If I recall correctly, it was originally written (yes, for 3.5) by Jeremy at Dreamscarred Press, i.e. one of the guys in charge of bringing psionics over to Pathfinder to begin with.
I also wrote a thing on the balance of 3.5 psionics, if you're interested; the DSP port is pretty faithful to the original, though with some clean-up, including some nerfs to the higher-power options and some improvements to the lower-power options.
Disclaimer: I’ve done some freelance work with Dreamscarred Press, including a psionic class. Grain of salt and all that. Though obviously that’s also a rather ringing endorsement from me :P
Manifesters aren’t really any better at nova than spellcasters. But you haven’t mentioned the cardinal rule of psionics, and if you in fact missed it, then yes, nova is a huge problem with psionics.
The cardinal rule of psionics is,
Special cases (e.g. the wilder’s wild surge class feature or the Overchannel feat) increase manifester level (and thus allow more power points to be used), but no matter what you cannot use more power points than your manifester level.
Manifester level is like caster level, and is generally equal to your class level. Power points are the psionic equivalent of spell slots, and allowing someone to use more power points than their manifester level is like allowing a 3rd-level spellcaster to use Empower Spell on a 2nd-level spell, by burning a separate 2nd-level spell slot. Obviously, that would be some serious nova potential, and it is just so with manifesters if you let them use more power points than their manifester level. So don’t; the rules say not to for a reason.
I said they were analogous, not exactly the same.
Which is why I repeated your observation, and only commented that more detail is warranted because that observation can give the wrong impression. I see a lot of people who just don't get Path of War because their expectations of maneuvers are informed too much by their intuition that they're somehow like spells. They are somewhat so but they are also very different in very important ways.
maneuvers are analagous to spells for spellcasting classes.
Eh. They are initiators' analogue of spells, but this statement leaves much to be desired as an introduction.
Like spells, maneuvers are discrete effects that you have to learn before you can use them, have limits on how often they can be used, and are broken down into 9 levels that become available as you gain more class levels.
But that is as far as the similarity goes; the things they do and the way they are used are very different from spells. Especially at low levels, many maneuvers' effects are much closer to those of combat feats.
And the ready/expend/recover mechanic gives initiators very different incentives than spellcasters. Spellcasters have carefully mete out their spells, because they only get one set each day. Every cast has to be weighed against the possibility of needing the spell later. Initiators do not have any reason to do that with their maneuvers, and that makes them play very differently. Any maneuver they use is going to be available again in a couple of rounds, so there is no point in “saving” it.
Instead, the ready/expend/recover system makes them think much more about combos and opportunities: which boost to use with which maneuver? Who to use a given maneuver on? Because initiators want to initiate all the time, as much as they can, as fast as they can, as hard as they can.
And this goes back to their effects being more like feats: maneuvers are not rewriting reality like spells are. They are much more limited effects. They're supposed to be used early and often. The ready/expend/recover system isn't about attrition, as spells per day are. An initiator's stamina is limited by HP, just like any other warrior's, not by his maneuvers.
Instead, maneuvers are about mixing it up. You get more maneuvers than you get feats, but you have to use a variety of them instead of just focusing on one thing. This helps initiators have more options available, while preventing too much specialization.
Empath update! Per some excellent suggestions from GitP's Prime32, the local collective was renamed to "volksgeist," which is an awesome word, and that should simplify reading and writing about that, zeitgeists, and the actual collective power. He also had some suggestions for cleaning up compulsions and goals, as they're now called, which I half-used. So those updates are in.
Evol, Mac Dex, and Nirvana saw some clarifications, and in the last's case, a bit of a nerf.
The sidebar about non-transparency was moved to the bottom, given a little bit more introduction, and I added another bit about the "rune magic" variant also suggested in UltPsi.
Hey all, wanted to prod for some feedback on goetic.
Specifically, concerns have been raised elsewhere that the goetic is problematically feat-starved, even with the Ars Goetia option. I sympathize with that, and note that the spiritualist avoids this problem because the phantom gets its own feats.
On the other hand, it does seem like a lot to give out. So I'm asking around and looking for feedback on this point: if goetic, say, started with a lower splicing cost and instead of upgrading to that cost granted a bonus feat (and possibly another later on), would it feel like the archetype is giving out too much free candy? Particularly interested in DMs who would be considering the content for their games.
an alternate class for spiritualist/goetic (like rogues and ninjas)
We've discussed goetic as a separate class; there are pros and cons. Currently, the balance seems to favor archetype slightly, but we're still open on that.
Alternative classes, on the other hand, seem to be a dead concept. Paizo hasn't used them since the original three, even in places where they might be appropriate. We probably will not be doing that.
Considering the "Horrors and Sharing" rules, it'd be exceptionally pointless to multiclass spiritualist and goetic either way, but that's also true of goetic and, say, summoner.
I'm glad to see the goal of thematic differences remaining intact. ^^ That definitely helps make the material here unique - and as someone who often builds for flavor instead of straight numbers, thematic differences are important to me. I quite like what I've seen thus far.
Well, I’d say our job is twofold: one, we have to deliver on some theme, something to invigorate imaginations and get people excited, but also two, we have to worry about the numbers so you don’t have to. I consider it a flaw in the design when it’s necessary to worry about numbers in order to get them. The numbers should just come out of making thematic decisions with well-made options.
The Gambler seems like much less risk than a normal Kineticist.
In addition to what Forrest was saying about its “optimal” usage (which is admittedly rather counter-intuitive), there’s also a feeling with the kineticist that it’s not really about “risk” so much as “punishment.” Burn is automatic, not a chance you’re taking. The gambler was an attempt to really push the idea of taking risks, “gambling,” which means it also has to reward you for taking risks.
Personally, I think it’s a fantastic design. I’m obviously biased, but for what it’s worth.
This is giving me an idea for a character who's seems crazy because he keeps talking to 'the monsters that live in my shadow', up until he splices one and his party realized that holy crap, this guy actually does have monsters in his shadow. (read that last part as being in italics, I don't know how to add that.)
That's awesome, and fits perfectly with the image in my head of the goetic. I have no idea what plans are for art, but the image I want for the goetic is a dude surrounded by seven shadows, but each shadow is one of the horrors.
I'm completely unfamiliar with that product, and I have no idea what problems or policies there might be for that kind of cross-publisher referencing. Seeing as the goal for this product is a number of smaller releases, I would guess that this won't be something we're likely to do.
Of course, a campaign that uses that product and wants to include the Leadership functionality for Telepathy would have to work out a way for the two to be made compatible. Being unfamiliar with it, I can't say how difficult that is or is not.
two, I now have to find a new alternative name for the Pact Magic Unbound occultist, since I was planning on calling it the goeticist. :-\ oh well, it's worth it for this product.
will Psionics Augmented: Occult include any advice on how to differentiate the fluff for psychic magic and psionics? like say the latter being the power of the mind, while the former is the power of the soul?
I'm not sure what the plans are. There's been a few discussions of the idea, but I'm not sure what we're going with. Psionics does have a fair amount to do with spiritual stuff, too.
The goetic is... A thing of beauty. A can't imagine how long it took to hash something that complicated into a workable form. I don't have enough experience to judge if it's balanced or not, but the concept is awesome and I think you've handled it well.
Wow, thank you! Very kind words. It did go through a few versions – at one point each horror was point-based a la aegides or eidolons, can you imagine statting eight of those every level? Once I hit upon the either-or scheme, it flowed pretty smoothly, though. I think that’s a very happy medium between allowing a lot of customizability, without drowning the player in way too much work each level.
I agree with you on that. I'll go on record saying that I believe that PoW should not catered towards inexperienced GMs, and that it's 100% okay for the Warder and Warlord to completely obsolete the fighter like the inquisitor and magus already do.
I wouldn't say "completely OK," but I would say that there isn't really another option. Dumbing the classes down to that level makes the product pointless, in my mind.
That said, like Tome of Battle before it, Path of War does do a decent job of also helping out existing martial classes. They're still shafted seven ways to Sunday, but if you have to be one, you'd rather Path of War be available than not.
I am going to be truthful. I am very disappointed as well. I would have preferred auto succeed to this. Then you balance around auto succeeding.
Well, they will (and, for the most part, have been) balanced around "basically auto succeed" – so really the question becomes, what's wrong with adding a tie-in to the associated skill and letting people enjoy the fruits of that dedication?
Rover: super-solid name for a class, A+. Execution isn't exactly what I imagine when I read the name, but it works.
Chassis: Full BAB + d10 HD + 8 base skills + two good saves is probably too much. Makes it look really good compared to ranger or rogue -- and as an initiating class, this class doesn't have weak class features. Probably needs toning down. Considering the Int-focus of the class, 6 + Int skills seems OK, but if you want to up that relative to the ranger, maybe reduce the BAB/HD (Pathfinder's insistence that those move together annoys me, but oh well) or nix one of the good saves?
Weapons and Armor: Whip is an awesome call, nice. The rest is pretty standard.
Maneuvers: Look fine, as far as numbers and disciplines are concerned. The recovery method strikes me as very weak, though, even worse than the stalker's. Then again, I tend to not like Path of War's recovery methods much.
Well Read/Wilderness Study: You have two different names for this, one in the table and one in the text. Anyway, Int instead of Wis on Perception and Survival; nice enough.
Rover's Focus: Like this way better than Favored Enemy.
Participant Observer: Kinda weird, but neat and fluffy. Cool.
Bonus Feat: Yeah, gonna just say I like that it doesn't have restrictions. I get the point of them, but most of the time they just feel unnecessary, and this is a good class for having none.
Knowledge of the Brain: What's with things being out of order? Anyway, more swapping things to Int instead of Wis, Will and Sense Motive this time. Feels right to me; on a weak-Will but Int-focused class, Int-to-Will is a good choice. Sense Motive is cool too.
Esoteric Learning: Rover's learning a lot of maneuvers, but eh. You don't get to ready more, so it doesn't seem like that great an advantage. More fun, chance to pick up something unusual and make all rovers a little different from one another. Support.
Evasion, Woodland Stride, Improved Evasion: Ah so it is a ranger! Heh.
Intense Focus: Interesting, powerful, appropriate for 20th level. Nice.
Overall, very nice, just think the chassis is a tad bit too good. Ultimately, I don't think that's really going to cause problems, per se, but it is going to make this class start to look like the "right" way to do a skillmonkey, it seems to me.
I'm bowing out and happy belated New Year, everyone!
To you as well, and my appreciation for a measured response to what was no doubt a somewhat stinging criticism.
I wrote several responses, but none of them seemed like the right thing to say; I do not want to drag this thread into a lengthy argument about the merits or lack thereof of one particular review. So I'll only say that I accept that you had the best of intentions, and apologize for off-base accusations to the contrary, but I maintain my criticism of the review: I do not think it is a particularly fair or helpful review, and I think there are good reasons why a reader such as myself could draw the conclusions that I did.
I really feel like that's a gross mischaracterization of EZ's motivations, and really the review itself.
Can't really apologize for the fact that when I read his review, I felt antagonized and marginalized. I can only offer my impressions; I have no independent knowledge of his motivations. It is only from his reviews alone that I drew those conclusions.
there are a few maneuvers that blatantly exceed the power of any comparable ability in the game,
I don't recall his specific examples, but in my own experience, the only time I feel that a maneuver is particularly "clearly beyond the curve" than other similar options is a few cases where the maneuver is doing something that prior options had only done poorly, that is, that the maneuver is balanced against other maneuvers, rather than against existing (weak) options.
But again, I cannot claim encyclopedic knowledge, only that I haven't personally noticed any issues. Used Path of War a fair bit, but it's also a new-ish book.
the system is geared and balanced towards a higher power curve.
Than what? Pathfinder has extremely wide power gaps between different classes; Path of War falls squarely in the middle. Unless you've been playing a low-magic/no-magic game with all spellcaster types banned, "balanced towards a higher power curve" doesn't really apply. Compared to Pathfinder as a whole, including the magical classes, Path of War finds a very wide middle ground.
And, as you say, even just compared to existing mundane characters, the Path of War classes merely have a higher floor, not a higher ceiling.
I also share his wish that there were more focus on utility and expanding martial characters into realms other than combat in the book, beyond just more generous skills per level and a handful of skill boosting abilities.
I do agree with this.
EZ said it a couple times himself - it's a faithful port of ToB, and that means it may not be appropriate for every group or table.
Yes, except I distinctly get the impression, when he says it, that this is a negative thing. As I read it, it seemed like a thinly-veiled passive-aggressive attack.
I myself have told people that if your group tends to feature a lot of core-only monks and fighters, and they think the Rogue is one of the biggest badasses in the game, Path is going to seem OP, because it's got a higher floor.
I think those groups will find their games improved by using the Path of War -- I would instead just caution them that if they are going to use it, unless someone's going to step up their game quite a bit, everyone should use it (or a magical class). But if they do, I think that will improve their game quite a bit. In fact, it is groups like these that I think will see the most benefit: where my group can make a fighter or rogue who can do some pretty neat things, without some tricks those classes get very same-y and repetitive. Path of War represents a simple, fun way to up the options and versatility of those characters, without having to learn tricks.
Now, Thilo did rate Path lower than I myself did in my own review, and I've expressed my own opinions on where I do and do not agree with him, but I really don't think your post(s) impugning his motivations or accusing him of stating that people who like Path are having "badwrongfun" is even remotely fair. If you actually read his review all the way through, there's a lot of compliments included in there, and fair direction for people interested in purchasing the product.
If my response came across as harsh, it's because I felt rather antagonized by the review. Let's not get into the passive-aggressive "you must not have read it if you feel that way" thing; I read it, I didn't like it, I found it decidedly the opposite of helpful. I did not feel like it gave the product a fair shake, and I did not feel that it was accepting of different viewpoints or playstyles.
If his review reflects a more conservative viewpoint, it's important to understand that he is speaking to the gaming audience as a whole, and that includes new players, players who never raise their system mastery past a certain point, and players who tend to play in grittier, lower op worlds.
Again, per the above, I think those groups would dramatically improve their enjoyment of the game with Path of War. I feel that EZ's review gives the impression that the product isn't for them, is only for munchkin rollplayers or something. I think his review does neither those groups nor the book itself justice.
It's important for him to consider these players in his reviews both for their benefit and for his own reputation as a fair and even-handed reviewer.
I disagree that it is to their benefit, and also disagree that his reviews come across as even-handed. They feel, to me anyway, that they are catering to a very narrow, specific playstyle, and denigrating all others. I furthermore feel that his review wasn't even accurate for the playstyle he's addressing, because I feel like he entered into the review with the preconceived notion that "if it's Tome of Battle, it's bad and wrong."
Personally, I'd encourage even low op players to grab Path of War. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to players who thought ToB or PoW was wildly broken or OP, only to have them react with a bit of amazement when I show them all the options available in the core Paizo product line capable of matching or exceeding that same capability. I distinctly recall explaining to a character how a Cavalier could consistently out-damage a Warlord at most levels of play, only to be met with a scoffing "You're assuming you'll be able to charge and fit your mount everywhere all the time, and there's now way". Then we played through Shattered Star and my gnome and his dog showed that there is, in fact, a way. I don't think there was more than one combat round where I didn't get to charge in the entire AP. Suddenly, it clicked for Joe that what I'd been saying all along was true - Path of War and ToB are balanced to the core line, but they're balance to the upper half of its martial capability. For Joe, learning about Path of War didn't just increase his fun by adding that system in, it also sparked a renewed interest in discovering what possibilities he'd been overlooking in the core classes. It literally made his entire game better, even when he wasn't actually using it.
This I absolutely, 100% agree with, and it is exactly this fact that I feel that EZ ignores, or even attacks, and why I consider his review unhelpful and even harmful.
I also respect Endzeitgeist's opinions as an experienced and even-handed reviewer. And don't think that it's merely 'playstyle' that accounts for the disparity. Or maybe it is?
Experience is undeniable; even-handed, I can't agree at all. But maybe that's merely a playstyle thing? In my experience, EndZeitgeist's reviews are completely worthless to me, because my games apparently run much differently from the ones he runs, and worse his reviews come off feeling very strongly like they're telling me that my games are badwrongfun because I don't need or want the same things from sourcebooks that he does.
That said, I tend to agree that it's not just a playstyle thing. I think Path of War could greatly improve EndZeitgeist's game. I think it could greatly improve anyone's game. It's a well-designed, extremely fun system. I think he'd enjoy it -- if he gave it a chance. But I don't think he did. I think he hated Tome of Battle -- and that, too, I don't think he gave a chance; there are enormous numbers of people on the internet who will hate on that book based on something someone told them once about it, often without having so much as read it themselves -- and I think he heard Path of War was a reincarnation of Tome of Battle in Pathfinder, and decided from that statement alone that the book was badwrongfun and therefore he must write a review to attack it. I don't think his review is fair or considered; I think it was biased from the outset and reads more like a rant about what he considers the One True Way to play Pathfinder. I honestly found the review to be more than a little insulting. Which is how I feel about a lot of his reviews.
So yeah, experience he's got, undoubtedly. Even-handed, don't think that applies.
The Stalker.... I actually agree that his maneuver recovery mechanic is too strong, and explained why at some length when it was first introduced. He's a class incentivized to have a high dex so Combat Reflexes is pretty much a no-brainer, Deadly Strike means he won't necessarily lose damage output, and the bonus to AC erases his only real weakness. Basically, using his maneuver recovery mechanic is something that could be the right thing to do even if he didn't need to recover maneuvers. Toss out the AC bonus and it's fine.
Here I do have to strongly disagree: attacks of opportunity rely far too much on obliging enemies to maintain your damage, and it's difficult to get reach on a stalker.
I would actually say the stalker has a different problem: not enough to do with his own turn. Stalker is by-far the least popular Path of War or Tome of Battle class in my group, and numerous times I've had a player start to make a stalker character only to give up on the class and go with something else. This could mean that the opportunity cost of giving up your turn is lessened, but in my experience it just means that the class is just kind of lackluster. Not awful by any means, but just a little disappointing in ways that turn my players off from it.
Endzeitgeist hated the very concept of the book before it was ever published, hated the inspiration material, and in no way constitutes the target audience. He was never intended to like the material. It's not for everyone. He just likes to act like his personal play preferences are universal and objective, and failing to cater to them is a sign of failure or fault. That simply is not the case; some players are looking for different things from the game than he is.
1) One-sidedness of Skills vs Attacks/Saves/AC mechanic
This is probably the clearest case of EndZeitgeist simply not getting it. The point of these maneuvers is that they are especially-accurate. For the most part, they are single attacks as a standard action (i.e. you do not get any of your additional attacks) and/or have lesser bonus damage than other options. In exchange for that, and having to put resources into a skill, they are more accurate than a typical attack. For a moderate investment in a skill (read: an extra investment most attackers never have to consider), you can get a few attacks that you can rely on.
Which is useful, when you absolutely must hit right now (near-dead enemy about to unleash a super-weapon, maybe?), but hardly game-breaking. Strongly recommend that you just leave these alone. I can't claim to have encyclopedic knowledge of every maneuver that involves these sorts of attacks, but in my experience they work exactly as I've just described: a very reliable but ultimately lower-power attack. That's fine.
2) Lack of real tactical/logistical opportunity cost in maneuver recovery
EndZeitgeist, at least compared to my own experience, vastly undervalues the cost of spending a round doing nothing.
Note that every initiator's primary goal is attacking the enemy and winning the fight. Usually through HP damage, though there are some alternative options. If you don't attack, you are not doing your job. So a good initiator is trying to avoid recovery as much as possible. It's a painful thing to do. Yeah, you get some bonuses to mitigate the pain, but all of the initiators have much better things they'd rather be doing.
It is difficult, while maintaining your melee ability scores (Str/Con usually), to pump the number of maneuvers you get to recover, which means I typically see 2-3 maneuvers recovered by most initiators. Depending on your choice of maneuvers, you could go through that in a turn or two. Spending every other turn doing nothing literally halves your effectiveness.
In fact, as a big fan of Tome of Battle in 3.5 (which had recovery that was typically easier, and always recovered all your readied maneuvers), I found the limit on the number of maneuvers recovered to be a really bad change relative to that system. It forces initiators to recover too often, and makes it really difficult to keep fighting the way they are supposed to. If you want to houserule something, I recommend houseruling that.
3) Discontinuity with existing mechanics (like CMB/CMD)
As many have pointed out, unfortunately, CMB/CMD, as good an idea as they are, just... don't quite work out, mathematically, at higher levels. The fact that CMB gets Str or Dex, while CMD gets Str and Dex, is kind of illustrative of the kind of problem that you see (it's not the only problem, mind, it's just a good quick exapmle). So some of the reason CMB/CMD is avoided is just because the system is less useful than you'd like.
But that's not the full story, I think. Even if CMB/CMD worked great, there is room in the design space for alternative approaches. CMB/CMD have a lot of feats and class features revolving around them; you build a character a certain way to improve those. Save DCs and saving throw bonuses involve different feats and different builds. Thus against some targets, the CMD is stronger, but the Reflex save might be a vulnerability. Another target might have a huge Reflex save, so you'd rather be using CMB vs. CMD.
In general, there is an issue in Pathfinder (inherited from 3.5) where physical characters tend to attack AC or CMD only, while spellcasters can attack AC (including touch AC, ignoring armor!) or any of three saves. Because spellcasters have more options for what they target, they are more likely to be able to target someone's weak spot.
Path of War was intentionally designed to allow physical characters to get in on a little of that action.
(ex. infinite healing).
EndZeitgeist likes to complain about kittens a lot, for reasons I can't fathom since it's completely absurd, and probably won't be allowed in the first place -- and even if it is, it's generally really impractical, so you don't even get anything out of it. If you hear something about infinite healing in Path of War, it's a reference to the ability to get healed by killing something. If you kill something harmless, that's "free" healing. If you collect a lot of harmless things, you can maintain free healing all the time.
The issue is that maintaining a collection of harmless things is decidedly non-trivial, and actually going through them to kill them for the healing takes a long time. It's not very efficient, and it's certainly not going to keep you alive during combat.
Also, as much of a boogieman as "infinite healing" is made out to be, healing out of combat is cheap and economical in general. In my experience, given a few minutes downtime, a party should be able to heal up to full with minimal resource expenditure. A wand of cure light wounds is affordable for level 2-3 parties pooling wealth, and dirt-cheap for higher-level adventurers. Those suckers pack a lot of healing per gold piece, so it doesn't really hurt most parties, in my experience, to heal up between fights. By the time that first wand of cure light wounds is used up, a new one is a trivial amount of money relative to what they should be seeing.
So infinite healing by killing kittens has to be really efficient before it's going to worry me. Saving the party the cost of wands of cure light wounds, with the drawback of having to maintain your little menagerie, generally seems like a net loss to me. The only reason my players would ever bother, I imagine, is if someone really wanted to play an evil kitten-killer psychopath. Which... I'm not sure the rest of my group would be comfortable with.
As you might have gleaned from the way I stated that, my players have never even bothered with this particular abuse, and they're pretty efficiency/optimization minded. We use Path of War as a matter of course (along with all of DSP's other material; we generally much prefer it to Paizo's own, in fact).