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Ssalarn's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 7,853 posts (7,957 including aliases). 30 reviews. 6 lists. 1 wishlist. 3 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.



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The Divine Caster You've Been Looking For?

***( )( )

If you're anything like me, you've always found the Cleric class to be a little weird. Where other than media that specifically springs from D&D do you see this divine, "godly" character who prays for spells and runs around in a breastplate eviscerating opponents with their deity's preferred weapon? Aren't most of the divine spellcaster type tropes out there of robe and cloister types, or at least your duster and tie types like John Constantine? Even the evil divine types are always portrayed in heavy black robes with deep hoods or something of the like, preferring darksome spells and magically enhanced minions to wearing metal armor and beating people with their own two hands. The cleric we have is kind of a weird design artifact, born from the wargaming roots of D&D and oddly unchanged since its conception.

The Priest attempts to address that gap between the more commonly seen trope of the berobed and scholarly divine petitioner and the mechanical need for a spellcaster who can provide magical healing and support while surviving the rigors of an adventuring life, so let's take a look at how it does, hmmm?

The Priest has a d6 hit die, 1/2 BAB, Will as its only Good save, and 4+Int skill points off a skill list fairly similar to the cleric's. The priest is proficient with all simple weapons, but not any armors or shields.

The priest, as one might expect given the class chassis, is a full 9 level Wisdom-based divine caster drawing from the cleric spell list, with a spellcasting mechanic somewhat similar to the arcanist's, which is actually the first point that I'm not entirely sure how to feel about. To elaborate - the priest gains the same number of spell slots per day as a wizard, and prepares the same number of spells as a cleric (slightly more from 5th level on including domain spells), casting freely from it's prepared spells using its slots. So, for example, if the priest has chosen cure light wounds, bless, and divine favor as their prepared spells for the day at 2nd level, they can cast any combination of those three spells from their 3 slots for the day. Obviously, the priest's flexibility in how it spends its slots is a powerful factor, particularly considering that unlike virtually every other caster with spontaneous flexibility it gains new spell levels at the same rate as the wizard, and the priest automatically gains either cure or inflict spells as bonus prepared spells, giving him a de facto version of the cleric's spontaneous casting. This flexible casting may mean the priest has fewer spells per day than the cleric, but I think he's clearly the superior caster, even before we move into its other class features, which can further modify and enhance the priest's spellcasting power.

In addition to its spellcasting class feature, the priest gains a selection of bonus languages, domains, a new class feature called divine gift, channel energy, a sacred bond, 3 bonus feats, and a capstone ability called hallowed vessel. I'll talk a bit about of each these, including what the provide and how they fit into the overall class.

The priest's selection of bonus languages (Abyssal, Celestial, and Infernal) is a nice little fluffy mechanic whose actual value will depend on starting race. Since this merely modifies the starting options without actually providing any additional languages, it will be essentially a dead class feature without any real benefit to races with open bonus language lists, like humans, and multiclass characters, but ensures that your priest has at least the option of conferring with whatever divine powers they worship in their preferred tongue. This might have been better implemented as an option that specifically granted the priest a bonus language based on their alignment, so it isn't a wasted ability for many of the characters who might take the class.

The domain class feature works, essentially, exactly like the cleric domain class feature, but the priest gains three domains to the cleric's two. This actually is a huge boon with more impact than one might expect, because not only does it grant an additional set of domain abilities for the priest to utilize, but it's also where the priest's potential spell list gains a big leg up compared to the cleric's; that extra domain is potentially a whole set of thematic spells levels 1-9 that the priest has access to over the cleric. This advantage is bolstered a bit by the fact that starting at 5th level and every odd numbered level thereafter, the priest gains an additional domain spell option in its prepared spells shoring up the power of its flexible casting.

The priest's divine gift class feature can be used 1/day at 1st level, scaling up to 7/day at 19th level. Divine gifts are typically activated as a swift action, and the priest can select any of the divine gifts available each time he uses the ability. The gifts themselves include direct offensive abilities like Smiting Burst, which deals 2d8 + 1d8/ 2 levels to enemies within a 20-foot burst or 1d8/class level to a single enemy and causes them to be shaken on a failed Will save, support options like Divine Intervention which the priest can use as an immediate action to allow an ally to reroll one d20 roll adding 1/2 the priest's class level to the result, or more technical options like Ascetic's Blessing and Supplant Spell. Ascetic's Blessing and Supplant Spell actually need to be called out as being fairly exceptional abilities and things a GM should really be aware of. Ascetic Blessing has a minor verbage issue ( It states: "The priest is treated as having any one metamagic feat of her choosing when casting her next divine spell. This does not alter the casting time of the spell.[...]" The intent here seems to pretty obviously be that the priest can apply any metamagic feat of her choosing to a spell without increasing its casting time, but the actual rules language doesn't actually cover applying the feat to the spell. Aside from the hiccup in the rules structure, this is a "holy-s!#&-are-you-kidding-me-this-is-mythic-level-crazy" ability. Any metamagic feat? Not "any metamagic feat the priest knows"? Add to that the other ability I mentioned, Supplant Spell, which allows the priest to swap out any one of her prepared spells with another spell on her list of the same level, and the Priest's spellcasting is officially vaulted to "substantially better than the cleric's". Divine gifts are powerful modifiers of the priest's abilities, even with their limited uses per day, ensuring that even priest's who've made some poor choices in their feat and/or spell selection will always have the potential to pluck out a winning play.

The priest's sacred bond ability is similar to the wizard's arcane bond in that loss or destruction of the item (typically a holy symbol) imposes some steep penalties on the priest's ability to execute their spells. Unlike the arcane bond, the sacred bond doesn't affect spell recall (already well covered by the priest's semi-spontaneous casting and divine gifts), but instead allows the priest to cast any cure or inflict spell with a range of touch that they've prepared at close range instead. I'm... actualy not a huge fan of this ability. While being able to cast cure/inflict spells at range is a nice boon, it presupposes that the priest is actually going to be spending his in combat actions on cure/inflict spells. For priests who may no longer rely (or never relied at all) on the cure/inflict line to cover their in-combat healing, this is actually a huge and worthless liability. I would have loved to see this option expanded with some additional choices, whether that be a divine companion option (angelic or undead familiars/companions would be awesome), a sacred/favored weapon option, or even just some variants on the benefits available to the sacred bond. As it is, I find that a mandatory class feature with the potential to all but completely shut the priest down, whose only benefit applies to a tiny subset of the spells available which the priest may not (and in many builds arguably should not) even utilize in a situation where the benefit is actually a benefit, is a strict mark against the class as a whole.

The priest also gains Channel Energy at a reduced rate from the cleric, starting at 1d6 at 2nd level and capping at 7d6 at 20th level... Which begs the question "Why?" Channel Energy is a mediocre class feature that requires investment just to be usable in combat, and the reduced progression makes that investment somewhat questionable. Now, the plus sides to this ability lie in its variations from the version the cleric gets; first, it gets free action economy upgrades, bumping up to move action activation at 7th level and swift action activation at 14th level. The verbage leads me to believe that similarly to bardic performance, these action economy changes are inclusive and the priest can still use the larger action expenditure if they wish, meaning that their Channel Energy uses need not conflict with other swift action options like their Divine Gift or Quickened spells. The other big perk here is that the priest doesn't end up with increased MADness due to this ability; the priest's Channel Energy is Wisdom-based, just like its spellcasting, rather than Charisma-based like the cleric's. Ultimately, I believe that the beneficial variations of this ability outweigh the negative effects of the ability's slower scaling, but I can't help feeling that both Channel Energy and Sacred Bond are somewhat lazy class features. That's not to deride the author; it's possible that word counts or deadlines or both impacted his ability to implement more robust options, but Sacred Bond is mediocre at best, and Channel Energy is a class feature that demands investment to be of real use. Now granted, the 3 bonus feats the priest gets are all intended to help alleviate the required investment since they're all channel-focused feats, including the essential Selective Channeling feat, but the first bonus feat doesn't kick in until 6th level and the feature lacks the verbage found in classes that intend you to have some easy feat swapping, like the vigilante, to swap in another feat you qualified for at the level you gained it. Given that retraining is both an optional rule and time-consuming, this imposes an awkward burden on the class, and renders the benefit of being able to gain Selective Channeling as a bonus feat essentially moot.

The priest's capstone ability, Hallowed Vessel, renders the priest immune to death attacks and negative levels, ensures that ability damage and drain cannot reduce the priest below 1 in any ability score, and makes it so that the priest does not die until its negative hit point total is in excess of twice its Constitution score, all handy benefits for a squishy caster with a poor Fort save and a d6 hit die.

In addition to the base class, The Priest includes two new feats and an archetype.

The feats include the almost mandatory and entirely expected Extra Divine Gift for extra uses of the priest's Divine Gift ability, and Powerful Channel, which allows you to boost your channel dice to d10s by channeling as a full round action that provokes an AoO and becoming fatigued for a number of rounds equal to the number of dice in your channel (so, if your channel is 5d6, you can bump to 5d10 in exchange for 5 rounds of fatigue). I don't really like either of these feats. Extra Divine Gift (which refers to itself as "Extra Divine Boon" in its text), is ridiculously good, specifically because Divine Gift is so ridiculously good. I'm not going to take any metamagic feat other than Quicken Spell when I can spend a swift action to pluck whatever metamagic feat I need out of the air, and many other potential bonuses or situations are covered by the wider umbrella of the many other Divine Gift options. Paizo recognized that the vigilante didn't need an "Extra Vigilante Talent" because they had created talents that were actually better than a feat, and I feel like some of that same reasoning applies here. There are very few feats that I would choose over getting additional uses of Divine Gift. Powerful Channel suffers from kind of the opposite problem. While yes, I called out the slower scaling of the priest's channel energy as a negative, it's not a negative I'm going to pay a full round action and up to 7 rounds of fatigue (and the accompanying risk of exhaustion if another source that would fatigue me hits) for. As an example: a 5th level priest would go from 2d6 channeled energy (average 7 points of damage/healing) to 2d10 (average 10 points of damage/healing). In exchange for that extra 3 points, you're foregoing the option to move, potentially provoking an AoO, and for the next 2 rounds you take a -1 penalty to AC, Reflex saves, melee and ranged attack rolls, CMB, and a -2 penalty to CMD (meaning that things are extra scary if an opponent decides the right move is to grapple the caster). The cleric spell list, even with the addition of three domains, simply doesn't have the flexibility that the wizard spell list does, so the danger these penalties impose is much more immediate than it might be for an arcane caster who would take the same penalties without blinking. More than that, 5th level is one of the last points where there might be any reason to use this feat at all. Come 7th level, you can use a Divine Gift, cast a spell, and channel energy normally for the same action economy without taking any penalty, which leads one to ask "Why risk an AoO and take all those penalties for a nominal 'benefit' that doesn't approximate what I could do anyways? Why spend a feat to do so in the first place?" I could potentially see this feat as being okay for channeling done out of combat, but only if I had no other feats I qualified for or even kind of wanted at that point.

The archetype included herein is the "Chosen of Nature", and the name pretty much spells this one out. You get some nature-themed modifications to your skill list, cast from the druid spell list instead of the cleric spell list, and you gain scaling beast shape / plant shape SLAs in exchange for all your Channel Energy increases from 6th level on. I, personally, consider this a bad archetype. Firstly, Channel Energy goes from a mediocre class feature with some interesting class-specific tweaks to a dead feature. Why not just replace it entirely and bring the SLAs online earlier? We're essentially talking about a weaker version of the druid's wildshape, so it would just make more sense to have a smooth flow of progression along your abilities than to have you be a channeler for 3 levels and then a shapeshifter for the rest of your career. Second, this archetype all but dumps channel energy and yet the bonus feats you get at 6, 12, and 18 are all still dedicated to improving Channel Energy, meaning that these bonus feats are basically as dead as the class feature they modify. Finally, this is a class that gets three domains. If I want to play a nature priest, I can grab the Animal and Plant domains and not give up my Channel Energy, while still getting access to some of the beast shape spells. So, I could take this archetype and essentially murder two of my class features in exchange for some SLAs that don't mesh with the rest of my class (you can't use Natural Spell to complete verbal and somatic spell components without actually having the wildshape class feature), or I could keep all of my class features and play a nature caster by grabbing appropriate domains.

So, how to sum up...? While it may seem like I had quite a number of negative things to say about the priest, the majority of these boiled down to things I wanted it to do better, or things that I wanted it to do more of. All the key components of a great class are here, but they feel unpolished, or maybe unfinished, to me. I feel like this class is undeniably better constructed and fits more tropes from outside the immediate D&D/PF franchise than the cleric, but it just doesn't quite fulfill the promise and potential that it hints at.


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An Amazing Aquatic Bestiary

*****

I'll try and elaborate on this review when I have more time, but-
Beasts of the Boundless Blue is an amazing supplement full of great art and incredible monsters. It sits easily alongside any bestiary or monster manual I've seen from any publisher before, including the "big guys" like Wizards and Paizo. While it does have a very specific theme (aquatic), you will be hard pressed to find a book that offers so much depth and breadth of creature challenges, from the miniscule to the massive, and from CR 1/2 to CR 20+.


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An amazing new class in a hit and miss supplement

****( )

So, Ultimate Intrigue took a long time for me to come to a complete opinion on.

The Vigilante class introduced in this book is, in my opinion, easily the best non-spellcasting class Paizo has ever created. It breaks up its social options and combat options in such a way that you have a great character able to participate in all areas of the game without having to choose whether you want to be competent in combat or in the myriad other facets of the game like exploration, social encounters, etc. It has deep and well-designed talents that allow you to pick any of a variety of different ways to participate in combat, with or without weapons, and numerous tools for allowing players to influence the story with safe houses, contacts, and more.

At PAX Prime 2016 I had the opportunity to visit Paizo's Pathfinder demo area and play their pregenerated vigilante character. I honestly didn't expect it to go terribly well; after all, the vigilante is a class built around balancing two identities and moving between different social strata, so you'd think that this would require a more controlled environment where you know the other players in advance and have time to plan out how your character fits into the game world with your GM ahead of time, right? Turns out, I was wrong. The vigilante class is well-crafted enough that even while playing a 1st level pregen I was able to easily deal with situations in and out of combat, and it took me about 60 seconds of conversation to establish with the group that I had a secret identity they were privy to and might need them to cover for my character from time to time if he needed to swap identities. It didn't hurt matters that the only downside to anyone learning a vigilante's secret identity is that, well, they know his or her secret identity. You can go all Tony Stark if you want, announce that you are Iron Man, and carry on as normal. Very few of the vigilante's abilities actually require you to maintain truly secret identities, and the only real hit you take is that you're a bit easier to find by magical means (though even this can be addressed with clever use of the Safe House Social Talent).

The book also elaborates on the intent behind numerous spells that often prove problematic for GMs in games where they want to have a focus on gritty investigation of mystery, such as the various detect spells, speak with dead, etc.

I think my biggest disappointments with the book, and the reason I can't give it 5 stars, lie in the feats and archetypes. I'll start with the feats, and a bit about why I see most of them as representative of missed opportunities.

To start with, Pathfinder's skill system is heavily dated. When Paizo brought it over from 3.5, they combined a few extraneous skills, but otherwise did little to update things, meaning the core area of the rules covering everything in the game that isn't casting spells or hitting things is now well over a decade old and out of date. Several skills don't even actually work, or work well, as written, have interactions you're just supposed to kind of assume or make up (Ride and Handle Animal are a mess, Stealth requires one to check out FAQs and blog posts online to use as intended, Bluff and Diplomacy have more than a few vague areas and inconsistencies, etc.), so what better book to address, update, and expand these core components of the game than a book about playing skill and intrigue heavy campaigns? Unfortunately, Paizo chose not to go that route, instead relying on feats to stretch skills over their gaps and issues, leading to many of the feats in the this book providing skill uses that I've seen GMs at hundreds of tables houserule as basic functions of those skills to begin with. Instead of formalizing intuitive uses of existing skills into their basic function, they added a feat tax to allow characters to do things many people already thought they could do. While there is a section in the book going over several of the vague areas in a few key skills, these are primarily common sense clarifications instead of the full address the skills could have used.

The archetypes, like many Paizo hardcovers, are all over the place. Some of them are interesting and dynamic, like the Masked Performer bard archetype, some show an attempt at embodying a cool and modern concept but fail to achieve that concept in the actual execution, like the Magical Child vigilante archetype, and some are just plain bad, so obviously terribly designed that you almost wonder if the person who wrote them has ever actually played Pathfinder, like the Brute vigilante archetype.

Now, don't let the above wall of negativity mislead you; there is a lot of great stuff in this book, including perhaps the most inspired and well-crafted class Paizo has ever produced, a class that introduces really interesting design concepts, plays with components of the class chassis we haven't seen classes treat as quite so malleable before, and is a genuinely fun and interesting class to play in and of itself. Despite many of the feats ranging from useless to frustrating, there are still quite a few that are interesting and viable, and while the archetypes are very hit or miss, that's generally true of Paizo books in general and probably shouldn't be held against this one in particular.

My final verdict on Ultimate Intrigue is 4 stars, and a strong recommendation to pick it up, if for no other reason than to add the Vigilante class to your game (though there definitely are other reasons to add this book to your collection).


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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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