Superior Synergy: Fantasy PFRPG Edition brings the concept of game mechanic synergy back into your favorite fantasy role-playing game system. The idea that some game mechanics (such as skills) are innately compatible with other game mechanics in ways that can influence the game without choosing additional elements (such as feats) to permit their use makes a comeback in a greatly expanded and revised way.
Inside you will find:
The basis of synergy relationships, Skill Synergy is back and more balanced than ever. Rather than basing the synergy result's outcome on an immutable, flat bonus based on skill ranks, one skill may now add benefits (or detriments) to another skill through the uncertainty of its own separate skill roll. Skill Synergy is no longer a sure thing and may even backfire, but the rewards may be worth the risk.
Feat Synergy illustrates how some feats naturally complement each other to allow for new effects and abilities via the inherent knowledge, training, or talent they represent. This is done without the need to take yet another feat to allow such a relationship to influence game play.
Classes do not exist in a vacuum and characters should not be seen as leaving behind knowledge previously learned when they multiclass. Class Synergy introduces ways abilities gained from different classes may interact and evolve together, combining the various areas of expertise the character has acquired towards new results. This adds an entirely new layer of meaning when considering how your character should multiclass.
Magic Synergy provides a few ways magic can work together to create new effects ... intended or not.
Craft Synergy combines skills, feats, class abilities, and materials to illustrate an understanding that can result in special, non-magical abilities being added to some items.
Despite care being taken to maintain game balance, some players and Gamemasters may still consider the various types of synergy too imbalanced for use in their games. No problem! This product also includes options on including synergy in your game while addressing game balance via limitations and ways to purchase the advantage of synergy game mechanics rather than gaining it automatically.
Updated, clarified, and vastly expanded from the original 3.5 OGL rules release, this latest version also adds over 50 pages of content, for a total of 72 pages.
This product includes a complete, fully bookmarked version and a more print-friendly version with backgrounds and cover removed. A print/copy friendly PDF of the reference sheets is also included.
Download a demo at www.misfit-studios.com/downloads/MIS0010demo.zip
This pdf is 73 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 69 pages of content, so let's check this out!
If you're anything like me, you breathed a sigh of relief when PFRPG got rid of skill snyergies. They were clunky, overtly complicated and often forgotten. In summary, I don't know a single player or DM who actually liked how they worked. Now that I've established that, let me assure you that the skill synergies herein work nothing like those in the 3.X-days of old, instead providing us with a wholly original system: Essentially, you can opt to modify skill checks with your primary skill by complementing them with a secondary skill, for example making feinting via Bluff easier if you succeed at an acrobatics skill check. These secondary skill checks, however, are anything but a sure bet: Each of the secondary skill uses has 9 potential outcomes that range from utterly failing (Dc missed by 15+) the second skill check to utterly rocking it (DC surpassed by 20+), making the additional skill use a gambit. Furthermore, the original skill DC is modified depending on the action you try: Using acrobatics to enhance your climbing, for example is against the DC of the climb check -5. Note that these secondary skill checks do not supplant the original skill checks, but add options to handling skills. The possibility to gamble and modify your primary skill checks definitely opens up some interesting new options, if you are willing to run with the additional dice-rolling they require. Advice on how to handle skill synergies and e.g. using them depending on classes are included in the deal as well.
This is by far not where synergy stops, though: The next section provides us with feat synergy-rules. To give you an example on what that actually means, I'll take the very first of the synergy effects, adamantine lungs. To qualify for this synergy, you have to have the feats athletic, great fortitude and endurance. If you have these 3, you get the benefits of adamantine lungs, making it possible to hold your breath for 50% longer than normal. This is one of the simpler synergies, though, several other needing a selection of up to 6 feats that e.g. open up the option to use whirlwind attack to force enemies surrounding you to step back from you.
What this does cannot be understated: First of all, it provides tangible benefits for characters who take feats that may not be wholly optimized, but fit in line with an organic character development. Secondly, the synergy effects could easily be considered special fighting styles and tactics that could easily be utilized as non-monetary rewards by a DM. In fact, you could also make these synergy effects regular feats if you don't like the general idea. While reading these effects I did not notice one I'd consider broken or uninteresting and in fact, am enjoying the whole section and the way in which the material presented can easily be modified to suit your and just about any individual game.
Chapter 4 details class synergy, which is one big love-letter to multiclassing: Essentially, the synergy-effects once again are based on having access to different prerequisites, but instead of feats, we now are talking about class abilities like sneak attack, mutagens etc. Need an example? If you're an alchemist/barbarian, you can benefit from the Liquid Rage-effect and brew a special mutagen that restores a limited amount of rage rounds or even extend your current rage! Even more so than the stellar feat-synergy-section, this chapter opens whole new possibilities and incentives for multiclassing and customizing your characters and, once again, could also be used as story-rewards, organization-benefits etc. - in fact, you could probably craft a whole setting of cool organizations from these synergies.
Chapter 5 goes further by providing magic synergy effects, something that I bet has come up in your game: Ever had your players e.g. try to brittle structures, weapons etc. via fire and cold damage? With the rules provided in this chapter, you have now the option to make elemental physics matter in your game without being unbalancing - concise rules for all the synergy effects are provided and ensure that using magical tactics in the fights of your group finally matter. Add to that the options these synergy effects provide when interacting with terrain and you're in for a couple of pages of sheer awesomeness. It should be noted that weird combinations like a paladin/barbarian-cross-over are included, but the author has explained that this strange combination, prohibited by alignments, will make more sense with an upcoming release.
Less obviously awesome, but nevertheless brilliant is the final chapter, which is wholly devoted to craft synergies. If you're playing in a low magic campaign, this chapter is essentially a must-have and reason enough to justify the asking price in and of itself. Essentially, the chapter provides additional crafting rules to add mini-templates to your equipment. As with the skills, failing the second craft-skill has potentially negative consequences on the item's usability, making adding these special qualities a gamble. The added modified properties range beyond armor-ruining weapons (which can be found here, though!) and include special vials that deal their splash damage in a larger area and even weapons that have been specifically tailored and weighted to your individual character. In order to use these synergies, though, the crafting character has to once again, fulfill certain criteria, ensuring that not everyone can craft these modifications.
The pdf ends with several pages of reference sheets to facilitate usage of the new rules herein.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed several misplaced blank spaces and other minor glitches. While not impeding my understanding of the rules or generally being a hindrance, another pass at editing would have been nice. Layout adheres to a full-color 2-column standard and the artworks are a bit cartoony for my tastes. if you own "The Spellweaver", you know what to expect. The pdf comes with a printer-friendly version as well as a separate reference sheet pdf. What can I say? Whether you like the new skill synergy rules will depend mostly on whether you consider the additional dice-rolling a pro or a con, but enough rules and variants are covered to tailor the content to your game by restricting the usage of the synergy skills.
While I'm still a bit undecided on the section on skill synergy, the other synergies covered are gold and no-brainers - whether you include feat-synergy as story-rewards, feats or flat-out synergies, the chapter is a definite winner. the same holds true for class synergies and finally, magic and craft synergies, which provide options galore as well. Even better, while all of these synergies could be added to your campaign, the rules are open and versatile and enable you to introduce them in just about any way you like to your campaign, cherry-picking and customizing the content.
Supremely ambitious in scope, Misfit Studios' second pdf is a challenging design that retains top-notch customizability while providing easy to insert, fun and smart rules to your game, making this humble pdf a true winner and very hard, if not impossible, to dislike. In fact, my only gripes with the massive and extremely versatile content lie in the minor editing glitches and a personal dislike of the art-style. Usually, I'd go 4.5 stars and round down to 4 due to aforementioned glitches, but that would, quite frankly do injustice to the stellar design and content herein, where in fact one chapter alone would make for an excellent supplement, let alone that many brilliant ideas. I really enjoy this book and would love to see a POD, as I consider this pdf worthy of being printed and while I'm not 100% sold on the skill-section, I do still consider this pdf an excellent example of stellar crunch-design. Thus my final verdict will be 5 stars, with the seal of approval missed by only a margin and remain with a definite recommendation. Congratulations to Steven B. Trustrum!
Myriad options for combining your character's abilities
One of the ways in which Pathfinder (nee Third Edition) is different from previous editions of the world’s most popular fantasy role-playing game is in the proliferation of mechanical character abilities. Whereas before your PC had comparatively little stats, nowadays they have many different mechanics that serve to define what they can and cannot do, from skills to feats to class abilities and more. However, most of these exist largely in a vacuum – while some may be prerequisites to others, few actually build off of each other, and they can form a collection that’s quite disparate in what they offer (particularly for multiclass characters).
It’s in that spirit of tying a character’s abilities more closely together that Misfit Studios has released Superior Synergy: Fantasy for the Pathfinder RPG. Let’s examine it and see how well it ties things together.
Superior Synergy comes as three PDFs, those being the main file, a printer-friendly version thereof, and a short checklist file for the various synergies. Ostensibly, this checklist (which uses a very handy alternating grey-and-white set of rows for each item, making them easily distinguishable) is used to chart which synergies your character qualifies for. However, it should be noted that GMs can make good use of this as a tool for denoting which synergies he allows in his campaign to begin with.
The main file is just over seventy pages in length, and has the technical aspects that a good PDF product should – it comes with full, nested bookmarks, a hyperlinked table of contents, and has the copy-and-paste enabled. These go for the printer-friendly version also, which eliminates the cover, the page backgrounds and borders (those being an off-white and a muddy brownish, respectively), and turns the few interior illustrations from being full color to black and white. I’m personally of the opinion that printer-friendly file should eliminate the illustrations altogether, though that’d usually require a new layout.
So what exactly does Superior Synergy present for your Pathfinder game? Simply put, this book posits that if you have certain prerequisites – be they of skills, feats, class abilities or whatnot – then you can gain an extra benefit. This is usually automatic, but some times will require a check.
The book’s first chapter deals with skill synergies. I need to take a moment to state, in the plainest terms possible, that these are NOT the same as the skill synergies from 3.5. For that matter, these are not even the same as the material from the 3.5 version of Superior Synergy. Rather, these skill synergies function off of making a check with a certain skill, and the check result modifying another skill check.
There’s no ambiguity here regarding what skills affect what, or how long the synergy check takes, etc. as the book goes into very specific detail on the mechanics (as well as the flavor of exactly how) these synergies use. For example, you can make an Acrobatics check which modifies (depending on the check result) a subsequent Climb check made to catch yourself or someone else on a fall, as you’re good at twisting and teetering enough to give yourself a bit of an edge…if you’re lucky. If you’re not, you’ve actually made things worse.
Feat synergy is, perhaps ironically, very similar to a section of new feats (and indeed, the book notes that if you think giving these synergy effects out automatically once the prerequisites are met, you can turn these into new feats). As a Pathfinder aficionado, I was quite happy to note that these prerequisites took into account the materials from the Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and Ultimate Combat. So for example, if you have Bludgeoner (UC), Dazing Assault (APG), and Weapon Focus, you qualify for the Staggering Blow synergy, which lets you attempt to attempt to stagger a foe for a round. There’s a lot of great material here that lets you put forward a lot of feats that might otherwise be totally ignored (such as some skill-boosters).
For all of that, though, it was the next chapter that was my favorite: class synergies. Simply put, this section is (as I read it) one big love-letter to multiclassing, as it grants synergy abilities from having different class features. If you have the track class ability from being a ranger or inquisitor, and the detect evil power of a paladin, you gain the Track Evil synergy, which grants a bonus to tracking evil creatures. I really enjoyed this section, as it did a lot to make multiclassing sexy again.
The spell synergy section is the only part of the book that doesn’t offer several dozen synergies. Having only a half-dozen synergies, these are the result of using certain types of spells within one round of each other. Perhaps surprisingly, these are written with a more generic stroke, mostly combining types of spells that mostly lend themselves to fairly obvious combinations – here you’ll find rules for using fire and ice to weaken items, electricity conducted by metal or water, and similar things, though at least one (several mental effects at once can confuse a creature) takes a more innovative leap.
The last section of the book is crafting synergy, and basically allows for characters with a nuanced background to craft weapons with built-in non-magical abilities. If you can rage and have Skill Focus for Craft (armor) for example, you can build armor that’s painful to wear but as a result increases how long you can rage (slightly)...but only on a successful Craft check, otherwise you’ve essentially created an item with a slight (non-magical) curse.
The book ends with several pages of the checklist I mentioned at the beginning, something that seems redundant, as the file is already included separately.
Overall, I found Superior Synergy: Fantasy PFRPG Edition to be an expansive book of great options for your characters. Having said that, there are some concerns that I’d want to thoroughly weigh before I used it in my game. For one thing, the synergies that require an extra roll can slow down game-play, though I do appreciate that these are the synergies that aren’t guaranteed to be an extra boost for characters. By contrast, the always-active synergies are faster, but mean that PCs will automatically receive a power bump…though even that’s controllable if you decide to make some of these into feats, or just disallow certain synergies altogether.
It’s that modularity that, I think, really puts this book over the top. There are so many options here, which can be easily added, tweaked, or disallowed, that there’s really no way you can’t find a happy medium in terms of figuring out what parts of this book to allow and what not to. Taking that into account, there are still a few minor problems (a synergy for a paladin’s smite evil and a barbarian’s rage…alignment compatibility issues there), and the occasional spelling and grammar error, but nothing that’s a deal-breaker. I say, start using Superior Synergy, and make your characters more than just the sum of their parts.