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!]