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You and me, Insain. Michael is not only talented, he also has a very open mind regarding feedback and a keen eye when it's warranted and when not.
Also, on a personal level, I have never felt like I was wasting my breath when interacting with him - you don't get inherently flawed arguments when discussing with him. This ability to distance one's self from one's work is a crucial skill of any designer.
Oh, and thanks for the kind words! :)
@Frank: Indeed, it shows - I'll take high-concepts over perfection any day and this one is VERY close to working perfectly, so kudos!
Okay, so the charioteer saw use last session in my main-campaign, when a PC's charioteer cohort took to the field during a massive incursion of over 1000 Undead suffused by necrotic flames sought to burn a northern frontier town (AAW Games' Rybalka) to the ground. The PCs had 2 hours to prepare for the onslaught and made the whole village essentially one gigantic death trap - they had the people erect haphazard barricades, sniper nests on the roofs and created impromptu traps galore - all went pretty well for the PCs until I unleashed 4 massive, unique and templated undead elementals as well as a stamped of blackfire mammoths on the barricades, whereupon they collapsed like cinder and the retreating battle began.
The charioteer was exceedingly awesome in providing PC mobility - beyond trampling the lesser undead and cleaving paths through the horde, hard veering brakes that catapulted the paladin/swordmaster hybrid right into the face of a mammoth, had him, Smite-crit the beast and then, run from the collapsing carcass to jump right at the 18 ft. Gravestone-infused Earth-elemental while the charioteer crashed into its legs would probably constitute the high points of this archetype's use during the combat. :)
Part II of my review:
The second PrC is the Obsidian Knight gets full BAB-progression, medium fort-and will-saves, 7/10th spellcasting progression, d10, 2+Int skills per level and require both 2nd level divine spellcasting and a cavalier's order as prerequisites. They do not gain any weapon or armor proficiencies. Obsidian knights receive elemental channel as a bonus feat, affecting all types of elementals, usable 3+Cha-mod times per day. If you already have channel energy, instead add +3 uses of channel energy instead. The PrC also can use this to generate an aura that increases the weight of metal armor etc. to make the targets suffer heavy encumbrance for Cha-mod rounds. The obsidian knight can also use this to conjure forth thin walls of earth that work as stationary tower shields and his weapons can receive obsidian-based benefits to weapon enhancement as well as the ability to react to being hit by elemental spells by adding the appropriate weapon quality temporarily. Bull rushes in a straight line, very lethal caltropy shard-fields and a potentially ray-deflecting shield complement this PrC further. Guess what - I really, really like this earth-related PrC. Kudos!
The Rime Reaver gets d10, 2+Int skills, no new proficiencies, full BAB-progression, 1/2 fort and will-save progression, 7/10th spellcasting progression. At 2nd level, the rime reaver gets cold resistance 5, which increases by +5 every two levels thereafter, stacking with the bloodline power. Jup, this is intended to work as a conjunction of sorceror and cavalier. The PrC replaces the companion with a polar bear and stacks class levels with sorc levels for purposes of bloodline powers. 3rd level nets a weapon of ice that is treated as adamantine, dealing half damage as cold damage and as a capstone, the companion becomes mythic. Once again, a solid PrC with some cool imagery.
The pdf also provides a new order for cavaliers, the order of the bow. members of this order may apply challenge benefits to ranged attacks when mounted and attacking someone within 30 ft. and obviously, is a ranged specialist. At high levels, they may shoot targets of charges of allies as immediate actions. A nice order.
The pdf also sports a +2 equivalent enchantment that enhances trip and disarm and adds free trip to crits. The pdf also provides stats for jousting lance tips, better tethers and an alchemical goo that frightens mounts. Resting saddles and standing saddle stirrups also provide for nice items.
Editing and formatting are good, though I noticed some instances of minor flaws in punctuation and missing spell-italicization. Layout adheres to Flying Pincushion Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf provides some solid full-color artworks, ranging from neat to stock. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
The cavalier has a troubled history in my games - while I love the concept of the class, there is no other base-class that has this bad a ratio for player agenda - you choose mount and order and that's about it. Not particularly compelling as a chassis to work from. That being said, this pdf manages to provide some form of flexibility with several of the options provided herein and enhance the base-class with several distinctly fun and high-concept archetypes and class options, widening the limited scope of the base class.
Frank Gori, Jeff Harris, Taylor Hubbler, Jason Linker, Andrew Hoskins, Kiel Howell, Jacob Michaels, Richard Litzkow, Mikko Kallio, Mark Nordheim - congratulations! Why? Because this is one review I very much enjoyed writing. The "Into the Breach"-series took a bad beating from yours truly with some of the installments, but this here is a huge step forward. Where before, even simple rules-language sported issues here and there, this one feels infinitely more refined. Indeed, if there are glitches to be found herein, they often can be mitigated by a capable DM and/or stem from daring to tackle some rather complex options. Now, as you can glean from the above, this pdf is certainly not perfect, but it works much, much better than any book in the series I've read so far. To the point where both charioteer and briar knight (though the letter with nerfed tanglevine strike and some finetuning) will make appearances in my campaign. The majority of the content herein is solid and there are glimmers of brilliance here and there that make me confident in Flying Pincushion Games further improving to become truly awesome. While not perfect, I value the high concepts higher than the problems and consider this pdf a fun addition to one's games and thus will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
I've been asking for prioritized reviews over at patreon and provided updates and the like accordingly both there and on my homepage. I apologize if that is not transparent enough and try to do better. I will explain exactly what "prioritized review" means on both my homepage and patreon. So far, contacting me via homepage and patreon seems to have worked rather well for my patreons...at least, I hope so.
The tl;DR-version is: I ask at the beginning of a month for prioritized reviews on patreon. I do my best to get them done in a month. If something takes longer, I tell the patreon.
Regarding stacking: Generally, no. The level of patronage for prioritized reviews is constant; If a patron elects to ask for only "small" files, I'll provide more than one. But as per the writing of this, I do not consider stacking more than one request for prioritizing a valid option - I'm glad if someone wants to contribute more than the amount I asked for, but that's pretty much it. Things get too muddy if I try to scale multiple people. If, for example, two people told me they'd want the same review prioritized, I'd tell one to please choose another book, since it is already covered.
Now as far as a google.docs-list is concerned, I will dig into that - the suggestion is solid and I think it is worthwhile, though admittedly, I'm somewhat weary of it - say I can't decide whether a product in the top spot should get 4 or 5 stars and think I need more playtesting to fairly judge it. Another scenario would be a day, where I have crunch overload and need some fluffy supplements to recharge my batteries because my concentration is tanked on a given day - as soon as there's a concrete list with numbered spots, that flexibility is lost and I'd spend a lot of time justifying my actions, because, let's face it, I'd be annoyed when someone told me I was next up and then had to see another product be released before that. I think time I'd take to justify that would be better invested in writing reviews.
As I'm writing this, I have finished 2 prioritized reviews for June and am in the process of finishing 2 more, which will all hit site in time before July.
These are, in sequential order:
Flying Pincushion Games - Into the Breach: Cavaliers
Regarding certified reviewers: I like the idea, but at the same time, it's a problematic notion since I can't really take responsibility for the actions of other people...will ruminate on that.
Thanks for all the suggestions!
Racial perks! More perks for people who don't want cohorts/followers. (Hey, almost every table has one of those guys, right?) Perks for the air! Perks for the sea! I second the option for perks for dynasties. Technology perks! Pact Magic perks! Psionic perks! Story-perks! (Perks that work like story feats, unlocking their full potential once a given task is accomplished!)
Suffice to say, you achieved this goal! You write analytical, informative reviews, with this one being particularly good. Kudos! And thanks for the props!
Now HotJO - oh boy, that one was WORK; I think the doc was 14 pages long and I reviewed it thrice: Once for AE, once for PFRPG and then again for the revised PFRPG-version. Glad the work paid off for you! :D
Part II of my massive review:
The 7th level also nets the demiurge the option to create a thesis facsimile, a facsimile with a limited free will and a buffing aura and yes, they may heal allies via reclaimed quintessence.
Now to get back to the enlightenments I mentioned in the beginning? Take Agathon - this enlightenment has the final quintessence cost of facsimiles reduced by 1/4 class level and get a 6th slot, which costs half as much. At 2nd level, one can have one free facsimile with only 4 slots and a significantly-reduced effective level of class level -3, while also allowing for some on the fly modification. Artifice demiurges can create objects, while befuddlement allows for the creation of shadow facsimiles - in case you haven't noticed - each of the 6 enlightenments provided radically changes the way in which the class plays. The capstone is an interesting apotheosis, at least as far as that type of capstone goes. The bonus content covers 11 sample facsimiles. I adore the demiurge class - it is a thing of mechanical beauty, vast options and is utterly, completely unique. With all those pet-classes out there, it still is more unique and interesting and while it only belongs into the hands of experienced players, it is GLORIOUS. Any fan of classes with customization options and complex tricks needs to take a good luck at this class - a piece of advice: Just make a sample character. It makes *getting* the class rather easy and seriously, I don't get what the hassle is regarding the complexity of this class. It's not simple, sure, but it is damn rewarding and I can't bring myself to bash it for one ability with a wonky exploit due to a wording ambiguity. I adore this class and playtest showed it works in awesome ways - though, as a piece of advice, much like summoners et al., one should make sure the player can run it quickly and doesn't hog the spotlight. Still, probably my favorite class in ages and one that will be very hard to top!
After this complexity beast, the medium is rather simple: At d8, 2+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, good will-saves and 3/4 BAB-progression, the class looks a bit bare-bones. As a full-round action, the medium may channel spirits and let herself be possessed by her spirit companion as a full-round action, the duration clocking in at 4 hours, starting at 5th level instead for 1 hours per medium level. Interaction with being killed etc. is covered aptly by the wording, including memories etc. A medium can channel spirits equal to Cha-mod timer per day and the effect cannot be blocked by regular possession-preventing magic. The medium can use a standard action to provide minor bonuses and she may use séances to duplicate augury. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class receives a revelation chosen from a limited list, interacting with their ability to channel spirits and utilize séances - here, an alternate nomenclature to make them deviate from the oracle's revelations would probably have been in order. So, the spirit companion...this is the defining class feature of the medium and shares your ability modifiers and hit points; however, the spirit does have class levels - yes, this class can be essentially summed up as gestalt, the character - you can essentially shift between forms and from leadership to spellcasting and psionic powers and feats, the spirit companion is handled pretty neatly - and the capstone allows for a true fusion of the two. Btw.: Yes, the revelations interact with the class choices you make for the spirit companion.
Archetype-wise, there would be one with less powerful spirits, but who receives more spirit companions, one that can be considered an oracle-crossover as well as one that specializes in revelations that interact with the physical world. And yes, there would also be one psionic medium archetype. Eric Morton's Medium is a solid, fun class that especially will be a boon to tables with less players that need to cover more roles. Two thumbs up!
The Metamorph-class with d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and natural attacks, but no armor, good 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves and begin play with a maximum number of 3 attacks and an evolution pool of 3 that scales up to 26 at 20th level. Metamorphs also have a built-in natural armor bonus that increases over the levels and ability-increases dispersed over the levels. 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter see bonus feats. 1st level metamorphs may choose their genesis, determining the key-ability modifier for the class and modifying the class skill list. Now unlike some other takes on the evolution-based class framework, a list of phenotypes, which determine ultimately the evolutions that become available for the class - a total of 8 phenotypes are provided and a massive table helps the player determine which evolutions are eligible for the phenotype chosen. Only fey and undying may for example choose the basic magic evolution, whereas only bestial, monstrous or reconstructed metamorphs may learn the trample evolution. A metamorph has 2+class level evolution points, +1 at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Evolutions can be reassigned upon gaining a level. The class also sports 3 archetypes - one that wilders amid sorceror bloodlines/eldritch heritages, while metamorphic abominations may wilder in racial heritages. Finally, the Transmogrifist may wilder in the alchemist's toolbox. We also get a sample level 13 character here.
I honestly was NOT looking forward to yet another evolution-based class - after masquerade reveler, underterror and iron titan, I was simply burned out on them. However, Wojciech Gruchala's metamorph ultimately may be one of the most user-friendly and easy to balance takes on the concept - while I prefer the fluff of the masquerade reveler still, the metamorph may be the most user-friendly take on the concept - with the handy table and restrictions that prevent abuse as well as thanks to the cap of maximum attack and the lack of flexible changes of the basic evolutions chosen. All in all, a solid take on the concept I can't really complain about.
The Mnemonic gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and one weapon of choice, full unarmed strike progression as a monk, 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. Menomincs may execute a standard action to identify one or more feats a target creature possesses by making an Int-check versus 10 + CR, with creatures of a CR greater than the mnemonic's HD further increasing the DC by +3, revealing a scaling amount of feats a target has - the better the check, the more feats are revealed. Why would he waste an action like this beyond the tactical information? Thought Strikes. A mnemonic may execute class level + Int-mod of those per day and they can be executed as part of an attack action - somewhat akin to stunning fist, the targets receive a save, which may see them impeded by escalating negative conditions. Instead, a mnemonic may forego said detrimental conditions and execute a memory theft, to steal a skill bonus or feat for class level rounds.
A mnemonic still has to fulfill the prerequisites of a stolen feat to make use of it and stolen feats only lock down feats that build on the original feat, not those that only have it as a prerequisite. The amount of skill bonuses, feats, etc. a mnemonic can steal at a given time is handled via a nifty table and starting at 5th level, the mnemonic may eliminate spells as well, though without being able to cast them himself. Finally, it should be noted that mnemonics may expend thought strike uses to retain a given stolen feat for 24 hours, though future maintenance of this stolen knowledge progressively erodes the mnemonic's thought theft capacity further, preventing the infinite storing of a stolen feat. now granted, this can be cheesed simply by passing the feat from mnemonic to mnemonic, but in that case, I'd consider it a somewhat interesting plot-point/narrative device and, more importantly, not something that would in itself break the game - so yeah.
Beyond this theft component, a mnemonic of 3rd level may also copy extraordinary abilities and combat feats he has seen in the last 24 hours, with an effective class level decreased by -4, though, thankfully, only for 4+Int-mod rounds per day. High levels allow for the recalling of abilities and even sharing of them, thanks to the nice addition of telepathy-style abilities to the fray. It should also be noted that they may imprint part of their mind into objects, making them essentially intelligent with all the consequences - which is a kind of awesome additional twist for the class. Essentially, this is the brainy monk we know from Anime and WuXia who copies your moves and uses your own tricks against you - and it is more efficient than the woefully underpowered base class thanks to its tricks. Speaking of which - the amnesiac archetype, with its battle trance, hearkens also back to these media and provides a pretty cool alternative to the base concept. Hungry Minds would be evil mnemonics that may heal themselves via thought strikes (limited resource, so kitten-proof), while thought rippers replace the detrimental conditions of regular thought strikes with scaling non-lethal damage. Solid and nice- overall, a fun class - designer Mike Myler did a neat job here!
Next up would be the momenta, pitched by Erik Ottosen and written by the Amor Game-staff, and I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that I haven't seen a class like this before. We all have seen the trope in literature - the faithful, loyal companion that makes the heroes excel, the squire that does the grunt-work - that is the momenta. The class gets 6+Int skills per level (with 2 to be freely chosen as class skills), d, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armor plus shields, 1/2 BAB-progression and good will-saves as well as prepared arcane casting via Int of up to 4th level, from their own spell-list, with the caveat that they can ignore "somatic components of up to 50 gold in value" while holding the book in their hands- I assume that should be material components. Additionally, as written, the momenta incurs spell failure chance for casting in light armor, which she probably shouldn't, seeing how she can only cast spells outside of combat in the first place (but only has a 6 hour required rest for spell memorization). It should be noted that limited spellcasting in combat can be achieved via the class's talents. Momenta of 4th level may cast cure light wounds as an arcane spell by either spending a motivation point or by spontaneously converting one of her spells. And these would be the momenta's central resource: A momenta receives Cha-mod motivation points in the beginning of a battle, +1 per ally that acts before an opponent.
Alas, this mechanic is utterly broken. First of all, it utilizes the nonsense per-encounter mechanic, which makes in-game no sense whatsoever. I've been VERY vocal about that not working, so I'll spare you my usual rant regarding this topic and just point you towards them. Tl; DR: Makes no sense since it is based on a fluid measurement of time rather than a concrete one. Secondly, the system can be gamed due to a lack of definition as to what constitutes an ally - master summoner conjures a lot of creatures with good initiative, momenta doesn't know what to do with this huge amount of points. A clearer definition is definitely in order here. A similar complaint can be fielded about how motivation is used - as a free action, the momenta can add 1d6 to the result of any one of her checks or that of an ally. One, there is some ongoing disparity which type of free action we're talking about - while some free actions can be used out of turn, this does not apply to all free actions - so yes, we have an issue with the base system here the class fails to address. Secondly, shouldn't the ability have some kind of range, audible or visual component? As written, it does not require the like, which feels odd to me. 2 Motivation points can also be used to reroll saving throws or attack rolls as an immediate action - no action-economy complaints here on my part.
A momenta also can utilize motivation via so-called stimuli, essentially the talents of the class, which are either extraordinary or spell-like abilities. These include being able to pay for metamagic with motivation, spell recall and the like - most importantly, though, the stimuli allow for the switching of initiative orders and allows the momenta to let allies act out of turn - an ability that can also be used offensively, by the way. So yes, the momenta per se is very powerful - even before non-stimulus abilities that include tactician and the like. However, the infinite resource of motivations also radiates into the stimuli - with an infinite capacity for encounters (versus infernal kittens, for example), the momenta can use infinite healing by utilizing motivation. So yes, this frame needs a daily cap for healing and a proper, codified time-frame instead of per-encounter.
Now all of this sounds pretty negative and it ultimately, alas, is. However, the basic premise of the class is awesome and while the framework looks weak, a momenta can provide a significant power-boost to a group -even as a cohort, the class excels pretty much. So let me emphasize this: I absolutely adore the concept and the unique tricks the momenta has, but I wished the Amora staff had slightly polished it more; as written, it can easily be fixed, but without fixes, I wouldn't use it. Still - the concept is so unique, so awesome that it is actually one of my favorite classes herein! Yeah, who would have thought? The pdf also provides 2 archetypes, one with less spellcasting and an option to knock out foes a limited amount of times per day and a second one that has limited bardic performances. Solid.
Next up would be the Mystic, who receives d8, 4+Int skills per level and either improved unarmed strikes or weapon focus at 1st level; proficiencies are determined by the elemental path chosen and the class gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as all good saves. They also receive a ki-powered elemental strike (class level + wis-mod) and while they have at least one point of ki, they add wis-mod to AC. Elemental Strikes use the class level as BAB and damage scales up over the levels from 1d6 to 2d8. Ki can also be used for skill-boosts, adding additional attacks to full attacks. The class also receives a mystic talent at 2nd level, +1 every even level thereafter. There would be a higher-level option to make elemental strikes not cost ki anymore, evasions, finesse and the like - a solid kind-of-monkish array, with 10th level expanding the list by advanced talents. The capstone also sports choices, which is nice to see.
Now I mentioned elemental paths - these do not only influence class skills and proficiencies, they also net a basic ability associated with the element. Furthermore, each path provides a significant array of unique talents and 3rd level and every odd level thereafter nets an elemental technique from a list determined by the path, granting either a feat or a ki-powered spell, with DCs, if applicable, being governed by Wis. A total of 4 elemental paths plus the force path are provided, with each of them feeling utterly distinct.
While the force path has a force-blast and ranged combat maneuver-option, the limited range makes that one steer clear of my rant regarding that. The book also sports 3 archetypes - the ancient gets a reflexive reincarnate and sooner access to elemental techniques, but pays more for elemental strikes. Crossroads Mystics receive decreased damage dice for elemental strikes, but gets more ki and can select elemental techniques from all paths, but at higher costs. The final archetype, the kenjin, has more expensive elemental strikes, but gains access to ninja tricks. Alexander Augunas' Mystic has a bit of a flavor-issue with me - I'm utterly burned out on anything elemental-themed and this class is essentially the elemental bender-style character...or the Jedi. I don't like Star Wars. That being said, mechanically, the class is honestly beautiful - I prefer it over qinggong monk and the like and it executes its concept admirably well, with Alex's zen-like ease. At the same time, it has a cool idea - a sidebox talks about retooling the flavor to correspond to the alchemical humors - and the fluff I pretty much adore, which leaves me without any valid gripes to field - making me like a class whose concepts left me with disdain is a huge feat - congratulations!
Sasha Hall pitched the Pauper class, which was then developed by the Amora staff. The pauper gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves. Paupers are defined by their two pools - hope and despair. Hope begins play with a maximum of 1 and scales up to 11, with despair beginning play with3 points, scaling up to 13. A pauper can execute a full-round action to turn despair points into hope points. Despair is gained whenever the pauper witnesses an act of strife or desperation, seeing an ally suffer a lethal wound and when witnessing cruel acts. Hope is conversely gained when seeing an enemy fall, acts of kindness etc. When one pool contains more points than the other, the pauper benefits from a unique effect. Paupers may execute nonlethal attacks versus allies to grant the ally a morale bonus. Pretty odd - the pauper can get all "morale, sacred and profane" penalties of allies and draw them upon herself. Only thing is - penalties are untyped, so the ability does not work as intended. Fr each penalty chosen to take upon himself, the pauper gains wis-mod temporary despair points.
The pauper's abilities, alas, at least to me, feel somewhat unfocused - they establish an empathic bond with a limited array of people (somewhat akin to how Dreamscarred Press' psionic networks work). The class also allows for minor healing as well as an aura that can either act as a buffer or a debuffer, depending on which pool is dominant. High-level paupers may transfer abilities from one ally to another, but thankfully with numerical and limited resources being subject to relatively stringent limitations. Strangely, supernatural abilities are not covered by the ability transference. All in all, the pauper has many makings of an interesting class, but it ultimately feels odd in many of its choices - aid another as a move/swift action for points may sound okay...but at 11th level, that's pretty late. The class also is completely linear - there is NO choice to be made here - not even the cavalier has such a small array of player agenda - the abilities, all unique ones, no groups, fall in line as a linear progression, making all paupers essentially the same. Beyond that, the class is dependent on two resources, which, in spite of a side-box, ultimately are highly circumstantial ad thus can only hardly be quantified - and thus, as feared by yours truly, the result will be a lot of arguments about hope and despair. Some tighter definitions would have imho helped here. The pauper gets an archetype with only one pool. Overall, the first class I really didn't like - conceptually, it feels not focused enough and mechanically, I've seen the interaction of fluid pool done better in some Interjection Games-releases. The class is not necessarily bad, mind you, but it's not up to the others.
The commander in chief of Little Red Goblin Games, Scott Gladstein, provides us with the Survivor, who gets d12, 6+Int skills per level, simple and martial weapon as well as light and medium armor proficiency, full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. Survivors not only can live off the land and can provide some of his class features with allies via the safe passage class feature, which provides a bonus to allies, usable Con-mod + 1/2 class level times per day. Bonus feats at 2nd level and 6th and every 4 levels thereafter are also there Beyond uncanny dodge, evasion et al., 3rd level, 7th and every 4 thereafter allow for DR, natural armor or elemental resistance, with each quality being selectable more than once. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provides a survival tactic, a unique, mostly defensive trick that can be considered the talent-array of the class - many of which can also be granted to allies. Level 13 nets essentially mettle (evasion for will- and fort-saves), called stalwart here, and at that level, this is okay.
The survivor has been my absolute surprise here - while not particularly complex on paper, this class works superbly in play -straightforward, fun and ultimately, it does just what you want: A ranger-y class sans all the mystic mumbo-jumbo, but who can make his allies so much better and harder to kill. This class is a great example why playtests of the complex classes herein was required - it fared much better in actual gameplay than I expected - the survivor is exceedingly fun to play, so kudos! 4 Archetypes are provided for the class - the feralist with simple weapon-exclusive vital strikes and modified feat/tactics-list, the seething survivor (with full barbarian synergy), the parkour specialist thrill seeker and the kind-of-rogueish urban survivor. A Synergist/survivor level 20 multiclass makes for a cool NPC.
Morgan Boehringer, the mastermind of Forest Guardian Press, presents the Synergist, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor and shields and gets 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good fort- and will-saves. Synergists establish a kind of network akin to psionic networks equal to Cha-mod allies, with her being required to be part of the so-called "cast." The more creatures in the cast, the higher the shield bonus granted to the synergist. Via swift actions, members of the cast can coordinate, making firing into melee easier and teamwork feat granting is obviously part of the deal as well. Better aid another among the cast is also part of the scaling progression. At 1st level, synergists may create a synergy 1+Cha-mod times per day, +1 per 3 class levels. A synergist gets "+1 bonus synergy counters" for each successful attack, save or skill check, +2 for confirmed crits or nat 20s on non-attack-rolls. A synergist may store class level + Cha-mod counters. Synergy counters may be bestowed upon members of the cast, with a duration of Cha-mod+ 1/4 class level rounds. The counters can be used to enhance skill checks, temporary hit points, concentration, CMD, AC, etc. - this ability is glorious and fun.
At 1st level, the synergist may select a technique from a selection of 3, with 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter providing an additional array of new techniques, continuously expending the pool of options to choose from - NICE! Now where things become even more interesting is with the gaining of passive abilities and the collective bestowing of Lunge - a synergist can also negate critical hits and even enhance at higher levels the action tax required by a given action - the synergist pretty much, when played right, can radically change the way in which a unit of adventurers works - and it is awesome. Ultimately, the synergist can literally be the glue that holds a group together in combat and plays surprisingly efficient and different from classes with a similar concept - when to see something ridiculously flexible? Synergist plus Battle Lord. Add in a Tactician and cackle with glee. The archetype for the class falls somewhat behind the main class in coolness, with minor debuffs being just not that interesting - especially seeing the direlock by Morgan, I would have expected something a tad bit more special, but don't let that detract from the coolness of the class.
The Umbra (unfortunately named in my book - it has nothing to do with shadows...) would be a class by Interjection Games' mastermind Bradley Crouch and as such, it is complex: As a basic frame, it gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in light armor and shields and weapon proficiency according to the primary embrace chosen. In heavier armor, planar powers suffers from arcane spell failure chance. The umbra gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good will-saves.
So what are those embraces? Well, they signify the heritage of the Umbra, with the primary being the dominant one and chosen at 1st level, the secondary embrace being unlocked at 5th level. Each embrace is assigned a pool of points - the primary embrace has primary points (PP), the secondary embrace secondary points (SP) - collectively, both are called embrace points (EP). Ep scale up from 2 PP to 12 and 1 SP (at 5th level) to 8. Umbra gain resistance to the energy of the primary plane equal to their class level, 1/2 class level for the secondary embrace and each plane has an assigned skill, which receives minor bonuses. At 6th level, the umbra may, as a swift action, generate a temporary EP to assign to a planar power or trait, which lasts for Cha-mod rounds, +1 point granted at 10th level and every 4 levels thereafter. This can be used Cha-mod times per day. There is an unfortunate error in one of the abilities, which specified that an ubiquitous power is gained at 3rd level, +1 at 5th and then +1 at every 4 levels thereafter, when the tables puts that at second level instead. Either that, or quickswap needs to be moved to second level. What does quickswap do? it allows for the reassignment of planar powers 1/day, scaling up by +1/day every 4 levels thereafter, making me belief that the first ubiquitous power ought to be gained at 2nd level.
Ubiquitous powers can be considered the "general" talents of the class, whereas the embraces cover the specialist tricks - the basic elemental planes and both positive and negative energy planes are available for the umbra to choose from, with each having assigned proficiencies. But the choice is more relevant than that - each plane has powers and traits associated. traits require an investiture of 1 point to use and then are static and passive. Powers, on the other hand, allow for more customization - the more points you invest in a given power, the longer you can activate it/the bigger its potency. Now, as you might expect, the benefits are pretty unique - what about a weak reflexive shield that can be dismissed to execute a smite? Yes, the benefits tend towards the unique side of things and some abilities utilize a cooldown mechanic I pretty much enjoy.
Now I'm an old-school Planescape fanboy, and thus, the further tricks of the class brought a smile to my face - yup, at 10th level, the umbra becomes a kind of embodied demiplane-intersection of his primary and secondary embrace. When assigning EP, an umbra can elect to convert either PP or SP into demiplance emergence points (abbreviated DE), but her SP pool must remain larger than the DE pool. Now the interesting part here would be that each demiplane's powers tend to work differently - some reward stockpiling DE-points. Some require their expenditure. Some ignore them mostly in favor of other counters, which are gained in means pertaining to the elemental condition in question and instead make for the resource of the demiplane: Cinders nets, for example, 1 "sputtering charge" whenever the umbra utilizes a power, but does not bypass the cooldown - this charge can be used as an additional invested point in an ability for a short while or expelled as a blast of negative energy and flame, with DE governing the damage output of the sputtering charge-powered blast. Have I mentioned the capstone that lets you make your own plane? Yeah.
Damn, LIC, what are you doing here? Here I am rambling about how bored I am by elemental classes and themes and now I have a second class with such a theme I actually like. Damn. Kidding aside, the umbra is an interesting class with essentially a highly customizable array of tricks that makes it surpass the one-trick pony component inherent in most elemental-themed classes. I generally like it, though I still don't get where the name comes from.
The penultimate class herein would be Wayne Canepa's Warloghe, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, custom weapon proficiency and no armor or shield proficiencies. The class is built on a 3/4 BAB-progression good fort- and will-save chassis and their bond with a twisted spirit provides prepared arcane spellcasting from a custom list of up to 6th level, based on Wis -uncommon. However, alternatively, instead of spellcasting, a warloghe may select a binding pact with a spirit, gaining a linear, bloodline-like array of abilities, but more on those later. 2nd level warloghes get an essence pool equal to 4 + 1/2 class level + wis-mod, with a passive benefit and the option to expend points to inflict negative-energy based touch attacks, with higher levels allowing for AoE emanations and debuff conditions. At second level and every two levels thereafter, the warloghe selects a taboo - essentially the talents of the class, governed by Wis, with some being exclusive to certain twisted spirits chosen. These include SPs, upgrades to the vortex, dabbling in necromancy, familiars at -5 class levels - quite an array. The 5th level class feature, though, would be one of my favorites - warloghes may leave their soul behind as haunts, moving forward as a soulless shell! Damn cool! However I really wished the pdf sported a kind of instant-haunt-generator for warloghes that does not require handing GM-books to players. Taboos are expanded at 10th level to include more powerful choices. The taboos, when active, more often than not require the expenditure of essence points, which also powers a linear array of spell-like abilities granted over the class's level-progression.
A total of 5 twisted spirits, each with a custom spell-list and custom binding abilities, are provided - it should be noted, though, that each of them also results in a tainted soul, which translates to a continuous, negative effect on the warloghe that denotes his sinister dealings - however, they also provide a unique base benefit. The individual benefits are pretty unique and include stacking bleed damage, placing marks of vengeance, etc. The warloghe class gets an okay capstone, but 3 archetypes: One gets binding pact and spellcasting, but no taboos, while another can craft totem-constructs instead of getting the haunted ability. the final one may channel spirit strikes through his weapon and not waste points on misses, but loses the vortex AoE-control. Unremarkable, as far as archetypes go. The warloghe is pretty much a sinister glass cannon that feels a bit like a more damage-focused take on the witch-fluffed gish - now the class isn't bad and its damage output is balanced by being VERY squishy (more so than the magus) and I like the fluff, but I really think it would have benefited from significantly more spirits - those that are here are solid, though ultimately, the class suffers from me having years upon years of Pact Magic as a frame of reference and the latter just feels more versatile to me.
The final class is a new iteration of an old acquaintance of mine, the Warsmith, written by the Amora crew - at d8, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, hammer, picks and pilums, light armors and shields as well as 3/4 BAB-progression and good fort-saves, the warsmith is a retool of Amora Game's tinker - can it hold up? Well, first of all, beyond the craftsman bonuses and the significant bonuses to sundering via edifice recognition, the warsmith now may grant bonuses to armors and weapons, even duplicating special abilities at higher levels. At 2nd level and every even level thereafter, the warsmith receives a talent, here called design, which allows him to modify class features, expand crafting capabilities and even poach in alchemist/rogue territory with bombs or rogue talents. While not particularly complex, that ultimately is the strength of the class- it is a straightforward craft/sunder-specialist who is really good at what he does. Now personally, I'm not a big fan of e.g. a prone-knocking fissure having a fixed save-DC instead of a scaling one, but still, this remains the best iteration of the concept so far.
Since I have already covered the class options and archetypes above, I will only glance over the feats provided, all right? All in all, many of the feats here have a teamwork aspect and +x uses/+ longer uses of abilities for classes are provided alongside some interesting teamwork feats (since they don't suck for many classes herein) - unarmed fighting for non-monks, a style that makes combat maneuvers work sans improved-feats (and that while remaining balanced!) and some unique tricks, like playing switcheroo with magic item abilities, overall, this section can be considered well-crafted. In the cases where one may be familiar with some feats from previous publications of Amora Game, they tend to have undergone a streamlining of their wording - so yeah, while not 100% perfect, the vast majority of this chapter proved to be a fun read! Kudos!
Okay, so only one chapter to go - Adapt, Overcome, Survive - and it is GLORIOUS. Evocative haunts with nice flavor text ranging from CR 1 to 9 are complemented by environmental hazards... like exploding rats. Yes. You read it. Awesome! Two quick templates for magically-contaminated/infused creatures can also be found herein before we get rules for magical pollution of varying severity - think of them as the magical equivalent of radioactivity (and yes, just as deadly) - but with the nice added benefit of also coming with a ton of spellblights, of which we also get a quite significant array.
The pdf closes with a handy facsimile-sheet.
Editing and formatting are not perfect, but still pretty good - in a book of this size, with so much crunch, it is testament to the quality of the authors and editors/developers that almost no significant errors have crept into the complex matrixes of the class-crunch. Layout adheres to a crisp two-column full-color standard with a blending of stock and original artworks. the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The print-copy, which I urge you to get, is well worth the price - I got mine from being a supporter of the KS and it sports a solid frame and high quality., glossy paper. This book has seen quite some use and it does not show. As a note for 3pps: Amora Game sent me the best-packaged book I have to date received from any 3pp - with significant amounts of bubble-wrap and a big package, the book has made it past the transition across the ocean and the careless hands of the postal service without even a dent. Kudos for gong the extra mile - a creaseless book is a definitely nice change of pace to receive!
The Liber Influxus Communis grew from the PFRPG-community, the community of which I consider myself a part of and for which I ultimately write my reviews. While Amora Game took a beating from me in the past, they never gave up and when their KS ran, I *think* I may have been the first backer - I wanted to believe in them. This was the reason I decided to make this my 2000th review - and I was hoping that my hopes would not be unjustified.
Now what Greg LaRose did was smart - he got essentially all 3pp top crunch-designers not too involved with their own projects: Alexander Augunas, Bradley Crouch, Daron Woodson, Eric Morton, Mike Myler, Scott Gladstein, Wayne Canepa, Will McCardell, Wojciech Gruchala, Kevin Bond, Linda Zayas-Palmer, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer. Realize something? This is pretty much an all-stars-list and the content of this book shows it - each designer herein has brought his/her strengths to the table - from relatively simple to exceedingly complex, the classes provided herein all breathe a spirit of cooperation, of being unique and run the gamut of providing simple plug and play as well as highly complex tinkering classes that require significant planning to get right. The classes herein have one thing in common that transcends the differences in design: They are not boring. I consider no single class herein bland, no single concept to be redundant. In fact, I loved most of the classes, and I mean *loved* - when a book makes me enjoy two classes that sport a theme I loathe, you'll know you have something awesome at your fingertips.
Now this book is not perfect - I wasn't blown away by all archetypes; the momenta, which I love to death as one of my favorite classes herein, imho requires a second editing pass/a capable DM to streamline and take the rough edges off. The Demiurge's laser battery needs a nerf-whack. And the pauper left me singularly unimpressed, having seen the interacting pools done more in a precise and organic way. Heck, I even made a class with two fluid pools interacting with one another. That aside, the pauper also feels oddly linear and as if it were part of another book. Similarly, not all feats blew me away, but if I broke that down for you, the review would go on for even longer. And I honestly am not sure whether anyone will read this monstrosity as it stands.
Ultimately, though, none of the gripes I could muster, whether they be typos or the above, can stand before a superb appendix and no less than 13 classes I will definitely use in my games - this is pretty much the highest density of classes I have ever allowed a single book to contribute to any game of mine and that is a significant achievement. Now as you all know, I'm a stickler for the more complex classes, but even the simple ones herein have something unique going for them, a playing experience that deviates from what other classes can offer - and what more can you expect from a new base class? In the end, the Liber Influxus Communis may not be a perfect book, but it is still an excellent and inexpensive way to add a vast array of pure innovation to your game - a smörgåsbord of unique mechanics and things no other class can do. And I love it for exactly that. This book exemplifies the work of some of the finest designers in the field and I have, ultimately, always valued innovation and slight rough edges higher than bland mechanical perfection - and, as such, the few mechanical bumps that are herein could in no way stand in relation to the awesomeness that this book brings to the table, they simply pale and fade when seen in relation with the vast array of cool tricks the content herein makes possible. My final verdict thus will be 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this book as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.
And if you're still reading that, let me extend my heartfelt thank-you to you for sticking with my ramblings and reading my 2000th review. I write them for you and remain yours,
Review posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@Michael: The Battle Lord is a thing of beauty, especially with bravery feat-synergy. It has replaced the War Master class in my game. Kudos!
Also: Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed this massive analysis.
All right, as always, one day before I post it around here:
I've finished a massive, huge review for Amora Game's Liber Influxus Communis.
I figured I'd make this milestone review of a book that is very much a product of this community: Spawned by threads here, with designers chosen from the wonderful 3pp-commmunity and reviewed by myself, very much a product of this community.
I usually don't link to my page like that, but please bear with me, for this also commemorates officially my 2000th review posted here on Paizo - and that is not including revisions, products exclusive to other vendors, etc., but it's the most accurate count I have, since I didn't save them until I hit review ~400.
So, as always with milestones, this is the time for me to get sentimental, so if you don't want to read about me gushing, please just take a look at the review. :)
I'd like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the following publishers and persons in general, in no particular order:
-Rite Publishing, for being the first 3pp to provide copies for me and Steven D. Russell in particular for making me develop my reviewing style from a ToC to the style you see now.
-Rogue Genius Games, in particular Owen K.C. Stephens, for the encouragement, support and civility shown over the years.
-Raging Swan Press, in particular Creighton Broadhurst, for teaching me what one can do with the right mindset and for providing diversions from constant crunch analysis with products that have vastly improved my game.
-Frog God Games, the whole crew, but in particular Greg Vaughan, for making some of the most epic books ever and for being supportive of my whole reviewing in general, as well as for just existing.
-AAW Games, in particular Jonathan Nelson and Joshua Gullion (KtFish7, Rest in Peace, my friend) for being the first company to actually take a chance with my writing and design.
-LPJr Design, in particular Louis Porter Jr., for being a prime example of how to step one's game up and for the support and professionalism in conduct with me, in spite of some pretty nasty reviews in the beginning. I also love your transparency agendas - keep up the good work!
-Dreamscarreed Press, in particular Andreas Rönnqvist, with whom I had some excellent conversations on the world, time and everything else.
-Legendary Games, in particular Jason Nelson, who has been a scholar and gentleman in all of our interactions.
-Purple Duck Games, in particular Mark Gedak, whose cool work nowhere near receives enough spotlight, for the damn cool supplements that have enriched my game.
-TPK Games, in particular Brian Berg, for being the first company to take a chance with my crunch-design.
-Kobold Press, in particular Wolfgang Baur, for taking a chance with me on the AR-Compendium kickstarter at a time when my perspectives seemed very bleak.
Beyond these publishers, the following persons deserve my gratitude:
-Bradley Crouch: I have learned more about good design from working with you on Strange Magic than I ever deemed possible. You're an enrichment to the community and I'd also like to thank you for taking a chance with my insane classes.
-Richard Develyn: Your modules bring vast amounts of joy to my table - you are an artist among writers. never stop what you're doing!
-Alexander Augunas: Your designs are a joy to read and you're an awesome person to boot - never stop!
-Scott Gladstein from Little Red Goblin Games: You have created a setting the captivates me like no other - so thank you for providing a space for my dark visions of the future!
-Will McCardell for showing me what a great developer can accomplish, for the support and for pushing the envelope with your designs.
-Steven T. Helt for the awesome conversations.
-George Williams for the nice talks and cool links.
-Christina Stiles for taking a chance with me.
-John Bennett for the support shown to me and for making Vathak a setting I actually enjoy.
-Morgan Boehringer for teaching me some important things about design and development and for being a pillar of the community.
-Mike Myler for his industrious and numerous additions to my own campaign and the nice discussions.
-Julian Neale for his kind words and designs.
-Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine,w ithout whom there would be no endzeitgeist.com.
-Louis Agresta for the friendship and encouragement.
...and if your name is not on this list, please bear with me - I do appreciate and value each and every one of you and value all those friendships and the kindness exhibited, especially considering how many of you had to endure critical reviews and still remained courteous and kind, differentiating between my reviews and me as a person. I really appreciate this!
I'd also like to extend my gratitude to everyone who ever submitted a product for review, to everyone of you who reads my reviews, and, in particular, to all of the supporters of my patreon, without whom this review would not exist - ladies and gentlemen, it's been a blast interacting with you, so THANK YOU!
I remain yours,
The versatility of vainglory was great - high player agenda. The exploding dice-tricks can be awesome if handled properly. I also loved how the mechanics made the swashbuckler more mobile in general - basically anything that helps the poor hybrid classes be what their name actually implies. And yes, i will keep a close eye on he skald - the result of this pdf was that the base swashbuckler still does not see any use in my games, but some of my players will play the archetypes once in a while, so that's a triumph.
Btw.: Samsaran Compendium and Microsized Adventures coming up next, in pretty quick succession. Both having their testing done. :)
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What happens if Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s thesis in Vril, The Power of the Master Race, of a subterranean master-race and their quasi-mystical super-technology was set against a backdrop of genocidal struggle between two competing races and then combined with a classic “you dug too deep” twist, unleashing dread Erebi on the genocidal victors of the struggle? We get one messed up setting. Add to that a sprinkling of hollow earth and H.G Wellsian Time Machine and we have even more of a mess – in the ruined, desolate planet (swallowed by a titanic shadow-like…thing, slowly breaking the world asunder) and its tunnels, survivors, ranging from degenerate morlock to the last surviving racist Übermenschen (the pdf gets the plural wrong - you add –en in the end), fight their desolate and doomed battles against reality-annuling aliens led by a Slenderman-esque figure, while an undead umbragunt may be the last champion of a planet doomed to die.
Hollow Thune is not a nice place, and if the above wasn’t enough, the writing and narrative voice further drives that home – essentially, the pdf not only borrows Bulwer-Lytton’s terminology from another age, but in the emphasis on Germanic Nomenclature and the quoting of concepts like the Black Sun, draws less than subtle parallels with the popularized notion of the Thule society’s mysticism, thus adding a nasty sense of gravitas to the whole setting.
That being said, as a German, I sometimes tire of the whole imagery, mainly since we’re bombarded with the atrocities of the Third Reich in both school curriculum and media and I have a hard time separating games and fun and the popularized stereotype of the Nazivillains from the gruesome realities of history. This pdf made this particular component relatively easy on me – with the clear condemnation of the socal-darwinism exhibited by the destroyed races of Thune, with the clear pointer not at the Third Reich, but at the intellectual streams that existed in literature, culture and intelligentsia of all fields, the pdf manages to evoke the themes, but do so in a thoroughly unique manner that is at once creative and still, very clear in the themes it quotes.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Hollow Thune could have devolved into an utter mess in the hands of a lesser writer – I have literally seen all components that make up the defining elements of this book in multiple cases, have read Bulwer-Lytton and thanks to my keen interest in history, I am pretty well-versed in the atrocities committed by different nations. Hollow Thune still manages to keep these together, to toe the line between the horrific and fantastic, never falling into the realm of tastelessness. And for that, I applaud it. The whole setting even would make for a great Dark Soul-ish background of a desolate world you slowly explore, a world of lethal adversaries…and once again, I find myself wishing, that this Gossamer World had more room to shine. Oh well, as provided, we get a great installment in the series and yet again, a verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
Part II of my review:
The supplemental feats for the classes contain the obligatory +x limited resource class ability-array as well as e.g. more control for rock outs, options to stun devils in musical contests or reduce the speed of foes instead of dealing damage via rock out or solo. Pretty solid.
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. Considering the imaginative, unconventional mechanics herein, the rules-language is also much more concise than what I've seen in "easier" mechanics. Layout adheres to, as mentioned, a 1 or 2-page standard and the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artworks are mostly in full color, original and awesome.
Scott Gladstein, Thomas Lee Hornyak Jr, Christos Gurd, Dayton Johnson, Caleb Alysworth, Jeremiah Zerby - gentlemen, the acclaim Gonzo has received is pretty much well deserved. This is, indeed, at least in my book, the most refined Little Red Goblin Game-pdf I've reviewed. The rules-language with its eclectic concepts and innovative twists on the rules does not lazily recombine existing pieces, instead opting for something new with each and every class - and I love it for that.
At the same time, though, some of the classes herein can turn pretty problematic - the Craven in the context of WBL-deviations and the Living Bomb in particular can work superbly for some games, while being utterly broken in others, so careful consideration is in order here. Now at least partially, that's a system-inherent issue, granted, but it does remain one.
Now the surprise of this book would be the Punk-class - I expected to hate it and instead love it to death, with a fitting reskin, this becomes in a fixture in my games and in the context of WuXia et. al, this will work just as well and might constitute a great alternative to monk-gestalting. Indeed, I'd seriously consider this class one of the best gestalt-options I've seen in a while. So yeah, people, I love this!
Now granted, I am biased towards the Rockstar and adore the concept, but kept on wishing its interaction and sequential gameplay reached the level of complexity supported by Interjection Games-composition magic - I will probably make a crossover class at one point. Nothing wrong here, mind you, just me preferring things a bit less straightforward...and the class essentially already has the sequential nature built in, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
So all's fine and dandy? No, there are, as mentioned above, several minor issues in the rules-semantics that weigh heavily when used with the more complex of options herein - but then again, I honestly prefer innovation over perfection.
And there is the layout. The font used, a typewriter-style old-school font, makes reading this book harder than it ought to be...and it cheats. The font has no italicization/bolding and while class abilities are red and blocky and easy to distinguish, the lack of italicization for spells etc. has been excruciatingly annoying for me. It makes reading so much slower and required more concentration to read the class abilities - there is a reason for the formatting convention and this flaunts them. Especially when providing complex concepts like this book does, the nonstandard layout and formatting can make understanding some abilities harder than it ought to be.
So yeah, there you have it - the thing is disliked most was the font. The rules-issues, where present, still leave the RAI pretty much obvious. Now that being said, if you want an easy, quick conventional book, then this is not for you - this book is one of the most experimental books I've seen for PFRPG and I applaud its guts!
Do I recommend this? Heck yeah! Even if you just are looking for abilities and ideas to scavenge, this provides both in ample spades. While not every class is for every game, just about all of them could be reskinned to some extent and introduced to most settings and a distinct joy is evident on the pages - plus, I really enjoy the fact that none of the classes took the easy way out. Not one class herein could be mistaken for another class or archetype - they are resoundingly distinct.
No, this is not perfect or for everyone, but it is an exceedingly fun, innovative book - and while its font, glitches and slight balance-concerns here and there prevent me from rating this the full five stars. In fact, were I to rate pdfs only on their formal properties and not also for the benefits of their imagination, this would probably fare less well - Gonzo is pretty much a a diamond that still needs to be polished. I'll still settle for a final verdict of 4 stars - while I firmly believe that the concepts herein deserve my seal of approval, the execution of the complex mechanics sports a tad bit too many hiccups for that and, depending on your personal preferences, you may consider the blemishes that are there to be more serious than I did. When adapting these classes for your game, you will probably need to do some minor tweaking here and there - at least I'd suggest doing so.
Still, in the end, I'll take courage and innovation over retreading anytime and I encourage you to reward the designers for the unmitigated joy that oozes from these pages, for the high-concept ideas, by checking this out...
Now excuse me, I have a certain Devil May Cry-style class to reskin for the upcoming Hell's Rebels AP...
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Part II of my review:
The spell-chapter does provide a cool rules-clarification for spells utilizing the shadow of the caster and provide, obviously, a significant means of providing shadow/light-control. Interesting for other classes - there are spells herein which interact with e.g. shadow surges, making the latter not just an isolated class feature. Interesting would be terrain control spells to confine targets in e.g. areas of darkness, while shadowy wings that can also be used to attack foes and furthermore, allows for channeling 1/cast - nasty and versatile, but I like it. From the ageing capstone, there are other interesting effects - for example, a complex spell which alters an illusion to allow for the execution of quasi-real attacks via the infusion of shadow stuff - as such area attacks, attacks, energy etc. are covered with unique benefits. There are also lunar prophecies or the option to conjure forth the all-consuming maw of the nightwave. Ways to suppress extraordinary senses would also be an interesting move for spells. However, there also are minor modifications/improved versions, like e.g. a darkness/cold-based variant of flaming sphere. Shadow-based necromancy spell-duplication is also covered, as are chaotic overlaps between planes. I also like the concise definition of shadow length for attacks on a shadow, which reflects its damage to the origin of the caster. A new spell-class to summon evil, horrific creatures also can be found herein. There is also a highly complex class of spells that allows for the conjuration of umbral servants for the nightblades, which essentially act on their own after a nightblade's turn -these are fun, allowing e.g. a called magician to freely apply metamagic to certain spells cast close to it, etc.
The final chapter provides ample new magical weapon/armor qualities and specific items - with artworks depicting them that are downright inspired and rank among the best such I have ever seen in any given supplement - WOW. The twilight reaver scythe looks so badass, I just NEED to show this picture to my players, even without knowing that it's a +2 cold iron keen greater umbral scythe that allows for surge storage on crits...
The pdf also sports a handy two-page index and artist-credits.
Editing and formatting are excellent - I noticed no significant issues while reading this - none. The 2-column full-color layout used in this book is GORGEOUS. I mean it. This is one of the most beautiful roleplaying book I've seen any 3pp produce, an impression also underlined by the GLORIOUS original full-color artwork by Jasmine Mackey, Bryon Oshihiro, Danielle Sands, Al Savell, Nicoleta Stavarache and Trevor Verges - the artworks, from vistas to spells to characters adhere to a glorious style that is uniform and concise. I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that this book, in visual, aesthetic quality, could have been a Paizo-book. It's that beautiful. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but I'd sincerely advise you to get this in print - unlike quite a few PODs, there is no big chance of an errata invalidating this book. This book looks better than quite a few kickstarted books I could name. Yes, THAT beautiful.
What a furious first offering! This is quite frankly the best first offering of crunch I've seen a novice designer produce in ages. Last year saw plenty of adventures of newcomers providing an extremely high quality, but new crunch tends to require most designers some time to get right. Well, this is Ascension Games' first product and it does NOT require any leniency on my part. Author (and layout/editor!) Christopher Moore seems to not only be able to edit his own texts, quite a feat, imho, he also provides a level of professionalism with regards to rules-language one sees scarcely, almost never among novices. The language is so precise, it can be considered on par with the errata'd, good Paizo-books. Beyond that, this pdf offered a level of system-mastery and a level of awareness of obscurer rules I quite frankly almost never get to see. While I have some personal gripes against one component or another herein, none really hold up on a professional level and boil down to personal preferences; number-wise, including extensive playtests, this book held up admiringly well. Few books can claim to withstand this level of deep scrutiny to such an extent, especially considering the level of interaction with obscure and complex elements among the design elements. I was positively surprised to see all of this - but where the book shines most is with the material that takes chances and provides things to do that no other spell or system can achieve - it is the unique effects, which stand out and while I absolutely adore the coverage of just about anything one could ask for in sucha context, I still would have loved to see even more of the inspired, unique effects that can be found herein.
Remember, this is just me being an utterly spoiled bastard of a reviewer - this book is, without engaging in hyperbole, up to the level of crunch-mastery exhibited usually only by established, experienced crunch-masters and blends this with production-values out of this world, visually more on par with Paizo than what you'd expect from a 3pp, much less a new one sans a KS providing the funds. This is a hugely impressive book that catapulted Ascension Games to the landscape of my table and to my radar; I can't help but be excited about the things to come and more such supplements and I certainly hope we'll see more material for the Nightblade - the class is inspired and fun and clearly, its potential is not yet tapped. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, given without the slightest hesitation, falling short of becoming a candidate for my top ten of 2015 only by a tiny margin. Still, this is thoroughly, exceedingly, impressive. Congratulations to the Ascension Games-team - you have impressed a jaded reviewer.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@Kryzbyn: My reviews ALWAYS hit endzeitgeist.com before any other site - after all, I have to provide an incentive for people to take a look at my site, right? And personally, I loathe: "Here's a blurb, click here to check my review"-reviews, so that felt fairest to me - no hassle if one doesn't want to wait, quickest access to reviews if you check my site. :)
Also: Thanks for the linkage!
My dear readers!
Next week will see the fruit of my patron's collective generosity, as I start to come to the reviews that YOU asked for - i.e., so far "More Raging Swan Press, more Vathak-supplements"! Expect to see a lot of both next week.
To give you an update, playtesting of the LIC is progressing nicely and will continue this week-end.
The prioritized review for May asked for by Rite Publishing, the Kaiju Codex, will also hit site next week. If you are a patron eligible to a prioritized review, please let me know - the sooner I know, the sooner I can move it up my pile!
Also, I figured I'd provide you a list of what reviews I've published and finalized in the brief time since I've started my patreon, to show you that I am not slacking. ;)
I will continue to track my reviews this way and show you what YOU made possible! You will note a rather significant influx of work-intense reviews here - many big crunchy books that take time...and there are more to come! So once again, thank you for your support and enjoy your week-end!
Here's the list:
Rite Publishing - Gossamer Worlds: Glimmer Gloam
I remain yours,