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A Fabulous Read Even If You Won't Be Using ItRednal —
With an outrageous number of puns and a lot of smart, funny ideas to go around, this is both a great supplement for Spheres games and a great read when you're bored. Highly recommended.
Spheres Apocrypha: Racial Martial Talents (PFRPG) PDFDrop Dead Studios
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Do you want to do bloodben- I mean, blood magic with Spheres of Power? This is the product you're looking for. It contains a full base sphere, advanced talents, equipment, feats, wild magic, and more, making it a full-on expansion for the system.
Oh, and if you play a Wraith with it, you're gonna get pretty scary...
Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign for this product and paid the full price for it.
We're almost done with the basic handbook series - but The Trickster's Handbook takes the consistently-high quality of this series to a particularly high level. Put frankly, this is a FUN book. Illusion has always been one of the most powerful spheres when used by a creative mind, and this major expansion to its options means illusionists can do more than ever before.
This handbook adds some talent types and errata's most of the original Illusion talents to sort them into specific categories. It also adds many new basic talents, ranging from blurs and skill bonuses to helping allies and creating your illusions faster. Seriously, if you want to be an illusionist, this is probably going to be your favorite expansion ever. The sphere just went from good to great.
We also get quite a few Advanced Talents (with effects ranging from a bonus for UMD to drastically improving the range of your illusions), as well as many new feats. Aside from a slate of Dual Sphere feats, this book introduces Surreal feats, which use or rely on the half-real Shadowstuff. Fey Adepts will get the most mileage out of these feats, but they can be used by any Spherecaster.
This tome more than earns its 5/5 stars, and I highly recommend it for any game featuring the Illusion sphere.
Suddenly, A New Class!Rednal —
It's been awhile since we've had a new base class for Spheres of Power - the more recent Spheres of Might and Champions of the Spheres have had their own classes, but the Wraith is a true spherecaster. The Wraith is a mid-BAB, mid-spherecasting class with good Reflex and Will saves.
This class focuses on three powers: An incorporeal wraith form (usable in rounds/day), a Haunt Path (the manifestation of their haunting powers, with many thematic choices), and Wraith Haunts (special abilities gained at 3rd and every odd level thereafter to improve the Wraith's powers). Between the flexibility of spherecasting, the many path choices, and the multitude of haunts, the Wraith is a flexible class and builds can end up playing very differently.
All in all, this is a solid addition to the spherecasting roster - and a great choice if you want to play a character that's on the spooky side.
Disclaimer: I bought a copy of this product at full price.
This is a 5-page PDF, three pages of which are actually content. This product opens with five new geomancing talents, including ones that expand the radius of talents based on how many you know, provide bonuses to your AC and CMD while concentrating on earth spells or standing on the ground, breaks apart the earth to create dirt or sand, turn dirt or sand into rock (both could be handy), and try to push burrowing targets towards the surface (<- very situational, probably not worth taking in most games).
Next, we have a rare expansion - a few spellcrafted options, including options to Bless/Curse the ground, improve the user's land speed, create a mudslide, generate a sand barrier, and create a sandstorm that spawns stalagmites. An appendix at the back provides reminders about cave-ins.
All in all, this is a tidy and affordable product. Obviously, it's most useful to anyone dedicated to the Earth group of talents (and I wouldn't really recommend it outside of that), but it's nice to see a few more talents being made available.
Disclaimer: I purchased my copy of this product at full price on another site.
This is the third entry in the Spheres Apocrypha series, and as the name suggests, it focuses on fire talents for the Nature Sphere. The PDF itself is four pages, two of which are actual content. On first read, some of the talents felt a little like they were leaning into other Spheres. The Dragonlung talent, for example, gives you a breath weapon - and to an extent, that also fits with the Alteration and Destruction spheres. It also makes sense with Nature, though, and I'm not overly bothered by its presence there.
Other new talents include things like a big boost to the size category of flames you can create (going up to CL 35, should that be relevant), flying on flames (rather like a Kineticist), and create a path through difficult terrain that allies can use. That's not very good on its own, but the Nature sphere has a lot of battlefield alteration abilities, and it might combo pretty well with other talents.
New advanced talents include exploding in fire and reforming with temporary HP and creating a truly massive fire (that might hit allies if they're not prepared!).
Supplementing the talents, we have three new feats. One lets you heal while using Feed on Fire, a Dual Sphere talent lets you apply effects from the Light sphere when creating fire (<- this is a great choice for a Dual Sphere power, thematically speaking, given the fire-makes-light thing), and an improvement for the fire flight.
Overall, this is a tidy, solid supplement for anyone focused on the Fire package of the Nature sphere. It's not something everyone will want, but anyone who wants to be a pyromancer will find a lot to love here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as part of the Patreon campaign that funded it.
So! This is a little different from most of the Spheres of Power expansions, and as the name implies, it's all about magic going bonkers. Sometimes this is unintended, like when the GM has a 'wild magic zone' the characters get into. Other times it may be on purpose, as powers like the Cantrips feat can be used to deliberately trigger a minor magical effect.
Much like the ultimate in wild magic - the Deck of Many Things - the actual effects can swing between amusing, beneficial, or harmful. This isn't just one or two tables, though - this PDF is 94 pages long for a reason.
We start off with an introduction to Wild Magic, including details on chance, how effects stack (short answer, "yes"), and what to do with chances over 100%. There's also the chance of a major magical event if your risk goes too high and you're using that rule, and while it's not quite as bad as the Deck, there are events like getting disintegrated, permanently changing the normal temperature of an area, or negating every summoning for awhile. (Awkward if you focus on Conjuration!) Helpfully, the first section also includes a reprint of the Spell Schools to Spheres table for quick reference, as well as a couple of variant rules.
After the short introduction, we get into archetypes and class features that use wild magic. The Elementalist and Thaumaturge do well here, while Armorists, Mageknights, Prodigies, and Scholars get a few options.
We also get two pages of player options, starting with Wild Magic Feats, a new category of feat impacting your use of - surprising nobody - wild magic. Some of the feats get better if you have more feats from the category, giving incentive to go all-in on wild magic. There are also two new casting traditions, a boon, a general drawback, and two traits. We also get two equipment properties and a magical item.
But after all of that, we're barely into the book - the real reason we're here follows, with the massive wild magic tables. Not satisfied with a single event of options, this book offers a truly ridiculous number of options (many of which can easily be converted to work with the normal spellcasting system, by the way).
We start off with the basic Universal Wild Magic Table, which can kick in whenever nothing else is appropriate. Following that, we have the Cantrips table (mostly minor effects) and the Major Events table (risky as heck). You might think that would be enough, but no, Drop Dead Studios went all-in on this.
After the 'general' tables, we have tables for all of the spheres (although, as of the release I'm reviewing, not all of these were bookmarked for quick access - a minor oversight). These are heavily themed tables (yes, 100 options each), allowing for results that are related to the kind of magic that spawned them.
So... this isn't necessarily a book that should be a permanent part of every game, although it's great if your group enjoys being unpredictable. Put simply, this expansion is wild magic at its finest - sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful, and sometimes weird, but always unpredictable. I love it.
Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign to create this product and paid for my copy of it.
After a bit of a delay, here we are at expansion number thirteen - and returning author Andrew Stoeckle brings us plenty of new content. Of note: This is the first release since Spheres of Might, and it shows.
The book opens with a set of archetypes, beginning with archetype choices for companions summoned by the Conjuration sphere. There's actually quite a broad selection here, from the animal-like Bestial archetype to the weaker but cheaper-to-summon Familiar. The Martial Companion option grants progression in the combat options from Spheres of Might. Spheres of Power has always been a strong supporter of ideas, and these archetypes are a nice touch. (Yes, you can stack these archetypes as normal.)
From there, we move on to character archetypes. There's an interesting spread here, and the choices include:
After these archetypes and a sprinkling of new class options, we get into the most important part of the book - new Basic Magic. The Conjurer's Handbook starts this area off with a selection of new base forms for the Conjuration sphere, including:
The new talents follow, and we're introduced to a new category: Type Talents. The Undead Creature is errata'd (when using this book) to be a Type talent instead of a Form talent, and the major difference is that companions can only have one of them. Otherwise, they're like Form talents. Options in the book include things like Constructed (the companion is partially or wholly mechanical), Ooze Companion (properties of oozes, yay), and Planar Creature (pick two of four alignment-themed options, and the other two if you take it twice).
New Form talents include options like Camouflaged Companion for drastically better stealth, Capable Companion to get a bonus feat, Explosive Companion (somebody's going to have worrying amounts of fun mixing this with the Orb base form), and Mount (so yes, you can ride what you call up).
A few untagged talents round out the options, including Call the Departed (resummon a slain companion), Spell Conduit (companions can deliver spells), and Spell-Linked Companions (spend spell points to let Companions benefit from your buffs).
At the end of this bit, we get an extended table of growth for levels 21-40, should anyone care to play a conjurer at that level.
As usual, the next section has Advanced Talents, with new options ranging from particularly large/small companions to improved fast healing, mass summoning, and even turning your companion into a Swarm or Troop (the rules for which are helpfully reprinted at the end of the book). Other advanced options include new Incantations for calling up otherworldly beings and guidelines for adapting the system and creating new options to support a player's idea. (Remember, Spheres is about saying "yes" to concepts - it's okay to be creative!)
The Player Options section opens with new feats, including a new type (Companion feats) that can be taken by either a conjurer or their companion. Feats of this type allow things like having a companion concentrate on spells to maintain them for you and suppressing a size-altering talent. More general feats include things like improving the Explosive Companion talent a la Destructive Blasts, applying the benefits of your equipment to your companion, and using your Casting Ability Modifier (instead of always Charisma) when using the Summoning Advanced Talent.
We also get new Sphere-Specific Drawbacks (from no normal companion but the Summoning Advanced Talent to having all summoned companions share a pool of hit dice) as well as new Traits and Alternate Racial Traits. One new item (a foldable summoning circle) is added as well.
The main content finishes with a section on Gamemastering, with advice on issues ranging from too many companions to the details of summoning, roleplaying, and a bit of love for the Ghost Sovereign archetype (expanding its options to support the new talents). The Appendix, as mentioned above, reprints the Swarm and Troop rules for convenience.
Overall, this is a solid expansion to the Conjuration sphere, and any character focusing on that sphere is probably going to want this expansion to go with it. There are plenty of fun and flavorful options sprinkled throughout, and despite a few small formatting hiccups, I didn't notice any real problems. This product earns a 5/5 from me.
Disclaimer: I backed the creation of this product on Patreon and paid for both this and the Hero Lab files.
We're more than halfway through the Handbook line now, and it continues to go strong. Creation is a somewhat strange sphere - its real power lies in how creative you are with it, so it's not as straightforward as most.
This product opens with some archetypes and class options, heavily emphasizing the common sphere classes. They range from the Word Witch (a Fey Adept with particular command of certain words of creation) to the Knight of Willpower (a very determined Thaumaturge indeed). We also get a new Incanter Specialization (Master of Creation) and a Hedgewitch tradition (Transmuter). All in all, it's a fairly solid set of options for players who want to specialize in this sphere.
The real meat of the book is, of course, the new basic talents. While we don't get any new types of talents, the new options significantly expand what Creators are able to do. Most notably, the Expanded Materials talent is drastically expanded to encompass several sets of options, from classic substances to gas, plasma, and even acids.
Other new talents include changing the size of objects, making things out of force, and an option to increase the casting time in order to reduce the spell point cost (which matters, given the normal cost of this sphere!).
The Advanced Talents are quite diverse, ranging from making things from precious materials to completely disintegrating objects. As with most Advanced Talents, be careful of adding these to your game - they CAN significantly change your game.
The Feats section adds multiple new options as well - including the return of Dual Sphere feats (mainly emphasizing mixing Creation with Enhancement and Telekinesis). The rest of the book provides the rest of what we've come to expect - drawbacks, traits, alternate racial traits, and so on. A few new items (including, curiously, an energy sword) are included, and things round out with some rule clarifications to make it easier to run the Creation Sphere. That alone makes this helpful for any table making heavy use of this sphere.
This book didn't wow me quite as much as some of the other handbooks did, but it's still a solid addition to the handbook lineup and an excellent supplement for any character focused on the Creation sphere.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter that funded this book (as well as Spheres of Might) and paid for this product.
All right, here we are - the gish book. This has been on people's radar ever since Spheres of Might was announced, and it serves as a unifying tome for creating characters that use both systems. After a brief introduction describing some new terms, we get right into the new classes.
The Prodigy is a mid-BAB, mid-Casting character with good Reflex and Will saves, as well as 20 magic talents (+2 magic talents) as they level. Prodigies are built around the Sequence ability, which involves performing a certain number of actions to unlock a useful Finisher. Finishers vary widely, from resolving a blow as a touch attack, getting a bunch of extra attacks, or even regaining Martial Focus. This is important - it helps the Prodigy work with a variety of playstyles. Prodigies also get unique options based on the spheres they know.
The Sage isn't actually a caster. They can get magic sphere abilities, but they never actually get the Casting ability. (This has interesting rule interactions, especially for feats.) Instead, they're closer to being a more magical form of the monk - they get a scaling touch attack they can use as an attack action, a bonus to AC when unarmored and unencumbered, and a selection of styles and techniques powered by a Ki pool. Personally, I'm quite fond of the Enhancer package - you can use it to buff physical ability scores for yourself or your allies, at no cost (for a short time) or at a mild cost (for a somewhat longer duration). A class option allows the same bonus to apply to mental scores as well, albeit only for the Sage. Otherwise, they're a low-BAB, low-talent class with all good saves, though they do get a style talent (either combat or magic) every odd level, bringing them up to 20 talents total. (They do not get the two bonus magic talents, because they are not actually casters.)
The Troubadour is a mid-BAB, low-caster and low-martial proficiency class. They don't get very many magic talents, but make up for it with Personas, which are a sort of supercharged version of the Vigilante's disguise. Personas also come with 'tropes', unique abilities based on stories and concepts. Flavor note: Some of these are 'common' tropes, such as the Lover persona having a 'Diva' trait. However, you should NOT feel bound by the suggested names or ideas in the book. If you have a different concept, by all means, rename the ability and roll with it.
Following the classes, we get Archetypes. These include options for a variety of classes - mostly Spherecasters and Practitioners, but we also get Magus and Summoner options. All things considered, the Mystic archetype for the Magus is probably the most "generic" option in the book. It doesn't just have combat and magic talents, it combines them in an effective way. (The Martial Mageknight is a close second for generic magical warrior builds. Given it was already very Magus-like to begin with, this shouldn't be a surprise.)
There is no generic gish class in the style of the Incanter and the Conscript, which are largely build-your-own classes. Personally, I think that's probably for the best. It's harder than it seems to make a truly balanced generic class using both systems, in part because both Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might are so flexible.
Follow this, we get to the Class Options, which synchronize well with the new archetypes. Most of it comes down to "Pick a Combat/Magic Talent" or "Pick a Gish feat" (these are new), but we do get some animal companion options to go with these.
The Player Options follow after. The feats mainly focus on the new "Gish" category, which are specifically designed to integrate the two systems better. For example, the Dispelling Attack feat allows you to expend martial focus as a swift action to use Counterspell (i.e. Spheres' Dispel Magic power) on a foe you damaged.
We also get some Favored Class Bonuses, but the more exciting bit is the Unified Traditions, which are the last bit of content in this book. These are a replacement for not just martial and casting traditions, but also the two talents characters normally get for taking their first spherecasting level. (Also, yes, this means Sages can't take them.) As with other pre-written traditions, these are largely suggestions, and rules for making and/or modifying traditions in a balanced way are included. The examples include things like Arcane Archers, Crusaders, Death Knights, Reapers, Spellswords, and Traveling Sages.
Overall, this is a fun and exciting release that blends two solid systems together. I'm sure some will be disappointed at the lack of a build-your-own option, but really, some of the archetypes are pretty generic. If your table uses Spheres of Power and Spheres of might, and some people want to use both, this is the book you want to get.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign that created this book, and paid for both physical and digital copies of this product. At the time of this review, the physical version was not available. As a backer, I received my digital copy of this product significantly before its public release.
All right! Here's another weighty tome - the PDF version clocks in at 513 pages, counting covers and the like, and the interior is a full-color production with a generous sprinkling of original artwork. The book itself is divided into 10 chapters, and we're going to go through them in order
Chapter One is the 'Getting Started' bit and dives into a few important things, especially how to use the book, a brief overview of the mythos (for the two of you who don't already know), and a discussion on how to properly bring horror to what is, let's be honest here, a heroic fantasy game. If you're looking for a true horror feel in your game, not just a few monsters with more tentacles than most, this section is required reading. Memorize it, even.
Chapter Two introduces Mythos Races that people can choose from. Dreamlands Cats are definitely the most unique, because you are playing an actual cat. Good luck with any Strength-based builds. Dreamlands Cats have scent, bite and claw attacks, the ability to physically travel to the Dreamlands, and nine lives. That might be important, given how fragile they are.
The next race is the Ghoul - which is not to be confused with the undead ghoul monster, despite the cannibalistic similarities. This race is living, with bonuses to Constitution and Intelligence, but little Charisma to speak of. Their Death Scent allows them to locate food (especially undead, which they can locate from up to 60 feet away - handy for dungeon crawls!), and they can feed on old meat for bonuses. Being immune to nonmagical diseases definitely helps with that.
The third race is the Gnorri, who are large monstrous aquatic humanoids. Their most unique feature may be the ability to change how many arms they have - two arms gives them a bonus to Strength, three has no ability changes but lets them hold something else, and four lets them hold a lot more at the cost of a drop in Constitution. They are amphibious, but slower on land and faster in the water.
The final race, Zoogs, are described as "widely dreaded and sometimes mocked from a safe distance". The book points out that all of the creepy legends are quite well-founded, and they really are dangerous little things. This race is especially big on treaties and agreements (which they consider sacrosanct), and this provides an easy way to integrate them into an Adventuring party - just have them promise not to eat party members, not to eat the party's familiars, and so forth. Zoogs are quick and smart, but not very strong. As small creatures, they get added bonuses on agility-based things - including a natural climb speed - and they make excellent rogues thanks to their Trap Mastery.
All of the races in the book come with robust writeups that describe personalities, history, culture, relations, and the like.
Chapter Three, Character Options, focuses on exactly what it sounds like. The section opens with a variety of mythos-themed archetypes (and the rules for applying them, if your group hasn't already gotten those). Examples include the "Mad Artist" Bard, the "Cultist" Cleric, and the "Researcher" Rogue.
Following this, we also have a few options for companions, including mutated versions of normal creatures and original companions like the Shantak. A Mythos Eidolon was included - so, did you ever want to summon and attack your foes with a protoplasmic mass of angry flesh? Yup, that's a thing now.
Past that, we have one new skill - Profession (Yog-Sothothery philosopher). This helps with many of the rules in the book, as well as identifying mythos-related entities (i.e. basically everything else in the book). Note that studying the unknown comes with drawbacks, starting with penalties to dread (a new effect), insanity, and confusion. Hey, nobody promised that dealing with mad eldritch things would be safe. XD
The book continues this section with a variety of new feats, mostly oriented around the new races. (Ghouls can heal from negative energy damage, anyone can go to the Dreamlands, magical items can be fused into a Dreamlands Cat's body, etc.). They're definitely worth taking a look at if you plan to use this book in your game.
Past that is one of the more unique options in the book - playing primarily as a familiar, complete with your own Sorcerer as a companion. Another archetype, the Prowler, makes melee combat more viable for cats, while the other races have their own archetypes for added fun and flavor.
After ALL of that, we finally reach Chapter Four, Insanity and Dreams. Dread is a new mechanic governing how badly you're messed up by Eldritch things, and all characters get a threshold of 3 + Wis. Exposure beyond the threshold has effects ranging from the minor (Disturbed, which has no in-game effect) to fainting and having a Heart Attack (2d6 Con damage). Characters can make a Will Save to avoid dread, and the book notes that it should only be used for particularly dangerous or dramatic things, rather than every time people encounter something creepy. Overuse takes away from the impact, after all.
The book also recommends the use of the Dread Resistance rule (which, basically, says that creatures immune to fear stuff get a bonus to dread).
A more long-term condition is Insanity, which can be acquired in multiple ways and manifests in the form of phobias, obsessions, erratic behavior, and the like. This is an alteration of normal insanity rules, and should also affect things like the insanity spell. Tables are included to help randomize the insanities, and - ahem - the art in this section demonstrates one of the many reasons this book is not for children.
(No, seriously. Fanservice art aside, this is a horror-focused book, and a certain amount of maturity is needed to make it work in a game. I strongly recommend against allowing children to read this product.)
The latter part of this chapter focuses on the Dreamlands, an important part of the Mythos. Characters normally don't remember what goes on in the Dreamlands, but some - like Dreamlands Cats - always remember. While the Dreamlands exist as a distinct plane of existence, they are almost impossible to reach by transport magic and the like (Plane Shift and Gate auto-fail, and even Wishes may fail). Time is distorted in the Dreamlands, and people (all of whom visit there when they sleep) can lead very different lives. This offers significant potential for having characters wake up with absolutely no idea what's going on - could be fun.
Several options - including items and feats - make it easier to remember what goes on.
Chapter Five focuses on magic, beginning with a variety of new spells. (These include things like shrinking a person but not their gear, getting rid of a target's highest available spell slot, and sending a dream of Cthulhu to give someone an insanity). Some of these are pretty nasty - say, implanting a Dark Young into somebody - and regularly using some of these might well drive characters towards Chaotic and/or Evil. No, really - those are fairly common descriptors among the spells. Characters from Occult Adventures are thrown a bone, here, and can take many of the new spells.
Beyond the spells, we get a section introducing Rituals, which are designed to be done as a group and can have significant effects. Rituals go from 2nd to 9th level (no easy 1st level rituals, sorry), and have effects ranging from summoning up an uncontrolled entity to scrying the Yellow Sign (of Hastur) on things. Defense-minded characters will probably want to look into the Create Elder Sign ritual, which can ward objects and places. Or, y'know, you could summon Azathoth. ...This is not recommended, since it usually leads to the destruction of the planet in short order.
In Chapter Six, we're introduced to Mythos Items and Artifacts. These range from the relatively mundane (a teapot that can only poison drinks for some people) to the more worrying (flasks that can turn into proto-Shoggoths) to the quite concerning (a drink that heals diseases and physical ability damage, but starts to turn you into a monster unless you succeed on a Fort throw).
Outside of these "normal" items, we have some alien objects that can't be easily manufactured or recharged, only found. Some of these are mildly useful (a drink that makes you 1d10 years younger), others are more useful (a drug that lets you ask a question about the past or future, a gate that teleports to a specific other location, etc.).
Up next is one of my favorite parts of this product - the Books of the Cthulhu Mythos. I love eldritch grimoires, so having a section with them was a special treat. Actually reading these tomes requires research, and you get a bonus over time if you keep studying it. Of course, it's a Mythos tome, so it's not that safe - each research check also has a chance of causing Dread (a rare case where it's commonly inflicted), but overcoming this may also award XP.
Each book offers a variety of benefits, including bonuses to certain skills, knowledge of spells and/or rituals, and occasionally specific and unique effects (like learning a spell you normally couldn't have). Tomes like the Book of Eibon, the Celaeno Fragments, and (of course) the Necronomicon are included. That last one is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most complex and potentially dangerous book.
That said, mythos tomes are designed specifically to attract the unwary. Researching them isn't actually that hard - they do give you a bonus to it, after all. There's just, y'know, the possibility of going insane, dying, or calling up things far beyond your ability to control. Fun for the whole cult!
From there, this book goes into unique magical items. Some are fairly specific in nature (like the Chain of the Deep, a neck slot item that gives a bonus to Constitution but only works for certain types of creatures), others are useful for adventuring (the Silver Key, which helps when visiting the Dreamlands), and a few are quite powerful indeed (the Lamp of Alhazred, which can project windows to other times and places... and perhaps even allow teleporting to them).
The items section finishes up with a couple of Artifacts. The R'lyeh Disk fragments provide benefits to mythos entities (or can summon Cthulhu if they're put together - and no, of course he's not under you control), while the R'lyeh Tablet essentially has people Astral Project to R'lyeh and may even let them bring things back. Lots of plot opportunities, there. Meanwhile, the Shining Trapezohedron acts as a highly accurate Divination spell (that you can use at-will), but also has a chance of terrifying the watcher or, worse, summoning an avatar of Nyarlathotep.
Chapter Seven walks us through mythos cults. Each cult is described in detail and comes with a variety of gifts (benefits and options available only to members of the cult). For example, the cult of Shub-Niggurath may receive living horrors as pets/familiars/companions or Mi-Go technology, while the cults of Nyarlathotep grant different gifts based on the aspect being worshipped (from flight to one-time spells usable regardless of casting ability). These are interesting for tweaking enemies, and equally flavorful if your players are playing cultists.
The cults are focused on the most popular mythos entities - Cthulhu, Hastur, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, etc. - but some shorter entries are provided for other entities. (Atlach-Nacha, Bokrug, Dagon & Hydra, etc.)
We also get some pages on Tcho-Tcho (a human subculture), Deep Ones, general religious views of mythos entities, and how less-eldritch creatures tend to see the cults.
Chapter Eight - and would you believe we're only 40% of the way into this thing? - focuses on the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods. Unlike the official bestiary entries, Great Old Ones - which aren't full deities - aren't really meant to be fought with this book. Fighting may help banish them, but they're difficult or impossible to actually hurt.
Instead, entities get an Elder Influence stat block. This is essentially a targetable area effect with one AC (yes, touch attacks also have to hit it - low BAB classes have almost no hope of doing so aside from spells that give them, like, a +20 to accuracy). For example, Abhoth - Outer God of disease, fecundity, and oozes - has a 300 foot influence with a 50 square foot nucleus, an AC of 40, almost 500 HP, and a +24 bonus to its saves. When it manifests, it spawns Filth (which are similar to proto-shoggoths), and damaging the influence creates more filth. If too many are present, Abhoth absorbs them and heals. Each filth can have a special power or effect, and damaging the area or the filth triggers a wide-range mind control effect.
Yes, it's nasty. Yes, it's really nasty. Yes, it's intentional. Elder Influences aren't the sort of thing you can just have a Paladin smite and full attack to get rid of. There's some 26 entities with influences presented, and yes, some of them are worse than Abhoth. (Azathoth, for example, requires accurately dealing over 700 HP in one round - while Great Cthulhu has multiple stages of influence and defeating him only sets him back one stage... so the fight may not be over yet). All in all, the section is about 90 pages all by itself.
Chapter Nine gives us the Mythos Bestiary, another hundred or so pages of creatures for parties to face. Note that simple combat encounters aren't always the best way to use these creatures. Many of them honestly don't care that much about mortals, and may not even want to fight unless they really have to.
Chapter Ten is an expanded bestiary, generally reprinting content from other sources. Republished content is inherently less valuable, but this is a mythos-themed book, and there's some genuine utility in having most such creatures in one tome instead of having to search through all of your other books. This section is also about a hundred pages - 20% of the book, give or take a smidge - and does include things like Cthulhu's stat block if you want to use it.
The book wraps up with an appendixes (creatures by CR - including Elder Influences) and the OGL.
Overall, this is a solid product, with few problems and errors. I did notice a couple - for example, there's a sidebar titled "Gamemaster's Note" that deals with the Dreamlands. That's not a problem by itself, but there's an index of sidebars on the front, and the title is vague enough to provide no helpful information when looking at that index. It's a minor quibble, as such things go, but it is a quibble all the same.
That said, this book is pretty much everything I hoped it would be when I chose to help fund it. I definitely got my money's worth, and if you enjoy some Lovecraftian lore in your games - as I do - then this is the mythos product to get. It gets 5 Stars, a Stamp of Approval, and my Recommendation.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign for this product and paid for a digital copy, a hard copy, and Hero Lab files. At the time of this review, only the digital copy was released, so that is the only thing this review will consider.
After less time than I expected, it's here - the martial companion to the much-loved Spheres of Power book, whose main tome and later expansions I've been reviewing.
Much like its predecessor, the main goal of Spheres of Might is to replace a system in the game (in this case, martial combat) with something more flexible and fun than trading full attacks with foes. Despite that, it's not necessary for everyone at the table to be using it - there are few truly new mechanics introduced, so it's easy to incorporate both into any given game.
The martial talents presented in this book fall into two categories. Basic talents have no prerequisites and are pretty much all extraordinary abilities, making them suitable for just about any game. Legendary abilities are more supernatural and fantastic in nature, and are only available with GM permission. (This is NOT the same setup as Spheres of Power's Advanced Talents system. Advanced Talents can be game-changing. Legendary Talents, on the martial side, are still broadly within the range of what a character could normally do in Pathfinder. Admittedly, some effects were largely caster-only before, but that's really not a problem here.)
After an introduction that provides some flavor and discusses the goal of the book, the tome moves on to introducing the combat spheres. Like the magical spheres, characters are divided into three progressions: Expert (Full), Adept (Medium), and Proficient (Low). Immediately following this is a conversion table for non-SoM classes, allowing them to exchange certain feats for combat talent progression. In addition, 4th-level/Low Casters can trade their casting for Proficient progression, while 6th-level/Mid Casters can exchange their spells for Adept progression. Full casters cannot exchange their spells (and honestly, that's probably for the best, because they usually have low BAB and wouldn't get much value from this system anyway.)
What this book doesn't have is gish/hybrid classes or options. Those are set to appear in a different book, and aren't part of the core rules here.
Following this, we get to the new terminology. Among the new things introduced is Martial Focus, which will be familiar to people who've used Psionics. Essentially, martial focus is something you can expend to activate certain abilities, or to Take 13 (not 10) on a Fortitude or Reflex saving throw. Some abilities also require you to have it 'on', so it serves as something of a limiter to stop characters from doing too many things at once.
The last bit of the introduction covers some clarifications on rules (including double-barreled weapons, improvised weapons, unarmed attacks, and so forth).
After all of that, we finally get to character creation. The most important part of this is the Martial Tradition, an explanation of how and where a character learned to fight. The book encourages limiting traditions to particular groups as a way of emphasizing their flavor and differences, but that's not actually required.
Martial traditions aren't nearly as optional as casting traditions in Spheres of Power - the new classes expect you to take them, and guidelines for converting non-SoM classes are included. Broadly speaking, though, each tradition offers four talents worth of benefits: Two from the Equipment sphere, a base sphere (or choice between two base spheres), and one additional thematic talent. Simple rules for creating new traditions are included, but mostly come down to "don't focus too much in anything besides Equipment, and don't do solely offense or defense".
Following this is a long list of new traditions, from Animal Trainers to Courtesans to Gladiators. It's a thorough list, and looks like it covers most base concepts.
Next up, we have the classes. These include the Armiger (Full BAB/Low Progression, but gets bonus talents on customized weapons they can rapidly swap between), the Blacksmith (Full BAB/High Progression, improves the party's gear while hitting foes pretty hard), the Commander (Mid BAB/Mid Progression, best for directing and buffing allies), the Conscript (Full BAB/High Progression, effectively Spheres of Might's Incanter in that it's less a class and more a build-your-own-warrior thanks to tons of extra feats and talents), the Scholar (Low BAB/Low Progression, focused around making and using a variety of substances and traps), the Sentinel (Full BAB/High Progression, very much a walking tank who can endure things), the Striker (Full BAB/High Progression, a mobile, risk-taking combatant), and the Technician (Mid BAB/Mid Progression, creates gadgets and inventions, including independent minions).
After this, we get a nice set of archetypes, both for the new classes and many of Paizo's releases. Note that the Archetypes for Paizo's classes are all quite distinct, rather than being pre-made versions of the conversions listed above.
Finally, we get to the Spheres themselves. Much like Spheres of Power, each of the spheres here is focused around a particular concept, such as Alchemy, rapid-fire Barrages, Boxing, or the use of Traps. There are 23 spheres provided - although the Equipment sphere is a little different in that it's mainly a collection of proficiencies. That's not to suggest there's no other value in it, though, because its non-Discipline options can be beneficial for many different character concepts.
One key point to note here: Some Spheres are extremely similar to feats. These are specifically called out, and compatibility is built into the system. You can always take an associated talent instead of the feat (if, say, you got the feat as a bonus from your class), and having the talent counts as having the feat. That's a nice - and important! - touch.
The Legendary (supernatural/magical) talents follow the normal ones, split into their own section to make it easy for a GM to add or remove them from a game. Since many of these have prerequisites - some as high as 20th level - they're not likely to see much use early on.
The rest of the book focuses on the standard extra options for a new system - feats, traits, favored class bonuses, drawbacks, and new pieces of equipment are all included. There's also a GM toolbox (with suggestions for cinematic combat, monster-exclusive talents, example monsters from CR 1 to CR 21, and sample characters if you want to dive right into playing with them.
Starfinder fans get a special treat at the end of the book, with a conversion section meant to work in tandem with the SFCRB's Legacy Conversion chapter.
All in all, I'm extremely happy with this book, and I'm looking forward to a full playtest run. Martial characters just got significantly more interesting - so if your old Fighter is starting to feel a little stale, it might just be time to dive in and try something new. This gets a full 5 stars from me, and I'm eagerly awaiting my physical copy.
Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign creating these supplements, and paid the full price for this product.
All right! We're more than halfway through the Sphere expansions, and here we get to an interesting one - Life. Healing is tricky, since you don't want it to be so good that enemies aren't a threat, but you also don't want it to be so weak that it's not worth taking at all.
The book opens with new class options, including a healing-based Alchemist, a healing-based Ranger, a hea- look, you get the idea. There are also options for the Barbarian/UC Barbarian, Druid, and Soul Weaver as archetypes, plus class options for the Armorist, Incanter, Mageknight, Monk, Rogue, UC Rogue, Slayer, and Witch.
From there, we get to the new talents for the book. Aside from the usual selection of new generic talents (for example, you can add a Life Sphere ability to attacks - hi, undead slayers), the Vivomancer's Handbook adds Vitality talents, which can be used to add effects when Life talents are used. For an example, the first Vitality option presented gives a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. Vitality benefits have a hard limit - either one minute or until they fail a saving throw or get hit by an attack, whichever comes first. Still, the ability to buff someone while healing them is pretty nice, and any Full Caster healers are likely to take at least one talent.
True to form for the Handbooks, we also get a few new Advanced Talents. These include a massive boost to life force, a guarantee of bringing creatures above 0 HP, and the ability to temporarily have a creature ascend to a better version of itself.
Heading through, we have a few more minor options, and then we get to the Feats. A new type of feat is introduced here - Anathema feats, which are based around a feat of the same name and require Channel Energy, Fervor, or Lay on Hands. Anathema is an aggressive ability that essentially turns the healing power into a damaging ray - and while this isn't so different from the Destruction Sphere, it doesn't actually run off of Spherecasting at all. This makes it easy to integrate into a non-Spheres game - or, for classes with weaker casting (hi, Paladins), to essentially give them 'full' damage progression.
The book finishes off with new traits, new drawbacks, new equipment, and various other minor options. The actual close is a guide for playing a Life-oriented character, much like we've seen in a few previous Handbooks.
All-in-all, this is a solid release. Healing may not be quite as flashy or fun as things like Destruction, but author Andrew Gibson (and contributors Amber Underwood, Derfael Oliveira, and Trevor Stevens) did an excellent job making Healers more fun and flexible. I wouldn't go as far as saying this book is needed for a Spheres game, but if someone wants to play a healer, it's definitely worth getting.
Disclaimer: I back the Patreon creating these supplements and paid the full price for this product.
We're halfway through the Spheres - and things continue to develop nicely! This is a harder Sphere than most of the others - mind-control is touchy stuff, so let's see how things went, shall we?
The book opens up on four new archetypes. The first is the Impressor, an archetype for the Fighter that replaces their Armor Training and Armor Mastery with the Emotions ability of the Eliciter and, at a very late level, the ability the ability to add Emotions to Full Attacks. This archetype should not be taken all by itself, though, because some of the feats presented later in the book are clearly meant to be taken by anyone playing an Impressor.
The next archetype is the Egregore, an option for the Symbiat that focuses more on the Mind sphere and changes their psionic powers around. They're also rather better at affecting foes, with a 3rd-level power that increases the save DC's of their mind-affecting powers against foes they've damaged.
The Fright Wright is an archetype for the Eliciter that emphasizes making targets afraid of them - and provides bonuses to allies that help them resist fear. (That won't actually come up too often, but hey, bonuses are bonuses.)
The last archetype, the Beastlord, is an option for the Shifter that allows them to work with animals - and affect such creatures with powers they normally couldn't be targeted by.
Next up is something that I honestly didn't expect to see - a new Prestige Class. The Waking Sleeper is a five-level class, with a d10 hit dice, good Reflex and Will Saves, and Full BAB. It requires a BAB of +3 and five ranks in Know (Nobility), as well as undergoing a special rite included later in the book. As the name suggests, they're focused on sleeping and special powers they can use while in that state.
Rounding out this section, we get two new Eliciter Emotions - Excitement and Tranquility.
After all of that, we finally get to the new Basic Magic for the Mind Sphere, which is definitely the main draw of the book. In addition to a wide selection of new Charms (Amnesia, Calm, Disrupt Focus, and so on), the book introduces Cloud talents for the Mind Sphere. Clouds emanate from a target to affect everyone in range - a lot like Totems from the War Sphere, really - but lesser effects can only emanate from the same target once a day. This is a crucial limitation on the effects, and one players shouldn't forget. The talents of this new type are Dispersion (which makes it hard to notice something), Esteem (which raises a target's self-worth), Lure (which attracts certain kinds of targets), and Misdirect (which gets others to travel elsewhere).
The Advanced Magic in the book is fairly extensive, from new Advanced Talents (including sharing the benefit of Mind spells you cast), to Rituals (like magically binding contracts), Spellcrafting (combinations of talents), and Incantations (including the one needed to access the aforementioned Prestige Class).
Somewhat surprising, there aren't very many new feats. There's no new category, like we've seen in some other handbooks, but we do get a few new combat feats (mostly for the Impressor archetype) and a handful of more general options.
Perhaps in return for the lack of feats, we do get a multitude of new Casting Traditions - several new pre-made traditions, as well as a new General Drawback (Mental Focus, which will feel familiar to people who've played Psionics), several new Sphere-Specific Drawbacks (including blatant side-effects for people you use Mind powers on), and a number of new Boons (including being treated as some kind of substance for particular effects, hiding your magic in a performance, and better use of your powers against certain creatures in a favored domain).
There are no specific new items, but the book ends with a variety of new powers for weapons, armor, and staves. (Quick reminder - staves are a caster's best friend in Spheres of Power). The Conscription effect for weapons can turn enemies into allies for a time - albeit at a relatively low Save DC and with a cooldown effect - while the Meditation effect on staves allows you to get double the enhancement bonus on related concentration checks (not a bad thing if you cast in melee a lot!).
Overall, this book broke a bit from the handbook format I've grown used to over the last several issues, but that's not inherently a bad thing. Mind is pretty hard to do right, but anybody who likes dominating enemies - or helping and protecting allies with mental magic - is going to get a lot of mileage out of this tome. That said, it's not quite as generally useful a Sphere as some others (Destruction, Protection, etc.), so I wouldn't go as far as saying this is a must-buy for your game. If you're only planning to dip into the Mind sphere, the basic options will work fine - this really is a handbook meant more for those who plan to dive into it. Still, if mental magic is what you're looking for, then this book is a great choice and will come heartily recommended.
The Genius Guide to the Talented Bestiary (PFRPG) PDFRogue Genius Games
Our Price: $27.95Add to Cart
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter that created this product, and paid for a hard copy.
All right, let's get this out of the way first: The Talented Bestiary is probably the most useful book for monster creation that's come out in quite some time. Between this and the Advanced Bestiary (a collection of templates), you should have the resources needed to create almost any type of creature you can imagine.
Broadly speaking, this book is split into two major parts. The first part is the monster creation system, which includes everything from appropriate attributes by CR to the recommended number of attacks and the Damage Threshold (the highest the creature's average damage should be, calculated with the straightforward assumption of average rolls all around for a full attack). Notably, these all vary by the different types of creatures presented: Combat, Spellcasting, Skilled, and Weak. The last one is essentially the "NPC Class" version of a monster - you might want to have a new type of monstrous humanoid whose warriors are fought by the party (so, the Combat role), but also create statistics for non-combatants in their village (which could be done as the Weak role).
The real meat of the creation system is the use of Ability Points, which are used to purchase powers and features. For balance, each role and CR has a limit. For example, a Combat creature at CR 1 can have a maximum of 5 ability points, up to 3 of which can be spent on any one ability. On the other hand, a CR 6 Spellcasting creature can have up to 35 points in abilities, with a maximum of 6 on any individual one. Powers that are "natural" for a creature (i.e. coming from their type or subtype) are purchased at a reduced cost. This system allows for quite a lot of flexibility, but also a hard cap on what creatures can do. Like any system, you can probably abuse it to create something inappropriate, but... once you get used to making creatures, that shouldn't be much of an issue.
The other major part of the book is a full-on bestiary, showcasing creatures created using the Talented Bestiary system and generally acting as variants of more common creatures (to show how it can easily adjust creatures, including making them stronger or weaker). Entities here include things like a Godslayer Glabrezu, Dark Naga Golem, Troll Lizard, and Prehistoric Dragon Turtle.
Rounding out the book, we have various player options (animating objects, creating constructs and undead, building companions and cohorts), some guidelines for creating templates, and a section on mythic abilities for those truly legendary creatures.
All that said, there's one more thing I want from this book - content and rules from other Bestiaries, ported to the Talented Bestiary system and essentially covering all the newer options of the game. Going through the rest of Paizo's bestiaries would be good, and going through the Tomes of Horror alongside that would be even better. I would happily back a crowdfunding project to do exactly that. Even without that, though, this book is definitely worth getting if you're a GM that likes to make their own creatures and adventures.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign (Strange Magic 2) that created this product, and as such, I paid for it.
All right, let's dive into this, shall we? This release is actually a pair of products, and the second one is fairly important if you're going to be playing at a table. Let's start with the main book, though.
The main volume of Ultimate Cartomancy is a 49-page, black-and-white (with color cover) release. As the description above explains, this class is focused around a deckbuilding casting style. The book introduces two new classes, five archetypes, and the Cartomancy system.
The first class, the Cartomancer, is described as an entity that forces luck to obey them through the use of divinations and curses. They're proficient in simple weapons and light armor (and have an arcane spell failure chance only when wearing gear they're not proficient in - an important distinction), have low BAB, a good Will save, and mainly run by the use of the Cartomancy ability. The cards used for this ability are known as portents, which are effectively divine spell-like abilities with a couple of changes for balance. Portents come in three grades - Least, Lesser, and Greater - and can have different activation times. Some of them are Swift or Immediate actions, and these are important (especially if you're playing a Dealer - see below).
Before making a deck, though, players also have to decide what kind of deck they're going to use. The Cartomancer has three options here. The Classic deck focuses on manipulating rolls through situational effects, and some powers get stronger if they're used in particular kinds of sequences. The Deathbringer deck is essentially a debuff setup, with things like curses, poison, disease, damage, vampiric effects, and so on. General nastiness, really. The Multitudes of Fate is basically an archetype for the deck, adding a selection of eight portents but also requiring you to use the included print-and-play cards (the other file) rather than the poker/tarot equivalence tables.
After this bit, we get to the actual deckbuilding rules. Cartomancers don't use their whole card collection - they wouldn't be deckbuilders if they did, you know? Rather, they have an active deck that they build under the guidelines, including no duplicate portents (until 11th level, anyway), a certain minimum number of cards, a limited amount of stronger effects, and so on. Cartomancers start with a maximum of 2 cards in their hand, scaling upwards at 5th level and every five levels afterward.
Actually playing a portent has two 'triggers' - the casting, and the fact that it was played. Even if a portent is counterspelled, fails to penetrate SR, or generally fails, it still counts as being played, and this can matter for other effects. Drawing a card is a move action that can be done once per-round.
Padding out the Cartomancy are a few other class abilities, like Tell Fortune (offering positive or negative outcomes), Fatespinning (choose an effect and roll for another random effect), and Seals (powerful effects that can be activated by discarding portents).
There are also a good selection of Favored Class Benefits, but more importantly, two archetypes are included. The Taleweaver replaces their Seals with the Portentous Magic ability, which allows them to discard portents and pay fate points to cast specific spells. The Shyster gets a series of "Monty" feats, providing them a separate group of cards they can play.
The other new class is the Wildcard, a more martial cartomancy class. The Wildcard has medium BAB progression, good Fort and Will saves, proficiency with Simple weapons and a good chunk of Martial weapons, and can use light armor and shields (but not tower shields). They have a slightly reduced active deck composition compared to the Cartomancer, too.
The basics of the Wildcard are (unsurprisingly) similar to that of the Cartomancer - you pick from the three deck formats, build your deck, et cetera. However, they do have some distinct class abilities. While they have Fatespinning and Seals, much like the Cartomancer, they also have the ability to "fatecharge" a weapon, shield, or suit of armor with a portent. This is similar to the Magus' spellstrike - for example, if you fatecharge a weapon, then the portent you added is going to affect the target you hit. Similarly, if you fatecharge your armor or shield, you can cause your attacker to suffer.
The Wildcard comes with three archetypes. The Ace is essentially an information-based option. They gain the ability to detect certain alignments (and later magic), trick magic items into thinking they're of a certain alignment (pretty niche, but useful for things like Candles of Invocation), and at high levels, automatically succeeding in identifying certain spells and being treated as a more favorable alignment for that. ...I honestly don't expect this to be very relevant in too many games, but if your table does a lot of alignment-based stuff, it may be worth using.
The Dealer can give their least portents to allies through the Ante Up ability, and those allies can cast them as if they were Wildcards (but only in the next minute, or else it's discarded). Note that this is generally poor action economy in combat, and it may be better to provide cards right before the party charges into a battle or something. At second level, giving portents to allies also gives them a morale bonus to damage, and the ability to use Ante Up as a swift action when they play a Lesser portent. (This plays from their discard pile instead of their hand, by the way, and is definitely more useful in combat than doing it normally.)
The Joker is pretty random even for the Wildcard, and gets the use of (randomly selected) spells whenever they replenish their fate pool. This could end up being pretty handy or totally useless. They also have the Uncertain Fate ability, which allows them to reveal cards until they get a Least Portent - and then immediately cast that effect on the target, even if they normally couldn't be targeted by the portent in question. Naturally, this is less dangerous if you only target allies or enemies with the effect in question. If you have both helpful and harmful effects in your deck, uh... well, good luck.
Now, after ALL of that, we're almost halfway through this product. Next up is the Feats section, which helps to expand on the system. I won't be describing every one of them, but some samples include Ace in the Hole (spend fate points to get a card from your deck that's also in your discard pile), Always Another Option (+1 to your hand size, albeit also an increase in costs to your seals if you have more cards in your hand than you should), and Three Card Monty (someone else picks a card from your Monty deck, and then interesting things happen).
Starting on Page 27 (or 25 by the in-product numbering), we get to the cards themselves. First up are the summary tables, which are good for quickly referencing things and planning out the deck you'd like to make for the day. The Classic and Deathdealer decks are quite different, but on the bright side, you do have access to all of the cards you can put into your deck - it's a deckbuilding class, not a collectible deckbuilding class.
Following this, we have the Card Equivalence Tables, which are helpful if you can't print out and use the cards provided. Included are the poker card equivalents - I saw mention of a tarot card equivalence earlier, but that doesn't seem to have made it into the final release. It's possible that simply couldn't be made to work, but if its removal was intentional, the associated text should probably have been removed as well. I do have to ding a few points for that, since a cited piece of content being absent is a bigger error than a simple typo.
The rest of the book includes the portents themselves, organized alphabetically into Least, Lesser, and Greater categories.
Least effects include things like The Aegis (energy resistance equaling your cartomancer level) and The Necromancer (give temporary hit points to an ally who was hurt).
Lesser effects are a little stronger, and include things like The Alchemist (entangle a foe, Reflex halves duration) and The Equilibrium (subject's next d20 roll equals 21 minus its last roll - so, a big boon if a friend rolled low, or a penalty if a foe rolled high).
Greater effects include options like Deception (provide someone with a 50% miss chance, as total concealment and resistant even to True Seeing effects) and The Paragon (insight bonus to a skill equaling your Cartomancer for one minute/level - this starts useful and gets even more so over time).
That's the end of the first product... but Interjection Games also provided a print-and-play set of cards you can put together as a second PDF. Pre-printed cards are available separately, I believe, if you'd like something a bit more professional to use with the class. Anyway! I highly recommend using some form of printed cards if you can - the equivalency tables are nice if you really must use them, but it's easier to simply look at your cards and see what you've got, and you'll want to make sure they're sturdy enough for regular use. (Back sides are included, and you can layer those if you really need to, or perhaps put your cards into hard plastic sleeves.)
Overall, this is another solid release from Interjection Games. It may not have been too obvious above, but I'd like to note that Cartomancers can be rather flexible characters. Much like Wizards, your power depends largely on the magic you choose for the day... and while this class isn't pushing the envelopes of power, it offers a very distinct style of play, and that can help to freshen things up. It's also a good way to introduce, say, friends who play Magic: The Gathering to Pathfinder, since they'll probably find it pretty easy to make the change.
Overall, I'd rate this release a 4.5/5. There are a couple of minor things I noticed, but overall the release is pretty solid. Given the lack of serious issues, I'm rounding the final score up for this platform.
Legendary Planet: The Depths of Desperation (PFRPG) PDFLegendary Games
Our Price: $17.99Add to Cart
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter for Legendary Planet and paid for each volume.
The adventure continues - although by this point, you probably know whether or not you (and your group) want to continue playing this adventure, so there's not a whole lot I can say that's going to sway your opinion. That being said, let's take a closer look at what's in this volume of Legendary Planet.
This is a 102-page, full-color PDF (matching the previous volume, although slightly smaller than Dead Vault Descent's 108 pages), and the main adventure once again takes the PCs to a brand-new area... and this time, it's a water world. Fortunately, there's a built-in option to ensure the PCs are actually able to traverse the adventure, but GMs will want to be intimately familiar with the rules for underwater games - including, especially, visibility - before they begin here.
Notably, this volume also serves as a conclusion if you feel your table is about done with this particular adventure and ready to move on to something else - but that's entirely up to them, and it matters because there's still two more volumes of this adventure path to go.
Following the adventure itself is the usual collection of new creatures (mostly aquatic this time, of course) and items (including gear that enemies use, items PCs may find rather useful, and so on), and a Gazetteer of the world focused on for this adventure.
More usefully, this volume also contains several pages of advice on mixing science fiction and fantasy into a game - which is common throughout this Adventure Path, of course. As they point out, some tables prefer one more than the other, and it's often up to the GM to tweak things so the table will enjoy it. Several sample technomagical rules are included to provide a good basis for this, as are a few items players might want, some useful new feats, a couple of spells, and finally, the continuing fiction.
I really appreciate that this volume has gone out of its way to try and make some of the genre-crossing of this adventure easier to play - different tables define their fun in different ways, after all, and it's not always easy to balance that sort of thing. Nevertheless, if your group is looking to continue their adventure across legendary planets, you probably aren't going to regret picking this up. And if they haven't played the earlier parts, well... I mean, technically, this could be run as a standalone high-level adventure if you really wanted to, but it's probably best to play the adventures in order.
Either way, this is a fun and helpful product, and I continue to be glad I supported it.
...Also, that cover art. You know you want to do that to your players.
Absolutely Worth It For GM'sRednal —
Disclaimer: I purchased this product at full price.
If you're running games and want to make better skill challenges, get this book.
What, you want to know more? Okay, okay. That first sentence is what it all comes down to, though.
As the name and description of this book note, this is a book all about making better skill challenges for the game - that is, no longer is it just "Roll X" and move on. Instead, players will have to make a series of rolls to proceed towards completion - and they'll usually be in initiative when they do it, which can have interesting effects.
This book addresses five main kinds of challenges - general skill challenges, chases, contests, influence, and verbal duels. Each comes with their own set of rules - and, helpfully, guidance is included so that spells and other abilities can't make these new situations too easy to win. The root of this is the "cycle", or how long each round takes. For example, if the cycle is 10 minutes, then a low-level invisibility spell could only give a benefit to Stealth for that one cycle... and a power generally has to last for the entire cycle in order to be useful. This allows for players to creatively apply their abilities to the task at hand, without too much fear of making it unfair.
(That said, it's clearly not meant for every skill check to become a lengthy challenge. If something CAN be resolved with one roll, it probably should be. This book is more about making genuinely complex challenges where the players need to work a bit harder in order to succeed.)
Optional elements for skill challenges include things like knowing the right language, adding time pressure, whether or not failures are allowed, and special qualities like critical fumbles (which normally aren't a thing for skills).
That said, Page 29 is probably the most useful in the whole book - there's a table here that has the DC's for easy, average, challenging, difficult, and very difficult skill challenges for every CR from 1-30. If you don't already have something like this for your GM screen, you should. Seriously, print that page out.
Plenty of examples are given for each type of challenge, too, to help you see how things should look by the time they're done. As I mentioned at the start, though, what it really comes down to is this: This book is useful for GM's. For that matter, it's also something that adventure writers should take a look at - reading through and implementing some of these types of challenges will almost certainly make your adventures better.
I do wish the book would've had a note on Taking 10 and Taking 20, though, both as a reminder and with suggestions for how those should work with this system. I'd also have liked to see a little more about ability checks, including a chart and some notes about properly integrating them either as parts of other challenges (such as options during a Chase) or as stand-alone challenges.
That aside, though, I'm happy to give this a full five stars, and I heartily recommend it to anyone running or writing a game.
Strange Magic Unchained: Variant Multiclassing (PFRPG) PDFInterjection Games
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product.
This small PDF is, as the title suggests, an expansion for Strange Magic that allows characters to use the Variant Multiclassing rules presented in Pathfinder Unchained. ...Honestly, I feel like that alone is going to tell you whether or not you want to get this. That said, it's a pretty good way to work in the powers and flavor of any of the classes this product covers if your GM is hesitant to let you let the full versions. (Variant Multiclassing in general is not a super-powerful option - these are the kinds of rules you'll play with for fun anyway, and all of the granted powers are weak enough that they shouldn't unbalance the game... especially because Interjection Games is a company that tends to be pretty good on balancing stuff.)
Classes that are covered include the Breakdancer, the Cantor, the Ethermagus, the Ethermancer, the Etherslinger, the Harmonicist, the Maestro, the Scion of Discordia, and the Truenamer.
Now, this was probably obvious already, but this is not a standalone book (even by the standards of third-party products). You will need either the big Strange Magic 1 book or the individual product containing whichever class you'd like to get, since that's where the actual rules are.
This product clearly isn't for everyone, since not every game even allows third-party content, much less uses some of the more obscure rules from Pathfinder Unchained. That said, I'm glad this option is available for those who do want to use it, and I don't hesitate to recommend it to such groups.
Disclaimer: I support the Patreon campaign funding Spheres of Power's handbook expansions, and as such I paid the full price for this product.
After some delays, the next book in Spheres of Power's line of expansions is here! I'm not much of a Dark user myself, but it's a nice counterpart to the Illuminator's Handbook, and not exactly an uncommon choice for characters.
Falling into the regular format these Handbooks have developed, this product opens with seven new archetypes.
The Darkshaper is an archetype for the Armorist that focuses on manipulating the user's shadow, which can be animated as an extra limb, make attacks, and generally change shape to be useful.
The Invidian is an archetype for the Symbiat, trading their psionic partner for a shadow demon. Their main feature is the Blackened Psyche, which allows for things like granting cover to allies or designating opponents as flanked against certain attacks.
The Nocturnal Predator is Batma- I mean, a shapeshifter focused on killing their foes in the dark. Most notably, they gain the Dark Sphere at full caster level progression (and don't lose progression in Alteration), which is a fairly notable benefit. To help balance this, the Nocturnal Predator also gains two Drawbacks without any extra talents for it (unless they already had the Spheres from a different class, which most won't).
The Shadow Boxer is an archetype for the Unchained Monk, and as the name implies, they can manipulate their shadow to strike their foes. It's a lot like the Darkshaper, really, but they have excellent reach (in all directions, including up), and they also gain some minor use of the Dark Sphere and can spend their Ki points to fuel its powers.
The Skulk is an archetype for the Fey Adept, trading powers of illusion for darkness and gaining the ability to steal shadows and fake the target's powers. Duplicating a foe's powers can be fairly potent, and I'd definitely recommend diving all-in on the flavor for this archetype.
The Talent Thief is an archetype for the Unchained Rogue that's a lot like the Fey Adept, covering the same general ground of stealing abilities. There is a limit on this in that you need to confirm a critical hit - which rather noticeably narrows the variety of builds this archetype will be effective for. (I can't actually dislike that too much - archetypes are usually all about playing in a particular way to begin with, but it's important to know if you want to use it.)
The Void Gazer is an archetype for the Thaumaturge that swaps their usual invocations for those with a darker theme. They also get the Clouded Vision curse of the Oracle.
After all of that, we finally get to the most important part of this book - the new basic magic talents. I was very happy to see that, once again, a Handbook contains new types of talents for a sphere. The new types introduced are Blots (flat surfaces of darkness with particular effects) and Shadows (which manipulate a shadow directly) - both of which offer definite new possibilities for casters.
The talents themselves include things like causing targets to quite literally choke on darkness, blindfolding someone with their own shadow, and extinguishing mundane sources of light (and magical sources of fire - a minor but useful utility, especially because it doesn't cost a spell point to use).
We also get a few augmented talents - new abilities that can be acquired by taking a talent multiple times. This isn't new to Spheres of Power - Fast Divinations had this - but it's still fairly rare.
To cap out the new powers, the Advanced Magic includes some new advances talents (like animating your shadow for a long period of time and creating fields that null alignments) and an Incantation to summon up a revenant shade.
The next chapter focuses on player options, starting with a variety of new feats that aid in the use of the Dark Sphere. Among them, we see things like free use of the Obfuscation talent in areas of dim (or darker) light, and Sickening targets at the same time you Fascinate them to really stack those ailments.
We also get three new traits, a handful of new drawbacks (including one for the Light sphere), and new Alternate Racial Traits for Fetchlings, Tieflings, and Wayang. Familiars aren't left out, either, as they get a nice new Archetype.
Section 6 is pretty short - just two pages - but it includes a few Wondrous Items, a Minor Artifact, and several new enchantments for weapons and armor. Three of these are GP-based, rather than magical, so they can easily be added to newly-crafted gear. The book wraps up with a new template and a sample creature.
All in all, this book nicely fits into what I've come to expect from Spheres of Power's handbooks. I was especially pleased to see the new Talent types, since those are an excellent way to add variety to a new Sphere without deviating from its central theme. If you enjoy Spheres of Power and plan on heavy use of the Dark Sphere, you're definitely going to want to pick this book up.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter for the Legendary Planet Adventure Path and received a copy of this as part of that.
As noted on the handy list above, Dead Vault Descent is Part 3 of the Legendary Planet Adventure Path, and by this point, you probably have a pretty good idea of whether or not you want to keep playing it. That is, I'm honestly not sure my review here is going to sway you one way or the other... but I would like to talk about the contents.
The previous adventure was something of a scavenger quest on a barren world, and like the other adventures in this campaign, Dead Vault Descent goes somewhere new - a tidally locked world where the sun hangs stationary in the sky and deep vaults burrow underground. Of course, in order to get there, the players are going to have to find a way through the next gate, and that's never as easy as they'd like... alas, I can't say much more because of spoilers.
Suffice it to say that Dead Vault Descent continues to maintain the level of quality we've come to expect from this Adventure Path, and there's plenty of content in addition to the material. From a nasty new construct swarm to what is definitely not a lightsaber (you can make ranged attacks with it, too!), there's a lot of good stuff to be found in this book and I'm looking forward to the point when my players reach it.
If you liked the previous adventures, know that this is a solid follow-up that will continue to challenge your players... and prepare them for the greater challenge to come.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter for Strange Magic 2, and received a copy of this as part of that.
Ultimate Herbalism is, at the time of this writing, the latest of many new systems introduced by Interjection Games... and it's quite different from most such things. But then, different is fun. At its heart, Herbalism is a fundamentally chaotic system where you roll to collect plants from your local region, then use them raw or process them with your recipes to provide various effects. If you like knowing exactly what you're going to have every day, this is not the system for you, although the cultivation pots that Herbalism classes have allow you to make things a little more predictable.
This book includes three new classes (one focused on cooking, one on plants, and one on carnivorous plant companions), plus archetypes, feat support, a wide variety of herbs, and even some sheets that can be used to record how much of your (many) resources you have.
All told, this is a very solid product. It's not something for every game, but if the concept appeals to you, know that your purchase will be getting you an expertly-written, highly flavorful system.