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.