An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised and (significantly) improved version
The revised edition of Fighters of Porphyra clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 35 pages of content, which are laid out for use as a digest-size (6’’ by 9’’ or A5), which means that you can print this out and fit up to 4 pages on a page, making it pretty printer-friendly.
The revised pdf sports V.1.1. on the cover, just fyi.
All righty, after the original pdf took a sound beating from yours truly, the Purple Duck crew didn’t just shrug and move on; instead, they sat down and made this upgraded version, so how does it hold up?
Well, first of all, you’ll note that the original pdf’s proposed global rules-changes have been modified: We get 4 + Int mod skills per level and Perception becomes a class skill. A fighter’s Intelligence, if below 13, is treated as 13 for the purpose of prerequisites, representing a workaround for the annoying ability tax. Furthermore, fighters in Porphyra gain good Will-saves. Helpful: All of these proposed rules-changes are explained, including ramifications, making it easy for the GM to determine whether or not to implement them.
The pdf also sports two proposed, new skill uses: Craft gets basically a no-hassle version of its mechanics, which, while not perfect, should be suitable for less simulationalist games. Knowledge (nobility) is expanded to include knowledge of the lore of the land, fighting styles, etc., which makes sense.
One of the issues that combat maneuver specialists will encounter would be the steep feat tax – the pdf suggests the option to merge a couple of them for the purpose of using them: E.g. Improved Bull Rush and Improved Overrun constitute a set; Succeeding on a check with a 10+ margin allows for the application of a feat in the same set as well. This works surprisingly smoothly and significantly better than the somewhat ill-advised original concept of halved feats – kudos for salvaging a very much worthwhile concept.
Okay, the first massive surprise comes in the archetype-section – the Doppelsoldner. (Purely aesthetic nitpick – it should be Doppelsöldner; Söldner being German (Singular and Plural) for mercenary/ies.) These fellows are usually not good or chaotic and modify their proficiency-list to encompass simple and martial melee weapon, simple ranged weapons as well as all armors, but not shields. Instead of the bonus combat feats gained at 2nd, 6th, 12th and 18th level and the lost proficiencies, these fellows gain a linear series of abilities called doppelsöldner drills, focusing on using two-handed weapons. At 1st level, when charging an enemy provokes AoOs, that is double damage for the attack; combat maneuvers instead ignore size restrictions – this still can only be used with brace weapons, but makes for a potent tool; 2nd level nets an AoO triggered, but only 1/round. 4th level adds brace/trip to any two-handed melee weaponry wielded and may substitute melee attacks for a distinct set of maneuvers. Penalty-less attacks versus foes within a weapon’s reach and using weapons as though the item had various qualities, adding reach to regular two-handed weaponry…all in all, interesting, particularly, since the archetype gets the interaction with magical movement codified right. Interesting 2-hand-weapon-specialist.
Next up would be the Elusid, who must be good, gains a modified class skill list and for each skill rank they put in Intimidate, they also gain a rank of Diplomacy…but ONLY for the purpose of making moral arguments. Evil creatures are unfazed. Putting actual ranks into Diplomacy lets them use these as usual – basically, it splits Diplomacy…and is a cool way to depict a rhetorical specialist. This replaces the tower shield proficiency. At 2nd level, elusids gain morale reserve, measured in morale points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier. As an immediate action, an elusid may spend 1 such point to grant himself and all allies within 30 ft. a +1 morale bonus on saves. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter and the ability codifies multi-target effects properly. 3rd level nets the ability to use this bonus on Perception and Sense Motive checks, while 7th level allows for something rather cool, namely penalizing a variety of actions by moral reserve while a foe’s threatened by the elusid; kudos: The pdf managed to cover rules-behavior for actions that constitute as multiple triggering conditions. 11th level lets the elusid use morale reserve to bolster himself against spells and effects with certain descriptors, while 15th level nets the ability to affect multiple targets, while the capstone prevents changes of alignment, as well as being disarmed. The archetype comes with a nice code of conduct…and is a winner. It is interesting, provides meaningful options, has a strong leitmotif and makes for a great mundane, good fighter-face – think Roy from OOTS: The moral compass of the group, with tactics, minor buds, etc. – still very much a fighter, but one that is beholden to ideals without becoming a divine-themed pala. In fact, in a deity-less campaign, I’d consider these guys to be e.g. perfect stand-ins for enlightened humanist martial artists. As a neat plus: Palas that fall can trade in their levels for elusid if they’re still good – in a campaign where the deity turns out to be evil/is corrupted, that can make for an amazing angle.
Giant killers lose medium and heavy armor proficiency and are immune to fear effects caused by humanoids with the giant subtype. Instead of 3rd level’s armor training, these fellows gain scaling bonuses to AC and Reflex-saves while only wearing light armor. Now,, 7th level’s rock evasion interacts with that and also mentions a house-rule I’d strongly suggest pretty much everyone should adopt in one guise or another: 3.X/PFRPG vanilla Rock throwing is wimpy as all hell; either via items, mythic tiers, feats or templates or as a houserule, make them touch attacks that act as ranged bull rush maneuvers. Usually, I’d be weary of such a suggested houserule, but in this case, I can only wholeheartedly applaud it – not only does it make the already pretty wimpy PF-giants more potent, it also enhances the impact of the archetype…and makes sense in game. Oh, and I’ve been playing with basically this by slightly different rules-basics in my home-game forever, so yeah – works!
11th level lets the giant killer move sans provoking AoOs from giants and 15th level nets free overrun, regardless of size, with the scaling bonus added. Additionally, giants felled take damage and 19th level lets the giant killer redirect attacks against adjacent Large or larger creatures. Cool take on the anti-giant specialist.
The immortal would be a racial archetype and must be zendiqi or one of the genasi-races (infrit, oread, sylph, undine); the immortal may not be chaotic and loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency. They begin play with the special weapon and tiarah of their brotherhood; the weapon and tiarah are upgraded later and focus the honor of the character; loss is problematic. The weapon allows for pretty early bypassing of a variety of DRs, while the tiarah nets a save-bonuses versus visual, audible, sonic, and language-dependent effects and occupies the head-slot. 1st level immortals are locked into Old Porphyran as a starting language, representing the insular and xenophobic outlook of the champions of the elemental lords. Starting at 5th level, immortals start inflicting bonus energy damage depending on race (genasi) or bayit (zendiqi) with a chosen weapon group, which is later enhanced, while new weapon groups are unlocked. 7th level nets Leadership with another immortal as a cohort.
Janissaries would be up next; slaves trained and conditioned for war, they lose heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gain one firearm proficiency. They treat scimitars as light weapons and may use Weapon Finesse to apply +Dex-mod to damage instead of Str-mod. Additionally, we get Amateur Gunslinger. Instead of bravery, we get save-bonuses representing conditioning. Instead of 7th level’s potential for full movement in heavy armor, we get the option to immediate action attack with specialized weapons when moving in and out of being adjacent to an enemy.
The Itsukami (aka Lone Wolf) is all about using blades as an aggressive means of defense – foes that roll natural 1s may see their weaponry (or bodies) damaged and the archetype nets improved uncanny dodge as well as the option to add weapon enhancement bonuses to AC, with higher levels pulling off the delimiters of blocking edge without breaking it. Next up would be the Meirger’s, who represent mystic warriors. The editing here is a bit weaker than in the rest of the pdf, they can’t decide whether they’re meiriger, merigers or meirgers. The archetype gets a modified class skill list and at 5th level, adds a chosen energy type as bonus damage to attacks with a chosen weapon group. Cool: The ability differentiates between easier resisted and less common energy types – kudos for that and not lumping them all into one group….though I have a rather big issue with positive and negative energy dealing damage to both living and undead, since RAW, vanilla options provide no means to resist either…and there are ramifications for these suddenly affecting creatures that would usually be immune to them on a cosmology-level…so yeah, not a big fan of that decision. The upgrade component of this component has been properly covered.
Next up would be the pawns, who gain decreased starting wealth and only training with light armor and simple weapons as well as regular shields. These fellows begin with a trade (represented by Craft/Profession) as a means to gather information as though using Diplomacy. They also gain an additional trait and may choose more at higher levels. Interesting: They gain bonuses against targets whose CR exceeds their HD – while this is a bit meta-gamey for my tastes, it does convey the idea of the underequipped hero triumphing against the odds. Pawns have good Will-saves – if fighters already get it due to using the global rules, they get more skills per level. We also get a scaling AC bonus instead of armor training and mastery and at 5th level, the option to treat simple weapons as their own weapon group.
Primevals lose martial weapon and heavy armor and shield proficiency, and are only proficient with simple melee weapons as well as dart, javelin, sling and shortbow. They gain claw attacks (properly codified) that scale as monk unarmed attacks – nice: The limitation of iterative attacks for natural weapons is noted. The primeval may add combat maneuvers to crits via immediate actions and later increases the threat-range of the claws; basically, we have a claw/maneuver specialist here, one that makes most sense in conjunction with the suggested maneuver-set-rules, though it does work without them.
Spellfighters get a modified class skill list and gains proficiency in simple and martial melee weapons as well as simple ranged weapons and light armor. The archetype can cast arcane spells sans failure chance in light armor. Kudos: Only works for the archetype’s spells, which are btw. Cha-governed and are drawn from the wizard list, but only abjuration, evocation and conjuration (creation) spells may e chosen and all other spells are not on the spell-list. The spellcasting progression extends to 6th spell level – basically spontaneous spellcasting. These fellows get +2 to concentration, but MUST deliver spells with a range of touch via a mandatory form of spellstrike…and as a balancing tool for full BAB, the archetype can only deliver such spells when hitting regular AC, making touch attack spells behave as basically regular attacks. The archetype also gets the touch spell weapon group and higher levels provide the expected medium and heavy armor upgrades.
The varonis, the final archetype herein, would be a representation of the wandering folk hero: As such, the archetype loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency in favor of an exotic weapon and may use Handle Animal, Survival and Profession to gather information – you know, working and getting info, as noted in many a tale. We also get bonuses to a few skills and initiative while near roads, dodge bonuses while wearing light armor or none and 5th level rewards skirmishing by adding combat maneuver tricks to standard action attacks, an ability that is expanded at higher levels for an actually working combo engine – nice.
The equipment section provides a variant of the healer kit that allows for multiple daily deadly wound treatments (nice); a second variant allows for substituting Fort-saves for Heal, but provides scarification and Wisdom damage…which makes all kinds of sense to me. You know, the drug-heavy field-medic-style kit? Cool! A helmet that can be used for bite attacks (a s a secondary natural attack) and acts as an exotic weapon can also be found; Tinderclubs that may ignite and we get a weapon particularly associated with janissaries, the trench gun. Then, we get weapon modifications…and, as you know, I’m a huge fanboy of Bloodborne, so yeah: Banghammer with gunpowder? Hybrid weapons? That section is really cool and could have carried a pdf of its own, at least in my book.
The feats are interesting: Combat Prudence acts as Combat Expertise for the purpose of prerequisites and allows you to take a -4 penalty to initiative for +2 AC for one combat. Charge/grapple-combo, better bracing, bypassing DR when inflicting unarmed damage in grapples (not a fan of not differentiating between DRs here, scaling ignoring based on HD would have been more sensible)…but I particularly like the feats to make tower shields Pavises, requiring no longer a hand to hold them when thus set up. Crossbow and firearm specialists will relish the option to add Dex-mod to damage with their chosen weapon – kudos: The feat has a neat anti-abuse caveat. We also get Quick Sheathe as a concept done well. No, that is not all here, but yeah – nice section.
The final part of the pdf contains magic items: There would be a longsword that nets you a lesser globe of invulnerability while drawn; we get an interesting special weapon quality to attack foes with cover or shields…but which may only be applied to very light weapons (2 lbs. or less) as a balancing tool and reason to use such weapons. Mass-produced janissary shields are here as well, and we get a quality for AoOs when an opponent rolls a natural 1 on an attack against the wielder, missiles that quell energy…cool. An armor that unveils nearby Stealth-ing/invisible targets and a particular type of immortal tiarah complement this section.
The pdf comes with a bonus file, the Blindbraun monster by David N. Ross – CR 2, undead dwarves with a horrid wail and a blinding gaze.
Editing and formatting of the revised version are very good on a rules language level and similarly, for the most part, very tight on a formal level. Apart from a couple of minor hiccups, I noticed no glaring glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ 1-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The pdf sports a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with nested bookmarks, etc.
The revision of Aaron Hollingworth’s “Fighters of Porphyra” is a vast improvement. Bringing Carl Cramér on board was obviously a good idea: You see, the original file sported a significant assortment of really cool IDEAS, but the execution was pretty problematic; the rules had issues and didn’t manage to capitalize on the concepts. This pdf, then, would be a case study in why I consider developers and rules editors to be the unsung heroes of the roleplaying scene: I checked the original pdf back to back with this one and the improvements, in many of the small components, are MASSIVE. It’s often with minimal incisions, but suddenly, there are properly working, meaningful engine-tweaks that emphasize the concepts of the archetypes. The most significant improvement, beyond the numerous small tweaks that make stuff, you know, work, would be the complete rewrite of the elusid (now one of my favorite archetypes herein!) and the feat-set-concept. Big kudos! The weapon mod section could carry its own book, just fyi.
How to rate this, then? Well, it’s not on the same amazing-levels as Witches of Porphyra, but it is now a proper addition to the series, on par with the quality we’ve come to expect…and it is fun, diverse and makes for a worthwhile set of options. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.
[5 of 5 Stars!]