Abraxas

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Nice concept, meh execution

3/5

I like that they tried to give some meat to the idea of books of magic qua books, but didn't think any of the actual results were amazing. GMs can probably get some use out of the premade spell books to spice up treasure they give the party, if that's what you want. I found the spells pretty mediocre to bad. Some (e.g. Celestial Healing) have rightly been aggressively mocked throughout the forums. A couple of the archetypes are interesting ideas, but as usual for the large majority of Paizo archetypes they aren't actually worth taking.

I will, however, offer some moderate praise for the Runes of Wealth section. I did enjoy that one.

If you're looking for a good magic supplement and are budget constrained, try the Magic Tactics Toolbox instead.


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4/5

I liked the background information on Golarion intrigue, and found much of the mechanics stuff useful as well.

My favorites:

Masked personas give any character a way to have a secret identity, if not as well as a Vigilante.

The Investigator and Rogue talents had some good abilities.

The Enchanting Courtesan is fun and well designed. You can make an amazing NPC with it.

Several good archetypes.

The magical items section is unusually strong.

The spell selection is pretty good.

The big surprise is how thin the Vigilante options are. I don't particularly care about that class, but if you're primarily interested in expanding those options you should be cautious and hope for more in Spymaster's Handbook.


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Solid new options

4/5

This is a pretty typical Paizo product, with several useful options and a few great ones.

Standouts:

1. Dimensional Excavator (Alchemist) archetype, use Create Pit line of spells as throwable extracts.

2. Questioner (Investigator) archetype, Bard casting in place of alchemy.

3. Divine Scourge (Cleric) archetype, hexes in place of channel energy, must choose the curse subdomain regardless of deity.

4. Bloodline Mutations, blaster support options for Sorcerer and Bloodrager.

5. Manifold Stare (Mesmerist feat), use your painful stare more than once per round. Can be purchased with Bold Stare improvements rather than feats, and you don't need more than one or two of those anyway.

6. Rod of Perilous Pits, add a 3rd level or below spell effect to anyone who falls into your pit spell.

7. Secluded Grimoire (spell), protect a spell book that you can remotely summon at any time.

8. Lore Needle (item), 3/day use your highest Knowledge skill ranks to answer any other Knowledge skill you're trained in.

9. Impenetrable Veil (spell), allows high level casters to stealth at any time, get a bonus on stealth checks, avoid blindsense or similar effects, and avoid divination trying to locate them.

There's also some of the usual bad: most of the feats are bad and many of the spells are meh. The new Blood Hexes are awful, with bad action economy, bad effects, and 1/day unless you're a Witch/Shaman who has better options than trying to damage people in order to (later!) trigger these things.

Overall, however, the gems outweigh the stinkers, and I'm glad I spent my money to support more work like this.


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Highs and lows

3/5

This is an uneven product. A few of the writes ups are truly excellent and useful, providing good flavor and hooks for using celestial agents in your campaign at a variety of levels. Others, like the stats for the Empyreal Lord Andoletta, suffer from the mediocrity and inconsistency of past efforts, but have some solid stuff in there.

But what prevents this from getting four stars is the two sections that just don't belong. In a book that is not particularly long and supposedly about Heaven, I don't understand why there is not one but two write ups on mundane LG people (one cleric and one paladin) that don't bring anything particularly unique or in line with the overall theme of the book. Surely we could have replaced these with another Archon write up or another Angel? (The lack of a Solar was surprising, and only partially compensated for by the Empyreal Angel.)

If you want a few ideas for celestial campaigns and you're willing to pay a fairly high price for it this book is worth getting. If you're only looking to spend this money for completely rock solid products then give it a pass.


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The best output by the strongest author

5/5

Liane Merciel is my favorite of the 4-5 Pathfinder Tales authors I've read, and this is her best book yet. Excellent characterization, gritty and tough subject matter, and well plotted.


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More strong Occult content

4/5

The crunch in the begging provides some very good and very welcome expansions of options for the new occult classes. I found the location write ups somewhat less useful due to space constraints, but they provide a nice hook for a GM to build upon, although he'll have to do most of the work. They probably work better for a one off where you teleport in to handle a problem than as a campaign arc.


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A nice taste of new lands

4/5

I really enjoyed this book providing information on never before explored corners of Golarion. It provides enough info to build a campaign arc in each location, and each is unique and interesting in its own way. Highly recommended for GMs wanting to spread out to something new for a bit.


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Strong, thematic new options

5/5

I really enjoyed this one. It provides good options for select dark/shadow focused races, shadow options for classes (oracle mystery, alchemist archetype, rogue archetype, psychic discipline), theoretical guidance on using and defending against darkness as an environmental weapon, and new gear and spells that provide fun, creative new options.

Highly recommended to flesh out existing character concepts or inspire a shadow themed party or campaign.