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2/5 Short Term, 2.5/5 Long Term

***( )( )

This supplement is 43 pages, including 39 pages of content. After a brief introduction, we are presented with a barrage of archetypes. The archetypes are divided into what the author calls “Core Archetypes” and “Unchained Archetypes,” the latter of which are meant to modify the Unchained Rogue class from Paizo. This division is somewhat of an odd choice, as it leaves the product without a clear target audience. The non-unchained rogue doesn’t really have a place at the same table as the unchained rogue, except maybe as an NPC class, and even that is a stretch given that it has to sit in the thin region between the Expert, Ninja, and Unchained Rogue. If this book had contained only “Unchained Archetypes,” then it would clearly be useful to someone looking for more support for a relatively new class. If it had had only “Core Archetypes,” then it could target an audience that wanted a low-powered game with NPC-class style classes, and complement Flying Pincusion’s previous Into the Breach: Forgotten Classes as well as things like Knotty Works’ It’s an NPC World. As it is, though, anyone who gets this book is going to be ignoring one chapter or the other, which is not a good situation for a book this small.
The 12 “Core” archetypes are somewhat hit or miss. For example, the Booksmart Scout trades away Trapfinding and non-skill-related abilities to get Bardic Knowledge and some Alchemist toys. The Fugitive gains flat-out immunity to magic that determines their location, but doesn’t get it until 14th level and everything else the archetype gets is flat number boosts. The Haunted Skulk gets some Oracle and Occultist class features, which are well-implemented except that they are obviously superior to the unarchetyped rogue (maybe this one should have been an “Unchained Archetype?”) On the other hand, the excellent Master Hawserier gets a bunch of unique rope-related abilities which vary depending on the material of rope used. Examples are given from exotic “rope” types ranging from Assassin Vine to Siren Hair to Shark Skin.
Now, we move on to the four “Unchained Archetypes.” The Brickbat Striker has the option to reduce the number of damage dice they roll for Sneak Attack in exchange for applying one of several debuffs to their target, and the strength of the debuff depends on how much damage they give up. This is my favorite archetype in this book and the one I had the most fun playing with.
Moving on, the Bunk Mentalist archetype gets certain “mentalist powers” tied to skill unlocks, with one additional bonus listed for each skill. Unfortunately the abilities are too minor to work as a major class feature, and most of the rest of the archetype is just number boosts.
The two remaining archetypes are called the Guild Capo, which gains intelligence-to-damage with a single (finessable) weapon, and the Sharp Shooter, which gets a bunch of archery-oriented boosts. I haven’t gotten a chance to play or run either of these archetypes yet….
Next comes the Libertine, a full alternate class for the Unchained Rogue. The principle class feature it gets is called an “Intrigue,” which consists of special bonuses relating to (or fighting against) a specific NPC chosen when you first get the class feature. This sort of mechanic has all the pitfalls of the Ranger’s Favored Enemy cranked up to eleven: the class features are very potent as long as the subject of the Libertine’s Intrigue is closely tied to the current events of the campaign, but utterly useless as soon as that character leaves the action. You could probably make it more consistent by using another PC as your Intrigue, but many of the abilities relate to attacking the subject of your Intrigue, so you’d have to ignore those options unless you want to do pvp. The text seems to suggest that assigning the status of an Intrigue to an NPC is temporary, or that it can be swapped out for another Intrigue, but it gives now indication as to how long an Intrigue should last or the method for altering it.
The other issue with the Intrigue ability is that many granted abilities depend on the clunkier portions of the Diplomacy skill. For example, you get bonuses depending on the “attitude” of the Intrigue in relation to the Libertine. Building a class feature around something you know a large portion of your audience is going to house rule is a risky move, as it is unclear how to implement numerous Libertine class options alongside the most common Diplomacy house rules.
Starting at 2nd level, the Libertine gets “Quirks” which are mostly just Rogue Talents by another name. Advanced Quirks show up at 10th level, too.
After some more number boosts and Uncanny Dodge, the Libertine gets another new class feature at 5th level, called “Shameless,” which allows you to make a skill check to negate an enemy’s action. At 11th level, you get an ability called “Hold Court,” which is one of the weirdest class abilities I have ever read. It allows you to invite numerous NPCs to a party/event. The Libertine gets skill bonuses against NPCs who attend the event, while NPCs who reject your invitation face penalties against those who did attend (it’s unclear whether that also includes you). The ability is somewhat vague in how exactly it works, but I have to give the author credit for trying to make a truly novel class feature that doesn’t require a whole new subsystem to introduce.
As a capstone ability, you can make an Intrigue permanent, which might be nice except that I don’t know how long an Intrigue is supposed to last in the first place, and it brings back all the issues of the Ranger’s Favored Enemy.
The entire class is indicated as requiring “any non-lawful” alignment for no apparent reason. That’s either a wasted sentence if your group ignores it or an unfortunate limitation if your group enforces it. If you do want to adhere to the class’ alignment requirement, you’ll have to homebrew how it interacts with alignment changes, since the class does not contain an “Ex-Libertine” entry the way the Barbarian and Paladin classes do.
Finally comes three pages worth of traits intended for rogues, divided into combat, social, magic, and faith traits. Like the rest of the book, they are rather hit-or-miss based on my initial reading. I haven’t gotten to actually play with any of these traits, though, (my group doesn’t use traits), so take my opinion with a pinch of salt.
Short Term Use: I’ll admit, I had difficulty understanding how a few of the abilities worked the first few times I read them, which doesn’t’ happen very often. The Libertine’s Shameless ability took me a couple readings to get, as did several of the Quirks. The easiest way to use this book with minimal prep (that I can think of) might be to plop a Core-Archetype on some NPC rogues. The lack of rules clarity is the biggest impediment to short term utilization of this book. The Libertine class also has a lot of diplomacy-related abilities that don’t make sense on an NPC, so a Libertine NPC would be very difficult to run. Hence, I’ll settle on a Short Term Rating of 2/5.
Long Term Use: The most tantalizing option in this book should be the prospect of using the Libertine class either on a major NPC or a PC, but I don’t think it measures up to the competition. I could maybe envision running a low-powered campaign with mostly NPC classes, and making use of the Core Archetypes in this book (alongside Flying Pincushion’s other product for NPC class options), but several of the so-called Core Archetypes are actually quite a bit stronger and closer in power to the Unchained Rogue. There are some real gems in the Unchained Rogue archetype abilities, though. With a bit of work, some of the Libertine class features may be salvageable too. Overall, this product gets a 2.5/5 Long Term Rating, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform due to the low price.


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4.5/5 short term, 3.5/5 long term

****( )

Review for New Paths 8: The Trickster

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for my review. I received no other compensation, nor am I affiliated in any way with Marc Radle or Kobold Press.
OTHER DISCLAIMER: At the time of this writing, this product was released less than one year ago. Hence, everything in this review, especially the Long Term Rating, should be considered tentative.
This PDF comes in at 10 pages, including six pages of content. After the title page, we get a full-page illustration which is a duplicate of the cover art, and a short introduction before diving into the Trickster base class.
The Trickster class casts wizard/sorcerer spells. It only gets six levels of spellcasting, plus cantrips. It has 3/4 BAB, a low fortitude save, high reflex and will saves, and six skill-points per level. Its casting is intelligence-based, and uses a hybrid between prepared and spontaneous casting.
At first level, the Trickster gets Sneak Attack and Trap Finding, exactly as the rogue class features (though Sneak Attack advances slower than it does for the rogue).
At second level, the Trickster gets to choose a class feature called a “forte,” which gives them minor bonuses in one area. The available forte are Acrobat (mostly just number boosts), Arcane Accomplice (you get a familiar, and your familiar can make sneak attacks), Beguiler (more number boosts), and Spell Pilfer (which gives you an original spell-stealing mechanic).
Then comes the Sneakspell ability at 5th level, which allows you to cast an offensive spell as part of a sneak attack, analogous to the magus’ spell combat ability. After another handful of number-boosts, bonus feats, and class features copied from the rogue, the Trickster gets two more non-numerical class features. At ninth level, Ranged Lengerdmain allows the Trickster to use sleight of hand and disable device at a range (with an increased check DC). The ability is classified as (Su) for reasons that aren’t clear to me (I think it should be Extraordinary).
At 14th level the Trickster gets Filch Spell, which in my opinion is their most interesting class feature. If an enemy caster has an on-going spell that allows the caster to control or direct it after casting (e.g. Aqueous Orb or Flaming Sphere), the Trickster can steal control of the spell for one round by making a check.
After that, we just get more number boosts and bonus feats. And after the class features, the supplement ends abruptly. There are no archetypes, class-specific feats, or class-specific items, nor are their sample NPC Tricksters.
Aside from the cover art, there are a couple small, full-color illustrations throughout this product.

Short Term Use: I had to read the explanation of this class’ casting mechanic multiple times to get how it worked. That is unusual for me, even when I am learning a complete new subsystem. Much of the formatting and language of the class’ casting rules are styled similarly to the presentations of the sorcerer and wizard rules, even when the Trickster rules are actually different, which might confuse readers who are very familiar with the core d20 spellcasting system. Aside from the initial confusion, however, the clarity and presentation of this class are very good.
Aside from selection of bonus feats, there are very few build choices involved in creating a Trickster, making it a solid choice for an NPC that you need stats for quickly.
Balance-wise, this class falls close to the middle of most existing classes. It’s a bit higher on the totem pole than a bard, comparable to an inquisitor, and much less powerful than sorcerers and oracles. That balance point seems to be popular for a lot of campaigns, which once again makes this class easy to use in your campaign. Overall, this product earns a Short Term Rating of 4.5/5.

Long Term Use: Two different Trickster builds are likely to be very similar, and the class is not amendable to multi-classing, both of which may limit how much use you can get out of it years down the road. While it has a lot of class features listed, most of them are rather dull number boosts. Still, the few non-numerical class features it does have can keep it interesting for a while, and might be useful if you are designing archetypes for another class and want to give them Trickster class features. Of course, Trickster archetypes that traded out some of the number boosts would greatly improve this product’s shelf-life, but there are no archetypes in this product. Overall, I’ll settle on a Long Term Rating of 3.5/5, rounded up to 4/5 due to the low price.


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4/5 short term, 4.5/5 long term

*****

DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my review. I received no other form of compensation, nor am I affiliated with Rite Publishing, Steven Russell, or Dave Paul.
OTHER DISCLAIMER: At the time of this writing, this product was released less than one year ago. Hence, all opinions expressed in this review, and in particular the Long Term Rating, should be considered TENTATIVE.
This supplement clocks in at 50 pages, including 47 pages of content. First comes a one page introduction, which reminds the reader of the Settlement Size Modifier mechanic from Paizo’s Gamemastery Guide (which was itself copied from WotC’s 3.5 DMG). Some of the spells in this book have their effects modified by the size modifier of the settlement they are cast in. There are also a handful of spells which depend on the other settlement modifiers described in the GMG.
Next comes the conventional tables of spells by class and level, with their abbreviated descriptions, following the same format as the PHB and most d20 supplements. There are spell lists provided for all of Paizo’s spellcasting base classes (no guidance for use with non-Paizo classes is provided). One thing of note is that this book is sparse on very high level spells: the sorcerer/wizard, witch, and cleric lists all top out at 8th level spells, while the druid is not given any spells above 5th level. If you mainly play at low levels, that shouldn’t be a problem for you. Even at higher levels, of course, there are plenty of lower level utility spells here you may want to use.
Let’s start with the weakest: this supplement contains a handful of 0th level spells. Boot Pebble creates a pebble in an enemy’s shoe, giving them a speed and dexterity penalty until it is removed. Other cantrips allow you to give someone else a penalty on knowledge checks, conjure an illusory sound of footsteps (with advantages making it non-redundant with Ghost Sound), keep clothes dry for a duration which depends on the settlement’s climate, or telekinetically lift and throw a stone for a single point of damage without the possibility of missing.
On the other extreme, there are a couple of eighth level spells. Can’t Leave Town, as the name suggests, prevents everyone in a small settlement who fails their save from leaving, or prevents everyone in a larger settlement from leaving through a specific exit. Wake the Dead, another eight level spell, can (among other effects) grant a Raise Dead to all dead humanoids in an area, but they die again after the spell’s brief duration ends.
Short Term Use: The editing and formatting are top notch. The effects of the spells are varied and interesting enough to use. Moreover, as no new subsystems are presented, you know exactly what you are getting and how it works. On the other hand, some of the rules language is needlessly ambiguous, bringing the Short Term Rating down to 4/5.
Long Term Use: One question you might have is “can these spells be used in a non-urban environment?” The answer differs for different spells in this supplement. Almost all of these spells are most useful in or near a settlement, but most can still technically be used in the wilderness (though with varying degrees of usefulness). Overall, however, David Paul has managed to deliver an incredible array of varied and unique spells-- an impressive feat given how many have already been published in the last sixteen years. The occasional interactions with the Settlement Rules, which are often under-utilized in Pathfinder supplements, is an excellent touch. Thus, this supplement earns a Long Term Rating of 4.5/5, rounded up to 5 for the purposes of this platform.


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4.5/5 short term, 3/5 long term

***( )( )

This supplement clocks in at 51 pages, including 47 pages of content. After a brief introduction, we dive into 101 detailed encounters. A few general notes about these encounters: all of them assume you are using the Questhaven Campaign Setting. If you aren’t familiar with it, that’s okay, because this book gives you enough to understand it. In fact, this book could work as an introduction to Questhaven. Also, these encounters are not just brief collections of generic monsters. Rather, each encounter gets about a half a page of fluff describing the creature(s) motivations and place in the world. All the creatures in this book belong to a faction called the Fold of Mother’s Pride, which is a criminal cartel in Questhaven. Strung together, these descriptions can give you ideas for campaign plots even if you don’t use the stat-blocks.
The creatures in this book show the full range of the CR gamut. At the low end, we have a pair of CR 1/2 creatures: “Nightblood”, a CR 1/2 stirge, and “Kuruk Starshade”, a fetchling.
At the high end, there are three CR 20 creatures, including the nominal leader of the Fold, the “Reverend Mother Panthia”. All are provided with fully detailed stat-blocks and a sizeable backstory. There is also one CR 23 creature, a dragon who secretly controls the organization. This one does NOT come with a stat-block, but instead refers you to a stat-block in Pathways (which is Rite Publishings series of free supplements).
Short Term Use: The editing is very good, though there are a few more glitches than usual for a Rite Publishing product. The stat-blocks are all clearly laid out and easy to use, which is particularly impressive for the high CR creatures. It may take some planning to work the fluff of the organization into your campaign’s plot, but if you are just looking for a quick encounter, you can use the stat-blocks without the full treatment of the Fold of Mother’s Pride. Even if you do want to use the fluff, it shouldn’t be too hard to at least work some of it in to your urban adventure. Hence, this book gets a Short Term Rating of 4.5/5.
Long Term Use: Aside from functioning as an introduction to one chunk of Questhaven, this supplement contains enough information on the Fold of Mother’s Pride organization to base an entire urban campaign around the contents of this supplement. You could even adapt it to work in a big city in your campaign world, not just Questhaven. On the other hand, the specificity of some of the descriptions, combined with the dependency on some information being secret from the players, has the potential to limit the reusability of a lot of this content. All in all, it gets a Long Term Rating of 3/5.


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3.5/5 Short Term, 3.5/5 Long Term

****( )

This supplement comes in at 37 pages, including 32 pages of content. As a forewarning, the PDF version of this product contains a few “interactive” forms, which prevents lite PDF rendering applications from loading it. It does not load for me in Evince PDF reader, but does load in the free versions of Adobe Acrobat and Foxit Reader.
After a brief introduction we get a bunch of archetypes for each of the five NPC classes in the DMG. As a general note about these archetypes, they are almost entirely power ups compared to the base NPC classes. If you are looking for archetypes which keep close in power to the original class, this book won’t satisfy you. All the adept archetypes trade away their familiar, but each gains several class features in return, many of which are better than a familiar, and none of them reduce spellcasting. The expert archetypes have some restrictions on which skills can be chosen as class skills, which is barely a trade with Pathfinder’s skill system, and each gets numerous new class features. Some of the warrior archetypes sacrifice heavy armor proficiency or tower shield proficiency, but get a bunch of class features in return, and the commoner archetypes don’t give anything up at all.
We start with four Adept archetypes: the Caller, which gains elemental powers including the ability to create a construct of either fire, water, air, or earth; the Deep Forest Shaman, which gains bonuses while in a jungle; the Nun, which gains cleric domains; and the Vicar, which gains minor thematic non-spell boosts related to cleric domains.
Next comes three Aristocrat archetypes: the Coven Sworn gets hag- and witch- related abilities, the Noble Wastrel gets drug-related abilities, and the Tax Assessor gets features which improve their wealth as well as cavalier orders.
The three Commoner archetypes are the Forester, who gets some ranger goodies, the Hostler, whose class features all revolve around Handle Animal, and the Urchin, an urban-focused archetype. Then there are three Expert archetypes (the Boxer, the Master Craftsman, and the Minstrel), and four Warrior archetypes (the Deep Jungle Flesh-Hunter, the Farm Soldier, the Siege Sapper, and the Yeoman).
We also get a bit of non-archetype content. There is a chart of “100 random objects” for a peasant to carry, which can add a bit of variety to your descriptions. For some reason this chart is hidden between two warrior archetypes instead of being in its own section. There are a few new mundane weapons and armor. There is also the Way Trader, a new “alternate class” for the Expert. I’m not sure what makes this “alternate class” different from another expert archetype, aside from the fact that it is in a different section of the book. This “alternate class” isn’t any more expansive than the expert “archetypes” earlier in the supplement, it just uses yet another word to describe the game subsystem of Alternate Class Features/Kits/Variant Classes/Sub-Classes/Archetypes.
Short Term Use: The editing is good, but not perfect. The rules language is fairly ambiguous in a handful of places, so you might need to iron things out before using them. The obvious use for this product is to quickly make NPCs for your campaign. While each archetype has several class features, they give few build choices beyond what every class requires (like feat and skill selection), making it fairly easy to churn out a statblock when you need it quickly. The stuff that isn’t archetypes is also fairly easy to use. The actual quality of the class features, though, is a mix of mildly interesting features, copies of existing classes’ features, and basic number boosts. Thus, this supplement gets a Short Term Rating of 3.5/5.
Long Term Use: Since each archetype is more powerful than the base class, one question you might be thinking of is whether these modified NPC classes are appropriate for PCs. The answer, for most campaigns, anyways, is no. While they do get additional class features, most of those features are limited in where they can be used in ways that make them a poor match for adventuring. These archetypes are meant for NPCs that fill specific non-adventurer roles, and in most campaigns a PC with one of these archetypes won’t be substantially better than one with a normal NPC class. You can probably continue using this book to make NPCs for a long time, but the lack of originality in many of the class features is a disappointment. Still, there are a few good new mechanics for future mining. Overall, it gets a Long Term Rating of 3.5/5, rounded up to 4 due to the low price.


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