-references not in italics), sharing the surges granted by the master, brings folks along through space, emit stored energy in brutal novas or imbue abilities in targets. The capstone ability lets you roll twice and take the better result when rolling an attack roll against a foe of your source entity, while creatures attempting to confirm a critical hit against you roll twice and take the worse result. 1/round when confirming a critical hit against a mythic foe of your source entity, you can regain one use of mythic power. As long as the source entity doesn’t have mythic kittens or rats as foes, this can’t be cheesed, so I’m good with it. ;) (Kidding aside, control rests firmly where it belongs – with the GM.)

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a rules-language level tend to be very good with a few exceptions; on a formal level, there are a couple of more snafus, like saving throw names not capitalized etc. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the artwork provided for the supplement (seen on the cover) is awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the pdf provides more content than you’d expect from the page-count.

Christen N. Sowards’ herald is a cool angle to pursue – the focus on the sourced entity is an interesting one, and the herald ultimately is rather different from e.g. Legendary Games’ Path of the Bound, feeling, well, more like a herald of a mighty entity. If you wanted to be Silver Surfer, you can definitely be that now. I particularly liked the energy storage and use sub-engine presented here, and there is a lot of storytelling potential going on here. At the same time, there are a few rough spots that cost this access to my highest rating-echelon; still, as a whole, I can wholeheartedly recommend this supplement if you’re looking for some cool mythic tricks! My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beyond: Herald Mythic Path
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