Introducing an exciting new Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible PDF book from Magic Skull Games!
Grimoire Viperian adds new flavor and excitement to any game, for both players and GMs alike!
160+ pages of Pathfinder and OGL compatible content (PDF only available at this time)
Intriguing backstory designed to fit in with any campaign
Exciting and unusual new base classes: the Shapeshifter and the Pyro
22 unique prestige classes, including many specifically designed for multi-class characters, and many with a serpentine, barbaric, elemental, knightly, assassin or weapon specialist theme. Just a few examples include the Serpent Warlock, Wolf Clan Warchief, Earth Lord, Storm Knight, Knight Heretic, Knight of the Death Angel, Silent Adder, Dread Crusher, Master of the Razor Scourge, and many more!
Supernatural Signs of Good and Evil, designed to add customizable powers to any character, villain, or monster, and unique flavor to any campaign or adventure.
New “Eldritch Path” feats provide a way for spellcasters to “specialize” in a unique path of themed spells, such as the Secrets of the Grimoire, Secrets of the Fiend, Secrets of the Netherdark, Secrets of the Mist, The Secret of Blades, and more!
New spells of all kinds, including many designed with a serpentine theme in mind
New magic items, weapons and armor, such as the Sorcerous Helm, Razor Scourge, Angelic Breastplate, Cobra Scale Armor, Black Mamba Scale Armor, Hellreaver Battle Axe, and more!
New monsters and monster templates, such as creatures of Entropy, sentient serpents, deadlier variants of classic venomous snakes, serpentine undead, trog trolls, viperian dragons, and more!
This massive pdf is 172 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 4 pages SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 163 pages of content, so let's check out the first PFRPG-product by Magic Skull Games!
After a background story focusing on the battle between serpentine hordes and an army of light that saw the defeat of the snake-like demon god Sarkuroth, the pdf kicks off with the new base classes, first of which would be the shapeshifter: The class gets d8, 3/4 BAB progression, 4+Int skills per level and good fort-and ref-saves and no spellcasting prowess. Essentially, the shapeshifter gains improving capabilities to turn into at first animals like beast shape and slowly gains access to improving options - starting at 5th level, for example, the shapeshifter can turn into flying creatures. Additionally, when in natural form, they can enhance themselves via e.g. bear's endurance etc. Shapeshifters may also choose a variety of favored forms over the levels, enabling the shapeshifter to get bonuses when in these forms. He can also have his natural attacks count as magic, good, evil, lawful or chaotic. AT higher levels, shapeshifters may also change into e.g. centaurs, lamias, winter wolves etc. and monster feats like flying-related ones, improved natural attacks etc. are added to the classes roster of bonus feats. Finally, at 5th level and every 3 after that, the shapeshifter can choose from up to 15 powers, including classics like uncanny dodge, but also granting access to e.g. knockback. Finally, at higher levels, the class can turn into dragons and giants and change shape as swift actions at 19th level. The class has no true capstone ability, though, which is slightly disappointing. The class is an interesting, non-casting take on the iconic shapechanger and works well in its intended niche. What somehow disappoints me about this class is that e.g. there is no option to grant the shapeshifter truly unique bonuses like e.g. adding an eidolon's evolutions to its forms, extract-like powers etc. As written, the class serves its niche, but I'm not sure its changing-capabilities combine with its non-full-BAB to its full advantage - a druid might be the stronger choice in direct comparison.
The second new base-class would be the Pyro, a class that also gets 3/4 BAB progression, d8, 6+Int skills per level, goof fort and ref saves and are proficient with torches and light armors, learning to utilize their torches to deal additional damage and choose from a total of 14 different torch-related talents, some of which, though, enable the Pyro to create special torches that add effects of e.g. thunderstones, smokesticks with an added minor debuff effect. 14 talents and 7 advanced talents are also available to the Pyro, though generally, I have a problem with this class: Essentially, this is a rogue variant with a gimmick weapon, including abilities that are dependent on catching foes off guard. The class lacks the full BAB to make up for the lack of spells and several of its abilities are taken straight from the rogue, while lacking the additional damage-output of sneak attack. And then there's the problem of the class carrying a TORCH. a) This makes stealth all but impossible. b) It could blow you up if you go into dungeons and encounter pockets of gas. c) The class is utterly useless under water or in massive storms. Wanna cripple a Pyro? Douse him. This class feels like a good idea that just hasn't been thought through to its logical implementation. As an NPC it might work, but as a player-class? Not so much. And I haven't even begun elaborating how ridiculously useless the class becomes if it encounters any creature immune to fire...
After that, we delve into chapter 2, which deals with PrCs. And there are a lot of them, 33 if I haven't miscounted, out there. However, there is also something rather evident from looking at them - several of the PrCs require you to have x class levels in a specific class, something not conform with PFRPG design-standards are worse, often illogical, but more on that later. The PrCs also have extremely steep attribute requirements. A total of 6 different prestige classes deal with warchiefs of different tribes: Bear, Eagle, Horse, Panther, Wolf and Snake. The classes all provide abilities you'd expect from a totem-focused class like wild empathy and e.g. improved grappling capabilities for the Bear Chief, but also all have problems:
The Bear chief has to endure the massive prerequisites and can take the class at 5th level in theory, but if he advances in the class, he gets access to greater rage a whopping 5 levels after the regular barbarian without offering any ability that makes up for the catastrophic power-loss incurred in comparison with the base-class. The Eagle Chief's abilities are even worse with the notable exception of the 7th level, which provides a chance for an auto-crit on a hit - one compelling ability does not a good PrC make, though. The Horse Chief makes for an interesting mounted barbarian, but also has a problem - the class has the balls to offer a terrible greater endurance ability as capstone. Useless and boring. Panther Chiefs have to use cat's claws to use their best abilities, which happen to be that they can add a second attack to a charge at -3 and later another one at -5, making this class a rather boring one-trick pony. Charge, attack, repeat. Again, no offset for the relative powerloss when compared to the base-class. The Snake Chief can use poisons and is good at ambushing, but again gains access to greater rage 5 levels later. The Wolf Chief gains pack tactics, which add bonuses, but ignore the new mechanics of teamwork feats, solo-tactics etc., something I would not only have expected, but demanded of the class. And then there's something wrong with all of the classes: They don't grant you rage rounds when progressing, but instead +1/rage per day. Unfortunately, THAT'S NOT HOW BARBARIAN RAGE WORKS IN PFRPG. I'm sad to say, but ranging from design-remnants of the 3.5-days to boring concepts that have been done to death and predictable, weak abilities, these chiefs all FAIL.
Speaking of FAIL: The Black Lord, a gish that focuses on darkness-and necromancy-related spells gets only 3+Int skills, 5 levels of spell progression over 10 levels and can turn darkness into e.g. a gibbering mouther. Sounds cool? Yeah. It also gets its own spell-list (of up to 9th level) - why not prohibit e.g. simply all [good] and[light]-spells? Generally, this class has potential. But: It has dead levels with only +1 level of existing spell-progression, something thankfully mostly absent in PFRPG-design. It also completely and totally IGNORES THE MAGUS. This class is made for fighter/wizards/sorcerors, when the niche has been filled by a more appropriate class. Worse, due to its stunted spell-progression, its upper echelons of magic as mentioned in the spell-list are useless, seeing that the progressed level of a level 10 Black lord will be 9 - 4 levels of wizard prereq + 5 levels of spell-progression over 10 levels. The character will be level 17 by then. Ridiculously weak and not up to design-standards, in spite of the cool ideas. Worse, the Earth Lord and Fire Lord PrCs follow the same structure and add the insult of being boring elemental classes (we've had enough of these!) to the design injury. The Storm Knight is also victim of these design choices, though at least they can summon a cool storm chariot, though its capstone is again insultingly bland and weak - an aid spell + 2 caster levels for some spells when in a storm.
The Champion of Light is a class focused on light-related effects and the countering fof darkness effects as well as gaining a small selection of spellcasting powers. What I don't get is - why not play a paladin? Why doesn't this class get to choose from abilities like mercies? With the relatively few darkness effects out there, the class feels like a cripplingly over-specialized poor man's paladin that doesn't even get full BAB-progression. Also weird: Since the class must already be able to cast divine spells to enter it, why doesn't it offer a spell progression for its existent casting capabilities, instead providing a new and rather limited list?
The Dread Crusher is essentially a version of the breaking barbarian archetype at higher levels, a class centered on sundering equipment. Ok, I guess, though again, not particularly versatile. The Faceted Conjurer, a PrC centered on permanently conjuring figurines of power and ioun stones is another PrC that leaves me cold, again coming at a paltry 1/2 spell-progression. Better, at least concept-wise, is the cobra master, one of multiple serpent-themed classes in the pages of this book, this one being focused on providing a monk with some rogue talents and the option to poison your unarmed attacks. However, a capstone ability that grants +1d6 sneak attack, better slow falling and a bonus feat feels not adequate, nor does the BAB-progression - a monk's melee abilities are bad enough as is, this class only provides 1/2 BAB-progression. The class offers continuous monk-power progression - with the exception of AC. Yeah. No improving AC-bonus for this PrC. Whether that's an omission or a design-choice, I don't know. It does feel like an unnecessary impediment of an already not too strong class.
The Knight Heretic is essentially a poor man's antipaladin as a PrC - no cruelties, lame abilities etc. Antipaladin and SGG's Death Knights are vastly superior options and less linear. Dispel good as a capstone ability would be neat, but it can only be used 1/week. Weak. *puts 2 bucks into the bad pun jar* The Knight Inexorable is a more interesting class: If you can meet its steep feat-requirements, it makes for a will-strong knight that can affix special insignias to his equipment. A nice alternative to the cavalier, though I probably would have preferred it to be designed along the lines of said established base class, perhaps improving order powers or challenges. The class lacks a unique signature ability. Knights of the Black Glade represent a cool concept: Druidic knights. Unfortunately, the restriction of a set amount of druid PLUS ranger or fighter levels restricts the class. Worse, the class, a knight centered on the idea of druids, only comes with a horse companion advancement, when it should take all kinds of possible mounts into accounts. The class also gets access to some nice spell-like abilities and an acclimation to metal armors - depending on your setting/take on druids, the latter might upset some basic tenets of the faith. Knights of Entropy grow to large size, get minor spell-access and the option to mutate and also get a changed mount. Per se a good class including a nice capstone (earthquake), were it not for the dead level and one fact - this has been done, and done better: Malhavoc Press's Mutation rules from the Chaositech book for 3.5, alone or combined with Green Ronin's Unholy Warrior's Handbook's Knights of Bedlam PrC constitute the vastly superior options - both in style and execution.
The Knight of the Death Angel is a concept that is rather cool - a sorceror/fighter multiclass (again, class-level restrictions - beh) serving the angel of death with both martial and arcane might. The class gets an excellent ghostly intangible plate, spectral warhorses etc. Again, though, this gish-class only offers us 5 levels of spell-progression - at least it gets 9/10 BAB-progression. As a Magus, this design would have been vastly superior - as written, it remains an ok class. The Knight of the Lion Rampant is a paladin-exclusive PrC that offers fighter bonus feats and worse lay on hands and smiting capabilities. While he can negate one crit per day and at 9th level make his shield a lion's shield, that does not offset the knight's lack of full BAB (only getting 3/4-progression) AND the lack of any spell-progression. This class is essentially a PrC that is worse in any conceivable way than the base class.
The Master of the Flamberge is a true paragon of two-handed weapon fighting (though not only of the flamberge) and can be considered a powerful, cool class - were it not for the fact that there's already the two-handed fighter archetype - combine both and balance leaves the building. Masters of the Handaxe are actually a cool class that hasn't been done before in PFRPG, centering on both dual hand fighting AND on improved throwing capabilities. There is an unclear wording here, though: Dual Axe Wielder reduces the penalties for dual wielding hand-axes by 1, but the class does not require the two-weapon fighting feat and yet this ability seems to presume it does/or is supposed to grant it: The ability only mentions a penalty of -1, when without the feat the newly modified penalty should be -7. The Final Master Class is a specialist of the Razor Scourge that combines his mastery of the whip with sneak attack progression and some improved intimidation. This PrC would not be bad, were it not for the fact that both Above Average Creation's Scourger Variant Class and Abandoned Arts' Lasher Archetype do the better job.
And after that, the reign of serpentine classes begins: The Serpentine Necromancer is essentially a regular necromancer that can utilize the 3 undead templates later in the book. Ok, I guess, though I don't get why it takes a PrC to command what usually would be commandable by ANY NECROMANCER or why we needed a "Vampiric Serpent Template" when we could easily apply such a template to a base-creature. Superfluous. The Serpentine Temple Warrior with its minor sneak, mystical powers and poison use can be considered a good flavor class with nothing to complain about apart from the weird save-progression of 1/2 fort and 2/5 ref and will. The Serpent Warlock would be a nice caster-class, gaining a transfixing gaze, shapechanging, scales, poison etc., were it not for, again, the stunted spell-progression and the fact that e.g. serpent- and snake-themed bloodlines and revelations have done similar things without nerfing a character that hard. The Silent Adder is a serpent-themed assassin (again, with annoying class-level prerequisites) that could be cool in concept - were it not a strikingly boring monk/rogue mishmash. Especially strange that fast movement, something that would greatly benefit such a class, does not advance. The Snake Cult Leader is a cleric that gains wild empathy and some serpent-themed abilities, again being stumped by its crippled spell-progression and the fact that its new abilities in no way make up for the trade off in power and versatility. The final snake-themed PrC would be the Viper Assassin, an extremely fast class that grants the user truly deadly bleeding criticals and the option to hide in plain sight at higher levels. I don't have anything to complain here.
The Temple Assassin is another combo-class, this time cleric/rogue gain limited spell-progression, further sneak attacks (though the gained dice are only d4, not the regular d6) and can, by divine favor, gain temporary access to rogue talents. Grab your seats, fellows: I really like this PrC's basic concept! It's balanced, feels distinct and its benefits are sufficient. Its capstone is holy word, blasphemy, word of chaos or dictum, depending on alignment - ok for such a class! It still suffers from the weird class-level design choices, though, as well as from a ridiculously low 1/2 BAB as well as a weird save-progression. The final prestige class is the Winter Warlock, an ice-themed arcane caster. Design-wise, this class is not bad either, though it is also not too exciting.
Part Ii of my review in the product discussion, post 22.
Not bad, but has some major flaws that could be easily fixed.
Grimoire Viperian is a bit of a misnomer for this book, though I might only think so because of other "Grimoire" third-party books that I've seen on paizo.com that are usually a book of spells with a common theme. This book doesn't really have a true common theme, though there are several snake-related PrCs and abilities, and all of the monsters in the back are snake-related.
The book starts off with two base classes, the Shapeshifter and the Pyro. As you can expect from the Shapeshifter, the class's abilities are all about changing shapes and using those new shapes in battle. I would have liked this class to be a little bit more focused on a certain type of creature as opposed to just changing into essentially anything, because this really just comes off as a Druid with no spellcasting. That said, the abilities seem relatively balanced and it would probably be just fine to throw into your current game.
When I first looked at the Pyro, I thought it was a joke class, because it's essentially a guy waving a torch at you. The class's main abilities revolve around using torches as melee weapons, and that seems a little dumb at first, but the abilities given actually do seem pretty fun. Many of these center around "special torch attacks" that usually inflict some negative condition on the target. Overall, this class would be fun to play in a lighthearted game, and is well-written enough to stand up even in a more gritty game if roleplayed correctly.
Next, there are a bunch of new prestige classes. I'll tell you right off the bat, I have an issue with the way the prerequisites for these classes were handled. Instead of following the standard Paizo PrC formula for prerequisites (some amount of BAB, a class feature, a number of skill ranks in a specific skill, etc), the authors have decided to require levels in specific classes as prerequisites. For example, the Bear Clan Warchief requires ALL of the following:
"Class: 5 levels of barbarian
Alignment: any non-lawful
Skills: Handle Animal: 3 ranks, Knowledge (Nature): 3 ranks,
Survival: 3 ranks
Feats: Power Attack and either Toughness or Iron Will
Special: Must have been a member of a barbarian tribe that
Now, instead of requiring 5 levels of barbarian, they should have written it as "BAB +5, rage power class feature". This would all but require a barbarian of significant levels, but wouldn't preclude a barb 2/fighter 3 or something like that. That's the way Paizo does it, and that's how they should probably have done it.
I digress. There are several "Something Clan Warchief" PrCs in this book, so I'm not going to describe each one in detail. I think they probably could have made these a single PrC with a choice of which animal to use, but that's fine. The Bear Clan Warchief's abilities are of course all bear themed, and they strongly complement a barbarian's melee abilities, as expected. I found the abilities a little bit lackluster, and could have done with something more flavorful.
The next PrC is the Black Lord. This one requires 4 levels of wizard or sorcerer and 3 levels of fighter. Why you couldn't start off as an Antipaladin or a Summoner/Fighter or any other martial/spellcaster combination, I have no clue. The abilities are darkness-themed, and probably could have been thought out more clearly. They seem weak for a martial/spellcaster PrC, overall. I DO like that the spell list, instead of being specific spells (which then would not be updated when more books are published) are listed as things like "all sorcerer/wizard Necromancy and [Darkness] spells" plus a few specific ones. This was a great call on the part of the authors, because it gives the player and the DM more flexibility on what spells can be used.
Next up, the Champion of Light. This PrC is essentially the antithesis of the Black Lord, but requires no specific class levels, which is a good thing. This one seems made for Paladins who have a smattering of another class and no spellcasting yet, as it has its own spellcasting progression instead of adding to a previous class's. The abilities listed are decent, and they've given the Paladin spell list essentially as the spells available (though they also included all first-level cleric spells, which is strange to me.)
Next is the Cobra Master, a monk focusing on, surprise surprise, very quick unarmed attacks. The Cobra Strike ability lets the Cobra Master deny his opponent their Dex mod to AC a limited number of times per day, which is fine. The abilities go on to cause fear conditions, poisonous strikes, and for some reason a single dice of sneak attack at 10th level. Overall, not too bad, though I would have liked to see a much more interesting capstone ability than a 1st-level rogue ability.
The Dread Crusher is essentially a higher-level version of the Breaker Barbarian archetype, and doesn't really hold water on its own, because of that. It could have been left out.
Next we have another Warchief, this time Eagle Clan. This one is all about getting heightened senses and using them to avoid attacks, and he gets an interesting ability at 7th level to deal an auto-crit, which could be used in conjunction with Critical feats to royally mess up enemies. This one's not bad.
The Earth Lord requires sorcerer/wizard or fighter levels, and is all about using earth magic. It's strange to me, though, because it seems to not have a clear, defined role, which PrCs usually do. This one gives you some physical abilities like bull's strength as a spell-like ability, but then everything else is about commanding earth elementals and casting earth-based spells. In addition, the spell list is just messed up. "All 0-level arcane spells, except air relates spells". This means all cantrips for every arcane class. No. Just no. The strangest thing here is that there even IS a spell list, when the class just continues the spellcasting of the previous class. Instead, this list should have been a few earth-based spells to be ADDED to your current arcane spellcasting list.
The Faceted Conjurer... I don't really know what to say here. It's an arcane spellcaster PrC, it focuses on enchantments and illusions, but somehow they also tie into something about gems and exotic minerals. I'm... confused. Anyway, the abilities are interesting, especially the "conjure Ioun stone" ability, which lets you create ioun stones for a few hours at a time. This could be infinitely valuable for a caster who knows how to use it. The next class ability lets you conjure figurines of wondrous power, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me since the figurines of wondrous power themselves are used to conjure cretures based on their shape, at least that's the way I always thought of it. At 9th level, he can use a precious stone as a focus to cast one of the prismatic spells once per week. Overall this is a flavorful class that might actually be really useful to a player who knows spellcasting very well, so I'd say this one gets a thumbs-up from me.
The Fire Lord is another one that requires both sor/wiz and fighter levels, which I'm still not a fan of. It's also got some VERY STEEP ability score requirements. Most of this class's abilities let him cast fire spells as if he were a few levels higher, and honestly that's not a good way to build a PrC, especially since a gnome can already take Pyromaniac as a racial trait to raise their caster level for fire spells by 1. Again we've got a spell list for a class that doesn't grant its own spells. This one gets my thumbs-down.
Horse Clan Warchief, more of the same with the Warchiefs. The class gives you horse-like powers, lets you run fast and makes you REALLY good at riding horses. To this one, I say "meh".
The Knight Heretic is essentially a reskinned Blackguard. The abilities are overdone and I'm not a fan. Sorry, evil players.
The Knight Inexorable... is just a Cavalier. Maybe a few new abilities, but honestly they're just playing off of others' ideas at this point. Boo.
Knight of the Black Glade. Finally some flavor here! This one's for a druid/ranger, and that's fine with me. The flavor text describes how this is essentially a Knight of the forest. Cool. First level ability... wait, what? "Horse Animal Companion Advancement". So, if your AC is not a horse, you're SOL. Why? Why couldn't it be a tiger, if this is all about the forest? Sigh. Most of the other abilities are great, especially the "metal armor acclimation" which lets him start using metal armor and still cast druid spells. This makes a lot of sense for a Knight of the Forest. I like it. At higher levels, he gets some forest-based spell-like abilities that are all flavorful. Get rid of the horse requirement, and this is a well-done PrC.
Next come... 4 more Knight-based prestige classes. I'm not going to go into each one, because I'm honestly getting sleepy. They're all fine, for the most part.
Master of the Hand Axe.... really? A PrC COMPLETELY FOCUSED ON THE HANDAXE? Sorry, I'm not even reading it.
Ok so there are a bunch more prestige classes, a lot of them dealing with snakes now. When I started writing this review, I was really going to review every single class, but I don't think I can handle it. Suffice it to say that the authors had a lot of PrC ideas, some of them worked well and other really didn't.
The next section of the book has several NPCs based on the new classes, and they're well-put-together. I wouldn't hesitate to use one of them as an NPC in one of my games, most likely.
Next, Eldritch Path Feats. These are interesting, because they're feats that take a spellcaster deeper into a certain type of magic, giving some spell-like abilities based on the spells that they prefer to cast. I would almost liken these feats to cleric domains, as each one gives several per-day and per-week abilities. The only problem I have with them is that you get all the abilities at once, so really each one is worth way more than a single feat. This is partially mitigated by the fact that the abilities are applied to spells of differing spell levels, but it's still probably a little much for a feat.
Next up is a short chapter of equipment and magic items. Nothing here is super exciting or anything, from what I can tell. Seems fine.
Next, there are a TON of new spells, though many of them are specifically for the new prestige classes. Having so many new prestige class spell lists definitely makes things complicated, but that goes back to a fundamental problem with the way they wrote up the PrCs in this book. Overall, the spells are pretty cool, and none of them was glaringly overpowered to me, at least on a cursory glance. The art in the spells section is quite good, which I was happy to see.
Supernatural Signs... are kind of confusing. I guess it boils down to "a character with one of these was destined for greatness, and so they get some powers". This steps on the toes of Sorcerer bloodlines, in my opinion, so I'm not a fan of these. They are essentially templates, so the only way I would see myself using them is on enemies to give them some flavor, which is actually suggested as one way to use them in the flavor text. Overall, the abilities conferred by these are equivalent to a level or two in a player base class, so it might be tough to decide how any of these would affect a given creature as far as CR goes. Final verdict on these: Not a huge fan.
Finally, we've got a huge list of new monsters and templates. Again, I just don't have time to go through all of them, but some of these are pretty cool. I especially like that the authors took the time to tell what summoning and shapechanging spells their new creatures work with. Points for that. Most of the creatures shown here are variant snakes, and all of them have some interesting ability that make them worthy of a look.
The templates are ALL snake-themed, and might have value in some campaigns.
Alright... that's a lot of material. Overall, I was happy with this book for the price. There's a ton of material, and most of it is pretty good. I really would like to see the authors adjust their PrC prerequisites to match more closely with Paizo's style, because the prereqs just seem strange as they are now. I also think they could have left a few of the non-snake-themed PrCs out of the book, and focused this book solely on snakes (which is what the monsters and templates section does).
Is this PDF worth throwing $10 at? I would say yes, on the condition that you're a GM who knows how to tweak things for your players. Change the prereqs of the prestige classes to be more reasonable, then use some of the new rules and monsters in your campaign to mess those players up. For players, this book is too big and complex, go read the Advanced Players Guide instead.