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N. Jolly —
For this week’s review, we’re going somewhere different with things, and I’m doing a location book. This time it’s Places of Power: Oleander’s Sanctuary. Rather than my normal fare, this is a location that GMs can insert into their games at a whim, and it starts out with an interesting stat block of one mysterious (?) entity, 1 intelligent bear, 1 intelligent hamster, 1 intelligent owl, and 1 intelligent wolf, making it different than most locational stat blocks you’d see. It’s for the most part good aligned, with resources such as animal healing and transmutation.
Next we get a small description of the area, it’s compact and heavily implies that Oleander and their animal crew are not fans of others just jaunting into the area. With a knowledge check, the PCs can learn a bit about Oleander, which not shockingly at all involves Oleander being a large fan of animals and an adamant opponent of those who would abuse them, often cursing such people.
After this we have rumors, and one thing I particularly like about this section is that these rumors can be gathered from animals, provided you can speak with animals; a nice touch that helps make the area feel more unique. And as appropriate, there’s a few false rumors thrown in for fun. We follow this with a bit about how to keep Oleander vague, as they’re intended to be a very mutable person for the purpose of one’s story. There’s a lot of good advice here to make sure the PCs get the most of of this location, and there’s no wrong way to run Oleander or her sanctuary.
Following this we get a run down of the NPCs and areas involved in the place of power itself, which are later expanded upon in greater detail, as well as a map of the place. Personal preference here, I’d prefer the map to be on its own page rather than sharing it with these details, as it’d make it easier to pull out and use for other things which I’d like to do.
Rather than go through all the locations and such, I can say that each one provides a decent amount of either interaction with the interesting NPCs or the environment, and each of these environments feels unique enough to the point where I could find something to do there. We’re also given some random events which can spice up the visit, further giving the location a ‘living’ feel to it.
There’s also a list of boons the PCs can get through helping out Oleander, so they’re not something that has a normal GP cost. I’m not huge on the 0 point ones, but they’re flavorful regardless. The larger boons are all really cool though, and they’ll almost certainly only be of uses to those with familiars or more likely animal companions. We finish with a more in depth look at the NPCs referenced in the book, and while they are interesting, a lot of them are very ‘out there’, especially the most toyetic of the bunch, Wooly.
I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the mechanics here, but at the same time, there was nothing that truly wowed me. The formatting is tight, the the rules language is solid, and I doubt GMs will have a hard time incorporating this into their game.
While I like the off the wall nature of this place, the book itself goes out of its way to tell you “If this doesn’t work, make it a hallucination”, which to me almost undersells the unique nature of Oleander’s Sanctuary. It’s a creative place that won’t fit into your super serious games without some slight modifications, but as a location, I find it very enjoyable, if a bit too wacky at times.
Final Thoughts: 4.5/5
Thilo Graf’s place of power is one that I like on a base level, as the ideas behind it are just very refreshing. It’s not just an animal sanctuary, but also has very real overtones of genetic splicing and other concepts like that, helping to make it stand out from other locations of which I’ve read. While at times it feels like it’s trying too hard to be different, it does always feel like it’s going in a direction players would enjoy, so for the purpose of reviews, I’m going to round up here.
N.'s Kinetic RoundupN. Jolly —
Okay, while I could preface this review a lot, just gonna jump right in.
Aetheric shrouded shield last WAY too little to be of much use, especially for needing burn and a standard action to activate (I'm assuming it's a standard action, it's not really clear). Kinetic cleave is meh, but greater kinetic wielding is actually quite interesting and a cool use of aether. Aether reinforcement is another ability that's just too weak though, same with kinetic champion, making this a mixed bag of a prestige class.
[Cerulean Star Disciple]
Before I go into elements, props for giving each a saturation, even if it is small. What I don't like is how abilities are listed alphabetically instead of by level, it makes it harder to get a feel for the element. Not even separating out the basic blasts and such really make finding things far more of a chore than they should be.
In addition, I really wish these new elements had more talents; the amount of talents they have makes them feel far too similar to release kineticist levels of versatility, which is not good.
An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
This week we’re looking over Legendary Hybrids: Skinchanger by David N. Ross and Patrick N. R. Julius, a hybrid class between the vigilante and druid. Gotta admit, these are two totally separate ideas, and the fact that they’re so different is why I wanted to check it out. We start off with a small little preview of the concept before giving us the introduction to the class, which is nice and informative.
To begin, we have a d8 class with a healthy skill list and 6 skill points per level along with a good reflex and will save and 4th level casting. We get proficiency in simple weapons, light armor, and weapons made through the abilities of the class. The first class feature we end up with is adopted persona, which after a week of study lets us take on a persona from someone else; you get half your level to bluff checks to maintain the persona, but not to disguise checks, which I thought was odd. We also pick up a slower sudden strike progression at every 4 levels, starting at 1st (I don’t love sudden strike, but I see the value in it).
Next we get improved unarmed strike, which is a nice addition. Now we get to the big part of the class, skin change. You get it often enough, once at 1st, and then an additional time per 2 levels you possess. I do wish it could be spent in increments rather than a single use at a time, but it’d basically be all day then. The save is reasonable, although I am amused that it stacks with druid levels for its advancement, nice little touch there. There’s a lot of thought put in here as to how it interacts with wildshape and polymorph abilities, which I appreciate.
For skin changes, we start with disguise, which is basically a physical disguise person. Next humanoid form gives us a more limited alter person which evolves into monstrous physique. Now we snag social talents at 1st and every 4 levels afterwards, also stacking with vigilante levels for which social talents they can take. We get a few unique social talents, like faster studying, having ‘no’ persona, and a lot of other fun ones which I think add a lot to the class. They are limited on which normal social talents they can take, but that’s fine to me.
Shapeshifter’s empathy is a neat ability that lets them nonverbally communicate with other creatures which forms they can take, and a neat little flavor ability. At 3rd and every 4 levels thereafter we get stalker talents which are nice, as well as a few unique ones for the class. Honed strikes is one of note, making your natural weapons and unarmed strike equal to a medium monk, and measured strike is useful for dealing damage more accurately at the cost of damage. Transposing strike is another one I like, as it’s a nice battlefield control ability (although not great against things that negate nonlethal damage). At 3rd we also get trackless step, and at 4th we get divine spellcasting, which shocked me. It does have its own unique and robust spell list with a few spells reduced in level to keep them reasonable.
At 4th level we get advance skinchange, which is an interesting set of abilities which provides unique powers as well as some class features from other classes. Extra form is almost certainly going to be a strong pick here, as it lets you really embrace the theme more, to the point where I would have liked to see this be a base ability rather than an option. Inert shape is a huge winner here, and the ability to go full gazebo is very much appreciate. The best thing I can say here is that I could see taking almost every option here, which is a great sign of a well balanced talent roster.
The same can be said for the latter options, greater skinchange and legendary skinchange, although I don’t really think they needed to be broken up into different class features, considering that they also have level restrictions. Trap form might be one of the most inventive abilities from the entire class though, allowing you to become a hazard yourself with considerably clear rules as to how it is adjudicated.
The list of skinchanger forms is given at the end of the class with quite a lot of care given to making sure that it works well, followed by the spell list. We also get a very customized FCB section with quite a few nonstandard races. The feats are short but useful, helping you to better utilize your abilities, with the standard ‘extra X’ feat for more skinchanging and other things like this.
For archetypes, we start with the chimerist, which specializes in fusing personas. The big boon of it is letting you make better use out of the disguise skin change, helping to make you far more of a beast while in it at the expense of some damage. Next is lycanthrope aspirant, which has a pretty obvious focus. As a whole, it’s more of a direct build path into being a better lycanthrope, but does its job well, even if it’s a bit constrained. Finally, we have the shape thief. It basically lets you take someone’s entire persona, and it does it quite well with some very interesting mechanics.
I like a lot of what I see in this class, it’s very originative while still using a lot of the old framework that we’ve seen before. The only issues I have are that it feels a touch too complex, and there was some parts while reading this that kind of got me a little ‘rules dizzy’ as I was going through it. But when it works, it works beautifully.
For me, the thematics were spot on. The way the class combined mechanics with concept was really amazing, and for the slight issues that it may have had on my end, everything came together to make a really fluid shape shifting experience that I think a lot of people are going to enjoy. There was a lot of creativity that went into this that I deeply appreciate.
Final Thoughts: 4.5/5
David N. Ross and Patrick N. R. Julius’s skinchanger is one hell of a hybrid, and a hybrid done right. While it incorporated a bit more vigilante than druid, the end result was awesome, and I really enjoyed it. While the slight mechanical issues I had were enough to keep me from giving this a 5/5, it does easily get rounded up for probably one of the best shapeshifting concepts I’ve ever seen.
Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries (PFRPG) PDFFlaming Crab Games
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An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
It’s a trip to the old book borrower’s lounge as we check out Letters from the Flaming Crab: Libraries. We start with the normal credits and such, although Flaming Crab Letters (henceforth called FCLs) always seem to have a great deal more personality to them.
The intro is another fun example of this, with an in universe message to the reader, something fans of FCL have come to expect. We start off with a historic look at libraries, which has some fun information about their origins and such. This flows into what a library is, which is far more wide of a term than I had initially believed. The language is as evocative as I’ve come to expect from FCL, helping to draw one into the mythic qualities that a library can encompass.
From here the idea of different kinds of libraries and their differentiations are made, planting adventure seeds in all the variations that can occur. All of these are explained in ways that helps to give a sense of grandeur to libraries, something I didn’t think I’d ever say. I genuinely enjoy the curator examples, as the way that they’re presented allows them to be easily implemented into games without much issue.
Now we get some library stat blocks (again, not an expected statement), along with sample libraries which are fully statted. Each one of the KP (knowledge point) entries gives a fun bit of flavor which again could be easily transplanted into a game without much effort. This is followed up with different kinds of information storage, such as tablets, scrolls, wall carvings, and other such unique methods.
While I recognize the immersion perspective of the fluency point system, I also feel like it’s bogging down a book that has a lot of interesting mechanics already, creating more issues than solutions. Thankfully, this section is only about a page, meaning that if you’re like me and don’t care for it, you won’t be trudging through its rules for long.
At this point, we get some interesting info about magic in libraries, and a nice little section of content (classes/monsters/etc) that work well with library themed games. To follow this, we get the library subdomain for cleries and library mystery for oracles, giving us some mechanics (the oracle mystery is a little too specialized for my tastes, but it’s still very thematic). We finish with the bookring, which is a seriously cool magical item that lets us store books in gems for future use.
FCLs aren’t known for their mechanics; that isn’t to say they’re bad, but it’s very obvious mechanics are secondary in focus. The mechanics given here though are fun, useful, and easily transplanted into games. It’s probably one of the largest strengths of FCLs, the ease at which they can be included in just about any game.
FCLs ARE known for their thematics though, and that continues on here. The language used is evocative enough to give libraries a sense of reverence and mystery that they lack normally, and just like I always feel when I finish an FCL, I want to include something from this book into any currently running game.
Final Thoughts: 5/5
Being entirely honest, the FCL series is a diamond in the rough in the RPG market. These books ooze with charm and include mechanics which feel fluid, but what they do more than that is to make the mundane amazing. After reading the hygiene book, I wanted to force players to bathe; after reading this, I want to force players to learn, and I’m sure if they did a book on proper chewing technique, you’d better believe I’ll have a session based solely around proper chewing.
An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
Today’s book is Into the Breach: The Bard, a mechanics book for the class that seeks to expand its options. First impressions are that the art and layout are sound; not amazing, but pretty nice for the cost of the book, which is always nice to see. We’re looking at about 40 pages of content here, so let’s get into it.
We start off with the chronicler of blades, which while a cool name, isn’t really my favorite archetype. We get some slightly different weapon proficiencies, bonus feats, but we lose all spellcasting, and that’s just…that’s no good. There’s no class feature here which really draws me back in after such a hard loss, so this definitely doesn’t work for me.
The courtless bard on the other hand has a very interesting mechanic of summoning a creature as per summon nature’s ally in place of inspire courage, with the creature lasting as long as you perform. Shimmering speed in place of inspire greatness is interesting too, giving a decent miss chance to allies. Stunning glance probably lasts a tad longer than I’d like (2d4 rounds), but with all the caveats and tags it has, it’s probably fine. As a whole, this is a very fun fey themed archetype.
Fabulist is our next archetype, and while the ability to get a familiar is nice, it’s odd that there would be options for non-familiar creatures, an oversight I don’t really like. Getting access to some domain spells is huge though, easily worth the trade here. Morsel of Wisdom is odd though, as it’s just a modifier swap, not really a huge deal here. Fabled Friend has a lot of potential to be busted, as it’s a planar ally effect that can be done quite a bit, and its capstone is highly situational.
Grotesque is an odd name for an archetype, and it’s already starting with reduced casting, along with a debuff to enemy attacks in place of a buff to your allies attacks. You’d need at least as many enemies as allies to make this a fair swap, at least to me. Sickening stunt and twisted masterpiece are fun additions though, and most of the disturbing acts are very flavorful and decently powerful as well. The flavor really sells this archetype, making it a favorite.
But Jester…is bad. Capering and cavorting is NOT worth losing spellcasting, and nothing in the archetype comes close to validating that. It even replaces casting at 2nd level, so do I get casting at 1st level, and just lose it the next?
Now lifeweaver starts hard, getting some new spells added to their list and free lingering performance with a bonus to it. As a whole, it’s a solid white mage archetype with altered performances to make sure that everyone stays on their feet, done in a way that’s thematically satisfying. While it might be a touch too good at its job, when it’s support, I can give it a pass.
The matchmaker is…very NPC-y. Like reading through its features, it’d make a great NPC, but as a player archetype, it’s far too specific in what it does. I really don’t think it needed to lose armor and weapon proficiencies though, but I guess that helps it fit its NPC role.
With prop comic, we have an interesting tone shift, and while I think using your perform (comedy) bonus in place of BAB (maybe ranks would be more fair), this is a very interesting archetype. With the amount of time and effort that goes into schticks, this feels more NPC-y, but at the same time, as a one shot character, this would be a blast.
Rookery Master is pretty standard, but the ability to start a bardic performance with a familiar while already doing so yourself is crazy powerful. It’s a pretty okay archetype aside from that, but getting extra familiars too is really pushing things.
Things that made unique weapons good are my jam, and skirling adept does that. Easy sonic damage for a round of bardic performance isn’t bad, and audimancy is an appreciable damage boost to both the few sonic spells there are as well, but dulcet duelist isn’t explained very clearly (it’s not a great ability, so it’s not a huge issue). Shattering resonance is another nice flavorful ability though, and windstorm whistle is just cool, definitely an archetype I enjoy.
Now song bow starts by giving us some utility with bows and slings (and proficiency with them), but singing arrow (or somewhere later in the book) should give stats for singing arrows or groaning bullets if they’re going to be required for a class feature. Aural shot feels like it should have more limitations, especially with being able to use it with lingering performance. With Rallying shot, the daily limit feels fair, but I’m still not in love here, and I really wish concussive shot had a ceiling for the damage, although the possible free trip is probably the better ability here. I do like tremor shot and the added spells though, so as a whole, I’m a fan.
We start off squad leader with weaker spellcasting and the ability to form squads, as well as the explanation of how commands work. Personally, with all the commands here, I’d say I like this better than the base bard, as it gives a lot of tactical options that really drive home the theme in a solid and mechanical fashion. Really, this is just a great archetype that I’m probably going to adopt into my games.
And here we get to the prestige class, the holy rhapsodist, which is intended for bard/paladin multiclasses. The prereqs are easy enough to meet, and it’s a d8 3/4th BAB class with a good fort and reflex save, getting 4 skill ranks per level. The class thankfully progresses casting, although you’ll be hurting from the 2 paladin levels needed to get in this prestige class. We start with holy resonance, which isn’t really great, as deafened is pretty weak, and it’s adding a second damage type, so not a huge fan here. Voice of the divine though is nice, as it keeps lay on hands and bardic performance from dropping off.
For needing to pay two uses of lay on hands, psalm of healing feels too weak to me, especially with that half healing caveat. Psalm of mercy would be better if you had enough paladin levels to get mercies, but bard levels are more important to keep your casting strong beforehand. Clarion call feels like it’s intended to only work with bardic performances that give bonuses to to saving throws, but even without that, it’s pretty meh. The entire prestige feels very unnecessary, like it was an afterthought.
Finally, we end with the mime alternative class, which has the same basic chassis as the bard, so we’re going to skip to class features…so, no armor or weapon proficiencies…cool. Spells are…confusing. Copycat is…okay, it’s interesting, and I hate to call back to non tabletop related things, but this feels like a conversion of the Mime class from Final Fantasy Tactics. Copycat makes casting really clunky, and as far as I can tell, you get a free round’s worth of actions. Distraction is just really situation, and the mimic ability feels gameable, especially with wand/potion mimic, which doesn’t take into account expensive material components. The code of silence is flavorful enough, little annoying, but nothing too bad. Also there’s a ton of dead levels here, like way more than should be considered okay for a product being released in 2017. As a whole, I feel there’s too many mechanics that are just gameable or too complex to make this worth using.
The fairy plays though, those are a lot of fun. An interesting new concept for a magic item that are performance based, these give reason to actually spread out your performance ranks. Both the sample plays given and the possibilities from them are pretty great, definitely a cool way to help make performances unique. There was nothing that felt truly stand out from the magical items to end the book, but they’re small fun diversions none the less.
If not for the holy rhapsodist and mime class, this could have gone to a 4 easily, maybe a 4.5. But both of those drag this down significantly, making for either a tepid prestige class or an overly complex alternative class. The archetypes that were bad here were just bad, while the ones that were good were pretty awesome, and fairy plays are a great way to build magic item that’s just painfully flavorful. I appreciate the effort that went into everything, but some of the execution was just lacking.
The stronger suit of the book is that it really does a great job of making you feel the design goal of each piece of content, which is something that drew me in. While some pieces are weaker than others, the flavor of this book is definitely a large selling point, and there’s quite a few pieces of content in here that you can really feel the care that was taken in making them interesting.
Final Thoughts: 4/5
David S. Macrae along with Benjamin Wilkins, David S. McCrae, Frank Gori, Jeff Harris, and Kris Newton give us a nice group of archetypes with some less than stellar additional content, but when thinking if I would round up or down here, it’s fairy plays that managed to shift my opinion. The entire book has a lot of promise to it, and while there are some parts that I wish were more refined, as a whole this book gives enough value to make it a good purchase if you’re looking to vary your bards and their performances.
An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
Today we’re looking at Bloodforge Infusions: Esoteric Energy, a book with a few races and their particular content. Right away we start with something that I appreciate by the publisher Dreamscarred Press, a little foreword by the authors. It’s very humanizing, and it’s just a personal touch that I appreciate in situations like these. We also get a list of subtypes and their clarification out of the way, useful to make sure we’re playing things correctly.
The first race we have is the atstreidi, which are living armor. While their genesis isn’t clear, I don’t see that as much of a problem, as being mysterious feels like part of their ‘thing’. The actual way that this race exist is done in a very faux science way, and it’s done in a satisfying enough fashion to the point where I would be okay pitching these creatures into other settings without a huge amount of tinkering. Their personality feels similar to other creatures of this general archetype; curious as to the world around them, but I don’t consider that a bad thing, and the art here really helps drive home their non-malicious nature. Flavor wise, I’m a fan, and they’re very low impact for most settings, making them easy to slide into games.
Mechanically, their racial adjustments are strong (+2 str/wis, -2 int), immunity to poison/disease, and a few other racials push them a bit above most other races, probably placing them at about tiefling level of race power (not super powerful, but watch out if you have halflings and gnomes in the party), and the inclusion of alternative racials and favored class bonuses (for all new races) is very much appreciated from the opinion of someone who loves customization in races.
Following this, we have the eiremian, who are much more subdued race. It’s hard to latch onto anything about this race, as everything about them seems to want you to forget them. Like a self fulfilling prophecy, I’m having a hard time to find much reason to care about them, as a lot of their description feels like it’s talking in circles, only really saying “they don’t really matter a lot.”
On the mechanical side, they have even stronger racial adjustments (+2 str/wis, -2 cha), native outsiders with darkvision, and the terrible peace is probably their best racial as it can force an action to be negated with a scaling DC based on wisdom; not sure I’m comfortable with this in my games. I’d probably put them to around the same level as asterdeidi, and while they’re low impact in setting inclusion, they’re also just…not that interesting.
Ethumion finish us off here, and what a mood whiplash from eiremian. It appears as though they’re intended as the opposites of eirmian, they’re written in such a more dynamic fashion as to make them feel more interesting and engaging as well as charming. Given the choice between the stark and taciturne eirmian and the explosive and exciting ethumion, I know which one I’d pick.
As for their mechanics, we get a more balanced set of racial adjustments (+2 con/cha, -2 wis), native outsiders with darkvision, and all of its racial abilities really play of the strengths of the race. Things like contagious enthusiasm giving free quick draw, minor telekinesis being silly useful, and uncontainable just being pure goodness in theme and utility, they’re easily my favorite race in the book, and one that I’ll be porting over to games of mine without fail.
With character options, we get the mixed blood trait which is a random goody bag of minor bonuses for mixing your race. Most of the rest of the content is feats with fun things like flight (given at a reasonable level), extra claws/bite, or other generally useful things that would be worth the resources invested.
We finish with the ravid, a new monster that seems violently phrenic, and having relation to the ethumion which instantly gives them street cred. I find them interesting, but not terribly so. Their relation to positive energy is probably the most unique thing about them, and I wish we’d gotten maybe a few variant species on here, but I believe that’s just me wanting more here, as I feel with more examples of this as a type of monster (like a proper sub category), I’d be able to get behind it more than I can now.
You know, everything in this book is quite solid, and I didn’t notice any glaring issues. At the same time, there wasn’t enough in here that was enough to make me take note of anything, making this a solid book overall. The races all work for what they’re trying to do, the monster is fair, and the feats won’t cause this book to get banned at your tables except for possibly terrible peace.
The presence of both the ethumion and eirmian weight me in different directions, as the atstreidi is a strong and interesting race in my book. I think the inclusion of both hurts the eirmian here the most, as it already starts off without a huge identity. Even being able to use 2/3 races from this book as well as the ravids and feats is enough to earn my respect, but I would have had a different race in the eirmian’s slot.
Final Thoughts: 4/5
I’m generally not huge on new races, but all three of these are so low impact as to how they fit into game worlds that they’re honestly kind of great. Jade Ripley and Forrest Heck’s races manage to do what I appreciate most; not change a campaign’s core assumptions greatly. While the power level of some may skew a little high for some tables, as a whole I find it very balanced with the core assumptions of the game, making for three fun races to include in future games (ethumion have a place in mine now), and an overall enjoyable product.
An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
The Aethera campaign setting was one that I’d had my eye on after I’d heard about it from others, and I’ve had some talks with its creator even before everything came out. But right now, I’d like to get into this slick sci fi setting to see if it’s the place to be for Starfinder, or if the Golarion System will reign supreme.
We start by with an introduction by the creator talking about the genesis of the setting, and honestly, it brought a smile to my face to see how things were set into motion. It very much humanizes the writing staff and creator, Robert Brookes.
From here, we jump straight into races (not counting the small comics which serve as chapter openers, which do a good job of setting the tone of the setting), which is actually quite a bit jarring. This may be the only large issue that I have with the book, but I would have preferred a section in which we were better introduced to general terms and concepts that we would be seeing in Aethera. We’re going into races where I feel like there’s terminology and ideas that I’m expected to know but can’t because we’re just getting into things.
But the races? Oh man, these are great. We start off with the Erahthi, which could have easily been more ‘big slow plant people’ but have such elegant designs (the art here is amazing, the entire book’s art is first rate, don’t ask me to expand on that because we’ll be here for days) that even just through visual representation they feel different. The explanations behind their physiology and other things like that is very well done, and they feel like they could be transplanted (PUN) into other settings rather easily.
Infused struck a chord with me, as the entire concept behind them is something I find fascinating; a created human-like race. The racials, mechanics, and other features of them manage to make the infused feel different from both a gameplay and setting perspective, something that I very much appreciate.
Personal preference is that I don’t like animal races, but the Orkanta manage to show off a large variety of different animal like traits and background that I’d actually be quite okay adding them to my games despite my aversion to their concept.
I’ve saved the best for last though, as the Phalanx? Top tier. I’m a sucker for machine races, and just the sample picture for them sold me 10 times over. The thing I really like about this race? They make sense in the world, and they would make sense in other settings as well (as long as you allow robot people, that is). The striking art is enough to win me over, although their construct typing with constitution gives them a lot of benefits that may be difficult to balance in your group. Either way though, I love these things, and I will marry the first one that will have me.
The rest of the core races and such get a small write up too, enough to integrate them into the setting, and it feels as though care was taken to place them among the playable roster, meaning that tieflings won’t feel out of water next to Erahthi or Phalanxes.
We get to classes, and here we get to one of the unique things about the setting (which I actually like); no gods. This means clerics and warpriests are kind of out of luck here, and while content is given to help you play one here (as well as options for clerics of beliefs), this is an interesting bit of mechanical fidelity with storyline that I really enjoy. It’s rare that we see mechanical consideration for things like this, and while some people won’t like it, it’s something that I actually applaud.
In their place, we get the Cantor, and I’m not the biggest fan here. There’s no real problem with it, it’s mechanically fine, but even the flavor calls it out as a divine bard, and the mechanics only reinforce that. For that concept it’s fine, but for how daring the rest of the book has been, this is an oddly safe choice. I will say that the hymns are the best part of this class, and where it gets most of its identity. This would be a great class feature to jack for other classes too! I’m sad I don’t like it, as it’s a very plot integral class, but it’s just a touch too bland, even with hymns.
The rest of the classes get the Aethera treatment here too, being given their place in the world. A lot of the flavor here is over the top in a good way, really driving home just how easily these classes can be played in Aethera. You can really tell there was care given to make sure that they can fit into your games, even for something as simple as the fighter who kinda works everywhere without need for explanation. The fact that they go as far as to include the hybrid and occult classes and newcomers like the vigilante speaks volumes (even if the vigilante’s section is small) to the commitment to make sure everything jives in this setting.
The archetypes all felt very in tone with the setting (3 alchemist archetypes kills me, please let this class rest), with quite a few interesting discoveries for the haggard class. Personally, the alchemist archetypes felt more tepid to me, with bioengineer feeling like a warmed over preservationist, combat medic being a little confusing and kind of cliche (it’s a very well covered topic), and the wastelander feeling like filler.
Rift Breaker particularly has some interesting concepts behind it that feel a touch too ambitious, but I’d rather see something going 110% and failing than doing 80% perfectly (God, I wish I could repost some of the art from this…) I will say that due to the nature of a lot of these, they don’t transfer to other settings AS well due to some of the unique properties of the Aethera setting, but it’s not really fair to count that against them, as they work well for the setting.
As there’s a lot of setting specific archetypes, the power level is all over the place, and there’s quite a few archetypes I myself can’t see using, but it’s fine for a setting book especially to have some NPC archetypes, things that are more for flavor than mechanical power. With the wide variety of archetypes though, there’s at least a few your eyes will glaze over.
Seriously, the amount of archetypes is shocking, and it shows that Robert went to the best in the industry when he assigned them, as while there may be small issues here and there, most of them read very well and take close consideration of the rules. Things like Aethertech Pilot are nearly class hacks rather than archetypes (not that I have a problem with class hacks…not at all…), but when the class in question is the cavalier, I’m not here to complain about making it better.
To me, things like the Thornslinger most represent what can’t be pulled out into other settings, but at the same time, it’s just…awesome. Like the mechanics for it are sound, it’s a fused gun, and just…it’s awesome. It’s such a unique concept that I can’t help but love it. I seriously need to get off of talking about archetypes, but there’s just so many and so many of them deserve attention. We need to get onto the meat of the setting, the setting itself.
As expected from a space setting, we’re dealing with an entire star system here rather than just a planet or even just a continent. This is where we get to yet another interesting point of the setting, no outer plains. I can understand why this is done, to keep a tighter focus on the more developed part of the setting, and it’s something I can appreciate. It’s here that we get the history of Aethera, something that takes up quite a bit of the book.
For history, we get a basic set up of an ancient civilization that went kaboom, which is an okay way to start off any campaign setting. What we do get is an interesting ancient race in the progenitors who are basically a race of macguffins, but we get enough info on them to make them a nice set piece. The collapse itself is well explained with the vagueness needed for GMs to draw their own conclusions, giving the tritarchs to help seed that information if needed. The lore of the world is engaging enough to draw one in, and that’s coming from someone who’s not big on sci fi stuff as a whole.
Something interesting that the history section does is separates different parts from the perspective of different races, giving an entire section to the erahthi and tritarchs before moving back to humans and other races. This is an interesting way of pacing things, and I’d say it partially works. It does let you focus in on races you like, but at the same time, in a straight read through, it causes the narrative to jump around too much for my liking.
The way that the century’s war is presented feels like it’s coming from an organic place, and the escalation of tensions within manage to feel real, giving it a lot of weight. This was the point in the history where I was the most ehngaged, and ‘maze ship’ is just a great visual. A lot of this feels like it would have been good to put before the race section, as after reading it, everything about races makes more sense. For a regular book, this would have been fine, preferable even. But for a campaign setting, I feel like I couldn’t appreciate the races as much before reading over the history section.
The locations given are enough to give plenty of adventure seeds, as the Ebon Knight had me thinking of adventure hooks to bring people to it just upon reading it. While not all of them hold the same potential, it’s safe to say that there’s some very enticing locations that would make for some great adventures. The lore of the Century’s War is a strong enough backdrop while having strong parallels to other settings I enjoy, giving the entire setting a very ‘grey’ vibe.
On the economy, I’m not 100% sure if I love it, but I do find it very intriguing how money works in this setting. The slot system itself is a nice take on the caste system seen before, and it helps make for a different style than I’ve seen in other settings. What I’m really appreciating though is the way that the lore and history of the setting works with the adventure hooks, giving a very complete feeling to things.
The alternative skill uses are all fairly standard, they help for corner cases in which the setting requires its own unique rules, which is appreciated, even coming with skill unlocks. I particularly like the Heal skill unlocks, which really open up the skill a lot. I do feel that the Performance skill unlocks are more limited than I would like for how much investment they require, but the rest feel fine.
Some of the feats have the same issue, feeling too limited for that’s being required, like Aria of the Soul or Cleansing Bridge being once per day. Body Muffle is another that while interesting isn’t worth a feat to me; as a trait, it’d be pretty great though. Cunning Mechanic is another I could see being downgraded to a trait, as stat swaps have basically hit the realm of traits in power level. Destined Choices is pretty great though, opening up a lot of options for Cantors. Same with Esoteric Arts; it’s a real game changer for Incantor. Really, the feats vary wildly on great options to not worth it, making them a mixed bag.
The gear is more of the standard stuff you’d expect, although there’s a little variety in it, like the instrument weapons. I will admit that I do really like the drug section, as each one feels like a fun addition to the setting, even if like most drugs they’re generally debuffs in the long run. Kind of odd the armored long coat is cheaper and better than the light trooper armor with a better max dex bonus, but I do appreciate armor mods, as I really enjoy customization in my gear. This gives me the feel that I could use multiple armor sets, which is a plus in my book.
We’re back to using normal Paizo firearm rules here, which I think is a mistake myself. I mean I appreciate the ‘guns everywhere’ rule to make guns not stupid, but with this setting, I’d probably just say treat guns as any other ranged weapon, as I don’t think they need the same distinction they have in other settings. I also don’t think the recoil additional rule is needed, as guns still don’t have the power to disrupt a game, so it’s a huge penalty that only serves to help ‘realism’. What I can say here is the fidelity with different types of clips is very nice to see, adding a lot more variety to firearms than I was expecting. Firearms are actually kept in relatively obtainable terms as far as price goes, making starting with one far more reasonable, and unique ammo is kind of a drug for me (hellbore is just…god).
Moving onto aethertech, we see what are effectively magic items, but with an associated cost and duration. Really, the change in what is a resource in this setting by making a lot of things require aetherite will be a jarring change to some, and it really does change a lot of assumptions about what to do with your atherite. We get a lot of fun things here, like farcaster stats, which I was interested in myself. Most things listed right away are survival/flavor items, but they’re strong additions to the setting.
Automata, or prosthetics, follow a very similar formula for not letting you go over your ‘humanity’ when decking yourself out in cyber gear, although certain races like phalanx or infused can cheat this somewhat. Automata are also another place we can spend aetherite for effects, adding to the list of things this wondrous material can do. I am slightly sad that implanting a firearm makes it a full-round action to reload, as this does hurt its usefulness. Strength boost too requiring a swift action to activate rather than a free action. Quickstrider legs also don’t really give an amount of AU needed to use their effects, which isn’t great.
I’m also not sure what ‘plasma’ damage is, I do wish it was listed as half fire/elec here for the arc cutter. But now we’re getting to the only thing that matters, power armor. The power armor itself isn’t that exciting, but where the fun really lies is the accessories for it, helping you customize it into whatever you’d like it to be. I do wish each set had more usage slots or the enhancements took less space, as I don’t feel like I have enough space to really tune out a mark I or II suit, instead having to wait until mark III before I can really open it up. Mark III is where power armor starts feeling proper, which while isn’t a problem, does make me a little sad. I’d also like to eventually see power armor mark V or higher, as I feel limited by ending at mark IV.
And now we get to another section I was anxious to see, aetherships. From here, we see that the crew is of the utmost importance, as their skills directly tie into the ship, which is a nice way of avoiding having a junk ship always lose against a larger one. The rules for ship are a slog, but that’s not really the book’s fault; this is an entirely new way of doing things, and I’d rather see these rules be long instead of incomplete. The use of existing mechanics rather than reinventing the wheel is very much appreciated in a lot of sections. I especially like the dogfight section, as it gives a fun few ways to initiate this iconic scenario.
Separating atherdrives and shells was something else that I thought allowed for more customization, and this feels like the kind of thing that in the future could be expanded upon greatly. The plant fighter in particular has a very unique ability, and the amount of single pilot ships is just enough for me to be happy. Capital ships start to get a bit too complex, and while I understand why they work the way they do, this is the point where the system starts to lose me.
Now we get to some of the special materials, but there’s less utility here than I would have hoped, as singing steel’s the only truly interesting material here (with a shout out to aeronite ammo which for some reason doesn’t have a price listed). What I do like here is the plant symbiont section, as it feels robust and rife with chances to create your own creature that will serve your needs.
Continued on post 124 of the product discussion.
An Ehn's Gaming Foundry ReviewN. Jolly —
This week we’re looking over Art of War: Youxia; a hybrid class of samurai and unchained monk. Right away, I have to say that this is a different set of classes than I expected to see smashed together. With a d10 hit die and decent starting gold, our opening is pretty standard for something like this, giving us a role and letting us know that this is going to be another ki based class. We’re picking up a decent skill list with 4 ranks per level (thank god it’s not 2), and the normal monk weapons along with light and medium armor.
We get a pretty standard suite of bonus feats ala the monk side of thing, as well as picking up samurai’s resolve, so at the moment it feels pretty same-y along with the standard monk unarmed strike material. I will admit I like gaining the ki pool at 2nd level, as the monk felt like a class that needed to be 3rd level to be played fully. As someone who doesn’t like parry being as limited as it is normally, I really do appreciate being able to burn ki on that. Like it’s a straight swashbuckler lift, but hey, I like it.
Sadly we get to just wholesale stealing ki powers, which hey, it works, but at the same time, it removes a lot of unique design space that could have been utilized here. A lot of space could have been saved here by saying “see unchained monk ki powers for more information.” Also slightly odd that we have to get to the bottom of page 5 before we see the class’s table.
After this, we see the same class just pulling advanced weapon training and weapon mastery feats from the fighter class, which makes this feel like more of a monk/fighter hybrid instead of monk/samurai, as only resolve was pillaged from the samurai class.
It appears that we’re also getting a new skill here, meditate, that is going to factor into future products. I can’t really judge it by that though, so I’ll talk about how it plays into this class. It basically boils down to a way to ignore some debuffs for pretty low DCs (turning nausea into staggered effectively for DC 20), basically making it a powerful defensive skill. Out of the next section, the only content that really caught my eye was the signature ki feat, something that lets you reduce the ki cost of a ki power/technique by 1, but it cannot lower it below 1, making more expensive techniques manageable.
Beyond here we see more conversation of things that have been planned for the line along with more reprinted content, this time in the way of style feats. It’s thankfully not all reprints though, actually adding in some new styles to the mix with the interesting ‘sub style’ feats for existing style feats. Vermillion has some things I don’t like (needing to know your opponent’s strength score and saying a single attack at your highest base attack bonus rather than just attack action), but I enjoy the final part of it, as well as just the concept of being able to take different paths down a style tree.
I want to like phoenix style more, but it’s just very resource intensive for too little reward. That’s an issue with cockatrice style too, as while I like where it’s going, it’s going to require fighter tier feat acquisition to use it to its fullest. Desert Scorpion is odd in that it reduces your effective size, which could have been nice if it didn’t affect your damage. The fact that you have to go through the chain to undo these penalties is not consolation enough to use them.
Southern scorpion actually bucks the trend and makes for a much more engaging combat experience with how it plays out, although I really don’t like that it gives a deflection bonus as I’d rather see that as a dodge or shield bonus. Aside from that though, it’s pretty nice, definitely something I could see myself taking. Leopard style is another that I found myself liking due to how it plays with ability damage, although the excessive saving throws needed here can get exhausting. Manticore style is also another that I like, even if it’s a pretty easy way to sicken someone. It’s definitely a cool way of making throwing weapons more interesting.
I want to like mirror style, but it seems like hell to adjudicate at a table, stealing style feats and such. It’s far more meta than I’m comfortable with myself, and while it’s not ‘bad’, it is the kind of thing that could aid in immersion breaking, as you need to ask a lot of questions while using it.
The class is easily the weakest part of this document, but it’s not terrible. It’s a hodge podge of other class’s mechanics, but the way that it’s put together certainly makes it better than the samurai. As a martial character, it will run you well enough, but no one running this class should get angry if they’re just called monk or fighter while doing it, because that’s very much what it is. Some of the style feats are what really drew my interest, which along with an okay class made for a decent experience. I really wish we’d gotten some archetypes, favored class bonuses, or just other small tweaks that would have made this class really stand out, give it a little more personality.
It really did feel as though this book is intended to be run as a part of a setting heavily incorporating style feats, and to me, that’s a cool idea. What drew me out of it though was the reprints which took up at least 1/3 of the book. I do feel like more content in the setting could help out a lot in getting across a much more vibrant picture, but as far as it stands, there was just enough to keep me out of truly embracing the idea that I can’t go higher.
Final Thoughts: 3/5
The youxia is an entirely serviceable class, but it takes no chances whatsoever, making it hard to remember in the grand scheme of pathfinder. Greg LaRose’s class is fine, but that’s as much as I could praise it, as I prefer to see more daring design choices made with hybrids rather than a smashing of two classes together. I feel like more chances could have been taken here, and in the future, I’d like to see something a good bit more unique from this author, as their creativity really showed in the concept of sub schools for style feats as well as a decent number of said said schools.
Green thumb in ya eye!N. Jolly —
Hey there, giving this smaller publisher a look with their new product!
What I liked
-The quirkiness of the seeds being listed in your base gear got a smile from me.
-Weed out is a really cool ability that goes in a direction I wasn't expecting, making it quite unique.
-Stability talents are a good way to make a boring class feature more interesting.
What I wasn't sure about
-I'd have liked more plant powers, but that's just me being selfish here.
-Again, a personal complaint, I'm not a fan of bonus feat design, that's just me.
What I didn't like
-I wish the gardening weapons had been more unique; it's a cool idea, but it doesn't feel like it goes far enough. It's also vague on if they can be enchanted like weapons since some of them would normally be considered tools.
This is a considerably small product that's exactly what it says on the tin; it's a gardener class. The lack of feats, archetypes, sample character, and other content wasn't great, but this class does what it does, and it does it in an interesting way for a basically non magical class. The layout work was fine although somewhat spotty at points and it feels like it could have benefited from a dedicated editor, making me give this about a 3.5, rounded up for the sheer quirkiness of the product.
Letters from the Flaming Crab: The Household Magic Catalog (PFRPG) PDFFlaming Crab Games
Our Price: $3.99Add to Cart
In another world...another time...this product is still amazing...N. Jolly —
Now I have a normal review style, but for this product, it doesn't work. Why you may ask? Because the value of this product is less what I did and didn't like, but about the entire thing as a whole. I can't parse that out without taking away from the real positive qualities of this book.
The layout work here is just inspired; and it fits the theme so well that I had to smile when I looked at it. The artwork is perfect, the theme is consistent, and it's just silly enough to really work for what is trying to be conveyed here. That isn't to say the product itself is lacking in other areas, as the rules language is overall tight and meshes itself very well into the overall theme. Really, this is a product you get to read it and enjoy it, and if you end up using something out of it, that's great too.
The items inside probably won't work unless you have a specific theme for your game that involves a lot of time at home (and honestly, a lot of spare GP you can toss around), but each one of them is just oozing with charm, just like the entire book. The tone is perfect and really, it's a solid offering all around, but if you only like books for crunch (which if you do, LftFC is an odd place for you with the series' focus on flavor and fun over hard rules), it might not be for you.
But for a fun little look into another world with an obvious bent towards the old fashion, this product is solid gold with a lot of personality that makes it a joy to read (with just a hint of Fallout flavored inspiration baked in).
About as dangerous as JumanjiN. Jolly —
And here I am, checking out the dangerous monsters in this volume!
What I liked
-I can almost taste the Indiana Jones homage coming from these traps, but I like that about them, as they let you recreate famous movie scenes, which is always great.
-I like the amphiptere myself, although I wish the tail had a higher crit range to make some of its abilities activate more. But it's still a cool monster with interesting design.
-Why would you make a pugwampi more dangerous? Why would you do this? Some of the new abilities such as trap crafting and healing through natural ones is very flavorful.
-The artwork for this book is amazing; I wish there was more, but what artwork there is happens to be amazing.
-Now the kongamato, this is a really nice creature with some fun additions that I really enjoyed, a nice retooled monster.
-Natural Mirage is probably my favorite monster from this book, it's fun, flavorful, and an absolute joy to drop on a party. This is the kind of monster that your players will remember, and they will hopefully hate you for using.
-The lukwata is pretty interesting as it has a strong disenchantor vibe, and the idea behind its damage reduction is really cool, it's something I'd like to include for things I do in the future.
-The Mobogo has a pretty interesting line up of abilities that help to make it unique, touching on the frog theme as well as just being overall a pretty cool monster.
-While Seps is basically built entirely on its spring attack, its spring attack is cool, making this an overall decent use of mythic power.
What I was unsure about
-The magic items, while flavorful, are a little too specific. They work well for the theme of the book, but in games other than the one that they're designed for, they're only okay.
-I feel like more could have been done with the jackalwere, but it's still a very solid monster.
-The popobala is pretty nice, but it feels like it has too many different abilities to really focus on one. It's still interesting, but more scattered than I would hope.
-While the emela-ntouka is unique, it's another monster that could have used just a bit more content.
What I disliked
-I'm not a huge fan of the new changes to the grootslang, it just doesn't feel as unique as the other options.
-The Kamadan is another monster that feels like it wasn't taken far enough.
For the most part, I could see using every monster here, and not just in an african themed game. A lot of the monsters feel like they could work well in a variety of environments, making this an overall solid text. Really, only the overall limited scope of the magic items makes me hesitant to give it a perfect score as well as some of the less tuned monsters, but the rules text and design work is very solid throughout. I'm going to personally give it a 4.5, rounding up for Living Mirage.
All right, Smarks! It's time to expose the business with a review!
Things I like
-I appreciate both Professional Wrestler and Skillful Combatant for not allowing a 3/4ths BAB to absolutely ruin this class's ability to grapple. It was something I was worried about, and I'm glad to see both of these kick in at 1st level.
-Some of the new social talents are pretty amusing, giving a nice buff to their numbers.
-Aerial takedown is cheesy and I love it.
-For the most part, the new talents are pretty cool, with en fuego being a favorite of mine for the silly visual of it. Some feel like they shouldn't be stable locked like inescapable, but it's not a large issue. There are a few that feel kind of weak, but that's to be expected.
-Earthbound is a fun archetype that I just want to enjoy, and it gives me a very amused smile at the thought of playing that overly solid wrestler. Kudos for not stable locking this one.
-Overall I like Ki Striker. It's not a huge difference from the base class, but it gives just enough to where I can appreciate it.
-Lichador might be my favorite archetype from this book for how much it changes the base class, embraces a new theme, and goes into detail about making this theme viable. It's certainly one that I'd enjoy playing.
-For what it trades, Masked Beast feels like a fun upgrade to me since I'm not big on stables, giving a fun alternative to play a more bestial grappler.
-Masked saint is also basically a straight (if alignment locked) upgrade to the base class, and having a healing brawler is a great thing in most parties.
-I appreciate the amount of effort that went into the race section, rather than just a list of favored class bonuses.
-The feat section is nice and tight with a lot of things I could see using with other classes while still feeling unique, and I just kind of love shoulder throw.
-Call me a mark, but I enjoyed the table and chair, even if I thought you should be able to put an opponent through a table. The rest of the items were fun as well, and I do enjoy championship belt quite a bit.
Things of which I am uncertain about
-While 6+ int class skills is nice, I guess I just kind of see this as a 4+ int class skill sort of hybrid.
-I do like submission specialist as an ability, but it feels like it could have been optional.
-Stables feel like they should mean more, it feels like a very lacking decision.
-The shamanic line of social talents feels off and the idea of being able to summon a shaman no matter your location makes it feel very video gamey.
-From how it reads, I think they can only ever gain one vigilante talent as opposed to luchador talents, which isn't a great situation.
-I really want to like the blood breaker, but I feel it gives up too much. Still, the concept makes me smile even if I'm not in love. I'd probably retool it so that the mutagen was auto scaling rather than requiring you to burn talents on it.
Things which I don't like
-I'm not a huge fan of the word 'corazon' being used here myself, it just feels wrong for the concept being used. Also being able to just beat the opponent that beat you without needing it to be 1 v 1 to get back your corazon feels really cheap. Even certain talents needing corazon feels unnecessary. I guess the entire concept just doesn't feel like it matches the spirit of what I would want here, and the mechanical downside for losing it feels underwhemling.
-I'm not even a little of the fan of the art used in this book.
-Dancing Dervish feels off both thematically and mechanically in a way that I don't love.
-Rudos are our heels, and honestly, to me a heel shouldn't involve teamwork feats. Losing Corazon here is a plus to me, but given the rough penalties for lacking it with some social talents, the entire archetype feels like a downgrade.
As a whole, the flavor and such is a lot of fun, especially for wrestling fans who have no doubt spied a few references thrown in, although I'd have liked Rudo to have been a stable rather than an archetype to give a stronger base to that idea, since heel wrestlers are very important in the industry.
While not as strong as the vigilante, this is a perfectly viable Tier 4 class that simply oozes charm and finesse and will really help to make you feel like you're playing your own jobber, so I'll leave it with a solid 4/5.
Mixing Psionics and Kineticists for fun and profit!N. Jolly —
Hey all, N. Jolly here looking over Psionics Augmented: Kineticists, a book I'm sure a lot of people have been waiting for my opinion about. Rather than delay, let's get started
What I liked
-Starting with a bit of info about how magic and psionics work together was pretty nice, and a good tone setter for the book, something that I appreciated myself.
-I love the Avant Guard kineticist, I really do. It's fun, creative, and puts a great spin on the base class. Getting an astral construct that can be modified helps keep it new while also staying true to the original class. It also has nice text to keep it from being barred from other archetypes, a very nice touch. There's a lot of intelligent design here that shows a deep understanding of the class, and I really enjoy it.
-The new feats were all nice additions, giving opportunities for interesting multiclass as well as strongly integrating the psionic side of the product into the kineticist side. Fire Starter and Inner Fire were huge additions in my opinion, although kinetic duelist may be too strong for some games.
-As a whole, I like the new infusions and wild talents, as they're fun inclusions into the already wide array of 3p talents we've already seen. However...
-Slow burn is an interesting variant for how to play the class, and I think it's a nice change, making for a completely different experience while still holding onto the core mechanics of the class.
What I was indifferent towards
-The flicker gauntlet from the Roil Dancer is here, and while I like it, it's a reprint, so it's just so-so here.
-The new athanatic essence and sound blast are fun inclusions, but they're both shoehorned in, with their mechanics feeling a little janky. Both are heavily unresisted types, and while wood did need something (even if athanatic essence with wood infusions doesn't make much sense), sound blast was a bit too much for me, especially if you're already going air. You could also argue that even though you can apply infusions to it as though it was air blast, those aren't added to your wild talent list, meaning other elements that take it might not be able to learn infusions that work with it, but a sensible GM should overlook that issue.
What I disliked
-I didn't feel like we needed text about how archetypes worked in the opening, it felt like it wasn't vital to the content. Same goes for Astral Constructs being reprinted in whole here, this feels like it could have simply been referenced.
-Unfortunately, I didn't care for the Gambler archetype myself. It has issues with feeling like it's not even a kineticist itself, instead feeling like another class with kineticist leanings. While functional and strong, it felt lacking in some ways, and burning wager could have used more wagers to really fill it out, as I found myself mostly a fan of Double or Nothing over most others. It's a 6th level psionic caster without a lot of things tethering it to the base class, making it an odd duck for those who wanted more kineticist content.
-...The amount of wild talents is certainly lacking, making this hard to buff any existing kineticist. With only 2 infusions (one for the athanatic essences) and 3 utility wild talents, the amount of customization that this book grants for existing elements is almost nil.
This is a very well done product, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to play their kineticists!
Kinetic KombatN. Jolly —
The Roil Dancer was a project I first saw in its beta stages, and it's grown a lot since then. For those of you who wanted a kineticist with a bit more 'punch', you'll certainly get it here. The archetype itself does well at blending the power of Path of War with established kineticist content, although those using it in a now PoW enviroment might find it a bit strong due to PoW's higher optimization curve.
With a fun little magic item and a few flavorful feats that also help this archetype shine, you'll certainly be able to get a lot of value out of this content.
2/5 for players, 4/5 for GMsN. Jolly —
So I wanted to do a more detailed review, and I probably will change this in the future, but I think the real theme of this book is that it's basically a GM book.
That's not a bad thing, and there's a lot of cool things for GMs in here, but some of the things...yeah...
Corruptions are a cool idea that were handled in an uneven fashion, making them less than ideal for most play. The concept of losing a PC to this is even worse, as since they don't die, you can't revive them, they're basically gone for good. Cool thematically, but rules wise, we're not looking at the best situation.
The suggestions for alignment change with spells was another black mark on this book, and while it isn't huge, it mars the already accepted and pretty nice version given in Ultimate Campaign. Too much stuff in the book is 'evil exclusive' for it to serve as a great PC book for anything but a Way of the Wicked game, hurting it in that respect too.
But the monsters were fun with a lot of really interesting ones floating around (I do like my unknown), the disease templates and new diseases were fun, and the magic items made sense.
This book is honestly worse for those of us who played 3.5, as you can see quite a few ideas lifted from books like Book of Vile Darkness, Heroes of Horror, and even the sanity rules from Unearthed Arcana. Sanity isn't a great system from what I've read, and I doubt I'd be willing to try it in my games to make use of it.
Overall as a player book, this is a 2/5. As a GM book, I'd give it a 4/5, because while it's good, it still feels restricted in places and a bit of a hold over from previous books.
Silent but DeadlyN. Jolly —
Note: I received a review copy of this product, but no compensation for this review.
Hey all, checking out Legendary Assassins, and this is actually an interesting one to me. You might have seen Legendary Rogues and Legendary Swashbuckler basically fixing the class, but this book actually fixes a prestige class, one that was in sore need of it.
What I liked
-As always, LG's artwork is top shelf, no denying the quality here.
-The introduction is nicely paced, giving us some more insight into the class from a historical perspective, which is pretty fun.
-The prereqs to get in are very loose, and thankfully no forced evil alignment.
-Assassin talents add a lot to the class, and there's a lot of great ones in here too, helping to really differentiate the class from what it used to be. It also accounts for the wide variety of ways of which this prestige class can be entered.
-Trading sneak attack advancement for bonus feat progression or spellcasting is great, although lacking full spellcasting progression will still keep this from being a huge spellcaster option.
-Archetypes for a prestige class which have different requirements are seriously awesome, this is one thing that cannot be ignored. I'm not the biggest fan of the one in the book, but whatever, it's an awesome idea.
-The feats are interesting in that a few of them work to bridge gaps between class features from previous classes, while others actually affect the crimson assassin Prc.
-Three sample NPCs is a large amount for something like this, and they're well appreciated.
What I didn't like
-Saving Throw Bonus as a class feature reads very generically, and distracts from the elegant design of the class features.
-Grim Sniper feels redundant with Lethal Range, as Lethal Range is almost always better and doesn't require a resource.
-Only having 1 PrC archetype and a somewhat lackluster feat section did leave me wanting, but not enough to besmirch a very solid product. Also would have liked to have seen a bit of vigilante intersection here, but that's just me.
Smarty in the Party!N. Jolly —
What I liked
-The libris is a pretty interesting feature, it does give some more excitement to selecting spells.
-Quick Study is pretty fun too, really ramps up the versatility.
-Eldetic Memory ends up being fun for what it does.
-Libris schools end up being pretty interesting too.
What I didn't like
-Proficient with light weapons is an odd set of proficiencies.
-Switching between spelling out a level (third) and using a number (8th) was jarring in the class ability descriptions. Also "1 round per intelligence modifier" is a really weird way of stating a duration for bestow knowledge.
-No bookmarks in the doc, those are always helpful.
-No sample character, feats, or archetypes. It's a rather bare bones product in that respect, you're getting entirely what's on the tin.
Riders on the stormN. Jolly —
Huh, that's a somewhat familiar looking cover...nah, just my imagination.
What I liked
-The nonstandard weapon proficiencies were pretty interesting, it seems like theme was heavily involved here.
-Spontaneous druid casting is a unique way to go here.
-They skybond bloodline is very cool, and I feel it mixes well with the other class features.
-Air Body is another class feature that feels very fluid in design despite being simple.
-I actually liked Armor of Air and its caveat about selection, it was an interesting balancing mechanic.
-Windchurn is both really good and flavorful, great spell. Same with Airblast, although Windchurn is easily the cooler of the two. Gale Scythe is pretty useful too, but I do love tripping. Tempest Hammer is another exciting spell that's great for breaking up mobs. Really, the spells are a big part of what make this class so cool.
What I didn't like
-I feel like this could have been a 4 skill point class.
-The BAB chart just kind of cuts off the third attack, I assume that's a formatting issue.
-The skybond being the only bloodline does feel limiting.
-While weapon of wind is interesting, the short duration makes it feel less vital despite how much space is dedicated to it. Enduring Blade also feels like it should have increased the duration further.
-No sample character, it's become a sticking point for me, sorry.
The base class itself is actually pretty interesting, although the theme does restrict it a bit. With a lack of ways to alter the character, it's going to be hard to tell two windblades apart, which isn't the best case scenario.
But the class works well and the spells from the stormbond bloodline are seriously awesome, and being honest here, I'd probably consider them worth the purchase alone. It feels like a lot of care was put into making them, and I really enjoyed reading over them.
As a whole, I'd give this a slightly shaky 4/5, but I do feel like there's still quite a lot of fun to be had here.
Adventures in Wonderland #1: Chasing the White Rabbit (PFRPG) PDFPlayground Adventures
Our Price: $2.99Add to Cart
A great first stepN. Jolly —
Let me just start here by saying the artwork is adorable, like this is really kid friendly artwork that I could see any young gamer enjoying. I will admit it's a bit short, but since it's for kids, it's also the kind of thing I could see running with them several times (my niece often enjoys running through this), making the short length less of an issue, and it feels like it could be easily adaptable to less players.
The adventure itself is nice and fun, with good advice for helping to get younger players into character and the map that comes along with it is just perfect. It give new players a chance to enjoy things, feel like they're accomplishing goals, and other fun small things like that while introducing them to the mechanics of the game.
The encounters in it are easy enough to run, and with advice on how to continue the story already in there, it should be no problem to get things moving even if they want to continue.
All in all, this is a great first game for younger children who want to get into roleplaying and a good way to kill an hour or two, and I really enjoyed the printable map that came along with it.
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream (element)N. Jolly —
Note: I received a review copy of this product for the explicit purpose of reviewing it and adding it to the kineticist guide, but received no other compensation for my review.
Note: I am currently in the middle of re-reviewing this since its update, and as of now, it's rating has increased to a 4/5 from what I've seen. It may change more, but for the moment, I can say that it is a large amount better than it previously was.
Four Horsemen Present—Hybrid Class: Shifu (PFRPG) PDFRogue Genius Games
Our Price: $4.95Add to Cart
Super Shifu Review II Turbo: HD RemixN. Jolly —
As a bit of a kineticist buff, I felt compelled to give my opinion on this product (not to mention having quite a few people asking for my thoughts on the product), so I figured it was high time to finally jump in and see just what makes this martial master tick!
What I liked
-I enjoy the elemental discipline concept, it's a nice way of splitting up how the class interacts with elements. The wording isn't my favorite for the base entry in the class, but that doesn't really hamper it at all once it's cleared up later in the text.
-Same for the above with ki disciplines, nice ideas here.
-Always aces keeping flurry of blows a simple and fun mechanic. I'm slightly worried about the accuracy here, but not enough to worry if it can handle encounters.
-As a whole, I can get behind the vibe of elemental strikes, they're a class feature that I feel is integrated in a fun way.
-I'll admit I'm a fan of telekinetic strike, it's fun and flavorful for the vibe it's trying to achieve. Same with wind strike, although it feels slightly less thematic. Water has a fun elemental strike as well, probably my favorite thematically.
-Aether is the clear winner in composite strikes with the monotype +1 virtual size gravity strike when paired with earth (which thematically should be void's) as well as aetheric boost for 1 ki point, although I don't think they can be used together. By how I'm reading it, you could use aetheric boost on force strike (it says force strike and any, not force strike and any other) for pure beautiful force damage.
-Props for doing their own infusion section, I wasn't expecting this, so it's just a plus right out of the gate.
-A second mention to infusions, right now I'm going to say this is my favorite section of the book (second being elemental strikes). The variety and care for balance here is seriously top notch, and I can't say enough about how much I enjoy this section. While there's some VERY minor things I'd like included (some more infusion support for composites), everything else here is gold. Even the stuff I don't love is still good, and it makes the class feel so vibrant. The ranged options make me a bit sad (I'd have loved a ki-less ranged attack), but that's minor compared to how enjoyable everything else is. I could go on here and talk about specific infusions, but I think this is really where the class sold me.
What I was unsure of
-The actual ki disciplines run the gamut from pretty solid to things I can't imagine taking. A lot of them are parsed out class features from the kineticist and monk itself, and most of the ones I particularly like are the ones that require you to have 1 ki point in your pool, while the ones that actually cost ki all feel overcosted for such a short duration. Overall they're good, but not enough for me to readily mark it as a pro.
What I didn't like
-Smoke strike feels too strong for how early it's available. I assume this is to balance out how weak of an elemental strike fire is, but it still stands out as pretty brutal at 1d4 rounds of nausea. Double this for void strike, which is SUPER powerful with a 1d4 round daze (quite a lot of things are vulnerable to daze, more so than stunning).
-Sonic for wood? This is just thematics, but this really strikes a sour chord with me. I understand the urge to have all damage types represented, but I just can't get behind this.
-Composite blows don't have a ton of difference to them for the most part. Adding another damage type to an attack just isn't great, and from how I'm reading it, they don't have a secondary effect aside from split damage types.
-No sample character, archetypes, or feats. I get we're already at a pretty hefty PDF, but a few archetypes and feats would have been a nice little touch, and I'm always a sucker for a sample character since I love seeing a class come together.
-It's just difficult to incorporate with new material. Due to the unique way the class is set up, it's very hard to use any new infusions/wild talents with it, as the way that it's balanced is done around its own internal mechanics, making new content require some adjustment before it can really be used.
Squeaky Clean Fun!N. Jolly —
This is the first time I've checked out a letter from the flaming crab, so I'm going to be looking at this as something to enrich a game world that deals with these things. It's a topic I haven't expected to see covered like this, but that's what makes this line stand out.
What I liked
-While the intro letter is a bit hard to read due to the background, it does give us a nice and flavorful opening to this book.
-I appreciate the mutable nature of the social modifier chart, making it pretty useful and fun for its intended purpose.
-The body odor and scent chart was another fun and flavorful addition to help nail down just how important hygiene can be to an adventurer.
-There's maps of the locations. I have to admit, I skipped ahead to find out if there would be, I'm a stickler for having maps for locations given layouts, and there is. Touche, FC. I was not expecting maps after the last few products I read. They're bare bones, but they're there, which is all I really want.
-I appreciated the sidebar about words and their meaning, it help keep things authentic while still keeping me in the loop on the terminology being used.
-The high fantasy tweaks for Thermae of Pulsatilla were a very nice touch, they're small things but they really help give the situation a more vibrant feel for a setting that allows such things.
-Really the Thermae of Pulsatilla has been just very interesting thus far, a location that I could see throwing into a lot of games.
-Small point, but I enjoy the large amount of relevant female NPCs here. It's a minor plus, but a plus none the less.
-The A Cut Above barber shop is a fun location, and the adventure hooks are interesting, having more adventure flavor than the rest of the locations.
-Props for including feminine hygiene products, wasn't expecting it but it's appreciated when the vibe is hygiene.
What I disliked
-I really feel like the white blossom bathhouse could have received more detail, as it feels lacking compared to the previous two.
-Only some of the NPCs have alignments listed, which is something that I would have liked to see for all of them.
-It's clear that certain sections are written by different people, as there feels like different ideas are used for each section (some have adventure hooks, some have notable NPCs, etc), which can be jarring if one particularly likes one of those things and doesn't see it done in each section.
-There could have been more magic items, as there was only 1 here that wasn't particularly impactful.
The most unsettling gun in the west!N. Jolly —
So what we have here is a hybrid mixing gunslinger and witch, which isn't the most intuitive combination around. But to be fair, I consider that a strength, as it's overall an interesting combination of two wildly different styles done in an intriguing fashion.
What I liked
-The art for the book is just aces, definitely a big plus while looking through it, and something I can appreciate.
-The bullet hexes are just cool, they are. I absolutely love the visual image given for the speak with dead one.
"Well Slinger, they ain't gonna talk now. They're dead."
*Pistol whips corpse*
"Yes they will."
-While I would chide Paizo for not creating a unique spell list, this product gets a pass on that, as the witch list is very interesting for a character like this.
-Firearm familiar is just sick. Like it just is. Mechanically it's not too different, but flavor wise, it feels like playing a black blade with a far more gritty companion. The mechanics for it are just fun in such a flavorful and useful way that it's hard for me to praise this enough.
-Desperation spell is probably going to be what you use 90% of your mana using (mana=grit), which isn't a bad thing, it's a fun ability, but just warning you now.
-While less than practical, Eldritch Aim is just another thing I love thematically, as it helps you 'feel' the part. I feel like the first version shouldn't have a mana cost, but the second easily should.
-The rest of the new deads are flavorful and fun, although not as much as the previously mentioned ones.
-Okay, the fact that there are custom patrons for the class is a huge boost in my opinion. Something like that really helps draw me into the 'lore' of the class, making it feel more unique even if they're using a previously implemented mechanic. Also the art on that page helps sell the mood even better.
-The hexslinger archetype is hype to the point where I could see it being the base class, but I understand why it's not. It's more magus in feel, but it again helps provide such a cool visual that it's hard not to enjoy.
What I didn't like
-Some of the type setting just seems slightly off. Not enough to ruin the book, just a minor annoyance.
-Bullet Hex's description is a bit vague. I'm assuming it goes off of the witch rule about not being able to target a creature with hexes multiple times per day, but for some of these bullet hexes, that seems needlessly limiting, such as with hard rain or blowback bullet.
-Just me being greedy, but I'd have liked more bullet hexes, since they're a fun idea.
Finding a place for a class like this might be an issue if you have a "LOTR ONLY!" style GM, but for those who are willing to bend on the rules a bit, this is a solid class that have a lot of fun content to explore.
Doing the undead shuffleN. Jolly —
NOTE: I was provided a review copy of this product, but in no other way was compensated.
So now we're looking at the undead, which is always a guilty pleasure to want to play something spooky like this. Let's see how things play out for these creepy spoopsters.
What I liked
-Referencing the undead rules after the rotting corpse template was seriously appreciated, as well as marking where the rotting corpse differed from standard undead.
-I do like the Remove Hand feat as it feels nice and creepy. But the 9 HP loss for it seems odd, especially for a feat available at 1st level, where that's basically enough to drop you. A lot of the feats are a lot of fun, although some of them are a little tepid in application.
-The Zombie Paragon was a lot of fun, and I think it really captures the feel of playing a zombie. While it reads like it could make for some really fun villain, it's also solid for PCs, although I feel like the bite attack should have come before the slam. It plays like a monk, which does give it accuracy concerns, but it also gets a faux flurry of blows with its natural attacks, as well as making for a solid constriction build. You're going to really need to work to keep accurate though, so keep that in mind.
What I was unsure about
-While fitting, the art is nothing to write home about.
-The Skeletal Paragon looks like fun, but there's some confusing wordings on some abilities that make it kind of hard to play with. Things like Sharpened Bones saying that it gives you claws up to your hands, it isn't as clear as I'd want for things. It functions like a fighter/rogue hybrid, and in that way it works, but it's just a tad too unclear for me to really get behind it.
-The Vampire Paragon is pretty interesting in that you select weaknesses as well. The possible 'free healing' might be a problem for some, and the random blood points is interesting, although for me I'm not a fan. Just personal preference there myself though. There's a few abilities you'll recognize from Undead Revisited here, and the domination ability will give a really large amount of followers, which could be a problem as it's basically a more focused Leadership feat.
What I didn't like
-Personally, I think there's too much of an ability tax on the rotting corpse template. An effective -10 to your stats, even for undead immunities, isn't worth it in my opinion, and it makes this a hard sell to play as. At least until we get to some of the feats.
-The Bloody feat is straight up too good. Fast healing is VERY powerful, and even fast healing 1 is just silly good. Wraith Touched is also something that can VERY quickly get broken if you build around it, which isn't very hard.
Mighty metal men!N. Jolly —
Okay, to start, I seriously love artificial races like this, so really, this is coming from the place of someone who adores things like warforged and such, which are very obviously an influence in the design of this race.
What I liked
-The art alone is enough to draw me in, it's freaking amazing and makes the entire product better. It's both plentiful and very evocative, making it a joy to read through the product.
-The mechanics for the automata are very well laid out, and while I think they're a bit overdone, there is a considerable amount of balancing that went into keeping a TRUE construct race viable without being TOO powerful. You can tell the writer was aware of some of the issues that would be brought up, and it shows.
-The fact that you care about about your choice of race mechanically after 1st level is something that this game needs more of, and it's definitely shown here. Clockwork points help give you a sense of racial progression in addition to your class progression, and really it's done quite well.
-The fact that we have a cool large playable race is just aces, and that the race runs the gamut from large to small is just aces, making it so quite a few (non con based) character concepts are entirely viable.
What I didn't like
-Not in love with frame hit points, but it's a small gripe.
-This race is going to be stronger than a base race. Like that's just how it is, but not by an amount that will bother most people. I'd say it's easily above a dwarf, but again, it's not game breakingly powerful by any means.