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5,265 posts. 2,301 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.



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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This pdf clocks in at...wait...what? 119 pages? Okay, this'll be a long one. Of these pages, 1 page is devoted to the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 116 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, there are classes herein - a lot of them, and they are defined pretty much by their cultural niche and concept - being labeled as exotic classes, since they may be more specialized than a given class, but still taking the same niche. So no, these do not count as alternate classes. Rules-wise, we are introduced to so-called "trappings," items, which, much like e.g. an arcane bonded object, is a defining item for the class - 4 feats allow for the utilization of such trappings in additional ways, limited negation of disarms, functioning after being broken or rerolling confirmation rolls. Clothing can, via one feat, grant the benefits of the endure elements spell while wearing the trapping - which is not bad, though I wished the feat was slightly more precise regarding the benefit applying to the effects only. Feral Feats may be taken in lieu of rage powers or favored terrain. War feats can only be used AFTER initiative has been rolled. In an interesting rule, the pdf codifies morale and suggests bonuses for the side which currently is dominant in that regard, a system supported by 3 feats.

The pdf also suggests house rules for e.g. allowing skill-boosting feats like Athletic to grant the skills as class skills and a rules that allows for a 1-round period of grace for killed characters to be healed...which is a bit odd, once death magic and non-damage-causing magic enters the fray. I think this rule was intended to apply only to hit points, but still - not a well-presented rule. I do like the idea of granting favored class status to a PrC in addition to the base class. The notion to 12-hour retrain favored enemy and terrain is problematic from a rules-perspective, though understandable. The flexibility is nice, but the lack of retraining cost makes it a bit too easy to switch in my book. The book also champions normalization of groups via an easy mechanic and sports a retro-active crazy-prepared (within reason) option to retroactively have bought certain items. While this works in GUMSHOE, the presence and significance of such a rule makes the game progress smoother and de-emphasizes careful planning - whether you like that or not depends ultimately on your own forte.

Now usually, I'm a big fan of realistic, simulation-style combat, but shieldbreaker may go a bit too far, making shields take damage when blocking weapons, rendering the item-class even more...less optimal. Using reposition to halve shield bonuses? Now that one I can easily get behind - makes sense to me and is concisely presented. Are you looking for a combat option that emphasizes more savagery? Well, in theory, making each attack provoke an AoO that is executed AFTER the attack may sound like a good theory; in practice, though, this rule makes the already impressively powerful ranged weapons more powerful. From a fluff-perspective, an assumption of general illiteracy makes sense and is something I used in my games before. Another rule makes combat MUCH more deadly - weapons with one rule deal their damage die + enhancement bonus as bleed damage and an easy fatigue/exhaustion-threshold makes sense. Chances of big creatures knocking smaller ones prone also makes sense. The book also has a rule that means when an attack hits touch AC, but not regular AC, the character would receive the attacker's Str-mod in damage still - I also experimented with this rule in dark fantasy contexts and it is interesting, though it further emphasizes offense over defense. Making weapons grant bonuses to AC make sense, though the limitation is not my favorite. Allowing for Con-check driven ferocity when downed below 0 HP is also something I tried in my games. Personally, I'm not a big fan of regaining 1 hp stable status upon landing a killing blow on a foe.

All of these variant rules can be used and combined and three sample arrays of rule-combinations are provided.

All right, that out of the way, let us take a look at the significant array of new base classes (9, to be precise). The first would be the adventurer, who gets d10, 6+Int skills, full BAB-progression and only good saves. They also get simple and martial weapon proficiency and a bonus feat at 1st level and every 4 levels thereafter. The adventurer can grant himself luck bonuses as free actions 1/2 character level times per day and receives wild-card crazy-prepared of items equal to 100 gp times character level, to be upgraded to 1000 gp times level. While the items adhere to a weight limit, the free and easy access to magic items can be an immensely unbalancing factor, depending on your group: Need scrolls that protect you versus the elements? Got them. Amulets that increase the carrying capacity of the fighter buddy? All ready.

Now in some campaigns, this may be nice and something a given group enjoys. Personally, I loathe the ability with all my heart and consider the limitations not strict enough. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the adventurer receives a talent that include counting as having access to all spells for crafting purposes, quick drawing items from backpack etc., very limited healing (that could use a scaling mechanism to retain its relevance). On the plus side, spellcasting scavenging is represented in a surprisingly concise manner that even takes classes like palas or ranger's decreased CL into account - kudos! At higher levels, the adventurer may preroll a limited number d20s and later substitute them for rolls, with the capstone allowing for rerolls of all d20-rolls and an even more freeform item-generation. While I get that in some campaigns, the crazy-prepared ability can be a true blessing, in others, it may well be a truly annoying alien element that can spoil the fun of other players that like planning ahead...and the balancing control of GMs on item availability. While I belong firmly in the second group and would not allow this ability sans some serious restrictions and nerfing, as a reviewer, I have to swallow my distaste here. On the plus-side, I do enjoy that this guy is a martial that is useful beyond combat thanks to skills etc. In the end, I consider the class a little bit too strong due to its powerful chassis. Nor for every group, but definitely a class some groups will love.

The Athlete base class has d10, only 2+Int skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons and light armor as well as automatic proficiency with sports equipment, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-progression. The athlete begins with the option to use his determination to reroll failed rolls, with saves and skills receiving a bonus on the reroll attempt, with every 5 levels increasing the bonus granted by +1 and also providing +1 use. More important and defining, though, would be the position class feature: The position offers an array of changes, including, in e.g. the defender's case, an upgrade of HD from d10 to d12, better BAB-progression or swifter movement. Additionally, each such position allows for additional uses of determination. A new position is learned at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Beyond this chassis-modifying ability-suite, athletes are obviously defined by their sports, which provide bonuses depending on the sport - somewhat inelegantly called "skill bonuses", but the rules are clear enough in their intended meaning. For the purpose of feat prereqs, athletes use their full level and they also receive inherent physical attribute bonuses at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter. 8th level nets evasion and higher levels provide take 10-options for related skills and even a take 20-option at level 20. The class is supplemented by baseball and soccer-weaponry. An okay class, though the few skills somewhat limit it in non-combat environments.

The Gladiator gets d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency in simple weapons, gladius, light and medium armor and also a school of combat, which further modifies the proficiencies, bonus feats and specific special tricks the class learns -Bloodpit Fighters, for example, get sneak attack, while the dimachaerus reduces two-weapon fighting penalties and can even get bonuses in the end...so yes, these have an inherent scaling. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net maneuver specializations that go beyond the base feats, employing gladiatorial points. When the gladiator does something that would make him grant a performance check, he may use the point to power class features and the like - the synergy of renewable resource-management and performance combat is pretty awesome and allows for some rather unique options. Fighting for the gods, life and death of those vanquished, are determined by a coin toss - which is surprisingly tense at the table in actual play. This gladiator did not look as cool as it actually played on paper - I really like this beast, as it manages to make performance combat matter sans crowds. Two thumbs up, though, once again I wished it had more non-combat utility. Still, a great class that has been added to my homegame's roster! (FYI: I upgraded skills per level by +2 in my home game.)

The Guardian gets d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 2+Int skills, proficiency with all martial and simple weapons and all armor, including tower shields. While wearing a shield, these guys may expend attacks of opportunity to interpose himself in the line of foes threatening his adjacent allies. To do so, he attacks with +Dex-mod and +shield-bonus versus the target's AC. And no, I'm not complaining about competing rolls here since the ability retains roll vs. fixed value as a paradigm. On a success, the guardian becomes the new target of the attack, which is probably the best designed level 1 bodyguard ability I've seen so far. It should come as no surprise considering the focus of the class, that shield tricks and a charge that ends with e.g. Heal-checks or similar aids to allies are part of the deal, though I found myself rather surprised at the ease and simplicity of this design - and why it hadn't been done before. Speaking of shield tricks - these allow you to one-hand two-handed weapons, but at the cost of not being able to perform more than one attack in a full-round action. Better nonlethal damage output, SP shield other and both numerical options and more allies to be shielded complement a tightly focused class that plays surprisingly well, making armor and shields matter. A rewarding choice, though I'd once again advise for +2 skills per level. Still - kudos! I'll certainly be using these guys!

At d10, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves , 4+Int skills and proficiency in simple weapons, light armors and shields, the inheritor is defined by the legacy of her name and honored ancestry. Basically, you get trappings as well as an ability-suite called lineage, defined by two characteristics like "Beloved" or "Wicked" that provides a modification of class skills and also determines the boons the class gains. The class begins with 1 boon and receives +1 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter and they do include attribute bonuses. Additionally, inheritors can channel their ancestors as a swift action, a total of 1 minute per level per day - some effects of the boons chosen only become available while channeling. Additionally, the class is defined by hereditary attributes/the option to substitute mental ability scores for attack-bonus calculation and defense; alas, the high level option of 2 attributes to attack are a bit too much for my tastes.

The Tataued Warrior gets d10, a trapping, 2 +Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor and shields and prepared divine spellcasting guided by Cha, drawn from the ranger's list with certain modifications and probably is the best example of what I'd consider an exotic class: Following battle protocol (e.g. formal bows) provides benefits for the class, including the possible substitution of Cha-mod in attacks and later even damage-rolls. The defining feature of the tataued warrior, though, would be the ritual weapon, which can be activated as a swift action. Once powered, it acts as a magical weapon. That being said, the flexibility regarding enchantments and their scaling benefits is offset by a fatigue cool-down after use, similar to barbarian-rages. The scaling here is pretty conservative, just fyi, so even low-powered groups should be able to use this one. For high-powered groups; I'd suggest improving the enhancement-bonus granting-progression of the ritual weapon. The defining class feature beyond that, though, would be tataus, gained at 1st level and every even level thereafter, codified by level - and being awesome. While combat utility is here, the tataus provided often feature a drawback at higher levels, providing ample roleplaying potential and justification for superstitions. Furthermore, they allow, when wisely chosen, for actually relevant out of combat options. 6th level self-haste via battle-chants and flexible spell preparation/exchange-options complement an interesting class I really enjoyed, particularly thanks to the significant array of choices this offers!

Thanes receive d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and the great club - and that's pretty much in on that front. Defined by size and brawn, the thane is basically the bully of the battlefield, increasing accuracy and damage output against targets smaller than him. It should then come as no surprise that the class features size-increase (a brief table of weapon damage progression for larger sizes would have been appreciated here) and is particularly adept at using big weaponry. The class also receives a talent selection, but still constitutes my least favorite base class herein so far - reason being that its limited proficiencies, skills and its size can be a severe hindrance: There are dungeons too cramped for large creatures and the added space occupied cannot offset a second character. Furthermore, the lack of defensive options of the class makes it play like a bully: A nasty punch, but can't take one himself. The thane is basically, in spite of size and potency, a pretty bad glass cannon and the magus provides the more interesting playing experience in that field.

Part II of my review, which contains the discussion of the best reason to buy this book, is in the product discussion. Don't miss out on it!


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of the Four Horsemen present-series clocks in at 8 pages, 1 pages front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

In case you haven't checked out the massive and rather awesome Monster Menagerie: The Construct Companion, you'll be asking yourself what this very concept is: Basically, the idea is to make traps that double as both traps and creatures - and yes, this is mechanically as exceedingly interesting as you'd think it would be. The base rules from aforementioned book are presented herein for your convenience.

The template and guidance provided is simply brilliant, so for the low price you'll get a truly inspired concept here - from mechanical animated traps to magical ones, this component is simply awesome. Of course, the pdf also sports a diverse selection of sample animated traps, to be more precise, we receive 7 sample animated traps that range in CR from 3 to 18.

Regarding the animated traps - what about a door that tries to slam you and triggers fire traps? An executioner's axe supplemented by slay living? These may be nice...but what about a chamber of blades that can dimension lock and mass hold monster those contained within? Yes, this is delightfully devious! Shocking locks that electrocute wanna-be-thieves are cool...and what about the pit trap that keeps on giving, slamming its cover shut and then making sure that PCs reverse gravity slam into the cover and then back onto poisoned spikes? Yes, this is me cackling with glee.

Oh, and what about a crushing stone that not only squashes intruders, but also generates prismatic walls into which it then shoves PCs with grasping hand? Yes, damn cool. And there would also be the arrow-firing trap...that has a constant true strike. Yes, these are pretty much AWESOME.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed o glitches. Layout adheres to Rogue Genius Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the two artworks by Jacob Blackmon are awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Stephen Rowe's expansion of animated traps is an inexpensive, awesome little pdf. Now granted, it left me wanting even more...but on the plus-side, I certainly appreciated each and every animated trap herein, some of which are simply devilishly cunning and cool. On the down side, if you already have the animated trap rules, you will be like me and wishing the pdf was longer and had even more of these unique animated traps. Hence, my final verdict will clock at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

**( )( )( )

This class-pdf clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The Chi Warrior is a base class that receives d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- Ref- And Will-saves, AC bonus scaling up to +5, fast movement scaling up to +60 ft. and a monk's unarmed damage progression. On the nitpicky side, chi warriors are proficient with simple weapons "and unarmed strikes", which while consistent, is unfortunately not how that particular component is usually phrased in PFRPG rules language. They also receive proficiency in light and medium armors, though, when unarmored, the class receives Charisma-bonus, if any, as dodge bonus to AC and CMD, thankfully with a caveat of losing the bonus when deprived of Dex-bonus for sufficient rules-consistency. It should be noted that unarmed damage dice for small and large chi warriors are provided in a handy table.

The chi warrior class is further defined by their "discipline path", which can be considered to be a kind of order/bloodline-style suite of options. Only that, while table calls it that, this ability does not exist - the pdf has renamed it "Fighting Style", creating unnecessary confusion.

Each such fighting style features signature weapons, associated Style Feats and level-dependant scaling benefits. The first of the Style Feats-lines of the Adamant Champion features a minor formatting glitch, where "Snapping" has been cut off from the feat and drawn into the ability header, but ultimately, that's a negligible glitch as well. Powers granted by disciplines are called special moves and fall in three categories: Tsuki, the strikes; Katas, the forms and Ukes, the blocks. One particular tsuki or uke cannot be spammed - after using a particular special move, it has a 1-round cool-down - a mechanic I personally like, since it keeps combat from becoming stale and static. In fact, I think variable cool-down periods would have made this class even more interesting, but that may just be me.

At 1st, 3rd, 6th and every 6 levels thereafter, the chi warrior receives 2 such special moves, though there is a restriction imposed on the chi warrior: At 1st level, the chi warrior chooses "one fighting style to focus upon" and two secondary styles. Any style not selected becomes prohibited. 1st level nets proficiency with the primary fighting style's weapons and further benefits are gained at 4th, 10th and 18th level, while katas improve in potency at 4th, 10th and 16th level. Similarly, the fighting style determines the bonus feats learned at levels 2, 5 and 8 - here the chi warrior "ignore(s) all prerequisites of these feats". When choosing style feats, chi warrior levels are treated as monk levels and Wisdom prereqs are replaced with Charisma prereqs. The section comes with a caveat that allows for feat-substitution, should the character already have a granted bonus feat. Additionally, style feats used by the chi warrior are not limited by their weaponry and can be used in conjunction with any weapon the chi warrior has Weapon Focus in. Finally, Elemental Fist and Stunning Fist are treated as style feats for the chi warrior.

The respective katas tend to offer an internal scaling and the modification of fighting styles similarly offers a scaling mechanism. I will return to the respective disciplines below. For now, let me voice one particular issue here that I considered problematic - the set-up of abilities and how they are gained isn't that hard to grasp, but the presentation makes it somewhat harder to grasp: The pdf establishes, for example the rules term "Primary fighting style" and then uses "one fighting style to focus upon" in another instance - this creates unnecessary confusion and renders the class more opaque than it should be.

At 3rd level, the chi warrior receives Weapon Focus with unarmed strikes as well as with a weapon of the primary fighting style as bonus feats (again, including replacement options if the character already has either). Each weapon that fulfills the criteria of being thus chosen with Weapon Focus is furthermore considered to be a signature weapon, which ALWAYS adds full Str-bonus to damage, even when wielded off-hand or used in two hands (which is odd, as it can constitute a decrease in damage output) and the chi warrior may use the unarmed strike damage instead of the weapon's base damage...which is all kind of problematic. "Any weapon for which the chi warrior has the Weapon Focus feat is considered to be a signature weapon." See, the aforementioned Str-mod and base damage tweak, which already breaks one balancing mechanism of weapons, this breaks another. Weapons are balanced by damage, crit-range and multiplier, category (simple, martial, exotic, and sub-categories like monk weapons etc.) and properties like reach, disarm, brace, etc. - when you generate a class feature that basically breaks the damage component and applies it universally to all weapons, you have a system that does not play well with Pathfinder's assumptions on how weapons work: With this set-up, a whip becomes universally better than a dagger, for example. Oh, and the ability fails to specify whether the damage-type of the base weapon is retained.

On the defensive side, the class receives uncanny dodge at 5th level, evasion at 9th, improved uncanny dodge at 13th and improved evasion at 15th level. At 7th level, the chi warrior may activate a style feat and a kata special move via the same swift or move action and substitute Cha for Int or Wis regarding combat feat prerequisites. Level 9 may provide a problematic option: Chi Waves allows for the unlimited use of daily-use combat-feats, but "may not use any individual feat that normally has limited uses more than once per round or two rounds in a row." So, which is it? Once per round or two rounds? What about Archon Diversion, for example? The feat can usually be used 1/round? Does it suddenly gain a cool-down? Does this eliminate the 1/24 hour caveat of hexes delivered via Hex Strike? I assume not, but I'm not 100% sure.

Beyond that, while certainly not all combat feats limited as such really need the limit, e.g. Elemental Fist does certainly warrant the limit when compared to similar class options. Furthermore, there are quite a few interlocking mechanics that allow for the expenditure of Stunning/Elemental Fist uses - which becomes problematic fast. A means of offsetting at least some components of this component would have been to retain the actual expenditure of daily uses, but only expend them under specific circumstances. For example, when a character utilizes the same attack over and over again, the use is expended; if, instead, the character alternates attacks while the cool-down runs low, the use is not expended. Basically, by choosing to eliminate the restriction instead of working/modifying the restricting mechanics, the class has opened a significant bag of issues.

11th level provides an option to have two style feat stances at work at the same time - and yes, this gets activation/switching's language right - kudos! At 19th level, the class can perform one special move kata or style feat stance as a free action and 20th level provides a totally out of place fey-apotheosis that is bland when compared to the rest of the class and has literally nothing to do with the rest of the class features, suddenly also imposing a chaotic angle with DR 10/lawful. Puzzling decision there.

All right, so what about the fighting styles? The first of these would be the Adamant Champion, who gets free intimidates/weapon drawing when checking for initiative as well as snapping turtle style specialization. The former is problematic: Does the free intimidate check count as a turn/not being flat-footed anymore? The respective abilities here are unsurprisingly defensive in nature: Absorbing Armor, for example, nets you 1/4 the damage you take from an attack as DR/- for the next round. The uke is activated as an "immediate action whenever the chi warrior takes physical damage" - which is kind of problematic on a rules-language level. Immediate action and "whenever the chi warrior takes damage" seem unnecessarily contradictory. Also problematic: 16th level nets this DR for 5 minutes. So, does a new activation override the old one if the DR exceeds the old one? If so, do you calculate the DR based on the unmodified damage? This is relevant, since at 4th level, the DR already applies to the triggering attack. Pretty powerful would be Champion's Rally: As an immediate action, allies within 30 ft. that need to save (first Fort and Will, later also Ref) can have the Chi Warrior save as well - if he succeeds, neither are affected; if he fails, he's affected as well. And yes, this extends evasion to allies. On the plus-side, this does get interaction right when a chi warrior would also be affected by the prompting effect in the first place, though the wording here is slightly wobbly: "On a failure, she only takes the worst of the results..." Still, this is me being nitpicky. At higher levels, multiple saving throws are available. Standard action attacks that double base damage and instill temporary debuffs can also be found here.

Inspiring blow is interesting: It nets chi warrior level + Cha-mod temporary hit points to an ally within 30 ft., doubling that amount at 10th level. Yes, this means that carrying around a bag of kittens and bashing their tiny brains in will provide temporary hit points to allies. Why is there no HD/CR-caveat here? Well, at 16th level, the chi warrior can heal, though thankfully, the healing has a daily cap so we don't get infinite healing. While I consider the kitten-failure bad design, at least we don't get infinite healing. There is a second auto-buff that falls prey to a similar kitten-failure, but sports a cool-down and may only be used on one creature at a given time, making it the more elegant design. I'm personally not a fan of the ability to add Con-mod to social skills, mainly since dual attributes to skills can easily be gamed for ridiculously high bonuses and particularly so when Bluff and Intimidate are concerned due to their combat relevance. On the other hand, conversion into nonlethal damage and faster nonlethal damage regeneration is pretty awesome and not something I've seen before. Better yet, it does have a caveat that prevents abuse by creatures immune to nonlethal damage.

Quicksilver Duelists focus on Snake Style and are all about duelist style - including debuffs for foes ignoring them when challenged to two standard action melee attacks at -5/-2/no penalty/3 attacks to bonuses depending on opponent size. The standard action attacks are powerful, yes, but the lack of combination options remedies them somewhat and skirmishing becomes more viable, so this gets a pass. Personally, I'm not a big fan of the inclusion of the swingy, d20 vs. d20 perfect parry herein, but that is personal preference. A variant of this, razor riposte, needs to specify whether the retaliatory combat maneuver still provokes AoOs from the target. Similarly, the standard action strike challenge is odd: Multiple opposed attack rolls; when the chi warrior deals damage, it's full damage; if not, he takes Str-mod damage, minimum 1. Generally, not a big fan of the swingy, pretty time-intense opposed roll concepts.

The Panther Strike-focused Shade Phantom has some issues: As a standard action, they can execute an attack that deals twice the damage and, at 4th level, forces a Fort, Ref or Will-save (promoting meta-gaming) - failed Fort renders the target exhausted, Ref staggered, Will confused: All very powerful conditions that are HARD to inflict for a reason. For 1 round at first, granted, but still - at 10th level, it's Cha-mod rounds, which means the foe is pretty much screwed. At 16th, the poor sap must make all three for pretty much the ultimate debuff strike. There also is a shadow clone ability that almost gets it right - item sharing and the like is covered and the increasing array of options is great - but at a high level, the ability fails to specify how sharing of special moves and limitations thereof apply to the clone - does it count as a separate entity or does it share a pool/cool-down restrictions with the chi warrior? Negative level-imposition and reducing movement rate are also part of the deal here and scaling Stealth-bonuses/invisibility-duplication can also be gained.

Finally, Storm Fist, focusing on Dragon Style sports Acrobatics-bonuses alongside high-level options to ignore difficult terrain as well as increased damage (double/triple) for provoking attacks of opportunity - which is pretty excessive in my book. On the other side, suspending Fort-save based negative conditions is pretty damn cool. I also like the option to give an attacker a bonus to atk to gain a similar bonus - this style is basically all about risk/reward.

The class comes with favored class options for core races as well as some Porphyra-specific races. Archetype-wise, the class receives the Dual Specialist, who gains two primary fighting styles, but no secondary fighting styles and no bonus style feats. There also is a fighter archetype that allows for the limited dabbling in fighting styles and 6 complementary feats.

The pdf closes with a sample level 1 human chi warrior.

Part II of my review is in the product discussion. See you there.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This installment of RSP's Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look at the settlement

Situated high atop the mountains on an isolated plateau, Denhearth has suffered long from the vile predations of the powerful red dragon nick-named Cinderblaze - until the vile creature was slain by the benevolent gold dragon Galiantana - under her auspices, the village prospered and even saw the creation of a fabled academy, established to guide those that have the sorceror's gifts towards a wholesome and controlled application of their draconic gifts.

But, alas, all golden ages (Get it? ... -.-...sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar later) must end eventually and noble Galiantana has not been seen in quite a while. Some rumor her to be dead, while others only fear her to be missing; in any case, Denhearth, with its academy, seems rife for the picking by the forces of darkness once again. Now, as always, the village comes with copious information on both local color (like nomenclature, clothing habits and the like), lore to be unearthed via the respective skills, rumors and events as well as magic for sale; and yes, the rumors, questioning e.g. the parentage of dragon-blooded locals and similar interesting hooks provide a neat and uncommon, yet sensible angle to the village's plot-options - which include btw. options to develop Galiantana's absence in various ways.

Unlike most recent installments of the series, this time around we get two damn cool sample statblocks, the first of which would be a CR 8 sorceror/dragon disciple, while the second would be a half-dragon chupacabra - yes, you read right. Oh, and the fellow is one of the anti-theft security measure of the local shop, which deserves its name "The Hoard."

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP's patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.

Jacob W. Michaels' Denhearth is a thoroughly compelling settlement - with a unique angle, capable NPCs and a surprising emphasis on kind characters as a beacon of light, the place not only will be useful for the PCs, it'll be a place they WANT to keep safe - which ties in perfectly with the numerous options and narrative directions a GM can take the village. Considering all of that, the uncommon locale and cool premise, we have a prime candidate for a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


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An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This massive book by Flaming Crab Games clocks in at 90 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2.5 pages SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 83.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Back in 3.X, there was the old saying that arcanists just suck at necromancy - and to a certain extent, this still is true - surprisingly, if you think about. While fiction does provide ample examples for vile priests commanding the legions of the undead, the iconic image is still that of the necrotheurge (which would be the proper, non-game-speak way to refer to them, just fyi...), the arcane caster, the evil wizard commanding legions of the risen dead. While 13th Age does sport an excellent necromancer class, pathfinder so far has had no base class focusing exclusively on controlling the dead to do your bidding. Until now.

This pdf introduces an alternate class (proper classified as such!) of the summoner, the undead summoner. The class must be non-good and gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor (no spell failure while wearing light armor), spontaneous spellcasting via Charisma, cantrip-access, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. Additionally, the undead summoner begins play with a so-called fetch, basically the class's eidolon (for which btw. handy char-sheets are provided).

A Fetch has d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves, 4+int skills per HD, No Con-score (instead using Cha as an undead), immunity to mind-affecting effects (here the closing bracket from the list enumerating them is missing in a harmless typo), immunity to death effects, disease, paralysis, poison, sleep and stunning as well as nonlethal and ability drain (but oddly enough, not ability damage, though I assume that to be intended) as well as energy drain and damage to physical ability scores. They are healed by negative energy and immune to any Fort-save unless the ability also affects objects, not subject to massive damage and does not eat, breathe or sleep. This otherwise functions as a summoner's eidolon. The astute reader may note two components here that are interesting: For one, while gaining a lot of undead traits, the fetch is not explicitly designated as an undead, which RAW would mean that it could be healed both by positive and negative energy. This is an obvious oversight, though; one that should be rectified. From a didactic perspective, including all rules for the fetch would have probably made this easier to use and perhaps prevented the minor issues that plague this component.

Secondly, as the book does showcase and explicitly state, unlike an eidolon, the fetch cannot be dismissed or banished by the usual, outsider affecting means and pays for this by being destroyed at 0 HP. Astute readers may also have noticed that the fetch's significant array of immunities is paid for with Life Link, which is absent from the class's features. Fetchs begin play with one feat known and learn an additional feat at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. Conversely, they retain the eidolon's Str/Dex-increase, evolution pool and maximum attacks columns sans change. Comparing both, you will also notice that the fetch's BAB is non-standard, capping out at +11 rather than +15. While this disjunction from the BAB-progression is uncommon and not too elegant, I' willing to give the pdf the benefit of the doubt in this case, since a slightly decreased BAB would make sense considering the fetch's significant immunity-array. Ability score increases, evasion and multiattack are retained from the regular summoner's eidolon progression. So that's the fetch - back to the people controlling the undead monstrosities!

Second level provides the Necromantic Affinity feat...but you're more interested in the summoning, right? Well, at 1st level, the undead summoner can cast summon undead I 3+Cha-mod times per day as a spell-like ability, but ONLY when the fetch is not summoned. The wording "uses up the same power as the summoner uses to call his fetch" is a bit problematic, since the summoning of eidolons, on which the fetch is based, usually does not suffer from such a limit. The summoning takes only a standard action and called undead remain for 1 minute per level, instead of 1 round per level. The summoning of the undead mirrors the wording of the base summoner, which means it's pretty precise, but it also retains a slight ambiguity that plagued the original summoner's ability, namely the lack of specification whether creatures called forth may act immediately upon being called. Most base summoning tricks circumvent this issue by having a casting duration of 1 round, but the SP of the original summoner did not explicitly state a ruling on this, an omission mirrored here. While I'm not going to penalize this pdf for this, it still would have been nice to see. And yes, before someone tells me - I'm aware of how it's done - this rant was aimed primarily at showing awareness for a flaw in official rules-language that could use some minor streamlining.

Spells known and spells per day are pretty much the same tables as for the regular summoner. At 4th level, the class receives Cha-mod uses of a d4-based channel negative energy, though it can only be used to heal the undead, not harm the living. Channel energy increases in potency every two class levels beyond 4th, meaning the undead summoner can dish out at least some healing to the undead. Now aforementioned SP-based undead summoning is further diversified - as the base summoner's SP, the undead summoner's SP-summonings do not allow for the stacking of called creatures. However, at 5th level, 7th level 13th level and 19th level, the ability can be used as a one-use to call forth multiple undead via the new spells contained herein: Basically, you still have only one instance of the SP in effect, but you gain more creatures out of it. The respective abilities sport a sensible scaling mechanism over the levels, increasing in potency. The capstone is, unsurprisingly, an undead apotheosis.

There also are class archetypes: The Fetch Master increases HD to d10, gets full BAB-progression and 6+Int skills - but at the cost of no Summon Undead - and, I assume, also not its follow-up abilities. The undead summoner's Master Summoner gets 5+ Cha-mod uses and may stack summons - basically duplicating the problematic base archetype. If you didn't mind it, you won't mind this adaption. If you considered it broken, you won't like this one either. The pdf also provides a slew of undead-themed archetypes for other classes.

First of those would be the Blight Ranger, who gets an undead FETCH companion at -3 levels. Not an animal companion (who already are strong) but an intelligent fetch with evolutions and all. And no, he does not pay for this with other tricks. OP. The Famine Druid also gains a fetch, undead empathy, and shaping into undead. Full-powered fetch. OP. The Nightmare Rider cavalier gets a quadruped or aquatic fetch as a steed with the mount evolution - problem here: The mount needs to be large, meaning the cavalier can't ride his mount unless that mount is large - which is a 4-point evolution. He replaces expert trainer with Touch of Corruption and gets fear-causing banners. The archetype nets a full-strength fetch, which is extremely strong and OP; it also doesn't work unless a 4-point evolution is chosen...and, touch of corruption is significantly stronger than expert trainer - which is made obsolete by the fetch anyways. OP.

The Undead Bound antipaladin replaces fiendish boon with scaling undead servants - no complaints here. Undead Charmer sorcerors have two spells known less each level, but they gain the bones mystery (with bonus revelations at level 1, 3 and every 4 levels thereafter), including the capstone final revelation and they must take the undead bloodline, which is slightly modified. The archetype may also affect undead as though they were humanoids, which is much stronger than you'd anticipate, considering the usual immunity and thus lack of requirement of investing into boosting that save. I rather like this one, though I do believe that the significant amount of bonus revelations may be overshooting the target line by a bit. Personally, I'd also make the "treat undead as humanoids"-ability restricted to daily uses. Undead Hunter rangers gain a full strength fetch companion ("that must be animal-like" - this is NOT proper rules-language! What does "being animal-like" entail? Low Int? Quadruped? No idea!) - again, immediately making the class pretty OP - which is particularly sad since I did enjoy the diverse undead foci provided for the archetype. The Undead Stalker rogue replaces trapfinding with scaling skill-boosts versus undead, traps sense versus better saves and defenses versus the undead and replaces 4th level's rogue talent with at-will hide from undead. On a nitpicky side, the ability's header lacks the SP-declaration, though the text does feature it. This makes a weak class even weaker and even more situational - the archetype needs an upgrade.

Now this rather depressing chapter is done, we turn our attention towards spell-lists provided for the respective character-classes and then a SIGNIFICANT array of Summon Undead-spells - beyond the base-spells, there also are aforementioned legion-spells and the aptly-named level 9 Zombie Apocalypse...which is pretty dang awesome.

Speaking of awesome - for each of the summon spells herein, we get statblocks - all colelcted herein - from the CR 1/3 Grabbing Beheaded to Zombie King Crabs, Paleoskeleton Triceratops to Fallen Flumph Graveknight antipaladins, mummified gynosphinxes and the obvious flaming crab skeletons, this extremely detailed array of statblocks, partially crafted, partially collected, makes this book exceedingly more useful than it would otherwise be - no page-flipping, nothing - awesome! We're speaking of no less than 66 1/2 pages of undead statblocks, mind you!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good. On a rules-level, there is something odd going on here: Some parts are precise, well-phrased and sport next to no issues, while others (namely the archetypes) fall horribly flat of the precision the base class sports. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy-to-read two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks, sparse though they are, are beautiful b/w and fit the book rather well and the nice fetch-sheet is a cool touch.

Alex Abel's Undead Summoner is pretty damn awesome - this book made me very happy when I first read it - not only does it provide a convenient undead statblock resource, the alternate class summoner presented herein is different enough to warrant the alternate class...and it makes the undead summoner, the undead-commanding arcanist actually work - even at low levels, which is absolutely and positive awesome. While the class does sport some very minor needs for clarification (Positive energy healing for fetch could be e.g. eliminated by simply stating that it has the undead type...), this is a huge step forward in the evolution of Flaming Crab Games and when playtesting the class concluded, I found myself positively excited to write this review. While not yet perfect yet, with some VERY minor streamlining, this book would be 5 stars + seal of approval - that was my expectation upon testing the undead summoner and I was looking forward to writing a completely positive review.

There is but one huge and strange component that tarnishes an otherwise carefully-crafted book, namely the archetypes. Oh boy did these archetypes sour the pdf for me - up to this point, I was pretty confident that this book would be all awesome, but balance here is dreadfully off - not only does the fetch easily surpass all creatures it replaces, the non-relevant exchanges of companion-supplementing abilities further exacerbate the significant power-discrepancy. Know what's even worse? RAW, the fetch adheres to the fetch's rules and that of the undead summoner - which, unlike quite a few of the classes here, does not sport a penalty for destroyed fetch-companions, meaning the beast can be called again and again. It's not only better, it also can be used with impunity! Basically, the archetypes grossly underestimate the sheer power of the fetch (or an eidolon, for that matter) when compared to e.g. mounts, animal companions etc. Add to that glitches à la a cavalier who can't ride his intended mount replacement and we have a section that single-handedly manages to drag down what otherwise is an excellent resource. From OP archetypes to one that makes the poor rogue even more restricted in the class's usefulness, this section is seriously bad and were the whole book of this quality, I'd bash it rather hard.

However: The archetypes take up only 3 pages of this book, which is mostly devoted to codifying undead summoning for each level; most of this pdf is statblocks and the new class and its tools. This has to be represented by the final verdict. So, in the spirit of transparency, here's how I arrived at my final verdict: For the undead summoner, spells and statblocks, I would have went for 4.5 stars, rounded down due to the minor issues. The horribly flawed archetypes (which I'd at best give 1.5 stars) for other classes, while broken as all hell, make up only a very small part of the book. Granted, quite an array of space is taken up by statblocks, not all of which obviously are new - though enough of them are - and what's here in that regard is nice. It is via careful deliberation that I arrive at a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the whole of the book. Still, I remain with a warning against the archetypes...but also with an explicit recommendation for anyone even remotely intrigued by the undead summoner as a concept - you'll get more than a fair share for your bucks and personally, I look forward to making more of these nasty masters of the undead for my campaign.

Endzeitgeist out.


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