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3/5

The Elemental Master’s Handbook has some great concepts and good executions that look into some interesting design space, but suffers from a few options that feel like they needed another editing pass after rewrites.

The first half of this book, divided in four, covers what the Player Companion calls the Masters of the elements (Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Each of these sub-sections contain a different mix of Archetypes, character rules elements and feats, as well as four locations within the Golarion setting that ties thematically with that element, and a rules element associated with that location.

Masters of Fire is first, giving us the Firebrand Gunslinger and Flamesinger Bard. The Firebrand is a bomb-throwing, fire spitting gunslinger, that runs it’s grit pool and bombs of it’s charisma score. They can also can add their Charisma to the DCs of dragon’s breath cartridges. They also count direct hits with bombs as firearm shots with regard to grit regeneration.

The Flamesinger gains Fire Music as a bonus feat, and automatically gains summon monster spells as she levels up, and replaces her ability to inspire courage to add stacking fire damage to her allies weapons, toasty!

Masters of Fire also includes the Salamander bloodline for both Sorcerers and Bloodragers. Both bloodlines gain transformational augments that make them more akin to their Salamander ancestors. Bloodragers can enhance their weapons and armor when they bloodrage, while Sorcerers focus on crafting and augmenting magical items.

The last standout in Masters of Flame is Sunblade, which lets Paladins with Word of Healing spend uses of lay on hands to use the blast of flame as a kineticist! (although at a reduced effective kineticist level), opening up a weapons-free ranged attack for Paladins.

The Earthshadow rogue was the first entry in Masters of Stone that caught my eye. It’s a subterranean-themed rogue archetype that gains a pseudo-ki pool, named Earthcraft points which allows an Earthshadow to cast spell-like abilities, including stone tell and dimension door, replacing half you rogue talents. One thing to note is that it doesn’t list whether or not Unchained Rogue’s can take this archetype.

This section also includes some very nice rogue/investigator/slayer talents: ‘Fortified position’ lets you apply cover bonuses to fortitude saves, ‘castling’ improves cover granted by enemies, and Unbalancing trick gives you the Improved trip feat AND qualifies you for Greater Trip once you’ve hit sixth level!

Masters of the Water gives us the Abendego Diver, which drops out their wild empathy of greater breath holding, locks them into aquatic favored terrain. Instead of woodland stride they gain a natural a natural swim speed, and swift tracker goes in favor of scent while underwater. While it’s very niche, it doesn’t give up much you’d miss. Benthic spell lets you add one to the spell level to either replace, or split a damaging spells damage with bludgeoning via torrents of water.

Moving on past the four classical elements, the book goes on to expand on Wizard schools in Masters of the Esoteric Elements, introducing the Aether elemental school, and the Ice, Magma, Mud, and Smoke focused elemental arcane schools, which provide alternative school powers for elemtal school wizards.

Wielders of Elemental power provides seven blast infusions, talents wild talents, as well as two feats. One allows a kineticist to counter spells with a certain subset of keywords (Generally those that correspond with elemental damage types), and the other provides some mobility while gathering power.

Next up, Elemental Augmentations are a new type of slotless magical item, sort of like an elemental magic prostheses. These are all very interesting, but also quite expensive, and successful or not, Inflicts of constitution damage when integrated (which also requires a fortitude save.

Next up is the Genie Binder Prestige Class. The Genie Binder is a five level, that advances spell-casting three levels out of five. The meat and potatoes of this class are elemental seals, a multi-purpose spell-like ability creating a rune on an object or creature. Each ‘classical’ element has seal, and each seal acts differently when placed on an object, a genie, or a creature other than a genie. Placing a seal costs 1 point from the Genie Binder’s Binding Pool (which contains two times her level, and refreshes daily. It can also be used to give +1d6 on a charisma check or skill against a genie), and the Genie Binder can maintain one seal per day at first level, a second at 3rd level, and a third at 5th. Placing a seal on a genie forces it to save versus charm monster, and if it fails it is affected as long as the seal remains in effect. (Seals remain in effect for 24 hours, and can be refreshed every day by spending a further point from the binding pool). When placed on a non-genie creature, it offers 10 points of energy resistance corresponding with the seal’s element, and a constant spell like ability associated with that element. Finally, when placed on an object, it acts as a blasting Glyph of Warding, dealing damage corresponding with the elemental type. The seals available to the Genie Binder are spaced out across levels, and the more powerful Spell-like abilities are tied to higher level seals. Lastly, a fifth level Genie Binder can raise the DC of their Seals by spending an additional binding point.

The Genie Binder also adds the common types of genie to the list of available summon monster spells. The caveat is that summoning them this way costs points from her binding pool, and the summoned creature cannot cast wish, a perfectly reasonable caveat, preventing Efreeti wishes from [/i]Summon Monster VI. Sadly, the last two features are where things come apart at the seams, a little, and I suspect this archetype may have had some growing pains through development, editing and/or copyfitting. At first level the Genie Binder gains Genie Mastery , at which point the Genie Binder must choose to pursue spellcasting power or bind a genie minion. Choosing spellcasting results her ‘gain[ing] the benefits of her alignment spellcasting class feature at 3rd level, in addition to other indicated levels). Unfortunately the Aligned spellcasting feature is absent from the class entry. Alternatively, the Genie binder may gain a Genie Unchained Eidolon, with an effective summoner level equal to her Genie Binder level plus any other summoner levels they may have, meaning while it’s certainly a possibility to choose for Wizard (for example), a wizard is getting very little from this choice. Overall, I do like this prestige class, though it seems to have suffered some growing pains between writing and publishing.

As mentioned, Elemental master’s handbook also offers the Genie Eidolon subtype. Genie Eidolons are proficient with martial weapons, and as their master increases in level, they can increase their size, gain a movement mode based on their type, gain an array of Spell-like abilities. Overall a decent addition, and the fills a space that was in retrospect waiting to be filled.

Oracles get both a new Mystery and a new Curse: The Elemental Mystery and the Elemental Imbalance Curse. Elemental Imbalance afflicts you with energy vulnerability to one element and bonus spells known based on that elements opposite. Elemental Mystery Oracles gain powers from a variety of different elements, and their bonus spells are suitably broad elemental spells. such as the [i]elemental body line of spells, and they gain a nice mix of familiar and new revelations, with plenty of interesting and useful twists.

Finally, Elemental Alchemy is touch upon. The Energy Scientist is an archetype for the Alchemist which attunes to an element every day, and gains save bonuses against spells with the matching keyword. In addition, his bombs automatically deal that type of damage (discoveries can still alter this on the fly, but the bomb die size is reduced). Lastly, the Energy Scientist is also able to turn dead elementals into alchemical items, although they cannot be sold and become inert after 24 hours.

Development lead for Elemental Master’s Handbook were Amanda Hamon Kunz and Ron Lundeen. John Compton, Eleanor Ferron, Mikko Kallio, Jason Keeley, Isabelle Lee, and Christopher Wasko are credited as authors. The Cover art is by Igor Grechanyi, and the interior art is by Alyssa Davis, Graey Erb, and Kent Hamilton.


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Mama always said not to wander too deep into the woods

4/5

Blood of the Coven is a well-worth addition to the Pathfinder Library of both players and game masters.

This Player Companion begins by expanding on the Changelings, both in terms of rules mechanics and lore. It starts off by expanding on the lore presented in the Advanced Race Guide and Inner Sea Races, and moves on to a guideline for Changelings based on non humans, and a note that the Hags with the Outsider type can also create Changelings.

Changelings get some good options in this book. They received the treatment given to Aasimar, Tieflings and Skinwalkers, being given ten(!) optional varieties tied closely to the Changeling’s hag mother. Each lists a typical alignment (which is one variety of Neutral or another, except for Waker May, born from Dreamthief hag’s coven-mates, into whom the Dreamthief pours their fiendish soul). These variants also alter the racial ability modifiers of the changeling, though most have at least one or two modifiers in common with the non-speciality Changeling. Finally, the variants are each given a Hag Racial Trait, usefully collected from the various Bestiary entries of Hags, expanding the options from the Advanced Class Guide.

This section is excellent, and my only real disappointment is that Slag May, Annis-born Changelings retain a constitution penalty, the only mar on them making absolutely perfect Bloodragers. Why bloodragers? I’ll get to that, but it's by no means a deal breaker.

The next section covers Covens. Once more, Blood of the Covens does some very useful leg-work in collating information on hags, in this place, the specific spells which a given hag contributes to their coven spellcasting. Additionally, there are a few feats in this section: The shiner here to me is Enhanced Coven. Each changeling with the feat gains an additional 3 coven ‘slots’ per day.

Next up is a fairly long section on Witchcraft. Patrons receive a set of archetypes which left you graft some spells onto your patron spell list, and at the cost of a drawback, you get a bonus hex. The drawbacks by and large are either minor or quite flavourful: the Celestial Agenda wants you to not deceive or threaten people, the Green Whispers patron forbids metal armor and inflicts minor damage in contact with metal and those whose patron is Touched By The Outer Gods are easily confused.

This section also contacts three archetypes for witches, of which my favourite has to be the Hagbound. Hagbound Witches have to take the archetype as their first level, and must continue to take levels in hagbound witch until they can free themselves from the hold a hag has on their souls, slowly transforming them into a Hag, becoming an evil monstrous humanoid with several immunities and hefty spell resistance, unless she can remove the archetype with a miracle before you hit 20th level. The putrefactor gains an honorable mention for being ...thoroughly disgusting, but also an interesting take on a witch with a swarm familiar. The section tops off with three additional patrons, Jynx, Mercy and Rot.

The Witch Religions section provides an overview of the common deities that Witches worship, , and provides the Triadic Priest Cleric archetype, which forms a Triadic bond with exactly two allies, and gains bonuses for working cooperatively with them (I’m strongly considering this archetype if I ever get into a 3 player+GM game in the future)

Next up is a section on curses.slightly over a bag of spells all with the curse descriptor (surprise surprise) and a few feats. The standout feat is the Latent Curse metamagic feat. For a +1 spell level adjustment, you change the target line on a spell to object touched, but the object does not suffer the effect of the spell, oh no, the next creature to touch the object does. I think that this is a legitimately amazing feat with some creative, devious uses.

Hags and the Occult touches on Hagtouched implements and Hag or curse themed archetypes for the Kineticist and Spiritualist as well as a psychic discipline and hag-themed implements for Mediums, and the Arakineticist Archetype. I’m not as familiar as i should be with the occult classes, so I can’t really comment on these.

And then Ritual Magic. I love Ritual magic, and I love these Rituals! Five-Generation Curse is how you get lycanthropic families. Grand Coven lets a coven gain additional members, and gain powerful effects for more members,including wail of the banshee and greater create undead. Invoke the Nemesis is an amazingly thematic spell, I believe it’s a bit let down by being a seventh level ritual that summons a creature with a CR under 4.

Those who hunt is the penultimate section, and probably my favourite in the game, but then I favor martial characters. The Covenbane slayer could easily have been much too niche for consideration in many campaigns, but instead is, in my opinion a viable, strong archetype! The Covenbane slayer gains a supernatural ability to sense spellcasters, hags and creatures with SLAs, as well as recognise creatures disguised magically (“By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes...”), Studied target expands to give bonuses against the entire coven after studying a single member, and later expands to include those bound by hive-minds or telepathic bond, an excellent extrapolation of the theme.

The Hagriven Bloodrager is also amazing, gain claws, the ability to sacrifice spell slots for enhancement bonuses to both claws that stack with other enhancement bonuses, and natural armor bonus, and a free floating critical feat, changeable each day. And the art supplied for it on the previous page is excellent. Despite the con penalty on Slag-May/Annis-born Changelings, they’ve risen high on my “Play this concept” list.

The Malice Binder Investigator is perhaps a step down from the un-archetyped Investigator, but contains a slew of interesting abilities, but is perhaps better suited to an NPC than a PC. (But would serve excellently in that role: Wrack is especially cool, and a fantastic way to create tension.

Blood of the Coven closes up with an item section. There’s nothing essential here, but the Pactseeker’s blade is very cool, dealing bonus damage to each of a struck creature’s allies that the creature shares an active spell effect with, and the Battlepot Cauldron, which is a giant spiky pot you can use as a magical heavy mace. Beyond that, you can put up to five potions into the battlepot as a standard action each. When you hit an enemy with the Battlepot, you can free action effect that creature with one of the potions (of your choice) in the pot, very fun, I think! Also, ‘battlepot’ is just a plain fun word.

This wasn’t a book I had any particular excitement for when I first saw it on the release schedule, but I thought I’d take a look, and I was very pleased with what I found. Some very cool archetypes, interesting rituals, a delightfully tricksome metamagic feat. In addition, Paizo has taken an opportunity to enshrine that while hag’s magical nature causes them to bear only female children, these children can express masculine identities or lack clearly defined sexual traits.

Development leads for this book were Crystal Frasier and Jessica Price. John Compton, Eleanor Ferron, Crystal Frasier, Lissa Guillet, Elisa Mader, Adrian Ng, Mark Seifter and Linda Zayas-Palmer are credited as authors. The cover art is by Setiawan Lie, and interior art is by Kent Hamilton, Alyssa McCarthy and Benjamin Widdowson.