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Vimanda

Eric Hinkle's page

2,224 posts. 74 reviews. 2 lists. 1 wishlist.



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The Dragon Disciple

****( )

This PDF has already been covered to the usual high standard by Endzeitgeist, so I'll limit myself to a few comments here in praise.

This class is basically taking the Dragon Disciple PrC from the Pathfinder rulebook and turning it into a Charisma-based version of the magus from Ultimate Magic, with the big difference being that in this class you slowly transform into a sorta-dragon. I.e., you get scales, claws, fangs, a breath weapon, wings (at 15th level) all combined with a very decent BAB and saves. You also get spellcasting u to 6th level spells.

Really, this is for everyone who wants to start scaling up (sorry) from 1st level rather than take five levels of a spontaneous spellcaster class first.

I like it mostly because I've always been big on 'monstrous' PCs. I like alchemists with their mutagens, inhuman looking tieflings, and other oddities -- like dragon-people PCs. That said the math of the class works out well and I'd call it balanced for the sort of games I like to play, though it may be a bit tough for lower-powered ones.

You also get a sample character statted out at 1st, 10th, and 15th levels if you want to get an idea of one way to make the character.

I'd say this class and PDF is definitely worth the price.


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Get your dragons here!

*****

The Dragon Companion Handbook is one of the best PDFs I've seen in a long time. The intent of it is to allow PCs to get dragons as cohorts/companions or even as PCs if they want. They do point out that these rather powerful dragons are meant more for use as cohorts and companions, and list Rite Publishing's In the Company of Dragons as am alternative source for draconic PCs. That said I'd say they do a good job of it!

The PDF proper is 36 pages lone, with one page for the cover, one for credits, one for the contents and preface, and one for the OGL. This leaves 32 pages for the dragons themselves, and they are pages well used.

The first section briefly covers the dragon 'race', both the crunch elements of stats and abilities and the fluff of how their society works as well as why a dragon would work with puny mortals anyway. The answer is, because that way they can try to develop their powers and abilities much more swiftly then if they took the more common route of 'a year active, ten years snoring on the hoard'. It allows younger and more ambitious dragons to try and outmaneuver the older and more potent dragons. A good reason and one that opens the way for many roleplaying opportunities -- what do you do when a group of angry elder wyrms comes after your cohort to teach them a lesson in respect for 'degrading the race' by associating with noxious bipeds (not to mention, trying to get one up on them)? I feel that cohorts and intelligent companions should have reasons for working with PCs beyond 'I just like you', and that reason is a doozy.

The dragons also get differing racial traits depending on which sept they belong to. This can be any of the main 'types' like red, black, silver, gold, etc., or any of the dragon kinds found in other Bestiaries. There is a total of 25 different septs, covering every breed of true dragon in the game, so you should be able to find something you like here. They also provide favored class options for every class in the game and some 3rd party ones as well like the Occultist and Technician. You can't say that you don't get options here.

We also get brief sections covering how to use these dragons as PCs if you must and how to balance them out with other starting PCs of more mundane races. We also get guidelines on how to use them as cohorts, both with the usual Pathfinder leadership feat and the versions given in the also-excellent Leadership Handbook.

The following section covers the new base class of Dragon Paragon, a class for dragons -- and kobolds, if you want to give the 'little dragons' something new. Be warned, this is a potent class -- you get d12 for hit points, full BAB, stat bonuses, limited spellcasting, and other special powers as you or your dragon rise in level. Then again, it's meant for dragons only. You've been warned.

You also get powers and bonus spells depending on your heritage -- black dragons get ones that revolves around acid, their swampy homes, control of reptiles, etc. It's the same for the other two dozen heritages/septs included.

The next section covers draconic companions. You need to take feats for this. One for the basic scaly buddy, and another for 'mastery' that makes your draconic ally bigger, stronger, grants new movement types, and gives some ability like frightful presence. Again, these are strong companions to have, but it seems to scale in such a way that they won't be stronger than the rest of the group.

Oh, and there's also a list of how your dragon companion improves for all 20 levels, which is appreciated.

At the end is a list of new draconic feats. Two of them (Draconic Companion and Draconic Companion Mastery) are meant for non-dragons who want to use the rules listed in part three. The rest are for dragons who want to improve their racial abilities, expand their arsenal with wing buffets, or gain some of the unique traits of their sept. They seem to cover it all here, and provide an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

It has to be stated, this isn't a PDF for anyone who wants to make a dragon their PC, that's the Rite Games PDF listed above, or start playing with one as a sidekick. That's Genius Guide to the Dragonrider from Rogue Genius Games, also mentioned in the PDF. This is for making some VERY powerful allies for your players, and it might not be for everyone. That said if you don't mind high-powered gaming (though these dragons will by no means make PC victories certain) and if you just have to have a dragon for a cohort or companion, you could do a lot worse than to use this PDF.


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Become a Drow Noble the Easy Way

*****

That's basically the whole point of Everyman Games' latest PDF, the Noble Aspirant. It consists of seven pages, of which three are the crunchy parts (with a brief well-done bit of fiction to help establish the mood). It covers a prestige class that enables you to make your drow commoner into a full-fledged noble, meaning they get the feat chain that grants all the nifty noble abilities from the Advanced Race Guide.

The thing is, at the same time it allows you to improve your original class. Think like the Dragon Disciple from the main Pathfinder book, or the Evangelist from the Inner Sea Gods book. You do 'lose' three levels from your original class so there is a price to pay for attaining nobility among the drow.

The class proper is ten levels, and you have to be a full-blooded drow elf to enter it, have the Drow Nobility feat from the ARG, and be roughly fifth level. You can also increase the level-dependent effects of your old class at certain levels. This means things like how long you can rage, use bardic performance, or your caster level. You do NOT get things like more spells per day, extra sneak attack damage dice, or better armor and weapons training for a fighter.

In exchange you get a limited by level pool of energy that allows you to regain some of your racial and feat-gained spell-like abilities. You can also pick talents that allow you to pick extra racial traits and feats, and to use metamagic on your spell-like abilities, to make you a better poisoner (very drow-like!), or to become better with certain drow weapons, including you to stack your noble aspirant levels with fighter to qualify for feats like weapon specialization.

I have to say it seems that this class is better for non-spellcasters than arcane or divine casters.

The would-be noble also gets better with their racial spell-like abilities and at the end, becomes a full noble and gets a few other little benefits besides. Suffice to say that it'll be worth the time it takes to get there.

Well, in the end this PDF promises a way to make any drow character into a noble, and it does just that. Part of me wishes it could have worked as well with spellcasters, but given how many evil drow mages and clerics are out there it's probably for the best that we get a PrC that focuses on the less favored dark elves.

Of course the big problem is that you'll almost certainly have to play a malicious member of a very powerful race to get all of this, but in some campaigns it'll fit in perfectly. Like Fire Mountain Games 'Throne of Night' AP that's being released right now.

Be warned, you'll find the Advanced racial Guide very, VERY helpful in using this PDF, though the feats it talks about are probably all online by now anyway.

It promises what it delivers and does so very well. Five stars and recommended for any any ambitious commoner drow out there.


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Something new for the Swashbuckler

****( )

Everyman Archetypes: Swashbuckler is another PDF from Everyman Games, this one providing some new character options and feats for the new swashbuckler class from the ACG. It's ten pages long, with one for the cover, one for credits, the table of contents, and the OGL, leaving six pages of new goodies for the players.

We get a list of design goals for the new material on the ToC page. Basically, they want to make swashbucklers more mobile, a little more like the fighter, and give more options then the basic rapier-and-free hand style. How well do they do? Let's see.

First come the new archetypes, with the Daredevil appropriately leading the charge. They get the ability to use attacks of opportunity and panache to dodge attacks by using Acrobatics. If it works, the swashbuckler can move up to her speed so long as she stays within the threatened area of the creature who attacked her. She can also do a better high jump and can make a dashing attack, which means she can move her full speed and make an attack without provoking AoO. She can also use it in connection with any feat or ability that works with the attack action like Vita Strike. Which is a good thing, as she gets the Vital Strike feat chain with light and piercing weapons along with bonuses on hit and damage rolls. This sounds like one solid archetype to me, for someone who's going to be running all over the battlefield and cutting down opponents left and right like some character from a chanbara samurai movie.

The Dashing Commander gets the Battle Cry feat, and the commander can use panache to add her Charisma bonus to the rerolled save permitted by the feat. And she becomes immune to fear while under its effects. And she grants a damage bonus to anyone affected by the feat inclyding herself in place of swashbuckler weapon training.

The Opuggnant Duelist fills the role of the obnoxious swordsman who verbally abuses and taunts his opponent into making a rash mistake. It relies on the rules given in Everyman Games Psychological Combat PDF, which is a worthy buy itself, but without that may be of limited use. Basically it allows you to use panache do even better with several interpersonal skills and to be able to antagonize, demoralize, or feint someone after striking them. You can also use several maneuvers with greater ease on someone you've rattled as well, which feels very right for this sort of character.

The Rapscallion can do better with dirty tricks in exchange for losing menacing swordplay and gets rogue talents along with the usual bonus feats. They also get sneak attacks instead of precise strike. Very fine for anyone looking to play a swashbuckling rogue.

The Two-Weapon Duelist is for anyone who wants to fight Florentine, granting Two-Weapon Fighting and Weapon Finesse feats at first level, and changing some maneuvers to improve them over time.

The Vainglory Swashbuckler gets to exchange their normal deeds for combat feats. They don't need the usual prerequisites for these new deeds, but they will need some panache to use them. We also get some advice on how this very loose archetype works with the others listed here and elsewhere, which is appreciated.

The new feats come next. Graceful Precisionallows you to use your Dexterity rather than Strength to determine weapon damage when using any light melee weapon one-handed, as well as getting a bonus on confirming critical hits. Feral Grace lets you treat any one natural weapon like a one-handed piercing weapon for all feats and abilities meant to work with such a weapon. You can also add your Dexterity modifier to the damage roll.

Maneuver Bravado allows you to regain panache with a natural 20 on the check for any one combat maneuver as well as the ability to use panache to make the maneuver roll twice and take the better result. Redirect Force makes it easier to parry attacks from larger foes and gives a bonus on the counterattack. Shielded Panache allows you to use a small or large shield together with any swashbuckler ability that normally only allows for a buckler.

Anyway, this PDF was meant to offer new options for the swashbuckler, and it does so in very fine fashion save for one or two little hiccups. It certainly made me think about playing a swashbuckler character, which is a good trick given that the class didn't appeal to me much before. I'm going with four stars, and I'd say five for anyone who wants to play the swashbuckler class in Pathfinder.


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Nature in the Raw

****( )

Is not a nice or pleasant place, as we discover in 'Dark Druids', a PDF and book from Legendary Games for their Kingdom Building line. The PDF/book itself consists of 26 pages, of which 17 are the actual content wit the rest being full-page art, credits, contents, OGL etc. But they are seventeen very-full pages.

It starts with some ideas on what makes villainous druids different from more heroic versions, as well as other villains -- their rejection of reason, instinct, and the tools humans use to control their environment. It also mentions a feat that isn't listed within but is used very often, Shade of the Uskwood ('Shade of the Woodlands' here) from the Inner Sea World Guide and several online sites for the Kuthite druids of Nidal. We also get some ideas about the spiritual homeland of these dark druids, the Umbral Woods. The Umbrae-tokens required by the former feat are used by the Dark Druids as their unholy symbols and we get several ideas on how to describe them to players in ways designed to unnerve and frighten. Very well done.

Next are two archetypes. My favorite is the Darkwolf, basically a druid infected with lycanthropy who decides to embrace their new lupine nature. Basically they do better with wolves than other animals, can summon advanced and giant wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves. And they can wild shape into the by-now classic 'wolfman' form as well. In exchange the full moon makes them a little -- touchy, and silver can dazzle or even sicken them if used as a weapon.

Then is the Unseelie Ovate, a malicious version of the Seelie Ovate druid from an earlier release of theirs. They get some new skills, a whole list of nasty spells they can cast in place of summon nature's ally, heightened resistance to mind-affecting magic, and they can wild shape into both fey and magical beasts. Both archetypes have a nice creepy feel to them. They also don't require evil alignments, so anyone who wants to make a druid anti-hero with these two can go right ahead.

Next are a list of feats, nearly all of which require the Shade of the Uskwood feat to be used. This seems to limit them to druids of Zon-Kuthon in stricter games, though the PDF tells you right out that you can change any of this as you need to or please.

That stated, if you do like the idea of expanded Kuthite druids you've got a smorgasbord of ideas here. There are feats allowing the druid to use fire spells (normally forbidden if you take 'Uskwood') at the price of being weakened and going light-blind. One grants additional cold spells and makes them more powerful, another allows the druid to summon shadows and kytons as well as providing proficiency with the spiked chain (again, at the cost of weakening them an making them blind in the light). You can gain an evolution pool for your animal companion and certain summoner abilities with them; can learn how to hide the... evidence of your devotion to [strike}Zon-Kuthon[/strike] the Dark Prince of Pain and more easily fool unbelievers, deal piercing unarmed strikes with the thorns piercing your flesh, and much more. And in best Kuthite fashion, almost every one of these dark gifts costs the user in terms of either pain or other permanent nasty but not crippling conditions.

The non-'Uskwood' feats are just as good. You can turn your animal companion into a feral, rabid beast -- they get stronger and fiercer, and can infect bitten opponents with rabies as well. The druid can get a feat that allows them to change to any evil alignment but still retain their druid powers. And if they multi-class into anti-paladin, they can use touch of corruption to empower their metamagic. And you can gain the ability to ignore ongoing or repeating damage if it is about to kill you, though not easily.

Really, the list of feats alone makes me want to bring a group of Kuthite druids into 'Kingmaker' as enemies of the rulers just so I can use some of those wild ideas.

The last part of the book are new spells. They have spells for assuming fey forms, and for conjuring woodland beings (like planar ally, but with animals, fey, plants, and magical beasts). You can summon algal blooms that have the powers of green slime or oozes and that can infect you with hideous illnesses. Droughts can be laid upon a wide stretch of land, bat swarms can be called up, and stunning and deafening blasts of thunder are hurled on your enemies.

My favorite, however, is fey crossroads. It allows the caster to use a crossroads to make a temporary gateway into the realms of the fey; if no crossroads is handy, you can still cast the spell by making your own crossroads in the dirt but it takes a lot longer. Also, upon returning, there's a chance you might be weakened and shaken by what you've seen in the fey realms; better hope no enemies are waiting for you when you leave.

But best of all, you can remove the material components of the spell if you or someone you take with you create a performance for the fey first. Yes, if you can entertain the fey they'll make the spell easier for you to cast. This feels very folkloric and to me, it's how fey magic ought to feel.

While most of this PDF is meant for villains, there's enough here that can be used by non-evil druids and other classes that it can be handy for them too. I admit that I wish they'd give us some more feats or spells specifically for the darkwolf, but no one can have everything. They also list a few feats at one point that you have to go searching online for (but they include the links in the PDF). I'm going with four stars for this one -- and all the way up to five if you like Zon-Kuthon and want more information on his druids.


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