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Divergent Paths: Rajah
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2020 09:16:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Divergent Paths-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was finally finished because one of my patreon supporters asked me to do so.

Okay, so first of all, this is a class that uses both the Akashic Mysteries and Path of War rules systems, and as such, including the Animus subsystem; as such, it reprints the Tap Animus and Extra Animus feats, and features a table of weapon special abilities in the back. Unless I have miscounted, the pdf features 23 new veils, and a new discipline for the Path of War system, namely Radiant Dawn.

I assume familiarity with both sub-systems in this review, and yet, I think it is prudent to preface this review with an observation regarding the subsystems in question. First of all: There is no wrong way to game. You’re free to disagree with me, and my observations are not intended to disparage your playstyle or preferences regarding content.

In this instance, however, I do feel it to be prudent to talk a bit about playstyles and implicit assumptions and frameworks of rules-systems. For akasha as a rules system, it is potent, but its math is exceedingly tight; in many ways, it mirrors psionics up to and including Ultimate Psionics. The power-level is on par with the game’s assumptions, or rather, the higher echelons thereof. One draw of Dreamscarred Press’ classes has always been that they don’t require as much system mastery to make them potent. If you don’t believe me in that regard, compare the damage output/to-hit reliability of a vizier with that of a barbarian, and you’ll notice that this level of precision is not coincidence. Akasha, in all its time at my table, has proven that it works precisely in accord with the game’s assumptions and in a manner that is consistent with other options available.

Path of War, on the other hand, is a sub-system that really broke my heart in a way, because it could have been a revelation. I adore Path of War’s concept, as I’m a huge otaku, and similarly, I love WuXia aesthetics. I concur with the assessment that martials needed fun things to do. However, in many ways, Path of War has assumptions about the Pathfinder rules that differ drastically from the assumptions of both other magic systems and martial options, and many of them can be chalked up not to necessity to make math or concept work, but to very questionable design decisions. These include means to delimit several balancing factors of the game, from competing rolls (3.5-y) to infinite healing exploits, to a variety of make-believe damage types that nothing has resistance or immunity to and that the game really did not need, to options to cheese abilities by slaughtering helpless kittens. Worst of all, the notion of skills used to attack falls completely flat once it is combined with magic items: Skills are super easy to buff to kingdom come in Pathfinder, and as a result, Path of War can be cheesed to kingdom come. None, and I mean “NONE” of these components were required to realize the vision of Path of War. Not a single one of these aspects was needed to realize the goals of the system. They all can be boiled down to either a disregard of these balancing factors, or, perhaps worse, a shrugging disinterest in maintaining these rules components. And yet, it has an honest appeal to me. As a result, Path of War only is used in very specific circumstances at my table, when it could have been universally beloved and applicable.

And before you start frothing at the mouth: Path of War can be exceedingly fun. However, it does not adhere to the math-conventions of PFRPG’s assumed default power-level; instead, it is, in many ways, more akin to a power-fantasy, and the design-paradigm of escalating damage, of attacks that can’t be negated or resisted, of classes severely outclassing other classes, has since been featured in quite a few Dreamscarred releases. Take the highlord and voyager, for example – they both are superb examples of complex, rewarding and INNOVATIVE class designs that I genuinely enjoy, and yet, I wouldn’t use them in my mainstream fantasy games due to their exceedingly pronounced power levels. Same goes for quite a few expansions for psionics. With damage types that can’t be resisted or negated, perfectly reliable hits etc., Path of War plays more like a power fantasy. And there is nothing wrong about that. Heck, it’s something I enjoy once in a while. But not all the time.

My contention is that Pathfinder with Path of War has different assumptions about the power-level of PCs and what they can do, than Pathfinder without it. They are two VERY different playstyles.

This is in so far important, as akasha is very much designed to assume the default checks and balances of the system to be in place, where Path of War flaunts them, and I assume it does so consciously. In a way, the two systems have different baseline assumptions of what player characters should be able to deliver in terms of power and capability– so, how does the rajah blend these two systems? The short answer is: It doesn’t. The long answer is more complex.

Chassis-wise, we have d6 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor and shields (except tower shields), ½ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, and the disciplines available to the class are Golden Lion, Radiant Dawn, Scarlet Throne and Solar Wind. The class begins with 5 maneuvers known, 3 readied, and one stance; at 20th level, we have 16 maneuvers known, 10 readied and 7 stances. The governing initiation modifier is Charisma, which is also used for veilweaving. As a minor nitpick, the rules-language here refers to initiation modifier, when it should be veilweaving modifier. The rajah begins play with 2 veils and 1 essence, gaining the first bind at 4th level; at 20th level, the rajah has 7 veils, 5 binds and 20 essence.

Regarding the binding of veils, the rajah goes a pretty interesting route: You see, most of the rajah’s veils have the [Title] descriptor, and there is a reason for that: The rajah can’t RAW bind veils to herself, as the class never gets the traditional chakra bind or an analogue ability – at least not nominally. The target (referred to as “entitled” herein) is considered to be the origin of a [Title] veil, and a target may only have [Titles] from one veilweaver. Unlike other veils, a rajah may shape as many veils of a title as they wish, but they may not stack them with themselves, so no double-weaving of the same veil on a target. The effect only applies while the entitled is within close range of the rajah; beyond that range, the title is suppressed on the rajah’s next turn until the entitled returns.

Instead, at 4th level, the rajah may bind veils shaped on her allies to Belt, Chest, Feet, Hands, Head, Headband, Neck, Shoulders and Wrist slots, with no minimum class level for them. The limit of binds maintained noted in the table only applies to veils gained from this class, which other veils follow the standard veilweaving rules. Beyond the title veils, there is another veil in this context, namely The Demiurge, which, while also a rajah exclusive, duplicates a veil that you’re currently shaping on an ally, regardless of distance, and also change which of the veils on allies you gain the benefit from as a swift action, but do not gain the chakra bind effect of the emulated [Title] veil unless you chakra bind The Demiurge (the veil explicitly allows for that, even though the rajah doesn’t usually have this ability), but only one of the available chakra binds of the emulated veil; additionally, if you have this chakra bind in effect, you can accept 1 point of essence burn as a move action to unshape a [Title] veil shaped and instantly reshape a new [Title] veil on an ally within close range. In the case of multiclassing, only such [Title] veils granted by the rajah may be thus shared. Essence invested in The Demiurge counts as being invested in the [Title] veil it emulates. This eliminates one of the most important balancing factors of veilweaving, namely the dispersal of essence and the choices inherent in the planning – including the action economy component. The Demiurge veil essentially allows you to share in the [Title] veils of your allies, but with an important difference – for your own benefits, only the essence invested in The Demiurge is actually relevant to determine benefits; this makes you choose between invested essence in allies, and invested essence in The Demiurge, for your own increased benefit. Essentially, for the rajah, the essence invested in The Demiurge counts as being invested in ALL VEILS shaped on your allies when they are emulated by the veil. Sure, you can amp up the buff on your ally, but yeah.

This veil poses a series of questions: 1) Why are titles veils in the first place? They do not have the level-related checks and balances one would usually assume to be present to retain akasha’s system integrity. 2) No, seriously, why are titles veils? They explicitly allow for the rajah to stack them atop of veils, as, while they do note slots, they do not occupy the respective slot; them being veils makes no sense whatsoever. 3) A sidebar mentions title veils being available via e.g. feats to other classes – which is where the chakra bind information primarily comes into effect. This, however, does not end the global rules of [Title] veils, which may still be stacked atop of other veils. Essentially, the veil-list of this class does not really represent a list of new veils; instead, it represents a massive secondary akashic system; like if you grafted a second, more potent iteration of the system atop of akasha, one that behaves similarly to it, but not entirely. In a way, this generates a weird impression – like jamming class features into veil shapes. Essentially, titles are a second akasha-like subsystem grafted on top of two already pretty complex class systems. If anything, [Title] veils are not balanced in the same way as regular veils.

As a comparison: Horselord’s Greaves nets a +2 insight bonus to Handle Animal and Ride, and when bound to feet or belt, among other benefits, nets the mount +1 to saves and AC, and 5 temporary hit points per essence invested. Compare that to the title The Benevolent. That [Title] veil nets you +2 to AC, +2 to saves and attacks vs. evil creatures, +2 untyped bonus to saves vs. mind-affecting effects and resistance 5 to acid and cold as well as DR 0/evil; for each point of essence invested in the veil, the resistances increase both by 2, AC increases by 1, and for every 2 points invested, the saves improve by 1. If you bind The Benevolent, DR further increases by 5, and the deflection bonus to AC and bonus to saves is shared by all allies in close range. The light the veil emits is upgraded to daylight and a weapon of the entitled’s choice becomes holy. ALL of these benefits are ONE title. This outclasses not only comparable veils, it also outclasses comparable buffing options – and it can be layered atop of other defenses and other titles. What about adding an untyped (URGH) damage-causing breath in a 40-foot line or 20-foot cone when hitting with main and off hand or two different natural weapons and a buff that allows for the ignoring of some scaling DR when hitting thus, as well as enhanced damage +2 (per die of the breath against which there is no valid defense? Not that it’d matter here – while this veil explicitly calls the damage “untyped”, there are plenty of veils herein that just deal “damage”, with no means to negate it. This is one of several inconsistencies herein. Don’T get me started on the poison option. It is BRUTAL.

There also is a veil that provides +2 to AC and saves versus effects not originating from a marked target, +2 to atk and damage versus the target, with each point of essence invested increasing the AC and atk bonus by 1, every 2 essence invested increasing saves and damage by 1. The cavalier is sobbing in the corner. (Granted, the class deserves to be sobbing in the corner…) Anyhow, the chakra bind generates a temporary essence that is automatically reinvested in the title once per round, for up to 1 minute after combat ended. Hand me that bag o’ kittens. With an opposed attack roll at -5, usable 1/round as a free action, the entitled can negate an attack roll. Oh joy, opposing attack rolls. insert my usual rant Hej, or what about a debuff that has no save, unerringly hitting the target for -1 to atk and 10% spell failure (max -5/50%), AND the damage is changed to profane damage, one of Path of War’s “fun” invented damage types against which no single regular creature has valid resistances/immunities? There also is a veil that lets you store half damage inflicted, and lets it use you to heal yourself. This officially has left any cursory pretense of adhering to even rudimentary aspects of PFRPG’s default power-level behind.

In many ways, the [Title] engine is incredibly clunky. It adds a huge complication to a class that already has two complex subsystems to bear in mind, and since titles do not work like regular veils, the interaction between the two is really odd, with the increased power-level of [Titles] undermining the mechanic integrity of akashic power levels by frankly providing superior options that lack any notion of checks and balances. [Titles] also seem to be inordinately fond of no-save debuffs, significant bonuses sans bonus types, and add all of that atop the vast flexibility of afforded by The Demiurge, which REALLY should not be a veil, and instead operate as a class feature; indeed, whacking all [Titles] with the nerfbat, VERY OFTEN, and VERY HARD and making them class features instead would have been a vastly superior way of handling them.

Particularly since this is not even close to the only thing the rajah can offer; even as a stand-alone, singular, defining class feature, the [Titles] would make the rajah a very potent and flexible support class, borderline OP, and frankly the best buffing option out there.

The rajah, at 1st level, also gets royal mandate, a supernatural ability with a close range that lets the rajah, as a standard action, target an ally with a command, who then can follow it as a free action: he commands allow an ally to execute a melee or ranged attack at their highest BAB (NOT an attack action, at least) ; the ally may gain a morale bonus equal to the rajah’s Charisma modifier to AC and a save of the rajah’s choice, including rerolling a save against such an effect with this bonus (since the rajah uses Charisma for pretty much everything, this’ll usually be around at least +4/+5 at level 1), or the ally may move up to their speed. Additionally, when issuing such a command, the rajah may reallocate her essence and swap any single readied maneuver with another maneuver known, which is btw. readied and unexpended, allowing the rajah to combine serious ally buffing with akashic mode change and maneuver cycling. There is no limit to this ability regarding daily uses or the like, and no cooldown.

There is more to the class base engine. When an ally is entitled by the rajah, they are subject to the vassalage ability. A rajah can initiate boosts, counters and strikes through allies that have a shaped [Title] veil on them; the rajah uses the ally’s space and reach, but her own weapons, and ranged attacks executed through allies do not provoke AoOs, and maneuvers that affect the initiator do affect the rajah, not the ally used as a medium; maneuvers that include a charge allow the rajah to instead move her speed however she wishes, allowing for the constant chaining of charge-related maneuvers without actually incurring the dangers of melee. A rajah may counter through an ally, and in such a case, may use her own or the ally to determine how the effect resolves. Additionally, the rajah gets a bonus to atk when using vassalage equal to ½ her veilweaving level, rounded up. Which is her class level in most instances, unless a veil already grants a higher bonus. Such attacks also gain a bonus equal to the number of [Title] veils shaped onto other creatures. SIGH You know, the low BAB of the chassis? It kinda looks like a bluff to let GMs that don’t understand the class allow it in their game. Also, re damage, bear in mind:

“Unlike other veils, a veilweaver can shape as many of a given Title as they wish, though they may not shape the same Title onto a creature multiple times, nor may they shape a veil that shares the same name onto a creature who already has that veil shaped.“

…hand me…my TRUSTY ANT COLONY! Fear the wrath of the god-slaying level 1 ant emperor! I have entitled every single ant in the colony, for a nice +1,634,000 to damage! Of course, I am being facetious, but RAW, this is possible. Moreover, the first level nets “The Crossroads”, which allows for a choice: The first option lets you use Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity modifiers for atk via vassalage. The second is a 1/round untyped cone or line with scaling damage when hitting a target via vassalage. Third option would be the means to 1/round expend a readied maneuver of a known counter’s level or higher to execute the counter sans requiring an action. In ADDITION to all of these, the rajah uses her class level as BAB for the purpose of prerequisites.

At 2nd level, the rajah gains a swarm of unseen servants with better strength that can’t aid another – essentially a really cool flavor ability. 4th level lets the class choose two skills as “courtly skills” and gets an untyped +2 to them; at 8th level, 2/day as an immediate action, the result of these may be 11. At 12th level, another skill is added and the bonus increases to +3, and at 16th level, 1/day as an immediate action, a result of them may be treated as 15. 6th level nets essentially advantage on Will-saves. At 14th level, the rajah can lend this to allies 1/round, as a free action she may take even when it’s not her turn. 10th level increases essence capacity of all veils and class features by 1, as well as immunity to fear. The rajah may ALSO invest essence in this ability, gaining +1 to saving throws for every point of essence invested. If the rajah has no Radiant Dawn maneuvers, she gains bonus essence equal to maneuvers known, divided by 3, which is a really odd way to keep the character from investing in a unique option it has. 12th level lets the rajah spend an hour to provide an inherent +2 bonus to an ally’s ability score, which stacks with other inherent bonuses up to a maximum of +5, and the rajah may have a number of targets thus blessed equal to her initiation modifier, i.e. Charisma. A single ally may benefit only from one such blessing at a given time, and at 18th level, the bonus increases to +4. 20th level negates age-related penalties, and if slain, the rajah enters a kind of super soul state supercharging receptacles. The rajah also true resurrections if exposed to the sun, and all class features and veils are considered to have 1 more veil invested in them, even if that would exceed the maximum.

At 3rd level and every two levels thereafter, the rajah gains a heraldry, chosen from a list of 15, which include the attention of a merchant outsider, upgrades for the unseen servants, a constant sanctuary with a scaling DC, constant nondetection + magic aura (as 5th level+) – you get the idea.

The archetype included, the batal, who modifies the base chassis of the class, and essentially replaces the whole vassalage angle, instead getting the ability to bind those titles herself. In many ways, the batal works a bit better than the rajah, but here, the wonky title-regular veil-interactions become a tad bit more evident.

The class comes with favored class options, a new martial tradition, 14 new feats, and 3 magic items. The feats allow you to e.g. shape veils sans [Title] descriptors as though they had it…and here we have the point where the whole thing starts becoming really wonky, eliminating yet another balancing check of akasha. There also is a feat that lets you remove [Title] from a veil, so you can freely shape any [Titles] as veils on yourself for a grand total of 1 feat. Add veils to your list AS TITLES, extra heraldries… What about a feat that lets you invest essence into non-Radiant Dawn maneuvers, and also granting free class level temporary hit points whenever you initiate a maneuver with essence invested?

Radiant Dawn, in case you were wondering, is an akashic discipline, sporting the essence capacity cap, and allows you to substitute close range scaling force damage rays for ranged weapon strikes; the radiant dawn maneuvers before essence receptacles when readied, and essence invested in them when they are expended remains bound until the maneuver is recovered. In a nutshell, this is a discipline that treats its options, which includes DR as immediate action for allies etc. as veils – and, ironically, as a whole, it fares better than the highly problematic [Title]-system. While powerful, Radiant Dawn plays like a well-rounded discipline when divorced of the rajah’s other components. The default blasting option is problematic and will make Solar Wind initiators jealous. There is a level 1 stance that enhance all healing received by 50%, stacking up to double your maximum hit points in temporary hit points. Cool here: These cannot be kitten-prep’d, and the potent stance prevents you from healing other targets. Alas, in case you had any question whether this as a whole even attempts to avoid abuse: The answer is NO. The discipline has e.g. a maneuver that nets allies the option to heal per hit, with more essence for more healing. Yep. Not even killing. Hitting a foe suffices. Bags full of mewling kittens to slaughter for everybody! Infinite damage, infinite healing – and more than one option for the latter without even trying! Why am I even bothering?

…because the rajah is, in spite of its massive shortcomings a genuinely awesome concept. Because all single components of the class on their own, with some checks and balances, could have worked incredibly well. Because I love the concept of the mastermind fighting through their allies; because the class, in spite of its issues, showcases serious talent. Because no other class has frustrated me to this degree with its squandered potential.

It’s just that nobody seems to have cared regarding any power-level considerations whatsoever. Our Path of War fans love super high-powered stuff, as long as it’s precisely-phrased! Heck, endy has stopped complaining, and rated our previous Path of War expansions all under consideration of the sub-system’s increased power-level. The rajah is where this assumption breaks – because the rajah not only is problematic in the context of akasha, it outclasses even this high-powered Path of War material.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, formally, is very good – while the sequence of ability presentation and a couple of components could have been clearer, the quality of the rules language in its integrity is of the usual, high standard. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ 2-column full-color standard, with nice full-color artworks, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Anthony Cappel’s rajah feels like two akasha/Path of War-classes mashed into one; on the one hand, the initiator with maneuver receptacles, on the other, the commander with the channel-angle and the unique [Title]-engine. Perhaps that’s what this once was. That would also explain why this class outperforms frickin’ gestalts. Know how highlord and voyager are super powerful and outclass the old psionics classes? This one does pretty much the same for every buffer out there; heck, it can make your group short-range teleport around, blast foes AND heal.

This is the single most overpowered class I’ve seen for PFRPG.

I have not called it broken, because it is too intricately-designed to be dubbed this. I am very much positive that the class works as the designer intended. I’m just puzzled for which game, because the rajah makes even the Path of War classes seem meek.

When it starts outclassing even Path of War power-level characters though? Why play e.g. the medic when you can also command allies and buff them? Why bother with a highlord, when the rajah makes the fellow cry themselves to sleep?

Ouch.

Frankly, I would not allow this class anywhere near my table. Not even in my Path of War games.

It blatantly disregards all checks and balances for akasha, and while Path of War plays fast, very fast, and very loose with a lot of PFRPG’s default assumptions, the rajah flaunts even that system’s sparse limitations.

From not even having to try to cheese this fellow, to the clunky [Title]-engine, this could have been a masterpiece, but it looks like breaking the game’s mathematic and rules assumptions regarding defenses, bonuses, etc. was elevated to the declared design goal here.

Checking, playtesting, gritting my teeth, and quitting – those are the words that best encapsulate what I can say about the rajah.

It is paradoxical: It is a class that oozes cool components, that it has so many conceptually great abilities – and then got rid of anything that would even halfway contextualize or balance its power. It’s like it has been written for a different, bizarro-world PFRPG where every class is much stronger. It feels like an Exalted character in a 1e game; like a level 20 PFRPG-barbarian in a B/X game. Its rules are precise. They just don’t acknowledge in any way the power-level restrictions you’d expect within the context of the game it is ostensibly designed for.

Personally, I am crestfallen that nobody beat this in shape with the nerfbat. For me it’s essentially impossible to use as anything but as a super-potent NPC-boss, or to hand it to the single guy who can’t optimize. But wait: That guy would need to learn two complex subsystems, so not gonna happen. For comparison: I tried comparing a rajah commander of minions build vs. a mythic build filling the same niche; rajah wins, hands down.

Unless…well, unless Path of War does not deliver what you want from it. If you and your group want the full power-fantasy experience, with very few truly dangerous components, if you don’t derive pleasure from beating hard obstacles, but from curb-stomping foes, then this delivers. It’s like a cheat-mode. Similarly, if you seek a class that delivers the power-level usually only reserved for gestalts, and often outclasses even them? Then the rajah is what you’re looking for. For you, this may be a 5-star-awesome file that lest you indulge in your fantasies of squashing all puny elfgame NPCs and monsters.

For everyone else, this is a lesson that even obvious talent as a designer does not equate with solid designs; when one ignores any metric and balance of the system and even that of an already lenient and watered-down, easy to break and easy to cheese subsystem, and then proceeds dissolving the boundaries to another system while also breaking that system’s checks and balances, you have an unmitigated mess as far as I’m concerned.

I want to love the rajah and what it tries to do, I really, really do. But to me, it’s a rage-inducing mess, it’s like a callback to the bad 3.X-days of yore with their atrociously overpowered 3pp-options. Save that, back then, the reason for being overpowered was often that designers sucked; this is not the case here. This is very deliberate.

I genuinely can’t decide what’s worse.

As a PC class, this is a brand new level of overpowered, broken and problematic.

For me, this is the epitome of a 1 star book.

Worse, it endangers akasha’s balance more than even the new psionic options have broken down the checks and balances for psionics. It outclasses several classes at once at their own shtick. If you want a ruler-type, overpowered villain for your game, this class might be worth looking into, provided your players are really good at optimizing their builds. Otherwise the rajah will TPK them without breaking a sweat if you even remotely play the class to its capabilities.

Still, that is one valid use of the class, and its devastatingly brutal arsenal – which is the only reason my official final verdict will instead be 1.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Rajah
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Monster Classes: True Dragon
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2020 08:48:11

A reasonably balanced way to bring dragons into you campaign as player characters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: True Dragon
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Psionic Bestiary Pawns
by JEROME M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/25/2019 21:09:26

Great set of pawn images for the Psionic Bestiary! With a little effort, you can isolate images to use on your favorite VTT too! Beautiful full color artwork. Imaginative creatures. Psionics beasts! What more can you ask for?



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary Pawns
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Psionics Augmented: Voyager
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2019 11:13:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionics Augmented-series clocks in at 20 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 16.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf depicts the new voyager base class, which is unique in plenty of ways, but we’ll get to that later. The voyager gets d6 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and one martial weapon as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. The voyager may, starting at 1st level, use Disable Device to disable magic traps, and when doing so, may expend psionic focus to roll twice on the Disable Device check, taking the better result. If it#s possible to take 10, the voyager may take 10 and roll the other roll, taking the better result when using this ability. The class begins with one power known, and learns one new power every level, and powers are governed by Intelligence as key ability modifier. The voyager begins play with 1 power point and increases that to 128 at 20th level, with the maximum power-level known being 6th. Said powers are drawn from a custom powers-list. Save-wise, the voyager gets good Reflex and Will-saves, and the class has a ¾ BAB-progression. 2nd level nets evasion, 6th uncanny dodge, 9th level improved uncanny dodge, and 12th level unlocks improved evasion.

The class begins play with the Accelerate ability – which nets the Speed of Thought feat as a bonus feat, and at 3rd level and every 5 levels later, the bonus granted by the feat increases by a further +10 feet, and when expending psionic focus to power the feat, the bonus to movement is doubled instead of providing a fixed increase. The voyager has a momentum engine from the get-go: When moving, the voyager generates 1 point of momentum per 10 feet moved. Unwilling movements (reposition, bull rush, etc.), or e.g. a hostile teleport do not generate momentum. The voyager can hold up to class level points of momentum, and momentum is applied as a dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves, though thankfully, this caps at Intelligence modifier. When making an attack against a single target, the voyager may spend points of momentum, increasing damage caused by +1d6. This should have a scaling cap per attack. Otherwise, a 5th level voyager could spend momentum to add +5d6 to damage (+5 Intelligence modifier not being uncommon at this level). It should also be noted that the voyager fails to include the caveat that prevents these bonus damage dice from being multiplied on a critical hit. Whenever the voyager spends at least 1 point of momentum on an attack, she also gains a +2 bonus on the attack roll. This should be a typed bonus. This is noted explicitly as not the same structure, as the momentum becomes expanded, allowing for so-called augmented attacks. Momentum is lost each round – half of the momentum gained is lost each round. The pdf fails to specify whether you round up or down. At 8zth level, as a swift action, the voyager may choose a creature within close range and count as having the maximum bonus to AC and Reflex saves possible via momentum.

2nd level provides the manifestation of speed ability, which allows for augmented attacks. These require the expenditure of momentum, psionic power points or both, and are a standard action. The maximum number of combined points that may be spent are equal to the manifester level of the voyager, and the decision must be made before spending. There are two abilities here: The blink ability allows for 5 ft. of teleportation per power point spent on the various augmented attack options, while momentum expenditure allows for 5 ft. of movement per point of momentum spent on the augmented attack. Both of these types of movement generate momentum, which is gained AFTER the augmented attack is made. Formal complaint: A whole paragraph here is printed twice, which should have really been caught in editing. Beyond these base modifications of augmented attacks, additional effects may be added to an augmented attack, though each of them can only be applied once per augmented attack. Power channel lets the voyager manifest a power with a manifesting time of 1 standard action or less taken from the voyager’s list (or via Expanded Knowledge) as part of the augmented attack. The power chosen must have a range of personal or be a single-target power, including touch-based and ray-based powers. Powers with variable targets and Split Ray’d ones may explicitly NOT be used in conjunction with this one, and there is a reason for this: Psionic powers used in conjunction with augmented attacks don’t provoke AoOs. Non-personal powers are channeled via the weapon, on a miss, well, missing. Critical hits don’t apply the benefits to powers, thankfully.

Starting at 5th level, the voyager may use standard action-based combat maneuvers instead of weapon attacks as augmented attacks, which ties in with the Momentous Maneuvers ability also gained at this level. When spending momentum on a combat maneuver check, which the voyager now may, they gain +2 (untyped, should be typed) to combat maneuver checks per point of momentum spent, capping at 2 + ½ voyager level. I assume rounded down here, but the pdf doesn’t specify that. Damaging combat maneuvers now also allows for the application of the momentum bonus damage. Additionally, the voyager is treated as having Dexterity and Intelligence 13 for Combat Expertise, Improved Unarmed Strike and improved combat maneuver feats.

At 9th level, the voyager can manifest a psionic power with a manifestation time of 1 standard action or less before or after the augmented attack, which is not delivered through the weapon and needs not target the voyager. Double-cast? Ouch. This would be utterly broken – were it not for the hard cap on momentum/power points spent, which is the thing that keeps this mighty engine in check. At 17th level, this is further delimited, applying for psionic powers with a manifestation time of 1 round or less, before or after the augmented attack. Note that the no-AoO-caveat is global and applies to this second manifestation as well!

13th level nets the ability to expend psionic focus to teleport the distance she could have traveled via the blink or dash base abilities, make an augmented attack versus every creature directly between the start and end points of this movement, making one attack and damage roll versus every target, and momentum to enhance damage applies to the roll (OUCH). The damage decreases by -2 per attack that hits beyond the first. While aforementioned power channeling applies only one creature struck, this ability allows for the use of area or multi-target effects and apply it to every creature struck. This can be REALLY powerful, and looks odd to me. While the manifester level still caps the total points spent, this is one that may require some GM oversight. Personally, I am not confident in the tying of the cap to manifester level, as there are plenty of means to increase this. Tying this very powerful engine to class levels would have probably been more prudent.

Beyond momentum, the voyager also begins play with parallel initiative. When a voyager rolls initiative, they roll initiative for a parallel turn, the second roll at -8. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the voyager gains a+4 bonus to parallel initiative, culminating at +12 at 19th level. Abilities to reroll initiative may apply to either the regular or the parallel turn. Parallel turns may be delayed, as though a normal initiative. Okay, so, do fixed bonuses from class features and e.g. Improved Initiative also apply to the initiative of parallel turns? I assume no, but clarification would have been nice. During a parallel turn, a voyager can use a single parallel action she knows, and these are supernatural abilities, stemming from the alternative past/future/alternate reality selves. They require cognizant thought to use, so e.g. dominate would impede them, and parallel actions do not provoke attacks of opportunity, and movement and teleportation as a result of parallel actions do not trigger AoOs either. They require line of sight unless otherwise noted, though teleportation-based ones don’t require line of effect. Save DCs, if any, are DC 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier, and Ability Focus may be used for parallel actions – for ALL of them. This should only apply to one, analogue to the usual use of the feat. The pdf has a “see page x”-reference left here.

A voyager learns the helping hand parallel action for free act 1st level, which allows for unattended object manipulation as though move/standard action had been spent; alternatively, this allows the voyager to preserve momentum, not losing half of it. Parallel actions beyond this are grouped in different categories that are level-locked. At 1st level, the voyager gains two combat assistance parallel actions, chosen from a list of 5. The first lets you choose 3 skills from the class skills when gaining this ability; said skills plus AC and attacks may be aided another to the voyager or an adjacent ally. 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter increase the bonus by a further +1, and this bonus may not be affected by other abilities. The second ability allows for 5 ft.-movement or standing up from prone position, escape entanglement or grapple effects. Another allows a voyager to designate an adjacent square as additional origin for flanking purposes and for AoOs, adding class level to AoO-damage; another allows for a designation of a path that she may traverse at full speed, even if they would cost her additional movement. Does damaging terrain still apply? Charges and similar straight line-based movements may be freely changed, and movements in said squares does not provoke AoOs. Okay, can this be applied to 3D-movement? Can the voyager pass through damaging walls unimpeded? This needs clarification. There is also a parallel action that allows for a Will-save or lock the creature out of AOOs, or an Int-based feint.

3rd level unlocks 2 time manipulation parallel actions, chosen from a list of 3: The first is a movement boost at the cost of being temporarily staggered; the second is a rewind to the afterimage’s position, with psionic focus expenditure, including hit points tracked. (Temporary hit points in excess of maximum hp not included.) What’s afterimage? At 3rd level, the voyager may 1/round as a free action create an afterimage in Medium range. This afterimage has no physical reality, but may be treated as a source for parallel actions, and the afterimage may be moved at the parallel turn, with distance scaling. The afterimage may move in any direction, but not through obstacles that the voyager couldn’t pass through. Afterimages are translucent, and may be used to Stealth. While it’s evident from the verbiage, it’d have been nice for the ability to state explicitly that they don’t block line of sight or effect. Thirdly, we have the ability to pause, which duplicates time hop (not italicized properly) for targets adjacent to the voyager for 1 round. These creatures leave a phantom image behind, and, big kudos, targets can’t be kept in a loop, as there is a 1-round cooldown.

At 7th level, we get 2 manifesting support parallel actions, chosen from a list of 3. One allows for psionic focus regain as a move action or in conjunction with moving up to half her speed, or as a swift action if she has Psionic Meditation. Power echo lets the voyager hold an echo of a manifestation, getting half power points refunded if spamming the psionic power for a second time, but only for the second power. Good call: Doesn’t work with other power point refunds. Finally, we have a sae-penalty for those adjacent to the afterimage and the ability to use powers through the afterimage’ s location. 11th level unlocks one advanced assistance parallel action. Keep watch lets the voyager see invisible creatures that could be seen by both afterimage and regular position, and makes the voyager count as occupying regular and afterimage square for sensory purposes. Paradox shift nets a protection for a creature within 5 ft., granting 50% miss chance – both for attacks versus, but also regarding those executed by the target.

15th level provides one backup plan parallel action, chosen from a list of 2: Emergency stasis allows for the use of the parallel action and expenditure of the psionic focus as an immediate action to prevent the death of a target and place it in stasis for a limited number of rounds. Secondly, there would be the option to basically benefit from advantage on a single d20 roll, which also may be activated as an immediate action. Finally, 19th level yields the single parallel intrusion parallel action, which nets a single round’s worth of actions as though affected by temporal acceleration, wherein she does not get a parallel action, though. Thankfully, this one has a one-minute cooldown, making it just very, very, very powerful, and not utterly broken. Personally, I would have increased the cooldown to hours (plural), but that may be me, as the effect per se is incredibly strong.

Okay, that’d be the base parallel action engine. 4th level nets the ability to store excess power points from parallel timelines. This power point pool contains 1/3rd of her maximum power points (I assume rounded down). Including Intelligence modifier. Weird: Why isn’t this tied to any mechanical specialty? RAW, it just is a power point pool increase, when it kinda looks like it was at one point supposed to be tied into the parallel action engine. Also at 4th level, we have Expanded Knowledge as a bonus feat, and the option to choose a feat instead of a power known when leveling up thereafter, with the total number of maximum feats thus gained limited by class level. The feats available are governed by power-level replaced and are drawn from a fixed list, which is a nice angle. 5th level provides astral voyager, which nets astral traveler as a power known, and astral caravan as a psi-like ability that may be maintained for companions within close range. 10th and 15th level further improve this ability. 6th level nets ½ class level as a bonus to Knowledge checks and allows for their untrained use, and at 7th level, taking 20 no longer distracts the voyager re Perception and halves the time needed to take 20.

At 10th level, the voyager may use her swift action to use a parallel action, though the same action can’t be used twice in a given round. 11th level nets endless, which allows for the willing suspension or restart of the aging process. 14th level nets a separate HP pool equal to maximum hit points, and then allows the voyager to change hit point pools as a full-round action. Healing may be applied to active or non-active pools. At 16th level, we have 1/day psychic reformation that only targets herself, takes 10 minutes and applies no penalties. As a capstone, we have the ability to have a future self come back from an alternate timeline after the voyager dies, allowing for a second chance of sorts. Cool! When a voyager takes a PrC, momentum increases when manifester level would increase.

The pdf comes with a detailed and extensive list of favored class options that include exotic races such as samsaran and sylph etc. The pdf does provide a bit of advice on playing voyagers, and the pdf comes with two archetypes, the first of which would be the crossfire, who gains proficiency with simple weapons and firearms and light armor. The archetype gets gunsmith, and replaces accelerate at 1st level with slowed step, steady aim: This is Amateur Gunslinger and provides access to psionic deeds. Accelerate is instead gained at 3rd level, improving at 5th instead. The crossfire learns custom parallel actions at first level, which allows for mundane ammo rewinding and magical ammo reloading or broken condition negation. Nice: We get a crossfire parallel action that is a ranged maneuver based on Dexterity, which may be applied to multiple targets via psionic focus expenditure. The archetype comes with further customization options, summed up as “Focused Crossfire” – there would be a 3rd level custom parallel action that generates a beacon that can be used for line of sight and effect with the gun. Manifestation of speed may be modified to become bullet time at 2nd level, with the effects allowing for increased range via augmented attacks. Minor problem: RAW, this grants momentum by distance a bullet travels (shoot into the endless portal loop/abyss/air, etc.), which can theoretically be cheesed. It’s not something that’s bound to cause issues in game, but still something that requires an unnecessary interpretation. This should specify a fixed maximum, perhaps based on modified first and or second range increment. There also is a bullet-based area of effect attack. The replacement feat tricks may be replaced with a custom list.

The second archetype would be the metronome, who does not roll a separate initiative, instead rolling her own at -4, which improved by +2 at 4th and 7th level. Parallel actions occur on the metronome’s initiative count, either entirely before or after her regular actions. The pdf concludes with 9 feats: Amplified Momentum adds a bit of bonus damage to momentum-empowered attacks (note: When/if the crit-issue’s resolved, this should also specify here) and slightly increases the defensive options. Backtrack nets you a parallel action you don’t already have. (of your level or lower). Blink Ambush doesn’t work, as I couldn’t find the Slipstream Feint feat it’s built on anywhere in my psionic library. Bookmark requires the rewind parallel action, and allows you to rewind to a set location, with maximum distance governed by class level. Divert Perception and Fade from Memory allow for movement and hiding, and, with the latter feat, make nearby targets forget you. Faster and Faster increases accelerate’s speed-increase. Focused Swiftness nets you basically an extra psionic focus (!!!) that may be used for abilities taken during movement or ones that change position. What keeps this from being broken is simple: It does, thankfully, NOT provide synergy with Deep Focus et al. Independent Action lets you use your parallel action to reroll a save vs. mind-affecting abilities and allows you to retain control over the afterimage while under hostile control.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, though not perfect. On a rules-language level, the same can’t unfortunately be said: While, for the most part, the voyager is precise when dealing with highest echelon-level complexity rules constructs, there are quite a few snafus – missing “rounded down”-s are the least of them, with crit-multiplication, 3D-movement, missing feat and a couple of other hiccups adding to that. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with awesome full-color pieces, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Michael Shih’s voyager (additional design by Forrest Heck) is not a stroke of genius, but a series of strokes of genius. It tackles not one (which would have been enough for most designers) high-complexity concept, no, it seamlessly blends multiple ones into a unified whole that actually manages to be greater than the sum of its parts. It also is easily the most frustrating class I’ve ever reviewed.

Why? Because this would be, no hyperbole, one of my, perhaps even THE favorite class of mine for the entirety of PFRPG, were it not for the hiccups and the fact that a developer should have hit this fellow a couple of times with the nerfbat. In the hands of even a halfway capable player, the voyager can be an extremely deadly class that most definitely, as written, wouldn’t make its way into my games, unless I was already playing a super high-powered Path of War-style game.

And this is such a pity. A few “either/ors” instead of “ands”, particularly at higher levels, a bit of streamlining in the rougher parts, and this could be the crowning jewel of psionic class design. I mean it. The angle is complicated, inspired and unique; the voyager can skirmish like no one’s business, but in its cool engines also invalidates classes beyond the obvious (no one is going to complain about surpassing the vanilla rogue), but this fellow is also kind of a psionic magus on speed (Get it? …Sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar…) that makes both the dread and cryptic weep. In a way, much like the highlord surpassing the previous commander classes, the voyager invalidates the skirmishing/skill classes – only that the power-discrepancy is even more pronounced. And usually, I’d just provide some advice on how to nerf the fellow, but here, there is so much to account for, that it honestly would require a pretty long dev-pass by someone well-versed in the intricacies of class-design to tinker with the class.

Which leaves me torn. The class has a couple more glitches on the rules-side than usual for Dreamscarred Press, but I can see groups favoring high-powered games, particularly ones wherein players enjoy complex classes, considering this guy to be a pure work of art. Heck, I do consider the voyager to be brilliant - Top Ten material, in fact. However, as presented, I can’t recommend the class as unanimously as I desperately want to. The voyager is frustrating to me, because it has all the makings of being my favorite class ever. Sooner or later, when I have some time on my hands, I will sit down, flex the ole’ dev-muscles, and tinker with it until I’m happy with it, but as a reviewer, I can’t rate a hypothetical. One of the reasons this review took so long was that I was desperately hoping for an update to ease my concerns and sand off some of the rough spots.

I still hope this update comes, and I’ll be the first to heap the praises on this class that its unique and amazing concepts deserve. As written and presented, though, it is a flawed masterwork, a class that needs nerfing, and that needs some polish in the intricacies of its mechanics. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars…and while I should round down, I honestly can’t bring myself to doing so. This class is anything, but it is neither common, nor mediocre. It is exceptional, and I hope, with all my heart, that it gets the polish it deserves – as provided, it is a piece of artful design, drunk on its own power.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Voyager
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Divergent Paths: Rajah
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/06/2019 09:57:28

A fascinating blend of Akashic and initiating systems. Almost definitely not a class for beginners, but someone who has played with either or both subsystems and loves digging into the crunch of a character will find an eye-popping amout of customization. The Rajah also gains a charming amount of noncombat abilities that let your character feel royal.

My particular favorite are the "title veils" which grant unique abilities to allies. The Rajah flourishes by letting the rest of the party do awesome things.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Rajah
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Psionics Augmented Compilation 2
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 16:26:31

More psionics is almost always a good thing, and this is certainly one of the strongest entrees that I've seen. It combines a collection of interesting and unique supplements that DSP has released for some of their most iconic classes (Psychic Warrior, Psion, and Soulknife) into a single-pdf package, which is much easier to search through and navigate.

The content of this book is incredible as well, with a wide variety of disciplines, archetypes, talents, and prestige classes (yes, those are still around) that offer plenty of new options for psionic characters. Want to play an elemental specialist? Try out the new psionic disciplines. Want to play a soulknife without sacrificing access to physical weapons? Play the item-enhancing augmented blade (I should mention that soulknives get an across-the-board set of improvments with the High Psionics variant rule improvements and expanded prestige class access). Want to try out some really bizarre strategies and setups with the Wilder? The Volcanic Mind turns the wilder's psychic enervation into an area debuff with some cool and versatile effects. Don't care for these classes and just want more psionic options? There are more than enough new powers and feats to go around.

Just looking through this book, I got a whole bunch of great character ideas, and the Volcanic Mind I'm playing now is an absolute blast. Just like Ultimate Psionics, this book will last you a long long time before you milk it dry.

While the content is great, however, the same cannot always be said for the formatting. There are instances of prestige class features being displayed on tables without being listed in the text, and a few instances of text being unclear on how abilities interact or operate. These are problematic enough to make certain builds unplayable, forcing me to dock a star.

Overall, however, DSP did a great job with all of the component products, and while the integration needs work the content itself is absolutely worth checking out for anyone who likes psionics.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented Compilation 2
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Divergent Paths: Rajah
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 12:17:00

This class has been a long time coming, and I have to say that it was worth the wait. I remember back when the Pharaoh first came out, to have it renamed the Emperor and eventually the Rajah. Numerous tremendous alterations have occurred for this class in development, and there were numerous times when I thought it was damned to development hell.

Hoo boy was I glad I was wrong. This is one of the most fun classes I have ever played.

The Rajah's abilities are numerous, versatile, and very powerful. What's more, they are immensely stylish. If you've ever wanted to play a king who sits on his throne fighting through his allies (or if you've wanted one as a villain), this is the class to do it with. That said, there is far more to this class' abilities than that description makes it sound like. The Rajah is perhaps the most potent combat support class to have ever come about, capable of turning run-of-the-mill soldiers into powerful and flamboyant combatants through its title veils (which can be slapped onto pretty much any character and serve a wide variety of utilities in combat) and turning them into vectors for the Rajah's own offense with Vassalage. The Rajah's maneuvers remain as excellent as maneuvers have always been, and the recovery method adds to the class' flavor as a commander.

For non-combat situations, the Rajah possesses a variety of neat options in the form of Heraldries. These are spell-like abilities, skill bonuses, and other boosts which demonstrate that the Rajah is a ruler off the battlefield as well as on it. This is one of the few examples I can recall of a martial class manipulating non-combat situations to the same degree that casters can.

The new feats are quite powerful and versatile, but they lead to the one big problem with the Rajah: it's dependency on them. There isn't a good way for the Rajah to grab bonus feats outside of its favored class bonus, so Flow of Battle, Clashing Essence, and Striking Mirage will be obligatory choices for most Rajah characters.

The Batal archetype serves well to fix this issue, granting the Rajah numerous bonus feats and turning it from a support class into an Akasha-powered martial frontliner. I'm very happy that it is an option, and though I personally prefer the support options the Batal remains a cool and fun class with a lot of great options.

Finally, there is the new discipline, which stands out as perhaps the best support discipline in Path of War. Radiant Dawn is powered by Akashic essence (hence the need for Flow of Battle), which allows even low-level maneuvers to reach an impressive degree of power in the same manner as Sleeping Goddess. Though the damage of many Radiant Dawn maneuvers is weak, the discipline's capacity for battlefield control, debuffing, healing, and general team support is incredible. Warders, Warlords, and Zealots will all appreciate the new options here, and the book may be worth picking up for the discipline and associated feats alone.

Overall, this is a fantastic class, and I've had a great deal of fun playing it. If you enjoy the Akasha system or have picked up Lost Spheres' four new Akashic classes, this is a perfect addition to the mix.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Rajah
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Psionics Augmented: Highlord
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 11:43:38

When I first saw the playtest, I was sorta skeptical of this class. The tactician is one of my favorite classes in Pathfinder, and I looked at a lot of the abilities on the Highlord and wondered if they were enough to justify it being its own class.

For all those with similar concerns, rest assurred that this is a very cool and distinct class. The Highlord creates a distinct and uniquely empowering playstyle that works perfectly for the Paul Atreides or Bastila Shan characters we've always wanted to play.

The first truly distinct thing about the Highlord is their unique set of powers, abilities which can't be claimed through expanded knowledge which grant the Highlord some unique and complex utilities. Each tenet (which is the Highlord's version of a Warrior's Path/Bloodline) grants a unique power, and this power offers more utility and versatility than a lot of classes get over the entirety of their career. The fact that these custom powers remain compatible with trickery like Solicit Psicrystal, Overchannel, and Metapsionic Feats makes me very happy, as it allows the class to benefit from the wide variety of existing options other psionic characters get. Each tenet also has its own creative way of boosting the Highlord's action economy, allowing them to utilize the often-overlooked Unwilling Participant feat in some creative ways and to implement it's effects without having to spend several turns setting up.

The decrees are the Highlord's talents, and they enable a wide variety of tactics and builds which go beyond the tenets. The sheer number of ways that the Highlord can boost its allies or debuff its enemies is staggering, and the versatility of this class is perhaps the greatest I've seen in a very long time.

My one complaint is that the lack of Spirit of Many, a class feature which helped to solidify the vitalist and tactician as two of the best support classes in Pathfinder. Maybe this design choice was intentional, but I would at some point like to see an archetype or decree grant the Highlord this ability.

All in all, this class is one of the best I've ever seen in Pathfinder and a perfect example of Dreamscarred Press' skillful design in action. I strongly recommend this class for anyone who wants to use psionics in their games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Highlord
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Psionics Augmented: Highlord II
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 11:25:48

As a Starcraft fan, the premise of this class has intrigued me from the start. The class is clearly modelled after the Protoss commanders from the series (Artanis and Alarak, among others), but still posseses enough versatility to pull off a wide variety of fun character concepts. The new options in this book are incredibly fun, ranging from the manipulative Cherished (which grabs a lot of the best Telepathy Powers in exchange for diminished frontline potential) to the fiery Virtuoso (which turns the Highlord into a zany blaster class with a variety of Psychokinesis powers). The three new tenets are fun options as well, with the Ghost (another Starcraft nod) emphasizing subtlety, the Shepherd pulling off some impressive crowd manipulation, the Strategist serving as a master surveillance user, and the Tyrant indulging in an explosive and omnicidal playstyle which strikes me as hilarious (reading through it, I can almost hear Alarak yealling MY SUPPLICANTS' LIVES FOR MINE!).

Overall, this is a great book with a lot of value that may even justify purchasing the Highlord class. If you already have the Highlord, this supplement improves dramatically. I would love to see more Highlord books in the future (let's see that Spirit of Many ability already) if they keep up this level of quality. There are a lot more potential future options for the highlord, and I am especially keen on the idea of a Metacreativity variant.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Highlord II
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Lords of the Wild
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/25/2018 06:05:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ¾ of a page empty, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with slightly more than 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

All right, first of all, this is indeed what you think it is – we have a play-a-werewolf supplement here on our hands. As such, we begin with a werewolf template that is specifically designed for player-use in mind. This template unapologetically increases CR by +1, which obviously makes sense. The target character gets the shapechanger subtype and +2 natural AC in animal or hybrid form. In wolf form, speed is adjusted to 50 ft., and the character gains +2 Wisdom and +2 to their choice of Strength, Dexterity or Constitution. The template obviously provides change shape, and one of 4 different natural attack choices made upon acquiring the template. These are tightly codified regarding type, but not damage type, where they require defaulting. Anyways, the interesting component here would be that the respective natural attacks increase in potency at higher character levels, adding for example bleed damage to bites, grappling feats to claws, rend and pounce – you get the idea. It is testament to the experience of the designers that thankfully, the pounce like ability is locked behind a sufficiently high minimum required level, showing a deep understanding of subtle nuances of PFRPG’s design paradigms.

Beyond these, the werewolf gets DR 3/-, low-light vision and lycanthropic empathy as well as scent. The origins of the werewolf curse are notably diverse, and as such, being bitten and the associated cursed bite ability, being born with the curse, wearing a pelt, etc. are included. Should you and your players not aim for permanently going for playing as a werewolf, the pdf notes a couple of means to potentially get rid of the condition – from poisonous wolfsbane to silver bullets, the classics are covered.

The pdf then proceeds to note how, ultimately, being a werewolf in a regular fantasy society would affect the psyche of the concerned character; after that, the book dives into one of its more interesting and rewarding aspects, namely the focus on packs: 4 pack rituals are covered, all of which provide a bonus beyond membership for completion, and all of which are tied to a unique and potent teamwork feat: If you belong to the Pack of the Night Wind, you for example get Hide in Plain Sight while within 60 feet of another pack member. That is super-strong and utterly horrifying! More potent Power Attacks with natural attacks, reduced power point costs – some potent tricks here. Very important to note: The alpha, as befitting of pack structures, gains additional benefits from these feats, providing a good mechanical reason to strive to gain the top-dog (pardon the pun) position.

The pdf then proceeds to present no less than 4 high-complexity archetypes, with the first being the moonlight meditant soulknife, which is a means to lose the werewolf curse: The character does gain the shapechanger subtype and a shifting feat (more on that later) at 1st level, replacing the usual bonus feat gained. The mindblade is basically the ability to shield the body of the meditant from moonlight, passively cutting the light into a sheathe of protective light that allows for the generation of ephemeral class and fangs – basically a spectral werewolf sheathe, a disassociated form of the curse worn, with 6th level adding a bite to the base array. This replaces alter form and otherwise works as the soul knife’s form mind blade. Super creative ad cool! This is further enhanced by providing a potent ability that drives home the savagery of werewolf: 5 foot movement as a free action, no AoOs, before each attack made with the aforementioned mind blade. This extends to up to 10 ft. at 4th level and further increases to 15 and 20 ft., respectively, at 8th and 16th level. This is not a 5-foot step, but may be used in conjunction with it. This replaces throw mind blade.

Since the base mind blade has been tweaked, the archetype then also proceeds to modify enhanced mind blade appropriately and excludes potentially problematic blade skills. 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter net scaling DR 1/silver. 4th level allows the projection to provide a shield of temporary hit points, courtesy of the sheathe. The ability also nets a bonus to speed and a deflection bonus to AC…and hitting targets allows you to replenish the pool. sigh No, there is nothing preventing infinite healing exploits here. Hand me this bag of kittens, I need to replenish my shield…But wait! You don’t need to beat up kittens. Resting for a minute also replenishes the shield. Which is problematic, as leeching abilities can thus prevent infinite healing from the quickly rejuvenating temporary hit points. A caveat that explicitly disallows such transference may have been in order here. Particularly since, theme-wise, I really enjoyed the visuals here. 5th level allows for quick drawing of these abilities, and 12th level allows for a Str or Dex boost and fly speed, swim speed and climb speed equal to base land speed, the aquatic subtype under water and the benefits of being able to squeeze through areas of half the usual size sans penalties – which replaces but one blade skill and may be a bit overkill. The archetype comes with guidance to increase its power even further, should you prefer extremely high-powered games.

The second archetype would be the silverblade hunter, a fighter archetype that gains +2 skills per level that must be spent on Wis-based skills, which btw. also all are class skills for the fellow. They lose heavy armor and tower shield proficiency for that. They get a special weapon that is treated as mithral at first level, acting as broken for other characters, analogue to the gunslinger. Armor training only applies while wearing mithral armor, but said armor is treated as one category lighter. Weapon training instead applies to all mithral weapons. Thematically interesting tweak!

The unshackled rager bloodrager archetype does not gain a bloodline; at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, they choose a feat from a brief list, with 7th and every 3 levels up to 16th level adding a bonus spell to the spells known. This collective is treated as bloodline for the purpose of meeting prerequisites and requirements. Instead of the bloodline power, we begin with a powerful bite attack, or an upgrade thereof; the bloodrage component of the class engine is replaced with lupine frenzy, which may be maintained for 4 + Con-mod rounds per day, +2 for every class level attained thereafter. While in this frenzy, the lupine rager gets +2 to atk and Will-saves and is treated as 2(!!) size categories larger for the purpose of natural weapon damage for the bite attack; considering that the base bite enhancement can already enhance a Medium target’s bite attack to the base damage value of Large, we’d thus arrive at a potential 2d8 bite base damage at level 1. Nasty, particularly if enlarged… The rage also nets -2 to AC and 2 temporary hit points per HD and basically behaves as bloodrage. The archetype really becomes interesting at 4th level, when the archetype learns to delay the onset of up to 1/4th maximum hit points damage, which is really interesting and tightly codified. This obviously replaces the 4th level bloodline power, with the 8th level power replaced by gaining the trip special quality. The 12th level power is replaced with freedom of movement while in lupine frenzy. At 16th level, the archetype may reduce delayed damage via inflicted bite attack damage, which is appropriate at this level. The usual rage upgrades at 11th, 17th and 20th level have been adjusted appropriately to account for the changed engine, and the capstone allows the bloodrager to truly become unstoppable, allowing them to use rounds of lupine frenzy to take actions they’d otherwise be denied from conditions et al. You know, apart from system mastery allowing first level characters to be a bit too good for my tastes, this is a really cool and fun archetype!

However, the most complex archetype herein may well be the wild huntsmaster dread, who gains Survival as a class skill and the collective ability, with scaling range and the 15th and 19th level upgrades for plane-spanning and planar-boundaries transcending range. The important tweak, though, would be the hunting pack: Replacing devastating touch, the archetype basically can fill empty slots in the collective with the hunting pack, up to 1 slot, plus 1 per 4 class levels. This takes a full-round action, and the pack members act on the initiative count of the dread. The size of the pack, Charisma modifier of the wild huntsmaster and class level determine the stats of the pack. The pack behaves, in a way, like a spectral haze of 5 ft.-spaces through which they can act, requiring direction by the wild huntsmaster. Combat feats are shared, a statblock is provided – you’ve understood it at this point probably: The pack behaves somewhat akin to the troop subtype with direction and the like reminiscent of the mechanics of much-beloved classes like tinker or general. The theme of the spectral pack is enhanced with an ability to sense fear, tracking, spirit of many…and the latter adds an augment to all network descriptor powers. Terrors may be channeled through the pack, telepathy, bites suppressing fear immunity (and later, mind-affecting effects)…and at 11th level, the archetype can infuse collective members with the pack’s spirits, making them temporarily werewolves! The capstone, finally, can force targets hit to be forced to join the hunt! This archetype is an A+ example of masterclass, complex design and warrants getting the pdf all on its own. Seriously. Plays smoothly, is powerful, yet not overburdening…just one amazing archetype oozing flavor and style.

The pdf provides 3 prestige classes, with the first two spanning 5 levels: The formless master needs BAB +4, 3 shifting feats, and gets 4 + Int skills, d8 HD, ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression and 3 levels provide further class feature progressions. Every uneven level nets a bonus shifting feat. The first level ability allows for minor shapechanges to disguise themselves, 2nd level nets +5 ft. reach; 4th level adds a physical attribute bonus while affected by a shift, and 5th level allows for the extension of shifting feat durations.

What do shifting feats do? They are added to the bonus feat lists of shpaechangers, as granted by class levels. I.e. as bloodline feats etc. Shifting is a swift action and you get ½ character level + Con-mod (min 1) shifts per day. The interesting thing about these would be that there are multiple effects per shifting feat, allowing for control over the duration: You could have the benefits for 10 minutes, for example, or for just 2 rounds, with the latter increasing in power, obviously. There is another cool aspect here: The shifting feats increase in power the more of them you get, with 3 and 5 shifting feats being thresholds. Chameleon Shift, for example, gets rid of the -.5 penalty when attempting to move more than half speed while hiding, with 5 shifting feats allowing for hiding while observed. The latter can be potentially gained a bit soon for my tastes, so beware there. A total of 13 such feats are provided and make for a compelling and interesting way to enhance shapeshifters. The pdf also sports a new race trait, which is pretty damn cool – beyond a skill boost, you can smell badly hurt creatures and under the full moon’s light, you can even deathwatch them. Pretty damn cool!

But let’s return to the PrCs for now: The second one would be the Greater Werewolf, who gets full BAB-progression, ½ Fort-save progression, 2 class feature progression steps, d10 HD, 4 + Int skills and some really easy to meet prerequisites. The PRc adds class level to the DR gained by the template, nets +2 to Wisdom and Iron Will at 1st level, and at 2nd level, nets at-will charm animal as an extraordinary ability regarding to creatures affected by lycanthropic empathy. 3rd level allows for free action form change, even a 1/round change when it#s not the greater werewolf’s turn. 4th level allows the PrC to get another natural weapon upgrade from the template, and 5th level nets regeneration 5/silver.

The final PrC, the varsärk, covers 10 levels and gets d10 HD,, requiring BAB+6 and Multiattack, and gaining 4 + Int skills per levels, full BAB-progression and ½ Fort- and Ref-save progression, with 8 of the levels providing class feature progressions. The PRC requires totem rage powers, bloodrage, raging songs etc. and basically embodies the rage of the wolf, with cold damage upgrade to natural attacks, scaling beast shapes, endure elements – you guessed it: This is the winter wolf champion! Cool (haha) one!

The pdf closes with 4 spells: Curse of the beast and its greater version do pretty much what you’d expect them to, and the same goes for detect shapechanger. As an aside: I’m no big fan of such low-level detect-spells, with this one in particular somewhat trivializing shapechanger presence and their intrinsic horror. Finally, lunar healing nets you fast healing 1 for a minute.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch on a formal and rules-language level, with the one exploit noted above as the one instance where I do object to a design decision, big time. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ two-column full-color standard and the interior artwork ranges from solid stock pieces to phenomenal original ones. All in all, this is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf. The pdf comes with a printer-friendly, second version and the pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Anthony S. Altovilla and Patrick C. Miller provide one impressive “Play a Lycanthrope” booklet here. The one true complaint you can field against the pdf would be its scope – due to the length, there are e.g. no hunting rules included, and a discussion of the hunger-aspect would have been nice to see as well. As written, the werewolves herein are somewhat bereft of the drawbacks we usually associate with the condition, hearkening a bit closer to the Wolrd of Darkness’ relatively controlled lycanthropes, as opposed to the original theme of the cursed. Not complaining, mind you – just observing!

The pdf is pretty much unrepentant in its use of lycanthropy as a straight power-upgrade, which means that, as a whole, there is no real reason apart from in-game social stigma to get rid of the condition. So yeah, if you’re looking for a gothic horror toolkit, then this may perhaps be not 100% what you’d been wanting. HOWEVER, if you already subscribed to e.g. “Lords of the Night”’s increased power-level or are looking for a means to allow for PC lycanthropes without burdening the player unduly with drawbacks or loss of control, then this delivers. As an aside: For me as a person, these pretty much constitute the very essence of lycanthropy, so yeah…to me, the lack of drawbacks and hunger makes these guys feel more like a savage form of wolf-anthro than a werewolf. Suffice to say, for settings like Ravenloft, grittier games or those that like delving into the darker shades of gaming over the course of a whole campaign, who want to roleplay the torment and anxieties that monsters like werewolves exemplify, this may not necessarily be what you’re looking for.

That being said, if you accept this interpretation of a drawback-less werewolf for the sake of playability, then this pdf delivers a more than solid offering in its execution. In fact, the archetypes alone and the shifting feat engine may well warrant checking out the pdf, even if you’re not interested in this particular vision of the werewolf. Frankly, to me the wild huntsmaster archetype warrants the fair asking price all on its lonesome; the moonlight meditant, with just a minor tweak of the exploitable ability, can similarly make for an OMG-how-cool-is-that archetype. The first two PrCs feel slightly weaker, though the varsärk, in spite of being conceptually pretty simple, works really well for its niche as well.

So, when would I recommend this pdf? If you’re playing in a high-fantasy campaign, and a PC has been infected/you have a major lycanthropy angle coming, and don’t like the whole angst/psychological angle of werewolf-related issues (waking up in peasant blood, going berserk on allies, etc.pp.), then this is your go-to-pdf. It allows you to introduce temporary afflictions of lycanthropy in the game without interrupting the tone and plotline. Similarly, if you don’t want to go the template route and just want werewolf-themed character options, then this does offer some really cool tricks. The pack rituals can make PC-groups and NPCs alike truly formidable foes…

For a painless werewolf one-shot, or a Halloween-themed sojourn into the realms of the lycanthropes, this works really well.

In short, there is a lot to love herein.

While for me, as a person, this interpretation fails to account for pretty much what, to me, constitutes the very core of what lycanthropy means, there are a ton of cool rules and concepts to scavenge, and even if I’d take this into account and treat the base werewolf engine and the content building on it as a total loss (which it isn’t!), there is still enough content within to build upon and enjoy to warrant this a worthwhile pdf.

How to rate this, then? Well, the craftsmanship is very tight and well-executed, and the pdf includes one of the coolest archetypes I have seen-period. The wild huntsmaster is frickin’ A+-plus gold, and as such, as a whole, I found that I enjoyed this much more than I, by any rights, should have. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. The huntsmaster single-handedly nets this my seal of approval, though I’d like to note that, if you share my preferences for lycanthropes as beings defined by their curse, that you may want to subtract a star from this final verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of the Wild
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Bloodforge Infusions: Feathers and Fur
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/02/2018 04:41:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Bloodforge Infusions-series clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, ½ a page ToC, ½ a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this one with a brief recap of the subtypes introduced in the big Bloodforge book before diving into the first race presented within, which would be one that really makes sense to me – the entoli, born from the union of sirens and maenads (still a race from Ultimate Psionics I really enjoy); the write-up does include notes on their appearance as well as their demeanor, and mechanics-wise, they get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Cha are Medium beastblood subtype creatures and get a +2 racial bonus to Profession (sailor), courtesy of their maenad lineage. They have low-light vision and , as an immediate action, they may grant an ally within 30 ft. a reroll against a mind-affecting effect that allows for a save, ending the effect on a success – nice one, particularly since the 1-minute cooldown does prevent this invalidating enchanter-builds. An alternate racial trait replaces this one with an option I consider slightly problematic: As an immediate action in response to a ranged or melee attack, you can make a Perform (dance) check (skill’s always a class skill for you, fyi) – if you exceed the attack roll, you negate the attack. Considering the ease with which you can blow skills out of proportions in Pathfinder, this can be an all but guaranteed attack negation. The only reason I consider this to be passable for some groups lies in the trait thankfully retaining the cooldown angle of the ability it replaces.

They can shift starting attitudes a third time and receive a +2 racial bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Perform (sing). They also get +2 to AC versus rays due to their crystalline feathers and receive Wild Talent as a bonus feat. They may also substitute Perform (sing) for Diplomacy and treat the former as a class skill – with an alternate racial trait, you may instead substitute Bluff, with another one, for Intimidate. The race may gain a power point instead of a skill or hit point as a FCO. They also add +1 to the DC of sonic powers and effects with the sonic descriptor. This sonic affinity may be replaced with one that instead pertains language-dependent effects. The social skill boost and sonic affinity may be exchanged for 1d3 talons that require defaulting regarding type and damage type. There are favored class options provided for the psionic classes aegis, dread, marksman, psychic warrior, tactician and wilder. Thoughtsinger bards, cavaliers, dominion daevics, rogues, skalds, sorcerers, swashbucklers zealots and warlords are also included.

Following the tradition of the hilarious April Augmented 2017 file (Potoo tengu still make me giggle…), we get a massive array of subraces next: 6 catfolk subraces are provided: Cheetah get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Con, fast speed and replace cat’s luck with a better run/charge that denies a target the Dex-bonus; they do lose sprinter, ironically. That is pretty powerful for certain builds and while it has a cooldown, it is an option that will not be suitable for all tables. The Manul get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, are Small, slow and get +2 to initiative when they can participate in the surprise round, as well as +1 to atk when executing attacks during the surprise round. They may move at full speed with Stealth and treat their armor check penalty as 3 lower. Minor nitpick: Stealth once not capitalized. They do lose cat’s luck and sprinter Lion catfolk get +2 St and Cha, -2 Dex and replace natural hunter with +2 to Diplomacy and Intimidate. They also get powerful build instead of sprinter and cat’s luck and may use oversized weaponry without gaining the otherwise problematic reach tricks. Nice one!

Lynx catfolk get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Cha, get Wild Talent and may choose to gain a power point instead of an FCO. They also may reroll a d20 as an immediate action, 1 minute cooldown. Yes, this is better than one of the most potent hexes. They also lose cat’s luck and sprinter. Not getting near my game. Jaguar catfolk get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Int, 1d4 claws (require defaulting) and a 15 ft- climbing speed. This replaces, again, cat’s luck and sprinter. They replace natural hunter with +1 dodge bonus to AC when moving at least 10 ft., with the bonus doubled when charging. Tiger catfolk get +2 Str, are Large and use undersized weapons. They do lose cat’s luck and sprinter as well.

There is a variant subrace/alternate racial trait for kitsune included, the Yōkai kitsune, who gains the beastblood subtype and may use beast shape I to assume a specific Small-sized alternate form; they have a fox form as a natural form, and shapechanging is supernatural. Daevics also get the essence of the succubus veil as supplemental material here, and 6 subraces can be found within, replacing kitsune magic and agile, unless otherwise noted. Buda get +2 Str and Int, -2 Cha, +1 to the DC of curses and +2 to Craft (armorsmithing), (weaponsmithing) and Profession (blacksmith). Coyōtl get +2 Wis and Cha, +2 Str, making them slightly lopsided. They get +1 to the DC of death effects they use and healing they use that is expressed adds +1 per die. Minor nitpick: Technically, healing ability score damage/drain can be expressed in dice as well, so the ability should specify that it only applies when healing hit points. They may also use bleed and stabilize (italicazitions missing) 1/round as a free action SP. And get +2 to Bluff. Huli Jing kitsune are akashic and can drain essence from creatures lured into an act of passion; in combat, this can be done 1/round as a move action versus helpless or pinned targets. This deals 1 point of Constitution damage and requires a Will save to avoid becoming nauseated. Veilweaving characters are instead drained of essence and this ability sustains the character as food. Interesting. The aforementioned Essence of the Succubus veil is considered to be always shaped and does not count against the maximum of veils shaped. However, essence cannot be invested as usual, instead using the draining as a means to charge it. I really like how this one uses akasha to add some interesting tricks here. Kumiho kitsune get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Con, darkvision 60 ft. instead of low-light vision, and +4 to Survival to follow tracks. When they eat the heart or liver of a creature with Int 3+, they don’t age for a day, with the effect being cumulative. They get two 1d4/19-20 claws that they can hide and deploy as a free action; same goes for bite. Nasty and cool one.

Tanuki get +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, and they add +1/2 class level to Disguise (not capitalized properly)bonuses gained from transmutations, illusions or psychometabolism. They also get +2 to Perform. Zenko are good outsiders, get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Str and 1/week may contact the heavens as per commune when sleeping, though the zenko may incur duties when doing so. Any message they’re thus sworn to relay cannot be forced out of them, and they get +1 to saves versus mind-affecting effects.

The pdf also includes 7 tengu subraces, with sneaky, swordtrained and gifted linguist as the traits that are usually replaced. Bearded vulture tengu get +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Str, making them slightly lopsided, and they gain +2 to saves and AC, which both increase by 1 when the tengu’s flatfooted. Cassowary tengu get +2 Str and Dex, -2 Wis and 2 primary talons at 1d4/18-20 (OUCH). They also get a free Intimidate check to demoralize the target when moving more than base speed and attacking. Hummingbird tengu are Small, get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Str and are fast. Kakapo tengu get +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, are Small, slow and get darkvision 60 ft. instead of low-light vision. They get a 1d4 bite. Ostrich tengi get +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and receive Improved Unarmed Strike, dealing both piercing and bludgeoning damage. (I’d have made that a choice – more elegant.) They also treat their unarmed attacks as two-handed weapons – ouch! Skill-wise, +2 Perception and Sense Motive – which is kinda ironic. Pigeon tengu are Small, get +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str, are slow and get +2 Diplomacy and Knowledge (local). They also add +2 to atk versus targets flanked by allies and increase their granted aid another bonus by this amount. Swan tengu get +2 Str and Cha, are slow, but get a 20 ft.-swim speed and +2 to intimidate and Perception. Nice: We get variant starting ages and heights, lifespans, etc.

Beyond these, the pdf also features 3 new traits: The bakeneko trait for catfolk takes up half a page, which provides the cat form you’d expect and does the rather significant modifications for size etc. rather well. There is a trait for the Huli Jing to generate temporary essence from basking in sun- or moonlight, and one for mixed blood folks. The pdf also includes a feat section which allows for better weapon use for Small characters and reprints the Wings-feat chain and Feral Fighter from Bloodforge. We get a feat-chain analogue to the Spark of divinity and Sanguine Sorcery feat-chains from bloodforge, instead applying to psionics, a feat to tear those grappled with claws and a really cool 1/rage power that lets you rip out a target’s organs! This one is higher-level and limited, but potent – like it! It also is available sooner for Kumiho (delicious!); this further provides synergy with another feat that improves the Kumiho’s claws. Note: This does explicitly stack its crit increase with Improved Critical etc., so if you’re like me and prefer a more subdued power-level, the stacking caveat may need eliminating. (The feat is too cool to not use, as the rage power limitations prevent abuse of temporary hit point gains via liver eating…)

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a rules language and formal level; regarding formatting, the pdf has a few more minor hiccups than usual for Dreamscarred Press, but is still tight. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ neat two-column full-color standard and the pdf features a few nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version, and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Boucher, Forrest Heck and Katia Oakes, with additional design by Doug Haworth, Jacob Karpel, Jade Ripley, Kevin Ryan and Matthew Ryan Medeiros, provide a selection of races I ended up enjoying more than I thought I would. Why? Because the subraces and variants presented within aren’t boring and execute some rather complex and interesting rules-language operations with the expertise we expect from Dreamscarred Press. What do I mean by “not boring”? Well, a lot of races boil down to accumulations of minor skill boosts without anything wholly unique going on. Nothing bad there, mind you, but also not exactly exciting. This pdf does provide a ton of unique options for the subraces.

Here’s the issue, at least for a part of the demographic that happens to include me: Many of these unique abilities are pretty blatantly more powerful than the base races. Significantly so. Now, it’s nothing new that Dreamscarred Press’ offerings tend to gravitate towards the higher-powered end of the spectrum, but comparing a vanilla catfolk or tengu with the variants within will have the standard versions weep in quite a few cases. And in many instances, this is not really requires. For quite a few of the unique abilities, the cooldown cap works rather well, but for others, a hard limit might have been a more prudent way to go in order to balance the more potent tricks. That being said, the difficulty of assigning limitations on these abilities isn’t particularly high and should not over-exert the mental faculties of GMs out there. Still, if you’re looking for more down o earth races on par with what the standard races offer, then this may not be for you or require some tinkering. Still, since even internally there also are some discrepancies between subrace power-levels, this is not a file I’d recommend without caveats.

However, if your game does gravitate to the higher end of the PC-power spectrum, then this is definitely worth checking out – the unique abilities do add spice to the game and provide some creative ideas on what you can do with racial tricks; the tie-ins to mythology are generally well-represented as well. How to rate this? See, here things become difficult for me. As a person, this would not see use at my table without serious nerfing in quite a few of the abilities; nevertheless, I enjoyed what this pdf does with its races; I like that it’s creative and bold – and I have always rated creativity and boldness with rough edges over mechanical perfection or super-tight balance. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform. While this may not be for low fantasy/gritty games, it does have charm and style – enough to make me tinker with the options to make them work for me. If you actually want really strong races that mop the floor with their parents, then consider this to be a 4.5 star-file instead.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge Infusions: Feathers and Fur
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Psionic Character Sheets
by Timo J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2018 13:37:43

Fine otherwise, but has wrong abilites for Acrobatics and Sense Motive.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Character Sheets
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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
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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
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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
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