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Ssalarn's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 7,737 posts (7,821 including aliases). 27 reviews. 6 lists. 1 wishlist. 3 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.



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Magic + Skills = Winning

*****

When the Advanced Class Guide came out, one of the major hybrids a large number of people were surprised to find missing was a Rogue/Caster combination. Fortunately, Marc Radle and Kobold Press have filled that hole, and they've done so with flair and skill.

The Trickster, clearly inspired by and borrowing elements from the Arcane Trickster PrC, is a 20 level base class that elevates and enhances the ideas embodied by the Arcane Trickster and makes the concept playable right from first level. The Trickster features a 3/4 BAB, 6+Int skills, good Reflex and Will saves, 6 level Int-based arcane spellcasting that works similarly to the casting system seen in the Arcanist class, and sneak attack scaling up to 7d6. In addition to these solid mechanics that form the functional skeleton of the class, the Trickster also gains Trapfinding, bonuses to thematic skills, evasion, a pseudo Spellstrike ability called Sneakspell that can be used with melee sneak attacks, three bonus feats, Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge, Ranged Legerdemain as the Arcane Trickster, Filch Spell which allows him to attempt to redirect an enemy's spell, and the Master Trickster capstone, which allows him to treat all 1's and 2's on his sneak attack dice as 3's and apply a metamagic feat he knows for free when using his Sneakspell ability.

In addition to the class features mentioned above, the Trickster also selects a Forte at 2nd level. The Forte the Trickster chooses gives him a packet of abilities that help customize him and enhance his abilities within a certain area. The Fortes available are:

  • Acrobat- The Acrobat Forte enhances the Trickster's mobility, reducing ACP in light armor and even increasing his AC in light or no armor.

  • Arcane Accomplice- Grants the Trickster a familiar who gains a variety of unique abilities that assist it in aiding the Trickster.

  • Beguile- A set of mechanics presumably inspired by and presented in homage to the 3.5 Beguiler, Tricksters who choose this Forte find that their spells are more effective against enemies who would be denied their Dex to AC, as well as bonuses to Bluff and feint. This Forte really makes the Trickster's Sneakspell class feature particularly effective and potent when used intelligently.

  • Spell Pilfer- Another mechanic that the reminds me of a 3.5 class, this time the Spellthief, Spell Pilfer allows the Trickster to steal an enemy's spell, removing it from their list of spells known/prepared and adding it to the Trickster's.

Overall, the depth and potential of this class is really impressive to me, and I'm looking forward to spending more time playing with the numerous characters this class enables. I strongly recommend this to anyone who's a fan of the Arcane Trickster class, anyone who found themselves missing a skilled/caster combo from the ACG, and really anyone who likes the idea of an effective and versatile class that offers a broad array of potential character builds.


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Paizo's Back, and They Hit a Home Run

*****

Review originally posted at somnambulant-gamer.com.

I believe it was a couple years ago that I interviewed Erik Mona and asked him about his thoughts on Ultimate Psionics. He was actually really excited about it, and told me that he was glad someone had done the psionics and power point system such justice, because Paizo had different plans. With an almost childish glee in his eyes, Erik described to me his dream of a book with classes and mechanics informed by Lovecraftian mythos and new age spiritualism, with a healthy dose of 19th century mysticism for good measure.

Time passed. Paizo released its Advanced Class Guide, a book so poorly edited and sublimely uninspired that I had almost given up hope that we'd see anything as amazing and awesome as the Alchemist, Oracle, or Witch from the Advanced Player's Guide, the first book where they really came out and said "We're Paizo, and this is what we're about". But where the Advanced Class Guide was a barely redeemable slog of mostly uninspired and largely formulaic class design with very few bright spots, Occult Adventures immediately leaps off the shelf as something special, something that shows that spark of creativity and healthy dose of love from the writers and contributors that is hard to quantify or explain but which is immediately recognizable in their work, and which was very much Paizo's hallmark when the Pathfinder Core Rulebook first came on the scene.

Occult Adventures features 6 new "psychic" classes, the Kineticist, Medium, Mesmerist, Occultist, Psychic, and Spiritualist. I'll touch on each of them briefly-

The Kineticist: This is your classic elementalist, with mechanics clearly inspired by 3.5 D&D's Warlock. You have 5 elements to choose from starting out, either aether, air, earth, fire, or water. Your chosen element will determine the basic characteristics of your primary attack form, the kinetic blast, and most of your ancillary abilities. At 7th level you gain the ability to either hyper-specialize in your chosen element, or gain access to a secondary element. In practice, playing the Kineticist is actually very simple. You have your "simple blast" which is an at will ranged attack where you shoot your chosen element at the enemy. Later you'll receive "composite blasts" which are essentially upgraded versions of your simple blast that incorporate either your secondary element or give you new facility with your primary element if you chose to specialize. Rounding the Kineticist out are Wild Talents, which are divided into a small list of Defense Wild Talents, and a very expansive list of Infusion Wild Talents. The Defense talents are gained at 2nd level and are entirely determined by the element you chose to focus on. Essentially, you get a barrier or form of the same element type that either whirls around you protectively, surrounds you in a protective layer of flame that sears anyone who strikes you, or something similar. Infusions are your main opportunity to customize your character, choosing new ways to use your kinetic blast that may include launching yourself through the air with blasts of flame, creating a giant ball of earth and bowling your enemies over with it, wreathing the battlefield in a fog of ice that slows and chills your opponents, or something similar. The Kineticist is very much the psychic analogue to the Fighter - easy to pick up and play, but relatively limited in scope and power.

The Medium: Another 3.5 inspired class, the Medium has some distinct similarities to the 3.5 Binder, where you essentially channel an outside entity into your body to borrow its power and skills. The Medium holds a ritual called a "Seance" to invite a spirit to inhabit his form, and then gains abilities based on the chosen spirit. For example, you could channel the spirit of the Archmage to gain improved spellcasting abilities, the spirit of the Champion to become a superior melee combatant, or the spirit of the Heirophant to become a potent healer. The spirit abilities of the Medium are shored up by a variety of thematic abilities and a fairly solid 4 level spellcasting list. This is a really great class for that player who can never quite make up their mind about how they want to fit into the party, as it gives them a high degree of flexibility and the option to be a skillful rogueish character one day, an indestructible tank the next, and then wrap up the week as the party healer. The class is surprisingly effective at filling any of its available roles, something that's a little unusual in a "jack of all trades" chassis, but which I very much enjoy.

The Mesmerist: So, this class flew entirely under my radar when Paizo was running their playtest. It was this kind of not-very-great remake of the 3.5 Beguiler, and it just fell flat. I can't really explain what happened between then and the final release, but I can tell you that whatever it was, it was awesome. The Mesmerist is probably my favorite class in the book, combining an at-will debuff called Hypnotice Stare with a very high facility at feinting and a slew of cool abilities and rider effects. The Mesmerist has 6 level spellcasting with an excellent selection of spells to choose from, 6+Int skills with a skill list that's probably second only to the Rogue in its scope, and in addition to the various abilities tied to its Hypnotic Stare, it has "Tricks" it can use to plant magical effects inside itself or an ally that can be triggered to grant benefits like an illusionary flanking partner, a shadow double that takes some of the damage you might have taken and redirects it to another target, and more. Add in the Touch Treatment ability which allows the Mesmerist to cure a variety of negative mental status effects, and you have a potent and well-rounded character who can is both an excellent adventurer in his own right and a fantastic contributor to any group.

The Occultist: Where the Mesmerist really seemed to undergo an incredible transformation between the close of the playtest and the final release, the Occultist just.... didn't. This was my favorite class in playtest, but ti definitely had some flaws that I was hoping would get ironed out. Unfortunately, most of them didn't, so we're left with a class that is solid and interesting, but struggles to successfully fill roles other than skill monkey. It seems like it can be an effective blaster, a powerful battlefield controller, or even a deadly warrior in its own right, but unfortunately, many of its abilities simply don't scale well enough to stay relevant for any length of time. In fact, some abilities that desperately needed buffing during the playtest got nerfed by the final release!
The Occultist is a 3/4 BAB, 6 level spellcasting, INT based class with 4+Int skill points and the potential for a fairly reasonable spell list. I say "potential" because of how the Occultist gains access to his spells. The Occultist gains a variety of "Implements" that serve two purposes: the first, is that they can be invested with "Focus" and grant a variety of supernatural abilities depending on the school of magic the Focus is associated with and the amount of class resource you dedicate to unlocking additional abilities. The second, is that the implements serve as "keys" to the Occultist's spell list. An Occultist who uses a Necromancy implement gains access to Necromancy spells, one who uses an Abjuration implement gets Abjuration spells, etc. The number of types of implements you can use expands as you level up. Ultimately, for me, the Occultist just lacks the flexibility and power to be interesting, and instead ends up being more of a "magical Rogue" who uses magical relics instead of sneak attacking. The class is great at being a scout or trap finder, reasonable at being a party buffer, and just kind of falls flat elsewhere after the first few levels. There are going to be people who absolutely love this class and the way it lets them play a kind of Miskatonic archaeologist, but it doesn't make it onto my personal favorites list.

The Psychic: I actually don't have a lot to say here. It's a 9th level spellcaster with a cool list of psychic spells, a "Phrenic Pool" that can be used to apply various "Phrenic Amplifications" that modify its spells as they're cast, and who gains a variety of psychic disciplines that are reliant on a secondary ability score (either Wisdom or Charisma in addition to the Psychic's core spellcasting attribute of Intelligence) and help modify and personalize the Psychic similarly to domains or arcane schools, but better fleshed out. It's a solid class that plays fairly similarly to a Wizard or Sorcerer, but with a more distinct flavor and some new mechanics.

The Spiritualist: So, the Spiritualist takes one of the more divisive classes, the Summoner, and reimagines it as a psychic character with a personal spirit. The Spiritualist is a 6 level CHA reliant spellcaster who gets a very solid spell list, a variety of supernatural abilities, and a protective spirit called a Phantom. The Spiritualist's spell list includes a decent (though not comprehensive) list of healing spells, allowing them to step up into the healer role with some degree of success. If you're familiar with the Summoner, the phantom is essentially a powered down eidolon with a few unique psychic twists and abilities to it. Where the eidolon is customized via evolutions, the phantom gains an emotional focus, the driving force that keeps it tethered to the Spiritualist and the world of the leaving. As an example, a phantom's emotional focus could be Despair (perhaps its the soul of one of the Spiritualist's loved ones who committed suicide and was unable to move on?), and the phantom would gain a variety of abilities keyed around that theme, such as attacks that weaken an enemy's ability to fight back and an Aura of Despair.

One of the things that really surprised me about the book was the quality and quantity of the archetypes. The mechanical quality of many of Paizo's archetypes seems to fluctuate quite a bit even within the same book, with the majority of their archetypes ending up in the "flavorful but not particularly spectacular" pile, with the occasional amazing archetype like the Zen Archer monk or Vanguard slayer. The archetypes in Occult Adventures are consistently awesome. I struggle to find any I don't like, and in quite a few cases, like the Vexing Daredevil mesmerist or the Necroccultist occultist, I actually like them significantly more than the base class. There is a huge wealth of material in the archetypes section, covering all of the Paizo classes. In addition to the Vexing Daredevil and Necroccultist I already mentioned, some other stand-outs are the Ghost Rider cavalier (the name pretty much covers it, you ride a ghost), the Sensate fighter (who sacrifices heavy armor proficiency but gets an improved skill list, replaces Bravery with a Guarded Senses ability that protects against a variety of sensory based effects, trades Armor Training for Uncanny Dodge, Improved Uncanny, Dodge, and Evasion, trades Armor Mastery for at-will blindsense and true seeing, trades Weapon Training for a Centered Senses ability that provides a bonus to attack and damage rolls of any weapon the Sensate wields and boosts their Will save, and trades Weapon Mastery for Precision, which allows the Sensate to roll twice and take the better result when confirming a critical hit and forces enemies to roll twice and take the lower result when confirming a critical hit against the Sensate), and the Mindblade magus (who can form weapons out of psychic energy and even create two weapons in that manner and still use Spell Combat).

This is a great book. It feel like these are the classes and magic that Golarion was always meant to have, and it feels like Paizo's entire collective heart and soul was poured into making this thing awesome. The fluff and flavor are top notch, the mechanics are excellent, and everything about this book is a reminder of what the team at Paizo are truly capable of.


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Arabian Wonders, and a Bunch of Other Cool Stuff

*****

Originally posted at Somnambulant-gamer.com.

So, I hadn't heard of "Southlands: Adventures Beneath the Pitiless Sun" until I stumbled across it at PAX. I'd somehow completely missed the Kickstarter, hadn't heard it mentioned or seen any reviews, and yet it leapt right off the shelf at me.

The art, obviously, was the first thing to catch my eye. The cover features this kind of fantasy Arabian woman with a huge lion behind her, set against the backdrop of a desert vista with the hint of a magnificent city in the background. The thing that really struck me as I was leafing through the pages, was that every piece of art seems like it could have been drawn by the same hand, or at least by a team of artists who were all working in the same room. It's all high quality, beautiful, on theme, and there is a lot of it. One of my favorite pieces is on page 259, where a trio of priestesses of Bastet, the cat goddess, are routing a group of duergar.

The fluff and story hooks are excellent as well. You've got a couple rakshasa who are all angling their way towards stealing divinity through one nefarious scheme or another, titanic demigods walking amongst their people and serving as both religious and secular ruler, and tons of other interesting hooks and settings for adventure. One of the new playable races, the kijani, have an interesting backstory where they're fostering the seedlings of their children with human and minotaur hosts in an attempt to become more mammalian, which has lots of interesting story potential all on its own. There's also an expansive description of the various deities that make up the Southlands pantheon, with fairly detailed descriptions of all the interactions and relationships between the various deities.

The crunch, not surprisingly given the quality of the rest of the work, is also excellent. The book is rife with archetypes custom designed for the setting, including a summoner archetype that gets a genie in a magic lamp, gnoll caravan raiders, zebra-mounted cavalry sorcerers, and lots more. The pantheons come with a selection of cool new domains, like Bastet's Cat domain and the new Speed domain, as well as interesting choices for the various deities' favored weapons. The crunch isn't just for the players either; there are variant mummies (including the mummified monkey swarm, which is either horrifying or hilarious, I can't quite decide), tables of Primal Magic Events that can be triggered by casting spells in certain magically unstable areas of the Southlands, and lots more. Did I mention the array of divination spells, new familiars, and the alternate heiroglyphics casting system? Because those seem important to mention too.

This is just an awesome book, both in quality of production and quality of content. I seriously can't recommend this enough to anyone who may want to add a splash of the exotic to their campaign with story elements and mechanics drawn from India, the Middle East, and north Africa.


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An Amazing (if not super difficult) Adventure

*****

Shadows of the Dusk Queen is a great adventure with some very talented storytelling, great art, and generally great play.

The basic premise is that once upon a time a fey queen of shadow falls in love with a scion of light, and there briefly seems to be a time where her love can overcome her dark nature. Unfortunately, she comes into possession of a magical mirror that feeds her paranoia and darker nature, and ultimately the scion of light shatters her mirror and binds her away from the mortal realms for a few eons, until she eventually frees herself (which is where the actual adventure starts).

The twisted nature of the shadowy forest where most of the adventure takes place makes it difficult for the party to use magic to shortcut through most encounters without breaking logical consistency, which is nice, though the adventure can be relatively brief depending on the party's choices.

I absolutely loved how the art and writing worked so perfectly in sync, creating an awesome " Brothers Grimm" kind of dark fairy tail feel that was just awesome. As the party quests to restore the dusk queen's shattered mirror and lay her dark powers to rest once and for all, they'll face swarms of shadowy stirges, meet an acid-weeping treant, be tested by a pool of shadow nymphs, and more!

This is a must-have adventure for any fans of fey or dark fairy tails, and can be a great addition to any campaign. If you're a GM looking for that next amazing adventure hook, or even just needing to fill in a few hours for a party of 7th - 9th level characters, I strongly, strongly, suggest you pick it up and give it a spin.


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Shadows and Steel

*****

You'll have to forgive me for the brevity of this review, but this product deserves a review and I haven't had a lot of time to get one posted.

Path of Shadows presents the Nightblade class, a combination rogue/shadowcaster with a variety of interesting and unique paths available. With everything from miasmic clouds of umbral energy to chains of pure shadow, the nightblade wields shadows as weapons in ways that are refreshingly original and absolutely fun to play.

Alongside the nightblade are a variety of shadow-based archetypes for the core classes and an excellent array of new shadow-themed spells.

The mechanics aren't the only thing interesting in this work though; the art presents an interesting blending of classic fantasy and modern anime giving Path of Shadows a visual look that perfectly matches the edgy but familiar mechanics of the supplement.


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