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Essential Spell BookPanther Banter —
As you may have expected, this book is completed loaded with spells. And when you add hundreds of spells to your game, spellcasting gets a lot more interesting. You get a lot more customization and flavor with your characters.
Of course, you've got some slightly overpowered spells that plenty of people are going to want, but this is no different than core spells. Just make sure you run these spells by your GM.
As a bonus treat (which is slightly outdated with the Shaman), this book has full support for inquisitor, witch, summoner spells, and alchemist formulae books. As icing on the cake, this book has full Hero Lab support!
This book's format is simple and intuitive. Bookmarks are included (necessary for a book this massive).
The art isn't anything spectacular, but it definitely serves its role as a way to keep the book easy on the eyes.
The Essential Psionic BookPanther Banter —
It's been said a hundred times, but Dreamscarred Press creates fantastic products. Where they shine the most is in their psionic material. This book is *the* book for psionics, hands down.
I don't have anything to add that's not already been said. So I'll keep this very short. This book's cover was done by Wayne Reynolds, appropriate for a book of this quality. However, plenty of the artwork in this book is less than stellar. I expected more from a giant of a 3pp company (as giant as they get, anyways).
Despite some of the underwhelming art, the text inside is filled with as much psionic crunch and flavor you could ever ask for. There's a reason this is the go to book for psionics. It has absolutely everything you need and more. If you're thinking about adding psionics to your game, don't wait. Get this book now!
Balanced Mix of GemsPanther Banter —
Flaming Crab Games is a new company here in the 3PP business. Though they have an odd company name that sounds like an Eastern dish, they recently started picking up some buzz with their last book-- Forgotten Core Feats. My gaming group and I loved that book, so I made sure to get a copy of their newest PDF: Advanced Archetypes.
To begin with, this book's cover was done by the author of the first 2 PDFs by Flaming Crabs (Alex Abel). While well done, this is a sign of something that concerned me a bit after opening up the book for the first time. This book seems to be void of any artwork. While not a problem for those just looking for some crunch, it's a bit disappointing for someone who enjoys more eye-candy.
The format of the book is in a pretty standard 2 column format with a parchment look that makes reading the text easy on the eyes. For the price, there's a good amount of text.
For better or worse, it's pretty apparent that this book was written by 2 or 3 different hands. As a plus, this seems to have a variety of flavor. As a minus, it explains why we have 3 paladin archetypes and no druid one. Luckily, the blokes at Flaming Crab Games listed each archetype and its corresponding class on the product description, so I did know exactly what I was getting. As a second thought, I commend Flaming Crabs for this move even if I wished we had a more even spread of archetypes. This won't be an issue if we end up getting more of these books. Until then it's a bit disappointing.
Balance wise, this book is very on point. Each archetype seems to be on the same power level of its parent class. Even a couple that initially seem overpowered like the Spellscorn Fighter are quite balanced in play.
A minor complaint: on some of the archetypes it seems like the authors may have played it a bit too safe. For example, the Gold-Robed Wizard is a lawful good wizard that casts some good cleric spells. I wish it had just a *little* more punch, but it certainly offers more than your standard wizard archetype. Anything more and it would've been an alternate class, I suppose.
This book *does* have plenty of gems though. The Weird Musician is a prime example of that. The flavor of bending the strings of reality with music and the crunch and buffing your allies with summoner evolutions is just crazy cool! The Divinely Bound Ranger gets a powerful familiar (remember, they get their master's BAB) and enhanced spellcasting, something I dismissed at first but I'm growing to love.
I won't cover all of the classes, I believe someone already did that in the product description. But these classes are well-crafted. They do more for a class than your standard archetype. I just wouldn't say they break any ground in archetype design.
The gems in this book: Covert Mage, Far Hand Adept, Hitman, Weird Musician, and Witchknight. The Hitman may not be a "wow!" class, but I have two players in my next game giving it a go which I think says something.
A Favorite of My GroupPanther Banter —
(My original review did not post so apologies if this is a repost.)
As stated in the title of this review, this PDF is easily a favorite around my group (3pp and Paizo).
The cover on this PDF is gorgeous. It makes me long for a physical copy of the book. I'd request Flaming Crabs make a print copy if it were not for the short length of this book.
The line art inside is fun and illustrates a few of the feats inside. Even if this book is all crunch, the art makes the PDF easy on the eyes. I'm not sure if the artist Allen Morris does work with other 3rd party companies, but his work here is impressive.
The feats in this book are of about 4 different varieties. 1) Feats that are derived from traits that have been given a bit of punch. For example, Curious gives the character 3 feats of his choice as class skills. 2) Feats that little 'fixes.' For example, Iron Palm Technique lets monks use their Constitution instead of Strength to determine unarmed damage. 3) Feats that bring back some material from 3rd edition that we've been waiting for. For example, Intuitive Spellcaster gives the character +4 caster level in one class (max their total HD). 4) Feats that make you go, "Wait. Why aren't these core feats??" For example, Cunning gives the character +1 skill points per HD, not unlike Toughness gives +1 HP per HD.
Layout is standard 2 columns with a simple border. Beginning of book has convenient feat table.
This book has some minor flaws, however. Goliath Grip could use some clarification or rewording even if the intent is quite clear. One of the feats, Improved Favored Class is broken as written. And there seems to be a missing feat: Improved Combat Reflexes (a prerequisite for another feat in the book, Greater Combat Reflexes). The blokes at Flaming Crab Games have stated they will fix these issues, however. It's always great when a company responds to feedback. And it seems that Flaming Crabs does a good job responding to posts.