Adventurer's Handbook—Genius Guide, Volume 1 (PFRPG) Print/PDF Bundle

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Written by industry veterans Owen K.C. Stephens and Stan!, this book contains new base classes, spells, and feats including:

  • The Shadow Assassin—a master of secret combat techniques who singles out foes and strikes them down from the shadows
  • Feats of Battle—gimmicks and tricks to help your combat specialist stand out from the crowd
  • Ice Magic—spells and character options that makes cold spellcasters as versatile and dangerous as any fireball-flinger
  • The War Master—a martial warrior who is a leader of men... but maintains his own ability to kick some ass

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An unfair review of the first compilation

***( )( )

This pdf is 97 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/SRD, leaving a whopping 94 pages of content for your perusal, so let’s give it a closer look, shall we?

First of all, I have to say that I’ve bought this compendium on a whim when it was brand new and it impressed me sufficiently to preorder both Vol II and III, which have as of yet unfortunately been cancelled. Why am I reviewing this by now quite old publication? Well, first of all, I’m trying to broaden my scope and secondly: We have had some major publications that potentially changed the game we love so much quite a bit: Both the APG and UM have brought major innovations and expansions to the system and e.g. Paizo’s Magus-gish-class in particular is direct competition to this book’s Archon-base-class. I’ll be looking at this book from a contemporary perspective, subsequently offering probably not the fairest of reviews. However, by the end of this review I’ll hopefully have drawn a sufficiently detailed conclusion to gauge on how well this book has aged.

That being said, after an introduction by Sean K. Reynolds we are introduced to the new classes:
The Archon is a gish-class that gets full BAB, a good will-save, non-spontaneous spellcasting (attribute INT) to up to 6th level, d10, 2+Int skills and proficiency in two martial weapons, shields and light armor sans arcane spell failure chance. It should be noted, though, that during the course of the career of this class an archon can obtain the ability to reduce spell failure chances by 5% for every 3 levels, starting and 3rd, up to 25% by 18th level. The amount of spells an Archon can master is limited, though – only a very limited selection of spells can in the end be learned by the Archon while maintaining his martial training. As a consequence of this focus, a archon obtains a kindof specialization in certain spells that are easier for him to cast. The signature ability of the archon, though, would be the rivenspell, a way to tear a spell into raw magic energy and transform it into a kind of buff: From temporary armor qualities, to haste, vigorous HP-boosts, skill-boosts and smiting you get a nice selection of rivenspell abilities to choose from. Unfortunately you only learn up to 6 of these over the course of the 20 levels. Moreover, the archon can gain the ability to hold a touch spell in his blade, delivering it via regular attacks. At higher levels, he can change his weapon damage into elemental damage of his choosing and can ignore some kinds of DR. The capstone ability enables the archon to cast a spell with casting time 1 standard action or less and make a full attack – powerful, but adequate for a capstone ability.
How does he hold up in comparison to the Magus? Surprisingly well, actually! The Archon’s focus lies more on the martial aspects, centering on self-buffing and his martial capabilities. The spells and rivenspells primarily are used to give the Archon an edge and his bad fort-save and few skill-points make sure he still has an Achilles’ heel that can be exploited. Most campaigns should have room for both and low-magic campaigns might actually be better off with the arcane knight that the Archon can be considered to be.

Next up on the class pot-pourri is the Death Mage. Clerics are the better necromancers, as we all know. But are they? The new base-class gets ¾ BAB, a good will-save and full, 4+Int skills, non-spontaneous but CHA-depending spellcasting from a limited spell-list. The Death Mage the ability to understand the languages of the dead at 2nd level – rather interesting, though depending on your campaign this might necessitate some modifications of your plots and adventures. The Death Bond ability lets the death mage either choose an unbreathing animal companion, get access to cleric domains related to death or create fetishes –these special items that can be attuned to types of enemies and which come with a plethora of cool abilities to select from and make for compelling potential adventure hooks -well-crafted idea, especially as the Death Mage can add more powers to her fetish over the course of her career. The defining ability of the class, though, has to be the path of the pale road, i.e. the Death Mage’s particular focus: Corpse Mages focus on amassing undead cohorts as a kind of personal, small army of undead servitors. Ghoul Mages are rather disgusting fellows who can eat the dead and use the ghoulish paralysis on their victims. Tomb Mages deal with black necromancy’s effects on the living, i.e. pain and fear. Reaper Mages are devoted to bring final death to the undead that roam the land. Finally, there are the shadow mages, who focus on the incorporeal shadows and shadow spells. High-level Death Mages can grant a second chance to allies who have just died and their capstone lets them resurrect an ally via 1 full round and without material components – Sweet!
How does the mistress of death hold up in comparison? Well, not too bad. While I’m usually weary of specialist arcane casters, it does a nice job of offering some unique abilities to those of you who like the idea of playing a necromancer. However, there are some minor problems I have with this class: I would have loved to see an even broader selection of fetish powers. All in all, the class is an interesting option, though I e.g. prefer specialist-class approaches along the lines of ZSP’s “Yamabushi, the sublime Transmuter”, which brings me to SGG’s fusion of arcane and divine magic, the SGG-Magus.

The SGG-Magus gets d6, 4+ Int skills, a good will-save, ½ BAB, spontaneous full spellcasting depending on CHA and a rather limited amount of spells known. At first level the SGG-magus has to choose a primary spell-list and half his known spells have to come from that respective list. The spells from the opposite kind of magic are at a higher level for the SGG-magus.
Spells from other non-full-spellcasting-classes lists are, of course also available, but might be a higher (+2) level for the SGG-Magus to cast. To further customize the class, you may choose access to domains, a sorcerous bloodline or a metamagic pool that makes using respective feats easier.
Mystic talents (2 from a list of 7) and advanced mystic talents (3 from a list of 8) also help making the magus more distinct. The number of times they can be used per day, if applicable, is associated with WIS. All things considered, I guess the SGG-magus is an ok class that blends both types of magic and balances that with a rather narrow focus. On a design perspective, I’m deeply impressed by the class, but I’m not too sure whether I’d want to build one myself – the SGG-Magus just lacks any distinct signature ability beyond his access to both spell-lists.

To be continued in the product discussion.


An amazing deal

*****

This is a short review until I can go over it in more detail.

One thing I would like to point out is that the product description is a bit misleading. This is a compilation of SGG's work, and is not limited to the four things listed in the product description.

This book contains 5 classes: The Archon, the Death Mage, the Magus (SGG's version, which came out before Paizos!), the Shadow Assassin, and the War Master. Classes take up 43 pages.

It contains feats of Subterfuge, Spellcasting, and Battle. The table of feats spans 2 and 2/3rds pages. Feats take up 22 pages.

It contains options and spells from Ice and Earth magic as well. Spells / spelllists take up 25 pages.

New class options (Sorcerer bloodlines, Wizard Specialties, Cleric Domains) deal with Ice and Earth, and take up about 4 pages.

New templates are Arctic (for animals), Cold-Iron (for Earth Elementals, and gives some SR!), Ice Elemental (turns Earth Elementals into Ice ones), and Ironskinned (slower, but more defensive version of creatures). These take up roughly a page.

New subtype is Unbreathing, which allows people to have Undead-like creatures. But the creatures are still alive, and aren't obviously evil. They can look like zombies or ghouls, and rarely skeletons (if their skin and flesh are transparent!). This takes up half a page.

Basically...you get a lot for your money.


Very nice!

****( )

I just purchased this after seeing it on the front page. I'm really enjoying it so far. Some positives that stand out:
+Looks rather professional. Quite a bit of nice art throughout and few grammar issues. All it is missing is color.
+Classes feel unique. I dislike it when a 'new' class seems like it could be made with a couple of alternate class features or feats. (As a side note, I like it how Pathfinder seems to focus on versatile base classes rather than creating a ton of different prestige classes.)
+Many cool feats. I expected most of the new feats to be made specifically for the new classes, but I was wrong. Several of the feats caused me to say, "Awesome!" due to the mental image they evoked.

Some concerns:
-Some of the feats seem like they might be overpowered. Now, most of the more powerful feats did require a skill feat (which makes it almost like two feats from a combat perspective) but I'm still not sure.
-I would have liked to see more feats specific to the new classes (the Shadow Assassin in particular.)
-Some wording is fuzzy. For example, does Acrobatic Dodge give you a five-foot step every time you make the check or only if you succeed it? I expect the latter, but it sounds like the former to me.


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Dark Archive

So is this just a collection of the 4 stand alone PDF's you have done so far?

Super Genius Games

Dark_Mistress wrote:
So is this just a collection of the 4 stand alone PDF's you have done so far?

It includes 4 of the base classes (Archon, Death Mage, Shadow Assassin, and War Master) plus the 3 books of feats (Subterfuge, Magic, Battle) and Ice and Earth Magic.

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

Dark Archive

Ah ok, was just going off what was said in the product description which is why I asked. :)

Super Genius Games

Dark_Mistress wrote:
Ah ok, was just going off what was said in the product description which is why I asked. :)

No worries, they cut back the solicitation info we sent to distributors. So thanks for asking the question, it helped me clarify what will be in the book. :)

Hyrum.


I will definately get this, though I'm disappointed the Shaman wasn't included. Its a good class

when is it coming out?

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

HyrumOWC wrote:
You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

So for those of us who bought all of the .pdfs individually, what exactly is the expanded info? Will the original .pdfs be updated, or do we just miss out on the new info?

Super Genius Games

MerrikCale wrote:

I will definately get this, though I'm disappointed the Shaman wasn't included. Its a good class

when is it coming out?

The book will debut at PaizoCon and be available in stores sometime in early July.

The shaman was originally going to be in the book but we had to cut it for space reasons. It'll be in Adventurer's Handbook 2 though, which has a tentative release date of Fall this year.

Hyrum.

Super Genius Games

flash_cxxi wrote:
HyrumOWC wrote:
You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.
So for those of us who bought all of the .pdfs individually, what exactly is the expanded info? Will the original .pdfs be updated, or do we just miss out on the new info?

Owen is finishing the specifics now but it'll be a few new feats, expanded "Using Class XX in Your Campaign", things like that.

We will update the individual PDFs but not all at once, mainly because our production pipeline is getting filled up pretty quick right now. We're finishing AH 1, getting ready for various conventions, plus working on 2 more print books for release this summer.

Hyrum.


HyrumOWC wrote:
MerrikCale wrote:

I will definately get this, though I'm disappointed the Shaman wasn't included. Its a good class

when is it coming out?

The book will debut at PaizoCon and be available in stores sometime in early July.

The shaman was originally going to be in the book but we had to cut it for space reasons. It'll be in Adventurer's Handbook 2 though, which has a tentative release date of Fall this year.

Hyrum.

excellent thanks

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Interesting. I'll have to look of things ever get back to normal here.


HyrumOWC wrote:

plus working on 2 more print books for release this summer.

Hyrum.

...and those print books are? [insert drumroll]

Super Genius Games

Urizen wrote:

...and those print books are? [insert drumroll]

Those books are:

Strike Force 7 - Savaged! (our homage to GI Joe using Savage Worlds)

Loot 4 Less, collecting volumes 1-5 of the PDFs.

SF 7 should be in stores in late July and we're hoping to have L4L in time for GenCon.

Hyrum.


HyrumOWC wrote:
Loot 4 Less, collecting volumes 1-5 of the PDFs.

Will this also be available in print?

Super Genius Games

Twin Agate Dragons wrote:
HyrumOWC wrote:
Loot 4 Less, collecting volumes 1-5 of the PDFs.
Will this also be available in print?

Yep! It's what we're hoping to have for GenCon.

Hyrum.


Thanks for the 4-11, Hyrum!

Lantern Lodge

HyrumOWC wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
So is this just a collection of the 4 stand alone PDF's you have done so far?

It includes 4 of the base classes (Archon, Death Mage, Shadow Assassin, and War Master) plus the 3 books of feats (Subterfuge, Magic, Battle) and Ice and Earth Magic.

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

When you say books of feats and list Magic, do you mean the book of Metamagic or book of Spellcasting, or both?

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Santiago Mendez wrote:
HyrumOWC wrote:
Dark_Mistress wrote:
So is this just a collection of the 4 stand alone PDF's you have done so far?

It includes 4 of the base classes (Archon, Death Mage, Shadow Assassin, and War Master) plus the 3 books of feats (Subterfuge, Magic, Battle) and Ice and Earth Magic.

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

When you say books of feats and list Magic, do you mean the book of Metamagic or book of Spellcasting, or both?

Feats of spellcasting. Sorry for the confusion.

The Exchange

I'm looking forward to this. I've considered buying the PDFs as they look interesting and I always enjoy more player options, but as DM I know I'd rarely/never get to use them myself. I have a fixation on physical books though and I'll probably pick it up once it's available in stores/here on Paizo.com


Very much looking forward to this!

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

So, when is the release date?

Super Genius Games

Chris Ballard wrote:
So, when is the release date?

We're on track to have copies at PaizoCon, and copies in stores just a week or so afterwards.

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."


so early July?

will it be available in amazon or Barnes & Noble?

Super Genius Games

MerrikCale wrote:

so early July?

will it be available in amazon or Barnes & Noble?

We got confirmation today that the book is shipping from the printer on the 11th. There's a chance it could be in FLGS before July, but I don't think Amazon will have it until next month though.

Don't know about B&N. I'll have to see if they're carrying us.

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."


HyrumOWC wrote:
MerrikCale wrote:

so early July?

will it be available in amazon or Barnes & Noble?

We got confirmation today that the book is shipping from the printer on the 11th. There's a chance it could be in FLGS before July, but I don't think Amazon will have it until next month though.

Don't know about B&N. I'll have to see if they're carrying us.

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."

well, i'm getting somehow so thanks for the info

Contributor

Remember, those of you who pick it up from us at Paizo Con can get the " two-thirds autographed edition" since Hyrum and I will be there with pens at the ready.

If you ask nicely, I might even be persuaded to put a little mini 10'x10' Toon doodle in your copy, too. ;^)

Dark Archive

Stan! wrote:

Remember, those of you who pick it up from us at Paizo Con can get the " two-thirds autographed edition" since Hyrum and I will be there with pens at the ready.

If you ask nicely, I might even be persuaded to put a little mini 10'x10' Toon doodle in your copy, too. ;^)

If I was going I would ask for a orc and pie in a 10 by 10 room for the doodle :)


hmm, this could save me 10 bucks not bad.

Super Genius Games

Heard from the printer today that the book has shipped! We'll have copies at PaizoCon for sale, but for those of you that can't make PaizoCon, but will be going to Origins, our sales and fulfillment parter Studio 2 will have copies for sale in Booth #523.

It'll be shipping out to stores world-wide around the end of the month as well.

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."


HyrumOWC wrote:


It includes 4 of the base classes (Archon, Death Mage, Shadow Assassin, and War Master) plus the 3 books of feats (Subterfuge, Magic, Battle) and Ice and Earth Magic.

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

So, what's the expanded info on the archon?

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

JRR wrote:
HyrumOWC wrote:

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

So, what's the expanded info on the archon?

I *know* there are additional rivenspells, including some that require you to be higher level to let archons boost the power of rivenspell options rather than just get new options all at the same fairly low power level.

I don't remember anything else off the top of my head, though obviously we have a list... around here... somewhere...

Dark Archive

Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
JRR wrote:
HyrumOWC wrote:

You get everything in the PDF's plus expanded info for each base class and the types of magic.

Hyrum.

So, what's the expanded info on the archon?

I *know* there are additional rivenspells, including some that require you to be higher level to let archons boost the power of rivenspell options rather than just get new options all at the same fairly low power level.

I don't remember anything else off the top of my head, though obviously we have a list... around here... somewhere...

The improved rivenspells is cool. personally I thought that was the biggest problem with the class and what I thought it needed. I am looking forward to the updated PDF now. :)


When can we expect the pdf files to be updated?

Thanks.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

JRR wrote:

When can we expect the pdf files to be updated?

Thanks.

Honest answer? We don't know yet. Certainly not in the next couple of weeks. The Con Crunch and needs of getting the print books and new pdfs out have us at or over production capacity.

We WILL get to it, but it may take a bit.


So for those of us who own the PDFs, they'll be updated for free (eventually), we don't need to buy this book for extra info?

And besides rivenspells, can we get any hints at what "expanded info" means? Alternate class features? Just fluffy stuff? Feats and spells?

Thanks,
Tim

Sovereign Court

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I got my The Book Is About To Ship notice...when can we see a TOC?

Super Genius Games

DitheringFool wrote:
I got my The Book Is About To Ship notice...when can we see a TOC?

Here ya go:

Introduction by Sean K Reynolds

Chapter 1: Classes (pg 5)

Archon: pg 6
Death Mage: pg 14
Magus: pg 24
Shadow Assassin: pg 32
War Master: pg 40

Chapter 2: Feats (pg 51)

There are 98 new feats

Chapter 3: Magic (pg 75)

Archon Spell List: pg 76
Death Mage Spell List: pg 76
New spell lists: pg 77
New Spells: pg 80
New Bloodlines: pg 92
New Specialties: pg 93
New Domains: 94
New Templates: 95

Hope that helps! And thanks for picking it up. :)

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."


Pathfinder Legends Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Seems like these Genius guides have really taken off. Too bad they are distracting Stephens from blogging about Absalom. ;)

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Tim4488 wrote:

So for those of us who own the PDFs, they'll be updated for free (eventually), we don't need to buy this book for extra info?

And besides rivenspells, can we get any hints at what "expanded info" means? Alternate class features? Just fluffy stuff? Feats and spells?

Thanks,
Tim

There is no new game material that won't eventually get updated back into the original pdfs. We had to edit some descriptive text of the classes and core ideas for spells and feats for space and consistency of style, so it's *possible* there might be some non-rule turn of phrase in the AH that won;t even be retro-fit into the pdf products, but nothing like a new ability or feature is going to get left out.

As soon as we can get to it. We WILL get it done, but it'll take a bit.

As for what's new other than new rivenspells:

*New Fetish Powers for Death Mages (angry spirits, phantom weapon, spirits of allure, veil of ancestors and lots more)
*New mystic talents and advanced mystic talents for Magi (augment spell, spell guard, spell steal, and a few more)
*Shadow Assassins get new shadow styles (shadow poison, shadow sensor) and one new talent.
*The War Master gets three new tactics (coordinated attacks, stay down!, and undermine)

Three new class-augmenting feats (two for rivenspells, one for elemental warding).

There's also some editorial clean-up (we no longer think it's so critical you know a death mage's fetish is 2 lbs. that we tell you twice in a row.) And a few powers have been edited for content and running time.

Sczarni

NEW WAR MASTER TACTICS!!!!! :)

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Frerezar wrote:
NEW WAR MASTER TACTICS!!!!! :)

Sorry, my mistake. They're new war master talents. Coordinate Attacks and Stay Down! are tactics talents (affecting subjects benefiting from the WM's tactics), but undermine is a non-tactics related talent.

Sczarni

Oh well, still very eager to see them. Too bad I'm not in the states anymore to get the damn book.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Hey this says it's no longer avaliable. Is this true? Will there be a reprint? I was really hoping to pick this up.

Super Genius Games

Brinebeast wrote:
Hey this says it's no longer avaliable. Is this true? Will there be a reprint? I was really hoping to pick this up.

Hey Brinebeast,

We're working on getting this resolved. Hopefully before too long.

Hyrum.
Super Genius Games
"We err on the side of awesome."

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Brinebeast wrote:
Hey this says it's no longer avaliable. Is this true? Will there be a reprint? I was really hoping to pick this up.

Someone underestimated our genius. It'll be available again soon.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Good to hear it will be back in stock. I'd love to have a hard copy to go along with the pdfs I already have.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

looking forward to it as well


Damn, this was high up on my to-buy-list. Hope it'll be back up soon...


Endzeitgeist wrote:
Damn, this was high up on my to-buy-list. Hope it'll be back up soon...

This was on my list as well. : (

Super Genius Games

Hey everyone,

I just shipped new books up to Paizo. They should arrive this week and be back up soon after that.

Hyrum.

Paizo Employee Starfinder Design Lead

Obviously we encourage everyone to buy the books as soon as they are available. :D

(If Paizo sells out again, we'll find SOME way of dealing with the work that creates for us, we promise!)

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