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Tinker damage-dealer


Having a melee tinker in my group, and seeing how much he appreciates playing it, I decided to look into more options for his character. “A martial tinker prestige class” seemed like an obvious choice for that!

At first I believed the Innovator placed inventions on his weapons instead of an automaton, but that's a different class, called the Gadgeteer. This fellow here actually gains access to a new system with unique ways to customize one weapon, based on alchemy, wands and/or mechanical parts.

You can only pick it up at level nine, though, so my player is far away from playing one. But as soon as he saw this material, he started looking into which magical wands would better integrate with exotic melee two-handed weapons, alongside with an alchemist fire hose. He loved the idea.

So, no real gameplay experience yet, but it looks really solid and weird on paper. It's definitely going to see play in my table in the months ahead.

Grade: Five out of five stars.

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Obligatory expansion


This is a must-have to complement all the standard inventions from the Tinker main book. I mentioned in a previous review how one of my players felt the Tinker was pretty much a drone pilot – with this book, your automaton can actually fly (and swim and drill also)! It's perfect for all non-standard adventures and for that time when everybody starts having easy access to flying (a nightmare for GMs, mostly).

Playing a tinker without this book is just like playing Diablo II without the Lord of Destruction expansion: it seems fine, but you have no idea how much you are missing.

Too bad there aren't any new first level inventions.

Grade: Four out of five stars. If you usually play mid to high level games, this is an easy five.

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Robot pilot


Summary: The tinker is a pet class that builds and controls robots similar in strength to summoned creatures and animal companions, but with eidolon-like mechanics. Instead of spells, he gets inventions, used exclusively on his bots.

Main ability: Intelligence.

Gameplay experience: When presenting the class to my players, the one who would later pick it up, defined it: “Isn’t this just like a drone pilot?”. And, indeed, the main robots of the Tinker, the automatons, behave just like drones, needing directives to do anything. The character sits back and just remote controls his way through combat. But since they use up a standard action, directives can become a challenge to issue, especially if the tinker is a melee combatant and has the habit to charge as soon as possible, leaving the rest of the party behind (with mixed results!).

My melee tinker player is struggling to understand that the automaton is actually the better tanker, not himself – but the other shoe is starting to drop, and he’s using more and more his directives, in clever ways. The automaton really begins to pick up at the second level, when he can receive more than one invention. And the kamikaze directive is just a beast, perfect to end encounters.

He still has to level up enough to get an alpha, but I expect a more independent robot to change a lot the dynamic of the tinker in battle. And once the second automaton kicks in, things will get even crazier. Yes, he friggin’ loves his robots.

Ramblings: The directives make the Tinker quite an unique pet class, unlike animal (ab)users who practically control their pets as an extended part of their bodies - the automaton actually requires constant planning, but makes it up to the player for being so versatile and tough/useful. But left alone, they are nothing more than furniture – hardly a monster will ever bother attacking a still robot instead of a meaty player character. You gotta keep them moving!

And I don’t even want to imagine what a Tinker can do if all his automatons and alpha are destroyed, with no deployments left. Maybe I won’t have to, if the party runs into some robot-hating monsters in a future encounter… sounds fun.

Rarting: Five out of five stars.

Suggestions: Maybe a way to use magic items to power up the automatons? Not making them hold wands and cast fireballs or anything like that, but maybe consuming charges or uses per day to do something odd. Not really an idea, barely a concept.

Drawing a blank here, since the tinker is the most expanded class of Interjection Games, with extra books containing archetypes, prestige classes and inventions. And it will be expanded even further, according to its creator. Looking forward to it!

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Great option for casters


Summary: The herbalist is a caster that gets random “spells” each day, based on her surroundings, and gets to keep a few for the next day (in magical pots and vases).

Main abilities: Wisdom and Intelligence.

Gameplay experience: This is a great class for a player that wants to play as a spell caster but doesn’t actually want to bother optimizing when choosing spells. And I happen to have a player just like that – one time, when she was playing as a druid, I printed out a 2 page spell list, just to see her picking all her spells from the first half of the first page, not even reading the rest. Grrrr.

But with the herbalist she just rolls a d20, marks down what she's got and off we go. In the first session she focused only on healing and damage, to later on, while double checking her herb list, to discover all this other plants that would’ve come really handy on some skill tests, saving throws and even combat maneuver rolls. Now she started to plan ahead and came up with creative ways to use her plants.

She even surprised me with a very nice exploit: whenever there are some days of downtime between encounters or adventures, she’ll just use these free find herb rolls to hog all the plants she can and pick the better ones for her vases and pots – she’s got a great reserve of powerful venoms and weapon oils, waiting for the next boss battle.

Ramblings: Some thoughts on the archetype classes available, though no real gameplay experience with them yet.

The preservationist seems to be the more obvious choice for a melee herbalist, with the carnivorous plant backpack giving away a free attack, and also the free healing and weapon buffs.

Flower child - it would be more fluff than anything, but I’d really prefer to see a small intelligent plant pet (kinda like the elf druid archetype in the ARG) following the herbalist around instead of a regular familiar…

Rating: Five out of five stars.

Suggestions: A underwater plants biome table, fille with algae and the like. Maybe some beach/river/coast variations, for adventures on boats.

The herbalist doesn’t quite need magic crafting since she has it built in her class powers as Recipes. But I would like to see it expanded with more generic and easy recipes (maybe some of them are known by all herbalists, recipes used to train apprentices, with very low DCs), like reversing the effects of poisons (STR poison becoming a minor bull’s strength), or just an antidote; or combining two harmless plants from a single biome to produce a smaller or weaker enhancement (when consumed gives +1 to the herbalists level when calculating effects using plants from the same biome), mixing leftover plants to make some fertilizer and get one extra plant for the next find herbs roll; maybe more recipes that can be carried around outside of preservation vases (I guess all this could instead become an archetype, a cooking mama herbalist).

To sum it up, changes that would make the recipe system more common place to the herbalist, a little bit more like the standard magical crafting. It probably becomes more regular as the character levels up and gets dozens of herbs on his find rolls, but at the first levels it is almost never used.

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A favorite of mine


Summary: The Onmyoji is a caster with two spell systems. He can write prayers on talismans and place them on the ground for area effects (o-fuda) or on a single target for a stronger version of the same effect (omamori). And he can use unique spells by petitioning spirits, fueled by a spirit pool. He’s also helped by a powerful familiar-like summon called shikigami.

Main abilities: Charisma and Wisdom.

Gameplay experience: As a DM of a very small group (only 3 players total) I usually play a DMPC in the role of support, as a defense and buff-heavy character, choosing powers that match such design and staying in the back row during combat. The Onmyoji can take this role very well, with healing and buffing (AC, saving throws and energy resistance) prayers and petitions.

I usually move, place a talisman smack in the middle of the group, and move back to use long ranged attacks (not so great) and the aid of the minor kami power (cantrips and orisons). If the combat starts going bad, and it usually does, I either place a healing talisman near the party or start with healing petitions. But you really want to watch out your usage of prayers and talismans, since they can end really fast if the combat starts to drag, or you have one too many encounters in a day.

If there's only one melee character in the party, it might prove more useful to top him with an omamori talisman before he rushes/charges/zergs ahead, instead of placing an o-fuda talisman and watching the monsters moving around and away from it - it’s really painful to look at a talisman laying on the floor without anyone to benefit from it! And trust me, the party will hardly ever bother to try and move the fight back to the talisman radius.

The shikigami is incredible useful to flank with the melee party members, and way more tough than it looks - as long as you remember to stay close so it can receive his buffs from your presence. It can barely do much more than non-lethal damage, but his power to also place talismans is really handy in emergencies.

Ramblings: Although I haven’t played with an offensive build, I can see the Onmyoji has plenty of potential to cause damage, specially at later levels. The lack of armor proficiency probably hampers him a lot as a melee engager, though. As he is right now, a long ranged caster is probably the way to go.

I'd love to combine the elemental summoning petition with a feat that allows your shikigami to also learn petitions, but that would make my Onmyoji stand out way too much in my table, which isn't really the point.

I find the petitions and prayers are very thematically appropriate and the book has some great classic illustrations.

Rating: Five out of five stars.

Suggestions: Probably archetypes. I imagine some sort of exorcist-themed Onmyoji, focused on fighting yokai/outsiders; and a melee version of the Onmyoji, trading the shikigami for some defensive bonuses, maybe keeping the origami motif in some way (a permanent talisman?); or the Shikigami master, giving animal companion stats to his familiar.

Crafting! I’d love to see a Craft Wand and Scribe Scroll equivalent feats for the onmyoji to place his petitions into magical objects - probably some jade figurines with 50 charges and prayer beads with 1 charge, or other thematically fit objects.

And maybe exchanging one of his petitions or prayers after 4th level and on every even level like other casters (sorcerers, for an example) for other petitions or prayers of any level he can learn. I know all his powers scale up, but it would be useful to fix some regrets - not so sure how this would affect balance, though, if at all.