DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories











Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
Psionics Augmented: Highlord II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/26/2018 04:16:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the highlord-class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1/2page of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 10.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

I assume familiarity with the highlord in my discussion here.

This pdf offers two new archetypes for the highlord, the first of which would be the Cherished, who only gets proficiency with simple weapons and light as well as medium armors and shields excluding tower shields. The cherished’s intentions are perpetually shrouded by a psionically-charged veneer of innocence. As long as she is psionically focused, the cherished is immune to magical, supernatural or psionic attempts to read her mind or detect her intentions. This replaces guarded rulership. Instead of a tenet to follow, the cherished adds bonus powers to her power list - 2 per power level. A cherished’s power pool point is halved (rounded down; 0 means that she needs another source of power points to manifest), but she does get a second pool equal to that of the highlord. These are referred to as the favor pool. This pool can only be used to manifest psionic powers and use abilities that affect allied members of her collective. She may target herself as one being among a buff of allies, but not use favor pool to target herself only. Bonus power points are added to both pools; these are added after halving. This also eliminates tribute. Instead of conscription and gift of power, the cherished treats all her highlord powers as having the network descriptor, but only for the purpose of manifesting them on allied collective members. Powers thus manifested may have the mind-affecting descriptors removed to avoid immunities.

Instead of lifeblood resonance, the cherished gets “Treasured by All”: When a creature tries to damage or inflict a negative condition on the cherished with an attack or ability, the cherished may attempt to demoralize the creature as a free action, but instead of making a skill-roll, you roll 1d20 + manifester level + Charisma modifier Bonuses on Diplomacy, interestingly, do apply. This attempt preempts the assault. The cherished may only demoralize a creature with this once per action. Regardless of success or failure, an allied collective member can get a call for aid as an immediate action: This grants the allied collective member then a standard action they can use immediately, as long as it gets the ally closer to the cherished. Members taking this action do become staggered for 1 round, overriding even immunities.

The cherished gets appointed champion as an exclusive tenet power. This one may be manifested as either a standard or move action: This blends psionic power with a psionic charge, and may add both or either, depending on the activation action, Enhancement Menu A or Ability Menu A of the minor metamorphosis power. The cherished’s seeming fragility and being treasured by all may also extend to the appointed champion. You also get to use a chosen decree on the target of the power, and may use it sans expending the psionic focus. The power also, like similar exclusive powers from tenets, with a whopping 5 augment options for better Menu choices etc.!

The cherished gains highlord’s command as a decree. Additionally, the cherished may give a specialized command to an ally in the collective, for +1 attack at the highest BAB as an alternative to the usual effect. This does not stagger the target. The 1st level talent’s empathy, and 2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Diplomacy and starting attitudes are improved by one step. I quickly mentioned that before, but 6th level replaces lifeblood siphon with “Air of Fragility”, providing a kind of super-sanctuary that prevents attacks, with a handy cap, and the cherished may focus the effect on a specific creature. All in all, the cherished is a complex, fun and meaningful tweak. While the power-point modification is tough at first glance, the archetype has been expertly calibrated to make the massive chassis-modifications work. Kudos!

The second archetype presented within would be the virtuoso. The virtuoso gets proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armors and shields (excluding tower shields) and the virtuoso can choose powers from the psion list. The archetype loses conscription and tenet, with 2 bonus powers per power level, as well as two general augments for psychokinesis: For +2 power points, you can activate the inspire decree as part of manifesting the power, sans needing to expend the psionic focus. Alternatively, for 2 power points, the falter decree may be used as part of manifesting the power – and you may target non-collective targets that are marked by energy resonance. This ability replaces lifeblood resonance. This ability allows the archetype to freely choose energy somewhat akin to a kineticist psion. An enemy marked by a virtuoso’s energy-based powers ends up as marked for one round, and detonates the first time the target is damaged by a member of the virtuosos’s collective. The detonation causes 1d8 of the energy type in damage, which scales analogue to lifeblood resonance regarding dice. After detonation, the mark becomes dormant, but remains active for a minute. Dormant marks no longer detonate, but make the target susceptible to the combo-y tricks the virtuoso has. As the cherished, the virtuoso gets a unique, exclusive power – showtime. You note down how many power points you spend manifesting this power. When you manifest an energy damage highlord power, you can charge yourself with an encore; this lasts until the end of your next turn. If you manifest the same power as the one that charged the encore, you may expend it as part of manifesting. If you do, you gain power points equal to the lower of either the ones used to manifest showtime or the ones you sued to charge the encore. You may not gain more power points than you spend on the second manifestation, including all added power point expenses. The interactions of encores with one another, the duration of showtime and charge maintenance are concisely codified. A total of 4 augments are provided for the power. This one is really interesting – it makes characters that need, due to circumstances, spam a power, more rewarding.

The archetype is locked into the first and second command: Either falter or inspire must be chosen at 1st level for decree; after this, the 4th level grants the other one. The class gets ½ class level to Performance and gets synergy with psionic powers/performances and vice versa. 3rd level nets audience participation – this lets the virtuoso manifest powers from the psychokinesis discipline through the collective members when determining range and line of effect. This potent ability replaces, obviously, gift of power. 6th level provides the “Art Made Manifest” ability that replaces lifeblood siphon: As a full-round action, the virtuoso can both make a Perform check and manifest a psychokinesis power with a manifestation time of standard action or less. A creature marked that can witness the display may be chosen to be affected: The Performance save is governed by half class level and Intelligence modifier + 10, as always, and save DC increases depending on the Performance check result. The effect depends on the energy: Cold, electricity, fire and sonic have different effects, and oddly, acid is not included. Still, this is really interesting! The virtuoso is a unique blaster type archetype that does interesting things with the chassis. Nice one!

The rest of the pdf is devoted to no less than 4 new tenets! The first of these, adherence to the tenet of guile, designates the highlord as a ghost. The talent power granted by this tenet is parasitic mind, which makes you designate a collective member with HD equal to or less than you. You possess the target and don’t need to eat, sleep or breathe and you hear see, etc. - everything the target experiences, you do. When the host takes damage, you take half of it, without reducing the damage the host takes, and this damage cannot be decreased. Hosts suffering from non-damaging effects not originating from you, due to failed saves also extend this to you. While possessing a target, you may only use highlord class features and psionic feats, highlord powers, decrees, recover psionic focus or use aid another. Your location becomes that of the target and the host seems to be manifesting your powers. However, personal range powers may be granted to the possessed target instead. Creatures possessed by this power automatically fail Will-saves versus your decrees, which is BRUTAL. Creatures get a Perception check to notice your possession, and may, if cognizant of your presence, force you out with a Will-save. Rematerialization is also properly codified. There are three complex augments, for temporary hit points, secondary targets (unique addition) or add control body (not properly italicized). This one is really brutal. The auto Will-fail is imho overkill for some builds. Lifeblood resonance’s effects add the damage dice to the first attack of every member of the collective each round versus other collective members, provided they’re denied Dex-mod – basically sneak-attack-y. Conscription can force flat-footed creatures into the collective (or those denied Dex-mod). The decree if blind eye, and the talent distract. The skill boost applies to Bluff, and targets forced into the collective are not necessarily aware of it and may not communicate telepathically. The siphon may affect targets within close range and render the siphoned flat-footed as well as staggered. This one is potent, but may need a bit of oversight regarding the Will-save auto-fail. I’d eliminate that line.

Highlords following the tenet of unity are called Shepherd. The exclusive power is champion of the flock. At the end of each turn, you choose an allied collective member, who becomes capable of using your location as if it were their own – this basically makes you the nexus channel point for the party, which is VERY potent, but also allows you to pull off amazing teamwork stratagems. The 4 augments allow for longer range maintenance of this effect, while another one nets temporary hit points when an ally works through you. The lifeblood resonance lets the shepherd add the damage dice to the damaged member when hit by another member of the collective. Additionally, members of the collective may invest move actions to amplify the bond’s damage, further emphasizing the teamwork aspect. Conscription allows the shepherd to attempt to force targets into the collective as an immediate action when a member damages a creature. The decree prescribed at first level is command, and the talent gained is empathy. The skill bonus applies to Sense Motive, and the shepherd can detect hostile intent (italicization missing), with emanation emitting from a member. Lifeblood siphon on a willing ally allows for foregoing of staggering to grant physical acceleration again, italicization missing) as well as twice the damage taken as temporary hit points.

Adhering to the tenets of adaptation, the highlord is known as strategist, with the signature unique power being fractal schism. Instead of schism, you get a kind of perceptive split, allo9wing you line of sight (but not effect) from the spaces of collective members in addition as to their own. This includes additional senses of the creatures. The assistance also allows allies in the collective to get +2 to atk versus a flanked creature set up by collective members, even if they themselves aren’t flanking the target, and also increase save DCs of abilities versus such targets by 2. The power comes with 5 different augments that include linear numerical improvements as well as sharing the highlord’s Will-save and, for a massive augment, schism. Lifeblood resonance allows the strategist to charge a target with psionic power, bestowing the dice as extra damage with the next successful attack versus a hostile member of the collective. As a swift action, the member may discharge this power to move 10 ft. per expended die; this movement does not provoke AoOs. Cool one! The conscription option allows for Unwilling Participant quicker – usually as a move action, but also as a swift action, but the latter requires psionic focus expenditure. The tenet’s first decree is command, and the talent is psionic talent. The skill boost applies to a skill of the character’s choice He is considered a trainer and halves time for retraining himself and allies. Cool! The lifeblood siphon modification allows for 5 ft. movement per 3 power points spent, as a free action. This movement doesn’t provoke AoOs. The speed of that member of the collective is reduced by that amount.

The final tenet would be that of the tyrant – the tenet of slaughter. The signature power of this tenet would be the lifeblood brand, which targets a creature in close range, marking it for slaughter by your collective. You choose one of three effects: Mounting Weakness makes the target take +3 damage from members of the collective, but only once per round. Further attacks further increases this damage by 3, up to a maximum of thrice the power points spent on the power. Nitpick: This should specify that the damage is equal to the primary damage inflicted by the triggering attack. Crumbling Resistance imposes a penalty on further saves when the branded creature succeeds a save against an incoming attack, once more with a 1/round cap. Brand Detonation, finally, lets you as a full-round action that provokes AoOs, you can detonate any number of these brands, causing twice ML damage or Mounting Weaknesses’ amount, whichever is higher. This also imposes a permanent -2 penalty to skill checks until removed by remove curse. (Italicization missing.) Once more, we get a massive 5 augments for increased range, increased power, targeting more beings or reduce physical ability scores on failed saves versus the detonation. Lifeblood resonance adds the damage dice to the first attack a collective member inflicts on another member. In the case of multiple targets, one is chosen. When a member dies or is destroyed, the tyrant can force another being into the collective, The tyrant’s first decree is grasp, while talent-wise, we have telekinetic punch. The skill boost applies to Intimidate, and the bonus is doubled for Charisma modifier rounds after a member in the collective dies. The lifeblood siphon ability lets the tyrant create an imprint in the place of a fallen as a free action, even if it’s not the target’s turn. This imprint may act as a lifeblood siphon target, granting temporary power points based on half the fallen creature’s HD. These thankfully do not stack with themselves. And last Cha-mod rounds. The duration of powers thus manifested is the briefer of remaining power points or power duration.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the pdf does miss quite a few italicizations. On a rules-language level, the pdf, is as a whole, juggling complex and intriguing concepts, but is a bit rawer than usual for Dreamscarred Press. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Shih’s expansion for the highlord is a fun pdf – particularly the two archetypes excited me with their extensive and meaningful tweaks of the engine; the tenets provided are meaningful and different, and provide diverse tweaks. Compared to the tenets from the first file, they felt slightly less refined to me. I know I could abuse the hell out of the ghost if I tried, even though the idea and execution are really cool – some slight modifications here and there would have made this one more fun. There are quite a few such minor cases herein – they are not going to break most mature games, they are unique and distinct, but feel a bit less inspired and refined. All in all, I consider this to be definitely a worthwhile expansion for the highlord. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be a100% must-have, but if you do enjoy the class and want expanded options, then this is certainly worth checking out. Ultimately, I consider this to be worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Highlord
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2018 07:01:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The highlord class gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields, excluding heavy shields. First level yields a base of 1 power point, which improves up to 128 at 20th level. Powers known scale up from 1 to 20, drawing from the psychic warrior and tactician power lists, capping at 6th power level; the governing attribute for powers is Charisma. The class gets ¾ BAB-progression, as well as good Fort- and Will-saves. The highlord begins play with two talents – one chosen from the highlord’s list, and one chosen from the tenet.

As similar classes, the highlord gets a psionic collective, which improves in range, with 15th level eliminating range and 19th level extending collective across planar boundaries. Interesting: The highlord’s powers are very much fueled by desires; as such, their powers are unmistakable and impart a sliver of the highlord’s desires – this may not have rules-repercussions, but is one amazing narrative angle I very much enjoy. The highlord’s collective begins slightly more (at least potentially!) offensive focused than usual, as the class gets Unwilling Participant from level 1, save that the saving throw DC is 10 + ½ manifester level + Charisma modifier. Additionally, a member of the collective dying does not prompt a save.

Now, I already mentioned the tenets, right? At first level, the highlord chooses a set of tenets, which are essentially a linear ability progression not unlike a bloodline or an order, for example. Each such tenet also bestows a unique psionic power exclusively available to highlords of that tenet. The tenet also governs the so-called lifeblood resonance – a means of punishing those that oppose the highlord. This resonance causes 1d8 points of damage, +1d8 for every 4 levels possessed, capping at 6d8. 3 Tenets are included within. Each tenet also nets a conscription, a unique way to force adversaries into the collective. The tenet also determines the first so-called decree (think active talents here) and a skill affinity, a bonus equal to half class levels to a skill and an associated ability.

The class gets a psionic bonus feat at 2nd, 9th and 16th level, and 3rd level nets gift of power, which adds the network descriptor to a chosen power, with another such choice at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter. This can be really strong. This level also nets telepathy. At 5th level, the highlord gains highlord’s mark, which, after spending a week in a region, establishes a territory – a cube of 10 ft. per highlord level. This area is influenced by his convictions bleeding into it, and is then regarded as under the highlord’s control Controllers or otherwise owners can make opposed Charisma checks to retain control. The highlord may also, as a full-round action, designate a collective member to bear his mark. Mark-bearers may act as a channel for the highlord, allowing you to use Charisma-based skills through the creature, communicate through it – you get the idea. Only a single location or creature may be marked at one time. 8th, 14th and 18th level provide upgrades here, allowing for simultaneous maintenance as well as providing buffs to collective members in the designated area. Later, the DC to avoid being forced into the collective becomes harder, and a bonus to atk and saves can be found. Highlords learn to use class abilities and powers through the marked and finally, we increase the number of marks available at the same time.

Starting at 5th level, the class gets tribute: As a move action, the highlord may designate a single feat, item enhancement, power or spell effect from the willing (important!) members of the collective. The highlord gains the effect of the chosen tribute; if the member loses the collective, the highlord does not lose the effect. It should be noted that duration is equal to the duration of the tribute on the affected collective member. 11th and 17th level increase the number of tributes the highlord can have in place at a given time. Feats chosen as tribute require that the highlord meets their prerequisites (thankfully!), but he may use tributes to get basically mini-feat-chains. Thanks to the prerequisite requirement, I am okay with this. Similarly, caps on item enhancement etc. are retained.

At 6th level, the class receives lifeblood siphon: When manifesting a psionic power, the highlord may designate a collective member, who takes damage equal to the power points used and becomes staggered until the next turn of the highlord. The highlord is refunded half the power’s power points. The save DC to resist this is 10 + the power points that would be refunded + the highlord’s Charisma modifier. This ability may only be used once per round, and it also is modified by tenets.

As noted before, the highlord gets decrees, basically the talents of the class, with 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding another decree. These require expenditure of psionic focus to activate, and while a decree is in effect, the highlord may not regain psionic focus. Decrees may be dismissed as a move action, as dismissal or the end of the decree does refund the focus, though some decrees sport instantaneous effects – these do not refund the psionic focus, basically attempting to prevent spamming thus. Psionic Meditation allows for the dismissal as a swift action instead, and unless otherwise noted, decrees are mind-affecting, have a save DC of 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier, and creatures immune to mind-affecting effects may forgo the immunity and deliberately fail the save. 10th level unlocks greater decrees. The capstone lets the highlord, when he’d be destroyed, sacrifice a member of the collective instead. This is properly codified, and, once more, can’t be cheesed with kittens! Kudos!

As noted before, there are tenet, three to be precise, included within, so let’s talk about them: Caretaker highlords follow the tenets of cultivation, gaining the caring hands power (and yes, exclusive powers may not be learned via Expanded Knowledge) – this is basically a rather potent condition-remover – the power has 6 different potential effects depending on power points spent. The potency is held in check (and made imho more exciting!) by requiring manifester level checks to treat poisons, diseases etc. – kudos! Particularly since the power has no less than 4 different augments that allow you to increase your reliability when healing conditions, remove more, etc., and the power gets the complex verbiage right. Big kudos there!

Now, the lifeblood ability, lifeblood shield is…really smart. I had a kneejerk “Oh NOES” moment when first reading this one, but it was actually not justified: Once per round, as a free action, when a collective member takes damage, the highlord can cause the offending creature lifeblood resonance damage; the collective member is then healed for half that damage, but here’s the important thing: Capping at the damage taken from the triggering attack! Now, yes, I very much think that there ought to be a save for lifeblood resonance. And a damage type. That being said, I love how this can heal and punish at the same time. You can’t abuse it with a bag of kittens either. Kudos. 8th and15th level allow for an additional use of the ability per round – and yes, the ability even manages to state that it may be used when it’s not the highlord’s turn. Impressive construction here!

The tenets nets the inspire decree (more on that later) and missive as a talent. At 2nd level, the tenets nets +1/2 class level to Diplomacy and may aid collective members as a move action, regardless of distance, line of sight, etc. The siphon ability allows caretakers to choose to not stagger or damage targets, instead healing them for an amount equal to ½ power points used times Charisma modifier. Before you start yelling: This use does thankfully not refund power points.

The second tenet is that of oppression, which designates a highlord as a despot. The exclusive power here would be suppression link, which may be manifested as either a move or standard action with slightly different effects: Either use nets entangled as a condition, as said targets may not move away from your position, and you may drag them around – you may even do so as part of a move, though at half distance – and yes, this does note minimum move range properly. The power even gets the dragging into hazardous terrain caveat right and comes with 6 (!!) different augments, which include better concentration, conditions imposed and action economy. Lifeblood resonance allows for the draining of collective members (once more with an anti-abuse caveat) and conscript more targets into the collective at once. The starting decree is falter, the starting talent, suitably, telepathic leash. The tenet yields a bonus to Sense Motive and allows for the reading of thoughts of collective members. The siphoning ability is relevant when a target would be affected by both siphon and power: A failed save versus either affects the target as though the saves versus both were failed.

The third tenet included would be the tenet of dominance, which designates the highlord as the sovereign. The tenet-exclusive power would be omnipresence, which is pretty cool: It lets you threaten nearby spaces, even when you wouldn’t, and allows you to be treated as originating from these spaces for line of sight/effect, etc….and collective members EXPAND that area! This means that smart positioning in conjunction with this power can result in frickin’ amazing teamwork strategies. This is very strong, yes, but also very, very cool! 5 augments include miss chances. The lifeblood ability allows for nearby (30 ft.) weapon attacks to add the resonance’s dice as bonus damage versus foes forced into the collective. As before, higher levels allows for this to be used more often per round. The conscription mechanic allows for Charisma modifier to be added to atk when using weapons to attack a target within 30 ft. If he does, he causes lifeblood resonance damage instead of weapon damage, sans additional bonuses, and attempts to force the target into the collective. The first decree is damage distribution, the first-level talent vim (italicization’s missed here). The buffed skill is Intimidate, and beings made friendly remain so while part of the collective. The siphon nets a temporary buff to atk and damage, which is untyped. Making that one typed would have imho made sense.

A total of 20 highlord decrees are provided within, with 3 of them requiring 7th level to take. These decrees include the option to immediate action move a condition to a collective member (again: Can’t be cheesed thanks to HD-limit! DSP-crew, I could hug you right now…) , hide a collective member from others, gain a reroll versus a mind.-affecting effect and have, in case of failure, collective members make the save, distribute damage among the collective…and there is one that is somewhat, potentially problematic: Devour the weak nets you a standard action coup de grace, which also heals and nets temporary power points – triple the HD hp, HD temporary power points. The latter last for Charisma modifier rounds. While the power points don’t stack, this still can actually be cheesed with kittens. It’s not very effective, granted, but it still was kinda puzzling for me to see, considering how deftly the pdf has managed to avoid cheesy tricks in its general framework. I’d strongly recommend a minimum HD-caveat to avoid abuse. Expanded Grasp is interesting, as it’s activated as a free action and then allows for swift/immediate action expenditure to improve conscription or Unwilling Participant. Debuffs, exerting a tribute from unwilling members (requires analysis of the tribute’s target ability first), an ability to force a target to immediately follow a course of action (with a caveat that prevents limited use ability wasting), making a collective member a living shield, directing movement as a swift action – the decrees are varied, potent and meaningful in how they impact the options available to the highlord and their allies.

Did I mention the option to share teamwork and betrayal feats (yes, qualifying as abettor…) or to draw the attack/ability of foes to the highlord? 10 different greater decrees are included. Some of these do have a power point activation cost. These greater decrees include tribute-sharing, Geth’s mind control…and a save or die, which, while costing 8 power points, is pretty nasty, considering the tough saving throw DC. It also suffers from aforementioned cheese-option and feels like a bit overkill; a hex-like “once per 24 hours” or the like would have made sense to prevent spamming of the effect. And yes, I know, focus expenditure, but still – really nasty and an ability that should have further limitations. Compare this to commanding a collective member to carry out a coup de grace and you’ll notice what I meant. Forcing formal one-on-one duels is cool. Hand of intervention is pretty OP: As an immediate action, you negate any lethal attack on a collective member, instead clocking them in at -1 hit points, and stable. Yes. This RAW does include the attacks of deities, instant-death effects, and the like. This is a capstone-level ability, not something with unlimited daily uses held only in check by action economy. (No, it does not have a power point cost.) Word of Law is interesting, in that it allows you to decree a specific action, which may then, on a failed save, not be executed, with consecutive chances to shake off the effect.

The pdf includes an extensive favored class option-list that includes rare races and psionic races. The pdf also sports 11 feats: Extra gift (based on gift of power) and decree, gaining an alternate conscription method, -2 to atk and AC for members of your collective versus you…some basics. Blood Reveler lets you once per round add Charisma modifier to lifeblood resonance damage and temporary hit points gained from it. Collective Focus is a second focus to affect collective only, and thankfully prevents stacking of psionic focus with e.g. Psicrystal Containment or Deep Focus. Communal Overchannel lets you redistribute overchannel damage to a collective member (save negates). Mind Trace lets you gain a power or feat from the collective, and retain it if the target leaves the collective. The 1/day and prerequisite-requirements you need to meet both serve as limits that prevents this from being broken. Opportunistic Conscription lets you use Unwilling Participant on a target that has just failed a save versus a collective member’s ability as an immediate action. Sadism is a bit problematic: You gain temporary hit points that stack up to half your maximum hit points with each other when a collective member takes damage, with temporary hit points equal to half damage. These fade at a rate of one per round, and the activation of the feat requires an immediate action and psionic focus expenditure, sure – but still, can someone hand me my trusty bag of kittens, I need to slowly build up my Sadism-shield…Punisher is interesting: When a collective member misses, you may, as an immediate action, deal lifeblood resonance damage to the target.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal and rules-language level, are top-notch, though, on the rules-language level, the few cheesable abilities detract slightly from the integrity of the file. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The interior full-color art is nice indeed, and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. Kudos!

This is the first book by Michael Shih I’ve laid my eyes upon, and let me make that abundantly clear – it is one of the most impressive freshman offerings I have ever seen regarding class design. The Highlord juggles top-tier-complexity rules language with deceptive ease, though this may also be due to the experienced developer hands of Forrest Heck.

Considering the density and complexity of the design herein, I am duly impressed: I can count the number of issues I have with this file on one hand, and frankly, all are easily remedied by either banning the offending decrees or nerfing them. Neither require expert skills on part of the GM, and while I bemoan the presence of these offenders in an otherwise sublime offering, they can’t really mar the class for me, particularly considering the freshman bonus.

I did not really know what to expect from the highlord – a tactician on speed? Well, not really. The highlord is radically distinctive from and different from most commander-classes I’ve covered in its, almost eerie focus on personal dominance. Once could call it a psychic warrior/tactician hybrid, but that would not do the class justice – it’s 100%, radically different from either.

The highlord is not a commander, the highlord is a ruler. There is nothing benign in the class, and the flavor, as a whole, made this the single creepiest class I have reviewed in ages. Perhaps it’s my fondness for the Berserk manga and the cover, but I couldn’t shake one image: This class is a psionic Griffith. The focus on desire and flavor, the subjugation of collective members, the decrees – the highlord oozes this flavor that makes, even a benign, good character feel like a being distinct, like someone not quite mortal. You know, like this creepy, almost super-human being. Like how, at once point we thought of as rulers, as god-given lords over the lesser masses.

The flavor evoked is hard to describe, but it is at once inspired and distinct. Yes, the save-or-die ability really needs nerfing; yes, the infinite-use temporary power points-granting tricks should die for more gritty gameplay…but honestly, the pdf sports a grand total of 4 abilities that could use a nerf for lower-powered games. And none of these are really that bad. They require very deliberate cheesing, and while blemishes in an otherwise inspired rules-chassis, they fail to tarnish the class.

The highlord is an inspired, complex class – it offers a unique playing style, has its unique theme and flavor, and represents a great addition to the game. While usually, I’d round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars due to the cheeses noted and the OP save-or-die greater decree, there is a ton to love, and this is the author’s first offering. Hence, I will round up. One more thing: This class does get my seal of approval. As a person, I absolutely adore this fellow.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Steelforge: Book 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/07/2018 05:41:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second book of Dreamscarred Press‘ item-centric Steelforge-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 21.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so first thing you should know, is that this supplement attempts to present an encompassing view – that means that it not only lists special item properties from Ultimate Psionics in its appendix, it also features the crown of chaos, dancing robes of Sharatwan, disruptor, dissonance, groundscorn boots of the twice-loved, heartstaff, helm of the hydra, Moldev, Severis and the Tempest’s Blade from Ultimate Psionics – basically the whole psionic items of legend series.

In case you’re new to the concept, here is the gist of it: Items of Legend are special magic items that level with their owners, but which also require a specific set of prerequisites to properly use, unlocking new abilities and combating the disposable-item-syndrome, sporting unique and evocative abilities. Many of the items have new artworks, and there is something that makes this section be more than a rethread: Unlike in Ultimate Psionics, we now get values for the respective items. That legendary item with 3 of its powers unlocked? It has a GP-value listed, which makes WBL-determining much easier on the GM. Depending on how nitpicky you are, this alone may make this worth getting. Each of these items also has its own full color artwork, which is nice for sure, though I wished the pdf used a less pixilated version of the artwork of the heartstaff. This is an aesthetic nitpick, though, and will not be taken into account regarding the final verdict. So yes, this section can be considered to be a success and helpful due to this inclusion.

On the player-facing side of things, we get the 5-level forgelord PrC, who gains up to +3 BAB-progression and Fort- as well as will-saves, no new proficiencies, d8 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. The PrC begins play with a bonus equal to class level to the crafting process’ related skill checks, as well as the ability to use the Master Craftsman, if you have it, to qualify for any Item Creation feat – essentially, this allows you to use class level as CL for all of them, instead of just for Craft Magic Arms and Armor and Craft Wondrous Item. At 2nd, 3rd and 4th level, the PrC nets access to class features of a previous class prior to entering the PrC, retaining its viability for classes that require the progression of their base features. The key ability of the PrC would be item attunement, which allows the forgelord to spend an hour in meditation with a magic item in order to attune to it. This grants the Least item attunement bonus for that category of item. At 3rd level, the forgelord may attune two items one of which also gets the associated Lesser benefits, while the other only has the Least benefit. This improves with 5th level, the ability providing the means to have up to 3 items attuned at any given time, one of which may also bestow the Greater benefit, with another only granting the Least and Lesser benefits and the third granting just the Least benefit. If an item would fall into more than one category, then the forgelord gets to choose in which category he’ll apply the benefits.

Okay, regarding the benefits: The Least benefit of weapon attunement grants Weapon Proficiency as well as Weapon Focus while attuned; the Lesser one increases critical multiplier by 1 (not a fan), and the Greater one increases the enhancement bonus of the weapon by +2, explicitly allowing the raw boost to transcend +5, the total to transcend +10. I am not too happy with the latter one either; mathematically, it basically offsets the BAB-progression of the class, upgrading it to full, which isn’t a problem, but the breaking of hard limits imposed upon item bonuses further tilts an already offense-biased system further in favor of offense, with the critical multiplier enhancement an angle that already is problematic in PFRPG’s base chassis. If you’ve ever seen the PC and boss-ending capabilities of x4 weaponry in the right builds, you’ll know what I mean. The armor section, on the other hand, is amazing, providing bonuses to AC, reduced armor check penalties, and increased maximum Dexterity bonuses, with Lesser providing DR and the Greater one sporting something unique: You no longer count as wearing the armor if it would be beneficial for you! This is pretty damn cool and allows for e.g. armor-wearing monks to retain their class features. Here, the boost of defensive capabilities is very much appreciated.

Spell-in-a-can items increase CLs and UMD to use them is easier (minor nitpick – Use Magic Device). The Least option is cool: If the item has limited charges/uses per day, there is a 10% chance it won’t expend a use/charge. The Greater version allows for Metamagic/psionic addition to the effect, at the cost of a longer casting duration. Finally, disposable items begin with a 10% chance of not being expended as well as a Use Magic Device bonus. Expendables reappear in your hand, potions refill, etc. while ammunition does not explicitly state that – it just isn’t destroyed. This is a smart verbiage, as it prevents reloading confusion. The Lesser boon increases CL of the items, while the Greater one makes the DC scale based on ½ character level + highest ability score modifier. Really liked this one!! Finally, wondrous items allow for quicker activation, no longer occupy their slots (But nota bene regarding item stacking restrictions! They still apply!) and the Greater power allows them to continue working when suppressed for any reason, provided they succeed a Fortitude save versus the effect. The DC begins at 15, and increases by +2 for every subsequent round.

At 2nd level, the forgelord may 1/day as a standard action bestow one temporary charge to a charged item he’s attuned to, which lasts for one hour before dissipating. The ability gets a second daily use at 4th level. Also at 2nd level, once epr class level per day, non-instantaneous or continuous item effects with a duration may have their duration doubled, but only when replicating a spell or power with an effect to not exceed 3rd level, and only when attuned to the item. At 4th level, once per day when using the ability to extend an effect thus, the forgelord may choose to make it last 24 hours. Kudos: No sleep-cheesing here: Using the ability again before the previous one has run its course cancels the first use. At 5th level, we get a cool capstone: We get to create a lesser artifact, with some general guidelines provided that do not restrict creativity unduly, but which still provides context.

I really like the wide-open forgelord and the universal appeal it can have. The benefits are potent, and while I am not a fan of the weapon tweaks, I get the ideas behind them. All in all, I consider this to be a successful PrC.

While we’re on the topic of artifacts: The pdf provides 3 of them: Liar’s Quill is amazing. This item is subtle, and if you write something that is currently true, the quill changes what it writes. It can’t predict things, but as a research tool, it is great. This is a simple premise, sure, but using it in clever ways can be downright glorious for investigations and the like. (And yeah, sure, it also helps lying through writing, but the concept’s the star here.) The Incinerator Cannon can be programmed daily with a single sentence of no more than 20 words. When a target fitting that definition (which I assume may not be a named target, but which needs to be general…spelling that out would have been nice) enters range, it fires an empowered disintegrate at the target, with +20 atk. Oh, and it can be folded into an ioun stone-like orb that blasts foes nearby that fit the definition. Here’s the thing: Beyond programming, there is NO control of the artifact possible. This can be a great extermination-level weapon for PCs, but it can also be a rather dastardly liability when manipulated by smart villains. The final artifact would be the chessboard of the astral army, which comes with a full set of a new item type, the chess pieces of the astral army: These are different-level astral constructs, with precisely-codfied menu choices. The board has its full set and may store them, and when drawing the pieces from it, it enhances them. This one has a really cool means of destruction, requiring basically besting it n speed chess. And yes, the pieces are basically astral constructs in bottles, powers-in-a-can, but I maintain that this is how you make items and item classes interesting. Kudos!

Now, as you all probably know by now, I am a pretty big sucker for legendary items – I adore the concept, and I really love them; in fact, in may game, every PC end up with at least one of them. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the chapter I’m most interested in here, would be the new legendary items. As in the revisit to the previously-released ones, we get GP-values for their respective levels, allowing for easier WBL and treasure-calculations. A total of 4 such legendary items are provided, with the first being the city in a bottle. This one increases its power in 5 steps and basically combines bag of holding with Leadership and settlements that increase in size! This is conceptually amazing and super-useful for mega-dungeon campaigns, if you’re going for a less survivalist take on such mega-adventures.

Razor, the warrior’s weapon (written by Erin Heck) is a glasslike weapon made of magical force, and increases its powers in 10 steps. The weapon is basically a devouring blade that can consume other magic items, somewhat akin to e.g. the swordmaster or the bladebound magus. Values for fed and unfed statuses of the blade are provided. The weapon also becomes intelligent and Quick Draw, returning to the owner’s hand, uncanny dodge, 1/month true resurrection and changing properties complement an item, which btw. takes bladebound magus into account. Love this one! The ring of the grand vizier is a ring of protection with scaling improvements, occupying the ring chakra, enhancing the UMD skills of the character. The item also enhances Aid Another, insight bonuses and as a capstone, adds least akashic catalyst to all chakras. Finally, there would be twisted gambit, a 10-step improving glove (which oddly, does not specify occupying the proper slot in what I assume to be an oversight) that enhances your skills regarding gambling and Sleight of Hand, as well as the ability to use Sleight of Hand instead of Stealth. Gloves of storing function, the means to upgrade the gloves via gambling winnings, a luck pool for rerolls, calling for high or low rolls (with bonuses for right calls, penalties for wrong ones), high-level swift action teleport (with Stealth synergy), limited consumable creation…once more, a potent and cool item!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles complex concepts and manages to blend concepts and the rules that represent them well: The gambling item, for example, requires that the player gambles for a few of its tricks. I like these blendings. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ elegant 2-column full-color standard, with a blending of original and old artwork in full color, of varying quality. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version – Kudos! The pdf has basic bookmarks, but not ones for every single item.

Jacob Karpel and Patrick Miller deliver a great booklet of complex items. The GP-values for the psionic items of legends make this book much more useful, and the new material, as a whole, must be considered to be all-killer, no filler. Furthermore, while I am not happy with all design-decisions, and while I have noticed a precious few minor hiccups, none of them really impede the functionality of this supplement’s content, and I’d rather have amazing, ambitious material with VERY few minor blemishes, than bland perfection. In short: This is still on par with Dreamscarred Press’ high track record of complex, high-quality crunch. Highly recommended, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for this cool booklet!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steelforge: Book 2
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

April Augmented - 2018
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2018 04:09:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

It’s that time of the year again! Usually, I try to have the April’s Fool-product reviews done in time for April 1st, but this year, I got them all either on that day or after it, so yeah – please excuse the delay! This year’s April Augmented-installment by Dreamscarred Press clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, ½ a page editorial, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, first of all, we get a Bloodforge (Infusion)-style new race – the Doggo! And no. It’s not another anthropomorphized dog-race. It’s a dog-race. You know, like in M.I.B. and various other forms of media? You can play an intelligent, talking dog! And that awakened dog? Yeah, you can play him. Doggos are augmented magical beasts, Medium, have a speed of 40 ft. and get +2 Str and Cha, -2 Int. Their language (beyond that of the awakener) is btw. called “Bork”, which made me grin. They get +1 natural AC, +2 to Survival and Acrobatics, low-light vision, scent and a properly codified primary natural bite attack (with size category-based damage noted). Classes that grant weapon proficiencies allow the doggos to wield weapons in their jaw, but casting verbal spells while having an item in your mouth is hard, imposing a 20% spell failure chance. The doggos are quadrupedal, gaining the appropriate benefits. They obviously lack opposable thumbs, which constitutes the properly depicted detriment of the race. There are alternate racial traits included. Instead of the natural AC bonus, they can get Skill Focus in a skill chosen from a list They can also get a movement rate of 50 ft. at the cost of decreased bite damage output. They can also be “Smol” (XD Yes. Deliberate.), being Small and gaining +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int. The Acrobatics bonus may be exchanged with a swim speed equal to ½ land speed. We also get a racial feat, Slobbercaster, which lets you hold a spell focus in the mouth when casting verbal spells, sans incurring the spell failure chance. (I assume this also extends to material components.) The race sports no age, height and weight table, but come one! You can look these up online and tailor to your favorite dog breed.

Now, a serious section of the pdf is taken up by a new akashic veil and the ramifications of it – I am, obviously, talking about chef’s armory. Slot-wise,w e’re talking about Hands here and all veilweavers classify for it. The veil manifests a set of chef’s knives that are treated as masterwork daggers and that may be conjured and dismissed as a free action. The veil also allows for at-will ectoplasmic creation as a psi-like ability to generate non-edible kitchen utensils; additionally, create water and spark are gained as at-will SPs. The veil also lets you precisely measure weight and dimensions of stuff you pick up. Additional essence invested increases the damage output of the created weapons and the insight bonus. Wait, what? Yep, the veil also nets a +2 insight bonus to checks made to prepare or brew food/drinks and, if enhanced with weapon properties etc., the bonus increases.

“But…veils…weapons…did I miss a memo?” Nope, you did not. The pdf properly codifies the [weapon] descriptor for veils, which adds a GINORMOUS potential for further expansion of the much-beloved Akasha-system, one that I really hope to see expanded further! The chakra bind for hands of the veil, though, ticks off one of the things I consider problematic: It increases the critical multiplier of daggers made via the veil to x4, or by +1, whichever is higher. Yes, this allows you to bypass the usual x4 multiplier cap. Why am I not screaming bloody murder? Simple. We’re talking about daggers here. Not exactly the most PG option out there and doing the math should allow anyone to see why this, for once, in spite of the kneejerk reaction it may elicit, is totally cool with me.

Beyond the veil, we also obviously need to take a close look at AKASHIC COOKING. A creature benefiting from an akashic recipe can do so only 3 times per day, after consuming the whole meal, with only 1 benefit per 4-hour period – no stuffing yourself here! Unless otherwise noted, meals take an hour to prepare and require that the ingredients be present. Speaking of which: Ingredients are classified in 7 distinct groups, with “F” grade ingredients representing spoiled ones; “E”-rank ingredients can usually be foraged and anything better than that becomes REALLY rare. “A”-rank potatoes are e.g. grown in a specific demiplane, infused with mana, while the mythic and highest “S”-rank includes stuff like, to steal another example from the book, “milk from the primeval cow Auðumbla.” Yes, we actually get examples noted for each rank, and no A- and S-rank ingredients are usually not sold. But otherwise, we get concise guidance regarding prices. Recipes for akashic dishes can be purchased for 150 gp per recipe, and they can be developed at half price, though that takes a bit of time. In order to facilitate the creation of your own recipes, we get base DCs and corresponding effect levels as quick guidelines, and we even get suggested price-points for mundane ingredients – cool!

9 sample recipes are provided, listing DCs, ingredients and optional components, as well as effects. Eating Jumbo Gumbo can net a 1-minute expansion, as well as temporary power points. The Vegetarian consists of meat, meat and even more meat and nets temporary hit points. Water of Life is basically a tropical cocktail that heals you. Yes, paper umbrella optional, but oh so stylish! I’m going to be an insufferable chili-head prick regarding Ghost Pepper Poppers: Jalapenos are NOT the correct peppers – they aren’t even hot. The Naga (or Bhut) Jolokia would be the super-hot ones this should use. Anyways, the benefits are hilarious. Feed it to a dead person and they’ll come back temporarily to life, begging for water, allowing for an unreliable, but ridiculously fun chance to question the target before it dies again. And yes, fire breath can be found. Chicken noodle soup helps vs. diseases (minor nitpick: Fortitude should be capitalized.)

The akashic cooking experience can be enhanced further by two new feats: Apprentice Chef, which nets the option to shape the chef’s armory veil even for non-akashic characters, and Master Chef, which not only nets you recipes, but also allows you to bind it. Both yield a point of essence. Brave chefs can drink the vial of rotten food, which can affect them with poison and disease, but which can also fortify the chef’s armory veil. The blessed stone of hearth and flame improves the accuracy of the spark of chef’s armory for cooking and speeds up the cooking process. Traveling chef is a bag of spices that the veil can absorb, thereafter holding ingredients in the veil…and the veilweaver gets some degree of control over the flow of time for these ingredients, allowing for the quick aging of e.g. wines! And yes, synergy with Flaming Crab Games’ culinary magic is not hard to achieve here!

The pdf also includes a new feat, namely Catch These Hands, which requires Improved Unarmed Strike or Catch Off-Guard. These allow you to throw your punches. Literally. As in, they get the throwing property. Come on, that is weird, a bit icky, and hilarious!

Speaking of which: The pdf sports new spells, 4 of which are cantrips: Secluded recliner lets you conjure forth…just that. “Great for sitting on while sharing popcorn with your allies while watching the stalker bungle up their plan.“ Inform nets a +1 competence bonus to a single Intelligence based skill check, for 1 minute. Does not stack with itself. “This is typically enough to inform your party’s stalker on why exactly their latest plan is a stupid idea.” There is also create popcorn, which notes “Comes with salt and/or butter, although if the caster is of an evil alignment, it can also come with caramel.” Oh, and “Good for eating with the medic while watching your stalker enact their stupid plan.” XD Come on, that’s a hilarious visual! Oh, and there would be finger gun. Pew-pew-pew – you can fire one shot of a 1d3 non-lethal force damage with your finger, one missile per finger. Standard action to fire. There is a bigger, more damaging 2nd level version of the spell here as well. We also get the “Watch this Idiot” heraldry, which nets you inform at-will. Your unseen servants can use create popcorn and secluded recliner at-will. Amazing!

Oh, and I failed to mention the thing that made me fall almost off my chair, laughing my behind off. Know how much I adore the GLORIOUS Empath-archetype that DSP released? You know, perhaps my favorite archetype in all of Pathfinder? We get a new supreme Zeitgeist. “Ratbagger, the End.” XD Yep, that would be a little satire on yours truly. In case you didn’t know: I often talk about “kitten-tests”, abilities that “can or can’t be kitten’d” in the context of abilities that grant bonuses for defeated foes– this goes back to the “bag of rats test.” Can you accumulate insane bonuses by slaughtering a bag of rats? If so, it fails the bag of rats-test. This is one of single biggest pet-peeves in design and really rubs me the wrong way, as it can be mitigated and avoided in a variety of ways. Hence, at one point, I started using “bags of kittens” in my examples – after all, no one likes the idea of slaughtering those, right? Anyways, associated events for the zeitgeist would be endings of all kinds. All numbers you include in jokes must be in Base 13 and you may not explain why. Oh, and the goal is that, whenever something is finished, you must evaluate it and describe it to anyone who asks. I was laughing so hard while reading this!

Séance bonus applies to Knowledge (history) and Appraise and the psionic powers would be aura of decay at 4th, second chance at 5th and ex nihilo at 6th level, which is pretty damn funny, at least to me. The spirit bonus applies to things pertaining ends: Proficiency with butchering axes and scythes, and sickles are treated as having an x4 crit multiplier. You get guide the willing at-will. Oh, and you get “Quoth the Raven” – no, not that Ravenloft fanzine. “Quoth the Raven: You lose the ability to speak words, though you can still vocalize sounds—mostly high-pitched, squeaky ones, though. In addition, you gain a raven familiar, as a wizard of your level, and it furthermore has the ability to speak for you. It will not say the word “nevermore,” however, and trying to force it to will agitate it immensely. Finally, this raven cannot die—if it would do so, it disappears instead, only to return in perfect health the next time you contract with Ratbagger, the End” I almost fell off my chair laughing.

Seriously.

Cool: The ability: “A lifetime, no more, no less” lets you touch a creature. Once it perishes, it is treated as having died of old age, with the effect being only countered by wish/miracle and the like. You also are immune to disabled, dying and unconscious and are not staggered when using Diehard. Whenever a creature within 30 ft. dies, you gain an “ending”, which lasts for an hour or until expended. This includes yourself. Upon dying, you may expend an ending every round to continue acting, in no way inconvenienced. If the body is destroyed, you get the uncarnate feature, though sans option to become material unless you already have it. Once the endings run out, unless healed, you die. Drowning’s peculiarities are included.

..

.

And yes, I get it. The ultimate ability of the endzeitgeist zeitgeist is the ultimate bag of rats/kitten-exploit. Picture me laughing loud, slow clapping and grinning from ear to ear.

The joke here even goes so far as to use a font that almost looks like I’m allcaps-“screaming” about something. Every aspect of this is hilarious in some way, at least for me. And better yet, the zeitgeist is a damn cool addition to the roster of the superb Empath – just make sure to include a caveat for minimum Intelligence or HD to prevent rat-bagging/kitten-bagging exploits for…Ratbagger.

The absurdity is glorious! XD

I…can’t… stop…laughing. Well-played, DSP-crew!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost perfect on a formal level, and super-tight, top-notch, on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a nice, comic-style artwork for the doggo. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Alex Stallings, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Anthony Cappell and Kevin Ryan, with dev-work by Forrest Heck provide an extremely usable and funny pdf. Each and every aspect of this pdf is not only patently funny and gonzo, they also are actually useful at the table! In fact, this pdf is PWYW and tighter in its rules than 99% of rules-books I review. This is a little masterpiece and whether you agree with my assessments or not, love me or hate me or anything in-between, please check out this gem. I am absolutely positive that you’ll find something thoroughly amazing within. You can laugh with or about me, play a damn cool race and add some akashic panache to your cooking – all for any price you’d like! Pure amazing, my final verdict will clock in 5 stars + seal of approval. I seriously have never laughed this much while reading a RPG-file. EVER. This gets my best-of-tag.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
April Augmented - 2018
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Bloodforge Infusions: Feathers and Fur
by Tyler S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2018 16:13:22

The suggestions for playable races and traits on offer here are fairly enjoyable to read about and work with. The abilities are overall balanced, if a bit on the high side of power in a few cases. I think that this is a fine addition to a thematically appropriate Pathfinder campaign. Serring up villages of the animal folk on offer, and making them a rare but known presence in larger cities, seems to be a great way to add some diversity outside of the norm.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge Infusions: Feathers and Fur
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/09/2018 08:44:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment in Dreamscarred Press‘ Unfettered Dreams-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The Malefex class gains d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armor; the class also begins play with trapfinding, More important, though, would be the malefactions, the signature curses and jinxes of the class. They may be used as a swift action; at 8th level, a malefex may trigger two malefactions at once with the same swift action. These are supernatural abilities that target a single creature or object, with a medium range (100 ft. + 10 ft. per class level – the pdf also lists that for your convenience!) and require a clear verbalization of a curse against the target. Kudos: Telepathy can be substituted, if available. It should be noted that the class qualifies for skill unlocks, so if you're playing with them, that's another plus. I tested the class without them in a more gritty context as well, and rest assured that it works perfectly in games without them as well.

Malefactions do not provoke attacks of opportunity and they require either line of sight or at least an idea where precisely the target is. At any given time a malefex may have up to 3 + ½ Wisdom bonus malefactions in effect, and only one in effect per specific malefaction – kudos for the anti-spam-caveat here! Dismissing a malefaction is a free action and they last indefinitely, provided the malefex has some way of perceiving the target – once out of the malefex’ awareness, the target has to endure 1 minute before the malefactions cease to operate. The malefex begins play with two malefactions, which increases to up to 17 known at 20th level. At 12th level, the malefex may affect all opponents in close range (as per spell range) with a malefaction invoked, but may not invoke that malefaction again until all creatures affected by it no longer are under its effects. This does count as 3 malefactions for the purpose of determining how many malefactions a malefex may simultaneously maintain, though.

Malefactions are grouped by power: At 1st level, only least malefactions can be learned; 6th level unlocks lesser malefactions, 11th level unlocks greater malefactions, 16th level grim malefactions and 20th level provides the apex: The malediction. The save DC of malefactions is equal t 10 + ½ class level + Wisdom-modifier. Malefactions that require Fort-saves can affect objects and beings sans Con-score and they are categorized as curse effects. This is important for a number of reasons, one of them being that the class has the wrack class feature, which translates to +1 to atk against cursed creatures, which further increases by +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Additionally, attacks executed versus such creatures add the malefex’ Wisdom modifier to damage. “But curses are mid-to high-level options!” Yep, but it should be noted that the class makes use of the cursed condition, which is properly defined here: Basically, any creature currently affected by a curse is considered to be cursed; hexes do not qualify, only abilities and spells with the curse-descriptor. (Minor nitpick: Spell-reference not italicized.) The condition doesn’t do anything on its own and persists for as long as the target is subject to at least one curse – it represents basically a set-up for combos/follow-up tricks. I’ll return to the precise effects of malefactions in a bit, but let’s first establish the base chassis of the class, all right?

At 2nd level, the malefex adds Wisdom modifier, if positive, to Fortitude and Reflex saves; at 4th level, flanked creatures suffer a -2 penalty to saves versus malefactions, even if the malefex is not the flanker. Beginning at 5th level, we get Back-Alley Bargains, which translates to a +2 insight bonus to Appraise. Really cool: The malefex may concentrate as a move action on a type of item (like poison, magic weapons, etc.) and sense the direction and distance of the closest of such shops within one mile. This is really handy and ties in with the back alley street-life/black market connections vibe. At 7th level, the malefex gets the most German form of humor, Schadenfreude. At 7th level, the malefex gets 5 temporary hit points whenever a creature in close range (as per spell ranges) fails a saving throw versus a maneuver, spell or SP with the curse descriptor. This increases to class level temporary hit points at 14th level. These do stack with themselves, up to a total equal to ½ the malefex’s maximum hit points, and last for 1 minute. Also at 14th level, the malefex may expend as a move action, up to 4 such temporary hit points per class level, healing 1 hit point for every 4 temporary hit points thus expended. Okay, unsurprisingly, I have a problem here: Since malefactions have no daily limit, we do have, essentially an infinite healing exploit here. Granted, a slow and pretty ineffective infinite healing exploit, but an infinite healing exploit nonetheless. Now, I absolutely maintain that, from a design-perspective, this is not justified: A simple caveat could have prevented any ability to cheese this. However, from a practical point of view, at 14th level, the effectiveness of this strategy is so limited, even if you carry around bags of kittens to curse, that it is, ultimately, just sad. I can picture a wounded high-level malefex lying in the hard-boiled, noir gutter, cursing, time and again kittens, down on her luck, as her blood mingles with debris. Perhaps it’s the flavor of the class, but that image does have a certain appeal to me. Do I consider this, design-wise, an unnecessary shortcoming? Yes. Do I think it breaks the class? No, and for once I may actually not remedy it, because this picture, of a malefex cursing her kitten, with tears in her eyes, kinda suck with me. For abuse, the exploit’s too slow and action-intense. Still, for certain groups, this should be borne in mind.

At 10th level, we get the Cool Under Fire ability: Select up to Wisdom modifier skills – the malefex may take 10 when using these skills, even if usually prevented from this by circumstances. 13th level yields break enchantment 2/day as a SP. At 13th level, the malefex may teleport her land speed as a move action, but only to a place to which she has line of sight. At 16th level, we get “A Dark and Stormy Night”, tapping into the clichés of a cursed place: Basically, the malefex can generate a 30-ft.-aura reminiscent of a haunted/cursed place as a standard action, which nets the malefex’s allies +2 to Intimidate and also yields concealment; foes take -2 to saves and the penalty is doubled versus fear effects. This is codified properly as an illusion (shadow) effect. 17th level lets the malefex, 4/day as a free action, force a reroll of a save versus a malefaction, which must be declared after the save rolled, but before results are made known. A single save may only be rerolled once. At 19th level, the malefex may teleport adjacent to a creature suffering currently from a malefaction as a move action, regardless of distance, eliminating the need for line of sight or effect, gaining a brief glimpse of the 10 ft.-area prior to teleporting to safely choose destination squares.

Okay, so those would be the linear abilities: The class also begins play with the school of hard knocks class feature: They begin play with one knock and gain an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. These are really flavorful and basically constitute the talents of the class: Bad penny, for example, allows the malefex to ritually designate an item as the penny, which may then called into possession of the malefex, even across planar boundaries, which can be a godsend for infiltrations, etc. Gaining both Improved and Greater Unarmed Strike, using Wisdom modifier for attack rolls (but not damage) allows the class to have some brawling competence from the get-go. While I am generally not a big fan of e.g. + Wisdom modifier to Disable Device checks, the ability also allows for saves versus effects like explosive runes (“explosive” not italicized), which is a neat angle I enjoy. At 6th level, malefexes may choose to gain AoOs when a creature targets an ally, even with ranged weapons, but only within the first range increment. This is very potent, but a 1/round caveat keeps it from being OP – it is an aspect of the skirmishing angle of the class. Speaking of which: Also locked (rightly so) behind 6th level, Gang Up allows for flanking bonuses, regardless of positioning of malefex and ally. This, once more, is pretty potent, but ensures that e.g. rogue-malefex-teams can be pretty amazing tag-teams.

Gaining Ability Focus for Malefactions, bonus feats or substituting Wisdom for Knowledge can also be found. Catch Off-Guard and Throw Anything make sense, but in a cool twist, the ability that grants these feats has a synergy effect with bad penny. It is also one of a few knocks that may be selected an additional time, increasing the benefits. Another nice ability allows the malefex to treat lower-grade equipment as better, even with the ability to be selected a second time, adding a special ability for armors or weaponry. Kudos: The usual +10 limit may not be exceeded. Gaining a Bloodforge Heritage feat. We may also gain a variant renown that nets identities – and yes, this may be upgraded and the pdf reprints the talents for your convenience. These may be further built upon with another knock and social talents. Rogue talents, psychic reading as a SP and 1/day teamwork sharing as well as quicker Disable Device to gain access to places complement this section. I really liked the very strong, thematic leitmotif of the hard-knocks character, the supernatural anti-hero detective, etc. – the knocks are thematic and flavorful.

Now, I already mentioned the malefactions and at this point, you want to know what they do, right? So, their presentation is pretty much akin to maneuvers or spells – they are governed by type and alphabetically within that type; we begin with least malefactions and move up to the most potent ones. They note targets, saves and descriptors – all are curses and a few are mind-affecting or fear-based. Okay, so, what do they do? For example, Baleful Glare nets -2 to CL/ML and concentration checks, saves and skill checks- Face Stealer imposes a -2 penalty to Charisma and disguises the malefex as the target. If the target is slain while under this effect, his corpse’s face becomes utterly featureless! Now this is flavorful and has adventure-ideas baked right into the effects. Glued Boots is really cool from a tactics point of view: No more 5-foot steps or withdrawal and halved movement…oh, and you become faster. This is a theme, btw.: Steal Stamina, for example, nets you +2 to Dex and Str, and fatigues the target. Penalties versus steal and disarm can also be found and items may lose hardness or become broken due to Sands of time. Tongue Tie can net spell failure chance and penalize social skills…no complaints here.

Among the lesser malefactions, we have an option to steal fast healing and regeneration AND make the target ignore a scaling amount of healing. Nice! Confiscate: Blood nets you temporary hit points when targets bleeds. There are more of those “Confiscate:”-malefactions and they follow similar design paradigms. As an aside, I can see that being really fun to play at the table. Decree: Anteros lets you designate a target, to which the character becomes hostile. Embargo: Alacrity is a really potent and cool debuff: Swift action maneuvers, SPs, psi-like abilities etc. are reduced to a move action. Forbiddance: Flight’s effects are self-explanatory and no, may not be abused to kill off flyers en masse. Interdiction: Sorcery punishes attempts to cast spells, manifest powers etc. with untyped damage (which is not so much as to render that broken); subverting fear-immunity or causing targets to become shaken if they don’t focus on you. Nice! (As an aside: If you use Horror Adventure’s alternate fear-progression, the ability is worded in a way that allows for the use of that system!) No complaints here either.

With greater malefactions, things start to become really potent: Chink in the Armor strips the target of all DR and hardness and bestows -2 to saves. Ouch! Now personally, I would have made ignored DR based on type and implemented a scaling here, but at 11th level, I consider this to be okay. Delusion is interesting: Regardless of whether a save is made, it’s -4 to atk and Perception – on a failed save, the poor sod also suffers from 40% miss chance. Suppressing ongoing powers or spells (including the option to hijack benefits!) makes for a cool trick. Really cool: Make an item broken; on a failed save, the target takes magic piercing damage from the shards. Reducing immunity/resistance also can be really nasty. Dragon malefex team-up just got very scary. Just sayin’. Once more, I have no serious complaints against the options presented here; while potent, they are in line with analogue benefits granted by other classes and class options.

The most potent regular malefactions, the grim malefactions, are appropriately brutal: Blood for blood causes the target to suffer half the damage it inflicts on you; if you’re dropped to 0 hit points, the target may be stunned for 1 round on a failed save. This is an interesting Mexican-Stand-Off-type of ability; it tracks only actual damage taken and may not be cheesed. Circe’s word is a temporary baleful polymorph. Decree of Exile has a limited duration and strands the target temporarily in a demiplane. Stagger + gaining haste is strong, but neat…but it does have an issue. You see, I consider it quite feasible to reduce the number of malefactions I can place by 1 for e.g. perma-haste. Just carry a kitten with you and there you go – courtesy of the lack of durations per se, the buff may be thus maintained infinitely, at the cost of a slightly reduced debuffing capacity in combat. This is, yes, cheesing the buffing aspect here. Yes, it should be no problem for the GM to forbid such actions. The puzzling thing to me is that malefactions usually have effects localized on the target or grant less potent benefits. So yeah, I consider that to be an aspect that could use a limiter.

Mystic isolation nets the target SR, but only for benevolent and harmless effects…which is devious and cool. Dimensional anchor is per se is useful…but the malefaction Witch’s Prison adds a cool idea to that: If you move too far away, the target instead teleports to you, in spite of the effect. A more penalizing rage, individual silence, negative levels via the black spot-growth whenever you hit them…neat.

Finally, there are the maledictions, the capstone abilities. Word of doom kills basically every defensive quality the target may have: Resistances, DR, fast healing, hardness, immunities…etc. Brutal. Word of Horror Unending nets a negative level and 3 attribute damage to all scores per round, with each round offering a save to negate. The Waerloch’s Word is cool: You can only use it 1/week…but if you do, you make an item intelligent. Permanently. Worse, the item wants to kill its wielder. Ever felt like your kitchen/elevator/etc. was out to get you? ;)

Okay, so, as a whole, I really loved the malefactions. With a few minor aspects, I consider them to be worthwhile, engine-wise interesting and unique. I particularly enjoy how, in spite of them not sporting any flavor-text, they often manage to evoke a concise theme via their names alone.

Supplemental material-wise, we get favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, changeling, dhampir, hexbreather, merg, kitsune and shabti. These interact in some cases with racial abilities, allow for limited hex access, etc. No complaints here. The class gets 8 different feats: The aforementioned Ability Focus is included for your convenience; if you have two or more malefactions, you can take another one – up to 3 times. Talented Jinxer increases the maximum number of active malefactions at any given time by 2. Street Lessons nets you +1 knock. Wrack and Ruin adds Wisdom modifier bleed damage to cursed creatures hit via the wrack ability. Spreading Misery lets the malefex move a malefaction from a foe reduced to 0 hp to another target within 100 ft.; time spent, if applicable, does not reset upon being transferred and the new target gets a save. Grudgebearer lets you choose a creature type (or type/subtype) available from favored enemies; the type takes a -2 penalty to saves versus malefactions. (This may obviously be chosen multiple times, applying its benefits to different types.) Honed Maliciousness lets you bypass curse immunity – and yes, prerequisites are sensible.

Rogue, slayer and vigilante may choose a malefex knock as a rogue/slayer/vigilante talent. Rogues and slayers may not choose evasion, rogue talent or combat feat (avoiding redundancy) and use Intelligence as governing attribute instead of Wisdom. The vigilante does consequently not have these limitations and uses Charisma as governing attribute. Rogue and slayer may choose curse adept as a talent, gaining a single least malefaction, usable 1/3 class level + Int-mod times, with 4th level as a prerequisite. Once more, intelligence is the governing attribute here. As advanced talents for slayer and rogue, the classes can gain a least or lesser malefaction, with the same restrictions as the previous talent. The vigilante gains a variant: Least or lesser may be chosen (with lesser malefactions requiring 10th level) and Charisma is the governing attribute. Since vigilante talents are worth slightly more, the malefactions thus gained may be used ½ class level + Cha-mod times per day. All such options allow the classes to treat their class levels as malefex levels to determine malefaction effects.

Finally, there also is an archetype included in the deal, the rustpicker. These fellows replace the malefaction gained at 1st level with the ability to have all weaponry treated as cold iron, using the better values for hardness and hit points. Instead of the knocks gained at 1st, 6th, 9th and 15th level, the rustpicker gains Brilliant Planner as a bonus feat and does not need to replenish the brilliant plan fund after procuring 20+ pounds of objects, only the invested gold is taken into account when it needs replenishing. Objects and services below 1 sp in cost are treated as 1 sp, preventing cheesing there. 3rd level enhances Brilliant Planner, allowing for the replenishment of 100 gp per character level and this takes only 4 hours. 6th level lets the character designate a container as her rucksack. While this item is worn, a brilliant plan no longer increases weight. Additionally, the brilliant plan fund may be replenished by placing an item inside and meditating – upon completion, the item vanishes, its value added to the fund, up to the usual maximum. Nice: Cursed items and artifacts may explicitly not be removed from play thus. Starting at 9th level, the rustpicker may enact the brilliant plan to withdraw an item (not a service) as if drawing it from her person, which usually means a move action, though the rules specify potentially quicker draw options. 12th level makes the rucksack behave as a handy haversack sans monetary value. 1/day, mage’s magnificent mansion as an SP is also gained. AT 15th level, brilliant plan funds may be replenished anywhere and objects or services may be procured regardless of place, provided they are available on the plane of existence. Starting at 7th, victims of malefactions take + class level damage when receiving damage from a source other than the malefaction. At 14th level, this also imposes a massive -6 penalty to Dexterity. This replaces schadenfreude and its upgrade. Instead of break enchantment, the archetype nets 2/day banishment as an SP at 13th level.

Now, the pdf does sport a page that I really wished more classes would feature – a page that deals with how to integrate malefexes into an ongoing campaign, ideas of what malefactions actually are, etc. – the pdf mentions psychic potential, bad memories, half-remembered curses, myths, songs taught by weird grannies and plain ole’ grudges may explain that. The notion of a neighborhood guardian or covert malefex, protecting (or terrorizing) a community similarly are touched upon; the leitmotifs of a person hardened by a tough life, of killer-instincts, etc. are very much evident in nomenclature etc., but this page further emphasizes the feeling that the class is designed to evoke – and what you could do with it in your campaign.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed a few minor formatting guffaws, none of them compromised the rules-language integrity. Rules-language is as precise as we’ve come to expect from Dreamscarred Press and while the minor kitten-exploits imho are not necessary, even they remain within the paradigm of what most groups will complain about. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the full color-artworks are nice. We get a second, more printer-friendly version and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jade Ripley, with additional content by Forrest Heck and N. Jolly, delivers basically the class that was attempted in varying degrees of success before: The 5th-man debuffer. Where hexblade imho failed and similar options went a more spell-centric route, the malefex stands singularly, as a one-of-a-kind class. There are two reasons for this. One, the class, unsurprisingly, considering the authors, sports a unique engine that provides a distinct playstyle – the malefex plays differently from comparable classes, which is a very big plus as far as I’m concerned. Secondly, and to me, that is just as important, it has a strong, distinct sense of identity, one that is not prescriptive via a overdetailed description of flavor, but one that suffuses the class in ability-names, in how its pieces gel together. With minimal word-count, the class manages to use names and effects to generate a distinct identity.

That is a huge plus. Just as important for me is that the class follows a design-aesthetic that reminds me of the Occult Classes – and indeed, I’d classify the Malefex as such in its design-aesthetics. You see, the class not only sports combat-relevant options and tricks to escalate numbers and combat output; yes, there are some potent tricks here, but the class focuses on being a versatile class that can contribute in meaningful ways to the game beyond its combat capabilities. Secondly, the abilities of the malefex, surprisingly, in spite of their very much crunch-centric presentation, manage to have story-seeds and ideas woven into them. You can read the class and have an adventure- or encounter-idea based on a malefaction etc. In short, this is a class that is a meaningful contributor to the roleplaying experience beyond combat performance.

That does not mean that the malefex can’t hold her own in battle, mind you: The class manages to provide a potent, valid skirmisher/rogue-y stand-in with a nice supernatural angle. While the class is pretty potent, it never strays into territory that I’d consider to be OP or broken for the levels at which an ability is unlocked; the malefex should provide no issues in even lower-powered or 15-point-buy games. In very conservative games, a couple of the ignore DR/reduce immunity/etc. tricks may require finetuning, but as a whole, I consider the malefex to be a universally appealing class.

The interesting crazy-prepared archetype and the solid supplemental material, as well as the overall package ultimately conspire to make this my favorite design by Jade Ripley so far. The malefex is truly intriguing, oozes flavor and its detailed guidelines for flavor etc. add icing on an awesome cake. This class is interesting, inspiring and well-made, and it is only the 2 minor kitten-exploits that cost this pdf the nomination as a candidate of my Top Ten of 2017. Don’t let that deter you, though: The malefex is a cool, flavorful and worthwhile addition to the game, a great representation of the debuffer/skirmisher-role. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Empaths
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2017 05:44:10

An Endzietgeist.com review

This installment of the occult branch of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving 21 pages. Of these, 3 pages are devoted to reference material like feats and psionic powers from e.g. 7th Path. On these pages, the SRD can also be found. When all is said and done, the new content still amounts to 18 pages.

After a brief introduction to the matter at hand and the interaction of psionics and psychic magic, we get the empath. The new archetype herein. Yes. Singular. The empathy may be a medium archetype, but he is, no hyperbole, the most massive archetype I have EVER READ. I can rattle off base classes that take up less real estate than this fellow…so what exactly is the empathy about?

First things first: No, the archetype is not simply about touching stuff or folks and then suddenly knowing their surface thoughts. The archetype is significantly more than that. Instead of Knowledge (arcane) and Knowledge (religion), he gets Autohypnosis, Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (psionics) as class skills. Instead of the medium’s default spellcasting, an empathy gains access to psionic powers, using Charisma as governing attribute for bonus power points. They gain access to powers of up to 6th level and increase their base power points from a humble 2 at 1st level to 292 at 20th level over the course of their progression.

However, the power points are inextricably linked with the other class features of the archetype, so let’s talk spirits: Whiel the empathy is treated as channeling spirits when contracted to his key defining class feature, instead of the arguably less than exciting medium spirits, he forms a contract with a zeitgeist.

No.

Not with me. With one of my lesser brethren. … Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ll try to keep the bad zeitgeist-jokes to a bare a minimum. Anyways, zeitgeists are basically the product of the collective unconscious, if you’re feeling Jungian – a collective of emotions between all minds, reacting to events glorious and horrible. They are astral echoes of thought, attention and emotion – and during a 1-hour séance, an empathy may forge a contract with one or multiple zeitgeists. Unlike medium spirits, zeitgeists are separated in 4 tiers: 1st level empaths may only contract with lesser zeitgeists. 6th level unlocks intermediate zeitgeists, 11th level greater zeitgeists and 16th level provides access to supreme zeitgeists. Forming a contract with a zeitgeist requires a couple of things: The empathy, for example, must accept a compulsion and a goal. Zeitgeists require an offering. When bonding with multiple zeitgeists, they ask for power point costs and these costs are not limited by manifester level – good catch there! They always demand powers offered, but obviously offer power in return.

Now, it is obvious that aforementioned goals and compulsions are different from influences and taboos. Compulsions set basically a standard of behavior, while goals, when achieved, strengthen the empath’s link to the zeitgeist. Whenever the empathy acts against the compulsion of a given zeitgeist, he has a 15% psychic enervation chance. When suffering from psychic enervation, the empathy loses all psionic focus he has, power points equal to ½ manifester level, all remaining actions for the turn and becomes flat-footed until the start of his next turn. This otherwise can be modified by feats and abilities that modify psychic enervation. An empathy only risks suffering from psychic enervation once per action, even if that action requires a longer time to complete. Achieving a zeitgeist’s goal permanently strengthens the bond between zeitgeist and empathy: In the future, forming the contract with that zeitgeist nets a single use of the spirit surge class feature that may be used immediately. Multiple zeitgeist’s surges stack, but each zeitgeist may only provide a single spirit surge.

For the purpose of abilities and rules that require the tracking of spirit influence, a zeitgeist is always treated as having 3 influence over the empathy, though this influence does not carry any penalties and may neither be increased, nor decreased. Upon starting play, the empathy can claim to have a number of goals accomplished equal to half her spirit bonus, but all such goals must be from zeitgeists of a tier at least one lower than her current maximum.

Ability #2 that pretty much defines the empathy would be the volksgeist – a composite that roughly translates to “The spirit of the people”, btw. a concept that has similarly haunted academia since its conception. If you require some diversification, think of this as the totality of the attitudes and mindset of the vox populi. Rules-wise, the volksgeist does not refer to the spirit of a whole age, but rather to local and current thoughts and the volksgeist, as a whole, is not sentient. The empathy is always aware of it and can generally sense the attitude of a given community – this awareness is not detailed and does not yield secrets and the like, but it makes for a great roleplaying tool nonetheless. Abilities gained from the volksgeist are always on and are chosen as the empathy increases in levels – they may be changed (and this is really interesting!) when the empathy moves to a new community or when the empathy herself is subjected to sufficient changes, emphasizing the roleplaying aspect of the concept here. At 1st level, the connection to the volksgeist can affect a small tight-knit community like a neighborhood, a village, etc. and yields 2 psionic talents as well as empathy, which gains the network descriptor. 3rd level provides a spirit power gained from the volksgeist, which is represented by bonuses to skills; the nature of these is contingent on the general culture of the area.

New powers are gained at 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th level and at the latter, she also extends her volksgeist to encompass a larger area, gaining an intermediate spirit power, which is reflected in a variety of bonus feats, which, once again, are contingent on the area of the volksgeist: Downtrodden areas yield Endurance, for example, while insular communities can yield Racial heritage. 11th level provides more powers, as does 13th level, which further increases the benefits and range of the volksgeist. 15th and 17th level provide further improvements, with the latter representing the apex of the respective volksgeist’s granted abilities and scope. This ability replaces knacks, the channel-related tricks, propriaton, ask the spirits, trance of three and spacious soul. Oh, and it interacts with the collective empaths get: They can have up to Cha-mod or ½ class level, whichever is higher, beings in their collective. Fans of psionics will already be familiar with collectives, so here’s where things get interesting: While psionically focused, the empathy conveys the séance boon of contracted zeitgeists to all members of her collective. 5th level allows the empathy to expel a zeitgeist as a full-round action that provokes AoOs and risks psychic enervation. If the expelled zeitgeist was the free one, she instead declares another zeitgeist she paid power points to contract with as the new free one, regaining half that zeitgeist’s power point cost – prevents cheesing the ability. Nice. 3rd level provides telepathic communication between members of the collective and the capstone, “A Place in History”, is suitably amazing: You get to create your own zeitgeist that has neither compulsion, nor power point cost for its creator Dying while contracted to such a zeitgeist is not fatal for its creator: The zeitgeist acts as an extra life, respawning the fully healed empathy sans negative levels, but with psychic enervation and sans the zeitgeist. Other empaths may only contract with this zeitgeist if they are 20th level and were involved with the events that led to its creation. And yes, some further guidance is provided for this amazing capstone.

Okay, I’ve been dancing around the zeitgeists themselves for quite a while – and there is a reason for this: The lion’s share of this pdf is devoted to them, and for good reason. Beyond offering guidance on roleplaying the goals and compulsions, each of the zeitgeists comes with a brief, fluffy introduction and associated events. They sport the aforementioned goals and compulsions and grant séance boons and spirit powers, with each of the zeitgeists also sporting a brief table of psionic powers that the respective zeitgeist provides. So, what would be examples of zeitgeists? Well, the first lesser one would be Cogito, Sum of the First Thoughts (great pun there!) – when suffering enervation, you may expend all psionic focuses, delaying the onset of psychic enervation until you regain them. This is a simple spirit power, yes – but a) it is cheese-proof and b), it offers a meaningful tweak of the base engine from the get-go. Imperator, the foundation of civilization provides better aiding other; Little Dip O’ The Dops, representing learning for Survival from errant mice avoiding predators, nets you the option to avoid tremorsense (YES!). Resounding with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias, Obelisk lets you erect an ectoplasmic totem, a kind of tower, if you will, enhancing powers based on it. Parasite, the memetic virus, should bring a smile to students of Dawkins or the dispersal of memes, while Riastrad convey network descriptors to the powers this embodiment of a last stand grants.

The intermediate zeitgeists include eternal martyrdom with connotations of the undead, allowing for better relations with non-controlled undead and hijacking of controlled ones. Charade nets you basically the lite-version of a vigilante’s second persona and Hivemind nets tactician strategies. Iron eye, the broadcast lets you memorize scenes and create illusions in a nice bit of social commentary on television/computer-screens, deeply steeped in the fantastic – big kudos for the amazing artwork there. Ceaseless paranoia can make your changes or those of your allies cause fear, while Numquam, the Lost Moment, lets you add temporal components (as though using time hop (not italicized)) to your psychoportations. The light of potential shining can also be found here. Among the greater zeitgeists, the embodiment of championship, Et Panem, helps prevent provoking AoOs while psionically focused. Evol nets customization options to represent pure adaptability. Spacejammer fans will enjoy Jammer, whose theme is to boldly go where none has gone before. Nirvana lets you leave the shackles of your worldly flesh, becoming basically a bolstering, benevolent spirit for your allies…and Yus, tortured torturer, accumulates pain points with his powers, ultimately allowing the empathy to bend reality once a vast amount of pain has been collected.

Among the supreme zeitgeists, we find Athame, the first angel falling that nets quasi angelic benefits to allies, Mac Dex, the march of progress, who nets a sonic screwdriver, a portal gun and a universally recognized status symbol (get the reference?) – all three of which have been concisely codified – quite a feat in particular for the portal gun. Slash, a tear in space, nets you an hole in reality as a blade (and for once I consider the lack of damage types and ignoring DR and hardness totally justified!) that can also carve open the planar fabric to other lands. (Once again, we have a missed italicization here, but oh well.) Tessa, regal administrator, is about saving the world, while Vinum Verum, is, you guessed it, about altered conscience, courtesy of magic or substances. And there is You. No, that is not a typo. That is indeed a zeitgeist, and an intriguing one at that.

Beyond these inspired and interesting zeitgeists, the pdf goes one step further: It notes the ramifications on psionics-magic transparency variants when using the empathy; provides the reskin for rune magic…AND provides a combo feat for interaction with Ultimate Intrigue’s spiritualist zeitgeist binder, which would be more akin to a volksgeist in this pdf’s definitions, but who cares – cool multiclass feat ftw.!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good – while I did notice a few missed italicizations, the sheer complexity of the rules-language construct attempted and executed herein and the overall clean presentation make this a total winner in these disciplines. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports pretty amazing, far-out full-color pictures. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Author Kevin Ryan, with design-lead by Forrest Heck and additional design by Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher, has created one massive archetype herein, one that addresses the weaknesses of the medium class and purges them with fire. Unless I am sorely mistaken, this is the author’s first project as the primary author – and what a project it is!

Okay, let me make this clear: Reading “empathy” on the cover made me about as excited as reading “lame detect specialist” on a cover. Then, I started reading. My Angela Merkel-style frown slowly and steadily turned into a beaming, radiant smile and it did not leave my face even once while reading this pdf.

To elaborate: The empath presented herein replaces the spirit engine of the base medium with one that emphasizes choice; within each choice made at a given time, we not only get a MEANINGFUL, interesting mechanic tweak of the base engine of the class, we also receive a meaningful roleplaying angle. Understanding the importance of ROLEplaying as well as ROLLplaying, the empathy beautifully marries both aspects of our game into a collective that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The zeitgeists are inspired and ooze flavor in an obvious way; the volksgeist does so in a more subtle manner that is no less rewarding and may actually serve as the drive for whole adventuring careers. From the smallest basics of the engine to its capstone, the empathy represents an absolute masterpiece of a supplement, one that manages to retain its feasibility for both low- and high-powered gaming; from gritty, low-powered Ravenloft or Midgard to potent high-fantasy Spacejammer, Planescape or the Zeitgeist AP, this offers a thoroughly rewarding, meaningful and delightful option. If the author was standing before me, I’d frankly shake his hand or hug him – it’s that impressive. The empathy ranks, even among Dreamscarred Press’ class hacks and complex options, as a highlight of skilled design and amazing narrative potential. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If you like psionics at all, get this gem. (Also, if you happen to make an Endzeitgeist zeitgeist, send it my way, all right? And no, I’m not affiliated with DSP or the author.)

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Occultists
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2017 04:15:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the occult branch of Psionics Augmented clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, we begin with a brief introduction to the matter at hand, including how to handle campaigns that feature both psionics and psychic magic – and, as a personal aside, designer Forrest heck’s observations regarding the occultist range true with me as well. When I read Occult Adventures back in the day for the first time, I wasn’t immediately smitten by the class – it took a more careful analysis to really appreciate it and by now, I am very fond of it. But I digress.

We begin this pdf with two different archetypes for the occultist class, the first of which would be the govi. Instead of aura sight, these fellows gain a bonus on skill-checks to see through disguises and detect mental control effects equal to ½ their class level. Additionally, possessed and shapeshifted targets within sight of the Govi must succeed a Will-save to prevent the govi from realizing that they are shapeshifters/possessed, respectively. And yes, once successful, the creature is safe for 24 hours – and they’d better be, considering that, thankfully, the DC scales with class levels. Starting at 8th level, the govi gains the signature ability that replaces magic circles, namely sealing techniques. As a full-round action that costs 3 points of mental focus, the govi can exorcise incorporeal undead, possessing creatures, those made by metacreativity, etc. within 30 ft. The target must succeed a Will-save. Cool: Creatures that have not been softened up by damage gain a bonus to the save against this form of being whisked away…into the implement! You see, the govi catches these critters in an implement (an implement can only hold one entity) and they may then proceed to expend mental focus 1/day to force a creature thus caught to reply truthfully. The trap is not perfect, though: The creature retains concisely codified, very limited awareness and keeps healing – upon reaching maximum hit points, it can attempt to break free once every day. Absolutely amazing, cool idea and execution here! At 12th level, the govi gains true seeing (not properly italicized) when carrying an implement with a caught creature inside, replacing binding circles. 16th level allows the govi to spend an additional point of mental focus to attempt a sealing technique as an immediate action instead. Before you’re asking: The govi retains outside contact, but must cast magic circle to use it – good catch!

The second archetype herein would be the shattered mind, who replaces Knowledge (planes) with Knowledge (psionics). The archetype gains access to psionic powers and power points, beginning with a base of 1, upgrading that to up to 128 power points at 20th level. The maximum power level known increases up to 6th level. The governing attribute would be Intelligence and the power list employed would be that of the psion/wilder. Instead of knacks, these fellows get talents and as they employ psionic powers instead of spells, they get access to some alternate focus powers: The Conjure implement is replaced with Create False Implement, which lets you expend 1 point of mental focus to generate a duplicate of a psicrystal implement, which may diverge from the original, but allows you to use the powers stored in that implement; it may, however, not be used to store mental focus or use effects that require it. Secondly, psychic fog is replaced with psionic fog as an alternative. As a standard action, you may expend 1 point of mental focus to generate a cloud of fog, duplicating fog cloud (not italicized) and may not be blown away. At higher levels, the occultist in question may expend more mental focus, duplicating solid fog (again, not italicized), but at a reduced duration. Sacred implements and the penalties they impose on opposed schools instead apply to the manifester level of powers of that school’s equivalent disciplines. This represents an interesting change, as far as I’m concerned, and a relatively subtle balancing trick. Now, I did mention psicrystal implements in the alternate focus powers – unlike normal occultists, shattered minds infuse their implements with a piece of psionic power and a fragment of their mind, beginning play with Psicrystal Affinity (reproduced for your convenience!) as a bonus feat. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter provde an additional implement school. The implements then are treated as psicrystals, gaining the personality and abilities as normal, but preventing the acquisition of a regular psicrystal. Improved Psicrystal and other feats that alter psicrystal only apply to one of the implements, but she may take these feats multiple times, each time applying them to a new psicrystal implement. Class features interacting with psicrystals only affect a single psicrystal implement of the character’s choice. Shared and hel powers are only held by a single psicrystal implement and they are not shared among the collective of psicrystal implements. Upon creating a psicrystal implement, the shattered mind learns a single power from that school’s equivalent psionic discipline (see the handy table provided) – big kudos: The rules-language takes powers with different levels into account and gets the complex rules ramifications there right. If a given school has multiple equivalents, the archetype must choose one. Powers manifested with implements are treated as being manifested with their minimum manifester level (great cheese-avoidance there!) The base focus powers are granted, as usual.

Okay, that is a massive codification, and an impressive one. 8th level provides scatterbrained: The fragmentation process takes its toll, imposing a -2 penalty to Diplomacy, Intimidate and Perform checks, but also a +1 bonus to saves against effects that detect surface thoughts. The psicrystal implements can use her Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores instead of their own and share bonuses granted to the shattered mind by feats, abilities, etc. Starting at 12th level, the shattered mind can expend her psionic focus as a full-round action to assume control over a target carrying a psicrystal implement. This does not require line of sight, but still has a maximum range, allowing for absolutely amazing set ups, particularly since the effects grow more potent the more psicrystal implements the target wears – 4 steps are provided. Damn cool.

16th level provides channel power, even when not within reach and as a capstone, the shattered mind, if killed, is not truly vanquished unless all implements are destroyed, allowing the shattered mind to potentially destroy the mind of unfortunates that find her implements…pretty amazing. I adore the complexity of this archetype and its amazing theme – but there is one RAW problem that can utterly break the balance of the archetype: Psicrystal Containment, aka having the psicrystal carry a spare psionic focus. Since the psicrystal implements allow the archetype to take this feat multiple times, you can amass more psionic focuses than with any other option…and, as any fan of psionics can attest, the psionic focus remains one of the most potent resources. Even a single additional focus is potent. Multiple ones? OUCH. I strongly, strongly suggest for all groups that have a lower power level to expressively prevent this combination – it is OP for all but the most high-powered games and sports a ridiculous combo potential. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Other than this (which will hopefully be nerfed/remedied), I loved this archetype to bits, though! I also was positively surprised to see some nice roleplaying advice for the psicrystal implements – kudos!

Beyond these, we also are introduced to the cryptographer psion archetype, who, instead of the regular discipline abilities gained, instead receives a single implement school of his choice, treating his psion level as occultist levels, though the implement school must correspond to the associated discipline, as featured in the table mentioned. Additionally, the respective psionic implement schools may be chosen, but more on that later. The cryptographer only gains one implement as well as ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, minimum 1, mental focus for use with the implement. 1st level provides the base focus powers, while 2nd level and every 6 levels thereafter provide a focus power from the chosen implement school, using, unless otherwise noted, Intelligence as the governing attribute. As the shattered mind, the cryptographer receives the modified focus powers covered before, if choosing them.

Now, I already mentioned this, so yes, this pdf contains a total of 7 implement schools, each of which corresponds to a psionic discipline; characters with the psionic subtype qualify for this, but when they cast psychic spells instead of manifesting powers, they learn spells from the associated magic school instead.

The 7th path, athanatism, balance-wise problematic for inflicting positive energy damage versus living targets (who have basically no means to resist it), provides a resonant power that provides negative or positive energy resistance. The basic focus power provides a scaling touch attack that deals 1d8, +1d8 points of damage per 2 class levels while psionically focused. These are the combination of negative and positive energy and can’t be resisted by either. sigh I can literally rattle off limited-use abilities that inflict damage that can be resisted. Won’t get near my game. The focus powers include a sickening aura and a pretty cool option that nets you better defense versus incorporeal attacks and lets you lock attackers in semi-corporeal form. Binding a corpse to your shadow is pretty cool and inverting healing effects nearby is damn cool. There is also a spectral projection option and a touch-based save or suck that renders a target BOTH confused and unconscious – it make wake up, though and the ability has a save, so yeah.

Clairsentience provides an initiative boost as a resonant power and a really cool base focus power: As a swift action, you can select a number of squares equal to the mental focus remaining in the implement (with a maximum that increases over the levels) and ignore difficult terrain in them. You may even treat them as though they were not occupied by other creatures and don’t provoke AoOs when moving into or from a selected square, though you may not end movement in such a square and need to be psionically focused to do so. The focus powers include protection from being scried, duplicating remote viewing and combo it with a psychic spell, daze targets, reroll d20s, agin uncanny dodge, etc. – pretty cool.

Metacreativity nets you a scaling AC bonus as a resonant power and an astral guardian as a base focus power – a 1st-level astral construct, which scales in potency with class levels and is limited by mental focus invested. Here’s the thing: You have to expend the psionic focus to call it and can’t regain it while the guardian remains. Big kudos: No servitor-combo-cheese and the ability gets the decreasing mental focus and thus, guardian power after expenditure done right! I already mentioned the false implement, and the other focus powers include ectoplasmic creation, entangling globs of ectoplasm, crowd-control via ectoplasmic pillars and blasts of properly typed and codified shrapnel.

Psychokinesis provides active energy resistance to wearers/holders of the implement and the base focus power lets you expend your psionic focus as a standard action to fire a scaling array of elemental missiles (1 +1 for every two occultist levels, up to 10 and equal to the amount of mental focus remaining) that hit on a ranged touch attack, inflicting damage based on your active energy type. Ouch. Even though the number of missiles will decrease, these are ranged touch attacks, each of which inflicts 1d8 + Intelligence modifier damage of the active energy type. 60 ft. range, sure, but as a standard action that is based on an infinite resource. That outclasses several comparable limited resource psionic powers and spells. No. Just no. This imho needs mental focus expenditure. The focus powers includes columns of energy (which, while dealing small AoE-damage, do cost mental focus), increased movement rate, untyped touch (why untyped?) that can propel targets backwards, shape psychokinesis effects to exclude squares via mental focus expenditure (cool!) or control objects (not italicized).

Psychometabolism nets temporary hit points in a persistent pool that are carried on from wielder to wielder; these may be replenished via healing, which is pretty neat. The base focus power nets you one or more alternate forms (as disguise self – spell-reference not italicized) and the focus powers include bonuses to Str- and Dex-based checks, bite of the wolf or claws of the beast, DR, metamorphosis, a touch for a touch that can render the target helpless and prone for 1 round on a failed save or alter the appearance of a creature. Psychoportation’s resonant power nets an increasing, minor miss chance that does not stack with concealment. The base focus power is cool – it lets you penalize your own movement speed to make an ally faster – AMAZING! The focus powers include a potent 11th level trick (at 3 mental focus, it’d better be!) to warp space to make all allies within 100 ft., for one round, be treated as though they were in your space – and yes, this gets the interaction with line of sight right. Potent and cool! Swapping places with an ally is nice. I’m not a big fan of untyped damage via a touch, but the mental focus cost at least keeps it limited. Short-range teleport, time hop (not italicized) are okay…but I love twisted path. On a failure, it forces the target to only move diagonally! That’s creative!

Telepathy’s resonant power fortifies against mental intrusion and divulging thoughts/mind reading. The base focus power lets you bond with allies, shifting perceptions to their PoV while psionically focused, with more senses shared at higher levels – cool! The focus powers include boosts to social skills and the ability to implant suggestions. Also cool: An ally bonded to you can be granted an attack by you if you expend 1 point of mental focus. Yes, this does provoke AoOs and, being based on mental focus expenditure, does not invite cheesing. Stopping a creature’s move on a failed save is cool, but the ability fails to specify a range – RAW, it doesn’t even require line of sight or effect. Another power lets you infiltrate the senses of targets hit by your bonded allies, which is cool. Another one lets allies use your senses or establishes a telepathic network between the bonded characters – very cool!

There also are two feats: Soulbound Implements requires enhanced mind blade and one occultist level and lets you stack them for the purpose of the enhancement bonus of the enhanced mind blade. Additionally, you can channel your mind blade with the implements on your person, reducing its enhancement bonus by +1 to tie it to the implement school in question. 1/round when hitting an opponent, you may use a focus power usually activated as a standard action as a free action for +1 mental focus cost and the mind blade may be reduced to +0 sans having to reshape it. Interesting! The second feat, Absolute Focus, alas, is broken. I mean BROKEN. Choose one focus power you know. Expend the psionic focus to reduce the mental focus costs of the power by 1 to a minimum of 0. Say hello to infinite healing via Flesh Mend! Say goodbye to all diseases and epidemics via purge corruption. Single occultist with this talent can end them. Blergh, this needs to die or be at least nerfed to minimum 1.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are on the one hand very good – on the other, there are plenty of missed italicizations. On a rules-language level, we have, for the most part, the level of excellent precision we expect from Dreamscarred Press. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the artworks within are full-color stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Forrest Heck, with additional design by Kevin Ryan, Adam Boucher and Doug Haworth, delivers a truly impressive pdf; rules-language and design-difficulty-wise, this is one magnificent beast of a pdf. I found myself smiling from ear to ear, time and again, and I really enjoyed many of the options herein. The Containment-focus cheese needs addressing, though if you and your group can agree on not gaming the shattered mind, it otherwise is one amazing monster. The implement schools presented were mostly amazing, though their internal balance is a bit weird. Athanatism’s base touch is too good for an unlimited attack that bypasses everything. Similarly, the use of untyped damage without a clear need strikes me as unnecessary. As written, both athantism and psychokinesis are stronger than the others, to the point where I wouldn’t allow them in most of my games...which is somewhat jarring, considering how well-balanced most of the material herein is. Oh, and Absolute Focus needs to die. It’s a delimiter of the worst sort.

How to rate this, then? I’m really torn. The formatting was a bit worse than what we usually get from DSP. Still better than many comparable files, though. What’s more difficult for me is that I’d love to unanimously recommend the pdf, but the somewhat schizophrenic dual focus makes it harder than I’d like it to be. For the most part, I’d allow this pdf in my games. Barring aforementioned complaints, there is a lot of really cool, well-crafted material within this pdf. At the same time, I do have some serious concerns regarding the power of quite a few options. Have I mentioned that the feat needs to die? …if you don’t mind infinite healing exploits and/or have subscribed to the high-powered Path of War-style gameplay, then you’ll probably love these aspects…but at the same time, you may consider some of the options too well-balanced with regular gameplay. On the other hand, if you enjoy a more conservative power-level when gaming, then you’ll need to be aware and wary of the flexible elemental artillery, etc. In both instances, I’d strongly advise a thorough close reading before implementing (haha!) the content herein.

In the end, I enjoy, yes, even love a lot here, and I hope the aforementioned rough patches will receive re-evaluation. Without these blemishes, the pdf would have been 5 stars + seal. With them in place, however, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars…though I’ll round up, as this does not deserve being relegated to the 3-star arena; the vast majority of the content, after all, is pretty damn cool.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
by Christen S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/03/2017 23:51:45

Unfettered Dreams: Malefex is (deliberately or not) another entry into the line-up of 3pp heir-apparents to the "hole" left by the 3.5 class, the Hexblade. Like it's predecessor it relies on curses of misfortune to weaken and vex foes. Other classes (malefactor from TPK, luckbringer (with the jinx archetype), and more) tried to scratch this itch with some success. Unlike the previous version of 3.5 and these others, malefex really delivers on the misfortune. The class revolves around swift action "malefactions" that flow in a similar manner to 3.5's warlock class but instead open a cornucopia of inflictions, thefts and other karmic alterations that make the spellcasting loss from hexblade (if that was the inspiration) forgettable. Buff spells fail, energy is stolen and dozen's of diverse playstyles are supported. The classes "wrack" ability assure a level of damage that is admirable against cursed foes who receive penalties to resist said abilities when flanked making the malefex have high party synergy with rogue. Spreaking of party synergy, the ability to spread and benefit from [curse] descriptors provides limitless interactions with the Path of War Expanded's curse using classes and martial manuevers leaning toward a party "wedge" or full-concept with common mechanic. Fifth wheel players (those who favor support or debuff classes outside the classic roles) have long sought a perfect anti-bard analog in this alley. The only other contender who matches malefex in my experience is its 3pp cousin malefactor (TPK Games) but when it comes to comparing the two, the malefex pulls ahead in precision ability usage (bersus malefactors broad ally-inclusive auras) and general party-friendliness. If you want to bring woe and disaster to all around you, you may want the other class but if you want a deliberate and delicious dealer of doom THIS IS YOUR CLASS.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2017 04:12:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion for the psychic warrior class clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

First things first: In order to use all parts of this book, you need Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors I; that becomes relevant in the feat-chapter, which btw. also features the reprints of Tap Animus and Extra Animus- you know, the feats, that frickin' should have been in part I because more than half of the content was based on the frickin' animus system?

...

Ähem. Sorry. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, new archetype!

The pdf introduces the Silhouette, whose signature ability replaces warrior's path and expanded path, but retains second path and twisting path + pathweaving thus don't work, but still can be traded in via archetypes. The silhouette gains shadowboxing, which manifests a fully-healed so-called shadow upon regaining power points. This construct can share the space of the silhouette freely and may even blend with its shadow, but cannot stray further than close range from the character before winking out and reappearing in the character's space. If the shadow is destroyed, the silhouette can, as a full-round action that provokes AoOs, reform it by expending character level power points. The silhouette and the shadow are linked, sense-wise, which replaces the first level's bonus feat. Directing the shadow double is a free action, just fyi.

The shadow (stats on page 5, btw. - the pdf has a "page X" remnant here) gets darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, is a construct, shares the creator's AC and saves, but also is a construct (OUCH). It has neither Con nor Int, Wis and Cha 10 and its Strength and Dexterity are equal to that of the creator. It has 1/2 the creator's maximum hit points and duplicates changes to reach, size, etc. of the creator. Thankfully, it cannot ready or delay actions, but it can use all combat and teamwork feats of the silhouette and may use skills (see below) and abilities as though sentient. The silhouette may share bonuses and effects affecting him also affect the shadow, but this does not double bonuses - so no double-sharing. Kudos for catching that. The shadow can copy the weapons wielded by the silhouette and the complex ability manages to prevent consumable weapon abuse, though, for VERY low-powered games, it should be noted that it can generate indefinite amounts of nonmagical ammunition - which can be problematic in very resource-conscious games or those using ammunition cost as low-level balancing for firearms etc. Speaking of potential hiccups: A sidebar talks about interaction with soulknife multiclass options, which brings me to one concern, namely panoply of blades and the like - while the pdf cleanly allows that, I'd strongly suggest to GMs to disallow that combo. Don't say I didn't warn you...The prestige class progression notes don't come with such a caveat from yours truly, mind you.

At 4th and 7th level, the silhouette chooses a skill he has ranks in - from here on out, the shadow may use that skill with the silhouette's bonus instead of its own. Whenever a +2 bonus would be gained by the path skills class feature, this process may be repeated for another skill. At 6th level, the silhouette may gain a shadow talent instead of a martial power - if he does, he never gains the martial power class feature. What are shadow talents? Well, at 2nd level and whenever the archetype would qualify for a psychic warrior bonus feat, he can choose to take a shadow talent. These...are potent. As a standard action, the silhouette may expend his psionic focus, detonating his shadow, inflicting 1d6 points of untyped damage to all creatures within 10 feet - this ignores hardness, all immunities (is there immunity to untyped damage anywhere??) and all types of damage reduction...oh, and guess what: The shadow isn't even destroyed by this. It reappears unharmed next round. Yeah...even with saves for half damage and a 1/round caveat, all that defense-ignoring is overkill in my book. Further roaming for silhouettes, Combat Reflexes...and there are some AMAZING tactical options here: As a standard action, recall the shadow to one's square, regaining psionic focus, for example - move action with Psionic Meditation, btw. Or the shifting of positions as a properly codified teleportation effect. Or TWFing cloned weapons...

Oh, but if you're thinking by now: "Why isn't endy screaming brimstone right now?" Well, the shadow is limited. Unless via some shadow talents, the shadow cannot make actions on its own. It can flank and use roll-less abilities, but it is mostly limited to Follow-Up: 1/round, when the silhouette misses an attack, the shadow may make an attack versus the target as a free action, even if it's not the shadow's turn - provided it can reach the target. Penalties on the original attack are carried over to the shadow's duplication of the attack. Shadow Talents can be used to add iterative attacks to the shadow's follow-up ability. As a standard action, the right shadow talent does allow the silhouette to delimit the action-limit imposed on the shadow, which also allows for interesting strategies. Limited, scaling damage redistribution to the shadow, channeling touch powers through it, sharing non-general feats...and there is an option to gain two shadows...but, for balance's sake, they thankfully still share the same pool of actions.

All in all, a very powerful, but also extremely cool archetype - and frankly, I think it works as a rather strong option in regular fantasy campaigns. While it’s not made for grittier games, I really enjoy the engine it employs in all but details. Two big thumbs up from yours truly!

The second part of the pdf contains the feats...and a bunch of them frankly should have been in Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors I. Metapsionic Animus, for example, which builds on the halo knight's animus-psionics engine and allows for the paying of metapsionic costs with animus (sharing the delimiting concern I voiced there). Psi-Animus Assault further increases the damage of Psionic Fist or Psionic Weapon by +1d6 for 1 point of animus, +1d6 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, with correspondingly higher animus costs. Ranged Martial Power...does NOTHING. You can use martial power when making ranged attacks. Yeah, you could do that before - ranged TOUCH attacks were prohibited by the class feature...for good reason, I might add...Warrior's Focus is pretty insane - it nets you an additional psionic focus that can be used only in conjunction with warrior's path abilities. Not getting near my game.

The three warrior's paths introduced in the previous pdf also get feats that expand upon them (why were they not in #1?): Advanced Anomalous Path adds the trance benefit to touch AC for powers, spells and psi- and spell-like abilities and increases the animus gained from the maneuver by increasing the die-size to d6s. Advanced Hungering Path renders those that fail a save versus your powers or abilities in the debuff aura sickened for 2 round. The drain is enhanced to also inflict 1d6 hit point damage, +1d6 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. It also nets you temporary hit points when leeching thus. These thankfully do not stack with themselves...kudos there. The Advanced Outrider Path's benefit is pretty nasty when passing an opponent within 5 ft. with the mount granted from the trance, you deal Wisdom modifier force damage, though it thankfully has a balancing caveat that makes this only possible 1/round/enemy...though I still wish that limit would make some sense in-game.

Advanced Gladiator Path lets you move 5 feet when in trance and failing a combat maneuver or having an enemy fail a combat maneuver against you. Additionally, the maneuver of the path may be made 1/round as a free action as part of an attack - expend the psionic focus and make a combat maneuver attempt as part of the attack action. Adrenal Overchannel allows you to use Overchannel to grant yourself a +1 insight bonus to atk, +2 insight bonus to damage rolls instead of the ML-bonus. This increases at 8th and 15th level to +2/+4 and +3/+6, respectively, while conversely increasing the damage taken to 3d8 and 5d8, respectively.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - for the most part, this is as precise and amazing as we've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press, though the "see page X" glitch and the feat that does nothing are both uncharacteristic blunders. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the nice artwork on the cover is duplicated herein, making for a nice visualization of the silhouette. The pdf comes properly and fully bookmarked this time around - nice! The pdf also comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

I really, really wished Dreamscarred Press had chosen a different way to split the content between this pdf and Psychic Warriors Augmented I. I honestly consider it really sucky that part #1 lacked the feat required for the archetype...and now, we have the supplemental material for the warrior's paths introduced in #1 here, in #2...alongside more feats made for the halo knight...and nothing for the amazing silhouette.

Let me make that abundantly clear: The silhouette is glorious. I love it. The dynamic gameplay, strategic choices, the limits imposed and means to offset them - Chris Bennett and Forrest Heck really show their design-muscles here. Big time. The archetype, on its own is pretty much pure amazing, if pretty potent. The same, alas, cannot be unanimously said for the feats and the distribution of content. The soulknives-installments didn't have that issue to this extent, so why start now? Especially when the solution would have been so simple: Anomalous path and all the Path of War crossover Halo Knight stuff in one pdf, reaver and silhouette in the other. Paths and feats that build on paths in the same pdf. Done. Not that hard. I assume that some snags in the production cycle caused this decision, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Such operations always hurt the respective files.

That being said, even while the majority of the feats herein build on material from book #1, the pdf is clearly designated as such and makes that clear on the product page, so it gets a pass in that regard. Still, the feat-chapter leaves me more ambivalent than I'd like and I'd strongly suggest GMs checking these very, VERY carefully before allowing them...but still...get this if the silhouette even remotely interests you. While I do not agree with the soulknife-notes, that is the only big flaw I could find with it and it's based on my ambivalence regarding the mechanically amazing, but balance-wise problematic options there, and NOT, let me reiterate, NOT the fault of the archetype.

Tl;dr: Silhouette = amazing; supplemental material = not so amazing. Still, for the more than fair and low asking price, this is well worth a final verdict of 4 stars. If you're playing a really high-powered game/enjoy Path of War-style gameplay and have the first pdf, feel free to add a star to this, as you'll get more oomph out of the halo knight.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warrior
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2017 04:50:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Halo Knight, who REQUIRES Path of War Expanded - so if you don't use Path of War alongside psionics due to balance-concerns, this one provides a bit of a conundrum, since the pdf does not replicate the feat on which the core ability of the archetype is based. It should also be noted that yes, the power-level for this one is above what I’d allow in my regular, non-Path-of-War-using game.

The archetype replaces the first-level bonus feat with Tap Animus, which nets you an animus pool at the start of combat, with one point. You continue to gain one animus point each round and the pool lasts for one minute after the last adversary is defeated. While usually, maneuvers can generate animus, this is changed here to instead generate 1 animus for when manifesting psionic powers. Alternatively, he can generate 1 point of animus by expending 2 power points. If the character gains an animus pool later, he can exchange this feat with Extra Animus.

While the character has at least 1 point of animus, he is surrounded by a luminous field that grants 1 point of Wisdom bonus (if any) as a deflection bonus to AC; this field also generates light, but that effect may be suppressed, replacing psionic proficiency. At 9th level, this is upgraded to daylight and also kicks in upon rolling initiative, not upon the first round...and it provides uncanny dodge...oh, and it nets resistance 20 to the active energy type. If the character already has uncanny dodge, he instead gains improved uncanny dodge. This replaces secondary path.

The archetype is locked into the anomalous warrior's path. This is one of the new psychic warrior's paths and nets Knowledge (arcana), Perception and Spellcraft as skills, Knowledge (arcana) as the bonus class skill and the trance-effect nets a +1 bonus to saves versus powers, spells, psi-like and spell-like abilities while psionically focused, which increases by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The bonus is not types as a competence bonus, unlike the bonuses gained by trances in Ultimate Psionics, which makes me suspect an oversight there. The maneuver of the path, gained at 3rd level, allows the psychic warrior to expend his psionic focus as a move action to add 1d4 points of animus to his animus pool, potentially even creating one if the psychic warrior usually does not have one. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the psychic warrior adds a further 1d4 points of animus when activating this ability.

The two new powers granted by this path would, firstly, be transfer animus: This one, used as a swift action, allows the psychic warrior to transfer animus to the target; via augment-options and additional power point expenditure, this can be done at close range and as a ranged touch attack instead. This becomes a viable strategy with the second power, animus overload, which detonates the animus held by an enemy, causing 5 points of damage (unytped, but considering the set-up, okay) per point of animus held, with a Fort-save to negate, as the animus explodes. Analogue to transfer, this can be augmented to work at range...and is surprisingly cool. Charging and blowing up foes? I can get behind that!

But let us return to the Halo Knight, shall we? Whenever the halo knight would gain a psychic warrior bonus feat, he may elect to take an anima skill instead. Unless otherwise noted, save-DCs are governed by Wisdom, though in a deviation from the usual presentation, the save DC is not reiterated. While it's not hard to find out, that can result in a bit more book-flipping then necessary...but, before you're asking, no I'm not going to penalize this file for that. These skills allow for some seriously interesting combos - for example, anima infusion allows the halo knight to use a psychic warrior power with a range of personal as an immediate action by expending 3 points of anima...which should make some of you look up from this: Yes, this allows for more casts per round and as such, is rather potent.

Adding bonus damage to his weapon and ghost touch or an increased enhancement bonus for the weapon can be found. Another skill adds the array of blaster powers to his powers list, which per se would not be an issue - where I get cranky would be when the follow-up skill nets the option to expend psionic focus and three anima to cast such a power as a psi-like ability - no power point cost. Granted, since animus is restricted to combats you won't have infinite blasts...but it is still something that makes me twitch a bit, considering the other options of the archetype...The ability to use animus to grant fast healing 5 temporarily to allies nearby is similarly only held in check by the combat focus of the resource - without that, we'd have infinite healing. It gets a pass, but should get some GM oversight prior to introduction to a campaign. I know that some folks don't like the aesthetics there.

At 4th level, the halo knight stops any pretense and simply gets better in every conceivable way than a regular psychic warrior. He can use animus as power points to pay for the manifestation, delimiting a limited resource. Not WHOLLY, mind you - I very much understand the limitations of rounds and the like...but this is where I'd draw the line for my games - while he won't be able to operate near full potency, this makes animus behave basically as temporary power points. This won't hurt the archetype's functionality in a game that has a high power-level, but it disqualifies it for grittier games that include resource-management as something that actually matters.

Starting at 12th level, the archetype can 1/day (+1/day at 15th and 18th level) as a swift action, cause it to blaze for 1 minute, generating an additional point of animus at the start of the turn and when manifesting and creatures that hit him with melee attacks (reach is irrelevant, which is a violation of how that's usually handled) take 5d6 energy damage of the active energy type, but only once per round per creature. Problematic for all but the most high-powered of games: When in this mode, he can spend 3 animus as an immediate action to ignore any damage that would reduce him below 0 hit points. While this replaces pathweaving and twisting path, it is one of those abilities that I can see work in Path of War and high-powered games that emphasize super-potent PCs...but not in more down to earth games. ("God hit me with magic of doom? Pff, I can shrug that off at least 5 more times!") The capstone makes the halo always on and provides an outsider apotheosis.

The second archetype in this book would be the reaver, who gains Bluff, Disguise, Disable Device and Stealth as class skills as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, they get simple and martial weapons as well as kama, katana, kusarigama, nunchaku, sai, shuriken, siangham, and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. These guys may choose powers from the cryptic's power-list IN ADDITION to that of the psychic warrior. At first level, they replace warrior's path with killer's claim: As a swift action a creature within close reach can be Claimed and a reaver may maintain up to Wisdom modifier such claimed targets, minimum 1. Creatures claimed provoke AoOs from the reaver when using Withdraw and the reaver knows their location. Claim has no duration. Instead of 3rd level's expanded path, the reaver gains a +1 dodge bonus to AC and a +1 bonus to Reflex saves while psionically focused, increasing that by +1 at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but only while wearing medium armor or less. At a later level, he gets +2 to damage rolls versus targets of his Claim, a bonus that increases by +2 at 7th level and every 3 levels thereafter. The reaver may expend his psionic focus to inflict +2d4 bonus damage per +2 bonus to damage instead.

At 9th level, reducing a killer's claim target to 0 hit points can 1/day instantly recover the psionic focus, +1/day use at 12th level and 15th, replacing twisting path and secondary path. The 18th level ability is really cool: A target claimed can be cursed 1/day, making healing and raising impossible while the curse is not broken. Cool replacement for pathweaving! As a capstone, he can enter a killing trance 1/day as a free action while psionically focused, lasting 5 minutes or until the focus is expended. During this trance, he gets + Wis-mod to atk, skills, ability checks, initiative and AC and 1/round round inflicts +10d4 damage to a target of Killer's Claim, usually on the first attack. Additionally, he may move up to his movement as an immediate action.

Of course, the archetype also has some choices to offer - so-called reaver insights may be taken instead of bonus feats: Bleeding damage to claimed targets, cryptic insights at -2 levels (excluding ones based on patterns). Slightly odd: One of these insights mentions the ability to maintain a Claim for up to 24 hours...implying that the base ability should have a duration...which it does not have. Penalizing saves and CMD of targets, skill-bonuses and rogue tricks complement an archetype...I REALLY, really like! This is a potent headhunter, sure, but it does not have any abilities I'd consider problematic...though an update regarding claim-duration would be helpful. Still: Two thumbs up for this one, I'd allow that in all my games, not just the high-fantasy/powered ones!

Beyond the aforementioned psychic warrior path, the pdf also offers the hungering path, which nets Intimidate, Knowledge (planes) (that's the bonus class skills, btw.) and Perception as skills. The trance puts a -2 penalty on saves versus the psychic warrior's abilities on targets within 10 feet, increasing the range by +5 ft. at 11th and 19th level and the penalty by -1 at 7th and 15th level. Power-wise, it nets corrosive aura and dissipating touch and the maneuver, unlocked at 3rd level, is potent: As a swift action, the psychic warrior can expend his focus when hitting a foe, draining 1d6 power points or one phrenic pool point, gaining 1 temporary power point. At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, this increases by +1d6 for power point loss, +1 for phrenic pool point loss and temporary power point gain. I assume that the temporary power points are only gained when something is actually drained, but I'm not 100% sure there - it can be read either way.

The third path would be that of the outrider, who gets Acrobatics, Ride and Handle Animal - the latter being the bonus class skill. Powers-wise, we get astral construct and skate. The path also has a really unique trance, one that creates a quasi-mount - this mount may be sped up via swift action expenditure as maneuvers and scales its potency, ignoring temporarily difficult terrain at 7th level and at 11th level, he can even move through creatures with it - pretty interesting.

Beyond the two powers already covered, one ties in with a reaver insight I deliberately didn't mention before: You see, reavers can assume the identities of those killed, with a variety of mental semblance a power that allows for the extremely potent impersonation of a target. Pretty cool! The final ability, steal animus, does pretty much what it says on the tin - once again with the option to augment it for close range action.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - while a I noticed an errant "t" that should have been capitalized, though the absence of the killer's claim duration, pretty clearly implied by an insight, is not cool. Similarly, I find it problematic, particularly for fans of psionics who don't like Path of War, to not include the feat that's the base-line for more than half of the content herein - usually DSP is pretty good at avoiding such guffaws. And YES, I am aware that the feat can be found in "Psionics Augmented: Psychic Warriors II" (alongside supplemental material for this pdf that would make more sense in this pdf…), but the content-distribution still sucks. Layout adheres to Dreamscrred Press' nice two-column full-color standard and the halo knight's artwork, as seen on the cover, is damn cool. The pdf comes with rudimentary, very basic bookmarks. As always, we get a second, more printer-friendly version - kudos there!

Chris Bennett, with additional design from Forrest Heck, provides some highly complex and unique archetypes herein; both halo knight and reaver offer distinct playstyles based on concepts introduced in Path of War, though they do so in exceedingly different ways: The halo knight, I'd situate closer to the very high-powered non-stop gameplay one associates with Path of War: The archetype delimits power points, a primary spellcasting resource, and while it doesn't completely delimit it, in combination with the other potent options it provides, that's enough to disqualify the archetype in all but my most high-powered of games.

The reaver, on the other hand, takes a cue from the harbinger and takes the claiming engine and molds it to instead apply to concepts assigned to the cryptic, without infringing on the signature moves of the class, creating something thematically thoroughly unique - very potent, but also rewarding. I have absolutely no concerns regarding this one - while the added power-selection is very potent, the loss of flexibility regarding path choices etc. does somewhat make up for that. This is still a strong option, mind you - but not one that will lead to issues in most games.

The supplemental material is solid for the most part, with only minor hiccups like aforementioned missing bonus type - and these are few and far in-between. That being said, as a reviewer, I am not 100% sure to whom to recommend this - folks who'll love the vast power of the halo knight will probably shrug at the reaver...and vice versa: People who'll love the reaver most likely will consider the halo knight to be over the top and OP. The absence of the Halo Knight's very fundamental feat, the literal foundation on which the archetype is build, can also be...kinda jarring. This makes the pdf something of a mixed bag in my book - and yes, for lower power-levels, the halo knight can be nerfed pretty easily...but still. For me, as a person, I'll take the reaver out of this pdf...and that's it. As a person, I'd rate this 3 stars.

As a reviewer, however, I have to take into account that the halo knight will most definitely find its fans...which leaves me with the split focus and the flaws of the pdf as detrimental aspects. I thought long and hard and ultimately, I feel justified in rating this 3.5 stars. If you want lower-powered gameplay on par with Ultimate Psionics, round down; if you want more power à la Path of War, you'll probably want to round up. Still. This lacks the feat on which more than half of the content of this pdf is based on. As long as that feat's text is not reprinted herein, I cannot round up. As soon as it's included, I'll do just that for my official verdict as well.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Occult
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2017 15:26:54

It is important to note that this book does not contain new information. Rather its is a collection of previously published "Psionic Augumented" installments.

Chapter 1 Psionics Augumented - Host of Heroes Psionics Augumented - Living Legends

Chapters 2 Psionics Augmented: Kineticists

Chapters 3 & 4 Psionics Augumented - Mind & Soul

Chapters 5 Psionics Augumented - Occultists

Chapters 6 Psionics Augumented - Empaths



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/05/2017 07:33:04

Unfettered Dreams: Malefex opens up with statements from the author Jade Ripley and from Ehn Jolly, a contributing author, adding a personal touch. Up next are a table of contents, a small section on "using this book" summarizing each chapter, and a list of books needed and suggested to use Unfettered Dreams: Malefex to the fullest.

First is the desctriptor for the malefex, painting them as scrappy folk magic users that utiliize their curses and hard earned skills to win their fights. What strikes me about the fluff is that malefex feels like it fits into most fantasy settings. It feels like a concept that should exist. It can even be used to emulate some comic book characters like Black Cat or Jinx. When it comes to class features matching fluff, the malefex defintitely earns an A.

Up next is the actual class. The malefex sits at d8 HD with medium BAB and good reflex and will saves. They also have an abundance of class skills and the skill points to use them. Finally, malefexes are proficient in martial weapons and light armor. No shield proficiency.

Class feature wise, the malefex's main tool are their malefactions. Malefactions are swift action curse effects that tend to debuff their foes or provide a buff to the malefex when abusing their enemies. As the malefex levels up they learn progressively stronger malefactions, capstoning with one of three very strong maledictions. These malefactions cover a variety of effects, from gluing a foe in place to giving the foe spell resistance that only blocks harmless effects and effects from their allies. Malefactions have an infinite duration as long as the foe remains in the malefex's line of site. Otherwise, the malefaction expires one minute later. There is even a side bar explaining how malefactions interact with the curse condition from Path of War Expanded.

Up next are knocks from the malefex's School of Hard Knocks ability. In stucture these are like talents from other classes, though they tend to be quite strong on their own and do not rely on taking chains of knacks in order to have significant effects to the character. These knacks offer a great degree of customization to the malefex. Between malefaction and knack choices, there can be a lot of variation between two malefexes.

Besides the two staples of maledictions and knocks, malefexes gain a variety of other features such as combat bonuses against cursed targets (malefactions are curses, but so are spells such as Bestow Curse), trapfinding, or the aptly named Schadenfreude which grants the malefex temporary hitpoints when nearby creatures suffer misfortune (curses). Malefexes also gain a variety of features augmenting their malefactions and fluffy features such as the ability to sniff out merchants and bargains, or break enchantment a few times a day.

There is more to the book than just the malefex class however. Presented after the class are a wide variety of favored class bonuses that cover a solid variety of races. There is also the rustpicker malefex archetype that gains and upgrades the Brilliant Planner feat from Ultimate Intrigue in a variety of interesting ways.

The feats are mostly the feats you would expect such as Extra X or Improved X feats. Honed Maliciousness however is a very strong feat that allows the malefex to pierce curse immunity, though at the cost of granting the foe a huge bonus on saves against curses. Wrack and Ruin is another cool feat, allowing more combat focused malefexes to deal some extra damage.

Rogues, slayers and vigilantes all gain talents that grant them access to knocks and maledictions. I am annoyed that the vigilante talent for malediction use gains more daily uses of maledictions thant he rogues and slayers. To cap off the book, some reference feats were printed. Sadly, the Brilliant Planner feat the rustpicker malefex is based around has not been reprinted here.

Overall, this is a excellent release. The malefex covers excellent thematic ground and backs up the strong themes with good mechanics. I feel like some of the later malefactions are overly strong; though not enough to make this class overpowered. Even with these shortcomings, Unfettered Dreams: Malefex is an awesome book! If you love curses or magical scrappers, this book is for you. If you want a class that focuses on a rarely used mechanic, this book is for you. I rate it a 4.5 out of 5 (so a 5 here on Drivethrurpg).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unfettered Dreams: Malefex
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Psionics Augmented: Host of Heroes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/28/2017 05:02:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Occult branch of Psionics Augmented clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages introduction (which also contains notes on how to handle psionics and psychic magic in the same game, themes, etc.), 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 10 pages of content, though it should be noted that two pages are devoted to reference material, ensuring that you get the most out of this and have all required material in one place - kudos!

The host of heroes is an archetype for the aegis base class, but one so massive, it can basically be called a class of its own. The host of heroes (which I'll just call "host" from now on) adds Knowledge (history) to his list of class skills. Instead of an ectoplasmic armor, the host calls upon legendary roles of old each day to form his astral suit. Each day upon regaining power points, one such legendary role is chosen and then emulated and the astral suit can only be formed into one matching the host's chosen role. Activation is btw., a swift action. The host is always proficient with his respective astral suit and each of them has different free customizations that never count against the host's total number of customization points spent on the astral suit. The appearance of the suit is not strictly chosen - instead, the suit mimics the appearance of the legend in question - as though he was channeling a larger than life version of the respective legend. Dismiss ectoplasm and no-psionics/magics field and interaction are properly covered, with manifester level being treated as class level. This replaces astral suit, but counts as it for the purpose of meeting prerequisites.

Instead of craftsman, the host gains a +2 bonus to two skills, as determined by the role he emulates with his suit, with 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the skill bonuses by +1. The host is considered to be trained in these skills. A big smile covered my face when I saw the theory (though I am not 100% sold on it) of the monomyth represented as the 3rd level ability. Each of the legendary roles has a list of customizations associated with its iteration of the associated facet of the monomyth theory. If you're not familiar with it, picture the monomyth as a reduction of stories to an archetypic journey, which receives different facets in its various versions. For the purpose of the class, this means that the archetypic mythic roles represent such a version - and the more you spend, customization-point-wise, the more you get to embody that respective tale. When the host spends customization points on a customization (excluding free ones), he can assign it to a particular role, provided it is on that role's list. A customization can only be assigned to one monomyth. A maximum number of such customization points equal to his class level may be assigned. If at least 3 points have been assigned to one, he begins unlocking special abilities - these are covered in steps of 3: 3, 6, 9 and 12 points are the respective thresholds to unlock new abilities.

In other words: The host can assign customization points to the roles he emulates, unlocking new abilities, adding further ability-choices: The host can assign these freely - e.g. a 12th level host could assign 3 points to 4 roles, unlocking 4 3-point monomyth abilities. Alternatively, he could assign 9 to one monomyth and 3 to another, unlocking the 3, 6 and 9 point abilities of one role, and the 3-point ability from another.

Additionally, each of the roles has a rite of passage, an action or test that the host can complete, starting at 3rd level, to gain a benefit from his role while his suit is activated - this bonus remains until he rests or violates the taboo associated with the respective rite of passage. Starting at 5th level, the completion of the rite can also gain a benefit, once for every five class levels, with cumulative effects - these include enhancement bonuses for armor, shields and weapons. As a minor complaint - the interaction with magic items potentially can be read to break the cap here. A caveat would have been prudent. This replaces damage reduction. At 4th level, the host can expend his psionic focus as a swift action to change the legendary role he emulates for Int-mod + 1/2 class level rounds, retaining customizations chosen, putting a damn cool twist on the reconfigure ability it replaces. The archetype also gets a custom capstone, saga's end, which renders his suit dispel-proof. Additionally, when killed or affected by a death effect, he can choose to dismiss his suit "sacrificing" the legend - he is healed to full maximum hit points and unaffected by the attack...and before you start groaning - this burns the role for one week, preventing cheeses at even this high level. Kudos there.

The host of heroes may also choose from a list of a couple of new 2-point customizations: Beacon outlines a target that has hit the host for his allies making the foe easier to perceive/hit (and foes don't see the light). Cunning represents basically a scaling headband of intellect, though personally, I think the skill ranks granted while wearing the suit should be locked at one skill - otherwise, this acts as a pretty potent skill wild-card. Faith nets a limited array of 1st level cleric spells, with subsequent takes unlocking higher levels. Magecraft does the same for sorc/wiz-spells, Potential for the psion-list. Skilled nets skill-bonuses and Wise Wisdom-enhancement analogue to Cunning - interesting: Most of these customizations have a limit on how often they can be taken, unless the host has the proper role emulated - this further entwines the concepts and rewards embracing the mode-style gameplay.

Okay, so, I've beaten around the bush long enough, let us take a look at the legendary roles in question, which, surprise, analogue to medium, etc., are based on the mythic paths in name and concept; I'll just touch upon each, as covering them in-depth would bloat the review further. Beyond the classic roster, the overmind mythic path is also covered and the pdf does provide a handy sidebar that tackles Path of War-interaction with maneuvers and roles. The respective roles, as mentioned before, offer both passive benefits and active ones, have associated customization lists and the monomyth and rite of passage abilities - in short, they offer more than many archetypes out there and can be considered to be rather diverse and intriguing roles. The first would be the archmage, who gains defensive mirror images as part of his astral suit and these even respawn via psionic focus and unlocks item use, with monomyth abilities adding to the defensive capabilities, providing energy blasts, expanding the blast to spreads and using it for iterative attacks...and, at the highest level, psychoport. The champion bulks you up via the suit and focuses on gaining feats via the monomyth abilities - at 9 points monomyth, you can even use power points to make one of them behave like a wildcard,

In contrast to that, the guardian gains adhesive feet, flexible suit and push and lets you bolster allies via psionic focus expenditure, with monomyth bonuses increasing your AoOs and defensive capabilities. The hierophant sports, surprisingly, cunning (and not wise) and fortification and unlocks cleric abilities as well as limited channel energy. The marshal gains flexible suit and ghostly guidance (reprinted in the reference material) and lets you spend power points to disperse teamwork feats temporarily to allies...and in a powerful and interesting trick, while psionically focuses, as a standard action, you can grant an ally a move action, which is taken immediately. Personally, I think this should have a cap of the ability only affecting a creature once per round, since otherwise, a group of hosts could spam move actions for one target - sure, not OP, but a weird image nonetheless. The overmind role nets you Int-bonus or 1/2 class level to AC and Deep Focus via monomyth and can also net you flight. The trickster role nets you climb and speed (2) as free customizations, emphasizing speed and provides proper trap disarming, power point-based, limited rerolls and better Stealth.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level - the pdf manages to capture highly complex concepts in a concise and well-presented manner. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the artwork featured on the cover is badass. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Doug Haworth, with Forrest Heck as design lead and Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher as additional designers, delivers a potent, thoroughly amazing archetype here. The host of heroes seamlessly stand next to the thoroughly amazing, high-concept occult psionic options the series has brought us. Conceptually indebted (the pdf acknowledges as much) to the amazing Living Legend, the Host of Heroes has a similar leitmotif, but the execution and exact gameplay is absolutely distinct - this is not just a reskinned living legend. The roles and gameplay of these strange suits is truly evocative and allows for a wide variety of options - and the archetype does something interesting. You see, the aegis can be one of the more potent psionic classes in the hands of a good player. Instead of going into depth regarding the options of the class, the genius monomyth-engine manages to increase the flavorful themes of the base class and add flexibility, big time, to the options of the archetype. This flexibility, when properly employed, however, also takes away from the min-maxy spikes of the aegis - the archetype actively rewards you for playing a flexible, well-rounded character.

There are a few instances herein where I'd consider a caveat for lower-powered games appropriate and the archmage can be pretty brutal, but ultimately, the host of heroes makes for a truly amazing, flexible and well-crafted monster of an archetype. We need more options like this. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



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

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

April Augmented - 2017
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/08/2017 04:19:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second of Dreamscarred Press' April's Fools-releases clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this one with a new 5-level PrC, the chessmaster, who needs 5 ranks in several skills, BAB +4 and the collective class feature to qualify. The PrC gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and doesn't gain additional weapon or armor proficiencies. BAB-wise, we get a 3/4 progression as well as Ref and Will-saves that improve to +3 over the course of the PrC. 4 of the 5 levels yield manifesting progression and levels in the class stack for the purpose of the collective's power. The base ability of the chessmaster is very, very strong: As a standard action, a member of the collective gains a benefit from Astral Construct Menu A, with 3rd level unlocking menu B and 5th level unlocking menu C - these last for one round per prestige class level, which is the literally only reason I am not screaming hellfire right now.

At the beginning of combat when rolling initiative, the collective may move 10 ft. as a free action. This movement does not count as having taken an action, but does provoke AoOs from eligible targets. 2nd level provides the immensely powerful castling ability - swap two members of the collective as a move action. It is codified as a teleportation effect, but does NOT provoke AoOs. Yep, that's infinite switcheroo. Oioioi. At 3rd level, the PrC gets En Passant: As a standard action, the chessmaster may designate a foe: If the foe leaves the space, he leaves behind a phantom afterimage - hitting this image inflicts damage to the foe. This lasts only for one round, but oh boy. At 4th level, the chessmaster may declare stalemate as an immediate action when an ally rolls an opposed check, but before results are made known. Both rolls are treated as the higher result. Also at this level, as a standard action, the chessmaster chooses an ally: A foe charged by this ally may not move until the beginning of the chessmaster's next turn. An ally may not be reused for a pin for one minute after use. At 5th level, the PrC learns checkmate, which is pretty amazing: Designate an ally and a foe - the ally must be able to act before the foe in the initiative order. The ally may immediately move their speed and take a standard action. If the foe is killed or reduced to 0 hp, the foe is temporal stasis'd. If not, the ally returns to his space, all results of the action undone. This also has a 1 minute cooldown.

A very potent PrC and conceptually awesome; at its power-level, I'd consider it suitable for Path of War power-level gameplay. Regular campaigns should think long and hard about its extremely potent powers before allowing it, though.

Next up would be an expansion for the Monster Classes-series, namely the owlbear. Base race-wise, these are magical beasts with +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, Medium, have low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft., +1 natural AC, are quadrupeds,...and really cool: The pdf specifies the ITEM SLOTS of the creature...and we get an age, height and weight table! Big effin' plus and makes me hope for the series' current revision! The monster class presented for the owlbear covers 5 levels and sports full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d4 claws at 1st level, d4 bite at second (both upgraded to d6 at 4th level), +2 natural armor at 2nd and 5th level,, scent at 2nd and an upgrade to Large size at 4th level. 5th level yields grab. Attribute bonus-wise, we get, +6 Str, +2 Dex, +6 Con, +2 Wis, for a total of 16 points gained over 5 levels, which is pretty potent. There are 4 feats for owlbears included: Arctic Adaption nets +5 Stealth in snowy areas and cold resistance 5 as well as a swim speed of 30 ft. - which is A LOT for one feat. Deep Adaptation nets darkvision to 120 ft., blindsight 60 ft. and eyeless if you take it a second time. Fruss Variety net fly speed 30 ft. with poor maneuverability and prolonged flight fatigues the owlbear. Great Hook-Claws net a climb speed of 20 ft. as well as a claw damage die upgrade by one step. All in all, very potent feats - but shouldn't the varieties be mutually-exclusive or is the potentially blind, white, flapping owlbear intended?

Race-wise, we are introduced to the longcatfolk, who gain +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, and they are treated as one size smaller when making an opposed check that takes size modifiers or special size modifiers into account, provided this would be beneficial to the longcatfolk, and they may squeeze through smaller spaces, replacing sprinter. 1/round, they can choose an adjacent 5-ft.-square and count as occupying that square for flanking purposes and once during that round, at -2 penalty, they can attack from that square, replacing natural hunter. The Munchkin catfolk gets +2 Cha and Int, -2 Con, is Small, slow and gains +2 to Bluff, Diplomacy and Perform, replacing natural hunter. Attitudes may be shifted by them an additional time, replacing sprinter.

Grippli may choose from two alternate racial traits: Bloodfrogs increase the Dc to still bleeding by +10 and even magical healing attempts to remove bleeding requires a CL-check to succeed. This replaces camouflage and swamp strider. Steelfrog nets a +6 armor bonus, but also a maximum Dexterity (should be capitalized) bonus of +3 and a -3 armor check penalty due to calcified skin. The skin may be enhanced as armor, replacing camouflage. Kitsune may choose "None of that weeaboo crap, either: They lose change shape and agile, but get +2 to Intimidate and may Intimidate as a move action - if they later gain the ability to intimidate as a move or swift action, they increase that to a free action...which probably should still have a cap per round. Dodo Tengu gain +2 Int and Cha, -4 Wis, gain the graveblood subtype and +4 to initiative, as the pdf specifies, "for some reason", replacing sneaky...which is too strong in my book. Emu tengus get +2 Str and Int, -2 Wis and powerful build, which replaces swordtrained and gifted linguist. They also get sprinter instead of sneaky, i.e. 40 ft. movement and Run as a bonus feat.

The Potoo has the following text: "What. God. No, this is a terrible idea. Why would you PLAY this thing? It looks like a goddamn muppet." XD Trait-wise, we have +2 Wis and Dex, -4 Cha, +4 to sight-based Perception, +2 to none-sight-based Perception instead of sneaky. +2 to Bluff and Diplomacy to convince other creatures they're harmless, -2 to Diplomacy in grave circumstances (the ability's called "Oh My God It Sounds Just AS Dumb" for a reason...) and +4 to Disguise checks to impersonate a log and may do so as an immediate action. This replaces swordtrained. And yes, I actually laughed out loud here. The shoebill tengu gets +2 Dex and Con, -2 Cha, slow and steady, never take an Intimidate penalty for failure instead of gifted linguistic...and instead of swordtrained, they ignore ALL DIFFICULT TERRAIN. Wtf?

Fans of Path of War can take the new Damaged Glassware feat - initiators with two maneuvers from Shattered Mirror and Riven Hourglass gain an interesting option: When initiating a riven hourglass maneuver while within a shattered mirror stance, choose one target of the strike in its range. All squares within 10 ft. of the target are filled with glass shards, even if the strike misses. These shards vanish after one hour and gain an enhancement bonus to atk and damage equal to the level of the strike used and bypass DR as though they were a weapon with the strike level's enhancement bonus.

The psionic power false veil generates a veil that can be formed on any open chakra, which may be invested with essence, acting as a dupe. The cat-tastrophy level 9 spell affects a 1-mile radius area generating 1d100 + CL cats per round, with the cats potentially being focused on one square. Creatures slain erupt in even more housecats. Oh, and it may be made permanent. But only kind of. When the Focus cat's ears of wood are worn. Hilarious and made me go WTF in a good way rather hard. Recall Embarrassment is a debuff and animalfolk, lycanthropes etc. may appreciate the headpat cantrip and its greater level 1 version. Speaking of cantrips: Poser casters will love unlimited power while other may like the shadow puppet cantrip. Pun-tastic: Tailful Polymorph- which grows a tail. The greater one nets you more variety in the pseudo-animalistic features you wish to bestow.

Fans of akashic mysteries will appreciate the drunkard's sash, which prevents alcohol penalties, and drinking something nets twice character level temporary hit points, which may only be gained once per round and last one minute and may net essence invested in DR /-. Binding it to the waist nets bonuses depending on the substance consumed; Alcohol nets +2 Str, Tea + 2 Dex...etc. - these bonuses, intriguingly, are tied to the presence of remaining temporary hit points. I am not too keen on the nigh-infinite temporary hit points, but whether I'd consider that problematic would depend on the respective campaign.

Bottles or kegs of endless alcohol would make any tavern ridiculous; classic rulings binders provide +2 to Spellcraft and help identify spells untrained. Oh, and yes, there is a monster manual-equivalent (lol). The Familiar's familiar is fun in that one sentence manages to cram the word "familiar", in a rules-relevant manner, mind you, no less than 12 (!!!) times...and gets the italicizations right, showcasing well why formatting matters. Kudos! It gets even more absurd with the familiar's familiar's familiar -21 times in one sentence. Yes, that is my type of humor. Yes, I am weird. Marobo is, surprise, a magic, automated cleaning device and come with a greater variety. While a sidebar notes that they can be used as familiars, they lack the stats for that. Plushie Powder shrinks a deceased creature down to Tiny size and makes it a plushie...and there is an infinite bag variant...talk about adding insult to injury.

Finally, we get the highly customizable pocket assistant - basically a magical smart phone that can be fitted with a wide variety of apps: Daniel's Roster (Craig's List), locate myself or Necromancy MOVE, which appropriately, traps SOULS, make for some interesting options that made me smile.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good and really impressive for a PWYW-kinda-joke product, on both a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no artworks (but funny lines that explain why...) and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Boucher, Anthony Cappel, Katia Oakes, Jacob Karpel, Jeffrey Swank and Patrick Miller have created an interesting pdf here: As we've come to expect from Dreamscarred Press, the rules-language is crisp and the respective concepts are depicted in a creative and fun manner. At the same time, it should be noted that the power-level of the options herein is generally pretty high - not all of them, mind you, but I'd strongly encourage checking very closely whether or not to include some of these in low or medium-powered games. At the same time, this is a) PWYW and b) a really FUNNY book that gets some actual mileage out of its funny components...and that's something to be applauded...and it's the intention of the book. Plus, high-powered campaigns will probably enjoy this VERY MUCH. While not for everyone, this does have its raison d'être and is worth downloading -at the very least, you'll get a chuckle out of it (The Potoo made me laugh SO HARD!) and you can decide relatively easily whether or not it is for you. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
April Augmented - 2017
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 156 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates