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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
The third of the kineticist-supplements in the ...of Porphyra-line clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of content, leaving us with 62 pages, though these are in the digest-like A5 (9'' by 6'')-format, but if the previous two books were any indications, this will be chock full with hard crunch...so let's not waste any time and dive right in!
In case you were wondering - this review is based on V.4 of the file.
After a brief discussion on kineticists and their interaction with the overall world, we are introduced to the selection of the archetypes herein - let's start with the racial one: The Elemental Brethren, for the suli-races (Still hurts me physically to write "Ifrit, Oread, Sylph, Undine" -the mythology nomenclature fail's so brutal...in this review, I'll refer to them just as "suli") must select the elemental focus associated with the element of the respective race, with non-suli at 1st level gaining the energy strike racial ability as being treated as the respective suli for the purpose of selecting the Extra Elemental Assault feat. Additionally, all of these brethren gain Incremental Elemental Assault as a bonus feat and may apply the elemental assault's benefits to the respective kinetic blasts as through these were weapons, but lose the 1st level utility wild talent. 3rd level allows for the expenditure of one round of elemental assault to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to third level by 1, with 8th level allowing for the expenditure of 2 rounds to reduce the burn cost of an infusion of up to 6th level by 1 and 12th level unlocking the option to expend up to 3 round to reduce burn of an infusion of up to 9th level by 1.
6th level similarly allows the kineticist to expend 4 rounds of elemental assault to fill 1 point of the internal buffer as a full-round action. 7th level provides and infusion on the list of those available at -1 level and gain both an infusion and utility wild talent instead of expanded element. 9th level lets the elemental brethren expend three rounds of elemental blast to increase the damage die size by 1 step for 1 round, replacing the infusion gained there. 10th level provides expanded element, but limits the choice available to the 4 primary elements, but they only treat their level as 2 lower rather than 4 for purposes of wild talent selection. If the ability is applied to an element already known, the archetype instead modifies a known infusion to work at -1 level as well as gaining an infusion and wild talent. At 15th level, the archetype reduces the number of rounds required to use elemental fuel, augmented internal buffer and blast burst by 1 round, to a minimum of 0, effectively de-limiting this resource - okay at this level. They also get an infusion or utility wild talent, but trade all of that for the expanded element gained. At 20th level, the archetype can expend 4 round of elemental assault to use any kinetic blast wild talent they don't know for 1 round. Alternatively, the archetype may wild card a wild talent for 24 hours and replace it with another of the same category - though the elemental restriction to fire, air, earth and water still persists. While I am still no fan of the races and themes, this is still a good example for a racial archetype done right, one that utilizes the unique capabilities and themes of the respective suli.
The second archetype contained herein would be the Corpse Puppeteer, who needs to choose viscera or void as elemental focus. At 1st level, the corpse puppeteer can create the eponymous corpse puppets from the bodies of deceased Small or Medium humanoids or animals (base stats provided): Void puppeteers get skeletons, while viscera specialists treat the creature as a construct. The construct is treated as an animal companion with kineticist levels standing in as full druid levels and may learn feats, in spite of being mindless, though the puppets are restricted to the companion's list. Corpses are dumb and can only attack, defend, stay and flee and they can only be healed via kinetic healing options. Commanding the puppet is a swift action and the connection may be severed as a full-round action. Establishing a new connection with a corpse costs 1/2 character level burn, min 1 - but for each additional corpse provided, said burn can be reduced by 1. 10th and 15th level unlock Large and Huge puppets, respectively, with options to accept burn to grow the puppets in a small quasi-ritual as well as the choice to instead commandeer multiple smaller puppets. This does consume the 7th level expanded element as well as the infusions granted at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level.
Corpse puppets may share spell-like utility wild talents that require a standard action to use, but this eliminates the standard action from the corpse puppeteer's next round and burn may not be accepted when doing so. This replaces the companion link and usual share spells abilities of companions. Starting at 4th level, fleshcrafting is unlocked, allowing the puppeteer to add the unnatural evolution permanently to a corpse, though only one such modification can be in effect at any given time, +1 at 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 10th level unlocks the use of improved unnatural evolution instead. Corpses may also take Extra Evolution, using HD as level. This replaces the 4th level utility wild talent. 6th level keeps the corpses from decaying as though gentle repose'd and 10th level nets expanded element instead of a utility wild talent. As a capstone, the puppets gain a massive nasty boost to their capabilities. All in all, a delightfully creepy kineticist pet class.
The Dread Soul must be evil and has a corresponding aura and, if they die, returning them to life is hard, since they are on the express train to becoming evil outsiders in the lower planes. The blasts of dread souls are treated as though modified by the aligned infusion, not counting towards the substance infusion limit - but obviously, the ability's limited to evil and it replaces the first level infusion. 2nd level nets the Flesh of the Fallen unique elemental defense, which nets you scaling natural AC as well as resistance depending on the evil outsider (devil, demon, daemon) chosen; as always, burn can be accepted to increase these values up to a scaling limit (max +7) until you restore your burn. When you accept burn for a wild talent, your scales deal reflexive piercing damage equal to your elemental resistance to creatures assaulting you with non-reach melee weapons or natural attacks for 1 round.
Now 5th level becomes NASTY: As part of using any wild talent for which the dread soul must accept burn, excluding defense wild talents, they can target a living intelligent creature (Int 3+ - kittens and rats need not apply) to make a Will save or take one burn for the dread soul. Good creatures take a penalty to these saves and this delegated burn increases to 2 at 11th level, 3 at 17th level. If the creature manages the save, the dread soul is staggered until the end of his next round, but delegated burn does count, thankfully against the daily and per-round burn limits, avoiding abuse via fanatically loyal cohorts etc. - basically, the negative effects of burn are mitigated, but the resource as such is not tampered with. This may require a bit of book-keeping, but I wholeheartedly applaud the design decision and precision here. At 9th level, Con-mod times (Con mod times 2 at 20th level) per day, targets must succeed two saves against this to mitigate it, which does take a bit off the edge of the stagger on failure, but retains the gambit-y nature.
This ability eliminates infusion specialization 1, 3 and 5. At 6th,11th and 16th level, the archetype increases the amount of total burn he can accept a day instead of gaining internal buffer. 7th level expands the Flesh of the Fallen elemental defense to apply to a second element at slightly decreased potency and add a bonus to Intimidate checks equal to the natural AC-bonus to the benefits. Additionally, the archetype gets the soul burning substance infusion allows you to add, at 2 burn cost, +1 burn to your infusion, burn that is very hard, in particularly for good characters, to remove. At 10th level, expanded element is gained instead of the utility wild talent.15th level provides one of two infusions, one of which is gained instantaneously: Number 1 is an improved version of soulburning that deals lethal burn and requires greater restoration to remove. As a nitpick, the pdf failed to italicize the spell-name here. Number 2 would be an universal form infusion...and pretty much absolutely awesome: A foe reduced to 0 hit points is turned into a soulstone that flies to your hand, with the soulstone acting as an unwilling target for your burn-delegation - and best yet, the ability, while powerful, can't be cheesed. no kitten-failure, no follower-exploit...just all around awesomeness. And no, you can't stockpile them. Maximum 1. Finally, the second capstone ability lets you treat the delegated burn as not counting against your own burn maximum for a fitting, brutal capstone delimiter. All in all, cool evil kineticist archetype with some awesome visuals. Soul stones are just...*shudder* Also: Impressive from a design perspective regarding the lack of possible abuse scenarios - I tried hard to break this one and couldn't do it. Kudos!!
I've spared the most interesting for last - the Dimensional Ripper, who must select aether, time or void as focus (and this restriction is maintained for expanded element at 15th level). Instead of the 2nd level's utility wild talent, the class gets dimensional tear: As a standard action, these guys can accept 1 burn to create two tears in the dimensional veil. (Alternatively: Full-round action and no burn.) These must be within empty spaces within 50 ft (+10 ft. per level beyond 2nd) and require line of sight. Tears cannot be opened in hazardous terrain, are 5 ft. tall and wide and must be placed vertically on solid ground. They block line of sight and can be identified as via Knowledge (planes) and they cannot be opened where extradimensional travel is blocked. Tears closing on creatures deal 1d6 points of damage and shunt them to the nearest unoccupied free space. They automatically close upon a dimension ripper moving further than 100 ft. +10 ft. per level beyond their location. A given creature of size Large or smaller may enter a tear and exit at any given other tear to which it has line of sight and infinite loop-scenarios via tears end after the third iteration - so no eternal falling exploit. Attacks and spells shunted through a dimensional tear by any other character than the dimensional ripper emerge from a randomly determined dimensional tear (or re-emerge from the single tear, if only one's here). Kinetic blasts may be fired freely through dimensional tears by the dimensional ripper, though the maximum range may not exceed that of the kinetic blast. Melee attacks (such as via kinetic whip) can only travel through 1 tear and blasts modified with form infusions require the ripper to be within 5 ft. of the blast, treating the tear from which it emerges as the origin. Kinetic blasts with the ranged infusion increase the range of the blast by 10 ft. per tear they travel through, up to a maximum of 10 ft. per 3 class levels. The ripper can maintain a number of tears equal to twice the amount they can create with a single use at a given time - at 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, they may place tears in the air (but only at 1/2 maximum range height), while also creating +1 tear (+1 tear per ability use every 4 levels thereafter). Additionally, tears created as a standard action no longer cost burn, and they can be created as a move action for accepting one burn. At 10th level, move actions no longer cost burn and the tears can be opened as a swift action (though the ability fails to specify that it costs burn to do so, that is apparent from the context) and standard action-created tears no longer require burn to increase their duration.
At 8th level, burn can be accepted to make the dimensional tears last longer and treat travel through rifts as if affected by the light speed travel wild talent. The dimensional ripper may also apply hyper-dimension blast for 1 burn to their blasts, as long as the blast travels through at least one rift. 9th level is interesting - for +1 burn cost, the dimensional ripper can increase +atk and damage by +1 per tear traveled through by the blast, with a cap of 1 per 3 class levels. Additionally, charges made through them with melee-centric tricks like kinetic fist get upgraded to pounce and increase the movement rate for each tear passed by 10 ft., with the same cap determined by level. 11th level becomes crazy cool -as a move action, they can move any number of tears up to 30 ft. - and they can, as an immediate action, be moved into the charge of an enemy, forcing them to save or be at your mercy regarding their egress point.
17th level is the "watch me obliterate you"-move: Shoot a blast into a tear...watch it emerge from ALL your tears (except the first one used), at half strength - sure, 3 burn...but this *is* so gratifying. At 20th levels, two rifts can be collided, causing them to collapse in disintegrating, devastating blasts...oh, and yes, the more used, the deadlier. This is basically the equivalent of all those Japano-RPG final boss total annihilation moves. You need set-up...yes. But you can kill basically anything with it. And at 20th level...I'm surprisingly okay with that. Why? Because the dimensional ripper is FRIGGIN AWESOME. As in: Even if the rest of this book was utter garbage (which it isn't!), this alone would warrant the asking price. It's the efficient, cool, yet restricted portalist that has enough options at each level; that can snipe through portals; that makes for a ridiculously brilliant antagonist and for a radically different playing experience. This guy is platinum.
You're still here, aren't you? All right, all right. So, guess what - no new elements this time around. Instead, we get an example that N. Jolly can write nice fluff as well - 5 elemental saturations, basically, for those not in the know, leyline-like nexuses of power for kineticists, are provided - with the shadeless citadel for light, the genus loci (the land made flesh) and similarly iconic places awaiting your kineticists to tap into their power - and while intended for use with porphyra, these places can be inserted into other campaign settings without hassle. The cool thing here: By e.g surviving the genus loci trying to eat you, you gain a means to convert 1 point of lethal damage into non-lethal damage. Bracing the chamber of compressed time can provide you a move and a standard action in a surprise round - these are powerful, yes - but they also are story-benefits and as such completely in the hands of the GM.
The composite blast-section begins with a clarification: Composite blasts treated as though affected by an infusion don't count the added effect towards the limits of substance of form infusions. The blasts themselves are, much like in KOP II, pretty versatile and feature interesting images: Blasts of gore, hellfire (fire + negative, +1 damage die step and burning infusion), rare-metal meteorites and there would also be complex mods like shatterstorm blast: While you reduce damage die size (erroneously called "hit die" here) by one step, you add +2 damage per HD and treat it as though the kinetic bomb infusion had been applied to it. Adding silverlight to positive energy blasts and reducing foes below 0 hp to ash...there are some ways with which one can be an utter, total prick here. Like it!
Part II of my review can be found in the product discussion. See you there!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!
After a page of introduction to the subject matter, we are introduced to the first of the base classes in this book, the aether blade, who gets d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, aether blade, light armor and bucklers. The class has good Fort- and Will-saves and full BAB-progression. At 1st level, the class gets its defining aether weapon and chooses the shape, which is retained forever after - either light (1d6 base damage), one-handed (1d8 base damage) or two-handed (2d6 base damage) - the blade can be formed as a move action. Aether blades may choose damage type (piercing, slashing, bludgeoning) when they call forth the blade. There is something odd in the rules-language for changing damage-types: "The aether blade can change the damage type of an existing blade, or may summon a new blade with a different damage type, as a full-round action."
The problem here is twofold: One, the ability fails to its own nomenclature: aether blade = class; aether weapon = class feature. The text should refer to the weapon. Secondly, after relinquishing the grip or throwing the blade, it dissipates. Letting go of an item is...bingo, free action. So, drop weapon, call new one = move action. Why would I EVER spend a full-round action? It would make sense if the choice of damage type upon calling wasn't free every time around, but this way, action economy makes no sense. The aether weapon can be sustained within antimagic fields by succeeding Will-saves, which is a nice catch. 1st level also nets Arcane Strike, which treats aether blade levels as caster levels. The aether blade also receives Cha-mod to AC and applies said bonus to neither touch, not flat-footed AC. The aether blade loses the bonus when wearing armor heavier than light, medium or heavier load and when cowering/helpless, etc. At 6th level, the bonus does apply to touch AC, with 14th level applying it to CMD and flat-footed AC as well..
Starting at 2nd level, the aether blade gets the aetheric aura class feature, which allows the aether blade to use a standard action to disperse parts of her blade in a 20 ft- radius, granting a +1 morale bonus to all allies within the area, depending on the aura used. The bonus increases by +1 at 7th level, 13th level and 18th level. Auras can be maintained for 4 + Cha-mod rounds per day, +2 round per additional class level. One aura can be maintained at 2nd level, with 11th and 19th level allowing for +1 aura in effect at any given time. 6th level modifies the action economy to activate down to a move action, 11th down to a swift action. New auras are gained every 4 levels after the 2nd. The auras allow for the application of the bonus to initiative, concentration, melee damage rolls, CMD, Cl-checks, 5 times bonus energy resistance to an element chosen upon activation, saves vs fear effects, atk or CMB. As you can glean, the bonuses range from very universal to very specific - bonus versus fear don't seem to be on par with the others, for example.
The aether blade also uses Cha instead of Int-mod for Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft - oddly, this one is gained at 2nd level, which is rather odd, considering that it can mean, theoretically, that the class has higher capability in the skills at 1st level than 2nd - usually, such abilities make more sense at 1st level. Additionally, the ability does not specify the level it's gained at - you have to consult the table. Cosmetic, yes, but still a tad bit annoying. 3rd level unlocks aura vision - class level rounds of detect magic that immediately provide full 3-round infos. I'm not a fan of this one, but, beyond personal preference, it is SU (when it should probably be SP) and lacks the activation action. 3rd level also nets eldritch symbiosis, which can be likened to a kind of linear order or bloodline-ish ability, three of which are provided: Wand, staff and rod. New abilities are unlocked at 3rd (apprentice), 9th (journeyman) and 17th level (master). In order to activate the abilities granted by this class feature, the aether blade has to be formed around the respective item. The respective item can then be used by the aether blade as though she was a wizard equal to her class level. However, while this symbiosis is in effect, the aether weapon cannot be used as such - it has basically been transformed in the respective item. Each of the paths provide a bonus feat at apprentice level and more complex abilities at higher levels, with journeyman generally providing passive abilities. The master abilities diverge wildly - from expending charges to temporarily enhance aether weapon damage output, adding defending to Cha-mod short-range teleports, the abilities are diverse, though the latter fails to specify CL or whether it's SP or not...which it probably should be.
4th level provides the option to absorb and freely distribute bonuses of magic items, which is pretty OP - even similar godblade classes like the soulknife or ethermagus directly specify the enhancements available. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide exactly one spell of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th level respectively that can be cast 1/day, with each step of the ability increasing the daily uses of the previously chosen SPs by +1/day, with Cha acting as governing attribute, just fyi. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net +1 to saves versus SPs and arcane spells and, as a capstone, the aether blade gets SR equal to 20 + Cha-mod, with the option to spell turn spells that fail to penetrate the SR as an immediate action. Additionally, the class can now cast an SP as a free action after confirming a crit.
The archetype provided for the class, the aether knight, is proficient with medium and heavy armor and shields, replacing aetheric armor and its follow-ups....and the regular list of proficiencies. Which is problematic, as RAW, it eliminates light armor and all weapon proficiencies of the class. Instead of an aether weapon, they can call forth an aetheric shield, with eldritch symbiosis being replaced with an appropriate, defensive version that applies to magical armor. Once again, a SP is not properly declared as such, but that's mostly a nitpick. Instead of spells, these guys can grant themselves scaling bonuses to physical attributes or natural AC.
The second class would be the Shadow Blade, who gets d10, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors as well as full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. They begin play with Improved Feint and unexpected strike, which is basically sneak attack that only applies when a foe is denied his Dex-mod, not when flanking, with die-increases only at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Starting at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class may decrease armor check penalties by increasing amounts. 2nd level also provides Steel Shadows, a shield bonus to AC that increases over the levels - but the ability does not mention the scaling here; you have to take a look at the table, which is slightly inconvenient. This may also be due to the irregular scaling of the bonus: The bonus increases to +2 at 7th level, +3 at 11th level and then to +4 at 17th level.
3rd levels beshadowed blade nets +1/2 class level to feint, but only for one weapon...and the ability lacks an activation action. The same level also nets darkvision, which increases in range and may later penetrate magical darkness...and the ability has no interaction-clause for races that already have it. 4th level can be unintentionally OP: The intent for the ability is to eliminate movement rate reductions caused by armor, which is okay. The ability says, though: "While wearing shrouded armor, the shadow blade does not suffer from a reduction in speed." This can be read as eliminating reductions of the movement rate due to encumbrance, caltrops, difficult terrain, etc. due to not directly referring to the armor. While its twin ability makes the intent clear, this still needs polishing. Twin ability? Yup, twilight tread allows for a limited number of rounds of difficult terrain traversal per day, thankfully sans abuse options re damaging terrain. 5th level provides an SU dimension door-like low-range standard action-based (move at 10th, swift at 15th level) shadow jump that does not specify that it's a conjuration [teleportation]-effect or a caster level for purpose of block-interactions.
At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow blade may choose a dark revelation, which basically constitute the unique maneuvers/tricks of the class. And generally, I like them...using shadow jumping distance as resources to flank with oneself (though the nerfed pseudo-sneak takes away some appeal here) is nice - though the very conservative distances available do mean that you won't pull off this trick often anyways. On the plus-side, SPs are properly designated here. At 8th level and every 4 thereafter, the shadow blade also gets a shrouded secret, which basically would be the defensive/stealth-themed tricks. The capstone allows the class to choose one of three effects - form large-area darkness through which allies can see, DR 10, low-light vision (srsly, at 20th level?) and immunity to cold or heavy fortification in the shrouded armor.
The umbral prowler archetype would be basically a rogue/shadow blade blend, with trapfinding, increasing movement rate, scaling dodge-bonus to AC as well as access to thievery-enhancing dark revelations and 6+Int skills.
The third class, the verdant blade gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as Wisdom-based spellcasting up to 4th spell level, drawn from the druid spell-list, with the usual -3 level caveat, since spellcasting is learned at 4th level. Oddly, the class must be non-evil. The class gains a woad weapon of his choice, with composite bows adjusting to the Strength score of the character...which is problematic at low levels, considering how expensive these can get. The weapon usually is a kinda-symbiotic seed and can be drawn as though it was a normal weapon. At 5th level, Str-scores of composite bow forms can be upgraded and the verdant blade is considered to have Craft Magic Arms and Armor for purposes of woad weapon enhancement. Unfortunately, this provides no means to offset spell-requirements for crafting. The weapon naturally regenerates hit points. The verdant blade can implant seeds in foes; the effects last for 3 + Wis-mod rounds, can be used 1/2 class level + Wis-mod times per day and has a scaling save, with the precise save-type being determined by the seed discovery chosen. Continuous damage, entangling foes and debuffs can be found here, with the first such seed being available from level 1 onward and subsequently, gaining +1 such seed discovery every 4 levels thereafter. They vary greatly in power with low-level summon swarm being pretty OP in comparison to -2 to Will saves. +1/2 class level to Knowledge (nature) and Survival is also part of the starting ability array. AT 10th level, two seeds can be implanted at a given time and the maximum limit of seeds per target increases to 2.
At 2nd level, the class can scavenge together tools (nice!) a, with 4th level making wooden items like this tougher and treated as magic. He also gains woodland stride. 3rd level nets +1 natural armor; +1 every 4 levels thereafter as well as trackless step. 4th level provides the option to 3+ Wis-mod times create patches of caltrop-y terrain as a move action. 6th level provides a mantle that first grants concealment vs. ranged attacks, 12th extends this to melee and 18th grants fly speed 30 ft. + good maneuverability, all activated as a swift action and usable for class level + Wis-mod rounds. 8th level makes the blade count as cold iron and 14th level provides breath of life as a 1/day SP with damn cool visuals, as the verdant blade jump-starts fallen comrades by plunging his sword in their breast. 16th level allows for making treant allies and 50% provides basically a 50% fortification apotheosis complete with only 1 hour of sleep required and the option to gain sustenance from air and sun, etc.
The class can pursue the verdant florist archetype, who may grow and apply aromatic flowers on the woad weapon as a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity to adjacent, willing allies. These provide morale bonuses to skill or ability checks or saves, with the bonus increasing by +1 at 9th and 17th level and the effect remaining for class level rounds. A total of 16 blossoms are provided. Starting at 5th level, two flowers can be combined into one bouquet and at 13th level, 3 effects can be chosen at once, though each blossom still consumes a use of the ability, with a total of 1/2 class level + Wis-mod daily uses. A flower is chosen instead of seeds and generally, this is the buff equivalent of the debuff-heavy class. On a nitpicky side, the mention of the flower sticking to the character as a kind of corsage implies it occupying a slot, which I assume it does not.
The final class herein would be the Vital Blade, who gains d10 HD, 2+ Int skills per level, is proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields as well as full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves. Vital blades have a sangineous sword and begin play with Weapon Focus for it. This sword can, as a move action (swift at 8th, 16th level as a free action), be formed from a wound-like rune. Oddly, the ability can form any melee weapon the character is proficient with, making the name of the ability somewhat unfortunate. The vital blade begins play with a blood pool of 1 + Con mod points and is considered to have the Diehard feat while the pool sports at least 1 point. The pool refreshes via critical hits and killing blows - and BOTH have an anti-kitten-abuse caveat! NICE! 2nd level nets Endurance as a bonus feat as well as weeping weapon - as a swift action before making an attack, the vital blade can add scaling acid damage 3+ Con-mod times per day to his blade, with damage beginning at +1d4 and increasing by +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter.
3rd level decreases any bleed damage incurred by 1/2 class level. as well as granting the first blood talent, which is btw. the ability that will generally be used to consume those blood points. Additional blood talents are gained every 2 levels thereafter. Tracking by scent after tasting a foe's blood, gaining Con-mod to initiative, firing shrapnel of blood (consuming weeping wounds instead of blood points) - the ideas are solid. Problematic, considering the clusterf*** that weapon-size-rules are: Increasing the size of the vital blade...can the vital blade still wield the weapon as its original size or as the modified size? Passive abilities like natural armor and DR can also be chosen and AoO-less SP grease via blood as well as weeping wound enhancers are included in the deal. Creatures slain temporarily increase the enhancement bonus of the vital blade, with the daily maximum being determined by the class levels of the vital blade.
At higher levels, the sanguineous sword is treated as magic and can be used to attack as a touch attack a limited amount of times per day. The class has two capstones, one of which allows for self-healing and Con-damage inflicting, with the other providing immunities and a slowly replenishing blood pool. The archetype for the class is the crimson inheritor, who loses heavy armor proficiency and gains a sorceror (not bloodrager?) bloodline to replace his blood talents with - though only the arcanas are gained. Bonus feats from the bloodline can be taken instead of blood talents. At 6th level, 1/2 crimson inheritor level is treated as sorceror level for purpose of bloodline spell availability, with the spells costing their spell level in blood points to cast. As a capstone, the archetype provides the final bloodline power.
Part II of my review is in the product discussion. See you there!
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This massive bestiary clocks in at 148 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 143 pages of content, one of which is devoted to the cover artist Raven Mimura's biography as well as the story behind the cover.
This book, just so you know it, is dedicated to Joshua Gullion, KTFish7, fellow reviewer, colleague and friend - he always did champion a bestiary for AAW Games' Aventyr setting and I does warm my heart to see this dream realized. In particularly since Aventyr's critters, from humble A03 onwards, have been a defining staple of the setting. The crab-like Kra'tah that haunted the Vikmordere burial ground is but one of the creatures found within this book alongside new variants of the evocative monstrosity.
So yes, beyond simply being a massive collection of monsters can also be seen as a kind of "best of" of what has come out of creature-design for the Aventyr-setting - the evocative underworld races introduced under their own product line have representations here, from the crystalline colliatur to the alien funglets and the related creatures, they find their representations within this book. We can find deep badgers with the respective animal companion stats and classics like the delightfully disturbing NITNAM from classic A09, a gigantic blob of flesh, a parasite-like infection of flesh on a wizard's tower, can be found herein as well.
Each of the monsters is codified via an easy to use monster icon key that depicts the climate in which the monster can be found as well as types and subtypes via pretty self-explanatory glyphs - though, as one nitpick pertaining the layout, the borders of these icons could be cleaner/sharper in the pdf-version.
So, this would cover the basics - but what beyond them? Well, there is a certain truth in the old saying that a campaign setting's monsters somewhat define a given world and system. One of the reasons that drew me to Pathfinder back when I bought #1 of RotRL was the take on goblins - the fact that they were evocative and different. The themes evoked in the book, from the Jersey devil-like Sandpoint Devil to some encounters all provided a mature theme I preferred to that of almost all official WotC-modules and inclusion of themes from the Dark Tapestry and ever more twists on the familiar tropes ultimately did their fair share in ensuring I'd stay with Pathfinder as my default system.
A world's monsters very much define its tone, a crucial component for any fantasy gaming setting: Introduce enough goofy creatures and the whole setting feels lighthearted; introduce enough grimdark elements and it similarly becomes rather dark. But beyond that, creature-design for setting bestiaries very much requires, at least in my book, a feeling of cohesion. Ultimately, my main measure for setting based bestiaries would be the fact that a bestiary like this needs to evoke a cohesive identity via its creatures between the lines - to succeed here, we require a sense of the down-to-earth baseline for a given world in the animals and plants. The aventyr bestiary does provide the like, with subterranean boars called vvors, svirfneblin riding slugs (!!!)...and then there would be skildpadders. Scandinavians may already glean at what these creatures precisely are, the name translating to tortoise - but the creature itself is massive. Skildpadders in the context of Aventyr are giant bulette-tortoises, used as elephant-on-speed-like beasts of burden by the dwarves, with howdahs and the like...and yes, they are damn dangerous and ravenous...but mere words do an insufficient job in describing the impact this creature had on my. Build-wise, it may not be the most evocative one, but the almost two-page-filling, massive artwork of this beast and the iconic nature of the concept adds a whole level of ideas to the game: I can see these titans making their way through the gigantic subterranean landscapes of the underworld, with their crews defending caravans of the gigantic beasts against the numerous threats below the surface. Images like this are truly fantastic in the best of ways and provide a unique sense of consistency to the world.
Another of my favorites would be the Szaboan: Think of a colossal crab with mantis-shrimp-like, scintillating coloring and two surprisingly cute rabbity-looking "ears" as feeler and red eyes...above a gigantic, all-consuming lamprey-like mouth, large enough to swallow whole houses, with rows upon rows of churning teeth? Yeah...at once cute and creepy...I love it.
Similarly, no (A)D&D/d20-based bestiary would truly be complete without an odd hybrid creature and this bestiary does offer such beings; as an example, I'd like to mention the Stegaloviper - at CR 7, this Huge foe is a disturbing cross of viper and centipede, with a massive, stegalodon-like club as its tail - think of a titanic rattle-snake that can bludgeon you to death with her rattle, while also have Alien-like mandibles in the gaping maw and insectoid legs on the underside of its belly. I almost expected this creature to feature in one of the classic, beloved Chronicles/Savage Sword of Conan-comics. Speaking of which - the builds of such fantastic creatures that breathe a certain sense of the unique can also be seen in the variants of fantastic spiders, with the CR 11 sloth spider and its lethargic aura and slime coating rendering it pretty powerful - but its stone carapace does render it staggered...until it erupts in devastating bursts of speed. Finally, the alien and tentacled Veinar, somewhere between Lovecraftian horror and plant-like aberration certainly should make fans of sword & sorcery tropes grin with glee.
Rust mites would also be pretty cool and certainly a creature PCs and players alike will come to hate: After all, how do you make rust monsters novel and nastier? Bingo. Make them a swarm. Speaking of magical vermin - chikfari would be grasshopper-like predators with devastating kicks. One of my own favorites, though, would be the dread karz - carnivorous slugs with bony protrusions , the ability to psionically lure in foes and a coating of poisonous, paranoia-inducing slime. And yes, before you ask: Salt does help. One component of this bestiary I personally very much enjoy is that the creatures herein often feature reward-mechanisms for smart groups to exploit, emphasizing creativity over just rolling the dice and comparing math.
There are also some truly weird monsters in this book that very much feel like they could have been picked from the pages of the mythology of our very own world: Take the Sigbin, for example: The winged predator with its black/red-striped fur, claws and goat's head, it has sleep-toxin coated spines, is infused with the essence of shadow and can grapple and pin shadows of those that run afoul of it. The three variants of the shield warden, spanning CRs from 7 to 18 would be the creatures featured on the cover - and they are similarly feeling like they belong, though here, the analogue one can find would be with the tropes and concepts of the magical guard, the superb security and guardian. What about constructs that resemble weird crosses between chickens and houses?
Speaking of constructs: What about sentient, psionic asteroids with gravity fields? And yes, the book also features golems galore - Two variants of book golems, the lavishly-rendered totem golem (one of the coolest creatures in the book with a ton of unique tricks), mosaic tile golems or spells/power points-leeching constructs...and more. On a less positive note, there is a rendition for a mob as aswarm herein - when that one was originally released, there was not yet a troop subtype, but conversion into it wouldn't have hurt the mob. Still, that issue extends to only one adversary herein.
However, as any good setting-specific bestiary acknowledges, there are also some threats that are, well, pretty much unique threats; bosses. This book also features those - a force of nature, the feral titan called Mortdravva (CR 22), for example. Noght Ma'klurl'uth the Madness Slug; or the insectoid, devilish titan called Naghith, the many-winged father, worshipped and feared by primitive tribes. The artworks for some of the adversaries herein are simply stunning, with the latter being a prime example for pure greatness. What about the Rellum, a gargantuan CR 24 ooze and incarnation of pure, destructive chaos?
The book also features no less than 6 templates, from the gorgeously rendered Colliatur monstrosity to the HEL-creature to making titanic versions of standard critters, the templates offer for neat customization options.
Editing and formatting are very good, particularly for a book of this size. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard, though, at least in the pdf, it could be a bit sharper. The book sports a huge array of artwork: Avid fans of 3pp-supplements may recognize a few of the artworks from previous releases, but the new ones truly shine, with several absolutely superb pieces that immediately grab your attention. The book also features several really big, one-page renditions...in short: This is a beautiful book. A very beautiful book. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Now I don't (yet) own the print of this book, but I am sure as HEL going to get it - my print copies of Snow-White and Rise of the Drow are simply gorgeous and the smaller AAW Games-releases similarly are aesthetically pleasing....so yeah. If you can and prefer print, go for the premium paper-version. Worth it.
Mike Myler, Jonathan G. Nelson, Michael Allen, Curtis Baum, Wolfgang Baur, Brian Berg, Adam Daigle, Jeff Gomez, Joshua Gullion, Jacob Kellog, Jared Jeanquart, Juan Lucha, Justin Andrew Mason, Jonathan McAnulty, Michael McCarthy, Raven Mimura, Brian Wiborg Mønster, Will Myers, Jason Nelson, Owen K.C. Stephens, Colin Stricklin, Cory Wickruck, Stephen Yeardley - notice something in this list of authors? Yep, this is a veritable who is who of not only the gifted authors in the cadre of AAW Games, it also features some of the biggest names in third party publishing - and it shows.
The Aventyr Bestiary is a great book brimming with imagination and truly unique ideas - whether you want a fix of sword-and-sorcery-esque themes, strange horrors or simply cool animal-like creatures, the book breathes a sense of the fantastic. More surprising, though, is that it retains, in spite of the breadth it covers, in spite of the various voices of designers herein, a sense of cohesion and consistency. Reading this book, you can't help but slowly get a feeling for the world of Aventyr, one that extends beyond the confines of individual monster entries. It's subtle; it's, in fact, almost imperceptible...but it's here. A feeling of everything coming together, of a fantastic world that feels different from others; by virtue of its creatures and the themes they provide. The presence of what one could consider "puzzle foes" in the book similarly is something I cherish and quite a few creatures in this book made me go "Damn, this one could carry a whole adventure!" and then start brainstorming.
This, to me, is testament of the quality and imaginative potential this offers. At the same time, though, you should be aware of the fact that rabid fans of Aventyr will see some old acquaintances here: If you, like me, own a majority of AAW Games' output, you'll encounter quite a few of the best-of critters featured in the respective modules. These tend to be winners and evocative indeed, mind you, but it is still something to bear in mind. Format-wise, this book very much adheres to the bestiary-formula championed by Paizo, which means that this book is mainly crunch - so, if you want extensive background information beyond a few paragraphs, you may gnash your teeth a little. Then again, I'd truly love to see extensive and detailed ecologies and modules depicting a lot of these creatures, so consider me wanting to know more about them testament of how damn evocative they ultimately are.
How to rate this...see, this is where it becomes a bit difficult for me. As a person, I absolutely adore this book. It features some of my favorite non-mythic critters in ages. As a reviewer, I had to nitpick a bit, as you've read above...but honestly, it's been a while since I've read a bestiary of this size with this much soul, a book of monsters that made me envision a fantasy world that, by virtue of their very existence, behaves differently from other fantasy settings...and this is a huge deal for me. If you already own the majority of AAW Games' catalogue, you'll get a bit less mileage out of this book, but the vast majority of the new critters more than makes up for this...and hence, after long and careful deliberation, I will ward this book the full five stars + seal of approval. There is simply too much awesomeness in these pages. If you thought even once "Heck yes!" regarding the monster-concepts I mentioned above, you'll probably sit before this book with a broad grin on your face. I know I am.
Tangible Taverns: Tuffy's Good Time Palace (PFRPG) PDFDire Rugrat Publishing
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An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look!
There are taverns you enter and *know* immediately that you just have gone to the wrong side of town: Tuffy's is such a place. Paint peels from various surfaces, glass and food and other debris litter the floor, as scantily-clad women dance on some tables, while a female dwarf with cold blue eyes gazes directly at the PCs. Strangely, some people seem to come and go through a door behind the bar, while the various pickled foods you can purchase are anything but easily digestible. In fact, PCs eating here run a very real risk of contracting food poison, with all required rules provided by the pdf.
Following, to an extent, the formula of Raging Swan Press, the book also provides a whole page of rumors, but takes a more detailed approach befitting the tighter focus- a total of 12 such rumors are provided for your convenience and as ready to go read-aloud texts. Should the banter thus generated not suffice to draw your PCs into direct interaction with the locals, you won't be out of luck - a total of 10 events further can be utilized to jumpstart social interactions and the like, with the table once again spanning a whole page and going into very detailed territory.
The tavern itself is full mapped with a functional, solid map, though the pdf does not provide a key-less version or one blown up to page-size to act as a handout. Additionally, the map does not sport a scale for reference.
Beyond the tavern itself, the patrons obviously are important - and generally, two different groups, both with their own agendas, are provided in addition to Tuffy herself and her none-too-smart piano-player. The first such group would fall in the criminal territory, while the second consists of mercenaries - these combat relevant NPCs come with full-blown statblocks, which makes use of the ACG-material while also using archetypes.
The non-combatants like the dancers may have no statblocks, but they do come with ample of information regarding their goals and the like. The pdf also features several mugshots for the NPCs featured herein. Additionally, the pdf's appendix features several statblocks for rank and file members of the criminal organization as well as two statblock variants of characters introduced herein at +4 levels each - with the intention of potentially changing the power-structure of the organization in question. CR-wise, the NPCs range from CR 3 - 14, making the offering suitable for low- and mid level adventurers with strong stomachs.
Kelly and Ken Pawlik's excursion to Tuffy's is a successful one - while the components used herein may not be mind-bogglingly innovative, they don't have to be: The set-up and number of statblocks herein and the great local color and prose are certainly nice to read and the pdf can certainly offer more than one session of roleplaying - it may even become the favorite dive of particularly hardy PCs, with Tuffy and her folks being truly intriguing characters. That being said, I wouldn't be ole' endy if I had no complaints, right? Well, amid all the intrigue and the two groups in the book, the tavern itself could have used a bit refinement regarding the formatting of its look: The pdf begins with this well-written 4-paragraph-long introduction that sets the stage really well...and then goes straight into the rules to notice strange comings and goings. A more pronounced separation of flavor/quasi-read-aloud text and rules would have improved the reading flow here.
Secondly, and this may sound nitpicky: The tavern lacks a menu. While food is mentioned, no prices are provided. Nor any named breweries, special drinks available or the like. For a book on a tavern, that's somewhat jarring, at least to me. Don't be fooled, though - I am complaining at a surprisingly high level here, with the characters and amount of stats contained herein definitely making this a fair offering, though one focused perhaps a bit too much on the clientèle and less on the place itself.
In the end, Tuffy's is a more than solid, nice buy - and in case you're wondering: I've consciously refrained from going into the details regarding the groups and their members to avoid spoilers - so if you have any questions in that regard, don't hesitate to contact me.
An Endzeitgeist.com reviewEndzeitgeist —
The Player's Guide for the Legendary Planet AP clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Okay, after the usual introduction to the matter at hand, we have to discuss one thing: The AP is set to officially begin at 2nd level, with the optional "The Assimilation Strain" prequel basically blindsiding the more mundane PCs. Hence, campaign trait selection is held off to the begin of the first "proper" adventure. Beyond that, there is a bit of a potential disjoint here: Namely, that this Player's Guide provides an array of new alien races, which make perfect sense in the context of the AP, yes, but also contradict the optional Assimilation Strain lead-in. Basically, if you elect to employ the "fish out of water"-approach and run the prequel with terrestrial PCs, you'll lock yourself out of basically all options in this book...until a PC dies/retires, that is. Which is a bit of a pity, since I prefer the approach via regular PCs stumbling, wide-eyed and bumbling, into the possibilities of Legendary Planet...but your mileage will obviously vary.
Anyhow, the first of the new races introduced herein would be the Auttaine, half-constructs that gain +2 to an ability score of their own choice, normal speed...and they have build points - 3 + initial Constitution modifier, to be precise. They can use these points to customize their own bodies - from internalized weapons to component pouches, the customized options are pretty cool.
Chlorvians are basically the half-plants here and gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Str, low-light vision, +4 to Stealth in wooded environments, +1 natural armor, retries of Diplomacy-attempts only botched by 5 or less and treat Charisma for the purpose of the verdant bloodline as two higher, +1 level for purposes of the Plant domain. Characterized by the symbiotic bond with a seed, they also get +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects, paralysis, sleep, poison, but thankfully not the huge array of plant immunities.
The Tretharri are 4-armed philosophers that gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Cha, +2 to Swim and Climb checks and 4 arms - one is primary, all others are secondary. Still, this makes them brutal shredders.
The Zvarr, winged saurian humanoids, would be the final new race. Zvarr get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis, gain a climb speed of 30 ft, darkvision, +1 to Acrobatics and natural AC, a 1d3 primary bite attack that can be used as secondary in conjunction with weapons, +2 to Appraise as well as vestigial wings they can use via Fly to glide and prevents deadly falls. The races come with age, height and weight tables.
I was btw. positively surprised by the following section - from languages to focuses and skills, the pdf does offer some general, but very welcome guidelines to make the characters work well within the context of the Legendary Planet AP, discussing skills and the like - but the book actually goes one step beyond that, also featuring information on various intriguing classes from the 3pp-circuit - from godlings to luckbringers and machinesmiths, to, obviously, psionics, the Player's Guide provides quite a few nice shootouts pertaining how the classes work within the context of the saga.
The pdf also offers 12 unique campaign traits that count as their own category. Unlike traditional traits, these do come with extensive and evocative background flavor - whether you are a surviving experiment of the dread Jagladine, an interplanar gladiator or a xenobiologist, the traits generally are intriguing and mechanically relevant - bursts of movement, for example, are intriguing and powerful. I found myself pretty excited about them and hope the saga will actually reference them in the plot to come. Cool and well-crafted section!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games' beautiful 2-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf offers several beautiful full-color artworks for the new races, etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though they are a bit glitchy - they point towards e.g. sections of the intro and quite a few are called "_goback" instead of being properly named.
Will McCardell, Alexander Augunas and Neil Spicer have crafted a per se great player's guide. The races occupy the upper echelons of power and feel sufficiently brutal for the purposes of this AP. Power-wise, these aliens basically are in the upper echelon beyond the capability of e.g. the aasimar. For the high-powered gameplay we can expect from this AP, that works, though, and generally, the races seem to be pretty much on par. That being said, there are no favored class options for the races, in case you expected those.
This Player's Guide, as a whole, makes for a great offering for the demographic that wants to start Legendary Planet at 2nd level. Those of us, however, who wished to begin with the "fish out of water"-scenario via "The Assimilation Strain" are basically left hanging in the air. The enhanced power and campaign traits associated with the setting are useful and cool...but they ultimately don't help bridging the power gap between the races and terrestrial standard races. Whether it's "a simulation", a time-lapse or the like, the pdf doesn't really offer help reconciling the assumptions of this PG with the alternate, optional prequel. I expected to see some notes on upgrading regular characters to those herein or an alternate "unlocking"-system for the content herein...or something like that. As a whole, those of us who opted for this entry vector will get no help from this pdf, which is the one massive gripe I have against it. This does not make the Player's Guide bad, mind you - but it does limit its appeal and immediate usefulness for those of us who elected to run with the prequel.
This may not wreck the otherwise concise and well-written player's guide, but it does render the book less universally appealing than it otherwise would be. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.