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Cheapy's page

Goblin Squad Member. RPG Superstar 2013 Marathon Voter. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 16,052 posts (16,303 including aliases). 20 reviews. 5 lists. 1 wishlist. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 12 aliases.



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Interesting but flawed class.

**( )( )( )

Note: as of 1/28/14, this is an out of date review. Please read Endz' for an up-to-date review.

Getting this out of the way: I received a review copy of this product, so keep that in mind. As with all reviews, I try to limit by biases though. A favorite saying of mine when it comes to PFRPG is that while praise is nice, criticism is useful and this review is in as many ways an attempt to help the author grow as it is to help you, the reader, decide if it’s the right class for you.

The Saint is a hybrid class, combining aspects of the cleric, the gunslinger (namely, a Grit-like ability), and the monk (namely Flurry of Blows) to create a class that allows for holy warriors that aren’t just Paladins. For this reason, it occupies the same design space as Super Genius Games’ Templar does. They’re d8 HD, 4 base skills per level, 3/4ths BAB, and a 6th level caster. They’re a bit like the old Favored Soul from 3.5 as well, focusing on their deity’s favored weapon.

According to the product’s Role section the Saint prefers a diplomatic solution to conflict, and she does receive an ability to help out with this aspect: namely her level to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks against those of another faith. But as far as set-in-stone class abilities go, that’s it. That’s all they get to help out with their preferred solution to a problem. This is a bit jarring to see, as from the name of the class, you expect to see a more diplomatic class. One that focuses more on the divine miracles they can do than on the blade.

What we instead find is a fighter with a number of deity-approved tricks up their sleeve. But more on this later.

As to be expected, the saint receives a single domain, and acts as a cleric of the saint’s level. Interestingly, they get the bonus spells not as spells to fill a bonus spell slot, but instead as Spell-Like Abilities. She receives a pool of uses-per-day, and different spell levels use up a different amount of uses-per-day. For example, a 9th level domain SLA is going to cost you 3 uses of your uses-per-day. This is kind of an interesting mechanic, albeit a bit clunky. Slightly concerning however, is that they get to ignore up to 100 gp / level of expensive material components. For one, spell-like abilities already ignore the material components of spells. This snafu is strange because in other sections of the product, author Tyler Beck shows deep rules knowledge. If the ability is intended to work on the spells that the domain grants but not necessarily to the spell-like abilities, it’s badly laid out as the rest of the paragraph is exclusively about the spell-like abilities. But the very fact that they’re spell-like abilities is worrying, as the domains weren’t written with this in mind. The ability to easily cast 7 miracles, with no material component, per day is a bit worrisome, to say the least.

Their main class feature is that of Favor. Favor points work a lot like a gunslinger’s Grit works, in that you get a certain number of points to start the day, and you can use abilities to spend them, and you regain the favor points by doing certain actions. As written, the base method to get more favor points is to ‘vanquish’ a foe. By this, they mean that you need to reduce the enemy to negative hit points. There is the caveat that nonlethal damage can accomplish this, but this is another one of the paradoxical gaps in rules knowledge. Consider how this would work. To bring a creature to negative hit points as a fighter who fights non-lethally, say of a god of peace, or one strong on redemption, you’ll have to do enough non-lethal damage for their hit points to equal their non-lethal damage. If no one else is fighting your opponent, this means you’ll need to deal the enemy’s full HP in non-lethal damage. But this doesn’t knock them to negative hit points. It merely means that any additional non-lethal damage becomes lethal damage. So you need to go through their hit points twice to get them to negative HP, and thus regain a favor point.

And keep in mind that this is the only set-in-stone way to get favor back, even for deities that aren’t up on violence. This harkens back to the Turn Undead ability in 3.5, where no matter what your Deity did or was about, you had the ability to scare undead. This is a bit weird, to say the least. To the author’s credit, they do provide a number of other examples that all require GM arbitration. These methods involve converting others to your faith, proving your loyalty to a deity by doing some ritual, or doing specific feats related to your deity’s portfolio. There are a few other ways to regain favor, but more on that later. What's odd here is that one of these alternative methods are granted at 1st level as well, but it's hidden away in Graces.

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike Grit, there’s no limit on the number of favor points you can have, but every morning your favor is reset. Apparently your Deity doesn’t want you to be too rewarded for your good deeds the previous day, so they take a little bit of your excess divine energy.

Now, the saint receives some abilities called Graces. Graces work much like a magus’ arcana in that some require points to power, and others just work. While I believe oceanshieldwolf covered most of them, I’ll talk about a few of them. The Favored Bodyguard grace grants you the Bodyguard feat, and lets you use it more often than normal if you have the Combat Reflexes feat. This is a bit strange since this extra pool of Bodyguard uses doesn’t use the same language as Combat Reflexes, where it’s additional AoOs on top of your 1. Instead, it’s just a use of Bodyguard per point of Dexterity modifier. There’s another issue with this. Namely that if you have 8 Dex and Combat Reflexes, you’ll have 1 AoO per round. With Favored Bodyguard? You’ll have -1 uses, as it’s based off of the Dexterity modifier, not bonus. I highly doubt anyone would actually take CR with 8 Dex, but it does a rookie mistake.

Now, the nifty thing about Favored Bodyguard is that if you prevent an attack to an ally using it, you regain a favor point. This provides a method that doesn’t involve inflicting violence to regain favor, which is nice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything to address any of the issues that these sort of abilities have. Who is to say that the reason the enemy missed the saint’s ally was the bodyguard bonus? Why wasn’t it the armor of the ally? Or their ring of deflection? Obviously, sometimes it’ll be the Bodyguard bonus, but it doesn’t make sense that it’s always that.

But here’s another problem with the ability. It can be trivially gamed by using allies to attack each other, just to get more favor points. And unlike the ‘vanquish` method of regaining favor, this one doesn’t need to be against a ‘worthy opponent’. It can be any attack, from any CR creature. Is this something that a sane GM will ever allow? No. But it still means that the saint fails the all-important Bag-O’-Rats Test. Using a bag of rats, there is a way to get a ton of favor, whether the bag of rats is literal or metaphorical. This is made worse by the lack of a limit on favor.

And then we get to Favored Onslaught. This ability is basically flurry of blows, but with the deity’s favored weapon. It grants you an extra attack, and sets your BAB to be your level for one round. And then we have the really weird sentence “this ability does not grant additional extra attacks at higher levels”. But we just read a sentence saying it does, specifically from a higher BAB. [Kudos on getting the language right for extra attacks for a high BAB though.] What this meant to say is that unlike flurry of blows, the extra attacks from TWF aren’t built in. But at the same time, the ability says that you can use Two-Weapon Fighting to add attacks. This isn’t the most clear, owing in part due to the monk’s flurry of blows fiasco, but it sounds like you can use TWF to just straight up get extra attacks. Confusingly, it doesn’t cover what ‘hand’ would be used if you’re using TWF to get extra attacks. This isn’t an issue with Flurry of Blows as you are always using the same set of rules and can’t mix it in with TWF. But with this ability, you can mix it in with TWF. Which penalty do you apply if you’re just attacking with one weapon? The main-hand or the off-hand? Even if this is resolved, there are some balance issues with the ability. For example, a level 1 Saint with a deity whose favored weapon is a greatsword that has TWF, you could spend a favor point to get 3 attacks. Just getting three natural attacks is awesome at 1st level, but the ability to do 3 attacks with a two-handed weapon? That’s really, really strong. As a saving grace (hah!), this ability does require favor to use, which helps quite a bit. I don’t think it’s enough.

Favored Sacrifice is another ability that can be used to regain favor. In this case, you receive the ‘in harms way’ feat. If you take an attack meant for an adjacent ally, you get a favor point back. This is even easier to ‘farm’ favor points with. Just have an ally use non-lethal damage against another ally, and ‘take the pain’ for your ally. This one could actually work in-game, especially for gods all about self-pain. This one really fails the bag of rats test.

Silver Tongue is a grace that actually helps out the diplomatic aspects of the saint. Namely, granting you the ability to add +4 to the DC of charm person type effects (or denounce type of effects). This bonus is absolutely huge, and also could be exploited by charming someone and just having your new best friend ‘convert’ to your religion. This would negate the cost of the favor point for +4, and would net you all the benefits of charm person.

Silent Prayer is, I think, indicative of the whole class. This grace is simple. Spend a favor point, and the spell or spell-like ability you’re casting is cast as if the silent spell metamagic was applied. One problem with this though. Spell-like abilities are already silent. This ability was so close to being right, but off by a little bit. We see the same sort of issue with the commune grace, where you can use commune to talk to your Deity once per day as a spell-like ability. It doesn’t require material components though, which is good, because SLAs already do not require them.

Rich of Spirit is particularly worrisome. It lets you spend a favor point to ignore up to 500 gp of an expensive material component, stacking with the reduced cost of the domain SLAs (which are already free). Combined with the ability to have a large amount of favor, you can get around just about any material component, removing a very-so-much-real balancing factor on a number of spells.

Protective Aura is also a strange grace. It requires you to be level 15, and grants a +2 deflection bonus to AC and a +2 resistance bonus to saving throws. They max out at +4 at 20th level, and it basically acts as a magic circle against evil (or good) as well as a lesser globe of invulnerability. For one, this ability doesn’t just affect spells of alignments other than your own. Yes, you’re immune to cure light wounds cast by someone trying to get you back above negative HP. And this globe of invulnerability is always up. Hope you didn’t plan on casting any long-lasting low level buffs! It also has the issue that it doesn’t work as magic circle against law / chaos. A bit of an oddity, as there are gods who focus more on those aspects than good versus evil.

Many of the other graces are all about combat. Some let you bypass some DR. Others pump you up when you vanquish a foe or prevent an attack.

There’s a small issue in the Favored Dodge grace where it calls the grace a ‘deed’.

As an extremely minor quibble, the class uses the female pronoun when necessary, but the front cover shows a male, and there’s only one third of the images are females. Just a little oddity.

The spell list has a large number of spells that only work with a reflavoring. Unfortunately, this reflavoring is not explicitly called out, so this leaves oddities like gallant inspiration, which grants a competence bonus to a roll, on the spell list. Clearly, it’s meant to be something like the deity saying ‘time to tip the scales in my favor’, but that doesn’t quite work with the mechanics, and bumping the spell to grant a sacred or profane bonus would probably make the spell a higher level.

This also touches upon another issue the spell list has. The Saint’s spell list is full of some of the best (formerly unique to certain classes) spells. In many cases, it makes some sense, but it’s still robbing the classes these come from of one of their stand-out features. Spells like good hope, the Litany family of spells, gallant inspiration, glibness, etc were all previously very exclusive, and now the Saint gets them too. While my disappointment is tempered by the fact that they do roughly make sense, I wish they had gotten new spells in their place. And these spells are exclusive because they are very, very good.

Which brings me to the third point about the spell list. All the spells are very good. Many of them are some of the best spells for their levels. It’s as if a highly optimized wizard took all of the spells he wanted, and created a spell list with them in it. It’s a little too good, and it doesn’t really have the ‘not-so-good’ choices that all spell lists possess.

That said, there is some very real praise to be given about the spell list. It doesn’t affect the magic item economy quite as much as classes like the Summoner does. The spells aren’t made available too early, and there is even a discussion on the effect earlier access to spells will have on the price of wands and scrolls. This is very smart, and they offer ways to mitigate the problem posed by it.

Summing this all up, the class feels very amateur. When I talked about it with some friends of mine, this was the main comment. There are a lot of good ideas in here, but the issues that are raised with the abilities are things that should’ve been caught in development. As I mentioned above, exacerbating this is that in some instances, the class shows a deep level of knowledge of the rules, but then flubs on very basic aspects.

The class is called the Saint. The first thing brought to mind by this is some sort of ‘cleric of the cloth’. A cleric without armor proficiency, and not as war-like as a cleric usually is. What is not brought to mind is a class that strongly focuses on combat. When the flavor of the class says that saints prefer diplomatic solutions, and then gives about 2 abilities to help this aspect out as opposed to a myriad combat abilities, we get a dissonance that leaves a sour taste in our mouths. I wish there was the ability to focus on one aspect or the other though.

Still, I think this class does have potential. I think it needs a rename and a serious scrubbing, but beneath all the issues I’ve enumerated is a class that does seem pretty interesting. I think that with a good GM who can curtail some of the issues, this would make a pretty good holy warrior. Better than SGG’s Templar? I’m not sure. But to me it’s definitely more interesting than the Templar.

Due to the issues raised above, I will rate this 2.5 stars, rounded down for this platform.


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Interested in Game Design?

*****

If you have any interest in game design, you owe it to yourself to get this book. It's been an invaluable aide in many a starting freelancer's toolkit.


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Wonderfully evocative

****( )

I came into this book with very few expectations. All I knew was the list of authors and that somewhere within this tome there were golems. That's all I needed, really, as I've been a huge fan of the artificer character archetype for a long time and have held a special fascination for golems.

And golems there were. After reading the section on the Jistka Imperium, my mind was full of wonderfully evocative character, monster, and encounter ideas. Reforging the golem controlling rod to control a massive beast, entire towns on the backs of roaming monsters...And thankfully, this would be a theme oft repeated in this book. The chapters were wonderful for inspiring campaigns, archetypes, and character concepts.

After reading about the Jistka Imperium, I dove into the Sodden Lands to learn about Lirgen and Yamasa. Lirgen in particular was highly interesting. Any nation whose entire deal was the use of astrology and prophecy to tell the future, directly before the death of Aroden, is bound to be fascinating just for the mysteries it raises. And mysteries it raises in spades. Why couldn't they fortell this? What exactly is that otherworldly thing that saved the last 'surviving' astrologer, now holed up in her own observatory fortress? I never thought I'd want to play a character based on astrology, but after reading this chapter I immediately had to make one.

The bloodied past of Ancient Osirion is laid out for us as well. Again, I wasn't expecting Egypt, The Fantasy Land to catch my attention as much as it did. But there were many great sections here as well. The revelation of everyone's favorite drug of choice was both revolting and intriguing at the same time. One almost hopes that there were alchemist discoveries associated with this article, if only to see the twisted things that alchemists could do with a little ground up mummy.

For now, I definitely think the book is worth the price. I honestly did not expect to see so many evocative ideas in here, and I was very pleased with how it turned out. I'll give it 4 stars for now, as I haven't fully read the book. But this review will hopefully be a place holder for a more in-depth review at a later date. And if such an event occurs, I'll be sure to revise the score if necessary.


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Stellar

*****

Construct Codex Review

Constructs have always been one of my favorite aspects of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as well as its predecessors. The idea of taking inanimate objects and gifting unto them life has always fascinated me, partially due to the foreignness inherent in constructs. And does this product ever live up to my expectations. To start, the prose is phenomenal. The editing is top notch. The artwork is wonderfully evocative. Mechanically, I found very few, if any, issues with the product. There were a few times where I thought I found a mistake, only to figure out that there was no mistake at all. This is the kind of book that I gift to people to show them the wonderful possibilities that 3rd party products can represent, and to show them that Pathfinder 3rd party material has for the most part been absolved of the sins of its 3rd edition father.

Rather than give an overview of all the constructs, I’ll focus on just the constructs that gave the most visceral responses. The dirge organ is a CR 14 construct that, as improbable as it sounds, makes for a compelling encounter with an opponent that cannot move. The organ acts as a bard that can affect other constructs, and gets a number of abilities that perfectly capture the role of organs in gothic and horror works of art. Phantom ballets, the haunting sounds it produces that lead those that hear it throughout the winding passages of the castle, creating ghostly hallucinations in the form of at-will minor image...it’s all there. Perhaps most amazingly, due to only having a few offensive capabilities, it would be easy to insert this in even a low level adventure just by lowering the DCs and not using as many offensive abilities.

Endzeitgeist claimed that words failed to describe how much he loved the Living Crematory. I can only completely agree with this statement. This is one awesomely twisted creation. With its long reaching chains, it grapples hapless enemies and and brings them into its fiery heart where they take a lot of damage each round. I haven’t read such a horrifically jaw-dropping monster in a long time, and I doubt I’ll ever forget this one.

As a big fan of Numeria in the Golarion setting, I was quite intrigued by the description of the morgechs. Nothing quite says fantasy mad scientists like “sadistic beings wrought by the admixture of science and magic”. The executor is a creature adept at both melee and ranged combat, using the alchemists’ bombs for ranged weaponry and a flail that is wielded two-handedly even though it’s attached-literally-to only one hand. The griever is a nasty creation that relies on four keen rapiers to attack (or 4 hand crossbows with keen bolts), and sickening, staggering, and stunning critical to really bring the hurt. Oh, and he has critical mastery as well. And he counts as a level 20 two-weapon warrior fighter (another of Jasons’ creations). And dear god get him away from me. The creation process is suitably horrific, requiring a living being to be modified for the whole creation process. The final morgech is the relatively tame Ravager wolf who, when combined with another ravager, turns into a veritable meatgrinder of PCs thanks to their possession of the Outflank, Paired Opportunist, and Precise Strike teamwork feats. This creature contains the first mistake I’ve seen: it lists pack attack as a special attack, with no explanation for it. This isn’t a universal monster rule, but there is a teamwork feat of the same name, which isn’t mentioned in the Feats section. I assume it’s the teamwork feat, as it quite fits, but this is the small blemish on this otherwise great product.

I can’t recommend this enough, and if it weren’t for the grisly nature of it, it would definitely be the product I recommend to people interested in 3pp but not sure where to start. And I still might do that anyways.

Well done.


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An Excellent Story

*****

Itchy's review says everything I wanted to say about the story itself. I was thoroughly entranced by the story, and was almost grateful that I only came upon it well after its release so I didn't have to wait 3 agonizing weeks to get the whole story. I don't recall how I came upon it, but I believe it was the first Web Fiction story I had ever read and it's what turned me onto the web fiction segments of the blog in general, as well as the story that persuaded me to pick up 4 or 5 of the Pathfinder novels to read.

I truly look forward to more adventures with Norren as well as the future writings of Kevin.


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