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Vimanda

Eric Hinkle's page

2,303 posts. 80 reviews. 3 lists. 1 wishlist.



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Everyman covers the Skald

****( )

Everyman Archetypes:Skald is a ten-page PDF covering new rules and archetypes for the Skald. It consists of one page for cover, credits, OGL, preface and table of contents. This leaves six pages of crunchable content, and here it is.

We get seven new archetypes. First is the Blood Singer, who gets the Skald's Vigor feat at first level and later gets regeneration in place of DR. Nice and simple and different enough to work.

Next is my personal favorite, the Cavalier-focused Chivalric Harbinger. They get a Cavalier order and order abilities, as well as a new raging song, Call to Unity, that allows the harbinger to share their bonuses from their order's challenge with their allies. It also allows anyone with the tactician ability to share their feats with everyone affected by the song. The harbinger also gets teamwork feats in place of rage powers that they can grant with the Call to Unity --- very nice! Great archetype for anyone who wants to play a commander type who rallies and inspires troops without turning them into berserkers.

Next is the Jarl Extoller, who can provide improved Aid Another bonuses as well as singing 'Extolling Songs'. The latter work for only one ally but they provide increased bonuses beyond the normal raging songs. As a nice bonus we also get a version of this archetype for the Unchained skald.

The Rage Baiter uses rules from Everyman Games' Psychological Combat PDF. It basically turns your skald into one of those comedians, an annoying jerk that can needle and mock an opponent into a rage centered on the skald. You give an opponent your inspired rage bonuses and in turn they zero in on you. This one is great for anyone who likes manipulating their enemies. Just try not to get hit.

Another amazing archetype is the Showboat. Basically what a gladiator should be, they are specialists in performance combat. They also gain performance combat feats and a few others in place of rage powers and can provide a bonus on performance combat checks equal to the strength bonus from their inspired rage. Very nice! It should really place the crowds at Tymon.

The Unarmored Cantor is an expert with the drum that also gets increasing dodge bonuses so long as they don't wear armor. They also get increased speed and can share it with their allies, as well as bonuses on saves against nonlethal damage from hunger, thirst, heat, and cold.

Next is the Equipment Trick feat with some ideas for how it can be used with the instruments a skald tends to play. You can learn how to make your opponent's armor or helmet ring like a bell; beat out a drum tune on shield or the like; increase the morale bonus of an army you command in mass combat; or use your horn to blow a splash weapon over every enemy in a 10-foot cone.

All that and much, much more!

It ends with two new traits. One allows for improved Perform skill along with the ability to select the Equipment Trick feat at first level. The other, War Dancer, improves Perform (dance) and allows you to use it with versatile performance if you have that class feature.

This is a very fine collection of character tools for anyone who wants to play a skald. The Chivalric Harbinger especially strikes me as a great idea for anyone who wants to do something other than the 'barbaric' skald. For $1.99 it's an amazing buy, but mostly of use to skald characters. I'll go with four stars, five if you're playing a skald.


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Ultimate Commander Review

*****

The latest in the Ultimate series from Legendary Games, Ultimate Commander is a step in a new direction from the previous entries, which mainly expanded on the kingdom-building and mass combat rules presented in Paizo's Ultimate Campaign. The PDF and book proper is 42 pages long, with 28 of those pages devoted to the 'meat' and the rest the OGL, credits, table of contents, etc. However, we get quite a bit in those 28 pages.

Ultimate Commander introduces us to a new class, the General. This is a class that attempts something that has not been previously done in Pathfinder, creating a character whose main ability is the control and command of a troop. Troops were introduced a few years back in Adventure Path #71 as a way of keeping low-level opponents a threat to high level characters by having them fight as a unit. In effect, it's a swarm for non-vermin. It was a strikingly original idea but little has been done with it since.

Until now. Starting from 1st level the General gets to command their own troop, called the squad here. They are treated as a single creature, much like an animal companion, for purpose of feats and hit dice and damage inflicted, though they get better at all three as the General rises in level. From the start they can use shields to increase their AC or use their squad weapon in both hands to increase damage.

They're also immune to single-target spells and can't be flanked, though they can take critical hits and be sneak attacked. Spells that affect an area or more than one person can hurt the squad badly. And if it takes enough damage it disperses, making it very difficult for the General to turn them into a useful fighting group again. Squad damage is divided into casualties and morale, and you can't treat them both the same. The usual kinds of healing work for casualties, but for morale (which is the bigger part of damage) the General has to give a motivating speech, one of the class features. If things get bad enough the General has to go recruiting to repair the damage done to his squad, and tables and DCs are thoughtfully provided for all of this.

The squad is very useful even from the start, but it has to be carefully managed and treated to make sure it stays useful. And much of thus is on the General. It's like an animal companion or eidolon, though differing from both -- the other characters can help, but in the end it's up to the General to make sure the squad stays functional and helpful.

Getting on to the General, they start with some simple commands, mainly for the squad to attack. The General also learns new commands time goes on, enabling the squad to swarm attack more than one enemy, assist him or other allies in flank attacks, and to aid the general in her own attacks. The General also gets special tactics they can use with the squad, allowing it to do things like learn to use crossbows and volley fire them, learn to use pikes, develop guerrilla tactics, shield-breaking, skirmishing, siege tactics, how to hit harder and more accurately, etc. It's not quite everything (some mounted combat tactics would have been welcome), but you get a LOT of options over time for how to use the squad. Eventually the General can have members of the squad sacrifice themselves to save her or fight to the bitter end. And she can share any magical bonuses and special abilities she gets from her weapons with theirs.

The General also gets certain stratagems she can use with her fellow adventurers, allowing for bonuses on saves, attacks, damage, etc. You can also learn things like how to enable an ally to strike for nonlethal damage or share teamwork feats. I have to say that the list seems kind of short and the bonuses don't scale with level, which feels odd for these sort of class abilities, but they're all good. A few more genius stratagems would have been good, though, as if you stick to the General class all the way to the end you'll run through the whole list.

The General develops several abilities that play more into the kingdom building rules, especially the expanded version we got in the other Ultimate books. For example, if the General is the kingdom's general, they allow for more armies and elites to be raised (as seen in Ultimate Battle) and for the troops to cost less consumption, and be trained faster. They also provide a better bonus to the Loyalty score. Over time they get even better at this, becoming a near-legend and making the armies under their command even more dangerous and skilled. They also get bonuses on the Leadership feat if taken, together with a small section in the back explaining how this can be especially useful to a multi-class General.

The General also gets additional bonuses to their Profession (soldier) skill over time, which they use for many of their class abilities like recruiting soldiers and commanding in battle. They also learn how to use it to develop contacts, and get better at using social skills to cultivate those contacts and other allies as well.

So that's the General and the squad. There are several archetypes in the book as well, with standouts like the criminal Kingpin who rules a nation's underworld, the malicious Mindbender who uses charm and dominate spells to control their flunkies, the intellectual Tactician who depends more on brains than charisma to win battles (hello, Grand Admiral Thrawn), and the brutal Tyrant and Warmonger, depending respectively on fear and bloodlust to inspire the troops.

Few of them can match the alternate class Hordelord for sheer creepiness, however.

Who? Oh, well, remember those zombie apocalypse movies? The Hordelord is a living person who controls their very own zombie horde. Most of what was said above about the General applies here, with the exception that the horde consists of undead and the Hordelord gets less people-motivating abilities and develops necromantic magic instead. They can also choose one of three Paths of Depravity, each of which provides its own unique slant on just why you'd be running around with a horde of zombies in the first place. The Master with his even bigger zombie horde; the Path of Night with its focus on necromancy; and the Path of the Reaper that feeds on souls -- all of them very great and so very vile! And the capstone ability turns the Hordelord into an undead of their choice. Even better!

At the end of the book we get some new feats and one repeat from the Inner Sea World Guide, the Flagbearer feat. It seems to be either misprinted or altered, with bonuses that once applied to all attacks now limited to attacks of opportunity. However it's still effective and the new feats expand on the General's abilities and allow some new options.

So there you have the General. The class seems best used in campaigns where kingdom-building and mas combat as the focus, but it has more than enough flexibility to be useful elsewhere. It allows for you to make a character who brings their own huscarls or landsknecht or retainers along on their adventuring career, and yet who will not dominate campaign time with their gang of NPC characters. And the Hordelord could make for a whole campaign of heroic PCs confronting hordes of ravaging undead and their mortal masters. I'm going with five stars and a recommendation for one of the best RPG books I've seen all year!


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Unchained Rage

*****

This is another PDF from Everyman Games expanding on the material presented in Pathfinder Unchained, this time covering what changes can be made in the classes that use barbarian rage. It covers the Bloodrager and Skald classes, several archetypes, includes some new and reworked old feats, and finishes off with the Rage Prophet and Stalwart Defender PrCs. All this in twenty-one pages, and here we go for some more detail on all that.

The Bloodrager comes first, and it's mostly the same as the class from the ACG with the difference that the rage bonuses are now in line with the Unchained barbarian. We also get two of their bloodlines redone as well, the Abyssal and the Kyton, because both of them had improved bonuses to strength when in bloodrage. Simple work but very solid and it's always nice to have someone else take the time to figure some of this stuff out.

The Skald is next and again, the class is still pretty much what it was in Unchained save for the bonuses from raging song which now match those of the Unchained barbarian. I do note that the skald gets Perform (wind) listed under the 'Versatile Performance' class feature but he doesn't get Perform (wind) in the class skill list! I seem to recall this was the accidental case in the ACG as well, and it's not hard to include it among the class skills after all, but it seemed odd. Once again, very solid, kept simple like the Unchained barbarian for people who don't want to keep track of a million things during the game, and it works.

Next come several archetypes. First is the Savage Technologist, which allows you to use your thrown weapon damage bonus with your laser pistols and other one-handed firearms when you rage. Else it's still the same archetype we know and love from Numeria. Next is the Primal Hunter from the Ranged Tactics Handbook, one of my favorites. Basically the same as in its original version save that you can add your bonus to hit from rage for melee combat to ranged combat as well.

Then comes the Urban Barbarian, which is a little different. When you rage now with the Unchained rules, you can choose between two of several benefits -- to hit with melee and thrown weapons, damage with melee and thrown weapons, bonuses on certain saves and to armor class, and extra hit points. You can pick more bonuses when you get to greater and mighty rage, and they stack. The Unchained Urban Barbarian works very well to me and seems great for someone who wants raging berserks with some self control and better defenses.

Last archetype is the Viking from People of the North. It feels like an odd man out. Nothing wrong with it at all, but there's practically nothing changed from its original publication. It's good, but given how little work it needed, it feels like it could have been passed over.

Next we get some new and reworked old feats. Most are older feats that have been brought into line with the new mechanic. However, they have three feats that feel like they should have been in the Unchained book. Brutal Blow increases the damage you do when raging if you use a two-handed weapon; Brutal Maneuvers lets you use your damage bonus on combat maneuver checks (part of me wonders why they didn't limit it to maneuvers with Power Attack as a prerequisite, but simplicity is better, and it's very easy to use); and Brutal Throw which allows you to use your normal rage damage and melee attack bonus on thrown weapon attack rolls. Very nice work all three and it fills in some minor oversights from Unchained, which is one of the things 3rd party material ought to do.

Lastly comes the updated PrCs. The Rage Prophet needed something to replace the clarity of mind rage power which the unchained barbarian no longer can get. They do in the form of Clarity of Rage, which allows them to deactivate and reactivate the calm stance rage power as a free action. Otherwise they're mostly what they always were, though some of the class features have been slightly tinkered with to make them more balanced, like allowing them to sacrifice spell slots to add a few more rounds of rage or using Spirit Guardian and Spirit Warrior to now add ghost touch to armor and weapons for the cost of some rage. Looks good to me and still has the feel of the original PrC.

Next is the Stalwart Defender, who has been changed rather more. The entry requirements have been lowered; it gets new defensive powers; and it gets some new class features at lower levels. For instance, now the defender can add their level to their constitution score to determine how low their negative hit points have to get before dying, and when in a defensive stance they add its bonus on Will saves to that total as well. So it becomes not just a matter of physical fortitude but sheer willpower defying death as well -- very iconic!

Also, some of the new defensive powers allow the stalwart defender to move around the battlefield (slowly), mostly to keep driving enemies away from their allies, take a few hits to protect their friends, and even make a charge once per defensive stance. They also get Diehard, and it becomes stronger as they advance in levels. The class feels a lot better now than it used to, and the new class features really give it the tone of being the very best defensive warrior you can find.

All in all, this is a very find PDF and more than worth its asking price for anyone who likes the new barbarian, the Unchained rage mechanic, and who wants to use it with the other classes that depend on it. Five stars and recommended to anyone who likes their barbarians.


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Everyman Unchained Monk Archetypes

****( )

While the monk has been a Pathfinder class from the start and has a large number of archetypes available, it was recently reworked in Pathfinder Unchained. There are several differences between the old class and the new, some small (a few class abilities are now available at different levels) and some big, like the new ki powers and the reworked flurry of blows. All very fine unless you were using one of the old monk archetypes and trying to figure out how to handle your character now. This PDF by Everyman Games founder Alexander Augunas tries to rework them, and let's see how they work.

The PDF itself is nineteen [ages long with one for a gorgeous full-color cover, one for the title page, one for contents, and one for the OGL, leaving fifteen pages of content. They also mention that they don't cover everything -- only archetypes from the Advanced Player's Guide. the Advanced Race Guide, Ultimate Combat, and Ultimate Magic[i] are included (so much for my personal favorite, the [i]Ranged Tactics Toolbox's Far Strike monk). However, Mister Augunas also lists how he wet about making the changes here which makes it rather easy to use them yourself on non-listed archetypes. Thank you for that, sir.

The archetypes themselves still have the feel of the originals, with a few exceptions due to changes such as flurry of blows. The Martial Artist, for example, now gains over time and levels immunities to things like fatigue, exhaustion, and energy drain, as well as decreased effects from ability damage and drain, The Master of Many Styles uses their style strikes differently than the normal monk, using them whenever he makes a full attack while having one of more style stances (from the Style feats introduced in Ultimate Combat) active.

The Sensei archetype gets a fun idea, they can use something like bardic inspiration on their allies, allowing them to inspire courage, competence, and greatness, and eventually to let their lessons linger in the minds of their students for a few rounds extra. They also get bardic masterpieces rather than style strikes and allow their allies to use the Sensei's class abilities while they call encouragement. Do you understand, Grasshopper?

The wrestling Tetori becomes even better at grappling. Much, much better; they can eventually make their grips imitate the effects of dimensional anchor, ghost touch, and even negate polymorph effects by touch! Let's see those incorporeal undead, angry outsiders, and showoff shapeshifters get away now!

The brawling Wildcat gets even better at using dirty tricks and improvised weapons in a fight, and can use their knockout ability earlier and more often as well.

The Zen Archer is the last of the archetypes with major changes. Their big one is that they can only use flurry of blows with bows, and that at 5th level they replace style strikes with the ability to do certain combat maneuvers at range. This feels like a good trade-off, as the Zen Archer loses something they could only use in melee combat but gains something useful but not too powerful for ranged combat.

This PDF doesn't cover every monk archetype but it covers the lion's share of them. And the author includes the information for the reader to rework other archetypes to keep them in line with the ones included here. This is a very good PDF for anyone who wants to convert an old monk archetype to the new class listed in Unchained. That said, if you don't use it they're not going to be very helpful, unless of course you decide to pick up the book after reading the PDF.

I'm going with four stars, mostly because it's only going to be useful to some fans, but to those fans it will be a five-star necessity.


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Kitsune come into their own

*****

This is one of those 3rd party PDFs that justifies the very idea of the OGL with incredible ease. It covers the kitsune race, vulpine shapeshifters who can assume human form and who have a talent for trickery and enchantment magic. This PDF answers the 'and what else' questions, and does an amazing job of it.

Once again, this has been covered in grand style by the other reviewers, so I'll just touch on some high points. We get a history and origin of the race, along with the god Inari and how kitsune interact with humans and other races. Along with the fluff we get crunch that shows how all of this affects them in-game, like new bardic masterpieces and different kitsune 'ethnicities' and subraces.

There are several different paths on how kitsune can become nine-tailed and what they mean in game terms for a character. We get new martial archetypes and class features. There's information on kitsune witchcraft, sorcery both benevolent and baleful, and even a kitsune bloodrager bloodline that allows you to turn into a giant heart-ripping fox. That last one is really original!

It also lists alternate favored class options for every Pathfinder class that wasn't originally covered, as well as a few third party ones. And of course feats and traits.

All I can say is that if you want to play a kitsune in Pathfinder you won't find anything better than this.


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