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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Product Reviews (3)

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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. 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.