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|Dale McCoy Jr Jon Brazer Enterprises|
|Dale McCoy Jr Jon Brazer Enterprises|
Part II of my review:
Merfolk get two new water blasts: Siren’s song is a burn 0 sonic simple blast at reduced die size of d4 to account for the rare damage type; the composite blast Shrieking Song clocks in at 2 burn and provides composite sonic with the same reduction. There also are two utility wild talents, the first of which is siren’s kiss. For 1 burn, the DC increases by 2 and the talent nets you unnatural lust, save it requires concentration to maintain. Siren’s call duplicates nixie’s lure, requires concentration and has a 100-ft.-range. Not a fan: If you accept 1 burn, you don’t need to maintain concentration and the effect is prolonged until you next recover burn. Merfolk mediums may gain two new legendary spirits – Charybdis and Scylla, based on marshal and trickster, respectively. Charybdis’ séance boon nets you +2 to grapple checks and the influence penalty applies to Int- and Int-based checks as well as CL for the purpose of determining duration and range, which is BRUTAL. You also can’t benefit from CL-enhancing effects. I assume that this does not include feats, but I’m not 100% sure. The spirit gets an intermediate ability: When an enemy targets the medium with a direct assault or counters or negates a medium’s action, the medium may allow the spirit to gain 1 influence to have the opponent suffer from crushing despair for a number of rounds equal to the medium’s highest spell-level known. Durations stack. Okay, a few issues: 1) This should probably have an activation action. 2) What constitutes “counters or negates the medium’s action”? Does not falling to a combat maneuver qualify? Making a save? This is woefully opaque and needs clarification.
Scylla, based on the trickster, applies the spirit boon to Dexterity checks, skill checks (yes, RAW, all of them) and Ref-saves. The séance boon nets a +1 bonus on one skill, which is also treated as a class skill. The influence penalty makes you not count as an ally for effects and also makes you not count as a willing recipient of spells. You must even be hit by touch spells, but you’re not forced to save versus beneficial spells. The unique ability here is classified as greater and is called…”Triumph of the Will.” … *sigh* I’ll just pretend that this unfortunate name was an accident and move on. The ability allows the medium to allow Scylla to gain 1 influence to either reroll a d20 or force an enemy to reroll; an enemy forced to reroll takes a penalty to the reroll equal to how much they’re outnumbered, minimum 0. OH BOY. Srsly? Okay, one: Range. What’s the range? Two: This is broken: Take an army of fluffy allied kittens with you. Have an ally cast any super-lethal/save-or-suck effect. Force a reroll. Marvel at how your army of hundreds of kittens makes the save DC impossible to beat.
We also get two mesmerist tricks: The first can be triggered on entering light, granting the target temporary hit points. The second grants darkvision upon entering darkness. Shifters gain a new shark aspect, which focuses on sensory improvements. The major form nets later a better bite. Minor and purely aesthetic wording quibble in the FCOs: “When gaining a taboo, the medium can use spirit surge without incurring influence one additional +1/4 time per day.” The final part of that sentence could be a bit cleaner.
Samsarans get a new occultist implement school, the eternal implements. The resonant power nets +1 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skill and ability-checks for every 2 points of mental focus invested, capping at 1 + 1 for every 4 class levels. The base focus power is touch of antiquity, which allows you to expend 1 point of mental focus to cause an object to age, inflicting 1d4 +1d4 for every 2 occultist levels untyped damage to an object and also cause it to be broken. Constructs may alternatively be targeted with a melee touch attack and a base damage die of 1d6, scaling the same way as the damage to objects. We get a total of 6 focus powers: One grants a combat feat, which must not have feat prerequisites, but otherwise, the target needs not fulfill the prerequisites. The power lasts for 1 minute and another feat is granted every 6 class levels thereafter and the feats may build upon each other, offsetting the no-feat-prerequisite caveat. Now this one is INTERESTING and well-executed...with one quibble: It fails to note that it requires mental focus expenditure, which it probably should have – the other focus powers get that right. Collective calm lets you choose multiple skills and take 10 in them, even under duress. Mantle of antiquity nets you a 20% miss chance and the option to automatically succeed a save, ending the mantle’s effects. To nitpick here: It should probably specify that the decision must be made before rolling. Personally, I also would have preferred a massive bonus over an auto-success. RAW, this would allow an occultist to even survive a deity’s assault. Reincarnation’s guise is a combo’d disguise self and +4 ability score boost. Restore grandeur is the inverse of the base focus power, restoring items and constructs. Living targets may also be healed thus, but only 1/day. Wisdom of the ages, finally, nets legend lore, but once more requires that the person or thing you learn about must be “at hand”, which still isn’t particularly precise rules-language. The implement school comes with its own spell-list – no complaints there. Samsarans also get two new racial feats, Empathic Healer, which lets you heal ability score damage via mental focus or phrenic pool points when using Life’s Blood, taking the damage yourself. Reincarnated Hero nets you a bonus on Cha-based checks in vigilante identity and helps renown when you gain it. While not perfect, style-wise one of my favorite chapters within! (And I don’t even particularly like the samsarans…)
The sashahar get a new legendary spirit with Sessinakka (based on Guardian), complete with taboos and gaining favor covered. The ability gained is intermediate and provides an extended spell-list and the option to use spirit surge to boost concentration and CL-checks when casting these spells. We also get a new implement school here, the sentinel implements. The resonant power here is applied to saves “against extraplanar creatures”. (Could be a bit tighter.) The base focus power is a swift action 20 ft.-burst that deals 2 points of untyped damage per class level, no save. Not a fan. We get 6 focus powers and a custom spell-list. Negating flanking benefits for one round per class level, a boost to CMD and saves versus attempts to move you and fighting on when almost killed by an extraplanar creature are three of the benefits. At 11th level, you can get a rather cool summoning-suppression-field, which I really liked per se. However, the field also suppresses medium spirits and spiritualist phantoms, which is somewhat sucky, as it doesn’t grant a save or the like and these are central class features. There should be some sort of mechanic for these two at least. Weird: RAW, eidolons are not impeded – and for them, the impeding would actually make more sense. Planar ward debuffs foreigners to your plane and nets a boost versus their tricks. I also really liked the high-level teleportation scrambler. We also get a new psychic discipline, the gate guardian, who uses Wisdoma s governing attribute. The first discipline power nets you temporary access to defense-themed monster abilities like fast healing, ferocity or light fortification and these improve at higher levels, also adding DR and AC-boosts and resistances to the mix. 5th level nets a scaling save bonus to either Fort- or Ref-saves, your choice. 13th lets you negate 1 critical hit confirmation per day, 2/day at 18th level. Nice one. There is a vigilante talent that nets the planar weapon quality and upgrades to +2 to atk versus creatures with the extraplanar subtype. Okay, so the weapon quality should be italicized and the bonus should probably apply to non-native outsiders as well, right? This is slightly unclear regarding the whole section, btw.
Skinwalkers get a pretty nice medium archetype that tweaks all of the standard spirits. The lunar spirits include: Witchbeast (archmage): Reckless and dislikes casting on allies, uses witch spell list. Ruler of Fangs (champion) nets better natural weapon base damage and martial weapon proficiency. Furred Warden (guardian) nets spirit bonus to AC and heavy armor proficiency as a lesser ability. The greater ability is wonky, though: When you or an ally in reach is grappled, you get a counter grapple fortified by spirit surge. Okay, this has a few problems: Spirit surge is a bonus applied to a roll and only applies to rolls modified by the spirit bonus: RAW, CMD is neither a roll, not a static value to which the guardian’s spirit bonus applies. Since using the spirit surge is not even an action, this allows for non-action counter-grapples. This should probably have an immediate action prerequisite.
Moonwatcher (hierophant) has the archmage arcana spirit power, using druid/shaman lists instead as a lesser power. The intermediate ability is pretty specific – it duplicates energy font, but instead causes all skinwalkers to change shape instantaneously. Overflowing moonlight builds on grace and the previous ability, modifying it accordingly. The Grinning Beast (marshal) gets only the basics modified, not the powers, and the same goes for the Sewer Grandmaster (trickster). All of the spirits have séance boons that grant bestial features according to the nature of the spirits. I really liked this one and wished it had more room to shine: The tying of bestial features with séances is smart, the taboos etc. are cool and I like the custom spirit array. This is worth returning to and expanding to full-blown class tweak, imho.
Skinwalkers also get a new vigilante archetype, the moonlight lurker, whose vigilante identity must incorporate the animalistic features of change shape. The archetype can shift identities as a full-round action, as a standard action in moonlight, using the change shape racial ability in conjunction with it. The lurker gets two bestial traits when usng change shape, which improves by +1 at 5th and 9th level. 13th level also nets a potent ability like fly, pounce etc. 17th level nets a second one from this list and 20th level provides regeneration 5, suppressed by silver. This does come with a price, though: No social talent at first level and, more painfully, no vigilante specialization. There are two lycanthrope-themed vigilante-talents, one for scaling attribute bonuses and one for scaling DR/silver.
The moonshifter loses chimeric aspect and its greater brother as well as final aspect. Shifter claw benefits are applied to two natural weapons gained via change shape and it may be activated as a swift action. 9th level provides a hybrid form when in minor aspect; this improved at 14th level and the capstone nets change shape/wild shape transparency as well as DR 10/silver.
Tengus are up next, beginning with the vinculum corrupter occultist, who loses magic item skill and aura sight. Additionally, he only gets ½ class level + Int-mod mental focus. However, he does get ½ level (I assume minimum 1) of vinculum focus. This behaves as a regular mental focus, but enhances the CL when targeting the owner’s type/subtype. Owner? Yep, for these points may only be invested in implements that rightfully belong to another, which is interesting. 2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Sleight of Hand and 5th level lets the archetype locate creature implement owners. The swaggering avenger vigilante loses the appearance-ability tree and the 2nd level vigilante talent. They are locked into the avenger specialization and gain Dazzling Display, usable sans weapon as a standard action, at 2nd level. +2 to atk versus foes demoralized thus. There is a talent that lets you make a creature hit itself via grapple or disarm – odd and makes no sense: This bypasses any DR but universal DR, which is WEIRD. 5th level nets Performance Combatant and a performance feat. 11th level nets temporary hit points with successful performance combat checks and 17th level lets you add damage as though you had hit an additional time when reducing an enemy to 0 hp. Oh boy. Does this include vital strike? Any modifications to BAB etc.? Not functional RAW. There is a complex phrenic amplification that allows you to steal mental energy, like focuses, mesmerist tricks etc. via spells, which is interesting and, more importantly, really smoothly designed: It can’t be cheesed with kittens, the save-interaction is tight and neat. The target is also temporarily staggered, and no, no stagger-locking the target. Impressive one! The shifter, finally, gets the crow aspect (doesn’t specify natural attack type, requires defaulting), but otherwise, solid. The favored class options here are interesting, though the occultist bonus requires a legacy weapon, making it only relevant for the transmutation implement school.
The umbral kobolds are up next, starting with the shadowpsychic, who gets more phrenic pool – but whenever he uses 2 or more points, the linked spell becomes a shadow spell. To make up for that, he gets telempathic shadow barrage and shadow targeting. The first lets you add debuffs to the telepathic bond via phrenic pool points. Shadow targeting is OP as F***. For 2 phrenic pool points, you ignore range, provided the target of the linked spell is in shadows or touching them. Range must be touch or greater, but still. OUCH. The race also gets the aether-based shadow blast simple blast, which adds +2 damage per die and makes damage nonlethal. At burn 0, that is a bit overkill, imho. At 15th level, composite blasts may also be enhanced thus, at the cost of 1 Burn. I think this would have made more sense as a utility wild talent. We also get a new medium spirit, Kurgog the Guardian. I assume this fellow replaces the regular guardian. The séance boon is applied to CMD and influence penalty nets you +2 to atk, but -4 AC “during the first attack or full attack of any combat”. The penalty should probably last for a round after executing it. Also: It’s called PENALTY. Not buff. The influence penalty should not provide an attack buff. The lesser spirit power nets Dodge, which also encompasses uncanny dodge at 10th level. The intermediate ability lets you, as a swift action, “expend 1 point of mental focus…” WAIT. WUT? Yep, we have a glaring cut copy paste error here that also extends to the greater ability. It’s okay to make another class’s ability available for a spirit, but it has to be MODIFIED to reflect the realities of the new class. Sloppy and non-functional as presented.
The wyrwoods get two new archetypes, the first of which would be the equinox infiltrator vigilante, who loses vigilante specialization, a ton of vigilante talents, dual identity and two social talents. They also share the druid’s prohibition versus wearing metal armor. They have 3 identities and change requires 1 minute of meditation. The archetype has one social and two infiltrator identities. Each of the infiltrator identities is associated with one domain chosen from the 4 base elemental domains and they may only use the domain powers while in the corresponding identity. They gain an additional such identity at 7th and 15th level and they get the hunter’s spellcasting, using druid spell list and domains exclusively. There are two feats to upgrade this fellow: Solstice Identity nets+ 1 identity with an extended domain choice. Specialized Equinox nets subdomain access for the equinox identity and the domain chosen.
The second archetype would be the phantasmagorist spiritualist, who replaces the phantom with a memorandum construct that does not have an emotional focus or ethereal form. Instead of an emotional focus, we get a sorcerer bloodline at 3/4th class level (minimum 1 caveat missing). Each bonus spell granted by this bloodline may be cast 1/day as a SP. LOL: While the memorandum is in the spiritualist’s subconscious, the character gains ALL teamwork feats of ALL allies within 30 ft. Yeah, not gonna happen in my game. Analogue abilities have restrictions for a reason. 3rd level’s bonded manifestation-tweak instead provides access to the bloodline-related powers. This is a bit wonky.
The final race would be the wyvarans. Here, we get 6 form infusions that represent cones and line-shaped blasts for any element, in three steps. Weird: The wyrmling’s minimum level is higher than the comparable fire form infusion, cost the same; (the cost should be higher to account for increased flexibility); the mature version has the same burn cost and level requirements and its water specialized spray – straight power-creep. And no, they don’t need the previous ones. The section also has a utility wild talent, the draconic mantle, which nets all creatures within 5 ft. energy damage equal to the number of burn you have. Energy types may be any energy blast you have. Dragonshifters lose the animal aspect gained at 1st level in favor of dragon aspect, which nets you a 1d4 rounds cool-down 15.-foot cone scaling breath weapon in minor form. Yes, at level 1. And there we go, disqualified at my table. Major form nets basically dragon boosts. This aspect is better than all shifter aspects. The archetype needs to lose more for the power gain.
The second archetype is the treasure hoarded occultist, who loses 14th and 18th level’s implements and outside contact. He suffers from diminished spellcasting and uses Cha as governing attribute for class features and spellcasting. He begins play with 2 implements, +1 at 2nd level and every even level thereafter, capping at 7 at 10th level. Öhm, wut? Add to that that 7th level makes all implements acts as having +1 focus invested in them, +2 at 20th level. Oh, and 14th, 16th and 18th level net another focus power. Yeah, that one fewer spell per day per spell level really doesn’t cut it there, needs nerfing. We also get a psychic discipline, the vishapakar, whose phrenic pool is governed by Intelligence. It nets at-will identify and the dowse occult skill unlock for ley lines and magic items even if untrained in Survival. We also get quicker ley line attunement and limited phrenic pool point recovery when doing so. Important here: Spellcasting is governed by Wisdom. The 5th level discipline power isn’t functioning as intended. It sports free, at-will short-range dimension door, with the caveat to break it into shorter ranges making me think that it’s supposed to have either a range-based cap or, you know, that it’s supposed to have a hard cap, like similar discipline powers. Only weak and passive 5th level discipline powers are always on. 13th level provides standard action attunement, provided you can touch a Large or larger carved stone touching a ley line. We also get two racial feats: Hoard Aura makes divinations fail to reveal worn and carried items unless the caster makes a CL-check. Also applies to a living area. Cool feat! Hoard Guard makes you keen eyed regarding items and provides AoOs when a foe attacks or seizes an object from you.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are good; on a rules-language level, there are a couple of issues to be found here and there. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks that will be familiar to fans of JBE. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Quite a few authors worked on this: Joel Flank, Sasha Hall, Richard Moore, Kevin Morris, David N. Ross, Rachel Ventura and George “Loki” Williams. Alas, this diversity does show a bit here and there – some authors tend to be a bit more precise than others and what, rules-wise, works in one section may be slightly less precise in another. While analyzing this book, I realized pretty quickly that a few of the concepts herein could have used a bit more room to breathe – archetype-wise, we focus, with varying degrees of success, on engine-tweaks. The supplemental material, as a whole, sports a couple of interesting components, but also quite a few issues in the finer details of the rules. Occult classes are tricky to design for, and here and there, I found myself wishing that the material had been vetted/developed more carefully. This also holds true for the power-level of options, which oscillates a bit more than I’d have liked from author to author.
There are quite a few issues in the finer details of the rules, and while, for the most part, the material runs smoothly, this cannot be said about the entirety of the book. I attempted to be ultra-detailed in my coverage of this incredibly dense book – both so you should have a good idea of whether or not this book is for you or not, and to do the cadre of authors justice.
In the end, for me, this is pretty much the definition of a mixed bag. I liked a couple of components and disliked others; I was impressed by some rules-operations and flabbergasted by a few of the botches. In the end, my final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.
|Dale McCoy Jr Jon Brazer Enterprises|