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Title is 50% accurate, but still a useful resource

3/5

Two years ago I came upon this product, which caught my eye in part due to the cover, but more importantly the title and warning message of the broken contents therein. Intrigued, I got a copy, and I have to say that judging it solely on the claims of being overpowered, the book leaves a lot to be desired. Slightly less than half of the 36 feats therein can be said to qualify, with a few overpowered based on certain circumstances. The majority of the genuinely overpowered feats pertain to spellcasting boosts, while many of the martial abilities are nice things which won't necessarily break the game. So what you get is a book which partially lives up to its name, as well as one which has some feats which genuinely can be used in standard gaming sessions without the adventure falling apart.

The book does have guidelines for how to use the feats in actual games. First [Horrifically Overpowered] is a new descriptor, and the maximum amount of said feats any one character can have is 1 at 1st level, 2 at 3rd, and an additional 1 every 3 levels thereafter. There is also the [Meta-Attack] feat type, which modifies non-spell attacks similar to metamagic feats and have a per-day limited use based on total level.

I'm not going to cover all of the feats therein, just a sample of the contents therein so you can make a judgment one way or the other.

The Horrifically Overpowered Feats

Of the genuinely overpowered feats, you have your standard action economy-breaking things like the Full-Casting Action feat tree, which allows you to cast multiple spells in the same round by voluntarily lowering one's Caster Level for them. Mental Paragon and Physical Paragon raise three of your base stats to 18 when you take the feat as though you rolled three 6s for them at character creation. Then you have Magic User and Denied, the first of which grants you spellcasting progression from an existing class equal to half your level, and the latter feat can auto-block potentially any negative effect a limited number of times per day due to its wording. Skill God allows all your rolls for one skill to be considered a natural 20.

In short, the genuinely overpowered feats do stuff which screws around with some core limitations of the game and can be chained together with a lot of potential combinations.

The Non-Horrifically Overpowered Feats

As for the rest, the majority of non-overpowered feats tend to be the non-magical ones, including the vast majority of meta-attacks. The meta-attack feats do things like Maximize Attack, which allows the damage dice to be the greatest value (the modifiers on the end of weapon attacks matter far more than the base die), or Heighten Attack, which ignores a number of points of DR or Hardness equal to your Base Attack Bonus. Still Attack allows you to make an attack even if you're paralyzed, grappled, or unable to use your limbs

In fact the Meta-Attack feats are a strong addition to martial characters in how they can do cool things while not curbstomping encounters. The limited-use function encourages characters to conserve them for truly appropriate and desperate times, limiting their ability to be "spammed" in every encounter.

As for the rest, there are some which are rather strong for feats, but have mitigating circumstances. For example, Skill Domination makes all skills class skills and able to be used untrained. In Pathfinder ranks in a class skill at most grant you a +3 bonus, so it's not as excessive as the genuinely overpowered ones mentioned above. Or take Extra Lives, which allow the character to come back from the dead with no negative levels or Con drain a maximum of three times in the campaign, but is otherwise out of commission for a week when they reappear in a safe location. At low levels it's a good stopgap measure against death, but at higher levels with resurrection magic and the "three strikes you're out" limitation isn't exactly campaign-breaking, and depending on the campaign not accessing your PC for a week can be worse than enduring a negative level.

The Genius Guide to Horrifically Overpowered Feats still makes for a fun read, April Fool's joke or no. I'd recommend this book if you're looking for a mixture of genuinely good and useful feats (especially for martials) and ones to laugh at in their egregiously useful benefits.


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A versatile barbarian archetype who assumes the Masks of faerie monsters

5/5

Pathfinder introduced the concept of archetypes around 2010. They were largely alternate class features from the 3rd Edition days, although they became much more numerous and prominent. Over time they served as an alternative to prestige classes, covering everything from fighting styles, magical disciplines, even members of renowned organizations, all accessible from 1st level.

Third party publishers followed suit with their own ideas, but given the brevity of mechanics it's not often that an entire product is dedicated to them. But Secrets of the Masquerade Reveler is a worthy exception, detailing a Barbarian archetype who accesses a pool of Eidolon Evolutions while "raging" to represent alternate states of being. The concept is a person whose close encounter with the fey realms gifted them with the ability to assume the traits of entities and ideals by undergoing a trance-like state known as a Masquerade which replaces the base Rage ability.

While in this Masquerade, the reveler can don "Masks" modeled off of fey creatures and certain professions in the form of 4 to 8 Evolution Points per Mask based on class level. A Pixie Mask can grant flight and personal invisibility, the Sage's Mask can grant +8 bonus to most Knowledge checks, and so on and so forth. Masquerade Revelers gain one Mask per level, and potentially more with the Extra Mask feat. The base Evolutions are versatile enough, but the archetype has a host of new Evolutions specific to them such as Fey Magic which grants access to some illusion and nature-based spell-like abilities.

Although it is possible for a player to create one's own Mask, a healthy portion of the book provides many sample Masks, all grouped into types such as Fey, Gremlin, Forbidden, Beast, Mythic, and Tane Masks. These are not just flavoring: several new feats within this book grant access to Masks of certain types, and some Evolutions can only be taken with said types (such as quadruped abilities and Beast Masks). Even with the samples provided, one can see the Masquerade Reveler adequately serving a variety of roles: the Jinkin's Tiny size with Skilled in Disable Device and a later Dimension Door ability is a tailor-made scout, while the Dweomercat's Pounce ability is a welcome addition to any melee-focused character. And that's not covering the Tane Masks, who represent the most powerful of fey lords such as the Jabberwock which can grant flight, twin fire-based eye rays, and Huge size among potential other abilities.

In Conclusion

Although the Masquerade Reveler gains quite a bit by trading away standard Rage and its expansions, the class is at once versatile while not being game-breaking. The Masquerade ability is still keyed off of a rounds-per-day resource, so it doesn't have the long-term staying power of primary spellcasters whose effects can last for hours or even days. But access to flight, +8 for skills, tremorsense, radius auras, debuffs, Pounce, and many other abilities make it able to do a lot more things than most Barbarians and martials. The in-character fluff text and explanations of certain Masks and revelers is cool and provides inspiration for interesting character concepts. You can get a lot of mileage out of it as both a player and Game Master with the options provided.

For those interested in the mechanical side of things, I provide an in-depth look at the archetype and its many features in this thread.


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A fun martial controller class with a neat array of abilities

4/5

I wrote an in-depth review for this product in this link.

In short, the War Dancer is a mobile martial class which uses Dances, a daily per-round resource akin to a Barbarian's rage. When performing a Dance a War Dancer gains increased battle prowess and an ability to manipulate enemy attacks and even the battlefield itself. The thirteen sample dances are overall good and range in use from increased reach and single attacks with can target multiple enemies, energy damage and elemental ranged attacks, fast movement with increased speed and dimension door, and bonus anti-mage feats such as Disruptive and Spellbreaker.

Aside from its iconic features, the War Dancer gains other abilities, such as spontaneous spellcasting up to 4th level, a per-day True Strike for landing guaranteed shots on tricky-to-hit opponents, a monk-like AC bonus, and the ability to substitute their Sense Motive for their AC vs. one attack. There are also two archetypes which allow the war dancer to gain access to the abilities of the magus and bard to a limited extent.

My main complaints are that without the archetypes the lack of armor use will make War Dancers very squishy for melee fighters and need frequent healing, and a few of the dances are left lacking in comparison to the other options.

But when all is said and done, this book is well worth it for its price and the class is quite fun and versatile option for martials in Pathfinder.


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A versatile and flavorful sourcebook on the magic of the night

5/5

I already wrote a full review elsewhere. This is the full entry. Here I examine what the book has to offer with an in-depth, chapter-by-chapter analysis.

For an abridged review, this product is well worth your money. It has a little something for every character concept, except perhaps for non-casting martial classes save the Barbarian. The nightblade class is a cool mage-thief type who utilizes a path system for a variety of character concepts based on whether they manipulate shadow for illusion, damaging elements, illusion, the cold powers of death, or the manipulation of shadow energy to create pseudo-physical objects.

Many of the class features, spells, and magic items have good synergy with each other, and the author does a good job at taking care of potential infinite combo cheese. There is shadow magic of many different schools other than just illusion, and evocation-lovers will be pleasantly surprised to find their brand of magic highly represented.

Finally, the artwork is downright beautiful. Path of Shadows is a solid first entry for Ascension Games, and provides a lot of material suitable for many kinds of Pathfinder games.


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A versatile GMing tool which can represent all sorts of villainous minions!

5/5

I love Pathfinder. I love its versatile options for characters. I love the plethora of material, both official and third party. I love the myriad adventures and adventure paths, and all the cool settings. I love the cool hybrid classes like the alchemist and the magus. I love the Bestiaries and the Tome of Horrors for the 1,000+ monsters these books present as neat options, both classic and original.

But there are things I don't like about Pathfinder. Namely how the rules can stack up over time to the point that they can bog down the game. This is especially prominent in combat, where managing large numbers of monsters can be tough, and even low-CR opponents can get a lot of hit points. The archetype of a master swordsman cutting down hordes of enemies in mere seconds is very hard to do in Pathfinder, unless you're a spellcaster with an Area of Effect spell. Stat blocks can be a pain to build, especially when it comes to spellcasters.

Rule Zero: Underlings is an attempted fix to the above problems, by designing a new kind of enemy known as an Underling whose primary purpose is to be quickly-statted mooks who challenge the PCs in groups of 4 or more and yet can be easily defeated while still outputting a reasonable amount of damage. As one who's been using Rule Zero's content for several months in my Pathfinder games, the Underling option works very well for its intended purpose.

Basically Underlings are streamlined NPCs whose core abilities are factored off of the Group Challenge Rating, which represents 4 Underlings of the same type. Regardless of whether the Underling's are meant to represent giants, mages, vampires, or the like, Armor Class, skill bonus, attack bonus and damage, saving throws and Wound/Kill Threshold are based off of the Group CR. Instead of tracking hit points, Underlings are dropped if a single damaging attack exceeds their Kill Threshold, or get wounded twice (like Kill Threshold, only half value of the Kill Threshold); damage below this does not affect the Underling. This, combined with a static attack and damage dice (the latter which can take the average in lieu of rolling) really speeds up the creation process, it's far quicker to design an Underling stat block than a typical NPC, and their low power levels make fights with a large number of opponents more manageable if they're used as the excess minions.

An Underling's "race" (which can represent humans and dwarves as well as broad and popular monster types such as giants and demons) factors in special abilities, which skills their "Class Skill Bonus" applies to, and which saving throws have the "good" and "bad" progressions along with some other minor things. Finally, Templates are things which can grant Underlings a special attack or mimic the class features of iconic archetypes such as Sneak Attack. Generating spellcasting Underlings is a simple affair of choosing a total number of spell levels from the cleric or sorcerer/wizard list equal to half the Group CR, and said spells are cast 1/day as spell-like abilities (or at-will for 0 level spells).

One of the best features is that there are Underling races for otherwise high hp, high CR monsters such as the Fire Giant or Mummy. As the Underling Group CR is a recommended guideline rather than a restriction, there's nothing preventing you from making CR 12 kobolds or CR 1 Ogres. With this, even a Fighter of middling ability can cleave through several towering brutes in a single round, something which doesn't really happen in core Pathfinder unless you're building a min-maxed Barbarian ubercharger or something to that effect.

Concluding Thoughts

Although it's a short 10 pages, Rule Zero: Underlings is more than worth its $3 price tag, and it's one of my favorite DMing tools for the game. The toolbox of races and templates are versatile enough to mimic all kinds of fiendish minions and monsters, and even evil assassin-thief archetypes meant to challenge mid-level adventurers can be built in 1-2 minutes with these rules!