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Shel Lupescu

EnWorlder's page

19 posts. 16 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.



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Three Awesome Archetypes

*****

As always, I just want make it known I was offered (and did accept, obviously) a review copy of this product, if anyone finds that relevant. Now on to the review.

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Formatting, layout, spelling and grammar are all spot-on, as all the Class Acts PDFs typically are.

Yay! More witch stuff - my favorite class. Let's do this.

We get three new archetypes for our dollar. The first is a desert witch - a clear and obvious counterpart to Paizo's winter witch archetype. Mostly, this archetype does what you'd expect it to do (fire resistance instead of cold resistance, flare instead of ray of frost, etc.), but it does include two unique, nifty, and very appropriate and well-written hexes that are unique to the desert witch (and they aren't copies of the winter witch hexes, either - they're completely different). The familiar and patron options are also appropriate and well-chosen. All in all, not the most original archetype in the world, but that's more than made up for by...

...the grisly fetishist! This is a damned cool archetype, and I badly want to run one as the villain for a one-shot adventure. First of all, it's clearly a horror-movie inspired. Witches + horror movies... this archetype is already pressing all the right buttons for me. The grisly fetishist gains Stealth, proficiency with some "gruesome" weapons (the scythe, the pickaxe, the sickle), and its familiar is a tiny preserved head that it can "talk" to (or some other preserved part of a corpse). In exchange for the proficiencies and the extra class skills, her familiar loses a lot of its abilities. What really makes the archetype work is the implied "fighting style" of the fetishist. See- this witch gains an ability that allows it to make Intimidate checks while hidden. It also gains a pretty damn huge weapon damage bonus against shaken or flat-footed opponents. It's a pop out and "gotcha!" bonus. The implied tactics for the witch would be: buff up, sneak around, scare everyone with Intimidate, and the pop out of the shadows and land a powerful weapon attack with your scythe, or heavy pick, or whatever. Classic horror-movie style. I love it.

Unfortunately, I see a little less use in this archetype for a player. In a traditional campaign, a "melee witch" that doesn't get to set up the battlefield and milk the Stealth advantage probably won't last long. Still - what a great theme and powerset this is for GMs.

Lastly, we've got the maleficium - a word that I'm pretty sure that the author made up. The maleficium specializes in inflicting pain, and in the inflict and harm spells. She also gains a really gruesome and awesome unique hex that causes two effects: first - the victim takes some nonlethal damage. Second - the victim has an equal amount of preexisting nonlethal damage (such as the damage you received when the witch hit you with this hex in the last round) converted into lethal damage instead. Once a creature saves against this ability, you can no longer use it against that opponent for 24 hours. I enjoyed this archetype a lot - it worked out a way to build a "blasting" witch that still feels suitably witchy. This archetype also gains the ability to deal decent damage to people affected by other hexes, thus necessitating that the witch keep a suite of "hexy" hexes on hand if you want to deal a lot of damage. You're kind of prohibited in this way from focusing your build on nothing but damage, damage, damage (though the damaging options that you do gain are quite good). Like I said... a suitably witchy damage build.

In conclusion: The grisly fetishist is awesome. The whole product is awesome. I give Class Acts: Witch Archetypes five stars. *****

- Sara McLean


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Very Good - Very Cheap - Very Interesting

*****

As always, I just want make it known I was offered (and did accept, obviously) a review copy of this product, if anyone finds that relevant. Now on to the review.

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Formatting, layout, spelling and grammar are all spot-on, as all the Class Acts PDFs typically are.

So! We've got two spell-less ranger archetypes weighing in at less than a page each. Can Abandoned Arts pull off not one but two well-balanced spell-less rangers with that kind of space? The answer is: yes! (...mostly.)

We start with the grim huntsman (which made me think of the hunter from the Snow White fairy tale), a spell-less ranger focused on traps, survivability, and killing his favored enemies. If it were not for one class feature, I would say that the ranger falls flat in terms of making up for the lack of spells (such as gravity bow). Instead, however, I'm actually kind of concerned that this archetype is a bit too good at 12th level and beyond. Basically, the grim huntsman gains a class feature that says you can "sacrifice" one point of your favored enemy bonus when you make a single melee attack against that favored enemy in order to automatically slap some condition on them. I was on board until I saw the stun condition was available at 12th level. Auto-stun seems a bit too powerful. I suppose it is balanced by the fact that you have to make a single melee attack and you have to be in melee - but if the boss monster is your favored enemy and you can manage to close to melee? Well, he's probably screwed (with no saving throw).

However! This mechanic is actually really interesting in that - because you have to reduce your favored enemy bonus each time you attack - it forces you to decide whether to spread your favored enemies around (in order to use your incredibly powerful melee ability more often, against more types of foes) or to invest all your favored enemy bonuses in a single type, so that you can really auto-screw that enemy all day long.

The ranger also gains some mediocre survivalist-type bonus feats and a very awesome (and very early) ability that allows you to add your favored enemy bonus to the DC of traps that you create, relative only to those favored enemies. That really makes the use of ranger traps worthwhile if you plan to catch your favored enemies in them.

The next archetype is the houndmaster, who gives up his spells for a pack of (eventually) four dogs. You basically miss out on one "effective druid level" every time you get a new dog, but the dogs never get so weak that they become irrelevant (although it's a shame that you do give up spells, because spellcasting could really help improve the dogs and keep them significant - but I guess that's what allied spellcasters are for). You also gain some really nice (and adorable!) abilities that basically let you "talk" to your doggies and give them extremely complex commands. Worth the lack of spells? Maybe. Four animal companions that you can basically instruct to do exactly what you want can accomplish a lot. Still, the houndmaster might be a slightly underpowered archetype (in contrast to the possibly-slightly-overpowered grim huntsman).

Both archetypes are still awesome, I think. Also, the houndmaster avoids the problem of being a pet-heavy class with a lot of "character sheets" to manage by virtue of the fact that each dog has an identical "character sheet."

The wise warden didn't impress me quite as much, although it does fill an interesting niche and could potentially end up with some pretty wicked spellcasting abilities (for a ranger, that is) without giving up a whole lot of fighting power.

Interestingly, the wise warden stacks with the houndmaster, and at 15th level, gains a class feature that would make the houndmaster's ability to "give" his quarry bonus to his dogs a lot more powerful. Kind of late in the game to be sure, but "late in the game" is where the houndmaster needs the most help.

In conclusion: Class Acts: Ranger Archetypes is a great buy at a dollar. Each of the three archetypes are terrific, and there are minimal balance concerns. I give this one four and a half stars. *****

- Sara McLean


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Solid Mechanics Supporting "Traditional" Druid Themes

****( )

As always, I just want make it known I was offered (and did accept, obviously) a review copy of this product, if anyone finds that relevant. Now on to the review.

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Formatting, layout, spelling and grammar are all spot-on, as all the Class Acts PDFs typically are.

We've got three archetypes to review: the earthspeaker, the fairy thrall, and the greenmind. These concepts strike me as sort of "on theme" for the druid - nothing groundbreaking here in terms of concept. These archetypes don't really reinvent the druid the way other Abandoned Arts archetypes sometimes take a class in a new direction (the wormtongue rogue archetype, the madman barbarian archetype, the Voodoo priest cleric archetype, and so on). Still, the archetypes herein are mechanically well-balanced and innovative, even if the themes lack a little imagination (a druid that talks to the earth, a druid that communes with plants, a druid in thrall to the fey...).

The earthspeaker is easily my favorite archetype of the three. Basically, it gains a wild empathy-like mechanic that lets it literally talk to the earth (in Druidic) and convince the earth to do things. The higher your "empathy" check, the better an effect you can produce from the earth. The DCs are high, which means that this ability won't really become reliably powerful until you reach higher levels (and greater Charisma), but that's fine with me since this ability replaces wild shape - which also typically becomes much more useful at higher levels.

The faerie thrall is a druid who is literally in thrall to some type of fey (good or evil). Basically you choose a good-or-evil-fey "path" at first level that influences a couple of your abilities. The powers are neat, and versatile. You even get to adopt the fey creature template for several rounds per day, and you can pick your templated abilites on the fly. The capstone ability is very cool also (although strangely, it is not impacted by the good-or-evil path mechanic). At 20th, you gain the ability to cause people to "remember" anything that you convince them of with the Bluff skill as though it actually happened that way. Cool!

The greenmind is a plant-based druid that gains a plant-only wild shape. It loses out on scimitar proficiency and armor proficiency (!) in exchange for a constant (and slightly higher-scaling) barkskin spell-like ability and a large (also scaling) bonus to Stealth checks in grassy/forest-y terrain. It also trades out resist nature's lure for a much better suite of resistances. This archetype would really shine for a druid multiclassing into monk. In fact, there's a PrC called the nature warden in the Advanced Player's Guide that merits a look if that idea appeals to you. This archetype would also be good for a druid-based mystic theurge build. If you're not multiclassing into a "no armor" class though, I'm not sure the greenmind is worth it. The way that the barkskin and the Stealth bonuses interact is cool, though.

In conclusion: I guess I've come to expect a certain feel from Abandoned Arts archetype products. Class Acts: Druids is mechanically solid, but I feel that the archetypes "played it safe" with some very "traditional" druidic concepts. Still a great buy, though, and I suppose the fairy thrall is fairly original. Still - the mechanics are there, and they're pretty original and interesting. I give this one four stars. ****

- Sara McLean


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Almost (But Not Quite) Perfect; Great for GMs

*****

As always, I just want make it known I was offered (and did accept, obviously) a review copy of this product, if anyone finds that relevant. Now on to the review.

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Formatting, layout, spelling and grammar are all spot-on, as all the Class Acts PDFs typically are.

We've got three medium-length archetypes here: the madman, the reaver, and the Viking marauder. The madman is almost everything I could want from an archetype - it alters the feel or flavor of the class without throwing that class' mechanics out the window, and it puts an original and thematically-appropriate new spin on the base class that it alters. The madman gains domain-based rage powers, the ability do drive others mad with insane rage-babble, and other nutjob-cultist-themed abilities. Until I read the review posted just below this one, I would have said that this archetype was nearly perfect... but in retrospect, the capstone ability really would have been better off as a scaling class feature earned at an earlier level. Still a really, really cool archetype, though! Special note: you've got to be evil to play this guy.

My favorite archetype is the reaver, a "death-obsessed" fearmonger that gains a very unique and original sneak attack ability. It's nothing special or fancy, but I love the way that the sneak attack ability worked out. And don't worry - it's not overpowered! My only nit-pick with this archetype is that it gains a slightly improved version of the intimidating glare rage power at 2nd level, but it does not gain another class feature that synergizes with intimidating glare until 19th level. All the more reason to find your own synergy before then, I guess. If I remember correctly, the first barbarian product that Abandoned Arts released did contain a few rage powers that would work well with intimidating glare.

The product ends with the Viking marauder, a sailing, raiding, pillaging barbarian. I'm not usually super into naval combat or vehicle rules, but the archetype isn't bad. A couple of its class features have to do with having and sailing on a ship, though. The archetype does contain a very cool class feature based on the use of teamwork feats, though. I liked that one very much. It's kind of a "brothers in arms" ability - a very "barbarian" teamwork flavor. Me gusta. I'd like to see another barbarian archetype based on this mechanic sometime.

In conclusion: Class Acts: Barbarian Archetypes is a solid value at only a buck. As usual, the quality of the content is on par with that of Paizo's. Each of the three archetypes is perfectly usable and the madman and reaver in particular contain some pretty nifty mechanics. I give this one four and a half stars. *****

- Sara McLean


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Two Solid Archetypes at A Solid Price

****( )

As always, I just want make it known I was offered on the EnWorld forums (and did accept, obviously) a review copy of this product, if anyone finds that relevant. Now on to the review.

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First of all, the formatting, layout, spelling and grammar, and overall appeal are all spot-on, as all the Class Acts PDFs typically are. There is one small typo (an errant spacebar keystroke) in the text of the first archetype.

We've got two lengthy archetypes here: the Animist and the Guild Scholar, with the first being the show-stealer.

The animist is a wizard who adds animate objects to his spell list. Not only does he add this cleric spell to his wizard spell list, but he specializes in that particular spell in a way that no other caster, arcane or divine, can do. He gains an eventually-beastly animated object familiar, nets extra "construction points" when animating objects, can bestow special properties on his animated objects' attacks, and can "animate" weapons to attack for him (but not really). The things that you can do with animated objects and with your familiar are very cool, and seem well-balanced to me. Moreover, this archetype looks fun, and makes me want to play it. That's good design.

The guild scholar is a pretty solid archetype from a design and balance perspective, but it's lacking the animist's "oomph." I will say that it does gain a very cool capstone ability, although we all know how often those actually see play. Otherwise, the abilities it gains have everything to do with spellbooks, symbol spells, nonmagical research, and divination. Not the most exciting stuff (and probably slightly underpowered?), but a good read nonetheless. For the record, I think the Guild Runic special ability should have required ranks in Craft (calligraphy).

Both archetypes are more or less rock-solid and thematically interesting, with the animist being very mechanically interesting, perfectly balanced, and lots of fun, to boot.

In conclusion: Class Acts: Wizard Archetypes is a solid buy, and probably worth the price for the Animist alone. I give this one four stars. *****

- Sara McLean


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