There are some concepts in role-playing games that are too good to let go of. Most of the time, these are broad ones that have become nigh-universal, like hit points or magical healing. But sometimes they become more specific, being a single character class with iconic abilities. Case in point is the warlock class, from the Third Edition of the world’s most popular fantasy RPG. While it’s technically closed content, and so can’t be reprinted, the class is popular enough that it can be recreated under the existing rules.
Which brings us to The Invoker, from Little Red Goblin Games. This thirty-page PDF presents us with their take on bringing the warlock into your Pathfinder game. Let’s see how it works out.
From a technical perspective, the product does alright, but there’s room for improvement. The PDF is set on a grayish-tan background, with slight whorls on alternating sides acting as page borders. There is a hyperlinked table of contents, which is a good thing, but the bookmarks look like they were set as placeholders that were forgotten. Copy and paste is thankfully enabled.
The artwork for the book subscribes to the “less is more” theory. There are, in total, maybe a half-dozen interior illustrations; however, these are of a surprisingly high quality, being not only in full color, but having a stylistic “weight” to them that draws attention, whether the image is an invoker gathering red energy in a fist, or a simple goblet. Hat’s off to interior art guy Carl Potter!
The invoker class itself is presented in the stylistic manner of a typical Pathfinder base class. We’re given the requisite material on their role and alignment before moving into the crunch (though their starting gold is missing, to which I say boo). The class itself is quite solid, being a medium BAB, d8 Hit Die class with one good save and fairly restricted weapon and armor proficiencies.
I need to mention right away that the invoker loses fair amount of class abilities, overall, compared to the warlock. It’s true the invoker gets more of the warlock’s invocations thanks to this class separating blast abilities from incantations, plus the invoker has pacts that it makes, but overall the original warlock does seem slightly more versatile – the invoker can’t detect magic, gets no bonus to Use Magic Device, and can’t creature magic items on their own. The class feels, unto itself, more stripped-down – take from that what you will.
The invoker’s main weapon is their mystic blast, which to those of you who are familiar with the original warlock class will recognize this right away. It has all of the hallmarks of the classic – a ranged touch attack out to 60 feet, untyped damage that goes up by one damage die per two levels. No biggie there, though I frowned at noticing the lack of an ability tag here (e.g. Ex, Sp, or Su), something that was a recurring theme throughout the book. Smart GMs will know that this should be a spell-like ability equal to one-half the invoker’s level (minimum 1, maximum 9).
Helpfully, this class separates out the ability to alter the mystic blast from other abilities that mimic spells, something the original warlock made players choose between. At every fourth level you can choose from either “blast traits” or “blast forms” that modify their mystic blast. These two categories are separate, something which I think wasn’t really necessary, since the distinction between the two types of alterations doesn’t seem to serve much purpose; what bothered me more was that the abilities listed for each seemed to be in no particular order, alphabetical or otherwise (and you can forget about any sort of summary table here).
Most of the classic alterations were here though, such as a flaming blast that can set creatures on fire, one that sickens for a round, etc. I was a bit leery of some of the new, more powerful additions, such as the ability to have your blast do 1d2 Constitution damage (that stacks with itself!). Admittedly, most of these do say that you need to be able to use X-level of incantations (more on those in a minute) to select, but even at the upper levels that’s just asking for abuse (or more construct and undead enemies).
After this, the book takes a sharp turn into more original territory as it presents four different “pacts” that each invoker chooses when the character is created. Much like wizard schools or sorcerer bloodlines (though these have an alignment prerequisite, not inappropriately), these modify your initial class skills while also letting you have your blasts deal a certain type of energy damage (or be typeless, your choice), and provide a small bonus to the blast damage (e.g. -2 to Will saves…presumably for that round only).
The biggest addition these pacts bring to the table is that each has a list of boons and taboos that they bring to the table, with the invoker picking one of each. It’s here that I was most impressed with The Invoker, because these offer some very colorful and inspired material to choose from. If you’re a fey pact invoker, you can give up a cherished memory to apply a metamagic feat to one use of an incantation. Or perhaps you’ll want to be able to call upon a “fairy godmother” (the sort of creature this is is further described) when in need of aid. But you have to pick from taboos like not being able to lie when asked a question thrice, or not accepting a gift without providing equal compensation. It’s worth noting that not all of the taboos are things you have a choice about (e.g. cold iron weapons deal an additional 2d6 to you), but there is a discussion of what happens if you break a taboo. Oh, and lest I forget, each pact offers a hefty end-cap power at 20th level.
My biggest complaint about this section was that there were only four taboos here – demon, devil, fey, and star (the last one of which is Lovecraftian in theme). Hopefully we’ll quickly see some supplementary pacts released, because these are far too few for the book’s highlight feature.
A quick half-dozen or so feats are presented (with one letting a non-warlock earn a boon and a taboo, in what I think was the best feat of them all), before we move onto the incantations.
This section is by far the longest of the book, taking up roughly forty percent of its total page count. Incantations (though I wish they’d gone with a different name since we sort of still have rules for “incantations” – something like “exhortations” would have been better) are spell-like abilities (albeit with verbal and somatic components, and in heavier armors they have a chance of failure) that invokers can learn as they level up. They never get more than eleven of these altogether, and they’re divided into four levels a la spell levels, but they can use them at will.
About fifty incantations are presented altogether, and I was surprised at how good a job was done presenting these as all being some sort of “corrupted” form of magic – some of them require bloodletting (a sidebar describes it in more detail, but it never takes more than one point of damage), for example. Many if not most are based on existing spells with twisted descriptions, like the Borrowed Eyes, Stolen Hands incantation, which allows for scrying (as per the spell) on a creature if you have some possession or body part of theirs, which is lost as part of the casting…but you can implant a suggestion (also as per the spell) into them when you scry on them. It’s like that, all the way through.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that a read-through of this book showed some places where the editing fell down. The Fey Spit boon, for example, cuts off at the end of page eleven and doesn’t conclude. Likewise, the star pact end-cap boon seems to contain the text of what I’m guessing was a (slightly overpowered) feat right after the text for the boon ends.
The worst offender though was the listing for the incantations themselves, which (beyond the occasional issue with text being bold or not bold in the wrong places) listed the “school” of each incantation as simply being “incantation.” This was grating because listing a spell school, along with sub-school and descriptor, govern a lot of how spells are utilized in regards to creatures. Presumably, where these incantations referred to existing spells, you use the existing spell’s information, but that’s needless page-flipping. The Borrowed Eyes, Stolen Hands incantation, for example, should have listed that it was divination and enchantment with the scrying and mind-affecting descriptors. That would have helped a lot for quickly and easily adjudicating some of their effects.
Also, and I can’t hold this against the book itself, there were no expanded class options. By that I mean, I keenly felt the absence of things like new favored class abilities and class archetypes. This isn’t a repudation of the invoker itself; rather, the base idea is well done enough that it cries out for more options. With any luck, we’ll soon have a follow-up supplement that adds both these, some new pacts, and hopefully more.
Overall though, these issues were bothersome but never came close to being deal-breakers. As it is, they’re the primary reason I’m giving this book four instead of five stars, because other than those this did a great job at bringing the warlock into Pathfinder. The Invoker brings all of the good parts of the warlock into your game, while also smoothing over some rough spots (remember how the warlock’s eldritch blast damage dice progression got wonky at higher levels?) and presenting some great new options in the form of pacts. True, the loss of some of the warlock’s signature class abilities does weaken the invoker somewhat, but considering what it gains in return this isn’t a terrible loss. If you want a class like the warlock, but with more options and no Pathfinder conversion necessary, invoke The Invoker at your game table.