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Path of the Wilds
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2021 06:47:55

An review

This book clocks in at 105 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 3 pages of index and artist credits (nice!), 1 page back cover, leaving us with 96 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book, and it was also requested by my supporters. The review is based on the 2nd printing-version, with the 1st-edition errata included, as I want to reward authors that care and improve their offerings and revise the actual books, instead of slapping an errata file in an obscure corner of the world wide web or in an extra file. An important note right away: This book really embraces PFRPG’s first edition, including the later hardcovers: This book does support material from Occult Adventures, Ultimate Intrigue, Ultimate Wilderness, etc.

Okay, so after a brief introduction, we dive into the 3 new base classes presented herein, the first being the elementer, who receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and a custom proficiency list that includes simple weapons, glaive, starknife, greatswords, longbows and more; regarding armor, we have proficiency with light armor and shields (minus tower shields); as an arcane spellcaster who receives spells of up to 6th level, using Intelligence as a governing ability score and a spellbook; we have a prepared caster, with the spellbooks for preparation codified as those of the magus and wizard. Of course, light armor incurs no arcane spell failure. Regarding spells, the class uses, no surprise there, an elemental focus; as such, it properly defines elemental spells, which are properly classified in the custom spell-list of the class and codified in the class. 3rd level nets +1 damage per die rolled with elemental spells and spell twists; more on spell twists later.

The class uses an energy pool with a maximum equal to class level + Intelligence modifier (minimum 1), and starts the day with half that pool filled, rounded down. When the elementer casts an elemental spell of 1st level or higher, or uses a spell twist. They gain class level spells; as a standard action that does not provoke AoOs, they can sacrifice any number of prepared elemental spells, gaining half the amount of energy points of the total spell levels. These points cannot be gained while the character is in aegis form. Wait aegis form? Yeah, but we should first talk more about the spellcasting engine of this fellow, because it is surprisingly novel for a game as well-trod and broad as PFRPG.

You see, if you take a look at the spell lists, you’ll notice that, in spite of the class only getting spellcasting of up to 6th spell level, the spell list reaches 9th level. So how can that be? A nerf gone wrong? Nope. 6th level nets the fusion spell-like ability, which allows the elementer to chosoe a single element from the classic 4 western elements, with an additional element unlocked at 19th, 14th and 18th level. When preparing spells, spell slots may be fused to prepare a spell from that elemental category. The slots need to be combined, and require a higher value; to prepare a 2nd level spell using lower level spell slots requires 3 spell levels; an 8th level spell would cost a massive 15 spell levels; however, the ability only allows for the fusion of spells that the elementer can prepare.

Metamagic may not be applied, and the chosen element has a somewhat different array of rules: The curious reader will have noticed that the above caveat actually would prevent fusing spells of above 6th level, but the chosen elements adheres to different rules: The elementer can fuse spells of up half their class level, rounded down, of all the elements chosen

The spellcasting engine also offers quite a few unique offerings for the spellcasting engine, represented by an array of so-called spell twists, starting with 2 spell twists gained at 2nd level, and an additional one gained every three levels thereafter; these spell twists have associated elemental categories, and to use them, the elementer has to sacrifice a prepared spell of the associated element of 1st level or higher; spell twists with the “All” category are exempt from this restriction, but are the exception from the rule. A spell twist is a spell-like ability and used as a standard action, with a save DC of 10 + sacrificed spell slot’s level + intelligence modifier; the spell twists can be boosted, so if a spell level of a higher level than 1st is used, the effect tends to be better beyond the DC-increase implied by the formula: Increased damage, additional targets, etc. The spell twist array is btw. interesting: For water, we have, for example, the expected cold damage, but with the Drown spell twist also nonlethal damage + change of staggering on a failed save. Suffice to say, the ability is phrased in a precise manner and accounts for unbreathing or water-breathing targets. And yes, spells prepared in higher spell slots are accounted for. Now, this spontaneous spell-conversion into (usually) blasting/minor crowd control effects is per se neato, but actually comes with yet another interesting effect, namely that spell twists also grant energy pool points.

Let’s talk about the defenses of the class for a bit; 2nd level nets evasion, 12th level improved evasion, and 4th level nets a barrier consisting of an energy resistance pool that begins with a value of 10 and increases by another 10 every 3 levels thereafter, capping at 60; these may be freely assigned to the classic 4 energy damage types associated with the elements (acid, cold, electricity, fire) whenever the character prepares their spells. This class feature becomes more interesting at 9th level, where, whenever the elementer manages to negate energy damage (taking 0 damage due to resistance/immunity, or evasion), every 20 points of damage negated lets them regain 1 energy point. This does work while in aegis form, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 15th level increases the barrier’s effectiveness, granting immunity to damage types if at least 30 points are assigned in the barrier.

We already mentioned aegis. Yeah, elementers begin play with the ability to wrap themselves in elemental power as a swift action. Assuming aegis form costs one energy point, and the elementer gets an untyped (not a fan…why not codify these bonuses properly?) bonus on attack rolls, AC and CMD, and the elementer’s weapons count as magic for the purpose of overcoming DR; the bonuses increase at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, capping at +6 at 17th level. In aegis form, the elementer cannot cast spells, use spell trigger or spell completion items, or gain points in the energy pool. Aegis can be ended as a free action and ends when energy points drop to 0; aegis can only be entered at the end of the character’s next turn, which is a clever cycling block. Smart design right there.

But there is another rather important unique ability, namely the supernatural ability Affinity, which is gained at 1st level; when the elementer prepares spells, they choose a single lesser affinity power, which can be accessed in aegis form only; at 6th, 11th and 16th level let the elementer choose a moderate, greater and master affinity power. These, however, are NOT simply available in aegis form; instead, moderate affinity power requires spending 2 energy points when entering aegis form AND that the character keeps spending these 2 points per round. Greater powers cost 4, and master powers require a cost of 6 points of consistent and initiation costs; and here the cycle-caveat comes into place, because the elementer MUST pay the costs or end the aegis. So, if you start a 4-point aegis to access greater affinity powers and below, you need to keep paying that, or end aegis and re-enter it at a lower cost, but minus access to the greater affinity power. As usually, affinity powers are categorized in the 4 classic elements, with save DCs, if applicable, at DC 10 + ½ class level + Intelligence modifier. At 7th level, the elementer can, as a free action exchange affinity powers for a new array; usable 1/day, +1/day at 13th and 19th, but this exchange may only be used once per round, regardless of daily uses.

The lesser affinity powers generally grant scaling damage increases that stack with the associated elemental weapon special abilities; for example, the bonus fire damage added to your weapon with the searing heat lesser affinity power stack with flaming. The moderate powers tend to focus on movement and defense and include, for example, fly speed (which makes sense at the level it unlocks), miss chance versus ranged weapons, etc.; the greater affinity powers include defensive fire, temporary hit point armors, etc.; master affinity powers are auras and include noise-drowning winds, damaging churning ground etc. There is something I VERY much appreciate regarding these affinity powers: They reward focusing on elements, for every single affinity power has synergy effects that increase the potency of the powers when you choose to focus on a selection from one element. For example, the aforementioned temporary hit point armor granted by a moderate water affinity power, the temporary hit points start replenishing, and the replenishing hit points stack with themselves. The capstone lets half their elemental damage bypass resistances and immunities, excluding the elementer’s own, and elemental spells and spell twists that deal physical damage ignore all DR except DR/-.

The elementer, as a whole, is a class that thematically shouldn’t interest me; it’s a powerful elemental knight-type character who is really potent regarding nova-ing. HOWEVER, when you’re playing in a game where the GM can properly discourage nova-casting (not that hard, imo), it is one grand experience; the switch of modes between spell twists and aegis rewards oscillating roles; the class chassis makes sure that you still matter if you choose to nova, but don't actually WANT to nova, which is SMART; the degree of spellcasting flexibility and tweak of the classic system generate a surprisingly rewarding playstyle that works better than it looks on paper. This is a genuinely good elemental class; I wouldn’t recommend it for ultra-gritty games, but I do very much enjoy it. The design is certainly smooth, elegant, and as a whole, very well-considered. 

The second class would be the invokers, who gain d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields (excluding tower shields), full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves.  3rd level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus combat feat.

The class gets a spirit companion, who gains d6 HD, starting with 2 HD and increasing that up to 15 HD at 20th level; the spirit companion’s BAB adheres to a 3/4-progression, mirroring HD; good saves (Reflex and Will saves) scale up marginally better than for the phantom, kicking off at +3, and capping at +10; the bad save (Fort) cap at +5; the companion starts off at 12 skill ranks and 1 feat, increasing that up to 98 ranks and 8 feats; natural armor bonus +1 is gained at 2nd level, and scales up to +12; also at 2nd level, the companion gains a +1 bonus to Dexterity and Wisdom, scaling up to +8; AT 4th, 9th, 14th and 20th level, we have an ability score increase of +1. The spirit companion has low-light vision and gains spontaneous spellcasting governed by Wisdom of up to 4th spell level, using the custom invoker spell-list, with limited spells known. 5th level provides a spell slot that can be chosen from the invoker’s currently invoked spirits, even if the spell is not known to the companion. They can be metamagically enhanced. 7th level nets devotion, so the usual +4 morale bonus vs. enchantment spells and effects.

The spirit also starts play with the spell-like ability spirit blast, which it, as a standard action, can fire a close range ranged touch attack, and deals 1d6 damage per 2 HD of the spirit (so 1d6 at first level, since it starts off with 2 HD), and adds Wisdom modifier; the blast can’t be Vital Strike’d, but does count as a weapon for the purposes of feats; SR applies. Now, there is more to the spirit companion than this framework, but the rules for this are outsourced, since they apply to spirits in general; as a minor point of criticism, I think noting the respective unlocks of these global spirit rules in the spirit companion table as well would have been a rather helpful/convenient decision.

The spirit companion is, base-type-wise, a fey, and, as hinted at before, it, like all other spirits, are defined by the dominion and oath; dominions would be land, beasts, sea, etc., while oaths describe the role of the spirit companion in relation to that dominion. While we get a decent array of dominions, only three oaths are provided: Acolyte (spellcasting), guardian (tougher) and harbinger (more damage). Oaths grant minor power increases at 4th, 10th and 16th level, and the oath also influences the invoker’s 7th level ability, Avatar (Su), which is a merge of invoker and companion initiated as a full-round action. In this form, the invoker can cannibalize spell slots of the companion for spirit energy pool points, and also gains abilities based on the oath and dominion chosen. This form lasts for Charisma modifier minutes, until ended (swift action), or slain; it can be used 1/day, +1/day at 13th and 19th level. Which brings me to the bonuses of the guardian and harbinger, which irked me, to be frank. Why? The bonuses grant as spirit abilities and avatars benefits are…bingo.

Untyped bonuses all around. This is bothersome, considering that PFRPG ALREADY has ridiculous bonus-stacking going on, and untyped bonuses…well, personally, I’d need to type those all before allowing the class in my game. YMMV, but yeah. These should be typed. The dominions of the companion determine the damage type of the spirit blast, provide a 1st and 7th level ability, with additional effects for the avatar form and unlocked 13th and 19th level abilities. Land, for example, nets bludgeoning blasts, burrow speed 20 ft at first level for the companion, 7th level tremorsense 20 ft, and the avatar upgrades net burrow speed, tremorsense (both scaling) and acid resistance improving to immunity.

Okay, so the companion is a minor caster, pretty fragile, and can blast; now, what does the invoker themselves bring beyond the chassis? As noted before, we have a pool of spirit energy points, which is btw. ½ class level + Charisma modifier. The pool refreshes at the start of the day after 8 hours of rest. At first level, the invoker selects two spirits to bond with, and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. One of the spirits chosen at first level must match the companion’s oath and dominion. These spirits grant spirit powers, and said powers are usually a standard action to activate and have a save DC of 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier; the chosen spirit’s spells are added to the invoker list, but do NOT automatically become known for the spirit companion.

The spirits are somewhat akin to Medium spirits, just in more flavorful: Alpha Protects the Weary Pack would be a guardian of beasts, who grants the spirit power Alpha’s Challenge (Su): When you hit a foe with a weapon attack, you can spend 1 spirit energy point as a free action for a challenge; the challenged target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls against anyone except you; this increases by -2 at 5th, 11th and 17th level and lasts for Charisma modifier rounds (minimum 1) and may only be maintained versus one target; the spell array ranged from compel hostility to aspect of the wolf and mage’s faithful hound. Like medium spirits, we have lesser, intermediate, greater and grand abilities, dubbed invocations. Invocation saves, if any, are DC 10 + ½ class level + Charisma modifier. Lesser invocations are available starting at 2nd level, with 5th unlocking intermediate, 11th level unlocking greater, and 17th level unlocking grand invocations. To return to our spirit, we have Diehard and a lower to-die threshold as the lesser one; scaling bonuses when badly hurt (properly typed-YEAH!) as the intermediate one; more concurrent uses of alpha’s challenge and an immediate action interception movement when allies are attacked that is powered by spirit points (cool!), and the grand one nets fast healing 5, and halved damage when at 0 hp or less, including no staggering and immunity to harmful mind-affecting effects. See what I mean with more flavorful? Yeah, these spirits are cool.

5th level allows for the invocation of two spirits at once, with the secondary spirit’s invocation powers unlocking at 5th, 8th, 14th and 20th level, respectively. At 6th level, the invoker can invoke spirits multiple times per day, at the cost of 1 spirit energy per invoked spirit in a 1-hour ceremony. 12th level reduces this time-frame to 10 minutes, or at the cost of 2 spirit energy points per spirit as a swift action.

4th level nets mystic bond, a free action ability that lets the invoker sacrifice hit points to negate damage that would reduce the companion below 0 hp; tight design avoiding exploits here; additionally, the companion can cast spells with target “You”, “touch” etc. at range on the invoker as a full-round action, unless the spell has a longer casting time.  If the companion is slain, 10th level lets the invoker expend all spirit energy points to raise dead (resurrection at 16th level) the companion. Minor nitpick: Should have a minimum 1 caveat. 16th level nets telepathic communication with the companion within the companion’s link. 20th level unlocks ALL spirit powers, but spirits currently not selected cost twice as much spirit energy. The capstone also further enhances quick spirit switching and no longer has a cooldown for it.

I really like this class; a melee-class with mode gameplay and a fragile, minor caster companion makes for a compelling class; Multiple Ability Score Dependency does a pretty solid job of keeping the fellow in check, and the flavor is genuinely inspiring. The power between options adheres to a pretty solid parity as well. All good? No, there is one thing I have to complain about: bonus types. While a few abilities feature proper bonus types, there are also a couple that lack types, even when they clearly should have types. That being said, if you’re willing of typing them, you’ll have one damn cool class here. Seriously, impressive beast.

The third class herein would be an attempt at a melee defensive character, with aura-emanation-buffs; difficult to execute, so how does the fellow perform? The class gains d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armors, shields (except tower shields), full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, and a bonus combat feat at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. The warden adds their Wisdom modifier instead of Dexterity modifier to AC and CMD, though conditions that cause them to lose Dexterity modifier still apply. Armor Maximum Dexterity Bonus still applies, but the bonus to AC cannot exceed warden class level. 1st level nets ½ class level bonus to Knowledge (dungeoneering, geography, nature), Handle Animal and Survival and allows for untrained skill use. 3rd level nets immunity to magical and natural diseases, and 7th level to poisons; 4th level adds Wisdom modifier in addition to Dexterity to initiative and may always act in a surprise round. At 19th level, the warden is treated as always having rolled a 20 on initiative and is never surprised. 12th level nets stalwart (essentially evasion for Fort- and Will-saves), and at 16th level, animals, plants and vermin of Intelligence 2 or less never attack the warden; those with a higher Intelligence can make a Will save to attack, and if the warden or allies initiate hostilities, the target becomes immune for 24 hours.

While not wearing heavy armor, the warden gets the verdant bonus, which starts at +1, increases by +1 at 4th level and ever 4 class levels after that, and the bonus applies to other class features as well. Speaking of which, let’s talk about perhaps the most defining class feature of the class, namely the eponymous wards, which are btw. a supernatural ability. Creating a ward is a swift action and it generates a spherical emanation in a 10 ft.-radius, but the warden has control over the radius in 5 ft.-steps to the maximum; range is close and allies (including warden) in the ward gain the effects of endure elements, with allies gaining an insight bonus to AC equal to the aforementioned verdant bonus. The warden does not gain this additional verdant bonus a second time, though, not even from other wardens (good catch exemplifying design with foresight!); wards last indefinitely and can be dismissed as a swift action, and only one ward may be in effect as a given time. 9th level increases the radius to 15 ft., and the range to medium, and he can now manifest two concurrent wards; at 15th level, ward radius increases to 20 ft., range becomes long, and 3 wards can be manifested at once. At 13th level, the warden can use a move action to teleport up to twice his movement to an open space in a ward. The capstone nets a true immortality apotheosis: Outsider, and auto-resurrection after 24 hours within 20 miles of the place the warden dies.

2nd level nets the supernatural remedy ability: As a standard action (swift if targeting self), the warden can grant fast healing equal to ½ class level, and it usually can be employed to adjacent targets, but if the target is within a ward, range is close instead; usable ½ class level + Wisdom modifier times per day. 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a so-called secret; if applicable, saves are Dc 10 + ½ class level + Wisdom modifier. These include curing sickened with remedy (at 8th level also nauseated), commune with nature at will (min 14th level), using 2 remedy uses to cast restoration sans material component as a standard action (minimum 11th level), Cultivate Magic Plants as a bonus feat, woodland stride, seeing through undergrowth, etc.

At 3rd level, the warden chooses facets, which can once per day be prepared, and he begins with 2 facets prepared and increases that by 1 facet every other level, capping at 9 facets prepared at 17th level. If applicable, saving throws are DC 10 + ½ class level + Wisdom modifier. Facets have three levels: lesser, greater and grand; greater facets are unlocked at 9th level, greater ones at 15th level. In order to prepare a grand facet, the greater and lesser facets must be prepared; in order to prepare a greater facet, the lesser facet must be prepared. Essentially, getting access to the more powerful aspects of a facet decreases the flexibility. Good call. Whenever the warden creates a ward, they can apply a single facet; effects of facets are cumulative with their lower iteration. What do they do? Dawn’s Light creates light (a rare case of italics missing) and affects targets in the ward with faerie fire; the greater version adds invisibility purge, dazzles those outside the ward (no save), and grand can temporary blind targets and counts as actual daylight. Interaction with darkness etc. also improve. Bones of the earth nets acid resistance based on 5 times verdant bonus; at greater facet power, we get a CMB boost; allies can’t be moved except by mind-affecting and teleportation, and can’t be knocked prone, and grand also nets verdant bonus DR/adamantine. All facets make sense, and as a whole, their power-levels are on par. Another fun-to-play class, and one that absolutely works in any game, from more potent to grittier ones.

The three new classes all come with favored race options that cover the core classes, and the plane-touched ones. These are okay, if not spectacular. The book also features a series of archetypes: 3 for the elementer, 3 for the invoker, 3 for the warden. The book also features material for barbarian, druid, hunter, kineticist , medium, paladin, ranger, shifter, and sorcerer.

In brevity: The animist barbarian replaces rage with essentially a ward-lite ability that lets them summon totems that provide benefits to themselves and allies, and scale. They also feature a caveat that includes synergy with traditional rage-basic tricks. Totem rage powers also can be granted by these totems, which can be rather brutal for a well-composed party (or not as efficient for less well-composed ones). Instead of trap sense and 4th level’s rage powers, we have a somewhat bloodline-y spell-like abilities, and at higher levels, totems can act as spiritual weapons. Interesting.

The geomancer druid replaces nature sense with Earth Magic and focuses on elemental planes, with favored terrain types codified according to that elemental focus, and in the proper terrain, the druid can lose prepared spells in favor of favored terrain related domain spells.

Elementers can choose to become aegis knights, who lose fusion and the (improved) evasion in favor of faster wards and energy points conversion as well as fortification. Essentially a tweak that focuses more on aegis than spells. Stormcallers specialize in air and water, and are essentially a storm-themed variant with spell conversion instead of 2nd level’s spell twists and modified barriers. Volcanists follow a similar design paradigm, but focus on earth and fire instead, though, surprisingly, it’s not just a template swap, instead focusing different on distinct abilities.

Hunters can opt for the planar hunter archetype, replacing animal focus with a planar focus that comes with a pretty massive list that covers aligned plane effects as well as the inner planes, shadow plane, astral, ethereal, etc. Precise companion is exchanged with bonus spells, and otherwise we have planar themes.

Invokers can choose to become speakers of the wild. This archetype delays the invoke ability to 5th level, instead gaining bardic performances first, and the speaker’s companion also benefits from the bardic focus. Invocation abilities are also delayed. Spiritbound invokers get an increased array of skills per level and lose the companion. They are Charisma-focused and use medium spells, and can enter avatar form quicker and without merging, obviously. Wanderers don’t need to have one of their first spirits match their companion; their invocation is fleeting, but they can briefly invoke two spirits at once; interesting engine-tweak.

Kineticists receive 1.5 pages worth of wild talents, which include an arboreal hammer-duplicating form infusion, the utility option to clear terrain, etc. I particularly considered the option to lace targets with spores that grant temporary hit points to those that attack the target. Interesting.

The medium gains a complete array of alternate spirits, so-called wild spirits; the trickster is, for example, replaced with the beguiler, who gets, among other things, a scaling untyped damage attack, which usually would result in my usual complaint, but the codified nature of a mind-affecting effect does make this more palatable. The spirit, is a whole, is MUCH more interesting than the trickster; instead of the marshal, we get a companion/hunter-themed spirit…you get the idea. As a whole, I enjoy the spirits presented here.  The primal vessel archetype exclusively uses these spirits and replaces the haunt angle and divination themes with ones that are more nature-themed.

Paladins can elect to become purifiers, who can smite anything, but at the cost of the damage being fire; as a whole, this one is a fire-themed paladin. The divine guard ranger gets a defensive variant of favored enemy and self-only warden remedy and access to secrets. The shifter class gets the mystic shifter archetype, who loses wild empathy and the chimeric aspect array in favor of spellcasting, and a druid’s wildshape. Engine tweak. Speaking of which, the elemental savant sorcerer loses bloodline spells and the 3rd-level bloodline power in favor of the option of switching between elemental phases. Interesting.

The warden gets the forest ascetic (unarmed, monk-y warden); primal guardians can’t place wards at a distance and gets a modified ability, and it includes a challenge ability; the archetype is an interesting engine-tweak that plays in a different manner. The verdant soul replaces the ward, verdant bonus and facets ability array with wood-themed kineticist abilities.

Beyond these options, the book includes a significant feat and spell array; the feat table includes the expected options that enhance class features; Aegis Strike, for example, eliminates the action cost of Arcane Strike (or Energy Strike, if you have it) while in aegis, and the Arcane Strike’s benefits are spell twist relevant. There is a charge option for the Vital Strike feat chain. It is also important to note that the book codifies a series of spells as animal or plant spells with the respective descriptors, and the feat array also taps into that. The spell section includes plant-based battle spells, spells that grant tremorsense and elemental spells are, unsurprisingly a focus. There are also some intriguing ones that stood out to me: One lets you touch a potion or poison, transforming it into a wasp that attempts to deliver the liquid. A utility-spell that protects from weather effects is also smart; the pdf includes a series of high-level polymorph-self buffs and a prism-series that uses all four core energy types/descriptors. Important to note here: These spells are cognizant of the benefits of their flexibility and are balanced as such.

The final chapter of the book features an assortment of various magic items, with new armor and weapon special abilities and several special weapons included; these include an armor property that enhances the aegis class feature, an armor that can act as a plant source and root you, and waterproof armor that lessens weather-severity. It should be noted that there are some really nifty artworks for the items, and there are some serious gems here: The weapon property that lets you cycle through flaming, corrosive, cold and shock is genuinely awesome. (Yes, there also is one option for the burst variant. Weapons that help you mark quarries or studied targets. Enchanted lashes, cycling starknives…some seriously cool stuff here. The kineticist’s bangle has a designated element and grants the associated element as an expanded element for the purpose of composite blast unlocks; while it’s not an inexpensive item at 11K gold, it warrants close scrutiny for games using expanded kineticist content. A really cool magical compass is also included, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see the trophy belt, which lets you collect trophies to gain a variety of creature abilities from the trophies, essentially a blue magic lite array that might be a bit inexpensive, but has the cost of needing to get the trophy, so I'm relatively cool with it.


Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level; there are precious few very minor formal hiccups, and on a rules-language level only the inconsistent bonus typing struck me as an overall potentially problematic issue, though that may have been intentional. Layout adheres to Ascension Games’ two-column standard and sports a significant amount of text per page. The book features a lot of original full-color artworks in the style seen on the cover, and the pdf-version comes with both a mobile-friendly version and one that is optimized for HD. The print copy is a solid softcover and sports the name on the spine.

Chris Moore, with additional content by Dolant Smart and Jake Zemke delivers in this book. In SPADES. Path of the Wilds is a love letter to PFRPG at the system’s best, with 3 base classes that offer absolutely fun and novel playing experiences and a design that is clear, smooth, and speaks of seriously impressive skill, even with very complex options. Nothing herein looks random, everything shows clear consciousness of the system’s pitfalls, and as a whole, the book managed to attain a level of quality that is seriously compelling.

Are there some hiccups? Yes, but as a whole, it is ridiculous how precise the tiny team managed to realize this tome. In fact, I can list some Paizo books that sort more issues than this one. So yeah, quality-wise, this is definitely top-tier, and the asking price is VERY low for both pdf and print, and I’d seriously recommend getting print. Regarding power-levels, this book works properly with default-PFRPG-power-levels; people preferring high-powered gameplay can use the material, and even if you gravitate to gritty gaming, you can make use of the book with some cursory analysis and minor tweaks here and there.

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Wilds
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Paths of Magic
by BM M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2021 12:48:10

This tome is outstanding! Get it, read it, use it! It's as simple as that. The writing, flavor, art everything is top notch. There is something in this tome for everybody. Just one caveat; this is a compilation, rebalance, and update of all previous books in the "Path" series. After purchase this tome was unanimously nominated as a "core" rulebook for my gaming group.


[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paths of Magic
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Paths of Magic
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2021 14:06:54

The three individual books in this series were universally praised as some of the most impressive third-party works available to the (1E) Pathfinder community: read the reviews from Endzeitgeist and others for Path of Shadows, Path of Iron, and Path of the Wilds, and you’ll see what I mean. This compilation not only brings together all of the old material, it completely updates it and adds an entire new book’s worth of material. Years’ worth of additional play testing of the classes was taken into account to provide new class options, clarifications, and streamlining - all of which makes these fantastic classes even more intriguing and enticing. Spell lists were updated to include the latest Pathfinder classes (such as the occult casters), and dozens of new spells and magic items were added. As essential as the old books were, this compilation makes the work DEFINITIVE. There are only two third-party works that I consider on par with the core Paizo books and essential to my table: Ultimate Psionics from Dreamscarred Press was one such book, and now Paths of Magic has joined it. This book is a masterpiece - well written, well balanced, masterfully designed and edited, and full of creative rules that will enhance your game without breaking it. Bravo!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Wilds
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2020 19:44:13

First of all, this is an absolutely gorgeous book, with stunning artwork and top-quality layout. Second, it is 100 pages of fresh new content that manages to perfectly strike that difficult balance between being extremely innovative and extrenmely well-balanced. There are 3 new base classes and a bevvy of archetypes, new spells, feats, and magic iitems -- all of which feel at once strikingly creative and yet such a natural fit that you feel like they should have been in the game all along. This belongs at every PF1 table, and is an invaluable resource for any campaign that features wilderness adventure. It gets my highest recommendation.

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Path of the Wilds
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Path of Iron
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/01/2016 04:02:40

An review

The second of Ascension Games' massive crunch-books clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 158 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This review is based on the electronic 2nd printing-version of the book.

After a brief introduction on the subject matter at hand, we dive pretty much straight into the first base-class, which would be the archivist. Archvists get d6 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and receive simple weapon proficiency, but no armor proficiency. As should be evident from the framework, the archivist is a full caster, but not one who utilizes spells - instead, he uses rune magic, a new type of magic introduced herein. An archivist begins play with 3 fundamentals (scaling up to 8 at 12th level) and begins play with 2 scripts - a new script is gained every level, with 5th and every 4 levels thereafter granting an additional bonus script - handily summed up in the class table, just fyi. To learn a given script, an archivist must have an Intelligence score of 10 + the script level and DCs, if applicable, are 10 + script's level + Intelligence modifier. Much like other casters, archivists receive bonus scripts based on high attribute modifiers. As usual, there is a maximum level of the given rune you can learn, determined by class level - this time around, we obviously are looking at full access, i.e. runes of up to 9th level are unlocked.

Okay, before we go into any more details, let's make a not-so-quick-detour, wherein I explain rune magic - makes no sense talking about a full caster sans explaining the casting system used, right? Takes a deep breath

So, how does rune magic work? Well, unlike prepared or spontaneous casting usually work, the rune magic user only gets access to the scripts he actually has learned. It should also be noted that the rune magic has a linear-rule - that is, users of this system must know e.g. at least 1 3rd level script to learn a 4th level script. Casting a script requires you to be able to speak, but curiously, neither shields nor armor impedes the casting of a rune's script - basically, the magic has verbal, but no somatic components and is not subject to arcane spell failure. Now here's the interesting thing - much like a spontaneous caster, the rune magic user can cast each script he knows a select number of times per day - but the casts are tied to the respective scripts, not the script-levels. the extra castings granted from high attributes in the governing attribute act as wildcard slots that can be applied to any script on the fly, allowing for some degree of flexibility - basically, while the core scripts are limited, the bonus scripts can be applied as flexible daily uses on the fly. The negation script is used for counterspelling purposes, while generally, the system assumes that scripts cannot be counterspelled by spells and vice versa, with dispel magic being an obvious exemption from the rule - so limited transparency between runes and regular spellcasting is the default assumption.

Scripts have so-called designs, which can be likened to the basic schools of regular magic: Alteration, Creation, Destruction, Invocation, Manipulation, Revelation. Some sport subtypes, descriptors and the like. In case you haven't figured that out, fundamentals are the cantrip-equivalent and can be cast an unlimited amount of times per day - but they do not generate runic charge. What's that, you ask? Well, much like prepared spellcasting, runic magic assumes that the scribe has prepared the bulk of the rune in advance, to only finish it when casting the script. The runes prepared in advance then proceed to become charged with the energy of the script - this is referred to as runic charge. Up until 5th level, the maximum runic charge the scribe can have is 1; starting at 5th level till 10th, the number is 2; 11th level upgrades this to 3 and finally, 17th level to 4. The level of a given script does not affect the number of runic charges gained - 1st level and 9th level scripts all deliver the same +1 runic charge. A given item can hold exactly one runic charge and the charge dissipates after 1 hour out of the scribe's possession as well as when the scribe rests. Runic charges can be identified via Spellcraft and the pdf manages to even cover auras of such charges.

So far, so good - but do we do with these runic charges? Well, here things get interesting: You see, each script has a special paragraph to overload it. When overloading a given script, a scribe expends all accumulated runic charges as part of the casting of the respective script. BAsically, you could liken these to how psionic augments work, but in a more limited fashion - the overloading allows a given script to exceed its usual limit, providing e.g. additional targets, more arcane death to rain upon foes etc. So far, so cool, right? Well, the catch here is one I hinted at before - know how I mentioned the aura of a given charge? Well, turns out that quite a lot of overloading options provided for scripts have additional effects depending on the design (school) of the runic charge. Since the respective scripts are more limited than spells, they tend to provide more flexibility, but let's provide an example, shall we?

Alter Form, a level 6 alteration, lasts for 1 min/level and nets you your choice of +4 to eitehr Str, Dex or Con or two enhancements from Lesser Alter Form: These include +2 to Str and Dex and size increase or decrease by one step. The 6th level alter form furthermore grants one of the following: Fly speed 30 ft. with good maneuverability, 60 ft. climb or swim speed, burrow speed 30 ft, +4 natural armor or two of lesser alter form's two additional benefits, which include claws or bite (both not specifying whether they act as primary or secondary), a climb or swim speed, scent or +2 natural AC. Now with overload, thing become even more modular: Alteration runic charge can provide DR 5/adamantine; Creation provides fast healing 5, Destruction adds Improved Critical to natural attacks; Invocation provides energy resistance 20 versus your choice of the classic 4 energy types; Manipulation increases base speed by 30 ft. and revelation provides blindsense 30 ft.; You may also choose the overload effects from lesser alter form and for every 2 runic charges, you may choose +1 ability. And yes, there is an 8th level greater version.

Now here is the interesting part beyond the extended complexity the scripts provide - the book actually manages to properly codify the way how scripts and magic items/spells etc. interact - so yes, while direct counterspelling and the like does not treat the system as transparent with regular magic, magic item and school-based immunity correlations are perfectly codified - yes, including potions, scrolls, wands etc. - rules-wise, this is very tight.

By the way - if the above example was frightening for you: Fret not. There are plenty simpler runes herein - barrier duplicates a modified wall of force, for example, with overload increasing caster level. Banish sends outsiders to their homeplanes, with overloading allowing the scribe to affect more HD. So yes, beyond the delightfully modular ones, there are ample less complex runes for your perusal.

Rune magic has one final peculiarity, which would be engraving: Engraving a script takes 10 minutes as opposed to the usual casting time (or +10 minutes, if casting time is already 10 minutes or longer) - upon completion, the script is treated as maximum runic charge'd for the scribe's level, but does not generate a runic charge of its own, neither does it expend a runic charge you have. And yes, it does expend the use of the script - essentially, you cast longer, but get better results and don't have to waste your runic charges on a script where you don't want to waste them on -since runic charges are a limited resource based on previously cast scripts, this option makes sense, in particular for long-term buffs and the like.

Exhales Okay, got that? Great, so let's return to the archivist-class, all right? Starting at first level, the archivist chooses a bloodline-like specialization for a given script design, somewhat akin to school specialization - this unlocks new abilities at 1st level, 2nd and every 6 levels thereafter. The choice also determines the design of archivist bonus scripts granted over the class's progression. Finally, this choice also provides a new function regarding the overloading of scripts, called study synergy.

4th level provides a 1/day swift action runic charge gain and may exchange all runic charge's design for that of another design. The ability can be used +1/day at 4th level, +1/day for every 6 levels thereafter; at 16th level, the archivist gains two runic charges from the use of this ability instead.

Now, regarding study-synergy, one example would be a +1d4/-1d4 surge-like bonus/penalty that is applied to a physical-attribute related action of the recipient of a rune, a radius-based AC-granting barrier or energy resistance. The study abilities include combined benefits of endure elements and a ring of sustenance or granted/forced rerolls - the more powerful abilities obviously being often limited to daily uses. The respective design specializations also determine the capstones granted by the class and yes, there is interaction with Metascript-feats. Applying a metascript feat increases casting time to 1 full-round action, with the exception of Quicken Script, and only one such feat may be added to a given script. Metascript feats have built-in daily limits - you can use them only a limited amount of time per day, though additional uses are unlocked as you progress through the levels - interestingly, not tying the benefits to e.g. archivist levels, but instead to character levels.

The second class contained herein is the saboteur, who gets d8 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbow, net, rapier, sap, shortbow, short sword, all firearms and light armors. The class gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves and begins play with trapfinding. The defining trait of the saboteur, though, would be the impromptu creation of magical traps with minimal materials - these saboteur traps behave in many ways like spells in trap form; if applicable saboteur level acts as caster level and Intelligence would be the governing attribute for them. Preparing a trap takes 1 minute and, once set, it remains active for 1 day. Traps can be disabled via Disable Device. Saboteurs may thus keep their trap-slots open and unprepared when going out to adventure in the next dungeon - after all preparation is rather quick. The saboteur has an assembly-list that governs spell-trigger items he can use. Traps are "cast" by being set, which is a standard action that provokes AoOs. Traps affect a 5ft- square and may not be stacked upon another or similar magical traps like glyphs. Type-wise, they are codified as Type: Magical, Trigger: Location, Reset: None.

Once set, traps remain functional for 10 minutes per CL; hereafter it falls apart. (15th level upgrades that to 1 hour per level.) A saboteur can't just make one death-ambush after the other, though: A saboteur can have a maximum of Intelligence modifier traps placed at a given time; setting a new trap beyond this limit deactivates the oldest trap. When a trap is triggered, the trap affects first the triggering creature and then the closest creatures nearby, as per the respective parameters. Effects with concentration require line of sight from saboteur to trap to maintain it. Additionally, once per round as a move action, a saboteur can trigger a trap within 30 ft. planted and a placed trap can be disarmed sans check with only a standard action, no check required. Costly material components are expended upon placing the trap. In order to prepare a given trap, the saboteur needs his assembly book - the saboteur begins play with 2 1st level assemblies +Int-mod assemblies, gaining +1 every level and saboteurs may add assemblies as a wizard may add spells to his spellbook. In order to locate a placed trap, the searching target has to beat the DC +10.

Additionally, at first level, the saboteur class receives the marked target ability, which allows the saboteur to mark within line of sight a target as a move action, adding scaling bonuses to atk/dmg, AC or the like - 4 such benefits can be chosen. Once marked, a creature can thereafter not be marked again by the saboteur for 24 hours and the saboteur may dismiss the mark as a swift action. Only one mark can be in effect at a given time, with 9th level providing the option to maintain two marks at once - all of which can be then changed as a swift action. 17th level increases this to three marks, including the option to place two marks on a single target, but at the cost ob not being able to mark another creature while the dual amrk is in place.

2nd level nets evasion (13th improved evasion) and the first saboteur trick - basically the talent-array of the class. An additional talent is gained every two levels after the second. When applicable, save DCs are 10 +1/2 class level + int-mod. These saboteur tricks are pretty much brutal: There is, for example, one that makes opponents ALWAYS flat-footed against you in a surprise round and, when hit by the saboteur, they remain so for the first combat round. I think this should only apply when the saboteur has the surprise, not when he's surprised - and yes, there are options that allow you to act in a surprise round or even get the regular action contigent. There also would be a crazy prepared trick that almost works perfectly - sporting a sensible recharge mechanic that prevents abuse, it's great, though it lacks the "can't produce unique items"-caveat - you could draw the key to that door/manacles from your backpack, which is something I consider problematic. Now all tricks have issues, though - there is a higher level assassination that requires only one round of study, but does require the enemy to be unaware of the saboteur's intent as a foe. Limited SPs, conversation-based charm/suggestion tricks etc., numerical boosts that interact with marks and temporary regeneration-elimination provide unique options. I particularly enjoyed the means to temporarily split into two at the highest levels, codifying the classic shadow twin-stunt in a concise manner. Using AoOs to parry enemy strikes when said foe is properly marked may not be too elegant, but it does work sans hassle - so if you don't have rules-aesthetic objections to the ability, you won't have an issue with it. Nondetection, becoming trackless, item-destruction or arcana theft can be found - also cool: properly scaling DR-bypassing.

At 3rd level, passive detection of hidden doors and traps is possible. 5th level provides quicker trap disarms and at 19th level, the saboteur may almost instantly disable traps as barely a standard action, with full-round action Open Locks being possible as a swift action! 7th level also nets the saboteur combined arms - this is where the class becomes interesting, as the saboteur can now combined multiple assemblies as one trap. 11th level allows a saboteur to throw a trap up to 20 ft. as part of the standard action of placing it. Alternatively, the saboteur can add the trap to a ranged weapon like a bow, crossbow, etc. - shooting the trap thus takes a full-round action, though at teh cost of decreasing the DC against the trap's effects.

The class provides a massive array of 5 lengthy capstones that allow the class to excel in one of its components - whether it's the mark, easy dismantling of magic, bypassing all kinds of traps or making exceedingly powerful traps, the capstone abilities are worthy. The assembly list is btw. relatively limited, which is ultimately what keeps the saboteur balance-wise in line.

The third class in this book would be the vanguard, who receives d8 HD, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armor, medium armor and shields and may cast spells in light and medium armor sans incurring spell failure. Vanguards are prepared spellcasters that gain access to spells up to 6th level, drawing exclusively from his own spell-list. Vanguards' spellcasting-governing attribute is Charisma and the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Fort- And Will-save progression.

The class begins play with a construct companion pet that gains 3/4 HD- and BAB-progression, 1/4 saving throw progression, up to 30 skill points, up to 8 feats and up to a +8 primary ability bonus, +4 secondary ability bonus - these are determined by the respective base forms chosen, of which 3 are available - combat, eldritch and scouting form. Construct companions are not immune to mind-affecting effects and they have an Int-score. Pieces of equipment cna be integrated into the construct companion, which is, rules-wise, a pretty impressive display of rules-language craftsmanship - and no, no quick switching available. The construct gets a link and share spells. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a bonus feat and 2nd level provides 1/2 class level to Craft, Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering) as well as to Spellcraft checks made to identify magic items.

1st level also provides the first 2 augmentations - one of which is mending touch, which allows the construct companion not to be a really bad drain on resources. The second can be freely chosen; 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter provide an additional augmentation. However, these augments connect with another mechanic: Resonance. Causing a resonance is a standard action that does not provoke an AoO and the effect of a given resonance depends on the augmentation. Only one resonance may be in effect at a given time. a vanguard can create a resonance 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. The action required for activation improves to move action at 7th levelm swift action at 13th level. If the companion is destroyed, a vanguard can still use a resonance at twice the cost, unless it requires tandem activation by both vanguard and construct companion.

2nd level also allows the vanguard to imbue a contingency-type of effect in his weapon or that of his construct or in himself or his construct. These effects are limited in what can be imbued, but still are pretty powerful. This ability is further upgraded at 11th level and 17th level. 3rd level provides teamwork feats to the companion. 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter add +1 spell poached from the sorc/wiz spell list and 8th level allows the vanguard to chance an augmentation chosen via 8 hours of work, though the prerequisites must align; i.e. not replacements of inferior with superior augmentations. 14th level provides exceedingly fast item construction. As a capstone, he gets an all-day augmentation - whenever he uses resonance with it, he also gets battlemind link with his companion for Cha-mod rounds.

Augmentations pretty much look like feats - they have prerequisites (usually levels, attributes and previously gained augmentations and can range in type from Ex to Sp. They include attribute bonuses, integrated bags of holding, more spells, added weapon properties and the like, with solid daily limits balancing the more powerful tricks. Resonance-entries for the augmentations are pretty diverse - AoE abundant ammunition, swapping of places, granting an ally a form of movement...there is diversity and tactics here. Suffice to say, all three classes do receive favored class options that extend partially to the more popular planetouched races aasimar and tiefling, with the saboteur also getting FCOs for drow and kobolds.

The book also covers an array of archetypes: Metallurgist alchemists apply salves, a specialized extract, to objects. Bloodragers may select the forgeborn bloodline to become construct-y/particularly adept at destroying items, while the sorceror-version is themed around crafting/object manipulation and defensive tricks. Blade Shifter fighters can supernaturally alter weapons (cool idea!) and benefit from the fluidity of their weapon. Technique masters utilize the new technique feats and may have multiple ones active. Inquisitor runebinders are interesting - a complex archetype utilizing Wis-governed runes, with special judgments tied to runic charge, offering a unique playing experience. The Arcane Defender and Marauder magus-archetypes are pretty much BLAND - diminished spellcasting defense/offense specialists - boring and pretty much filler the book didn't need. The Eldritch Eye is more interesting - basically, a ranged magus with the option to learn to use arcana as grit, quicker reloads, etc. The Mystic dervish is basically the two-handed magus and, once again, okay, if not really exciting The Rune Knight is more interesting, being, bingo, the rune-using magus, with unique rune strike and arcane pool-powered runic charges. The Zen marksman is a power-gamer's wet dream regarding dipping - combining monk with gunslinger, you get all the great saves and may flurry with firearms, even though they're ranged...and yes, this includes free action reload while flurrying...though at the cost of continuously increasing misfire rates for each shot. Let me state this load and clearly - craftsmanship-wise, there is nothing to complain about here - but the fact that you get firearm-flurry including free action reloads at first level is ridiculous. For a 1-level dip, a gunslinger gets a LOT out of this archetype - too much. Spreading this ability over the levels would have made much more sense. Not getting near my game.

Rangers get 5 new, very well-crafted combat styles with firearms, polearm, quarterstaff, spear and unarmed as well as the entrapper archetype, which would be the saboteur/ranger crossover. Shamans may elect to go metal shaman in a well-crafted, rather cool option and skalds may become ancestral warriors, gaining an ancestral weapon that increases in potency over the levels...yeah, you've seen that trope before.

Obviously, the new classes are not forgotten either: Vanguards electing to become arcane menders can heal via their construct's mending touch and may only imbue protective and healing spells, while getting limited spells from the cleric's list - cool! The Steelbound Warden gets weapon, armor or shield as bonded object and basically replaces his companion with this object - the pet-less vanguard, if you will. Nice! The transmuter replaces his imbuing with the means of changing the basic composition of objects. Archivists perhaps are the most versatile regarding additional options here: They may choose from 12 focused studies, which can be considered to be minor modifications of their chosen study - whether it's animal companions, magic disruption or controlling gravity - there are a bunch of useful and well-presented options here.

The Saboteur may elect to become an ambush specialist or a demolitionist - these guys can convert their regular traps in bomb-like charges that scale as 1d6 per 2 class levels +1d6 per trap slot level converted. This damage thus eclipses that of the comparable alchemist bomb class feature by trap level and additionally, the charges damage is not halved versus objects AND bypasses hardness depending on the level. It should be noted that this explosion cannot be avoided by guys with evasion and the like since the save is Fortitude-based. While the alchemist has superiority regarding customization of bombs, the sheer damage output, combo potential and options to create truly devastating death traps means that this guy will only see action in my most high-powered of games, even though I like its concept. The ruin raider gets an on-the fly versatile intuition bonus, can learn movement rates/sight-types and learn symbol spells.

Okay, I already dabbled in feats, so let's make the remainder of this review quick, shall we? Beyond the aforementioned metascript feats, we receive an array of metaconstruction feats, which basically constitute metamagic for traps. These work pretty much as you'd expect, increasing level, needing to be built-in upon preparing the traps, etc. - but seeing how quickly you can prepare traps, they are significantly more useful than their much maligned regular brethren. The next new feat-class provided are technique feats, which usually are named after outsiders. These feats are activated as a swift action, whereupon you enter the associated stance; tricks and benefits of a specific feat only apply while in this stance and follow-up effects similarly only work while in the associated technique: When in Angel Technique's stance, you get the benefits from that stance but can't use the abilities granted from Protean Technique's stance and its follow-up feats. Sounds familiar? Yeah, this is basically a huge array of [Style]-feats by another name, with one crucial difference - they are specifically intended for use with WEAPONS and do not work when unarmed.

Changing techniques is a swift action. The feats per se are powerful, if situational: Asura Motion, for example, provides bonus damage when striking multiple targets in one round - per additional foe hit in a given round, +2d6, up to +4d6. Annoyingly, the feat fails to specify damage type, which means that the bonus damage is the almighty unmitigated untyped damage. In this chapter, you can find a couple of these hiccups in the author's otherwise mostly flawless rules-language - while mostly negligible à la "Creatures do not get an attack roll benefit...", it's still something I noticed. that being said, there also are pretty awesome tricks like whip-grapple synergy with instant draw to an adjacent square, harder to heal bleed damage and there also is a take on the standard action-TWF-attack. Over all, the feats are interesting, though not as polished as the majority of this book. And yes, the pdf specifies the interaction of Technique and Style feats: In short - no dice. Overall, this chapter's technique feats generally impressed me and represent certainly a rather cool variant of style feats that can (and should) be expanded further - kudos!

The chapter on spells, finally, introduces the meta-descriptor alongside a metric ton of new spells, some of which interact, obviously, with class features of the new classes herein, whereas others extend the options of more vanilla classes. Temporarily liquefying objects (sans harming them), ranger level 3 spells to perform a full-BAB attack versus each foe in reach...interesting. Armor-manipulation, scattering objects, symbols of locking - there are a lot cool ideas here! Finally, there are special abilities for weapons and armor as well as an arsenal of magic items for your perusal, several of which, once again, interact with class features introduced herein, with rune magic items and lavishly-depicted unique weaponry, metascript rods and talismans of power (pearls of power for scripts) complementing the book's content.

It should be noted that the artists get proper recognition with all pieces individually credited and that the feat-section for example, sports a full-blown table for handy reference. Finally, the book has an excessive, well-crafted index that makes handling it rather comfortable.


Editing and formatting, in spite of my nitpickery, can be considered excellent on both formal and rules-language levels - there are almost no glitches herein, which is a significant feat for a crunch book of this size. Layout adheres to Ascension games clean, elegant 2-column full-color standard and the book sports copious amount of beautiful full-color artwork that manages to mostly retain a unified style, which is pretty awesome to see. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can't comment on the print version, since I do not own it.

Christopher Moore's Path of Iron is a truly impressive, massive book of balls to the wall CRUNCH. The most significant and defining characteristic when describing his unique design-style is probably that this book feels like a Paizo-book. It's design-aesthetics, rules-language, presentation - the whole shebang not only looks like a Paizo-crunch book, it feels like one. The class design paradigms are very close to what you'd see in Paizo material and the precision, even in complex rules-interactions, can simply not be denied. This is, craftsmanship-wise, rather excellent, in spite of the few minor hiccups. (And yes, there are plenty of those in Paizo books as well - depending on the book, more than herein.)

So, what about the artistry? Well, I did write in my review of Path of Shadows that Christopher Moore's design was pretty conservative and it still is - however, when he lets loose, he goes full out: The Rune Magic's modularity with the escalation bar-type runic charge reads nice on paper, but it plays friggin' amazing. It adds a completely new tactical dimension to playing a caster and frankly, is just capital letters fun and by far my favorite component of the pdf, in spite of e.g. the wording of the alter form scripts I quoted being a bit confusing upon first reading: Establishing primary and secondary abilities as nomenclature would have made them clearer, but that's just me being a rules-language snob - they work, and that is what counts.

The saboteur, on the other side, imho suffers a bit from having his traps basically being relegated to a limited selection of delayed spells - the framework is great, the rules-language is precise and no, this will not influence my review, but personally, I was a bit disappointed to see the traps of the class being just another version of spells. That might be me and the class is a cool playing experience, particularly with the new spells herein that add a whole roster of tactical tricks, but still - I found myself wishing the class had actually unique traps. Perhaps I was just too excited about the concept, but for now, that niche will be continued to be filled by Drop Dead Studios' Vauntguard in my games.

Of all the classes, I was least excited about the vanguard - having reviewed too many pet-robot/summoner-ish classes already, I was not expecting to really like this one: By axing the whole evolutions-bit and replacing them with augmentations, by introducing the rather rewarding concept of resonance, I couldn't really help spite of my prejudices, I ended up enjoying the class.

As for the supplemental material - in the vast majority of cases, it is interesting, excellent even. At the same time, however, there do exist components within the pages of this book that are OP or could have used a whack with the nerf-bat - and this is not me speaking about design-aesthetic preferences. That being said, these hiccups are few and far how to rate this? See, this is where my job gets hard, so let me way lyrical for a second:

If path of iron was personified as a golem of iron standing in front of you, it would be polished to a dazzling shine that stuns you at first glance - only at close inspection you'll notice a few unpleasant pieces of rust and make a mental note to yourself that this and that component would require a bit of sanding off. The golem works and does its job smart and admirably and the creator has added some cool protocols and functionality you never saw before and you love them, but once in a while, it emits a grating creak. That's pretty much this book to me - a great offering, mostly refined to perfection, with some minor flaws that stand out more due to the book's otherwise impeccable presentation. So how do I rate this? I've thought long and hard and compared this with similar big crunch books I picked apart and ultimately decided on a final verdict based on the sheer amount of great material versus the slightly tarnished bits. Hence, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Iron
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Path of Iron
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/10/2016 08:55:21

As always, Ascension Games brings its best to the table, and presents us with another hefty tome that not only provides a plethora of options for players and GMs alike, they do so in a way that is at once novel and digestible, giving us options that will appeal to any and every character, old or new, wishing to add a bit of spice to their character. Let's get started...

This book clocks in at 165 pages, and they make the most of it. Right off the bat, the art is top form. What I wasn't happy with, though, was the speed at which the pdf loads from page to page. This might be an issue resolved with an update, but I remember this happening with Path of Shadows. I can understand how such a beautifully made product would take a while to load, but it begs for a printer friendly version is such a change would make it easier to navigate, or at least print out for perusal.

For this, the Path of Iron, a unique thematic direction is explored. Where you might have once used wall of iron, heat metal, or any number of runes, symbol of glyph spells in the past, this book takes those themes and runs with them. You might find metal manipulation a d constructs interesting, but even if you don't, this book demands that you take a second look, and makes it worth your while.

Right off the bat, the different character choices are evocative, well defined, not quite the same as other classes yet easy enough to internalize for play without being a "Pathfinder Expert". This is an excellent method of player option design that grows out rather than up by presenting new and intriguing options rather than ones that are simply improved over older designs.

Almost as though they had known that 5th edition would follow suit, Path of Shadows (much like some Dreamscarred Press classes) has baked in archetypes, on top of more traditional and optional ones. These choices are not merely different or interesting, but they change the entire thematic of the class without diluting its uniqueness.

While it is harder to classify the classes into the traditional paradigms (i.e. healer, damage dealer, control, etc) that is actually a boon. These classes tend to either provide multiple avenues of problem solving without either devaluing other classes or becoming overpowered in the sense that wizards perceived to be.

Using a good portion of established rules in new and ingenious ways, they avoid the problem of making new classes that require new and strange rules to fit into the 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that is Pathfinder. There is a sense of seamlessly interlocking with the system and becoming part of its unique math driven ecosystem without seeming stale or rote.

Additional material, while almost required for new classes for Pathfinder, have the same amazing care and attention that do so much for this book. You don't have to pick from the three new class offerings to benefit from this book. There are so many spells, feats, archetypes, magic items that all overflow with the thematic flavor of this book that you may want to run a campaign just from the ideas presented therein. Your current characters can more than benefit from any range of material from this product, and you will likely be flipping through it to absorb as much of it as you can, like I have been. You won't find issue with the mechanics. The people responsible for this book were thorough and precise, I assure you.

My only regret is that I did not have this book for my android character running through the Iron Gods Adventure Path. This material fits so well into that setting and especially for my character concept that it would have been the only book I needed to make my character even more memorable! I may even try to do the AP again using this book; that's how freaking good it is!!

Please, buy this book. I'd rate it 6 stars if I could. For now, 5 stars and the Elven Wizard Seal will have to do.

Seriously though, buy this book. Use magnets, control golems, and scribe mighty runes! You won't regret it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Iron
by Mark M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2015 12:14:01

Spectacular, I am a huge fan of the Vanguard Class, it is a ton of fun to play.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Shadows
by William B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/19/2015 21:11:29

First of all, I was given a copy of this product in exchange for a review just to be up front about this. Secondly, when it comes to magic I have a weakness for three types, mostly because of my extensive reading of fantasy literature. Those three are, in no particular order, truename magic, magic cast by or augmented by music or done as a function of music, and shadow magic. My favorite character in all my years of gaming was the 28th level straight progression shadowcaster from Tome of Magic. So, preliminaries aside, let’s get into the meat of this product. The Path of Shadows is an 81 page pdf, with a front and back cover, a credits page, an OGL page, a compatibility notice page and a table of contents, leaving a whopping 75 pages of content. The book is broken into five chapters, one covering the new class, the Nightblade, one for new archetypes and class options, one for feats, one for spells and one for new magic items and equipment. Options and references to other Pathfinder core rule books are clearly notated in the text, making it easy to backtrack to already existing content. The Nightblade is a 20th level mixed martial/limited caster with a medium BAB, poor Fortitude saves and good Reflex and Will saves. They have simple weapon proficiencies plus a few additional weapons to give them more combat options. The Nightblade can wear light armor without incurring any arcane spell failure, but medium and heavy armor is a limiting factor for this. From a casting perspective, the Nightblade has everything from cantrips to sixth level spells. Now what makes the Nightblade really interesting is the abilities that they are granted at each level. It is also nice to note that there are no dead levels across any of the levels, so kudos to the designer in that regard.
At first level, the Nightblade chooses a Path and once chosen remains in that path for the duration. The designer gave us five paths with such evocative names as, the Path of the Bloodied Chain, Path of the Darkened Fortress, Path of the Eternal Night, Path of the Ravaging Void, and Path of the Twilight Veil. Each path gives a unique set of abilities tied to the theme of the path, with powers increasing periodically over the twenty levels.
Additionally the Nightblade gains Nightblade Arts. These appear to me to function much like the rogue talents and are offered every third level. There are a core set of them and then each path offers additional choices that are again centered around the theme of each Path. Further, the Nightblade gains a Path power, much like the Sorcerer’s Bloodline power, that improves over the course of the levels.
Another power that the Nightblade gains is the Shadow Surge which functions similarly to a ki pool, but there is not a maximum number of times that it can be used per day. The Nightblade starts with the ability to hold one shadow surge and uses it to fuel the surge ability designated within the Path. Finally, there are the Path Techniques that are again tied to the Path selected that provide another very cool mechanic to affect the environment around them. The nightblade at 20th level can hold up to three surges and again use them to fuel their path surge ability. As the Nightblade progresses in level, the dark stops withholding secrets from them, granting abilities such as Evasion, Hide in Plain Sight, Nighteye and See in Darkness Spells. What to say about them. While they do have a limited custom spell list, the author has drawn spells from all the major core source books, in addition to adding his own take on new spells. The spells are largely geared around the shadow subschool, and the Darkness descriptor. There is a whole chapter totaling some seventy new spells designed to maximize the use of shadows for all classes.
Many core and base classes are also offered new archetypes or new bloodlines, rage powers, a mystery or curse, including several archetypes for the Nightblade. Each one presents a new and interesting option for the class in question. 15 new feats are given to enhance the use of shadows for classes taking these shadow abilities and 10 new racial feats for fetchlings and wayangs.
The last chapter is devoted to new magical gear and equipment to again augment the users of shadow, from weapons to wondrous items.
Two final thoughts on this book, one is that it is nicely bookmarked and wonder of wonders, contains an index.
Now to provide a summary and rating. Bottom line is that I could go on for several more pages talking in more depth about what this PDF provides for lovers of shadow magic because frankly it is that good. I have not done a playtest on this, but compared it against my 28th level shadowcaster from Tome of Magic, again, my favorite character ever, and was not left wanting. Ok, that technically isn’t quite true. I’d like more Paths. What the author has done here is offered us a hand out and a step up in a major way from the Tome of Magic Shadowcaster and really any of the base classes from the Shadow Magic chapter and given us a way to move forward. Kudos on a job well done. If you are a fan of shadow magic, this is a must, and really if you are a fan of superb, well thought out design, you owe yourself a favor to pick this up. I give this a five star rating. Now I just need to find a campaign where I can play one.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Shadows
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Path of Shadows
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2015 20:06:59

Review of Path of Shadows-

Continuing in a series of reviews, I have been offered a review copy of Path of Shadows, and found it to be most excellent! Right off the bat, we have good writing and exposition in the opening pages.

Immediately diving into the Nightblade class, I noticed that on paper (as I have not playtested the material) everything appears balanced and well rounded, but distinct enough to set the class apart from traditional classes. Initially, the class appears to be a “Rogue-esque Magus”, but both versatile and defined in a way that you could have a Nightblade and a Rogue (or even a Magus for that matter) in the same party without much overlap or conflict.

What especially intrigues me about the class is the implementation of their “surge” ability, which creates an interesting action economy that seeks to balance powers used per encounter without making Nightblades susceptible to diminishing resources over numerous encounters.

So many options exist for this class, especially with the built in paths and extra archetypes in a later chapter that I could even see a party of two or more Nigthblades being a viable and interesting campaign option. Furthermore, the intentions to allow other classes to receive a taste of the Nightblade’s abilities is a fascinating developmental experiment, and one that I would deem a success.

Reading through feats and archetypes was especially fun, being the showcase of the book. Many of the ideas within Path of Shadows are rendered within the context of familiar classes, making it far more digestible than a dense (but fun) 20 level base class. Moreover, it stokes the curiosity of the reader so as to implore them to read the book in its entirety; such a thing is a rare accomplishment for such an ambitious supplement.

Feats in particular were yet another ingenious way to customize characters towards a focus on shadow. They appear to do a great job of helping players to realize shadow heavy concepts without the commitment of an archetype or class levels. Many of these feats are interesting and balanced enough to be put into an official Pathfinder product, and I was very pleased with them, perhaps so much that I may very soon find use for them in a current game.

I could also tell that a lot of special care was given into the Spell section. Here I began to notice a heavy focus on actual lighting effects as a game mechanic, which is interesting given the recent blog post by Mark Seifter. The entire conceptual framework of these spells as they apply to lighting rules falls under a tricky area with me (rules that make it necessary to consider an often ignored aspect of the game, such as encumbrance). However, here it seems organic and plausible, opening up an arena for sneaking and shadow-crafting that is relatively simple and interesting, while being no more rules heavy than current rules for illusions or summoning.

Spells that play with summoning shadow as a semi-tangible thing (such as Shadow Terrain and Shadow Structure) are fantastic, and well within the wheelhouse for shadow-mages of all sorts. Some of these spells seem especially potent (such as Shadow Field) and could potentially be re-examined for balance, but such cases were rare. If I had one other quibble, it would be with the Shadow Necromancy line of spells, which while thematically interesting, is realistically just another way for Sorcerers and Wizards to bypass intentional limitations to their classes.

On the other hand, the Summon Horror line of spells was amazing, and something that the game very much needed. Shadow themes aside, I am more than happy to implement villains that choose to summon aberrations, as it goes a long way towards creating a memorable encounter that stands out from the typical summoning faire.

As a side note, the artwork for Umbral Defender is amazing.

Finally, the magic item chapter was solid, though perhaps a bit less impressive than the rest of the book, and by necessity. The armor abilities are creative and good, especially as they would apply to a shadow-themed character. The weapons and weapon abilities are equally intriguing and elicited a second glance. The miscellaneous items were quite nice as well, thematically sound and filling in the niche left by the new spells. While relatively small, this section did a fantastic job of supplementing the rest of the material, and offering a good toolbox for characters that desire shadow themed magic items.

Some final thoughts on the book overall: A printer friendly file would be nice, but I have been spoiled by other companies that provide this. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, and the quality of this pdf is excellent. I’d also like to extend kudos for crediting artists so thoroughly. I love that kind of gratitude and moreover, it helps me recognize favored artists in the future.

I summation, I give this book a 5/5, as it has exceeded all of my expectations, even after reading many other similarly positive reviews!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Shadows
by Ray C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2015 00:00:48

I already wrote a full review elsewhere. As HTML code is not allowed, I'd advise you to search for "3rd Party Pathfinder Review: Path of Shadows" on Min-Max Boards or Giant in the Playground's respective D20 subforums. There I examine what the book has to offer with an in-depth, chapter-by-chapter analysis.

For an abridged review, this product is well worth your money. It has a little something for every character concept, except perhaps for non-casting martial classes save the Barbarian. The nightblade class is a cool mage-thief type who utilizes a path system for a variety of character concepts based on whether they manipulate shadow for illusion, damaging elements, illusion, the cold powers of death, or the manipulation of shadow energy to create pseudo-physical objects.

Many of the class features, spells, and magic items have good synergy with each other, and the author does a good job at taking care of potential infinite combo cheese. There is shadow magic of many different schools other than just illusion, and evocation-lovers will be pleasantly surprised to find their brand of magic highly represented.

Finally, the artwork is downright beautiful. Path of Shadows is a solid first entry for Ascension Games, and provides a lot of material suitable for many kinds of Pathfinder games.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Shadows
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/14/2015 17:54:50

Okay, I was gifted this product as a review so I really want to dig in get deep, but before I get to actually reading it I’d like to take a look at the description again re-evaluate my relationship with the subject.

So Path of Shadows is about, er, shadows. It promises to give all kinds of new options for characters including a new base class all revolving around shadows, darkness, and other emo nouns. But really, why would I need this? I know it’s often difficult to stick to your gimmick with Pathfinder’s casting system but how hard can it be to make a character based on shadows and exactly how worthwhile is it to do that? Say I want to make Dhampir emomancer named… Drake. I want him to have cool and broody powers based on shadows and darkness because vampires. Its a common enough cliche concept that you expect to be supported so Drake will be my measuring stick.

I guess I’m a magic user, and I have charisma so I’ll go to the basic charisma casters first, Sorcerer and Oracle. And BOOM I already have a Shadow bloodline and I guess a Dark Tapestry mystery. Don’t need the book already. Although I can’t find all that many spells with the darkness descriptor. Maybe Black Tentacles counts, but not too much shadow going on. I guess there’s not much shadows can do. The shadow bloodline gives some cool powers but I’m a bit disappointed by the spells to support it. Maybe I do need this book. Its looking like Drake does if he wants his concept to be vivid. Well as of this sentence I have yet to read it so let me take a look inside to see what Drake can do.

After introductions, including a blurb about the low amount of shadow magic in the game, we get to chapter 1 and the new base class, The Nightblade. Its a general half-caster chassis. ¾ BAB, 6 skill ranks, 6/9 casting from it’s own list using charisma, good will and reflex saves. The class features are interesting and have some flavor to them. A lot of things are fueled by a ‘shadow surge’. Shadow surges are unlimited but you can only have one at a time and it takes a standard action to make one. You can spend the shadow surge on various other class features. It reminds me of psionic focus or maneuvers. There's a bit of teleportation through shadows and some extra surges among other abilities. Honestly there’s a lot here that I didn’t realise that I wanted to do. Its either a martial debuffer, illusionist or evoker depending on how you play your cards, and the shadow surge mechanic makes sure that you’ll never run out of interesting things to do. I’m surprised similar action economy resources aren’t in Pathfinder’s core rules. Nothing is overpowered but Drake is pretty happy. there’s enough shadowy things to do although you have to creatively describe some of the spells you cast. It is more than just an oogity boogity class but it looks like I can pump Drake full of cool abilities he’d like.

Chapter two gives us some new options for Nightblades and other classes, including a dew Advanced Class Guide classes. Alchemist, Antipaladin and Rogue win out on the cool factor here, other than that there's nothing to get too excited about unless you really want to run your darkness themes. The Nightblade archetypes are really nice though.

Chapter three’s feat list is short but to my surprise there isn’t one feat that I wouldn’t consider taking. There’s even some Wayang and Fetchling feats in there for you.

Of course there are a bunch of new spells all for shadow themes. and again I’m surprised as to how many I considered taking. This is really a book that doesn’t give much filler or trap options in terms of spells and feats.

The magic items are standard things. cool abilities but nothing people will pick up because they rely on specific things to maintain their builds but they look like cool abilities.

I would have expected the Nightblade to be pretty okay but its a pretty diverse class while keeping to it’s theme. The options for other classes are mostly take or leave but the spells and feat sections are really superb. I can also do way more with a shadow theme with it than I could without it. A lot more. I was skeptical about this product because I was not interested in such a narrow focus but it expands your options to a good degree and I don’t think Drake would be as cool as a character without it. I’ll give it 5 stars. It gives a lot of care for a subject that is neglected and does it in a pretty concise and well written way. I cannot wait to see what else Ascension Games pulls up next because this is a pretty dynamite first product.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of Shadows
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/09/2015 05:42:57

An review

This freshman offering of Ascension Games clocks in at 81 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 75 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

Disclaimer: This book went up in my review-queue do to me receiving a dead tree copy and not having to print everything out. My review's verdict was in no way influenced by receiving this copy.

Ah, shadow magic - scarcely a concept in 3.X has been so prominent and yet so utterly ill-defined and mechanically sucky. Thankfully, 3pps have a knack for singling out such systems and then developing them -take a look at Radiance House's Pact Magic, Interjection Games' Truenaming or Dreamscarred Press' Akashic Mysteries, for examples. In the meanwhile, Interjection Games has provided us with two classes, which, in theme, oscillate between light and darkness, the edgewalker and the antipodist, but that's it, to my knowledge. One massive issue of the original shadowmagic was its exceedingly restrictive nature and the balancing just...well. Not working, at all.

So can this pdf remedy this much maligned, but utterly stylish power-source? The pdf kicks off with a massive introduction, including explanations for the reference abbreviations used and then dives into the Nightblade base class - the nightblade receives d8, 6+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, longsword, scythe, rapier, short sword, shortbow and spiked chain and light armors, but not shields. Shields and armor heavier than light incurs arcane spell failure chances. Nightblades also receive spontaneous spellcasting via Charisma of up to 6th level, drawn from their own spell-list. The class also receives 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. Evasion is gained at second level and this level also provides access to the so-called shadow surge - this is an expendable resource that can be gained as a standard action that provokes attacks of opportunity. Several nightblade abilities require the expenditure of a shadow surge - think of it as the class's analog of the psionic focus. with the additional caveat that a nightblade may expend shadow surges to reroll Stealth checks - for actually competent sneaking. At 8th and 17th level, the nightblade can store +1 surge, so that's a deviation from psionic focus. Abilities like increasing darkvision (with worthwhile alternate benefits if you already have it!), hide in plain sight at 8th level (where I can stomach it!) and yes, dimension door hopping - with caveats for feat-qualification etc. High level nightblades may see perfectly in the dark and when they cast shadow conjurations etc., they increase the real component of their shadows.

At 3rd level, the nightblade receives a nightblade art, +1 every three levels thereafter - think of these as the nightblade's talents; when applicable, the save scales via the plus half level + cha-mod-formula. Now while you can get combat and metamagic feats via these talents, they actually provide very unique benefits for the discerning gamer -benefits that significantly deviate from rogue talents etc. and help enforce a unique identity - while effects like full speed stealth plus miss chance upgrade for concealment gained from darkness to total concealment-levels, increases to touch attack AC and higher level options to expend shadow surges to attack against touch AC would pretty much all be options I'd somewhat expect a shadow-themed character to be able to pull off. On paper, attacking versus touch attack by expending shadow surges may look pretty nasty, but the 1/round limit imposed by action economy and the need to regain shadow surges means that this option is powerful, but thanks to the level-prereq and the requirement for set-up, in game actually worked rather well. It should be noted that tank-y creatures, dragons and similar creatures with bad touch ACs should take heed around nightblades, but that is something that is just as true for magi and similar characters, so no balance complaints there.

However, beyond these more conservative ones, there are some talents that can be considered ambitious from a mechanical point of view: Take force teleporting foes or shifting shadow/darkness-related spells from target to target - these are not simply concepts to translate into crunch, much less crunch that is concise enough to withstand my nitpicking of terminology and looking for loop-holes. Kudos where kudos are due - I consider tackling such complex options in a freshman offering, with this level of competence, nonetheless, an impressive feat!

Obviously, now, the defining feature of shadow magic back in the day was the structure of paths, which required some planning, yes, but also provided a feeling of organic development. Nightblades must select a path at 1st level - but within each path techniques loom: One is gained at first level, one at 5th and every 5 levels thereafter -these can be likened to the linear gain of order or bloodline abilities. They are also more than just the addition of techniques - each path comes with a path power, modifies the shadow surge to sport additional options AND modifies the list of available nightblade arts by adding exclusive arts to the list available, providing an element of player agenda that is absent from the linear ability progressions of cavaliers, sorcerors etc.. So yes, the choice of one of the 5 paths is the most important one for the nightblade and radically changes the way in which the given classes play - this extends to the point where the paths offer a more distinct variety in playing experience than most archetypes offer over the base classes they modify. It should also be noted that e.g. path powers scale in their potency and the paths also determine the capstone ability gained.

So what are the paths about? The path of the Bloodied Chain offers the option to conjure forth umbral shackles that entangle creatures, while also adding fear-based effects at higher levels - i.e. you receive some rather powerful and unique terrain-control options. The theme of fear-based debuffs also is represented in the shadow surge ability, which allows you to extend the fear-based conditions on your adversaries. This and the fear-themed techniques gained render this path a good friend to Dreamscarred Press's Dread-class; in my playtests, the two worked together as a nasty double-team that could actually offset the lack of a primary melee class. And no, I do not consider this one to be broken, though combining the dread's immunity-breaker with the nightblade proved to be very efficient. It should also be noted that intimidate can cause full-blown "frightened" as a condition for this path. The exclusive arts here provide for some awesome visuals - beyond detecting fear, adding bleed damage to the umbral chains at 9th level or centering the chains on the nightblade, rendering the effect mobile at 15th level.

The second path, the path of the darkened fortress, can be likened to shadow magic's kind-of-but-not-really magus, blended with duelist-tricks: For example, weapons can be conjured forth and enhanced with special abilities, but they remain shadowy. The shadow surge can be used as an immediate action for a significant self-buff that starts as being applied only to a single attack (GOOD!) and then scales up to lasting a turn at 10th level. The path abilities net you arcane bond, but with a variant - both object and familiar-choices can be blended with your form - which can be rather significant in the context of infiltrations. The path also helps with the crafting of magic items, allowing the nightblade to ignore progressing amounts of spell prerequisites. Fortification-style effects are also part of the deal and high level nightblades with this path receive their own pocket dimension in the plane of shadows. The arts available allow for the extension of weapon qualities and also sport e.g. the option to enhance the bonded object/familiar with unique benefits. Extending the ability to create shadow armament to ranged and dual weapons should also be considered pretty interesting, especially since the latter (one playtest candidate, btw.) sport a balancing mechanic that is simple, yet efficient.

The path of eternal night provides you with a means of creating a short-range energy vortex of negative energy that may not heal, but frighten undead. The shadow surge use here requires a standard action to enforce a reroll of a d20, but can only target a creature once per 24 hours. The path abilities of this rather sinister path allows the nightblade to destroy creatures that are dying and use them to power himself - think of it as a powerful, death knell like effect. This ability would be very strong, especially since the action economy scales and goes down from standard action to swift action - however, the smart choice of a daily limite rendered this a viable ability in game. Interesting would be an immunity not gained by most classes - the path renders immune to negative energy damage, which renders these folks exceedingly effective at killing hostile clerics - interesting! The path also sports an option to make a foe's shadow rise up against the adversary. The arts allow for additional means of enhancing corruption, with e.g. damage upon leaving the aura etc. All in all, an interesting path as well.

The path of the ravaging void gets a very interesting path power, which allows you to change the energy type of energy spells - which is pretty much an awesome trick and though it extends to supernatural abilities, the wording covers those. So far, this has been pretty much a homerun, but alas, the shadow surge herein imho can require a more distinct scaling mechanism - the shadow surge is a ranged touch attack with a range of 30 ft. that deals 1d6 cold damage, +1d6 per 2 levels +cha-mod. While the damage itself is not impressive when thinking about the fact how shadow surges etc. eat actions, the scaling feels a bit off still - perhaps I'm spoiled by Interjection Games' ethermagic, but as far as warlock-y blasts go, this, while not bad or broken due to the limited range, could have imho used some more versatility. The path techniques provide elemental resistances and allow you to suffuse your elemental spells with shadow energy, adding debuff effect insults to the elemental injury - I really like this idea-wise! Now where things become very interesting would be the option to expend spell-slots to duplicate elemental energy damage dealing spells, which, however, only remain partially real. A handy table spares you making calculations or the like, so kudos. All in all, this can be considered the battle mage among the paths, with severe distortion effects that play well with damage-casters and psionics.

The final path would be the path of the twilight veil and I LOVE the path power - based on HD of the target, the spatial distortions caused by the shadows can provide devastating debuffs to the target creatures and 2nd level nightblades of this path can additionally turn invisible via shadow surges. Where the ravaging void is the sledgehammer, the twilight veil would be the scalpel - several illusion-themed techniques and arts allow for serious customization of illusion tricks. Furthermore, the power-enhancing arts are pretty cool here, allowing you to affect creatures usually immune to your distortions. This is kind of the oddball, the one among the paths that imho requires the most investment, but in the hands of a capable player, it may very well be the most rewarding - the exceedingly nasty distortion power can cover somewhat the terrain control and the almost unlimited invisibility are powerful indeed when handled correctly. Why am I not shrieking for the nerfbat? Easy - the invisibility can't be stacked/prolonged, keeping the character from staying out of sight ALL the time. Still, this enables a nasty guerilla style gameplay that has found its fans at my table. The class also sports FCOs for aasimar, dhampir, drow, fetchling, tiefling, wayang and core races.

The next chapter is devoted to a plethora of archetypes and new class options with shadow magic, obviously, as a unifying theme. Alchemists can e.g. modify their body to benefit from the nightblade's enhanced concealment efficiency or craft bombs that duplicate effects of darkness and better sight etc. are part of the deal. There is also an antipaladin who receives a potent, scaling aura of darkness that allows himself and his allies to see through the, later damaging blackness. Barbarians can choose from two totem power trees (and an unaligned one), wherein an already existing bite is enhanced or add str-damage to her attacks while also receiving defenses versus certain conditions. Both have in common that they require certain build types and enhance them and both, to me, feel a bit on the strong end - dice increase + crit x3 for a bite via one rage power is a tad bit too nasty in my book, especially seeing how this also nets full Str-bonus when using bites in conjunction with other natural attacks...And yes, I do have such a claw/bite-barbarian in my game and if they do not need one thing, then it's a way to deal even more damage...

Shadow priests channeling darkness instead of regular energy, bloodragers with a new custom bloodline, anti-disease lunar guardian druids - all pretty solid. The stygian striker magus can be envisioned as the nightblade crossover - less frontlines, for skirmishing (with evasion etc. and modified saves to back this up) and the monk archetype provided is also one that should be considered relatively solid, with ki allowing for more flurry attacks. Oracles can suffer from a curse that makes people forget them and choose a new mystery, while paladins can opt to channel light to dispel and suppress all those nasty effects. Rogues may wilder in nightblade arts and shamans may choose the new darkness spirit.

Nightblades, thankfully, also can join the archetype-fun: Caster/summon-themed Dark Conjurors, a more martially-inclined one (thankfully with path restriction to avoid warlock-y abuse),a rogue-crossover with sneak attack et. al and an infiltration-specialist can also be found. Finally, there is an archetype that pays for the access to two paths at once with a crippled progression of the shadow surges, paying for an increased array of options with less on-the-fly-flexibility and spells.

Fans of shadow-themed races like fetchlings and wayangs may enjoy the feat-section particularly - there are quite a few racial feats for them to set them apart, with generally a fitting theme of shadows, darkness-enhancing, etc. - modifying a summon-list's half-celestial/fiendish creatures to instead be shadow creatures would be an example here. Overall, these feats felt solid, but didn't blow me away per se. Good craftsmanship.

The spell-chapter does provide a cool rules-clarification for spells utilizing the shadow of the caster and provide, obviously, a significant means of providing shadow/light-control. Interesting for other classes - there are spells herein which interact with e.g. shadow surges, making the latter not just an isolated class feature. Interesting would be terrain control spells to confine targets in e.g. areas of darkness, while shadowy wings that can also be used to attack foes and furthermore, allows for channeling 1/cast - nasty and versatile, but I like it. From the ageing capstone, there are other interesting effects - for example, a complex spell which alters an illusion to allow for the execution of quasi-real attacks via the infusion of shadow stuff - as such area attacks, attacks, energy etc. are covered with unique benefits. There are also lunar prophecies or the option to conjure forth the all-consuming maw of the nightwave. Ways to suppress extraordinary senses would also be an interesting move for spells. However, there also are minor modifications/improved versions, like e.g. a darkness/cold-based variant of flaming sphere. Shadow-based necromancy spell-duplication is also covered, as are chaotic overlaps between planes. I also like the concise definition of shadow length for attacks on a shadow, which reflects its damage to the origin of the caster. A new spell-class to summon evil, horrific creatures also can be found herein. There is also a highly complex class of spells that allows for the conjuration of umbral servants for the nightblades, which essentially act on their own after a nightblade's turn -these are fun, allowing e.g. a called magician to freely apply metamagic to certain spells cast close to it, etc.

The final chapter provides ample new magical weapon/armor qualities and specific items - with artworks depicting them that are downright inspired and rank among the best such I have ever seen in any given supplement - WOW. The twilight reaver scythe looks so badass, I just NEED to show this picture to my players, even without knowing that it's a +2 cold iron keen greater umbral scythe that allows for surge storage on crits...

The pdf also sports a handy two-page index and artist-credits.


Editing and formatting are excellent - I noticed no significant issues while reading this - none. The 2-column full-color layout used in this book is GORGEOUS. I mean it. This is one of the most beautiful roleplaying book I've seen any 3pp produce, an impression also underlined by the GLORIOUS original full-color artwork by Jasmine Mackey, Bryon Oshihiro, Danielle Sands, Al Savell, Nicoleta Stavarache and Trevor Verges - the artworks, from vistas to spells to characters adhere to a glorious style that is uniform and concise. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this book, in visual, aesthetic quality, could have been a Paizo-book. It's that beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but I'd sincerely advise you to get this in print - unlike quite a few PODs, there is no big chance of an errata invalidating this book. This book looks better than quite a few kickstarted books I could name. Yes, THAT beautiful.

What a furious first offering! This is quite frankly the best first offering of crunch I've seen a novice designer produce in ages. Last year saw plenty of adventures of newcomers providing an extremely high quality, but new crunch tends to require most designers some time to get right. Well, this is Ascension Games' first product and it does NOT require any leniency on my part. Author (and layout/editor!) Christopher Moore seems to not only be able to edit his own texts, quite a feat, imho, he also provides a level of professionalism with regards to rules-language one sees scarcely, almost never among novices. The language is so precise, it can be considered on par with the errata'd, good Paizo-books. Beyond that, this pdf offered a level of system-mastery and a level of awareness of obscurer rules I quite frankly almost never get to see. While I have some personal gripes against one component or another herein, none really hold up on a professional level and boil down to personal preferences; number-wise, including extensive playtests, this book held up admiringly well. Few books can claim to withstand this level of deep scrutiny to such an extent, especially considering the level of interaction with obscure and complex elements among the design elements. I was positively surprised to see all of this - but where the book shines most is with the material that takes chances and provides things to do that no other spell or system can achieve - it is the unique effects, which stand out and while I absolutely adore the coverage of just about anything one could ask for in sucha context, I still would have loved to see even more of the inspired, unique effects that can be found herein.

Remember, this is just me being an utterly spoiled bastard of a reviewer - this book is, without engaging in hyperbole, up to the level of crunch-mastery exhibited usually only by established, experienced crunch-masters and blends this with production-values out of this world, visually more on par with Paizo than what you'd expect from a 3pp, much less a new one sans a KS providing the funds. This is a hugely impressive book that catapulted Ascension Games to the landscape of my table and to my radar; I can't help but be excited about the things to come and more such supplements and I certainly hope we'll see more material for the Nightblade - the class is inspired and fun and clearly, its potential is not yet tapped. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation, falling short of becoming a candidate for my top ten of 2015 only by a tiny margin. Still, this is thoroughly, exceedingly, impressive. Congratulations to the Ascension Games-team - you have impressed a jaded reviewer.

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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