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Part II of my review:
As a bonus, we get content for Mythic Adventures as well with the medium path - every tier in it increases hp by 4 and at 1st tier, one of 2 aptitudes needs to be selected. The first lets you expend mythic power to mitigate expenditure of a psionic focus and power point cost of a manifestation of a power. Additionally, it lets you roll twice to overcome power resistance and forces targets to take the lower of two saves when hit by said power. Per se cool, but what about augmentation? Does the use of mythic power also cover augmentation power points used or just the base power points expended? Metyphysical Strike is insane - use 1 mythic power to attack at full BAB as a swift action in addition to other attacks. Additionally, you have to spend 2xML in power points and gain said point spent as bonus to atk. Additionally, said attack deals 2d6/manifester level "psychic" (damage type does not exist) AND base damage ignores all DR. For a level 1 path aptitude, this is rather extreme and too strong. Additionally, the focus on power points and manifester levels means that the poor soulknife can't take it either - the path has no aptitude for it. The capstone tier-10-ability nets you hp equal to your attacker's HD and you may ignore 10 points of "psychic resistance" - which, as an ability, is codified as SR equal to class level+10 in Ultimate Psionics. So does that mean the abiliyt works only against those with said psychic resistance quality? Or does it refer to spellresistance? Or ANY type of energy resistance? I don't know.
Regaining mythic power whenever a foe fails to save against you is also broken (bag o' kittens extreme) - and yes, i know - tier 10, say goodbye to balance. This still breaks too many design-tenets to work. Unless I've miscounted, we also get 24 path abilities that include an incorporeal familiar, faster item creation, more customization points for Aegis astral suits, a tier + int-mod-based flash of light that can destroy objects within 5 feet, spend mythic power to automatically regain your focus, auto-identify powers (with a weird a caveat that lets you "learn" them - which does not happen in psionic classes; vitalists may rotate them, for example -don't get how that part was supposed to work - as written, it does nothing unless a manifester has deliberately refused to learn a power - which makes no sense...) and cast said powers via mythic power for a select duration (which directly seems to contradict aforementioned caveat...). Balance is wonky here - detect thoughts in a slightly improved fashion is not a great choice for investing mythic power, whereas other are imho a tad too strong: Never being flat-footed except via mythic abilities and immunity to non-mythic sneak attacks and mythic power to negate extra damage from a crit or sneak attack feels like too powerful when compared to the abilities granted by all regular mythic paths...Granted, this may be due to lacking the distinction between 1st, 3rd and 6th tier abilities within this pdf - as written, ALL of these are 1st tier... and their balance is all over the place. (And yes, I'm aware that further content can be found in Vol.2 of the series, but still...)
This mythic path is unfortunately quite a mess - if your base choice already excludes part of the target demographic from getting any benefits (and yes, the path has soulknife-exclusive path abilities), then you're into trouble. The path's issue here being, beyond the tier-glitch (Or is it one??), that it tries to be too general - one path for all psionic classes is just too thin a stretch to cover them all properly, which is a shame, for generally, the abilities feel solid.
Editing and formatting are very good on a FORMAL level; regarding rules-editing, there are a lot of issues - too many. Layout adheres to an elegant two-column full-color standard, with thematically-fitting art/stock art. The pdf comes fully hyperlinked and bookmarked for your convenience.
Author Peter K. Ullmann ALMOST gets it right; Alas and alack, this extends to almost every single component within this pdf. The psion-archetypes are interesting in their focus on discipline powers and even in concepts, though flawed in execution. The soulknife archetypes are simply bad choices, with quit a bunch of design-flaws to boot. The bonus content is a mixed bag, with feats often failing to be precise enough and only 1 blade skill worth picking. The new powers and insanities show promise, though the former also suffer from less than optimal choices here and there. The mythic path tries to cater to too many types of classes and also has several wording-issues - I won't start with the balance-problems.
Writing this one was, I won't lie, a rather somber affair for me - on one hand, the designer is close to getting even complex abilities right - and then fails over some wording ambiguity, forgets the final dot to make the ability work. This is one of the pdfs, where everything almost makes sense and then...doesn't Mind you, this one does have a bunch of cool ideas, valid concepts, but their implementation is flawed. The page count is also on the low end of the spectrum, though, seeing you can get this as a bonus for shopping at d20pfsrd.com's shop somewhat mitigates that. Still, this one has so many issues in almost every component, I can't recommend it. The amount of things that work is far eclipsed by very weak, unbalanced or simply, not properly working content, that I'm forced to rate this, in spite of its promise, as 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 for the purpose of this platform.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Conclusion of my review:
Editing and formatting are okay - not particularly flawless, though - there is quite a bunch of punctuation errors, inconsistent formatting etc. to be found here - mostly not influencing the ability to understand the rules, though. Layout adheres to TPK Games' elegant, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with glorious pieces of original b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and unobtrusively hyperlinked.
TPK Games' mastermind and author Brian Berg knows dark fantasy and knows the undead - his prose is exquisite and while most campaigns will balk at reintroducing an iteration of the death-god Nergal into their pantheon (and thus lose some of the cool fluff's bonuses), the races per se can be easily transported into a setting. And the base races per se are interesting - while I would not advise on flat-out making the book available to PCs, the races support diverse playstyles, even offering new options for campaigns (deathless souls, baby!) and are diverse enough to feel very distinct from one another. While the templated races require special playstyles, the others feel like they can fit in respective campaign niches and while the wording of their write-ups has a flaw here and there, the problems per se are not that pronounced. The archetypes are a mixed bag, the racial paragon-classes on the nicer end of the spectrum.
But alas, there are problems. This pdf's issues can be summed up in one word: Feats. If I didn't know any better, I would think that a completely different author wrote these. Brian Berg usually tends to get feats right, but the ones herein brim with issues - breaking balance, failing kitten-tests left and right, sloppy wordings - these feats often utterly break otherwise nice, balanced classes, providing sometimes a power-level that is ridiculous, sometimes failing to specify their limits/benefits and one even breaking potentially any campaign's logic. Yeah, that bad.
So on the one hand, we have some truly awesome prose, cool concepts and neat ideas with minor issues and then a whole class of crunch that is almost universally flawed in its execution. This book has potential, oh yes, it does, but it also feels rushed, like it was abandoned halfway through. As much as I love some of the content, I can't rate this higher than 2.5 stars, rounded up by a slight margin to 3 for DMs. As for players - you MUST ask your DMs, who should consider carefully which part of these rules to allow in your game...low-powered games and those very conscious of precise wordings should round down instead.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com#s shop.
The assumption is for the PCs to be good (or at least neutral) - though evil PCs could, with some work, also function. if your PCs are lawful stupid good murder hobos they might have problems in the finale (refusing to make an alliance versus a greater evil), but nothing even remotely Second Darkness-level. If that should be a problem, drop me a line via my homepage endzeitgeist.com and I'll discuss ways to make that work.
I.e. there'll be no dressing in drow-skin etc. Darkvision is NOT crucial, at least not more so than in any dungeon exploration/underdark module. It's useful, but just because a PC doesn't have it doesn't mean it'll cripple him/her.
Hope that helps!
@GM_Solspiral: I totally get that reaction and the link me me laugh! It's good to be passionate about your creations, but keeping them in check and reacting as professional as you did, is the mark of a mature being. So yeah, thanks! (And I'm sure there are a lot of designers out there who could empathize with this post...)
That being said - thank you for the glimpse behind the curtain and, as mentioned - I've seen MUCH worse than what you guys deliver. Mostly, the issues can be fixed and a lot of the problems boil down to beginner's mistakes that can be fixed.
@theheadkase: ItB Witch is done and will hit my site some time next week.
Thank you very much for the extensive comment and for being professional! It's unfortunate that my review's timing was bad. I did re-download the latest version on OBS. :(
I agree the "bog of kitten"-test is a deliberate exaggeration, since I know no DM that would stand for it. But it also is rather crucial regarding good design - after all, if RAW does allow for this in theory, what if the PCs are burnt resource-wise and have to look for all possible advantages? Let's say a demon lord is conducting a ritual, your resources are spent - kill kittens for the greater good? Would you, as a DM, then say no? By being sloppy with abilities that can fail the kitten-test, you put DMs in a harsh spot that is simply unnecessary. I maintain that the kitten-test is valid and failing it a sign of bad design. Especially since there are abilities galore out there that you can use as a guideline to avoid failing the test. Even good players and good DMs can be tempted by the bag o' kittens.
Covenborn: I maintain cherry-picking saves and changing enchantments to other saves, making disease-like effects ref-based etc. is not a matter of imagination, but just utterly confusing design and upsets the in-game logic big time. YMMV.
Balance: I do not agree that balance is subjective. It is *partially* subjective, yes. Because campaigns and groups differ, because player capabilities differ, because intended power-levels differ. If you#re developing for the core-market and don't have the explicit goal of improving a class that's too weak (like Drop Dead Studios did for the Rogue), then there are the numbers. And numbers don't lie. So yeah, there is a subjective component and balance isn't a monolithic entity, but neither is it a completely subjective hocus-pocus.
Oh boy. I thought I was clear. The warlock is broken due to a vast plethora of reasons, some of which you have addressed. Others... let me rephrase.
Damage type = force. Best damage-type there is. No resistances, no DR, nothing to protect one from it. Plus: No penalties when attacking incorporeal targets. Broken.
Revelations: Revelations are better than feats. Getting one at every level is strong, being able to choose freely from ALL lists (which are limited and balanced among themselves for a reason!) is insane.
Blast-comparison: We have a couple of logical fallacies here in your reasoning. Wizards (at high levels) can pwn almost ANYTHING if they're prepared AND have the Spells AND don't get killed first. That comparison is moot. Sorcerors may be able to better blast areas - but the comparison with the warlock does not work. Most of their spells are corporeal, no benefit versus incorporeal targets. Their blasts use regular energy-type and thus are subject to immunities. Unlike force. And most importantly: They run out of juice. Warlocks NEVER run out of juice, their blasts are an INFINITE resource that is subject to next to no restrictions. Blasts scale fast and explode in damage-potential - compare the damage output of a blast with a comparable magic weapon. Then bear in mind that the magic item does require resources to get and can be destroyed, sundered, stolen, etc. You won't get anywhere close to base damage of a blast with any regular magic weapon, even with feats. Then add range.
CMD-hole argument: The Warlock's CMD isn't necessarily worse than that of any comparable class. It's not as good as the one of a melee fighter, courtesy of BAB-progression, but it's damn sure not crippling.
Invisibility-argument: Invalid, since by the same reasoning you could argue that no class that has neither blindsight, nor see invisibility et al has a response to it.
Gunslinger-comparison: Seriously? The warlock-player, sorry to say, obviously has no idea how to handle the class. I *LOVE* the gunslinger-class. I really, really do. But oh boy, is it crippled beyond believe. Bad range, high, constant costs for bullets (perhaps that's a German thing, btw., but ALL DMs I know track these!), etc. - ouclassing these dudes at their range-game isn't hard...at all. You don't even require broken/very powerful archetype-combos à la Synthetisist or Zen Archer.
That's an issue with playtesting - players have different abilities to maximize a class. Four of my players are superb min-maxers, the others are more focused on story, flair, etc.Handing the latter a class will yield no particularly evil builds, but giving such a class to the former...ouch. Another thing to be aware when doing in-house playtesting -be aware of your group's and world's agreed upon conventions and recall that other groups don't have these. You often *know* what a friend means, but codifying it in proper rules is hard. The Karuna Sattva is a candidate here, as is the Diplomatique. I'm *sure* you have an established code of conduct in your game; I assume that in your game, curses, insanities etc. don't feature as prominently. In other campaigns, they do. Netting a class an option to get rid of them sans level-scaling via DC can break many a game: Think of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, Greek or Norse mythology - curses, especially those handed down by the gods, can create adventures. Same goes for insanity and plagues. By taking away the option to have the affliction scale and the Karuna Sattva fail at taking a curse, many a story is ruined. In *your* game that may not be the case - in a pandemic-style campaign, it might be.
I do still stand by the statement that Interjection Games' Ethermancer is the vastly superior Warlock for PFRPG (or any d20-based game, for that matter).
And nope, I won't give up on you or your co-designers - you do have potential and ItB: Witch is a step in the right direction.
Hope that clarifies all the stuff and thanks for engaging in a civil discussion! (Also: Thanks, Malwing - I share all your observations.)
Part II of my review:
And don't start the whole "But casters dominate all encounters"-b~~*@$#$ with me. If you as a DM can't bleed casters dry and let the group rest after every encounter, then you're doing it wrong. I've been DMing for more than half my life and forcing casters to think when to unleash arcane destruction is a basic tactic that seems to be lost on quite a few number-crunching whiners that point to the paper and complain that casters are oh so much better.
What I'm getting at with this rant - the warlock has no resources for his/her primary attacks and as such needs to be compared to all other limited-resource-less classes - and instead of falling somewhere in line at the upper power echelon, it essentially boots even the casters out of the water.
Another gripe of a completely unrelated topic- during playtest, it turned out to be fun for one of my players, mainly because said player enjoyed wasting any CR-equivalent threat...but he badgered me to include in this review that he "got bored, fast, because there is no strategy here." You have your tools, you use them - that's it. Interjection Games' Ethermancer, with its unique buffs, spell pool mechanic and various modifications does everything this class tries to do infinitely more compelling and IS BALANCED and requires some forethought on how long your battle will wage, of when to buff and when not. It's not a perfect class, but it's not as OP as the warlock, it rewards tactical planning of the expenditure of etherpoints and still manages to portray the blast-all-day-long class without utterly breaking the game by offering sufficient drawbacks. It also tackles counterspelling and offers options beyond blasting everything to smithereens. The Ethermancer works, this does NOT. This class is BROKEN and needs a revision. I can't recommend this class even to utter n00bs entering a game of pro-number-crunchers, since the wording ambiguities make many an ability harder to understand than it ought to be. I've rarely seen a base class that can break a game this easily. Steer clear.
Next up would be a 10-level-PrC, the Covernborn. Coverborn get 1/" BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression, 2+Int skills per level and require class features from sorc, oracle and witches, namely accursed bloodline, coven hex and oracle's curse, requiring essentially one level sorc, witch and oracle - and the consumption of a hag's heart. Now essentially, this class is a theurge-like class, offering +1 level of spell-progression for both arcane and divine casting at all levels except 1st, 4th and 7th, where the class instead gets fixed divine or arcane progression or, in the case of level 7, has to choose which one to take. It should also be noted that the covenborn needs to choose which arcane class to progress - sorc or witch. The PrC also gets an array of hag/fey-themed spell-like abilities to choose from and may "choose between Fortitude and Will based saves for her spell-like abilities." That's not how spell-like abilities work. Also: Does that mean it's ONE choice or can the Covenborn choose for each individual ability? How can charm monster be based on FORT? Makes no sense to me. The capstone allows the covenborn to transform into a hag, complete with all spell-like abilities etc. - do they choose which save to use here as well? While I get the requirement to offset the dual casting progression, the kind of dead level of one of the arcane base-classes is a bit weird design-wise. An okay theurgish PrC, I guess, though not particularly compelling to take. It also has minor formatting issues like "3 a day" instead of 3/day, but that's just minor nitpicking.
Next up are 5 new mysteries - Intoxicant, Sand, Secrets, Volcano and Wrath, all coming with nice icons, though I don't get why some get a sample fluff-line, whereas other don't. The intoxicant mystery is actually rather cool - shrouding yourself in euphoria-inducing smoke, hallucinating items into existence - cool ideas here, though the wording of the latter is problematic - -"When under the effects of an intoxicant the oracle may make a DC 15 Will save to believe an item is real. If failed the item functions as normal but has no effect on other creatures."[sic!] I don't get it. Could the oracle hallucinate a key to a door and open it? A weapon? Could a weapon be made to attack an object, but not a person? Can the oracle opt to fail the save? Is the item generated upon a success or failure or either way? Why are there so many punctuation glitches here, rendering an already confused and imprecise ability even more confusing? Using blood to poison others with consumed intoxicants on the other hand is rather cool. I really, really like this mystery, but many of its revelations require some cleaning in at least formal criteria, partially also in wording. The Sand mystery lets you e.g. look through solid surfaces and over all can be considered solid, if not particularly strong - still: Kudos!
The Secrets mystery generally is about knowledge and secrets, with frightening, maddening effects and the like. It also has a very weird ability that replaces dex-mod with cha-mod to AC and ref and "Your armor's maximum Dexterity bonus applies to your Charisma instead of your Dexterity (see FAQ."[sic!] So, does that mean an armor can hamper bonus spells, DCs and the like? Where is the FAQ? Why isn't it included in this pdf? I'm NOT going to google the web for information required to run a particular pdf. One note to ALL designers: If your wording requires a FAQ, that's bad enough, but can't be avoided in some cases. Not including said information in your product and forcing your customers to search it and potentially bump site-hits is NOT a way to generate a faithful fanbase. If it's required to run your product, INCLUDE IT IN THE PDF or go back to the drawing board and make a better ability. Now apart from that gripe, the mystery per se is nice - somewhere between knowledge and dark tapestry in style. The volcano mystery allows you to conjure forth a 20 ft. x 20 ft. micro volcano that deals 2d6 non-scaling fire-damage, half on a failed save and +1d6 points of damage for 1d3 rounds after that. Solid per se, but a) why doesn't the damage scale? b) Do those who succeeded the save still take the damage on subsequent rounds? Is the conjured lava an instantaneous effect or does it remain as long as the +1d3 rounds take? Lava Fists also don't work as intended - the ability allows you to 3+cha-mod times per day make sunder attempts with your bare fists "at no penalty." But unarmed strikes AND sunder-attempts provoke AoOs sans respective feats. And unarmed attacks do a whopping 1d3 points of base damage! Usable 3+cha-mod times per day? Where can I sign on? /*sarcasm off* Seriously, needs power-upgrade...badly. The wrath mystery offers a nice adaptive aura, damage-dealing mist etc. It should be noted that an imprisonment effect sends targets off to Gehenna to be held and driven mad - slightly awkward if your game still features that plane from the 3.X days of old, but nothing to fault the author for. Overall, this one works somewhat better than most crunch herein, though wording also offers problems here - see Pillar of Salt: "You may call down a pillar of corrosive power as a full-round action. This pillar may target a group of enemies, no two of which are more than 30 feet apart." So... does the pillar hit all in a 30 ft. radius? can it zigzag from foe to foe if they're no more than 30 feet apart? Are these individual strikes? Define the amount of eligible targets? Utterly obtuse and incomprehensible. Also, it deals 4d8 acid damage +2 per oracle level - I assume the level-based bonus damage ought to be acid damage as well. Utterly insane: "Everyone with line of sight to the targets (note the plural here!) must make a ref-save or take 2d8 acid damage and be stricken blind for one round per class level. Required class level: 3. Now compare ANY damage spell from ANY list with that. It can be used cha-mod times per day; Too strong. Don't believe me? Open plains, flying, warfare - this revelation can blind whole armies! Broken!
The pdf also offer 4 new curses - The Addled curse is a nice take on the addiction curse. The distracted curse allows you to impart the shaken/later dazzled and at +1 save, confused) condition on ALL targets that fail a will-save against your spells. No duration given for the additional effect. Doesn't work/too strong. Madness allows you to somewhat mitigate confusion et al and can drive creatures psychotic, as per the new CR+1 template. The Ominous curse is all about intimidation, penalizing almost all other cha-based skills with -5, but netting +5 untyped bonus to intimidation - too big a penalty and too big a bonus for my tastes - you can already make demoralization monsters sans such a massive boost. Not broken per se, though.
Editing and formatting could have required another pass - next to no spell names are italicized, punctuation glitches abound and bolding and similar minor issues are partially inconsistent as well. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column full-color standard and sports much less blank space than the magus-installment of Into the Breach -good and kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with two dead bookmarks relics labeled "Bookmark 53 &54" respectively, but these don't impede usability.
Designers Frank Gori, John Belliston, Jeff Harris and Matt Medeiros have good ideas - the concepts behind the archetypes and e.g. the intoxicant mystery are solid and show a speck of brilliance here and there. A speck. I won't mince words here - this took me forever to get done and not due to page-count or the like, but due to the amount of issues. Balancing is completely all over the place - from ridiculously weak options to utterly overpowered ones, which constitute btw. the majority of this release, this feels like an alpha. How most of the content herein could get past any playtesting is beyond me. Several options will even be overpowered in the most high fantasy of games. The Warlock class needs to be scrapped and rebuild from scratch - it is the most broken class I've seen so far for PFRPG in any publication. The archetypes offer issues. The PrC is weird. Even mysteries and curses aren't flawless and sport the other crux of this pdf: Ambiguities. A LOT of them. If the balance-concerns you might have, that aren't even consistent within one mystery or archetype, don't break this pdf for you, the latter will. There are so many imprecise wordings and glitches in here, it's painful, partially taking cool concepts and rendering them unusable or unnecessarily obfuscating what exactly an ability is supposed to do. Scaling either exists and is OP or doesn't and makes for utterly ridiculously weak options. Crunch-writing is all about getting math, syntax and semantics right and this one doesn't for any even remotely consistent stretch of text.
And no, I did not complain about all glitches in this review. I hate dishing out verdicts like that, especially if good ideas are this present, but this pdf has nothing that would warrant any mercy, no mitigating, flawless gem at the bottom of this crackerjack box - 1 star.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.