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Part II of my review:
EDIT: I'm only human and I firmly believe in OPENLY standing up for my mistakes, so there you go: My original review got one thing wrong - the Black Templar's temporary essence caps at 2 times the class level, which renders my original statement of escalation hyperbole. So let me state this loud and clear - I made a mistake and profusely apologize for this. Thankfully, my players did not make this mistake when we played -they never drained more than two kittens in the sample adventure I ran this in. Once again: Mea Maxima Culpa!
No, you do not only get essence for touching akashic creatures or characters. One touch, at fifth level, nets you 5 essence, which means that 2 kittens net you the 10 temporary essence you require. That would be 12 seconds for this charging, which, provided a halfway decent Con-score, leaves enough room to annihilate your foe. So, the only other class features and options that provides temporary essence would be Bloody Shroud's body-bind and the guru's capstone ability Immortal Essence - but that one's temporary essence only lasts for Wis-mod rounds and requires the expenditure of stunning fist via the sever the flow-ability, making it limited. So, where's the issue? Essentially, the set-up for akashic classes is one of resource-management: They are balanced by making the player's choice matter - essence burn is nasty and is a choice that decreases the otherwise pretty flexible and awesome resources of the system: Essentially, you can go with passive benefits or get the more awesome, burn-powered effects - but for that, your resources for the day slightly decrease, meaning you can't perform it all the time. Even a one-level dip into this class allows a Black Templar to bypass this via a readily available array of essence to be expended sans repercussions. Michael Sayre has pointed out that the PrC does not gain essence per se and this is indeed a limiting factor, though it's one that merits specific mentioning once the Akashic supplemental material hits sites, since e.g. psioncis and spellcasting treat this kind of interaction with a PrC differently. I maintain, though, that this is less of a problem that one should assume - since burn can be completely relegated to the temporary essence and since temporary essence can easily, quickly and more reliably regained in combat than with the guru's capstone and lasts longer to boot, this PrC still gets rid of this limiting factor, making it possible to maintain the existing veils more persistently.
These guys may also infuse devastating poisonous essence into their adversaries and finally, make their undead permanent. A nasty PrC indeed and one I'm a bit weary off - the touch attack's significant damage, when combined with e.g. the guru's damage-output, can result in levels of damage that are rather nasty. In short - I consider this PrC pretty broken in a variety of ways and won't allow this for mortal PCs unless in a vampire campaign to even the odds and I hereby warn GMs of the combo-potential of this one - it's not bad or broken in every context, mind you, but it can pretty easily be made VERY, very nasty and highly problematic.
The pdf also provides a significant array of feats to customize your vampire - from closer semblance to the living to enablers - i.e. influencing undead with bardic performances, adding bites to initiated strikes, ignore the mind-affecting immunity of undead - the feats generally provide nice ways of evening the playing field for the undead. Essentially, the feats here are enablers, i.e. feats that render abilities valid in a context where they otherwise wouldn't be. I like that.
However, personally, I am not a fan of the "ignore immunity"-type of design; it also brings me back to my first campaign, where multiple ignore/don't ignore-effects stacked and stockpiled - a solution that utilizes scaling via HD, e.g. HD+4, would have rendered these imho better balanced and made them feasible for regular campaigns -as written, the content herein fits within the framework of Lords of the Night, but beyond it, I'd be weary of quite a few of them, for example From faking death to undead companions - the concepts are solid, so please do not get the wrong impression here.
Next up would be a new martial disciplines for the Path of War-system practiced by the organization Scales of Mourning - the Unquiet Grave. The Scales of Mourning is interesting in that it actually provides an oath of initiation - you trade one of your disciplines for Unquiet Grave as a consequence of initiation into the order. Oh, and you become immortal (ceasing to age etc.) when joining this order...but only for as long as you maintain your oath. And this one is intriguing - essentially, they perceive the duality of life and death, positive and negative energy, as a necessity and thus try to keep the two forces in balance, which may pit them versus necromancers...or use them to counter the balance of rampant growth via positive energy. Harbingers, mystics, stalkers and warlords may learn this discipline and the associated weapon groups would be axes, natural, polearms and scythes, with the relevant skill being Knowledge (religion). I *love* this fluffy introduction and the themes evoked here.
The discipline is different in a selection of unique ways. For one, strikes are supernatural abilities and may be expended to utilize negative energy to heal the undead for 1d8 points per expended strike. Quite a few maneuvers have second effects that are only executed if the initiator is undead - these would be marked with "Grace Call," though the initiator has control on whether or not to have this additional effect work. Several of the maneuvers grant temporary hit points that stack with themselves (urgh) and other maneuvers, up to a total of +1/2 the initiator's maximum hit points, for up to one hour. Stacking with itself is a pretty straight and imho unnecessary deviation from how default sources of temporary hit points work, so yeah, not sold here. It should also be noted that the expenditure of strikes, with them being an unlimited resource, allows for the infinite healing of the undead - which is NOT something I'd allow - even in a high-powered vampire-campaign.
Let me go on a slight tangent here - one of the crucial flaws of Path of War and, to me, the most jarring one, worse even than failed kitten-tests, was never the damage-output. Yes, the system offers a low optimization threshold,. Yes, the damage is massive. But for *certain* campaigns, this system, as mentioned in my reviews of its files time and again, is just what the doctor ordered. And its basic system is FUN. While I'm no fan of the utterly easily exploitable skill-roll versus X-mechanics, this is still something that may not feature as problematic in certain campaigns, while in others, it can wreck all kinds of havoc. However, more so than the design sin that failed kitten-tests will ALWAYS remain, the infinite healing exploits are just horrible, and I will fight anyone on that. Healing is a limited resource in PFRPG - and in every game I participated in, for that matter. Killing the limitation on it radically changes the game and invalidates the assumptions regarding encounters per day, adventure structure, etc. In regular Path of War, the exploits at least require some levels and skill to pull off - not much, granted, but still. Here, it's the basic feature of the discipline. first level infinite healing. For groups, if you're playing all vampire/undead.
Interestingly, the discipline actually works pretty well in non-vampire games that does not sport characters healed via negative energy - in the hands of a non-dhampir etc., this discipline's broken infinite healing can mainly be used to stitch the minions of your necromancer buddy together - which is okay. The problem is, however, that both the vampires to which this is devoted and a certain number of races do not suffer from this restriction.
Here, we have a discipline that allows a first level vampire initiator infinite healing - as well as ALL non-undead characters in the group. If you combine this with any option (and there are quite a few) that allows you to transfer HP to allies, and you have infinite healing for the whole group, even mortal PCs. You are welcome to differ in your opinion, of course, but as far as I'm concerned, infinite healing is BROKEN in ANY campaign, even in (most) superhero-power-level-style ones. Even for a single character, much less talking about a whole party.
Yes, combat-utility is limited, but this still means you go fresh and fully rested into just about every battle. So, a GM in a less extreme campaign is left with either a gentleman's agreement or a mechanic that negates some very basic balance-assumptions of the game. Sure, if you're all about waltzing over your foes, this is fun - but I can wager that, for many groups, this utterly breaks the game, the challenge and thus also, the fun.
"The following section presents a new martial tradition and martial discipline, both of which are suitable for any campaign." is the intro of the maneuver section - and this is, quite frankly, horribly wrong. Infinite healing is not something "suitable for any campaign." And seriously, this breaks my heart, because I actually like Unquiet Grave. Yes, didn't see that coming now, did you?
Okay, so how do the maneuvers of the discipline fare? Extremely well. No, seriously. The imagery is glorious. Temporary hit points via attacks may be nice - but what about the gravekeeper's hood-boost that temporarily makes you immune to blindness? Yeah, damn cool visuals - though, on a nitpicky side, channel resistance increased as offered by its Grave Call usually have a "+" before the increase - but minor hiccups like this do not impede the functionality of the boost or my final rating.
I also enjoy negative energy resistance (or positive energy resistance for the undead!) - or what about a counter that temporarily shrivels your anatomy, revealing the skeleton beneath, while also granting you DR 5/bludgeoning? I'm a bit weary of a 3rd level strike temporarily preventing ANY healing on a failed save, though. A stance that prevents you from being slowed too much by mimicking the unshakeable determination of revenants would also be awesome. While I love the imagery, the Headsmen's Descending Strike can be considered problematic - if your foe is below 1/4 maximum hit points, this one means save-less insta-death. Yes, in a fight versus e.g. a dragon, this strike can be terribly anti-climactic. 6th level imho is too soon for this power - I would have expected it at 8th level, the soonest. Still, there is a LOT to like -for one, no skill versus AC attacks. Additionally, the imagery resonates with me and is awesome in many cases. Indeed, were it not for the infinite healing exploit, I'd consider this the best, most balanced and interesting discipline created so far - the additional effects and tactical dimensions offered by the Grave Call are absolutely awesome. So yes, I will use this...and ignore the hell out of the infinite-healing-option.
The book also sports an array of different spells and powers the undead will indeed cherish - positive energy resistance (or healing inhibition), belching forth clouds of negative energy, emitting blazes of sunlight - some pretty nice options. Making it hard to communicate the contents of a text? Now that is interesting, as is temporarily making the undead come to life again - but with their undead personality intact... What about dissipating into a swarm of bats to move stealthily around, Castlevania Lords of Shadows II-style, interestingly, as a transmutation spell? Now the letter is awesome, but it does have some minor issues - as written, the spell allows for the caster to teleport via the bats, when obviously, line of effect would be required - essentially, the spell would allow, RAW, to get past walls of force, when from the fluff, the ability to move to the area should be required as a caveat. Vascular Snare is interesting - as a 3rd level spell, it reduces a creature's movement to 0 on a failed save, as veins tie it into place. Ripping the target free is possible, but deals 1d6 untyped damage per CL, cap 10d6. The reduced AoE and means to not rip free keep this a balanced and interesting option, though the spell would have benefited from a proper definition whether it can be cast on flying or swimming targets not in contact with the ground - a slightly more precise target-line would have made this perfect, though, admittedly, this would be a nitpick.
The new powers contained herein are similarly themed around the theme of acidic blood and delightfully gory visuals - the 5th level power Kyria's Vascular Disruption, for example, lets the target erupt in a spray of blood, which then congeals into a disgusting, entangling web. I love this power, though the entangling effects of the blood should allow for a Ref-save to negate for the creatures in the AoE. What about a power that allows you to essentially create a contingency stored power to reflexively strike back at your foe? Yeah, pretty damn neat! Of course, an occultation-enhancing power would also be here. The best thing about this section remains something different: Jade Ripley's Wilder-supplement went one step too far regarding the power-level of some powers contained within, but was truly distinguished in several design-decisions: First of all, the powers had numerous, interesting augments and the wilder-exclusive surge-augments constituted a design-element that actually made me enjoy a class I considered somewhat weak and bland. Now this book's powers have inherited the augment-option diversity and great concept of surge augments, but their balance actually feels right for the respective levels - strong, yes, but not OP. This section made me a very happy man, for I seriously hate bashing on awesome concepts due to balance-screws being off - this is not the case here. Kudos and two thumbs up!!
Now obviously, the undead have their own need for magic items - sun-negating parasols for the discerning bloodsucking lady, for example. Or what about a blood vault, which allows for the storage of temporary hit points for a later use...but at a certain risk? What about an artifact that can be attuned to a servant - and, upon being slain, the servant dies and turns into...well, you. Nasty and great for recurring villains! GMs will also appreciate this pdf sporting an array of NPC statblocks for the guardsmen - based on heroic classes and WBL - and that is GOOD. Seriously, putting NPC-classes versus vampire PCs will not yield good results, so personally, I very much welcome this decision. And yes, the builds are pretty solid - nice mini-codex.
The pdf goes beyond that, though - the final chapter herein is devoted to an intriguing array of builds of unique NPCs, as it depicts the Leatherworker's Guild, a sample society of the undead with its own rules and power-structures - much like a miniature vampire-subculture in VtM, we are introduced to multiple, well-crafted and pretty interesting factions that vie for control within the guild, all sporting different ideologies ranging from predatory, but somewhat benevolent to indifferent and downright vicious supremacism. The society depicted utilizes the Dreamscarred Press subsystems from Psionics to Path of War and Akashic Mysteries and generally delivers some pretty solid builds for the sample characters featured (ignoring my rules-concerns above since these guys and gals are subject to the GM's control)- but the true star here would be, once again, the fluff: From the mysterious, cloaked reaper that eliminates vampires (or mortals) that compromise the guild to the child-vampire "The Waif" that guards children and brutally destroys any undead daring to touch them, the characters are intriguing. The locations sketched also fall into this category - from the neutral-ground vampire-pub to the friendly mummy-granny, the panorama drawn here can be considered pretty awesome. In fact, if this section managed to make me want to see some modules in this setting. Kudos!
Editing and formatting are good on both formal and rules-levels - while there are minor oversight snd types here and there (e.g. a missing word or a blank space too much), generally, the formal criteria of the book are nice. Layout adheres to a blood-spattered variant of Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sport quite a nice array of solid b/w-artwork - though you should not expect the level of awesome of the gorgeous cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with nested bookmarks.
When I first read this final version, I was thoroughly surprised - to get that right out of the way: Even if you have "Fang & Fury", this is worth getting - it has next to nothing in common with its "inspiration" - in fact, it is essentially a whole new book. The only things I really missed from Green Ronin's book were some of the delightfully twisted vampire deities, but apart from that, the fluff and content provided herein mops the floor with the direct predecessor.
This book also provides one massive issue for me as a reviewer: How should I rate this?
Okay, let's start with the ugly: We have failed kitten-tests here, beyond the option to only draw sustenance from intelligent beings. With a bag of kittens drained by the vampire, quite a few of the options herein can horribly cheesed. In the spirit of civil debate and since, by now I have ranted long and extensively about this topic, I'd like to draw your attention to Jade Ripley's blog - there, the author provides a well-reasoned justification for ignoring kitten-able abilities. Check it out! This is not intended as an attack, but rather as a rebuttal: It is, of course, a valid interjection to assume that GMs who have an issue with cheesing of abilities like this can easily resolve the issue. My point is, though, that there should not be a need for gentlemen's agreements like this in good design. I'm not sure whether I am a singular case, but I wager I'm not: I *want* my PCs to succeed, but I also want to challenge them. Now as soon as a player has an ability that can be cheesed via the kitten-test, the temptation of doing just that will always be there - and if it does show up, both the player AND the GM will be inclined to potentially allow it to e.g. prevent a TPK. This psychological pressure put on a group's social dynamic can create lingering resentment by the player, who might feel that the GM has "unfairly" limited his or her options and puts a strain on the GM - who wants his players to have fun. Good design does not generate situations like this and hence, I consider kitten-failures as rather serious design-issues. Your mileage may vary, of course.
This pdf, while having the Path of War-discipline I like best, the one with the most smooth and streamlined and arguably, balanced options, also offers the most bafflingly broken infinite healing exploit I've seen in quite a while. I am quite honestly baffled at the design-decision to mar an otherwise flavorful discipline this way - it imposes a very singular vision of playstyle on a discipline that otherwise would allow for a significantly broader application - essentially, Unquiet Grave unceremoniously shoots itself in the proverbial foot, when it's an excellent sprinter. Finally, the veilweaving PrC...well, I've ranted about this one in the above. There are minor hiccups here and there, but those would be the big issues I see - and they ultimately make this pdf, if one is to read it as a "allow everything" player-supplement, problematic - to the point I'd at the very highest, could go for something along the lines of 3.5 stars - for there are A LOT of downright awesome (and well-balanced!) options herein that make the unnecessary and to me, incomprehensible, issues stand out even more.
The problem is - this is and is not a player-supplement. It can be read as such, sure.
But it could also be read as a campaign overlay or template as suggested in the beginning. And the book excels in this category in a triumphant fashion - first of all, the balance-concerns vanish since the GM can simply make them NPC-only. Problem solved. Secondly, this book not only is a valuable resource for vampire games: The alert-system provided is simple, easy to grasp, can be modified by any halfway decent GM and could just as well be used for lycanthrope-games or any gothic horror/dark fantasy campaign. The visuals of the new spells and powers and their effects allow you to create a grittier setting when used properly and the book continues to provide solid adversary-watchmen and an inspired vampire society. The fluff of this book is surprisingly captivating and compelling. While personally, I'll make the required 10 hp per day versus the thirst multiplied by the character's level to represent an increasing requirement of food for older vampires, that is just my personal taste and the fact that the system supports this is nice. Personally, I think summoned creatures, the easiest way to cheese the thirst, should be exempt from being valid options to slake one's thirst, but that is pretty much the only gripe I have against the basic system here. Conversely, one can take a page from Vampire and have certain vampires require noble blood, etc. - all these options are supported by a solid rules-frame.
So how did Jade Ripley and Alex Clatworthy respond to the Buffy-conundrum? Well, by making this a campaign-overlay. The vampires here are VAMPIRES. They are not nerfed losers, they are badass, strong and deadly - and hence, the basic assumption is that of a corresponding campaign. Now mind, you, I playtested this book quite extensively, with the subsystems and my complaints regarding infinite healing and the above issues remained valid in that context. However, at the same time, the alert-system and rest of the content - it's, in one word, superb. As a GM's toolbox, this book constitutes the by far best "Play a vampire"-book for any d20-based system I know. In fact, I like this book so much that I *really* would love a proper vampiric AP utilizing these rules.
If you modify this book's content and file off the few, but jarringly problematic pieces of content, you will quite frankly receive an absolutely awesome source-book to play the lords of the night. In fact, as a person and someone with his own fair share of design-experience, I will simply modify the problematic pieces - a task of ~10 minutes and what I get is an absolutely stellar, inspired resource. For me as a private person, there's no way around it - this resource blew me away. I really am inspired by it. As a private person, I can definitely recommend this...with one caveat:
For one, the veilweaving rules are still in the process of being tweaked. While promising to be perhaps one of the most awesome resources ever, this pdf's PrC, at least as written, provides some utterly nasty options that break the system's limiting factors. I am convinced infinite essence burning provides significant issues with a system that otherwise is on a great way to becoming an awesome, balanced option -essentially, it makes essence burning infinite (Go ahead, look at easily regained temporary essence in Akashic Mysteries - note something?), something that directly contradicts the very notion of the decision to use essence burning in the first place - indeed, this provides more easily regainable essence than a class capstone. In the end, this PrC makes an akashic class behave like a path of war class, sans the system-inherent inhibitors and with the greatly escalated power-level that is NOT inherent in AM. Akashic Mysteries designer Michael Sayre has commented on the Black Templar on my home page, among other things pointing out a crucial glitch in my first version of this review, so thanks for that! I still maintain that the PrC undermines the system itself and is pretty problematic, though.
Secondly, as mentioned above, I strongly urge MOST GMs to tweak Unquiet Grave if they include it in their campaign, even within the paradigm of Path of War - unless they don't mind vampire initiators with infinite healing...and groups with infinite healing. I don't judge, if that's how you roll - but quite a few GMs out there will not like this. The discipline's easy access to significant temporary hit points on its own already is strong enough -I playtested it sans the infinite healing and it played just fine with the other Path of War material.
Both components have one thing in common: They may fit a *certain* style of campaign. But put them into the hands of any halfway decent min-maxer and you'll suffer. Again, this may very well be within the paradigm of your campaign. If your players smash through most published modules anyway, you'll want to keep a close eye on this book and make sure these components stay far out of the reach of your players. If, of course, your campaign is pretty high-powered anyways and you have no issues with one-shot BBEG-kills and the like, then this obviously won't hurt your playing experience. In short, I do not get, at all, why these options restrict themselves by being more specific than they quite frankly deserve to be. I see a book of great content that could have been the ultimate vampire book for any d20-based game and am a bit frustrated.
But wait...in a way, it still is by far the best take on the subject matter. Necromancers of the Northwest's free vampire rules are okay, but they depict essentially a vampire that is more balanced against the core-races and manage vampirism via racial classes and thus loses some of the badassery of being a vampire. Fire Mountain Games' feat-based vampire-apotheosis may be functional, but personally, I always hated it. I also am not convinced that, even with the modifications mentioned in "Way of the Wicked #7", transition to a vampire-themed campaign properly works there. So in view of these two...yes Lords of the Night is by FAR the best, most compelling, most awesome option available for the subject matter- to the point, where, let me reiterate that, I *really* would love to see some vampire modules or even a whole AP using these rules. And, once again, a halfway decent GM can customize this book to suit his or her table's unique predispositions. I just wish that was not required, that I could unanimously celebrate and praise this.
Indeed, if this book's few rough edges had been polished off, this would be a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 - it's that compelling, that well-written, that awesome in its visuals. It gets vampires right. At the same time, as a reviewer, I can't for the life of me, rate this as a perfect book, as something for every table - an inexperienced GM with this book can potentially have a rather rude awakening. I sincerely hope that you, my readers, could draw enough information from this review to make up your own mind about this book and, furthermore, I sincerely hope that you either take my criticism, shrug it off and leave it or appreciate it and avoid an unnecessary pitfall in an otherwise great resource.
Finally, if you're looking for a way to make vampire adversaries as awesome as they should be, if you read this as a monster-ecology for the GM, then you'd once again have one damn lethal, awesome 5 star+ seal book.
So, what will be my final verdict as a reviewer, you ask? Well, on a formal level, I can't rate this as perfect, as much as I'd like to. However, what I *can* do is to add the sign of my personal appreciation to the book - and add my seal of approval. After careful deliberation, I will average the 3 possible ways and respective ratings for different readings and usages of this book.
So, we have:
-3.5, rounded down if read as an allow-all player supplement.
-5 stars + seal if read as a GM's toolkit/campaign overlay
-5 stars + seal if read as a massive vampire ecology
My final "official" verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval - though I have to round down. Please bear in mind, that in the hands of a capable GM and with oversight, this still can be pretty much THE definite vampire resource as both a campaign toolkit and as an ecology.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Also: If you're interested in what my error was in the previous iteration of this review or if you'd like to read a civil discussion between the authors and myself, you can do so here on my homepage!
Seconding Malwing: Battle Lord + Bravery-Feats = AWESOME. (And since they're both from Michael Sayre, it's no surprise they gel well...) Legendary Games' general is also awesome, but more of a pet-class for kingdom-building games. I'm currently analyzing Fighter Nuances, which fell into the virtual cracks of my review pile.
Talented is cool, but needs more oversight and foresight. :)
Hmm, to mind come:
-All Cerulean Seas books by Alluria Publishing
You may want to check out:
-Assassins of Porphyra by Purple Duck Games (Imho best assassin base-class)
All of these are well-liked among my players and have seen some extensive testing in my group.
I've written reviews for all of them. If you require more in-depth assistance, feel free to contact me via endzeitgeist.com's contact-tab and I'll see whether I can help out. (Excuse my shameless plug for my 3pp-review-site...)
Part II of my review:
Lycanthropes and Elementals would be up next, starting with Steve Winter's "Bad Moon Rising" for PCs level 6 - 8. If the title was not ample clue - set in the Barony of Loup-Montagne, the superstitious locals, wolves in the woods and similar set-ups make one thing clear: We're in gothic horror country here -this module could have been run in Ravenloft with only minor changes. The plotline, which includes sufficient red herrings, a bid for succession and a potentially doomed family, hits all the classic notes - for better and for worse. The module itself is pretty sandboxy and thus requires some GM chops, though admittedly, not too many. The twist itself, the culprit, was something my PCs saw coming in spite of the various red herrings - perhaps due to years of Ravenloft-experience. It's a solid version of a classic story-not more, not less. I got the most mileage out of this by combining it with Raging Swan Press' Wolfsbane Hollow, combining both plotlines into something less obvious, while retaining thematic integrity.
Skip William's "Death in Dyrgalas" is a pretty straightforward dungeon-exploration of a ruined pavilion, which does not specify its intended level - from the CRs, I'd suggest something along the lines of level 5 - 8, depending on your PC's power. The exploration itself pits the PCs versus wererats and weretigers and a highlight definitely is the interaction with a medusa. The module's appeal mostly stems from the interesting surroundings - other than that, this is solid, if somewhat unremarkable.
Michael Curtis' next module would be "The Darkening of Namjan Forest" for PCs level 6 - 8. Said forest is slowly, but surely becoming coterminous with the Plane of Shadows and to stop this, the PCs have to find and disable a dangerous artifact within the depths of this forest. The hexed map of the forest allows for an easy tracking of the progress of the darkening and the continuously draining effects of the darkening provided serves as an intriguing backdrop with rules-relevant repercussions. Via special quartz, the PCs may get themselves an edge versus the predominantly draining creatures herein - there are A LOT of shadows and similar creatures in this module, so depending on your PC's preparation and classes, the difficulty of this module may fluctuate somewhat. I really enjoyed the general premise and set-up of this one, the impending doom and the continuous representation of the ticking of the clock provided by the encroaching darkness. However, alas, there are some issues among the details herein - from sensory-deprivation tanks and similar magical apparatuses, there are quite some unique benefits to be gained here - and their rules-language is horribly opaque, rendering them VERY over-powered. I strongly urge a GM to take care before allowing the PCs to utilize these. In fact, I think they should be nerfed and/or replaced. This, though, constitutes the most negative thing about this module - the new creatures and the adversary are interesting and, in the hands of a GM willing to sand off the rough edges, this definitely is a very fun experience.
The next three modules have the theme of Men & Monstrosities, with James M. Ward's "Deep in the Vale" as a 1st level module being the first. The set-up is interesting in a way - the PCs are plain folks of the Vale, everyday people, and the module begins promising, with the Thor-ordained sporty trek around the vale that inevitably results in trouble. The module, obviously, tries to chronicle the step from everyday-Joe/Jane to hero and the tidbits on culture provided are intriguing. But this, as much as I'm loathe to say it, is one of the worst modules FGG has ever released. If I didn't know any better, I wouldn't expect Mr. Ward's pen at work here. Let me elaborate: The premise, is unique and hasn't been done much recently, but it suffers from this being an adventure - to properly invest the players in the setting a closer gazetteer, nomenclature, suggested roles and origins for casting talent - all of that should have been covered. They're not. Worse, everything here is a) clichéd and b) a non-threat in the great whole of things.
You see, there are essentially two catchers - a DM-PC, the horribly-named elf Smaragdus and if things get too heated, there's a wizard who can fireball everything to smithereens. I.e., the PCs and all their struggles essentially boil down to those two pricks not getting the job done/being lazy - it's the old issue of the Forgotten Realms, where some areas just had too many high-level NPCs for the PCs to matter. "Elminster is not available, please class later." Worse, the wizard herein does not have Elminster's realms-spanning responsibilities, so he has no reason not to ge his grip together and totter with the PCs to the woods. The adversaries are also horribly trite - wolves, goblins, orcs, giant spiders. And yes, the orcs come with an ogre. Only the shadow is missing from the clichés of boring low-level foes. We have a kidnapped damsel that is so obvious, I only expected the Timmy-character to show up next. Beyond that, the module falls prey to hackneyed logic - why does prodding the giant spider nets not endanger the folk outside?
Shouldn't heroes NOT endanger commoners? Why do the responses of the goblins, which look like taken from a choose-your-adventure-novel, make no concise sense from the goblin's perspective? Why does the non-read-aloud text AND the read-aloud text TELL the players what exactly they're doing if they choose A)? This is railroady, inconsistent, mechanically-boring and the only positive thing I can say about it, is that the few cultural tidbits are halfway decent. This looks like a "First module you run, ever, as a DM"-type of module, but for that, it's too opaque and does not do a good enough job challenging all players and making them feel important - only the strongest PC, the Blacksmith, truly has any connection. Fun fact: Strength has, counter-intuitively, NOTHING to do with being a blacksmith in rules - Craft would be the skill, so strong PCs sans the skill make NO SENSE for that. This module is a sore spot in the whole anthology - it does not fit the premise, fails as gazetteer, module AND introduction for novice GMs. It's horrible and drags the whole book down a small notch and I can't fathom how it got included herein.
Thankfully, Casey W. Christofferson and Scott Greene's "Irtep's Dish," for characters level 6 - 8, is a return to full-blown, awesome form - and I mean AWESOME, as in, glorious- situated in a city (Bard's Gate in the Lost Lands), this begins with an investigation of an eccentric wizard gone missing - a wizard who was not only smart, he also had a gambling issue. In an interesting blend of fantasy and noir tropes, investigating his former lover, colleagues and debtors can unearth pretty soon that there are ample people looking for the man - and not all are honest regarding their intentions, with a horrible curse being subtly and cleverly used for the wizard's downfall. Via this investigation, which brings the PCs to the city's largest casino (fully mapped), the PCs can get the pieces together to investigate the out-of-bounds wizard's tower - if they can get past the guards and inside, past the deadly puzzle in the beginning, which is btw. logical and fun. This is only where the fun starts, though - the wizard has retreated via an artifact into a petri-dish like environment and the PCs need to shrink down to microscopic size, battling protozoan orbs, flesh-eating fungi, nematodes and finally release the wizard, convince him to return and get his affairs in order. This section is bizarre, fun and played in an awesome, great way - if I may: If the PCs enjoy their trip into the realms of the microscopic, consider picking up Everyman Gaming's superb "Microsized Adventures" and keep the options for size-alterations. Oh, and yes, this module is pure awesomeness!
As if to apologize for the first module in this set, Matt Finch's "Perils of Ghostwood Pass", for PCs level 5 - 7, also hits this absolutely stellar tone in a completely different way: Potentially fitting into any cold pass-region, the Ghostwood Pass is a storied environment - here, legendary twins only recently defeated a powerful and nasty fey of the Winter Court, thus banishing the hyper-cold ghostwind to only a few instances per year. As the PCs begin this module, a timer is running - after that, the ghostwind strikes. The issue is that something is thoroughly amiss - the hastily erected Abbey of Saint Kathelyn may provide shelter, as may the local druid, though both do not deal well with another. The two factions also provide unique benefits for the PCs as they try to defeat the dreaded mountain queen - and unearth the truth behind the mysteries of the Ghostwind Pass. In case the above did not provide ample clue - wilderness survival, hexploration in the hostile pass, random encounters - all provided, alongside a cleverly entrenched mystery astute PCs can unearth. This module is SUPERB and would coincidentally fit really well in the context of Northlands with some minor reskinning. Oh, and the adversary build rank among the more challenging and well-crafted herein, which coincidentally provides a lead-in to the last triumvirate of modules.
This would be the updates of "Vampires and Liches," with Casey W. Christofferson and Bill Webb's "Sewers of the Underguild" for 11th level characters being the first - the premise of which is pretty simple: In a rather deadly sewer under ruins or a metropolis lies the hiding place of a guild of vampires. Exterminate them. This sounds simple, when it is anything but simple - the underguild were formidable foes, with numerous class levels, deadly traps and the like. Alas, here, the conversion somewhat botched - with vampires as a type being rather nerfed in PFRPG, and the increased options available for characters via classes and combinations has not been realized to them same extent as in the original version - essentially, the adversaries are a tad bit squishier, the module has lost some of its threat. Mind you, this still is a challenging module, sure, but it does not live up to its previous iteration's level of lethality. If you don't know the original, you probably won't wind, but this can also be seen in the next module, penned by the same duo.
"The Pyramid of Amra", for 12th level characters, pits the PCs against a monastery in the hands of lethal adversaries and finally, against a vampire-monk. The exploration of the areas herein is thoroughly compelling and lends itself well to the insertion of powerful adversaries and intriguing puzzles. And indeed, the final adversary *is* still deadly; however, I still found myself wishing the builds provided had been changed in a slightly more pronounced manner.
The final adventure, "Isle of Eliphaz", intended for characters of at least 14th level, is still LETHAL - while, when I ran the module, I made the whole place a selectively null magics/psionics zone, thus rendering it even worse, the base module already is brutal - exceedingly brutal. And, in fact, here e.g. the intellect devourer with class levels and the ancient, elemental evil's pathfinder iteration maintain the level of deadly challenge I enjoy from this series.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - in some of the older modules, references here and there remain and some of the previously unreleased, older modules feel a tad bit less refined than others, with unique benefits particularly not always perfectly syncing up with rules-language. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with copious, original & glorious b/w-artworks. The maps generally are well-drawn, though I wished the book had a player-friendly appendix of unkeyed maps for particularly the hexcrawl-sections.
Scott Greene, J. Collura, Matt Finch, Clark Peterson, Bill Webb, Michael Curtis, Skip Williams, James M. Ward, Ed Greenwood,, Casey W. Cristofferson, Steven Winter - these names should ring a bell and indeed, Quests of Doom, as a whole, manages to achieve the goal to create challenging, unique modules. While a couple of the modules did fall a bit short of the stellar quality established by the rest and while some do require a bit of GM fiddling, in the end, this book does contain several modules that simply blow me away - the whole "Bugs & Blobs"-chapter is pure gold, and, with the exception of "Deep in the Vale", "Men & Monstrosities" provides two of the most awesome modules herein. "Lycanthropes & Elementals" falls short of the average quality of the book, ranking in as "only" a solid/good chapter. Still, that leaves a total of 6 modules herein, 9 if you include the conversions, that would receive my seal of approval without a single inch of hesitation.
Indeed, I maintain that the stellar modules herein outweigh the minor rough edges AND the modules that do not reach the apex of quality and imagination. "Of Ants & Men", "Hidden Oasis & Temple of Thoth", "The Dead From Above", "Irtep's Dish" and "Perils of Ghostwind Pass" alone are worth the asking price of this module - and these are the exceptional, NEW modules herein. The rest averages at a very good to good, with only "Deep in the Vale" being what I'd consider a bad module. To put that in perspective - that's 13 pages. You still get so many awesome modules herein, that I cannot, in good faith, rate this lower than 5 stars - especially since the exceptional modules listed above absolutely deserve this rating and nothing below.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Part II of my review:
The pdf also covers some racial archetypes, the first of which would be the contemplative, whose awaken divinity ability remains at 1st level and spurn tradition can still be found here. Know the Unseen Disciples has been moved to 9th level, where it replaces improved evasion.
The Gray Disciple's fade from sight remains situated at 4th level, but all other spell-like abilities, including the earth gliding, entombing, etc., all have been redesigned as ki-powers, with earthen thrall being reduced minimum-level wise to 16th level to act as a potential alternate cap-stoney-high-level option that renders the archetype pretty flexible - I really like this modularity that allows you to customize the archetype beyond the non-unchained version's linearity.
The Ironskin Monk Hobgoblin archetype has some odd hiccups - the flurry of blows ability, for example, explicitly states that the archetype can execute it in light armor, when no line of the regular flurry of blows of the unchained monk prevents flurrying in ANY armor. Iron Skin and the bonus feat-list are retained, as is resilience. Ki-pool remains at 4th level and staggering blow at 5th - as a nice note: The DR the archetype can get explicitly stacks with diamond resilience as presented here. Like in Everyman Gaming's take on the archetype, surefooted is moved down a whole 4 levels to 13th - which may be a bit much for some groups.
Catfolk Nimble Guardians are subject to quite a modification in comparison to the base archetype, gaining Cha to AC and CMD and later increasing this bonus, making the archetype more Cha-focused, while also allowing them to substitute Cha for Wis for the purpose of Style-feat prereqs. Defensive Aid is gained at 3rd level and replaces, slightly odd, the 4th level ability still mind, with 5th level netting Defensive Mastery. Now here, thing become interesting - at 10th level, feline guardians do not lose their Dex-bonus to AC versus invisible attackers, nor are they caught flat-footed, as long as they have at least 1 ki point - this is actually great as it a) capitalizes on the trope of superb feline senses and intuition and b) emphasizes the guardian aspect further - a valid trade for the 10th level ki strike. Guardian Feline is gained at 13th level and replaces tongue of sun and the moon. Kudos and two thumbs up!
Oread Students of Stone are modified in that they no longer gain a bonus versus crit confirmation, but instead light fortification - interesting! Strength of Stone has also been significantly rewired, allowing for the gaining of scaling, ki-powered DR - kudos for rewiring Strength of the Stone thus! With Bones of Stone obviously thus rewired in the previous ability, the further upgrades replace improved evasion with better fortification, while 13th level nets soul of stone and 20th level keeping the capstone. The rewired DR makes the archetype more feasible - nice one!
The Vanara Treetop Monk has, oddly, Branch Runner mixed into Wood Affinity, though this part of the scaling ability is moved down to 3rd level, while freedom of movement replaces tongue of the sun and the moon at 13th level. A solid take on the archetype.
The Underfoot Adept's Underfoot Grace here has been redesigned...alas, here applies "If it ain't broken..." - the ability as presented scales your effective size, which is a good idea, but getting rid of the scaling of the base ability and granting level 1 full speed Acrobatics through threatened areas is pretty nasty and means that dipping into this archetype is MUCH too tempting. I really don't understand why the base archetype's sensible anti-dip scaling was done away here.
The Human Wanderer retains Far Traveler and long Walk, but oddly, the latter replaces still mind as gained at 4th level, not 3rd. 5th level nets Inscrutable, which oddly has been mixed with Light Step - an odd decision here - doubly so, since the ability is (EX/SP), when both base abilities are SU and obviously, the benefits are more mystical than mundane and the ki-powered SPs are obviously just that, something I never got in the original abilities. Still, a tad bit odd. Finally, the Disappear Unnoticed and Free Step abilities have been moved to 17th and 19th levels, delaying their acquisition significantly. Over all, a nerf I'm not sure the archetype required.
Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed some very minor hiccups, the Purple Duck crew did a good job here. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has no art but the cover, but needs none - I'd always take content over bling. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
When I saw this pdf, I wasn't particularly excited - checking unchained archetypes for consistency is a horrible pain in the behind and takes FOREVER. Furthermore, Alexander Augunas, one of the most reliably good designers of complex crunch out there has already taken the concepts and covered the archetypes. So no, I did not look forward to Carl Cramér's archetype-conversions herein. Well, I should have. While I won't lie - this review was grueling to write and research - the content here is very, very interesting.
What do I mean by that? The design-philosophy utilized herein differed from Alexander's in some key aspects. Everyman Gaming's Unchained Archetypes have opted for a very conservative paradigm, to which the individual archetypes are subjected. Subsequently, though, Alex genius as a designer did not have its usual space to shine, only breaking through when abilities required a radical rewiring.
This pdf, in comparison, did not establish a paradigm - instead, one can see how each archetype was hand-crafted and, when required, significantly modified to fit with Pathfinder Unchained. The intriguing part here is quite frankly this courage to play with the archetypes - to move abilities around -and to make some boring, linear archetypes more modular by codifying their class features as ki-powers, thus allowing players to select or ignore them. This level of choice, which the original archetypes did not provide, does result in overall more valid, more fluid designs and potential character concepts.
At the same time, a greater willingness to take risks obviously also translated into some minor hiccups I'm not 100% sold on and a less streamlined experience. If a 3rd level ability replacing a 4th level one via the application of an archetype annoys you on a design-aesthetic level, this pdf does sport cases like them. Personally, I don't mind much and instead enjoy the fact that the lack of a paradigm was translated into a higher playfulness with style strike-replacements and similar modifications of the base archetypes.
In fact, several of base monk archetypes I have always loathed, have simply a BETTER feel in Carl Cramér's Unchained take on them - most of the time, the archetypes now better represent the intent of their concept - and that is something that's worth a lot to me, something that does mitigate some of my more nitpicky complaints.
To cut a long ramble short - this pdf is MUCH better than anticipated, and personally, I actually even prefer it over the more streamlined approach of Everyman Gaming. If you're an experienced GM, you'll probably enjoy this pdf a tad bit more due to the ability to iron out decisions you don't like and the more variable frame-work. If you prefer a holistic, unified feel, Everyman Gaming's two pdfs may be more to your liking. But I'm rambling. My final verdict for this pdf will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 by a margin - kudos for a job done beyond what's expected and going the extra design-mile!
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
@the xiao: My reviews of Everyman Gaming and Purple Duck Games' books hopefully answer your question. If not, feel free to drop me a line. :)
Part II of my review:
Tangent aside: The conversions provided herein are more than solid - they're close to the original themes and in many cases expand these. Where the pdf truly shines, though, would be in the numerous cases where the respective archetypes needed to get new abilities to work with the unchained monk - it is in these cases that Alexander Augunus great design-skills show. This pdf is good - great if you want an archetype to work with the Unchained rules. At the same time, though, I kept wishing Alexander had changed more, tightened some balance-screws or mopped up some less than stellar design-decisions of the base archetypes. I get why this was not done (to a bigger extent), but still, I kept thinking "what if...". I can see the ton of work that went into this - it's impressive. But I'm rambling. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, with a must-buy recommendation for unchained monk players that prefer conservative designs close to the base archetypes. See you in Part II of this series...
Posted here, on OBS, d20pfsrd.com's shop and sent to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine.
This free teaser for Hypercorps 2099 clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs left? Right! The organic soap corporation R.I.P.E. has a job-offering - and it sounds simple - but your fridge is empty and highjacking the shipment may be the more lucrative job offer - after the deal with Mr. Grey is concluded, a weird bird delivers a counter-offer (on an old piece of paper, included as a hand-out) and, indeed, however the PCs engage the assignment, they will probably see to much - i.e. a nasty, tentacled THING. If they press the matter, things may end up...unpleasantly...
Urban savages will try to get their hands on the shipment in the employ of hyper-otyugh dealer Bazzik, who may or may not prove to be a rather challenging adversary, with multiple lair-specific tricks...and yes, killing the transported monster is another option, though one that can screw their payday. The brief escort-module does feature 4 sample NPCs and 2 pages of nice full-color maps.
Editing and formatting are very good - I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Hypercorps 2099's two-column full-color standard with solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This short escort-sidetrek is a great introduction to the over-the-top-flair of Hypercorps 2099 - while the theme may be similar to other cyberpunk games, Hypercorps 2099 is more light-hearted and yes, downright bonkers - and, at least as far as this brief mission is concerned, it works out pretty well. Mike Myler delivers his trademark levity here and the nice player-friendly maps alone make this worth the download in my book - a solid, nice teaser-sidetrek you can complete in about 2 hours, this does manage to interest me further in the setting - and it's FREE, so yeah - a nice, free, sidetrek worth a final verdict of 5 stars - as a FREE supplement, you can't do much wrong here.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here.
Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed some hiccups, the majority of the book is indeed a clean and comprehensible work. On a rules-language level, the book is actually more precise than I anticipated, with quite a few complex concepts juggled and relatively few issues. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' 2-column b/w-standard with nice, original full-color artworks and cartography. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Unless I'm completely mistaken, this was the first book by Treyson Sanders I've reviewed and he has done a surprisingly good job - the book has identified several niches that are not well-covered in the rules and proceeded to provide options for them - while my personal tastes consider quite a few of them too powerful, this depends ultimately on the campaign you're playing and what you want to do with the characters - if, e.g. Alertness would NEVER be taken by any character ever in your game due to not offering enough incentives...well, here you go. The flavorful information on Azag-Ithiel was well-written and I found myself wishing, we got more information on the lands - this installment in the series has obviously been more crunch-heavy than previous ones. Personally, I wished the fluff was more extensive, but that may hearken to an issue I have as a reviewer here: Both me and my table are pretty much bored out of our minds by yet another elemental-themed class.
That being said, I actually like the idea of supplementing spellcasting with expenditure of a limited resource like primal charges - while I'm not sold on the balancing of all individual spells, with some primal charge bonus effects going clearly beyond what can usually be done with a spell at a given level, the system itself is intriguing and rewards player-agenda - which is nice indeed. At the same time, I found myself wishing the pdf had spread access to primal charges slightly further to diverse classes, granted more to the mystic and instead had nerfed the potency of the diverse bonus effects for a cleaner balancing. The system and spells won't break your game, but I'd still encourage GMs to carefully contemplate them.
It is evident that this is the "big" concept herein, with the two PrCs being pretty generic in my book; I've seen their like done before. The archetypes and feats once again provide some definite stars, though. And I love the lists and quite a few of the items. The racial variants generally are solid and while I like some ideas used, I also disliked some design-decisions there.
So, how to rate this? See, that's the difficult part - while personally, I'm simply not that blown away by yet more elemental spells, I try to award ingenuity (water being e.g. associated with nonlethal damage) and the primal charge tricks are pretty cool. At the same time, I did stumble over a few problematic wordings and some options that are definitely on the strong, depending on your campaign, potentially even on the OP end of things. In the end, I do consider this to be a mixed bag and slightly less intriguing than the previous installment, mainly due to Azag-Ithiel feeling more opaque, less defined than previous regions provided in Porphyra, some of which still rank among my favorite region-books/PGs out there. (Get Middle Kingdoms & the Siwathi Desert!)
Still, especially for a first offering, this is damn impressive and shows talent in diverse fields. My final verdict for this massive pdf will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform - I most definitely look forward to reading more from Treyson Sanders.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This free pdf for the Hypercorps 2099-KS clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The netjacker base class receives d6, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref and Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and one exotic weapon of their choice. They also are proficient with light and medium armors and 1st level netjacker begin play with an installed hyperjack and digiboard.
Netjackers are all about controlling robots - when in combat while controlling robots, they take a -3 penalty to AC, which is reduced by 1 at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter. At the beginning of a day, a netjacker chooses either a proxy or drones, both of which are collectively known as robots.
Robots progress with a 3/4 BAB-progression, d10, 6+Int skills per HD, only bad saves, AC-bonuses that scale from +0 to +16, Str/Dex-bonuses that scale up to +6 and scaling upgrade pools and bonus HP for proxies and drones. Proxy upgrade pools scale up from 3 to 26, bonus hp from 2 to 46. Upgrade pools for drones scale up from 1 to 9 and bonus hp from 1 to 24. Proxies act upon your initiative -3, drones at initiative -6. Sharing senses can be accomplished as a standard action -proxies can furthermore act as if properly possessed. Drones, obviously, as less powerful robots, can instead offer more than one active - 1st level netjacker can have 2 active, +1 at 8th and 16th level and possess these drones as well Netjacker receives scaling bonuses to Technology-related skills and at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter, the netjacker receives a hacking talent. Two sample proxie base forms and two sample drone base forms are provided.
These talents allow for the sabotage of armor, equipment, etc. - personally, I'm not a big fan opposed level checks used - especially since the wording could be read as a fixed value or as an opposing roll - not sure which it is: "The netjacker makes a Use Technology check opposed by a level check (her target's hit dice +1 per 2000bt of the item's value)." - Granted, this is a minor glitch and this a free teaser, so no biggie. Better hoverboarding, becoming invisible to tech - some nice options.
At higher levels, coordinated attacks allow the netjacker to expend actions of robots to grant himself a hyper bonus and further scaling hyper bonuses are interesting. 10th level expands the list of available talents to provide advanced talents and at the capstone, the class gets dual initiative a limited amount of times per day- once in the hypernet, once in the real world.
The final page covers the basic uses of Use Technology.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue array of ambiguities and the minor ones I found can still be streamlined. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with thematically-fitting artwork and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler's netjacker class is an interesting take on a summoner-ish class without overbearing the battle-field - the lack of durations for the drones/proxies mean that the few robots utilmately will not overburden the battlefield and bog down gameplay unduly. Having had experiences with powerful riggers in Shadowrun, I am very much aware how powerful the sharing of senses with drones etc. can end up being, so ultimately, this ought to become a pretty intriguing class. Generally, the framework provided is solid and looks like it'll be pretty fun -but as written, I can only tentatively provide a verdict - I do not have the full rules, obviously, and thus cannot judge whether this'll prove to be balanced in the end - with Hypercorps 2099 aiming for a different power-level than base PFRPG, I also have no valid frame of reference I could compare this to. The only valid assertion I can make is that this class looks like it's fun and like it *may* be well-balanced with regards to Hypercorps 2099 - that's it. Personally, I think robots should cost something to replace and I also think that explicitly stating when and how you get new ones (I assume upon resting...) would be a good idea, but this being a teaser, I won't bash it for this omission.
This being a free pdf, I still can recommend you check it out and look for yourself whether this does it for you or not. It does look like a solid rigger to me and thus, my final verdict will clock in at a tentative 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and posted here.