The Genius Guide to the Riven Mage presents a new base class, one that masters a form of magic similar to spells, but considerably simpler and more primal. Known by various cultures as jinx, marvels, will-work, and invocations, most riven mages from more advanced cultures call their mystic powers "rivenspells," meaning these powers use the same energies as spells but all the unnecessary trappings haven been removed. Rather than "cast spells," riven mages talk of "riving energies," as they see the act of creating a riven spell ("to rive" such an effect) the equivalent of tearing a magic effect loose from the background of reality. While rivenspells are significantly more limited in their breadth and flexibility than spells, at the same time they are freed of many of the limitations of spells. A riven mage never worries herself about having a component pouch, what armor she is wearing, or exactly what noises and movements she must make to call on her magic powers. While other spellcasters often claim riven mages are "primitive," riven mages see themselves as the purest of magic-users, able to call upon their effects easily, quickly, and even under significantly adverse conditions.
Riven mages are proud of their powers, and like to show off what they can do. For goodaligned riven mages this often means using their powers to aid the downtrodden or defend their homelands. Neutral riven mages are more likely to seek compensation for their talents, acting as mercenaries or occasionally, entertainers. Evil riven mages are always planning to build a power base from which to gain wealth and comfort, but begin such efforts by acting as enforcers for groups who do not normally attract the full-time services of traditional spellcasters (such as gangs, brigand bands, slavers, assassins, and thieves guilds).
While riven mages are well known and understood in their native lands, they are also independent and often wander far from their homes. It's not unusual to find riven mages thousands of miles from their homes, making it easy to introduce a few wandering riven mages into a campaign (as travelers from a distant land where their powers are commonplace).
Let me start by saying that had this product ended on page 13, it would have gotten a 5 star review. I absolutely love the riven mage, and the concept of riven mage. It is unfortunate that (at least in my opninion) an archetype added at the end of the product brings it down in my eyes.
First off, I really like riven magic. I like the concept and the execution. Basically you have a handful of simple spells, and you can pour more or less energy into them to vary the effect with limits based on your level. So a 1st and 10th level riven mage might both know the same 'bolt' spell, but the 10th level riven mage can put alot more 'umph' (called flux in the product) into it, and has alot more umph to use over the course of the day.
Think Dresden files. Harry has always known his fire spell 'fuego' but the amount of energy he has been able to put into it has changed (increased) over the course of the series. The same spell can be used to set something flammable on fire, or to knock out a wall of a building, the latter just takes more energy.
There also isnt the same overwhelming number of options that vancian spellcasting offers. You know a handful of spells, they are useful, but you dont have the 60's style batman with an anti-thing spray in your utility belt like pathfinder wizards can often have.
I also like the subtle influence of the riven paths. They seam like a minor ability choice, but they also allow access to one specific riven spell that other rivenmages get. A sacred riven mage can heal, and a sneak can turn invisible. That is the kind of thing that could strongly influence a character over the course of it's career. I'd love for an expansion of this product with a few new riven spells, and especially a few more riven spells tied to riven paths. One that would allow complete healing duties (condition removal and ability damage/level drain) to be handled by riven mages on the sacred path for instance.
With a slight expansion I could see a campaign that elminates traditional spellcasting in favor of riven magic, particularly if we got a super genius style archetype that could be integrated in to most classes.
There are a number of feats after the riven spells that make for some interesting options, though I would love to see a few magic items that were wand/staff equivalents for riven mages. Maybe something that integrated the genius guide to runestaves and wyrd wands implement rules with riven magic.
Then we come to the part of the product I dont like. The last couple pages are occupied by the rivener, an archetype for the Archon, a super genius class that was the projenetor of riven magic. And to be blunt, its bad, and poorly thought out. The archetype basically strips all of its class features and gives it back only a handful and a weaker version of riven magic. It inexplicably leaves in the arcane surge ability that does not work for a rivener since it doesnt use traditional spells, and riven spells are already swift actions. So all they end up with is a weakened form of riven magic (about 1/3 of a spell), 3 bonus feats, Riven bond at 8th level and a capstone feature. Levels, 1,2,4,6,7,10,11,12,14,16,18 an 19 dont have class features. That isnt a good class and its definately not in line with the design goal of pathfinder to have classes get something every level.
As interesting as it would be to combine a full bab class with riven magic, the absolute derth of class abilities the riven mage gets and the inexplicable choice to remove potentially useful abilities like soul of the spell blade or favored spell (which could have been reworked relatively easily to work with riven spells), and leave in a completely useless set (arcane surge) make this an inexcusably bad Archetype. The reduced riven magic is not worth all of the classes class features AND 6 levels of standard spellcasting.
And it is a realy shame because I would love to see several levels of riven magic, perhaps even the full specturm of paladin, inquisitor and cleric casting (4levels, 6 level, and 9 levels). Not sure if the rivenmage is supposed to be in line with the bard/inquisitor or the wizard/cleric when it comes to riven magic, but my impresion is its the middle ground caster. So that would leave open the 'full' rivenspell caster, and the full bab partial caster that the rivener should have been.
That said, this is still a great product, just ignore the last couple of pages. I absolutely love the concept and the execution, and can even start visualizing a campaign where this is the dominant for of magic and not vancian.
This pdf is 15 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial/front cover, leaving us with 13 1/3 pages of content for the Riven Mage, so let's check out this new base-class!
So what is the Riven Mage? The riven mage gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, light and medium armor, shields and all good save-progressions.
Riven Mages cast different spells, raw magical powers called Rivenspells - they cast these via a pool called flux that starts off as a humble 2 points + Int-modifier flux points to cast their rivenspells, up to a maximum of a base 168 flux points at 20th level. Now, if you're familiar with SGG's gish-class Archon, you may know the basic concept of rivenspells, but more on that later. What is crucial to riven mages is the option to once per day regain ALL flux by meditating 15 minutes instead of resting for 8 hours, making the class more suitable for long adventure days with longer downtimes. They may enhance their rivenspells by spending additional flux points up to 1/2 class-level +1.
At first level, Riven Mages may choose from 6 different Riven Paths that grant the riven mage a bonus on a save, additional class skills and e.g. abilities like trafinding. At 12th level, they may act as if they had access to select spells for prerequisite crafting, spell triggers etc. At 2nd level and every 5 levels after that, the Riven Mage may also attune to a form of energy damage, opting to change her rivenspell damage to the chosen energy and adding her int-bonus to the damage of the modified rivenspell. They may also specialize in a particular rivenspell to cut flux-cost in half. As a capstone, they may use their flux points to make saves and mitigate received damage.
We get a total of 41 Rivenspells in the pdf, all of which come with a minimum-cost of flux and a minimum rivencaster level as well as e.g. required paths to take them etc. . Here a blatant and sloppy cosmetic glitch can be found: About half of the rivenspells list "Rivencaster 1" as prerequisite, the other half list "Rivencaster level 1" - now just about any editor should have caught this one. While not tragic, it detracts from a solidified look of the pdf, if not from its rules. The rivenspells represent more crude applications of magic than regular spells and as such usually can be made to last longer or gain increased powers by spending additional flux points. Far Sight e.g. gains an improved sensor-range and the Morph rivenspell allows the rivencaster to e.g. gain scent, but become blind, a fly-speed, but at the expense of arms etc. They may also throw arcanely-imbued weapon, charged with flux.
The class also comes with 3 different feats, one to get extra flux, one for an extra rivenspell and one to further optimize flux-expenditure regarding one rivenspell. The pdf also includes an alternative of the Archon focused wholly on rivenspells, the Rivener, which turns out to be not only a complex archetype, but actually one that makes the Archon-class stand out much more by replacing their spellcasting with rivencasting. It's a bit weird that two abilities specify that they replace the same ability, though.
Editing and formatting are not up to the usually flawless standard by SGG - I noticed several glitches and inconsistencies, much more than I'm used from regarding SGG, including some minor formatting issues - nothing too serious, though. Layout adheres to SGG's 3-column, landscape standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks - neat!
The Riven Mage per se is a very cool class and a concept I hope authors Carl Gilchrist and Owen K.C. Stephens will expand with more rivenspells. The class is not only solid, it is essentially a good take on a warlock-style class that can blast foes with arcane energy, support via rivenspells, but never attain the versatility of full spell-casters. All in all, a solid, cool blaster-class that suffers slightly from editing glitches. Thus, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.