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So what in the Dark Tapestry is a Promethean?

5/5

Introduction
So, Hall Kennette is a prolific author that has been kind of focusing on Akashic magic supplements. He has made several new classes, with the Stormbound and the Volur being the most prominent. In this book by Lost Spheres Publishing, he presents us a new akashic class, the Promethean. Is it as good as the Volur? Let’s see!

What’s inside?: Not counting covers, table of contents and legal stuff, 48 pages for 9 bucks, which includes:

-Introduction: Here the author talks about one of the areas not really explored in akashic magic before, basically talking about Lovecraft-y kind of occult and alien stuff. Great way to start the book!

-Promethean Base Class: Before I get into the class, the name comes from the titan Prometheus, who gave the forbidden knowledge of how to use fire to humans, which is a nice name for a class themed around occult knowledge.

Anyway, the Promethean is a veilweaving class, with a cleric-like chassis (medium BAB/d8 HD, good Fort and Will saves, simple weapons and light armor proficiencies, plus bucklers), with 2 skill points to fuel 20 class skills. They have 3 main abilities.

Veilweaving: Promethean have strong intelligence-based veilweaving abilities (good, since most recent veilweavers have defaulted to charisma), going from 1 to 8 veils shaped during their progression and having all 10 binds (one at every even level); they have their own veil list which includes veils for all 10 slots, even if some slots have only a few options; their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of akashic classes. To empower these veils, the Promethean gets 1 point of essence per odd level, and 2 each even level, ending with the same essence of a Vizier but getting more at lower levels. It is worth mentioning that their veilweaving is not their only class feature that depends on essence, the other being Forbidden Knowledge (read below).

Promethean Obsession: The “archetype” of the class, each obsession grants the Promethean an ability at levels 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, 17th and 20th levels. 4 are included in this book (in its own section after the rest of the class is presented). Adaptationists can mutate their forms to have natural weapons chosen from a big list, they fight and endure like a warrior class, and get some “adaptations”, which are unique talents of the subclass that makes the character evolve. Doppelgängers are shapechangers who can sneak attack (up to +7d6), steal faces from corpses and making them unidentifiable, consuming bodies of corporeal creatures and even undead and gaining some of their abilities, to the point where they get to wear what their victims were wearing! Their shapechanging abilities improve, gaining more abilities of the chosen form and being able to become bigger or smaller (up to huge and diminutive), and startling those whose shape they have taken. My favorite obsession from a player perspective!

Fleshsculpters might sound similar to the previous two, but whereas the Adaptationists mutates and the Doppelgänger shapechanges, these mofos instead disfigure and impair those who they touch! They gain a melee touch attack as a standard action that deals 1d6 per Promethean level of supernatural, irreducible damage, that also has a rider effect if the victim fails a save, for 1 round plus 1 more for every 2 levels. The penalties are varied, and increase every few levels, to the point where the victim can get, as an example, up to -5 to attacks or AC after a failed Will save. This are curse effects, and while they don’t stack with themselves, the Promethean can apply different penalties each time they use this ability against the same target. They can also use fleshsculpting to buff their allies. At the start of each day, they can sculpt their flesh to give them a special ability from a long list. Later levels unlock more abilities, and they can give their allies more than one, or even make changes permanent! And at 20th level, those they fleshshape permanently become immortal! Since permanent fleshsculpting has a monetary cost, rules for buying such enhancements are given, which is beyond cool, and it also includes the possibility to buy temporary fleshsculpting. While not my favorite, this subclass opens up tons of possibilities and has incredible world-building potential!

We end the subclasses with the Thoughthunter. Like the others, they have a base offensive ability where their arms become a mass of tendrils, which they can use to attack and grapple and even mentally damage those grappled by their tendrils. They can also hear the surface thoughts of those near them, and by concentrating they can focus on the thoughts of one creature. Later levels warp your mind in a way that it makes them more difficult to attack mentally, and those who try to read their minds get damaged. Later levels improve both abilities, but at 17th they become an illithid-lite, having to consume the brains of sentient beings to survive. Eating a brain gives them access to some of the owner’s memories and knowledge, unless the creature was immune to mind-affecting effects.

Forbidden Knowledge: The final ability of Prometheans is a kind of class talent gained at 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 18th levels, chosen from a list of 11. Almost all of them are essence receptacles, and some of them include up to 10 points of essence empowerment! Also, some have side effects. As an example of some of them, Abundance of Eyes makes them grow numerous eyes throughout their body, making them more difficult to flank and also getting bonuses to Perception and Sense Motive checks, which are increased with essence. Glimpsed the Infinite burns their eyes, but lets them see clearly within 30 ft (more with essence), and every point of essence increasing what you can see, from magical auras, to alignments, to intents and finishing with a kind of x-ray vision. Seeds of Life lets them prepare a vessel similar to the clone spell. I didn’t find a single useless one, nor did I find a must have, which is difficult from a design perspective.

All in all, the Promethean is a weird, dark veilweaving class that will work wonders in the hands of both players and Game Masters.

-3 new feats: Esotery Sculptor is open only to Fleshsculptors, improving their damaging touch and also opening magic-item crafting. Essence-honed Flesh is useful for those who fight unarmed or with natural weapons, can give enhancement bonuses to both with essence, but has its own, unique maximum essence capacity of up to +5, so it is great for low level Gurus, essence-using Druids and of course the Adaptationist Promethean.

-3 magical items: Cloning Vat is an item that improves the Clone spell and the Seeds of Life forbidden knowledge. Elixir of Fleshsculpting come in many prices, and each tier can change or enhance the imbiber in different ways, all tied to the Fleshsculptor obsession. Finally, Forbidden Tome is an item that can improve your Forbidden Knowledge class feature as if it had more essence invested (up to +3), and you can benefit from more than one, but each affecting a different FK.

-Veilweaving: This section gives you the basics of veilweaving, which almost lets you use this book without Akashic Magic. There is no mention on suppressing veils though. However, it includes a new veil descriptor, Fleshwarp, that states some differences from other veils, mainly that they don’t act like supernatural abilities and more like extraordinary, which make them very difficult to affect.

-19 new veils: After the veilshaping section, new veils are unceremoniously spewed to the reader, which kind of feels thematically fitting to the book LOL. They come divided in several veil sets (though there is no mention if only these veils are in the sets), an important distinction since there are some abilities out there, most of them by the author, that deal with veil sets. Since there are too many, I will present the veil set and describe one of the veils:

Dreams of Power is a 3 veil set focused on dreams. Nightmare’s Eye is a headband veil that includes the [sleep] descriptor, which while I couldn’t find as a spell descriptor, is useful to have and know that elves are probably immune to it. Anyway, it lets you cloud the minds of those you focus on, making them drowsy for 2 rounds, with essence increasing the duration, and the creature can even fall asleep. The headband bind damages those who fall asleep.

Shapes of the Primordial is a 5 veil set focused on changing the veilshaper’s form, so all the veils in the set have the new descriptor. Leaping Gait is a feet veil that improves your jumping, to the point of jumping so fast that only part of the distance counts towards your movement for the round.

Trappings of the Old Gods is a 5 veil set, with a Lovecraftiang myth theme. Embodiment of the Gate gives you the ability to project a 5 foot aura, and you can decide where you are in that aura for the purposes of your attacks and attacks of opportunity, and if you provoke an AoO, the attacker must succeed in a Will save to be able to attack you (not a fan of adding extra rolls, it would have been better to improve your AC). Essence increases both the Will DC and the aura’s area. Shoulder bind makes you aura difficult terrain, and you have the option to roll to see if you are there or not there, losing your action but becoming very difficult to hurt, and the body bind makes that mandatory (although you can still make AoO).

Warsculpter’s Menagerie is a 6 veil set, focused again in changing your chape, with all veils having the new descriptor, but this set makes you better at combat, with all of them open to the Promethean and Daevic classes (some of them are open to others too). Behemoth Flesh is a chest veil that makes you denser and thus have greater weight, but this gives you improved bullrushing and overrunning capabilities, to the point where you can hurt those affected by your maneuvers. Essence improves your density, becoming even more apt at said maneuvers and improving their damage. The Chest bind has a glitch, mentioning the body bind in the text (chest is mentioned in the veil and the veil bind name, but body is mentioned in the text); anyway, it makes you actually bigger, with size bonuses and all (+8 size bonus to strength? GREAT!)

Appendix: Here we can find information about the Dimension of Dreams, one of the new places added to the game in Occult Adventures. Another guest is the Fleshwarping item creation feat, coming from Horror Adventures, and coming with two sample items, also from the book mentioned. After this we have 7 pages of legal stuff, which after many books I have become immune to them LOL.

Of Note: The marrying of crunch and fluff is strong in this book, something that is missing from other akashic releases that feel more general. The class is very interesting, serving as a kind of dark reflection of other akashic classes.

Anything wrong?: Apart from some misspellings here and there, and glitches like the one in the last veil I described, some of the abilities feel really strong. Untyped damage should not be that common, even if it has some caveats.

What I want: More information of the class and its place in the world and uses of its rules. Secret societies, monsters, NPCs, more of everything! And maybe an anti-promethean organization!

What cool things did this inspire?: Imagine a less futuristic Cyberpunk-like setting, but instead of cybernetic enhancements, you get warped flesh… It sounds effin AWESOME! I would love to play/narrate a campaign like that! FLESHPUNK, HERE WE GO!

Do I recommend it?: This book is gross in the best possible way. Creepy veilweavers is something that akashic magic sorely needed, and here Mr. Kenneth delivers in spades. IMHO, this is the best book penned by the author to date! Even with all the problems mentioned, I think this book deserves no less than five lightless stars from this reviewer, plus a tentacly hi 5 to the author!


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I have THE-URGE to review The Spellweaver

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Introduction
The Spellweaver is a new class by Lost Spheres Publishing, penned by Hal Kennette, one of the most prolific authors of akashic magic. But wait, the class is called Spellweaver, is it an arcane or an akashic class? Read on!

What’s inside?
24 pages of content (not counting covers, ads etc.) for 9 bucks, which include:

-The Spellweaver class: After a short fluffy intro we learn that akashic magic is like the grandparent of arcane magic, and spellweavers represent the midpoint between this evolution. The fluff is cool but might not fit in every campaign world, but of course being fluff it can be changed.

Anyway, Spellweaver is both a veilweavingand spellcasting class, with a magus-like chassis (medium BAB/d8 HD, good Ref and Will saves, simple and martial weapons and light and medium armor proficiencies, and can cast without incurring spell failure, ), 2 skill points for 14 skills (which include all knowledge ones, perception, and use magical device). A strong chassis if I may add.

If you were wondering why I wrote the obvious reference to the so-called "theurge" classes, it's because Spellweavers have modest intelligence-based veilweaving abilities and intelligence-based spellcasting. Their veilweaving goes from 2 to 6 veils shaped during their progression and having 6 flexible binds (similar to the Zodiac), and use the Vizier veil list... but they don't get the special Ring slot, so even if they have them in their list, they can't actually shape Ring veils. Anyway, apart from this little glitch, their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of akashic classes. To empower these veils, the Spellweaver gets 1 point of essence per level, like most Akashic classes out there.

Then there is their spellcasting, and it is... weird. While they get cantrips in the standard fashion, they don't have spell slots, and instead prepare up to one spell per level plus their Int modifier of the maximum level they can cast (including metamagicked ones), which are drawn from both the wizard and magus list (similar to the hunter), up to 7th level, and cast these spells by shattering their veils. Shattered veils are suppresed for 10 minutes! And any essence invested is burned and recovered when the veil reshapes! Talk about bold design! This makes the game of essence juggling even more difficult (I would add another exclamation mark but I might be overusing it! oh, sorry). Depending on the veil's chakra slot, it gives the spell a special bonus based on the amount of essence invested (hands for example gives a +1 to attack rolls per essence point, while body gives a +1 natural armor bonus per odd point in the veil).

Since they cast with their veils, these become harder than other veilweaver's. They also get combat casting and their improvements, plus some bonus feats. They can also autoheighten spells to their max level they can cast, and can apply metamagic on the fly, and they get some nifty bonuses when their veils and spell share a descriptor.

Finally, the Spellweaver includes 2 general Favored Class Bonuses for any character, plus TONS of support for many other (principally core, akashic, and 7 seraphs races), although some of these seem a bit too powerful (one that increases DC for certain spells with no mention of stacking with feats).

-3 Archetypes: Martial Spellweaver exchanges cantrips and bonus feats for some sphere of might progression. Psiweaver is the psionic version, having powers known from both psion and psychic warrior but not from disciplines (good call). Sphereweaver would be the full "champion" class that uses spheres of might and magic (wait, that sounds familiar), and spheres of Akasha. I guess you could extrapolate and make a divine and psychic spellweaver for even more ATs.

-1 magic item: Veilweaver beads, which basically lets you reshape a veil from a specific standard slot 1/d.

-1 feat: Elemental Spellweaving is a versatile feat that lets you change an spell's element by shattering a veil with a different elemental descriptor.

-25 spells: Fitting in a spellcaster book, these include spells that interact with veilweaving, something that was included in the Magic of Incarnum book but not in Akashic Magic. Make a character's essence to become uninvested, a version of antimagic shell that only works against akashic magic, max all essence receptacles of a character, create temporary veils, burn essence, brake or remake veils... lots of fun stuff. Interestingly, all 25 of the spells contained herein are available to all spellcasting classes, so everybody is invited to the party. Very useful if your game uses lots of veilweavers.

-3 new veils: Circlet of Magic Manipulation is a head/headband Vizier veil that lets you dispel magical effects and then use them against your enemies. Records of Akasha is a hands Vizier veil that gives you a powerful book where you can write anything and everytime you shape that veil, you can find the information you wrote bfore... it also works as a very powerful spellbook, which you can merge with one or more "mundane" ones; this could be problematic in the hands of a high level Vizier. Finally, Spellweaver's Spike is a wrists Vizier veil that gives you a short sword, and it will make Magi jealous, since it gives you a ghetto spellstrike! All in all, three powerful veils that are on the verge of OP, but since they are Vizier only (even if the Vizier list is used by other classes, including the more combat able spellweaver), I think they are ok.

-Veilweaving Section: This includes a more polished presentation of the section we have read in other Akashic magic books, including some semi-new stuff like the [enhanced] descriptor.

Of Note: The spellcasting engine and how it works with standard veilweaing is like giving a juggler some extra thinks to juggle, which will be many players' cup of tea. I know I would like to play a veiled faux-Magus!

Anything wrong?: Some of the stuff is damned strong. I would consider all interactions before allowing the side content, like the spells and veils.

What I want: A psychic and divine hacks!

What cool things did this inspire?: A full order of elven spellweavers that broke from bladesingers, or that are their ancestors, would be flavorful. Also, an evil necromancy-loving baddie would rock!

Do I recommend it?: Yes! The class look like a puzzle, like a challenge to play. Everything in this book ozees cool, even if it feels powerful. I will give it the full 5 spellwoven stars. Great work!


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Spheres X Akashic? Oh my!

4/5

Spheres of Akasha review

Introduction
So, Hall Kennette is a prolific author that has been kind of focusing on Akashic magic supplements. Here, he teams with Christen N. Sowards under Lost Spheres Publishing for this book, which is like a crossover between Akashic magic and the Spheres system. Can they pull it off? Let’s see!

What’s inside?: not counting covers, index and legal section, 48 pages for almost 10 bucks, which include:

-The Sphereshaper base class (SS from now on):
This class inherits a lot from the vizier. It has the same proficiencies and class skills, along with the same BAB/HD, saves, essence progression, chakra binds, improved essence capacity, veilshifting and even part of the capstone ability, but gets less veils (6 at top level compared to 11).

They get an ability at first level called Akashic Affinity, which lets the SS choose one Mystic Attunement from those available to the vizier, or get a access to some veils outside its veil list, or a Mana bond ability which increases his MSB and MSD and gets some synergy with other casting classes and serves as an essence receptacle. Any of the abilities chosen progresses at the same levels as the Mystic Attunement of the vizier. Also at first level, they get another choosable ability called Mnemonic Insight, from 3 options: Arcane (which functions just like the Eldritch Insight vizier ability), Martial (counting as fighters for feats and getting a changeable Weapon Focus feat and some extras), or Spiritual (a domain, no spells but also works as an essence receptacle). It seems that you can change the choice every day, since in the cap ability it mentions that you can also change your Insight, but the description of the ability is cut. Finally at first level, they can use their veilweaver modifier and level for attacks, just like with weapon-like veils, but for also for any sphere talent.

The class also gets Sphereshaper’s Talent as a bonus feat at each even levels. What is that? I will mention it below. The class ends with half a page of favored class bonus for 31 races!

-24 Sphereshaper Veils: These are so different from standard veils that their special rules take a page. Basically, each veil grants you access to a specific Sphere and a talent, but not a package. If you want to progress in those spheres, there’s where the Sphereshaper’s Talent comes into play. When shaping veils for the day, you get to choose a talent from any of those granted by veils for every time you chose the feat. Wait, what? Yes, while I’m not an expert at the Spheres system, you get an unbelievable amount of customization, changeable each day. Since you don’t gain spellpoints or Martial Focus natively, you can BIND, not invest, a point of essence invested in this veil (which prevents reallocation for the day). With that chassis and the limitations of the veils, I think it is not unbalanced. However, I wouldn’t allow them as options for the Shape Veil feat.

The veils themselves have cool names and abilities. Choosing at random, Cernavog’s Blood Hunger grants you the Berserker sphere and lets you shape a powerful great axe that deal 3d6 for medium and gives you temporary hit points each time you hit a creature for the first time each round, stacking with themselves and those granted by the berserking ability, and when bound lets you track those damaged by the axe and add some bleed damage to the axe’s blows against them. Lich’s Grasp grants you access to the Death sphere, but the ghost strikes made are melee touch attacks, damage with negative energy and instead of healing, shaken undead creatures ignoring immunities; when bound, the ghost strike are treated as weapon attacks, allowing for multiple uses in a round.

-5 Archetypes: Aeshmic Daevic exchange their non-passion veilweaving, all chakra binds but body (ouch!) and almost half their essence to become a blended trained low-caster, gaining a sphere talent each level; intriguing! I would have tied the passions with specific spheres, but that is something I can do on my own. Sipahi Gurus lose a lot of non-philosophy abilities to become adept combatants, and they can invest their Martial Focus as if it was a special point of essence (or two or three at higher levels) that augments even the Sipahi’s essence capacity, really cool! These two archetypes are interesting, changing the Daevic into a more pally-like class, and grounding the Guru into a more physical combatant.

The next three archetypes are Veilweaver Sphere takes on each of the three original akashic classes. All classes lose their normal veilweaving and essence pool, and all but the Daevic also lose improved essence capacity (must be an oversight in the Daevic’s case), in exchange of becoming low, mid and high casters, although they use their class level as their caster level when determining effects from the veilweaver sphere, but not for prerequisites. As Sphere Casters, they start with two bonus talents and a casting tradition, and also gain the Veilweaving sphere (which normally gives you access to one veil, but not in this case) and their class’ Tradition advanced talent (which basically add all the class’ veil list to their known veils). So, how do they empower their veils without a class essence pool? They can condense and draw essence, by spending two spell points, they get a point of temporary essence that last until you recover your spell points, and you can burn this temporary essence to get a the same number of temporary spell points that last for 1 minute. They can also get bonus essence to their pools by taking essence talents (each giving a point of essence). Viziers also get a variant of their Eldritch Insight class feature and two special abilities: extra veils shaped during their careers (up to three) and being able to use their caster level as their BAB when using weapon-like veils and veils with the [enhanced] descriptor.

-New Class Options: Here we find a Sphere’s version of the Wrath passion (which changes the passion skills gained and adds some caveats to the other features), two 3-point specialization abilities for the Incanter (Might of the Speheres and Veilweaving), and two prodigy Imbue Sequences (Essence Burst and Essence Crash). In this section we also find two favored class options for all races and the three Veilweaving sphere classes: 1/6 of an akashic feat or 1/5 of a Veilweaving sphere talent.

-Two Prestige Classes variants: The two prestige classes from Akashic Mysteries get the sphere treatment. The Sphere Amplifier doesn’t require multiclassing, is a high caster and gains a talent every level, and DOES gain an essence pool. They can use a spell point to directly increase the power of matching veils (3 options possible). The Sphere Black Templar is a rework of the original to function under the Spheres system.

-Veilweaving Sphere: This sphere is ambitious. It tries to open all the possibilities of veilweaving to Sphere casters. It starts with an alternate Divination talent called Divine Akasha, but after that, there are pages after pages on how to integrate veilweaving to other sphere casters. Just by gaining the Veilweaving sphere, you get access to a single standard veil. After this, you get access to essence talents (which all give you a point of essence, like most akashic feats), bind talents (just the ability to bind veils, not the extra gained from the feats), and like in Spheres of Might, a lot of feat and class features were transformed into talents. Basically, you can build a mostly standard version of the akashic classes, or can go wild and either give them a lot of standard sphere magic, or give veilweaving to standard sphere casters.

-Akashic Magic and Veilweaving: This is the section where you find the all the basic information for veilweving and its interactions with magic. I would normally complain about yet another repetition of this section, but with the inclusion of the Sphereshaper, you could potentially play without any other book (although all of the archetypes). There are also some unusual interactions between veils and sphere talents, and that is a plus.

-5 Feats: Akasha-infused Sphere lets you infuse a talent with essence, working at a higher level. Destructive Essence increases the damage of the destruction sphere’s blast with “akashic” damage; it is not called as such but it has been appearing in the author’s works, so I will call it that. Essencebound Metamagic lets you give a specific effect a metamagic you know by binding essence, and while not said, it doesn’t follow the maximum essence capacity. Sphereshaper’s Talent is the Sphereshaper’s best friend, since it lets you wildcard tons of Sphere talents both of Power and/or Might. Wildform Chakra is the last one, improving your natural weapons when in another form gained from the Alteration sphere or the Transformation feat.

-Akashic Magic casting tradition: In the vein of other traditions, it includes magic type (akashic), casting ability modifier (any mental), 3 general drawbacks (akashic spells make each spell a veil, being able to sunder it, imbued power can be chosen twice and severely limits the targets of your magic, and magical signs) and 2 boons (essence empowerment lets you invest essence in it to gain a caster level bonus by burning that essence, which doesn’t start to recover until the effects ends; essence pool lets you chose up to 5 general drawback to get an essence pool). Not mentioned under the traditions, there are two Veilshaper sphere-specific drawbacks, one that impedes you to learn veils but grants you an essence talent (good if you want to empower spheres and the like with essence), and another that doesn’t let you convert spellpoints into essence.

The book ends with a conversion of Akashic Catalysts, and some other additional rules like the controversial Enhanced veils (although I really dig that you can use a veil as an implement), conversion of 7 veils from Akashic Mysteries into Enhanced veils, a section on descriptors (important for both veils and sphere magic), and the inclusion of the Eldritch Insight vizier ability… and a w hopping, 12-pages-long legal section.

Of Note: The short fiction at the start of the book is really nice. The variety of characters you can makes by just the base class and the two first archetypes alone increases exponentially. I am a fan of the Sipahi and will make one ASAP! The sphere veils are really intriguing and worth exploring!

Anything wrong?: To be frank, the book has little content that can be considered new. I noticed a couple of glaring editing mistakes, and the legal section should be put in a Tag of Holding (TM).

What I want: I would have loved the Aeshmic to include passion traditions, and maybe change the class a bit more since the original passions, while cool, kind of shoehorn you character builds a little.

What cool things did this inspire?: A campaign centered around the Akashic Records and rebuilding the world and its magic after a cataclysm would rock!

Do I recommend it?: If you are a fan of the Spheres system to the point where it is the only magic system you use, then by all means. But if you wanted a synergy of akashic magic and spheres while maintaining them separate, then I would think about it. All in all, the authors took the monumental task of joining two of the most flexible alternate magic systems for PF1ed, and I dare to say, they succeeded. I will grade this 4 stars because of the editing mistakes.


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So what in Abaddon is a Kheshig?

3/5

Introduction
The Keshig is the second in a new series of Akashic Classes by Legendary Games, which is an amazing company that maintains a high production value and quality. The Volus was a really good first entry for the series. But can they maintain the quality in this realm of Akashic Magic? Read on!

What’s inside?
36 pages of content (not counting covers, ads etc.) for 10 bucks, which include:

-The Kheshig Akashic class: Before I get into the class, I again got intrigued by the name and found that the Kheshig, favored/blessed in Mongolian, were the imperial guard and bodyguards of the Mongolian royalty, like Ghengis Khan himself! A great name for a protector/tank class!

Anyway, Kheshig is a veilweaving class, with a warrior chassis (full BAB/d10 HD, good Fortitude AND Will save, simple and martial weapons and all armor and shield proficiencies, including tower shields), but more skilled (4 skill points for 15 skills, including physical, social and some scholarly options) that has many core abilities.

Fighting Style: at 1st and 4th levels, the Kheshig learns a fighting style, from a list of 7 (basically 2 weapons, weapon and shield, one handed weapon and a free hand, two-handed weapon, unarmed, ranged volley and ranged snipe). At 7th and 10th, the Kheshig gets to improve one of their two chosen fighting style. While most of this fighting styles are just a specific bonus feat (or two in the case of the ranged ones), there are some nice unique abilities. I am not sure about how the Titan Weapon style works, since it can damage even dodge-based defenses. I would have worded it that if it doesn’t connect to normal AC but would connect against touch AC, it deals the damage. Cool array of options that will sadly typecast characters (not an uncommon thing among martials).

Veilweaving: Kheshig have wisdom-based veilweaving abilities (nice, not enough wisdom-based veilshapers), going from 1 to 6 veils shaped during their progression and have the possibility to get up to 6 binds from among all 10; interestingly, they get to CHOOSE some of these binds from among a small lists (two low, to middle, one high, and one “whole”). All in all, VERY powerful options, AND a Kheshig can beat even Viziers in the level race to get access to binds. This is problematic since each chakra has a level requirement, with very few exceptions.

Their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of Akashic classes but I’m not sure this is ok for a class with this chassis. It can be argued that of the two other Akashic melee-ers, Daevics and Solars, the later DO get the 3 increases too, so ok. The Kheshig also gets the ability to shape up to two veils with their Akashic Armory ability, as long as these veils have the so-called Enhanced descriptor; a nice aspect of this ability is that these veil don’t take a Chakra slot, so you could have a hands veil plus an enhanced hands veil. There is another “small” problem here, since at least the “weapon” veils can be bound to ANY Chakra at level 2! Body bind? The ones that are like veilweavers’ capstones and mostly gotten at level 20? Yeah, at level 2! Even if the veils contained here don’t have binds to the body slot (and at least one do), this is not the only veil source out there, so in my opinion this ability need to be polished. The “armor” veil doesn’t suffer from this ability since the extra Chakra-bind doesn’t happen until 18th level.

To empower these 6+2 veils, plus their “bodyguard” ability, the Kheshig kind of follows the medium-BAB progression for essence but 1 level faster, starting with 1 and finishing with 15. They get extra essence that can’t be used for veils, though. At every 3 levels, they get the “reinforced” ability, which gives them 5 extra hit points AND an extra point of essence that can empower veils. Nice, but it would have been better if put in the class table, under the essence column, after a +.

The class-defining ability would be Essence-Bound Duty, which links you to a “charge”, and is a great ability concept-wise. The execution? Not so much. When D^D transitioned from 2nd to 3rd edition, one of the things they got the F away from was miss chances. Magic Resistance was a percentile-based defense mainly found in monsters and some OP non-core PC races. It was great when you resisted a meteor swarm, but it was a B when your opponents did the same. It-s main problem is that it didn’t take into account the power of the caster, and there were incredibly few ways to lower it. In 3rd edition they changed it to work in a way similar to AC, a much more elegant solution. So, why do I mention it? Because with a one-hour ritual, your Charge gets a 10% miss chance against PHYSICAL attacks AND spells that don’t also target the Kheshig. This is way too strong, because it negates smites, criticals, and any special attack the opponent uses, PLUS spells and powers, BUT does nothing about attacks that are not spells… like veils. Your charge has to be in your line of sight, but if you are within 15 feet, the percentage doubles. With essence, you increase the miss chance by 5% each! If we take into account that essence capacity normally gets up to 4, but Kheshigs get 3 improvements, and with a feat you get one more… you can invest 8 essence for a whopping +40%, for a total of 50% that DOUBLES WITHIN 15 FEET! We are talking about the highest levels of play here, but come on! There are a lot of ridiculous situations this can lead to. The Keshig protecting a warrior at distance in a contest to cheat, or my favorite… 2 high level Kheshig protecting each other! Immune to physical combat!

As you can see, the basic ability is broken as all hell. I would give the charge a deflection bonus to AC, or DR, and resistance to saves, both improved if the Kheshig is near but not doubling the bonus. Maybe give the charge a higher bonus if they were really weak, maybe even evasion, and lowering its power if the charge was higher level than the Kheshig. THEN I could stomach the ability. But as it is? Well. Apart from this, the ability advances in a couple of ways. When someone attacks your charge, it becomes marked until you damage them OR a minute has passed. You get free movement (15 feet plus 5 per essence invested) as long as you get closer to the marked, and you get you veilweaving modifier (Wisdom) as a bonus to attack the marked, plus 1d6 damage that increases by 1 die every 3 levels (7d6), that is Akashic damage that can be reduced/resisted. I think this bonus to attack should be limited to your level to prevent dipping, and the damage is too much for my taste but not OP. At 5th you get immediate movement (too much if you count the free movement you get as a base, plus your normal movement) if your charge is attacked, but only if you end adjacent to your charge, AND you can automatically redirect the original attack to yourself with no roll needed, and your charge becomes immune to fear. At 9th your charge gets the hardness of a veil (cool), and they get temporary hp similar to a veil’s. At 13th, marks now last for 1 minute or at the end of any turn where you damage the marked foe, and out of the blue you become immune to mind-affecting effects. Such a powerful ability would at least deserve its own entry in the class table and class feature section, and flat-out immunity is too much. At 17th level, your charge becomes immune to death effects (cool, and ok at the level gained), and if your charge would be reduced below 1 hp, you can receive that excess damage.

Finally, the Kheshig becomes immune to aging, removes all existing aging effects and cannot be magically aged at 19th, and at 20th they get a Karmic Justice capstone ability that makes all damage inflicted by marked foes that doesn’t include you is also inflicted halved on the marked.

If you don’t want to be a protector, you can choose to be a hunter, you can change Essence-bound Duty and Karmic Justice, and let’s just say that, while powerful, it is way less busted than the original. Finally, the Kheshig includes 2 general Favored Class Bonuses for any character, and that’s it.

-8 feats: 1 makes you a good bodyguard and 3 of them are Combat feats (one for shields and two for one-handed combat, although these ones are kind of busted, getting up to +7 dodge bonus to AC). The other 4 deal with the weaponry veils, one lets you enchant your own veils, increasing the creation DC if you don’t have a prerequisite. However, this can be completely ignored by another feat that lets you change the configuration of abilities each time you shape your veil, and one even gives you the ability to auto-enhance all veils you shape, by having a kind of “track” of enhancements that apply to each veil. Some of these might have been class features of the Kheshig, since as they stand they are too good to pass on by most veilshapers. The only one I’m going to use without modification is one that lets you store a weapon veil in the feat, and you can change it with the one you shaped for the day. Cool!

-1 new weapon: Armored Fist, a new weapon that has the new “unarmed” special ability, which lets you use any unarmed special ability, and if enhanced passes the enhancements to all your unarmed attacks AND even some natural attacks. RIP Amulet of Mighty Fists (sigh). A really nice idea, but the execution? Not so much.

-Veilweaving section: As in the Volur book, here we have a pimped-up section that AGAIN doesn’t include the ability to suppress your own veils. Apart from this, the book includes 4 new veil descriptors. Enhanced is the most important, since it affects all combat equipment veils and many class features and feats in this book. As I mentioned in my review of the Stormbound, I think this ability is interesting but care must be taken since, at it is, it eliminates the need for magical weapon and armor. Why? Because one of the beauties of Akashic Magic is that everyone can access any non-special veil by taking a feat, and any warrior would want an immortal, enhanced weapon, shield and/or armor. This lets any character steps in the toes of classes like the Aegis, Soulknife or Zodiac. Of course it costs money, but the cost is not increased like when using an Amulet of Mighty Fists, and even there the Amulet itself can be sundered. This ability BEGS to be costlier and more developed, including the possibility of damaging the enhancement of the veil. And wait, it also makes you proficient in the weapon/armor shaped, so forget about taking any Armor or Weapon Proficiency feats AND just take Shape Veil. Armor even appears on you when shaped!

The Steady descriptors change the way DC to save from veils work, using the normal formula for special attacks. Paired is a descriptor that can accompany Enhanced veils, and basically shares the enhancement from the veil to the “paired” weapon, shield or unarmed. The final descriptor is Undetectable, which makes veils REALLY difficult to detect. Like in the Volur book, here you can find the Kheshig’s veil list. It is very small, but Kheshig also include ALL veils in this book (57!).

-14 weapon veils: These… are really cool! After a kind of sour taste from the previous sections, we find really cool options, and some of these have mini-engines that make them more dynamic in combat. There are some that need polish or a hit with the Nerf bat, but all in all are a cool addition to the weapon veils already there. Some of my faves include: Blade of Stone and Air is a cool bastard sword that has two modes, depending if you use it one or two handed, and generate a charge for the opposite element that can be spent in unique maneuvers. Dancing Glaive (and the also the Staff of Ten-Thousand Truths) is the kind of thing I have been waiting for since I started playing D&D 3rd, converting you into a martial artist that can fight with a 2-handed weapon AND still attack unarmed. Hardlight Axe can give you twin axes AND let you attack at range as if you were in melee, with strong Castlevania vibes. Speaking of cool vibes, Juggernaut Blade gives you a sword so massive that you can use it AND even enchant it as a shield, Dragon Slayer from Berserk much? Eff yeah! AND you get the option to perform some cool maneuvers. Mark of the Gate Guardian gives you twin shields… however, as written, it doesn’t specify that these shield bonus stack, so I guess it needs to include that this is a special exception. Still Waters, Clear Skies is the “weapon” I mentioned had more than simple hand Chakra-bind, including hand, feet, shoulder AND body! Why? Because this veil emulates an ancient martial artist’s style! So, Kheshig can at 2nd level get the benefits of the body bind… which to my surprise is not really THAT OP, but still… An awesome veil notwithstanding!

-5 ranged weapon veils: These ones are also cool, even if they ALSO need some polish and Nerf-batting. Black Iron Cannon is a massive ship’s cannon that can be used as a great club! It deals WAY too much damage, attacks touch AC, and binding it reduces its “balance” caveat. Cerulean Bow mentions its ties to its “past” (the Incarnum system), and while it has an interesting engine, it is WAY TOO BROKEN! Dance of Daggers is another cool idea, bad execution, since in the feet of a monk, it can destroy whole units! Der Freischütz creates a rifle that never misfires… a no-brainer feat for Gunslingers, without counting its abilities. Wolfhound’s Crossbow is the last one, and is my favorite one and the least broken. The major problem of this section is the firearms, since it eliminates their balancing caveat… their rarity of not only the weapon itself, but also its blackpowder AND munitions.

-8 armor veils: These veils include 2 full-plates, 2 breastplates, 2 leathers (both with no max Dex bonus) and two unarmored armors. These last two add any enhancement they have as armor bonuses that don’t stack with normal armor. Weird, since they normally are counted as enhancement bonuses to your AC that stack with base armor, so if you had a +5 leather armor and +8 bracers of armor, you would have a total of +13 armor bonus (the higher of your armor bonuses plus the enhancement bonus). My guess is that this was used as a balancing factor, but that is not the way it should work. Anyway, I will cover one of each. Armor of Steel and Silk is a breastplate that has two modes, one that enhances your protection against melee and another against ranged. Juggernaut Plating is a full-plate that transform you into The Juggernaut from Marvel, giving you great demolishing abilities. Superior Reflexes is an unarmored armor that gives you your veilweaving-modifier to AC, with no mention of not stacking with the monk’s AC bonus. And Tattered Clothes give you a miss chance that increases each time your opponents miss… sigh. Another cool batch of veils that again need to be polished.

-30 general veils: The final section of the book. I liked most of the veils. Just to mention a few: Charred Angel Wings give you a ranged attack that impedes flying! However, as written, the attack can only be used against flying targets, and completely destroys flying encounters; this is a steady veil, so its DC will always be high, and it can be increased by essence! OP even if it is situational, but the imagery is awesome! The humble Delver’s Gloves, when boun to the headband, let’s you see in magical darkness! Grace of the Goddess is an amazing healer’s veil that, while it doesn’t heal hp, it helps you both in magical and non-magical healing. The really cool Honeycomb Necklace gives you the great thematic ability of becoming “honey-tongued” that, if you fail at persuading, let’s you VOMIT A BEE SWARM! Lion’s Heart makes you immune to fear and resistant to mind-affecting effects. Mask of the Hunter is a Ranger’s wetdream, Visage of Hunger is an awesome veil that gives you a bite attack while frightening people around you, and Wildfang Necklace let you roar to buff allies around you, and can even dispel fear effects on your allies when bound!

(Continued in the comments section)


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So what in the abyss is a Volur?

4/5

Introduction
The Volur is the first in a new series of Akashic Classes by Legendary Games, which is an amazing company that maintains a high production value and quality. Can they maintain the quality in this realm of Akashic Magic? Read on!

What’s inside?
23 pages of content (not counting covers, ads etc.) for 7 bucks, which include:

-The Volur class: Before I get into the class, I got intrigued by the name and found some interesting things. Apparently, Volür are ancient Norse female seers, an Indian lake where two rivers confluence, and a Canadian metal band. I liked the connections with seers, and the confluence of the rivers has some ties with the abilities of the class… and I like metal LOL

Anyway, Volur is a veilweaving class, with a wizard-like chassis (low BAB/d6 HD, good Will save, simple weapons and light armor proficiencies, plus bucklers), but more skilled (4 skill points for 21 skills, including physical, social and scholarly options) that has 3 main abilities.

Veilweaving: Volur have modest charisma-based veilweaving abilities, going from 1 to 6 veils shaped during their progression and having 7 binds (feet, head, shoulders, headband, neck, belt and body), but their veil list includes veils for all 10 slots; their maximum essence capacity also increases thrice, another common aspect of akashic classes. To empower these 6 veils, the Volur gets 1 point of essence per level, like most Akashic classes out there. It is worth noting that their veilweaving is their only class feature that depends on essence, since most akashic classes have other ways to invest it, so feel free to invest it in your favorite veils.

Brandweaving: This book includes 16 new veils with the Brand descriptor, which mark them as special debuffing veils (more info below). HOWEVER, the Volur gets to shape them in a different, unique way. By brandweaving a veil, it doesn’t occupy a slot, is treated as if invested with max essence, and determines its DC using the formula of special attacks (10 + ½ Volur level + Cha mod). Volur go from 1 brand at 1st levelto 5 at 18th. Starting at 3rd level, they can treat some of their brandweaved veils as bound without requiring a chakra slot, regardless of the chakra, ending with all brands bound at 20th. This could be problematic since the level at which you get chakra binds is an important balance caveat. As masters of brand veils, Volur can later place more than one at a time AND can place and maintain them at longer ranges. A funny design glitch is that they get to mass brand faster that they get extra brands, even finishing with the ability to apply 6 brands at 20th level when they only get access to 5 brands. There is the possibility that, if you shape a brand using your normal veil slots, you COULD benefit from this ability, but I would’t do that since you wouldn’t get all the special benefits of brandweaving, but the possibility is there if you want.

Akashic Spirit: Each Volur start with the company of an AS, which regenerates fully when shaping veils if damaged. The spirit can manifest physically or can merge with the Volur’s essence and basically ceases to exist. While I wouldn’t call the Volur a pet class, the AS works more like a familiar, a tiny outsider companion born from the knowledge stored in the Akashic Records that has a slime-like appearance, can’t hold things or wear armor, but CAN wear other magical items. Like other familiars/animal companions, this AS has its own progression table, which includes common things like evasion, shared senses, telepathic link, spell resistance and ability score increases, and can deliver akashic touch or touch attack effects. The AS starts with 10 in all ability scores but Dexterity, which gets a 16 (10 in strength for tiny? wow).

Each AS can take many forms, 16 in fact, depending on the aspectual circle they are tied to. Each of the 4 Aspectual Circles include 4 aspect options, and the Volur starts with access to 1 circle and get access to another at 7th and 16th levels, never getting access to all 4 circles. Each aspect dictates the appearance of the AS, gives it a new form of movement, and gives the Volur a passive supernatural ability. At 6th level, the Volur can embody the AS’ aspect, changing his appearance and getting a new ability. The 4 circles are:

-The Circle of the Cycle includes the aspects of Decay, Growth, Life and Death. Their themed abilities include temporary hit points, the decay of detrimental effects that decreases its duration, changing the positive/negative energy “polarity”, and all of their embodied abilities manifest as powerful auras. The most powerful aspect in my opinion and one I would allow only at a higher level.

-The Circle of the Elements is weirdly not tied to the 4 basic elements, but their energies (acid, electricity, fire and ice). All of them change your AS’s slam damage to the appropriate energy, give you a stacking resistance to said energy, and the embodiment of acid and ice give you a defensive ability, while the ones for electricity and fire give you an offensive one.

-The Circle of the Wilds’ 4 aspects are Avians, Mammalians, Piscines and Verminia. Each gives you a modest situational skill bonus and if embodied lets you transform into a small, medium or large-sized animal or magical beast.

-The Circle of the World does includes the aspects of the 3 remaining classical elements, Air, Earth and Water, plus Plants. Their abilities are a bit more powerful/useful than the last Circle’s, and if embodied the World’s aspects change you into an elemental-like creature.

Finally, the Volur includes 2 general Favored Class Bonuses for any character, 4 Circle-improving FCB for the 4 non-human blooded core races, and one for humans that can increase the DC of a specific brand veil. Remember that both half-elves and half-orcs can access their parents’ racial FCB.

-5 feats: 4 of these let you dabble in Volur-ness, letting you maintain brands at longer ranges or branding two opponents at the same time, and letting familiar summoners call an Akashic Spirit (bound to a specific aspect), an even embody it at higher levels with another feat. The only feat useful for a Volur is Painful Severance, which damages a branded creature that gets its brand destroyed with a special “akashic pulse of power” that ignores damage reduction and energy resistance. This “akashic pulse” should be elaborated on, especially since it appears in the newer Akashic Classes book.

-3 magic items: The Veilbreaking +1-equivalent weapon ability works like Bane, but only for veils, and also ignore veil’s hardness. I would have loved a more powerful version that worked also on akashic classes and creatures, or that suppressed the veil for longer, but nice nonetheless. The Amulet of the Unbranded gives you resistance to saves, but doubles the bonus against brands. Finally, Totem of Brand Prevention is a slotless magical item that is destroyed if you fail a save against a brand, and even then it suppresses the brand for a couple of rounds.

-Veilweaving Section: This includes a more polished presentation of the section we have read in other Akashic magic books, and even mentions to “break the rules” like shaping two veils in the same chakra under the Chakra Slots section, or the ability to bind veils without having levels in an Akashic class. All in all an improved section that has only one fault: it doesn’t include the ability to suppress your own veils, which doesn’t appear in Akashic Mysteries but does appear in each of the author’s books after that. For some reason, it was decided that this was the place for the Volur’s veil list. This section also has the new Brand descriptor for veils and everything you need to know to use them.

-16 Brand veils: These veils include which classes have access to them, including all 3 “core” plus the ones in Akashic Trinity, AND the Stormbound. No Brand includes the Helmsman, another class published in a Legendary Games book, nor the Lunar Zodiac, and I don’t know if it is an omission or a design decision. Also, the “highest chakra” these veils can be bound to is the Belt chakra, which normally should be accessed at 16th level. I mention this because of the special Brandweaving abilities of the Volur. I-m not going to cover all of them, but I will describe a third of them:

Blight of the Elements reduces resistance to one of the 4 basic types of energy damage, treating immune creatures as having a base of 50 before reduction. Essence further reduces this and when bound, if the resistance is reduced to 0, the target becomes vulnerable, receiving 50% more damage! Bloodvine Embrace has some cool imagery, damages the target as a poison effect (so creatures immune to poison receive no damage), and heals the “brander” if it has at least half of its HDs. If bound, the veil sprouts “bloodberries” that can heal others. Cloak of the Leper creates a kind of contagious mark that deals nonlethal damage to the branded and those “foes” near him, and if successfully saves against this veil the brander can pass it on a creature that failed, and if bound ACTUALLY makes copies of itself on surrounding creatures AND can deal lethal damage! Really cool! Dancer’s Curse penalizes the branded if they don’t move a certain distance, and even damages them if bound. Nice enough, but a Volus can combo it with Grasping Chains, damaging the creature if it moves AND making it more difficult to do it! Mageblight causes supernatural abilities that take actions to use, spells cast, and even spell-like abilities to fail a small percentage of the time, increasable with essence, and if bound the effect CAN happen but affects the branded! There are other cool ones, like putting a mask of stone on foes, making them suspicious of their allies, charm them, and other nifty effects. There is even one called Sword of Damocles for Damocles’ sake!

Of Note: The brand veils look suspiciously familiar to an idea I gave the author of Akashic Mysteries for its unrealized sequel book LOL. But I’m happy someone got the same idea and ran with it. The Volus might seem a bit all over the place (modest veilweaver, powerful debuffer, druid wannabe), but has an interesting variant of veilweaving. I think it is an interesting idea AND everyone is invited to the party, since all of the 16 veils can be used by other Akashic classes (but the Lunar, sorry mah guy).

Anything wrong?: The favored class bonus could include at least orcs, if not many other thematically-fitting races. Finally, while I’m still not sure about the difference in power of Circles, and auto chakra-bound brand veils of the Volus, I enjoyed the book, even if it needs a bit of polish here and there (like in the mass branding ability or the veilshaping section).

What I want: A Daevic that merges with an Akashic spirit instead of a daeva would be interesting, as would be a hippie Guru philosophy or a Vizier mystic attunement that deals with the Circles. The spirit itself would make for an interesting variant of elementals, or even work as aspectual templates! Also, at least one class feature that benefited from investing essence, since right now they are the only class, apart from Viziers, that don’t have any class features that benefits from essence-investment.

What cool things did this inspire?: A Suli with a spirit attuned to the Circle of the Cycle would be cool as a non-focused elementalist. Also, with some of the veils out there that deal with disease and decay, I will device a nasty opponent for my players.

Do I recommend it?: Yes! Even if the class itself didn’t excite me as much as, say, the Zodiac, it still is a cool Akashic debuffer. AND the Brands themselves are really cool additions to other Akashic classes’ arsenals. Taking into account the small details, I will give it 4.5 stars, rounded down. Nice work!


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A different approach

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

The Voltaic is a classbook by Lost Spheres Publishing, written by some of the authors of the City of Seven Seraphs. While it builds on materials from other books, namely the Path of War initiator system by Dreamscarred Press fueled by the Stamina rules from Pathfinder Unchained, it presents a different approach to combat but, is it any good? Read on!

Before going to the contents of the book, I have to mention that I come from The Tome of Battle, the D&D 3.5 predecessor of the Path of War. I have both books, but have no experience neither playing nor mastering a Pathfinder initiator. Also, while I have experience with some parts of Pathfinder Unchained, the Stamina system is not one of them. I, however, have the Beyond Monks 3.5 books, which used stunning fist as a kind of currency to power special attacks, so the idea is the same. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Tome of Battle/Path of War present a special maneuver system similar to spells, but for martials; in short, it is a way to give cool toys for warriors so they don’t full attack all the time. The Stamina system is similar, giving old feats combat tricks empowered by stamina points, thus presenting more options for warriors in general but specifically for fighters.

What’s inside?
40 pages of content for x, which include:

-The Voltaic base class. This class looks like a Frankenstein monster on paper, having the Martial Flexibility of Brawlers, the maneuvers of initiators, and the Stamina rules intended for Fighters, but they strangely blend really well with the theme of the class, a sum greater than its parts. Like all initiators, it has a powerful chassis, having d10 HD, good BAB, 4 skill points per level, 2 good saves, and the proficiencies of a fighter, including tower shields. Strangely enough, the Path of War includes a new Knowledge specialty, martial, which is not a class skill of Voltaics.

They gain Stamina via the free Spark of Inspiration new feat, which not only gives them a free Eye of the Storm stance from the new discipline, but also a Stamina pool and the ability to “spark”, which I will cover later. There is a slight glitch here, since under the bonus feat it is mentioned that you cannot take Voltaic levels if you don’t meet the prerequisites, but the feat has a +1 BAB as one of them, so RAW it means you have to have a +1 BAB to take a Voltaic level.

Speaking of stances, the Voltaic gets some free ones over their careers, 5 over the free Eye of the Storm. They also get to add some electricity damage to their attacks, which goes up from 1d4 to 1d12 over the levels and stacks with shocking enhancement and the like, and also can add the first roll to their AC and even their saves at very high levels. Finally, they get a built-in archetype called Path of the Storm, which covers 4 archetypical warrior roles for a variety of builds and dictates the class’ capstone. Overall, a very powerful, versatile class when compared to a vanilla Fighter, but in the context of the Path of War it feels balanced.

After the class there are several favored class bonuses for a couple of races, some core, some from the Co7S and one from Akashic Realms 2. Unlike other books where Michael Sayre has worked on, this one doesn’t include the role of the class within the race’ society (bummer).

-8 NPCs. Following FCBs, we get a whole page dedicated to Co7S Voltaic NPCs, 8 to be precise, with enough information to build them and customize them for your games. My favorite are the mirrorkin whose names are palindromes.

-The Sparking System (variant initiation). The star of the book, sparking is a cool, innovative way to learn martial maneuvers. Sparkers have, like all initiators, maneuvers known (Initiator ability modifier + lvl) and maneuvers readied (2+½ lvl). However, you start your career with 0 maneuvers, and when you roll a 20 in an attack roll or a skill check in combat, or a foe fails with a 1, you get a chance to “spark”. What is that? When you spark, you learn a maneuver from a level you have access to and get it readied, coming to you as a flash of inspiration. If you would like to learn a new maneuver, you will have to leave some of your readied maneuvers empty. The other difference is that, unlike standard initiators, your maneuvers are never spent; instead of spending maneuvers, you power them by using Stamina points (1 per maneuver level), which you get from the Spark of Initiation.

This approach addresses one of my least liked parts of the Initiation system, which is the lack of tactical differentiation of using your highest level maneuver instead of a lower one. Do I start with the big guns and risk running low of steam? Or do I use my low level tricks over and over to always have something cool to do? This replaces the highest maneuver cycling that I saw happening in my Tome of Battle days (100 fire damage? again?). This system also works better as a story telling device, giving plenty of options for a good Game Master to describe why John the Voltaic learned X maneuver when Z happened. Heck, maybe Voltaics are the first initiators, inventing maneuvers from circumstances, which later could be codified and taught to more traditional initiators.

There are a couple of things I don’t agree with, though. One, is that there is no mention of what disciplines can Voltaics or other Sparkers can learn maneuvers from, and second, Stamina gauge starts full; something I really like from other systems where you use your most powerful maneuvers to close a fight after building up some kind of gauge or pool, which could be easily house ruled by having the Stamina pool start at half and then letting users get an extra point or two every round by doing or not doing certain actions.
EDIT: There is, in fact, rules for disciplines accessible. Basically, uf you can leaen a maneuver from any discipline associated with the weapon wielded.

-3 Spark Feats: Two are the foundations of the Sparking system (free for Voltaics), while the other expands upon it. Perfect to dip in the system or jump on the boat for existing characters. However, the base Spark of Inspiration feat, in the context of what a feat gives you access to, is really powerful and game changing. Any kind of access to the feat should be considered beforehand.

-3 archetypes, covering the fighter, the rogue and the unchained monk, all of them “sparkers” who get Spark of Inspiration as a bonus feat. The Unlimited Warrior archetype for the fighter gets more skillpoints, an ability to prevent a deadly attack with Stamina points, and can spark at will and piggyback a combat maneuver when sparking with a strike. Deathseeker rogues have a kind of meta-sneak attack, where they can change the damage to do cool things like changing d6s for d4s to ghost touch, or d6s to d10s but dealing mind-affecting damage. Finally, Volt Dancer monks seem pulled out straightly from a Manhua (Chinese comic), being able to deal stormy damage (cold, electricity or sonic) with their attacks instead of physical, and can even fly!

-The Spark of Battle martial discipline. It is associated with the Acrobatics skill, and with close weapons and heavy and light blades. Apart from that, Initiators who have the Spark of Inspiration feat can spend Stamina on some maneuvers to empower them! How cool is that? Anyway, it has 33 maneuvers, and I will cover the lowest and highest level stance, plus one maneuver of each type. Eye of the Storm is the 1st level stance and it just let you “spark” easier, plus it is a freebie when you get the Spark of Inspiration feat. Stance of Storms let you “airwalk”, with the possibility to spend Stamina to walk faster (airjog?).

Electric Slide is the lowest boost, letting you move through an occupied space, making an opposed Acrobatics check against your opponent’s CMD to knock him down, with Stamina increasing the movement. Volt Dance is one of the few counters this discipline has (4 I think?), of 3rd level, which lets you teleport to the origin of an electrical attack if within 60 ft., and giving you a free attack if within 30 ft., doubling both distances with the expenditure of a Stamina point. Stigmata of Storm is the highest maneuver in the discipline, a 9th level strike, that gives you five attacks, beginning at full and adding a -2 to each subsequent attack. Each successful attack does normal weapon dmg plus 5d6 sonic AND 5d6 electricity damage, plus extra effects depending on the number of successful attacks, including bleed damage, blindness, deafness, and these two can be permanent… AND you can spend an extra Stamina point (why wouldn’t you if you are already spending 9?) to change the bonus damage dice from d6 to d10. Woe to the one at the receiving end of this one LOL. To be fair, we are talking about 18th level adventuring and you would be spending a lot of resources, which takes us back to my preferences of “sparking” over normal Initiation because of maneuver cycling.

In Tome of Battle some of the higher level maneuver had pre-requisites, normally a certain number of maneuvers from the same discipline, but I noticed none here, and I don’t know about Path of War, but that will let the cherry picking of maneuvers via feats.

We also get references to the Initiating system for people who don’t own any of those books, including everything you have to know to play initiators, including 3 other disciplines, being Eternal Guardian, Thrashing Dragon and Solar Wind. The formatting of these 3 disciplines’ maneuvers’ lists differ, as do the presentation of the maneuvers themselves compared to how Spark of Battle presents them alphabetically while the other three are by level. While it’s mostly a cosmetic difference, in the lists each maneuver includes its type (stance, boost, strike or counter), which is very handy.

Of Note: The Voltaic is an interesting class, as is the Spark of Battle discipline, but the real gem of the book is the sparking system as I mentioned.

Anything wrong?: The formatting differences of the disciplines is a bit grating, but not too bad. Also, the power and fantasy level of martials is going way up, which may not be suitable for some tables.

What I want: While I’m not the biggest fan of the Path of War, I would like a system that works like the Momentum engine which slowly fills a pool; so, do you rock now? Or do you own later? I mentioned an option before, so I may fiddle with that to fine-tune Sparking to my personal tastes.

What cool things did this inspire?: As always, great design inspires great stories and characters. I will try to convince my group to try Path of War in PF but with sparkers, to avoid the old 9th level maneuver cycling. The storytelling possibilities of Sparking and its unstable nature will surely be game changer.

Do I recommend it?: IMHO, this book is for people who want to add more oomph and mysticism to martials, or want to introduce the Path of War in a different way, or for users of PoW that want to try new things. If you are in one of those groups, I can recommend it 100%. I would give this book 4 and a half electrical stars, because of the things I mentioned; however, this book has really, really good art and layout and the maneuvers visuals are just plain cool, so I will add half a star to that, for the full 5.


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This Fantasy is not Final (wink wink)

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Following the awesome AR1, Lost Spheres Publishing presents us with volume 2. The content, however, is a bit different from volume 1. But, is it any good? And what’s up with my FF wink in the title? Read on!

What’s inside?
40 pages of content (disregarding cover, legal stuff etc.) for 8 bucks, which include:

-5 akashic races:
So here we start with the FF cameos, inspirations or whatever you want to call them. All the races in the book are akashic, having the akashic subtype, an extra point of essence, and a natural ability that can be invested with essence. Also, each race comes with many favored class bonuses, for classes that “make sense” from a big part of Pathfinder class catalogue, including many 3rd party. Some of them are novel, like gaining bonuses when manifesting their racial patron constellation.

The first race is the Cactuar… I meant Cactus Folk, which are small plants. Like Ghorans, they lack most immunities of the plant type save sleep effects, and apparently are genderless. They are fast and have a natural armor, plus their spines give them a natural form of attack and defense. Like their FF counterparts, they have a chance to counter attacks with a needle spray.

Next we have the Tonberries… Sorry, Creepers, another small plant folk that look like humanoid turtles. Why the plant type? Who knows! Personally I would have used monstrous humanoid but eh. They are really adept with small slashing weapons, to the point that a lot of their favored class bonuses play with that idea, and can even invest essence in that aptitude! Also, their eyes glow in the dark. And they DO have vestigial gender even if they reproduce asexually with their own spores.

Mogbears… er, Morphbears look like Ewoks with dragonfly wings, although their racial ability recolor them… reminding me of the Carebears LOL. They can glide and invest essence in their wings to fly… very badly at first, but by now anyone knows how problematic this can be with flying ranged warriors or, worse, summoners. They can attune to one of the elements and get a flavorful ability (don’t worry, a cute tattoo doesn’t appear in their bellies). If they don’t attune, they get extra essence, over the one they already get from being an akashic race, which make them great akashic users. Oh, and they are magical beasts.

Wolgers are a race of natural predators with both canine and feline characteristics, and they are normally RED (wink). Their most unusual characteristic is… they don’t have hands! They can’t wield weapons or cast spells with somatic components, heck they can’t even wear gloves or shape hand veils! To compensate, they can use two pair of magical boots AND can shape, and later bind, two feet veils. They are magical beasts, have natural armor and a bite attack, later developing claws and all are treated as primary natural attacks. Finally, they are blessed by Baha... the Sky King, having a natural electrical aura which enhances their natural attack and damages those who touch them, and they can invest essence in their ability to deal more damage. My spider sense (TM) tells me this ability will be more powerful in the long run, having a lot of repercussions like being in a grapple, swallowed, and even touched with a beneficial effect. Thankfully they can turn off this ability.

Wyrmkin made me yell BANGAI at first, but they are basically PC drakes. They are also magical beasts, quadrupeds, and have wings, having the most unusual characteristics of both Morphbears and Wolgers. They can also invest essence in their wings to fly better.

Finally, we have three variant races: Akashic elves and tieflings, plus essence-less humans.

All in all, a mix of really weird, over-the-top races that may not cater to everyone, but I bet my GIL that you will find two or three to your liking. Also, they don’t have to be PCs, they can work wonders as NPCs too!

-A third Zodiac cosmology: The Quiet Lands cosmology doesn’t only present new toys for the Zodiac, it also includes a new ability for Champion aspects of constellations, which all of them have: a “dismiss” effect. This ability strongly resembles FF summons, where the creatures appear to do a single, powerful effect and then vanishes, leaving the summoner with essence burn. However, each Champion has a “trigger” for this to happen, and some of them happen so often that it makes the manifestation of champions a tactical decision, since it can hypothetically leave you burned out of essence. Also, this extra “dismiss” ability is balanced by the fact that all Quiet Lands constellations only have one more form besides Champion. Also, half of the champions are really expensive to manifest, the highest costing 11 points! And, you know… one of them is a fricking dragon! As for other forms, we have 5 equipment pieces, 3 weapons, 3 armors, and a shield that is considered both weapon and armor.
Speaking of FF, each of the constellations strongly mirrors one of the iconic summons of said saga, which is awesome! A few retouches here and there and you have THE FF summons!

-12 Feats: The book includes 6 reprint feats: the three Planar Infusion conduit feats, the three Astrologist feats, Amateur and Noble, plus Expanded Cosmology; it’s worth noting that, while reprints, the last one has an interesting clause not present in the original feat: you actually CHANGE one constellation from your repertoire for one from a different cosmology. Why? I don’t really know but my guess is that it was done to prevent too much elemental stacking. There are 6 completely new feats, 5 of which have racial requirements; one of them, geared towards natural attackers, lets you channel a weapon constellation into one of your natural attacks! The last one bears (mogs?) special mention, since it builds on Essence Rejection and lets those inferior beings that can’t use any akashic magic the possibility to do so by using Crystech. Wait, what? Yes, Crystech is a new way to introduce akashic magic in a campaign via pseudo-magical technology.

-Magical Items: With one new item and one humble sidebar, this book includes a whole trove of pseudo-magical items, one for each veil in existence! The new item is an akashic Materia-like “Aspected Crystal” that can be used by akashic characters to eek some temporary essence, but their real use appears to be powering Crystech. The crystals normally have a type of essence (like fire, darkness, good, etc.), meaning that they can only power certain abilities and Crystech items.

-One Plane: The Quiet Lands
While the previous book tackled many planes, this one tackles only one. I prefer this approach since it permits the authors to explore and give more depth to the location. So, the Quiet Lands are called so because, while not a “resort” plane to go on vacation, it has a quietness of spirit, having traits that prevent and interfere with aligned outsiders, their entrance, summoning, and even their sole presence!
The Quiet Lands also feel way more connected to the City of Seven Seraphs campaign setting, and even to the first volume of Akashic Realms, as should be. That book, however, is not necessary. There are many factions in the plane that want to take control of the aspected crystal sources. And, while I’m not a master of FF lore, many things give me a strong FF7 vibe, but I may be wrong.
The plane is divided in six parts, each one detailed and accompanied with locations of interest and a couple of important NPCs. The details are scarce but enough to start a campaign there.

-11 champion stat-blocks: Like the previous books that include a Zodiac cosmology, this volume include the stats for all the champions, saving the players and game master time and letting the game master to use some on the fly. There are 11 because two constellations, the Phoenix and Thunderbird, share the Roc as their base champion.

Of Note: If someone told me this book included FF-inspired races, I would have thought Viera, Bangaa, Nu Mou and Moogle, with maybe Lunarian or Half Esper. But making iconic FF monsters into PC races is amazing! And the new cosmology expands the possibilities of the Zodiac class, AGAIN! The dismiss effects rock, and I can see enterprising game masters giving dismiss abilities to constellations from other cosmologies, maybe with a feat tax.

Anything wrong?: There are some writing and editing mistakes but most are ignorable. The most offending one is the Phoenix constellation having the air type, since the Thunderbird already shares a Champion form to also share the type. The worst one, however, is in the description of the Brionitic empire, since it cuts short the introductory description of the plane.
Also, in my review of the Zodiac class book I mentioned that it is a really strong class. Well, the new cosmology has some really powerful options, some of which completely overshadow others from previous cosmologies. The Sultan of Fire and Leviathan’s weapon forms are really strong, and give you a ranged attack. The Sultan’s give you half your level in fire damage dice, making Nexus glee with delusions of stacking those dice with their blasts. Leviathan, however, gives you physical damage dice! While arguably fire is the weakest element since a lot of creatures resist it, and some creatures will have both damage reduction and fire resistance, Leviathan feels like too much. Both weapons only receive half the normal enhancement compared to other weapon manifestations (+1 for every 4 levels instead of every two), but the damage increase is too much IMHO.
And the races also feel strong. While I thank the boldness of the authors with the unusual races, I also think some of their abilities completely overshadow more standard choices. I mean, why play a Halfling Vizier when you can play a Morphbear? They can have 2 more essence AT FIRST LEVEL! AND CAN FLY!

What I want: The aspected essence concept BEGS for expansion. You could make all the genie-kin races akashic just by changing their spell-like ability for one point of aspected essence (or just give it free, since those races suck when compared to aasimars or tieflings LOL). Also, why prevent the aspected essence to be used however you like? Why not make it so but with a plus? Maybe you spend your fire aspected essence crystal into your weapon-like veil, and it gains the fire descriptor and either deals some bonus damage or changes elemental damage to fire? Or it works as normal, but when shaping a veil that shares the descriptor it is shaped as if your veilshaper level was one higher? Or maybe when descriptors match it increases you essence cap by one? Oh, the possibilities!
Also, to this date there is no option to manifest the same constellation with different forms, so there is a little design space there.

What cool things did this inspire?: An expansion for the other cosmologies via giving their champions a dismiss effect, but with a feat tax. Also, the favored class section can give ideas for other races’! And the cosmologies themselves, now with 3 different ones, can inspire enterprising game masters to make their own for their home campaigns! I KNOW I will make one at least!

Do I recommend it?: While volume 1 was bold, this one amps that boldness to new heights. FF fans will have a blast identifying all the winks in the setting, while others will relish in the amount of fresh options for building characters. I give this book 5 star-shaped Materias and a double high five to the authors!


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More Akashic goodness? HEL YEAH!

5/5

(the title is a vain attempt at comedy, not a typo... JOKE EXPLAINED!)

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

So, another Akashic book by the master of the Akashic system Michael Sayre, after the two previous mind-blowing ones… can he maintain the quality? Read on!

What’s inside?
Not taking into account the covers, credits, and legal stuff, we are left with 39 pages of content for 8 bucks, which include:

-4 planes, which includes enough information to run a campaign there. There are planar traits (with a new akashic essence planar feature), locations, inhabitants and even ties with the City of Seven Seraphs campaign setting! Apart from that, each section includes new PC game material, from a new aasimar variant, Planar Conduit feat options, 3 new Nexus convergences, a new akashic style feat chain, to a whole 12 sign cosmology based on the Chinese Zodiac! The planes are Valhalla (a chaotic good plane), The Kingdom of the Five Emperors (a true neutral plane with 1 realm for each alignment component), the Dark Shogunate (a kind of “Hell” for the Kingdom of the Five Emperors, opposing balance), and the least developed of all, the Cloud Stairway (kind of a new transitive plane).

-15 new veils: Divided in one set of 10, the Asgardian Saga, and one of 5, the O-Yoroi of the Obsidian Ronin, these veils get away from the middle East flavor of the original Akashic Mysteries book, and embrace a Nordic and a Japanese flavor. Not only that, the Asgardian Saga veils represent iconic items or features of the Asgardian pantheon, which lets you build a kind of akashic priest in concept! The Asgardian saga is fully accessible to the Nexus class, and the O-Yoroi is fully accessible only to the Eclipse, which is an interesting departure from the norm established in Akashic Trinity.

-18 Feats: This section include 15 feats, not counting the Mistmask style feat chain found under the Cloud Stairway. Here we have the reprint of 3 conduit feats, which allow you to become a living conduit for a specific plane’s energies (conceptually great for a Nexus). We also get the Amateur Astrologist and Noble Astrologist reprints from the Zodiac book, which are great if you don’t have said book. Why? Because having one or both of these feats gives you access to a constellation’s power without being a Zodiac. Speaking of which, if you wanted to have access to a constellation outside of your cosmology (say, if you wanted a water weapon for your Greek cosmology Zodiac wink wink), you could access one extra sign with the Expanded Cosmology feat.

There is an unseen problem with this feat, since you can access it via Zodiac class features OR the Amateur Astrologist. Where is the problem? You see, the Amateur Astrologist gives you access to all manifestations of a sign, except for the champion, but the Expanded Cosmology doesn’t. This makes the Noble Astrologist feat almost completely obsolete, since if you wanted to dabble in signs, you could chose a sign without a champion form and then get access to other signs complete array of manifestations via Expanded Cosmology.

Finally, we have the new Convergence feat type especially tailored to the Nexus class. For each veil shaped after the first from the same set, you get a nifty bonus, and an extra one if you get all veils from a set. You are not a Nexus? Don’t worry, you can access Convergences through the new Lattice-Born feat. There is one weird glitch here, since the Dark Shogunate full set of five veils are only available to the Eclipse class, and only two to the Nexus. This makes it a suboptimal choice for the Nexus, and even for the Eclipse since they don’t get the planar detonation ability to get full use of the feat. After speaking to the author, you have to multiclass ;) Anyway, the planar detonation class feature gets expanded with the Versatile Detonation feat, which lets you deal the other two types of physical damage, slashing and bludgeoning, plus the ability to invest in the feat to augment the damage and features of your detonation. Great addition!

-Creature Appendix, which include all creatures relevant to the book, be them Zodiac sign champions, veil-created allies, or planar denizens. This is a very handy feature!

-12 Concordant Zodiac signs, divided in the classic 4 elements with 3 in each. Unlike it’s Greek counterpart, ALL signs have a champion form, and each element nicely has access to 2 armors, equipment and weapons. This translates into 36 abilities, 8 more than the standard Greek cosmology, but then again it is so balanced that I won’t complain. The author told me it is a design decision, which is nice to know (and after explaining that the original cosmology has some powerful, classed champions, reasonable).

Of Note: The idea of having new planes that are not demi-planes just because, is groundbreaking and I applaud the departure from tradition. The Convergence feats reward Nexus for their loyalty, and the Chinese Zodiac cosmology is a great addition to an already great class.

Anything wrong?: Is not a secret that I’m a fan of all things akashic, and I really, really enjoyed this book. HOWEVER, as a reviewer, I have to comment on the problems of the book. There are a couple of writing mistakes here and there, which is understandable. There are some design oversight that I already mentioned. Noble Astrologist is almost useless now, and god, the legal section is HUGE!

What I want: I would have loved to get more info about the planes, which are the star of the book. I STILL want more convergences, and veil sets tailored for other classes like Radiants and Gurus. And that Vol. 1 in the title makes me salivate.

What cool things did this inspire?: By now, there are a lot of weapon-like veils, and if you add the weapon form of constellations, it could make for a nifty archetype that focuses on them, maybe inspired by Archer Gilgamesh from the Fate/Stay Night anime… I would play that!

Do I recommend it?: YES! It is one of the more inspired akashic books since the original, and deals with many untouched themes and design spaces. Normally, I would take one star off from the score because of the problems the book have, but the great things greatly overwhelms the few bad ones, so 5 Asgardian stars from this reviewer.


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Legendary Dreams!

5/5

Arcforge is a new, technology-focused supplement by Dreamscarred press, to complement their psionics, akasha and initiat… Wait, what? Is not by Dreamscarred Press? No. Legendary games, in a departure from their Paizo-only support, release a supplement for ANOTHER company’s systems! But, is it good? Let’s see!

What’s inside?
Not counting covers and license and stuff, we get 74 pages of content for 15 bucks, which include:

-The new Helmsman akashic class. The Helmsman is a pilot class, and needs you to use either (or both) the new mecha rules or the vehicle rules in this same supplement. The helmsman has a cleric-like chassis, medium BAB, simple weapon proficiency (plus one martial), light and medium armor and shields. They get good reflex and will saves, plus 4 skill points per level with a generous skill list, open to many roles and builds. As an akashic class, they also get veilweaving, with one essence per level (like Gurus) and from 1 to 9 veils. They get access to 7 normal chakra binds, but also get a special, exclusive “interface” veil slot (and latter a bind), representing their bond with their vessel. Like other akashic classes, they also get enhanced essence capacity (up to +3).

Other abilities include:
-Bonded vessel, similar to animal companion, where you get either a vehicle or a mecha, but it gets all the benefits from skills, feats and even veils of the helmsman, even if the vessel has no equivalent body part; it can even manifest WEAPON-LIKE VEILS!
-Hypercharge, a series of selectable abilities that you get to momentarily buff your vessel using essence burn. These include instant vessel healing, temporary essence capacity increase, rerolls, immediate movement, area attacks, and even avoid destruction and continue working for a little more!
-Akashic armaments, another way to enhance your vessel by INVESTING essence in it, instead of burning essence like in a Hypercharge. Each ability has the normal essence capacity cap, but otherwise you can invest all your essence in as many abilities as you can. These include bonus to AC, speed, combat, fast healing etc.
-Lifebound Vessel, which lets you sacrifice your health to heal your vessel.
-Adaptive response, which gives you the ability to reallocate your essence as a free action once per day, getting more uses later.
-Turboboost, which gives you the ability to shape a veil to a chakra of any kind, but every round you have to pay with essence burn (this ability is REALLY expensive). The wording of the ability could be better, since at the beginning it mentions “bind”. So you get the veil AND the bind? Can you shape a veil on a chakra you already have occupied, getting two head veils, or even two interface ones? Can you shape a blood or a ring veil? I’m not sure, but it make me wonder.
-Improved turboboost, which reduces the cost of turboboost to a more manageable level. There is a rare glitch here, the ability mentions the “hypercharge chakra” instead of the turboboost ability.
-Peerless Strategist is the capstone, letting you reallocate essence as an immediate action whenever you like, and reduces the essence cost of hypercharge by 1 (minimum 0).

Wait, but what if I want to use the helmsman in my fantasy campaign? Well, just watch the first episode of the anime “Escaflowne”, that’s what you do.

-12 Archetypes:
The Circuit Breaker (cryptic) loses many defensive options to be better at crafting technology, and latter can even put traps on a non-hostile construct. Short and sweet one.

The Cyborg Engineer (vizier) loses eldritch insight to be better at using technology, and gets access to a new mystic attunement (mechanical), which makes him better at crafting tech gear. Nice for a tech campaign.

The Eclipse (dread), who loses a lot of abilities to get the ability to command a growing army of agile mechs. However, the Eclipse dread has to spend his actions to make them move… individually (way later, at 11th, they can give actions to two mechs by taking a penalty to some rolls, increasing the number of mechs commanded at the same time and the penalty up to 4). They also lose devastating touch and get a similar ability that can only be channeled through a mech. As a capstone they can do the Voltron and summon all mechs to merge into one big nightmarish Mr. Roboto (TM). An intriguing archetype that looks like a nightmare to run as a player, and it sadly shares the name of an akashic class.

Experimental Engineer (helmsman), who… can exchange a hyper charge for a bonus mech enhancement, an item creation feat… or a hyper charge? Does this had to be an archetype? I mean, this one could have been rolled into the base class

Fleet Commanders (helmsman), like their name suggests, can command a greater number of vessels just like Eclipse dreads, with the important difference that they can choose any type of mechs or vehicles, AND at higher levels can command up to 6 at the same time. They can also share hypercharges and akashic armaments with more than one vessel. They also lose turboboost and it improved version to bond and command even more vessels. At the peak of their abilities, they can command any number of vessels with the same action without penalty, and can even vary a bit what each vessel do! Inspiring archetype that gets one of the best capstones ever!

The Mecha Sentinel (aegis) feels like an anime hero. They lose the ability to form astral armors… to form astral mechs! They get a slightly modified bonded mech, enhancing it via astral suit customizations, and get access to some exclusive ones. These guys are the best and fastest at customizing mechs. One of my favorites!

Medimechanic (vitalist) may have the worst name, but get the ability to include machines in their collective. They get mostly upgraded abilities, while only losing a d6 for their transfer wounds ability and some powers (but gaining new ones) from the medic powers class feature. Their steal health can target objects but… can they target a wall? A piece of furniture? My spider sense (TM) tells me this means infinite healing! This last ability needs a cap on uses or being only able to affect constructs, not objects.

Overcharger (wilder), who loses wild surge (and some surge-related features) to get Tech Surge, a similar ability that affects technology instead of powers… OK, but what if you lose all of your tech gear? I would have given the archetype a lesser wild surge along the tech one, and I don’t remember a wild surge that cannot be used in certain circumstances (I haven’t checked my Ultimate Psionics in a long time). They can also select 3 exclusive surge bonds, one makes you a beast at tech weapons, one makes you a walking malfunction-causing nightmare, and one makes you a pilot (gaining a vessel like a helmsman). Very nice archetype!

The Reactor Knight (psychic warior) loses some manifesting abilities and all path-related features to get a bonded mech, bigger skill list, and a growing suite of abilities, called overdrives, to improve it (up to 10 from a list of 12). They empower overdrives by spending their psionic focus to get temporary Boost Points. Some overdrives include rocket punch (slam or wing attack at range), area attacks, and even self-destruct! They also get a capstone where they boost all their overdrives at no cost for a little time, but I bet someone forgot to mention this ability replaces the normal psi-warrior capstone. Uber-cool archetype!

Road Warrior (fighter) is a short one. Two extra skill points auto-spent on mechanic stuff, no heavy armor or tower shield (but getting some chain-y weapons as replacement), a modified bravery ability that only functions while driving, and a defense bonus when moving. A refreshing vehicle-based archetype along an army of mech users.

Squad Leader (tactician) returns to the mech user trend. They get a bonded mech instead of coordinated strike and lesser strategies, get a slightly modified, intelligence-based collective ability, and also exchange the strategy class feature to gain the ability to control a growing army of mechs. They, however, don’t get extra mechs or the ability to divide the mech pilot level into many lesser mechs (like the eclipse dread does). As a capstone they get to do the Voltron too, merging many mechs into a big dang roboto, but since they are not really part of their class feature, each mech added gives a small benefit. Great archetype that really changes the base class.

Themistoclien (helmsman) gets to use “blade magic”, getting martial maneuvers and stances from 4 specific disciplines. The archetype trades a lot to be able to get into a martial stance and initiate maneuvers while on a mech or even a ship. They even trade half their essence progression with a class that wants as much essence as possible. I don’t really dig the Path of War system, so I can’t really comment much on this one (though I really appreciate its inclusions since there are many fans of the Path!).

-Class Features and Class Templates: This part includes new blade skills, even letting you manifest a soul chainsaw! Also a “class template” for alchemists and investigators which change extracts to be psionic power-based instead of spell-based. One “prestige class archetype”, which works like a normal archetype but modifies a prestige class: The Metaforge (cerebramancer) focuses more on crafting, able to enchant tech gear and even combine tech gear! (but note that there is a metaforge prestige class already) We get the Psiborg Adept, a psionic prestige class that advances manifesting and some other psi classes features (astral suit or mech, mindblade, bonded mech), are really good at using technological items, and become more machine than mortal. Great!

-5 Racial Variants: We get the Advisor Android (akashic race), Amici Android (great at interaction and not emotionless, the future of [CENSORED] dolls), Champion Forgeborn (non-psionic, great leaders), Interfacer Noral (non-psionic, akashic race) and Processor Forgeborn (GREAT for any INT based class since they get +4, but a penalty to both CON and DEX).

-Mech rules: We start with basic body types (agile, bipedal, quadruped/threaded) and the basic rules of mechs (like being objects and not creatures, sharing damage with the pilot, etc.), which are based on pilot level. Unlike other type of companions, mechs normally become part of the pilot, so they give bonuses to some ability scores (Str and Dex). For combat, each mech type has affinity for the three different types of weapons (melee, ranged and heavy). Weapons take slots, and mechs have a certain number of slots depending on their size, and slots can be combined to fit bigger weapons. While level give some bonuses to the ability scores, changing size change them as normal (so even if you got some Dex bonus because of your level, if you become Large, you will get a size penalty to it, for example). Levels unlock battery points (used to power some mech ability plus any mounted devices) mech enhancements, plus a couple of mech enhancements chosen from a list; some options include more weapon slots, better AC, increased hardness, an AI that can go autopilot, bonuses to skills and many more. Great! There is one problem, however. Mechs depend on the pilot’s level, so what happens if Bob the 1st level expert wants to drive Hiro’s mech, and Hiro is a 16th level badass? There should be rules to use foreign mechs, that way you could place them as treasure, and what about ENCHANTED mechs?!? I know I would love a +5 mech!

We also get rules for some pet classes (those getting mount or animal companions) to get a pet vehicle. Here, rules are provided but are not compatible with the vehicle combat rules from Ultimate Combat. The rules are easy though, taking only one paragraph. Next, we have 5 sample vehicles (Combat Transport, Infiltration Transport, Motorcycle, Sportscar and Ship). Afterwards we have some archetypes for psycrystals and animal companions, which go in tone with the rest of the material. We have Informant, Operating System, and Targeting Array psycrystals, plus the Synthetic animal companion. We end this sections with some general rules for vehicles and mechs in the campaign (how to craft them, how much do they cost, but again no info on higher level mechs or vehicles).

-Helmsman Veils: This section includes all the veils that a helmsman can access, plus a short number of new veils. Of these, 6 occupy the interface veil slot unique to the helmsman (the veil list includes only 5 interface veils, but the veil descriptions have those five plus Ironclad Bastion). A couple are: Ablation Field increases any hardness or damage reduction you have, and can give you energy adaptation (as the power) when bound, and is available to Daevic, Nexus, Radiant and Vizier; Dogfighter’s Third Eye occupies the interface slot, and gives you a dodge bonus to AC plus a 5 feet free action movement in response to a failed enemy attack, and the chakra bind giving you blindsense.

-Feats: This section include 37 feats, with some reprints from the technology guide (I don’t own that book, so I don’t know if they are exactly the same). Before I go to the glorious feats themselves, let me state the bad thing. THERE IS NO FEAT TABLE! Sorry, but for 8 pages of feats, a table was a must. There are 2 Akashic feats (one empowering weapons so they don’t use charges, and another that makes daevics rely on Intelligence and not Charisma), 6 psionic (with one changing metacreativity powers into psychokinetic ones, by using surrounding materials instead of ectoplasm!), 2 metapsionic (one making your powers radioactive!), 2 item creation (with one allowing you to substitute magic for technology as a power source and viceversa, interacting differently with certain abilities), 7 combat (with one allowing you to eject a mech pilot and enter it yourself), and many others that let you craft or improve many tech items like vehicles and mechs, use class features better or more often, and even one that lets a ghost get in the shell ;)

-Technological Psionic Powers. Unlike the feat section, this one includes 3 pages of power lists, and not only the base psionic classes are included! The gifted blade archetype is in, as are some others I didn’t even know existed like the gambler or the voyager. 25 powers are included. Transforming living (and even dead) psyches into AIs, modifying the weather, getting basically a space suit, affect plants and water, create holograms, control vehicles and mechs (and weapons) so they can move and even attack on their own, voltron 2 or more constructs (which is… psychometabolic?), recharge or transfers charges from tech, etc.

-Optional Rules: The last section includes two flavorful and rule-changing hacks. Akasha as Cybertech gives you guidelines on using akashic magic as a type of technology, with a good number of optional names (does metahuman, .exe, nanite injections or scientists sound akashic?) and even rewrites of some veils, that do exactly the same but in a different way. The Riven Darts veil becomes a Micro-Missile Gauntlet, which changes the visuals from a mage throwing magic missiles to a techy launching mini-missiles.

Another one is Psionics as Advanced Technology. Here, the hack is a bit deeper than with Akasha, since it interacts very differently with magic. Again, optional names are provided, but here we have spell additions to the power list to facilitate its interaction with magic, as well as what tech feats do what using this rules.

Of Note: Oh boy what to chose? I really like the mech rules, as well as the mech-piloting archetypes, my favorite being the Mecha Sentinel and the Reactor Knight.

(Rest of the review in the comments)


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LOS RUDOS LOS RUDOS LOS RUUUUDOOOOOS!

5/5

The Luchador is a classbook by Drop Dead Studios, penned by the great designer Michael Sayre. It is a hybrid class mixing the monk and the vigilante. I must confess I had great expectations about this book, being a proud Mexican and an ex-big fan of Lucha Libre (it has lost some of its charm), so how does this book fare against my spoiled-brat hopes? Lessee!

What’s inside?
19 pages of content for 5 bucks (great rate IMHO), which include:

-The Luchador hybrid base class: Mixing the thematic parts of both classes, the author creates a wrestling specialist that wouldn’t be possible in core rules. They have a similar chassis, having d8 HD plus medium BAB, good Fortitude and Reflex saves, 6 skill points with an ample enough list for the Luchador to be many things, especially the face of the group; the “weakness” of the class is the weapon/armor proficiency, getting nothing beyond simple weapons proficiency (not that it matters if you can wrestle with a chimera like in the awesome cover). From the Monk, the Luchador inherits improved unarmed strike and better unarmed damage that goes up with level, Charisma-based AC bonus, plus some others, like a ki pool, opened by the class’ talents. From the Vigilante, the Luchador gets a variant of dual identity that is less superhero-esque (not that of a big deal if someone knows your real identity), plus Social and Stable talents.

As new toys, the luchador gets Skillful Combatant, which in a Monk-y fashion treats the luchador as a full BAB class for CMB and CMD. They also get a kind of mini-archetype, the Stable, which gives the Luchador a real-world theme and access to some exclusive talents, the stables being Freestyle (the most Lucha-esque of the bunch), Oil Wrestling (from Turkish tradition) and Sumo (big-man Japanese wrestling). Having watched all three, I would say that the author is stretching the concept of a Luchador to the limit, but OK. Corazon (Spanish for “heart”), is another ability that is unique to the Luchador, and is kind of a status. While not part of Lucha Libre, this ability sounds a lot like Face from Kung Fu movies and can be poached for other classes like Monks, Samurai, and Yakuza (any really). Not having Corazon makes a lot of the class talents work in a limited fashion. Submission Specialist is another new toy, which increases grappling damage but only when going nonlethal. Aerial Takedown improves the Luchador’s jumps and adds the option to grapple at the end of a charge, even flying creatures! Finally, as a capstone the Luchador gets DR 10/-, Fast Healing 1, and doesn’t suffer from physical penalties when aging. Also, they get access to unique Social and Stable talents, the latter having unique tricks for Free Stylers, Oil Wrestlers and Sumotoris. Also, each flavor of Luchador gets access to one talent that prevents victims of escaping your grapple via teleportation, which is a really nice adition to the Luchador’s arsenal.

-8 Luchador Archetypes: Blood Breakers forget about doing nonlethal damage in exchange for getting mutagens (Bane anyone?). Dancing Dervishes are powerful dance fighters who get exclusive toys… based on a skill check (we all know you can increase these checks through the roof); cool archetype but should have gotten a special caveat preventing skill-enhancements. Earthbound are slow wrestlers who exchange the high-flying flair of Lucha for a more stoic, immobable style, getting the Staltwart Defense ability of, well, Staltwart Defenders, and get some other modifications including a more thematically-appropriate capstone. Ki Strikers are high-fantasy warriors who get Elemental Fist for free and some blasty powers in exchange for raw damage and some stable talents, very fighting game-y (thumbs up). Lichadors… get closer to undead, losing Stable to get some unliving resistances; nstead of increasing their nonlethal damage, their touch channels positive energy (which can’t heal) and is treated as ghost touch, so you can wrestle with zombies or even ghosts! They also get access to some very dark and flavorful talents and as a capstone they become Liches! An excellent archetype in all but name. Masked Beasts borrow the Animal Focus ability of hunters in a limited fashion, and also battle with savage natural attacks instead of the more martial art-sy of other Luchadors, and can even wild-shape like druids! Masked Saint was a must, and while they lose the increased nonlethal damage, they get access to Lay on Hands and some mercies like a Paladin, plus the weapon bond ability with their unarmed strike, culminating with a more thematic capstone. Finally, Rudos (Lucha Libre’s heels) are heartless ruffians, meaning no Corazon, who instead of a Stable have a lackey that helps them in their fights, treated as a cohort from a class that can fight unarmed (mostly Monks, Brawlers and other Luchadors). The author shows his research, since in Lucha Libre, Rudos can (and Dios do they do) enter the ring and help their comrades, while Tecnicos (the good guys) can’t.

-21 Favored Class Bonus: In the author’s fashion, instead of a boring list of bonuses, each of the 21 (!) races get a short but flavorful paragraph describing the Luchador’s role in their community.

-15 Feats: This section includes 13 combat feats which open new options in combat, some of which can be built upon by the Luchador’s talents feats. Interestingly, some use an attack of opportunity as part of the cost of doing a maneuver. I particularly liked the Tag Team feat, being something you see in team wrestling all the time. The two non-combat feats are Masked Intentions, which gives a generous bonus to both Bluff and Sense Motive for characters who qualify, and Dragon Tatoos, which basically make you (and your unarmed strikes) enchantable. Another good thing of most feats is that they CAN be used by other characters, Monks in particular, and that is always a good thing.

-5 normal equipment: two Luchador masks which basically feel like normal and masterwork, 2 folding weapons common in pro-wrestling (not so much in Lucha), and wrestling oil, all complementing part of the Luchador arsenal.

-7 magical items: 4 masks, one for each side of Lucha Libre (Rudo and Tecnico), and two based on real-life legendary Luchadors Blue Demon and El Santo, Luchador Boots and a Vial of Renewing Oil

Of Note: The idea of merging the Monk and the Vigilante in one class is nutty, but pulling it out in a flavourful and technical way is IMHO an epic feat! Even while having grown surrounded by Lucha movies and shows, it never occurred to me to mix RPGs with Lucha (except that one time we played Marvel Super Heroes card game and I played El Santo).

Anything wrong?: There is enough substance in Lucha Libre that adding Sumo or Oil Wrestling was not necessary, but is not a bad thing. But I would have preferred little people wrestling, Exoticos (flamboyant gay gay wrestlers), an “evil” wrestling villian archetype (heels/rudos like Psicosis or El Satanico), and maybe a monster hunter archetype (having seen many El Santo vs what-have-you, this one is a must), and maybe a referee bard :D (like the mythic and polemic El Tirantes, who even has his son, El Tirantes Jr., as a fellow referee). I was also expecting some kind of interaction with performance feats, but I think I can do that on my own (maybe just treat unarmed strikes and unarmed combat maneuvers be considered performance weapon, thus granting a +2 to the Performance Combat check and… voilá!).

What I want: As I mentioned above, an Exotico archetype, a little people (small race) archetype, and maybe an “evil” version of the Masked Saint. Maybe some unique masks that give specific abilities that are worth adventuring for (El Santo was not always El Santo, and in one movie, he gives his “powers” to his son by giving him his mask!), maybe a bloodline-like archetype for all these Jr. and the second/the third wrestlers. A “personal move” rule for iconic, unique locks, holds, throws and all that. And maybe a recommended bibliography/filmography for people who want to know more about Lucha or just get inspiration sources for Lucha adventures.

What cool things did this inspire?: The masks I mentioned before, and some Luchador achievement feats that give you a title (like El/La Something) for achieving something awesome. I remember El Canek, a big (for Mexico’s standards) Mexican wrestler who did the epic feat of lifting Andre the Giant, something not even WWE wrestlers did! He still wrestled beyond his 60’s! I’m also adding the Luchador to the classes in my fantasy modern Mexico campaign.

Do I recommend it?: If you are reading this review it is because you are already intrigued by the idea of having Luchadors in an RPG. In that case, I wholeheartedly recommend it! If you are here with the idea of adding more flair to the grappling rules, you CAN poach a lot of things from this book, maybe doing a Vigilante sub-specialty or Monk archetype that gives you access to Luchador tricks, or just adding the mystique of the Lucha Mask to your characters. If you like Lucha, this is a five star-shaped world champ belts!

Trivia: There is so much crazy myths surrounding Lucha, like the one that wrestlers use their masks all the time and even marry using them and even their spouses don’t know their secret identities! (though I was married by a wrestler/priest, Fray Tormenta, talk about multiclassing in real life LOL) I often ROFL about that, especially when the person telling me is not Mexican and truly believes those. To them, I share the TRUE gems of Lucha. Like El Vampiro (Velasques?), who before every Lucha went to a mine, collected living bats under his cape, and released them when he entered the ring and the spectators were HORRIFIED (in retrospect, poor bats but oh boy), or a crazy wrestler that started an EFFIN FIRE that consumed the whole Arena! (no one was hurt IIRC). Or in the Lucha movies, where two Luchadors were in brightly colored suits, with capes and masks and all that, and then got on a PINK Ferrari… the one riding shotgun said “slow down, we don’t want unnecessary attention” (I always smile with that scene). THOSE are some of the crazy things that inspire the true flair and flavor of Lucha Libre!


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SAINT SEIYA!

4/5

Apart from being a roleplayer and like many gamers, I’m an avid fan of Anime, and one of my favorites is Saint Seiya, known in my country as Knights of the Zodiac, so when I heard the author of Akashic Mysteries and Akashic Trinity was working on a new akashic class inspired by the Zodiac, I was intrigued. But how was the result? Read on!

What’s inside?
32 pages of beautifully illustrated raw content for 8 bucks, which include:

-The Zodiac base Class, with the BAB, HD and STs and proficiencies of a cleric but with 4 skill points, and the Essence progressions of a Guru (that is, 1 point per level). The class’ main ability is Constellations, a suite of abilities that lets the Zodiac summon something based on one of the twelve Greek zodiac signs by getting unrecoverable essence burn (of course, as long as the summon exists). Each constellation has at least two forms from four: Armor (a suit of armor that is auto-enhanced by a +1 bonus per each even level that can be changed), Champion (an actual summoned creature), Equipment (an actual temporary magical item that, unlike veils, does use up the slot) or Weapon (again, auto-enhanced). The signs are divided in 4 elemental groups, each group allied and opposed to another element, and the Zodiac gains a bonus the more summons of one element (later allied too) he has. Oh, and every summon can be enhanced as an essence receptacle too!

Apart from this special akashic abilities, the Zodiac comes in two very, very different flavors. At first level, the Zodiac has to choose between being a mystical Lunar, specialized in summoning Champions and getting potent veilweaving abilities (with a non-standard chakra bind progression, getting the up to six feats from the Access Chakra line, two from each tier) plus enough extra essence to surpass even the Vizier!, or a warlike Solar, who gets improved proficiencies (heavy armor plus martial weapons), and gets to use its class level as BAB for attacks using their Constellation arms and for feat prerequisites, plus getting enough bonus feats (one every even level from the Combat, Akashic and Teamwork feats) to make the Fighter jealous.

Apart from these abilities, the Zodiac gets improved essence capacity like every other akashic class, improved synergy when summoning Constellations from the same elements (plus allied later), an ability similar to an action point from the old d20 Modern systems (damn, Modern has become the new old), adding a 1d6 to a roll after rolling but before learning the result, improving the die to d8 and later to d10. Finally, each specialty has its own powerful capstone.

-Twelve Constellations based on the Greek zodiac. As I mentioned, there are 12 signs divided in 4 elemental groups, with each having 3 signs. Each sign has 2 or 3 possible forms of summoning, each element but water getting 2 signs with 2 abilities, and Air, Earth and Fire getting one sign with 3 abilities. All signs but The Scales have a Champion Form, 9 have an Equipment form, 5 a Weapon form and only 2 an Armor form, giving a grand total of 27 different abilities, all accessible to all Zodiac. However, the Zodiac has to pay in Essence burn, with the Champion form of the Waterbearer being the most expensive, using a whopping 12 Essence!

-17 veils, with many repeated from Akashic Mysteries, counting 7 new veils and most with an elemental or stellar feel.

-3 archetypes, one for Fighters specialized in the new Perihelion Pauldrons, one for Cavaliers that mount champions of the Constellations and later can summon their other forms, and finally one for Wizards, who replaces School and all bonus feats for mastery of energy types and the Aurora Lenses.

-12 Feats, of which 7 are brand-new and 5 are reprints. From the new, we get 2 Astrologist feats to dabble in Constellations, 3 that offer more combat options, each one inspired by Chess, a Expanded Veilweaving for those that want to manifest more than one veil when dabbling into akasha and a combat feat that depends on the first and second section.

-4 akashic traits, being equipment, combat, magic or social the categories of each.

-11 favored class bonus for the core and plane-touched races. In a by-now typical Sayre fashion, this includes the role of Zodiacs in the communities along the mechanical bonus.

-Stats for 10 of the champions, excluding only the elven ranger champion of The Archer constellation, which is really, really handy!

Of Note: The class itself is really inspired! The two flavors of Zodiac are very different and make me wonder if a third is possible. The whole idea of an akashic class sans veils is something that has intrigued me since the Incarnum days, and with the Solar Zodiac, my wish has been fulfilled. And the Lunar makes for a wonderful summoner replacement in an akashic-only campaign.

Anything wrong?: The class feels a tad strong. Lunars get more essence than Viziers, and Solars get almost as many bonus feats as fighters, on top of the possibility of having powerful custom weapons and armor, changeable on a daily basis! Also, the Constellations feel a bit unbalanced among the elements:
-Fire has 1 armor, 2 weapons, 1 equipment and 3 champions
-Earth has 1 weapon, 3 champions and 3 equipment, but no armor
-Water has 1 armor, 2 equipment, and3 champions, but no weapon and getting only six abilities!
-Air has 2 weapons, 3 equipment and 2 champions, but again no armor!

Having no water weapons is especially grating, since under the Undine FCB section it mentions, and I quote: “Add 1 point of cold damage with the weapon form of a water element constellation…”

Only Fire has both weapon and armor, feeling the best element for Solar Zodiacs. I wouldn’t mind, but man, Earth has no armor? I would change one of the equipment of earth for an armor, and just plainly add a weapon to one of the water constellations. I would have loved if each element specialized in one of the summoned forms, maybe fire for weapons, earth for armors, air for equipment and water for champions, and being weaker in their opposed specialty. This way, fire wouldn’t have armors etc. This are just random thoughts, however, but please, at least add one weapon to the water constellations (an harpoon for the fish? Or maybe a net or trident, or both?), or change the FCB entry for poor Undines LOL! Speaking of favored bonuses, Orcs get a full +1 damage when using constellation weapons, which not only tops all the elemental races’ FCB, it tops other classes’ abilities, like the Swashbuckler, but as a FCB! If a FCB is supposed to be 1/6 of a feat, weapon specialization gives you +2, so I would tone it down to 1/3 of damage, maybe ½ since the base constellation weapons are not that strong.

Finally, there are many white spaces, and for some strange reason the License section at the end of the book is HUGE, like 4 pages! For a “40” page release, this is not what I expected. This, on top of the repeated material, really lowers the bang for your bucks. I mean, why do they mention the Cave Fisher or the Axe Beak from the Tome of Horrors? Don’t want to sound rude but, something tells me there was a problem with this section that no one saw, maybe copy paste? The last Akashic release had only one page for all this info! This is disheartening because the book’s art and layout is effing gorgeous!

What I want: a high level feat that gives you access to the 13th constellation, the snake, who may have the four types of summon and might be counted as allied to all the elements but opposed to none, with maybe sonic damage as its bonus... but I’m rambling. Apart from this, a wholly Eastern themed Zodiac with the Chinese signs as their constellations, using wisdom and monk weapons instead of charisma and martial… I have to get this idea to the lab like, right now!

What cool things did this inspire?: A SOLAR ZODIAC DRESSED IN THE FULL PLATE ARMOR OF THE CRAB, ARMED WITH THE FLAIL OF THE SCALES, AND YELLING SPECIAL ATTACKS ANIME-STYLE. Well, I’m a big fan of Saint Seiya after all. And the ability to dabble in constellations is really nice for other akashic users, and I will surely take some of this feats to have a champion fight at my side.

Do I recommend it?: Well… If you don’t have any of the Akashic material out there yes. If you are a huge fan of Akashic magic and don’t mind some repeated material then HELL YES! If you are lukewarm and on the fence, especially for the repeated material, then I have to say “maybe”. I will give this book 4 stars, because even if I really liked the new material and consider it 5 stars material, I have to take one off because of the problems I mentioned. If the white spaces were filled with more constellation goodness (at least a water weapon LOL) or even a sample character, I would forget the problem and give the full 5 stars plus a high 5 to the authors.


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Trinity, my love (no, not The Matrix’)

4/5

Akashic Trinity is a kind of preview product for the Pathfinder planar campaign setting/add-on, the greatly expected The City of Seven Seraphs, both by Lost Spheres Publishing. As the name indicates, it is a follow-up product for the awesome Akashic Mysteries by Dream Scarred Press. Both were penned by Michael Sayre. It includes 3 new veil-shaping base classes plus tons of veils for both the new and old akashic adventurers.

What’s inside?
Without counting cover, credits, intros and other stuff, we get 51 pages of akashic content for 12/10 bucks (It is on discount right now), which include:

-3 veil-shaping base classes, the roguish Eclipse, the warlockish Nexus, and the feyish, clerical Radiant. Like the other akashic classes, they have a high-fantasy feel and may not be very at home in low-magic or magic-less campaigns. They share a couple of things regarding their veil-shaping: they get increased essence limits and chakra binds, they get a veil class list, and include favored class bonus for races that make sense (not all core races are included for all classes for example).

The Eclipse would fill the role of the akashic rogue, a greatly-asked-for addition to the akashic subsystem. They get simple armor proficiency plus a couple of other rogue-like weapons, plus the buckler (no other armor proficiency), and have a d8 HD, medium BAB, 2 good saves (Fort and Ref), plus a nice rogue-like skill list paired with a generous 6 skill points per level. It is worth noting that their veil-shaping score is Intelligence, which more often than not will increases the skill repertoire of any Eclipse. They also can find traps at 2nd level, including magical ones. Here is where the mundane part of the class ends.

Like other akashic classes they are veilshapers. They get the least veils shaped (and bound) during their progression of any of the veil-shapers (but see Dark Intensity), although they gain essence at the same rate as Gurus, leaving plenty of points for some of their other essence receptacles. Apart from veilshaping, they get several wondrous abilities, the first one being the weirdest (and more awesome) of them all: Occultation. Basically, Eclipses can create a shadow clone of themselves next to them, who have all the stats of the Eclipse (except for consumables and limited use items), although only getting a single move action per turn and being destroyed with any successful attack, when failing a saving throw or getting to far from their creators. Eclipses can proxy their attacks and powers through their clones! (it must have been a nightmare to balance).

At 5th, the clone can be created farther, can fly, and can teleport in dark areas. At 11th, Eclipses can create 2 clones, each with all the abilities as normal, including having only a single move action, but Eclipses can now use their swift action to proxy their attacks and abilities, and I suppose they can still use their standard actions to proxy through their other clone (or act themselves), but it is not mentioned. Finally at 17th level, when a clone is destroyed it creates a very damaging blackhole. I don’t know if this part is balanced, since there is no limit on how many clones can be destroyed and create a blackhole, and I can think of one or two ways to cheap this ability.

When the clone is not in existence, Eclipses are shrouded by darkness and get an Armor bonus and a competence bonus to their Stealth score. At 7th level, this shroud gives them Hide in Plain Sight; at 13th, they can travel through darkened areas as if using Dimension Door, and also Shadow Walk (as the spell) one time per day (more at higher levels). Finally, at 19th level they can kind of “absorb” this shroud to cheat death, but this use prevents both the active and inactive use of occultations until the Eclipse can rest for 8th hours.

They also get a Darkvision ability that can be invested with essence to increase its range and power. They also gain and increased essence limit for this ability, apart from their general essence limit increase common to all veil-shapers, upping the cap for this ability to 8 essence. At 4 essence (usable at 8th level), Eclipses can see in magical darkness, and at 7 essence (usable at 14th level) they become immune to the blinded and dazzled condition and get a bonus to gaze attacks.

They also get a kind of offensive talent called Enigma, at every even level, from a list of 13. Some have level requirements. All Enigmas have a couple of things in common. First, they can only be used against foes that are flat-footed or flanked, have lost their Dexterity bonus to AC, or are unaware of the user. Second, they must be used as part of an attack or a targeted veil effect (if multitarget, only one target is affected). Finally, only one Enigma can be added per attack or veil effect, but there is no mention if you can change Enigmas for iterative attacks. Effects range from cold or negative energy damage, draining (be it ki, grit, spells, power points etc.), profane bonus to attack rolls etc.

At 10th level, Eclipses get to shape and bind two veils in either their feet or hands chakras, getting an extra ability on top of both veils (two weapon attack as a standard action or extra speed). This veil counts as normal for their maximum, and any essence invested in any of the two veils is done separately. If no double veil is shaped, Eclipses can treat either a veil shaped in their feet or hands as if invested with one extra point of essence.

As a capstone, Eclipses add all veils with the darkness descriptor to their lists, and are able to shape and bind them even if they can’t normally do so (because of a unique veil slot, like ring or blood). They cannot age and also don’t need to eat or breath. While in darkened areas, they become more powerful and get enhanced senses (true seeing and deathwatch).

The Nexus would be the akashic warlock/kineticist. They get all simple and martial weapon proficiencies, plus light and medium armor, along medium BAB and d8 HD, good Will and Fort saves, with 4 skill points and a skill list focused on interaction and scholarship. Their veilshaping is charisma-based, with one essence per level like Eclipses. They get 10 veils over their carrers, only behind Viziers, and get all 10 chakra binds, making them very powerful at shaping and binding veils.

Beyond their powerful veilshaping, they get two abilities, first of which would be Planar Detonation. This is very similar to a Kinetic Blast, but is a basic piercing attack that can be modified with their Convergences (see below). They can burn essential to double their damage output, and can as a full-round action (later standard), channel this blast through a weapon-like veil. I was going to rant about their damage output and how they can burn essence to amp it, but note that essence is what make veils and akashic feats more powerful, and it still regenerates at a rate of one point per minute, so while you could leave many points to blast away, you would leave other essential receptacles dry, which makes essential management a tactical decision for every Nexus.

Their second ability is called Convergence, which has a kind of planar bloodline flavor. Unlike bloodlines, you aren’t tied to one progression, instead being able to choose from 5 flavors (with 4 tiers each) for each instance of the ability, which is gained at 1st level and supposedly every multiple of four, but in the table level 20th doesn’t mention a new Convergence. The 5 flavors would be Heaven, Hell, Abyss, Elemental and Underworld, the last two representing Chaos and Law for some undisclosed reason.

Convergence tiers share some things in common. Tier one makes Nexus resistant to two, three or four types of energy, and get a new damage type (with an added effect) for their Planar Detonations. Tier two give Nexus a new area blast option when using their special damage type by burning essence. The (im)possibility of both increasing damage and using area attacks is not mentioned, so I suppose it is possible to do both. Tier three gives you an interactive ability with the plane in question, giving you different abilities like summoning demons, bind creatures in a devilish contract, and negotiating with the powers of death to return a creature to life! Finally, tier gives Nexus a powerful magical ability, from channeling a Balor’s vorpal sword for any slashing weapon wielded, to be able to Resurrect once per day when slayed by an evil creature.

Planar Attunement is their capstone, making them being treated as natives of the chosen plane, no longer aging, and gaining a magical ability to command devils or demons, summoning a planetar, getting treated as friendly by creatures of one of the elemental planes, or getting many psychopomp-y abilities. For some strange reason, this ability is independent of your Convergences, so you could potentially have Convergence tier 3 in both the Abyss and Hell and suddenly getting attuned with Heaven. I would at least require a Convergence tier of 3 (or even 2) in the planar attunement you want as a capstone.

The Radiant would be the akashic cleric/druid/vitalist (this last one from the psionic rules by Dream Scarred Press) that inherited many concepts from the Vedist, a long-awaited akashic healing class that the author teased not long after the . It has the most unusual flavor among the classes, since while light, nature, fey and life are common themes, all them together is not. They have a typical caster chassis: proficiency with simple weapons and light armor only, low BAB with d6 HD (but see Mind over Matter), ALL GOOD SAVES, and 4 skill points with a skill list focusing on nature and scholarship. Their veilshaping is Wisdom-based, getting lots of essence like Viziers, but not as many veils and chakara binds (topping at 8 veils and 6 chakra binds).

At first level they get Mind over Matter, a seemingly-random ability that adds their Wisdom bonus to their Fort saves, HP per level, and negative HP maximum (but see below).

Their main ability would be Akashic Bond, an ability that feels very similar to the psionic Collective. By investing essence in their allies, Radiants give their invested allies a slowly regenerating temporary hit point pool and a bonus to saves. A Radiant that has invested an ally that suffers from poison, disease or fatigue, can reclaim the invested essence and not only absorb the condition, but getting a NEW SAVE (if any). The list of conditions that can be absorbed increase with level progression, and some conditions are instantly cured at higher levels!

At every even level, Radiants learn a Vivification, an extra ability that can be granted to invested allies. One Vivification can be granted for each point of essence invested, with the option of choosing the same Vivification more than once to increase its effects! Abilities go from enhancements to ability scores, damage reduction, bonus to damage or skill checks, and ability damage healing.

While all this maybe gives the impression that Radiants are martyrs, at fourth level they can invest enemies with essence! This forced bond debuffs enemies and lets Radiant transfer any negative condition they can normally absorb to their foes!

At 19th level they get the ability to restore life by burning 6 essence points. As capstone they become immune to aging. They also gain immunity to death effects and share this immunity with invested allies.

-83 new veils. Each is available to at least one of the old classes and one of the new classes, and of course the vizier is among many of them. In the original Akashic Mysteries book, the only thing that somewhat grouped the veils was their descriptors, and perhaps the Daevic’s Passion Veil lists. Here, we have each veil belonging to a thematic list, which range in number from 4 to 10. It is important to mention that the 5 lists that have 10 veils occupy different chakra slots and correspond to each of the five Convergence flavors of the Nexus who, having a normal maximum of ten veils shaped (and bound), could potentially have all the veils from one list shaped and bound at the same time, making specialization in a Convergence possible. Also, some of the favored class bonuses reference these lists. This is design decision I applaud, since it makes choosing veils easier for both players and game masters.

As in Akashic Mysteries, the veils themselves cover a wide variety of effects, from energy attacks, defenses, summons, weapon-like creations, vehicles etc. I found quite a few that wowed me, like Reaper’s Scythe’s positive damage against undead and negative against the living, Duxandu’s Icy Gaze take the idea of giving a cold glare literally, Nymph’s Visage which gives Radiants and Viziers a reason not to dump Charisma (or Daevics and Nexus a reason to take the Shape Veil feat), and the Efreeti’s Scimitar critical effect when bound to the wrists.

There were some weird instances where a veil would be available to a certain class, but in the chakra bind description the class is not mentioned. And in some, ANOTHER class that is not mentioned in the class list of the veil IS mentioned in the chakra bind section. Hyandil’s Flowered Regalia, for example, is available to Guru, Nexus, Radiant and Vizier, but in the chakra bind section, it doesn’t mention Guru and include Daevic instead. At first I thought that maybe the D for daevic suggested the access to the veil via feats, but that would have to be included to all veils for all the classes that get that chakra bind. My best guess is that it’s a typo.

Of Note: Holy sheet of paper Batman! Just when I thought akashic magic went to the right direction of getting away from the alignment flavor of the original Incarnum system, here comes the Nexus and retakes that idea, but well done. The three classes have a very high-magic, distinct feel, and make the idea of an akashic party a reality. And the idea of grouping the veils by theme is just plain awesome!

Anything wrong?: While not bad, the three classes share the capstone of not aging, which takes away a little of the oomph that immunity normally gives. I thoughts that Radiants would get an ability to transfer their HP after reading their description texts and Mind over Matter ability, but if they want to heal they have to use essence and veils I suppose. Some abilities alert my spider-sense(TM), making me feel a bit uncomfortable because of their power level, like the blackhole created when Occultations are destroyed, Halo of Holy Light’s ability when bound to the headband chakra, Cloak of Darkness unlimited shadow conjurations (I don’t remember correctly if you can have more than one conjuration effect at the same time, but if you don’t, I would add this caveat to the ability). Also, tying Convergences to planes is cool, but unless there is a campaign-specific reason to tie the elemental planes to chaos (which sadly remind me of 4th edition “Maelstrom”) or the “underworld” to law, some people might have a problem with that, as will people using different planar cosmologies. That, and the possible typos in the class lists/bound lists of the veils mentioned above.

What I want: I don’t know if there are going to be feats in the final book, but the veil theme lists could/should/must be used beyond favored class bonuses. What about a feat that gives you something for every veil shaped from that list? This would reward a Nexus who shapes veils from their Convergences (maybe Convergences could count as a veil for this purpose?). Also, of course I have to mention it: I WANT CONVERGENCES FOR ALL THE PLANES WITH THEIR ACCOMPANYING 10 VEEEEILS! There, I said it and had to be said LOL.

Apart from that, the original triad have a choose-able theme, be it Passion, Philosophy, or Path, so new archetypes were not as much needed as say, new of those options. Eclipses and Radiants, however, would really benefit from some archetypes. When I was reading the book, I kept imagining an Eclipse focused on Occultations or their dark shroud, and a Radiant focused in debuffing through their forced bond.

[Rest of the review in the comments section]


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The Inheritor of the Marshal

5/5

Introduction
Ultimate Battle Lord by Amora Games is a compilation product that includes everything (to my knowledge) out there for the Battle Lord, a class that is like an update of the Marshal class from the old Miniatures Handbook, a class that looked more fit for a board game than an RPG, and it kind of was. Anyway, the original marshal had some interesting stuff going on but was a very bland class at the end of the day (I remember “fixing” this class and the fighter by gestalting them in non-gestalt campaigns LOL). However, Michael Sayre shows his updating skills to the max, just like he did with his awesome Akashic Mysteries. Also, I like the fact that authors are getting enough recognition nowadays that they have their names slapped on the cover.

What’s inside?
11 pages of content for just 3 bucks, a very good deal IMHO, which include:

-The Battle Lord base class (BL from now on): a full BAB, two good saves, 4 skill points, and proficiency with all but exotic weapons, heavy armor and tower shields class whose main role is leading and buffing allies, both in and outside combat. The BL gains the bravery class feature of the fighter, which in itself is not THAT exciting until you consider other products out there that interact or replace this ability for something more meaningful, like Bravery Feats by the same author. Beyond this, the BL generates a special, gradually-expanding aura that can give two types of buffs to allies in it (including the battle lord): Drills give a bonus in combat, and Noble Auras give a bonus outside of it. Apart from a vanilla bonus, these drills also give allies temporary feats. At higher levels, BL can activate more than one dril/aura at the same time, get access to stronger drills and noble auras, and having a “divine aura” as their capstone.
Not only that, but BLs also get a Specialty, a kind of bloodline that gives a more focused theme to the battle lord, being Artillerist (gunner/siege engineer), Soldier (melee-er, combat manoeuver master), Medic (non-magical healer) and Scout (infiltrator). So if you wanted to be part of a stealthy campaign or no one wants to be the healer, you can adapt your BL for that!

-6 Archetypes for the BL: Cavalrymen are mounted sword n’ pistol warriors; Dual Specialists get access to two specialties; Eldritch Chevaliers can cast a couple of arcane spells and get some other magical abilities; Marines fight better in coastal, naval and aquatic environments; Warchief are the chaotic, barbarous counterpart of the BLs and Zealots are the religious warriors who don’t cast spells but get some channel-related abilities. Of these, only the Dual Specialists are a bit lame, and feel unnecessary when you count the Military Training feat chain presented later.

-12 Feats: This section includes 9 Teamwork feats, with some including the twist of not needing another character to possess the same feat to work, and most have very few requirements. I remember a couple of Teamwork feats having MANY requisites. The feats evoke many films’ scenes and have nice benefits, but none wowed me. Also, if you liked the specialties, you can take one as a member of any class with the Military Training feat chain, including the BL itself, and you could even have 3 specialties using these feats and the Dual Specialty archetype.

Of Note: The base class itself, especially in low-magic campaigns. It just works so well and gives you access to THAT archetypical role of a leader among men. I really liked the specialties, even if they are so few, and the archetypes, the Zealot and the Warmonger in particular, who cover the roles of the (anti)paladin/barbarian leader really well.

Anything wrong?: There are no favored classes :-/ This is particularly grating since in the author’s other class books, namely Akashic Mysteries and The Luchador, he includes them in a very nice way including background info. I would have loved an archetype that was part of a cavalier or samurai order but oh well. Finally, I would have liked the Warmonger archetype to give specific, thematically fitting rage powers to their drills, but I can do that on my own. Nothing else beyond this.

What I want: I was expecting at least one strategist archetype, specialty or feat that allowed you to buff without being present, as long as the allies followed the “plan”, with/without using the mass combat rules. I think a specialty that based tactics on the Knowledge (history) skill would fill the bill, giving access to contingency plans, counterintelligence (like changing a rival strategist bonus into a penalty), and prediction. Something like Zhuge Liang et al., the class, but maybe I’m just being spoiled.

What cool things did this inspire?: The Strategist (TM) specialty outlined above LOL! Also, the Zealot is perfect for my return to Al-Qadim campaign, since it is a religious warrior that doesn’t feature divine spells.

Do I recommend it?: If you want a leader of men that doesn’t play an instrument or has a mount, need a non-spellcaster decent healer, or want to include more military themes in your campaign, this book is for you. I would give it 4 stars because of the glaring lack of favored class bonuses, but with that price I can’t. 5 star-shaped medals of honor from me.


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I know Kung Fu!

4/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Legendary Games has a line of products called Legendary Classes, where they cover a single base class, sometimes offering a completely new version. Monks have been controversial since their inclusion in almost all editions of D&D, and their execution doubly so. While I was hoping LG would present their version, it is also true that monks have some of the biggest supporting content of all classes, so it would be a pain to make a new one, especially since Pathfinder Unchained just did that with the Unchained Monk. So what’s in this book, then? Let’s see!

What’s inside?
30 pages of crunchy and fluffy content, which include:

-11 Archetypes for the Monk and Unchained Monk (I will add a U for Unchained Monk archetypes). Just see the list of archetypes for the monk already out there, and chances are most concepts are already covered, but 11 archetypes for both types of monks is amazing. We start with a short introduction about monks, and it has a couple of typos, like “area” instead of “are a”, “well” instead of “will”. There were a few more in the text and I will mention them when they become relevant.

Chakra Champions are masters of the Chakra system from Occult Adventures… Wait, what? There’s already an archetype that does that, the Serpent-Fire Adept from Occult Origins. Anyway, Chakra Champions get Chakra Initiate as their first level bonus feat, but not Psychic Sensitivity, and can get the other Chakra feats as bonus feats. It mentions that these feats ignore prerequisites... So, can I get Chakra Master before Chakra Adept? As written, yes. Instead of Stunning Fist, they get a similar debuff ability called Disharmonious Flux, which is usable at will! Most archetypes that replace this feat change it for another ability usable a similar number of times, so I don’t think it is a good change, especially since Disharmonious Flux is so powerful. I would make it a base feat like Stunning Fist, and increase its usage similarly for non-Chakra Champions. So what does it do? Penalize a save from -2 to -4 (the numbers don’t have the usual minus sign, which is weird), and you can also choose from 14 extra effects, but you learn only 3 through your career; one being Psychic Inception, poached from the mesmerist and even wrongly mentioning it (copy/paste error). Beyond this, Champions get many abilities that interact with Chakras, more so than a Serpent-Fire Adept. Finally, they get two abilities that are different. Kundalini Purge staggers opponents and closes their use of Ki (why only ki? I would add arcane pools and maybe others), and Chakra Overload, which again is a poached ability but this time is from an old 3.X ability from another Chakra user, and it inflicts negative levels. After all is said and done, this archetype changes a LOT from the base class and has cool flavor, but I’m not sure about the balance of Disharmonious Flux.

Crystallion are high fantasy monks, getting power from their connections to crystals. It trades most mobility options to be tougher, like getting damage reduction, natural armor, resistance to fire and electricity and the like, plus some light-related abilities, like being able to glow or distracting allies like the bardic performance, but against sight-based effects. At the highest levels they can also reflect rays or even create prismatic sprays, walls or spheres! They cap transforms them into constructs for spells and effects… which is not good, since you won’t be able to come back from the death or even be healed normally. I would have used elemental instead but oh well. A really high concept and high fantasy archetype with cool imagery!

Flagellants (U) are masochistic monks, who treat pain as a way to purify themselves. They lose most “swift” abilities like evasion and its improved version, and even the increase to AC from higher levels. Instead, they are better at intimidation, get many abilities to ignore debilitating conditions, can reduce bleeding damage, and get access to many exclusive ki powers, like ignoring damage reduction and suppressing regeneration on a critical hit or ignoring hp damage from pain effects and GAINIG temporary hp as part of the deal! While not a new concept, Flagellants get many cool powers and are one of my favorite archetypes for the monk not only from this book, but ever!

Imperial Guards are self-explanatory. They dedicate themselves to protecting their designated charges. They get a slight change in class skills, and a slightly weaker Stunning Fist. They get a modified Evasion that protects both themselves and their charges. They also lose Manoeuver Training and Still Mind, replaced by virtual and improved Bodyguard and In Harm’s Way feats. Finally, instead of Slow Fall they get better at certain manoeuvers, and instead of Quivering Palm they get the ability to counterattack opponents that were intercepted by their virtual feats. An iconic archetype that works well for NPCs and for PCs that develop a backstory together, being a perfect way to introduce an adventuring aristocrat and its entourage.

Leikung (U) are storm monks. They lose Ki Strike to gain the ability to make sonic attacks! Sonic is one of the least-resisted energy types, so I think it is a fair trade, and you can always ask your friendly spellcaster to cast magic weapon on your fist, or just get an amulet. Later they become resistant and later immune to sonic damage and effects. They lose a couple of bonus feats to get the ability to manifest a Sonic Hammer, a powerful weapon that gets Wis to attack and damage and deals half sonic, half bludgeoning damage, and later they can treat them as an adamantine and/or thundering weapon. Finally they can use Echolocation, and unleash Stormvoice, a damaging sound based attacks that can push opponents and break objects. One of my favorite fantastical martial art attacks is the Lion’s Roar (watch Kung Fu Hustle), and being able to focus on sound is my dream come true, but the abilities are a bit on the conservative side, a case of cool doesn’t have to equal powerful.

Psychic Cenobites remind me of a 3.X psionic prestige class, so seeing a version here is intriguing since Legendary Games doesn’t work directly with psionics. They are trained to resist and later harmlessly absorb mind attacks, and get a powerful critical-like attack, Id Strike, that has a save, doesn’t work with mindless creatures and can’t trigger other abilities. Higher level abilities include True Seeing and Invisibility Purge, plus an intriguing variant of Quivering Palm that Dominates instead of killing opponents, and it can get a triggering condition that can make for cool roleplaying situations. An outstanding take on the psychic-y monk without just resorting to give it access to psychic spells, amazing for occult-heavy (and psionic!) campaign, and also for unconventional villains. The archetype’s only blemish is a repeated part under the Greater Concurrence ability that comes from the lesser version, but maybe it is supposed to work like Improved Evasion and you get only a partial effect on an unsuccessful save? Who knows.

Shinsei (U) again remind me of Rokugan. They are a combination of pally and oracle, with a dash of the occult united under the unchained monk’s chassis. It may sound like a bad thing, but it’s quite the contrary. They get abilities to avoid being deceived, and are also excellent caster neutralizers, since they can mute opponents and also treat themselves and one target as if they were in a magic field. They also have to take a vow at first level without any bonus, but can take more vows and benefit from them normally. The perfect option for pally players in a martial arts campaign, but on a personal note I didn’t particularly like this one, it just didn’t excite me.

Singhala are raging tiger monks. They get some of their bonus feats locked in the Tiger Style and its follow-ups, are immune to fear and get a better version of the Diehard feat. They get also some modest magical abilities to communicate with felines, and can enter a special, controlled rage that can enhance one physical ability of their choice; why this doesn’t work like the more modern unchained barbarian’s rage is beyond me, but easy to houserule. They can also scare their opponents, making them shaken and even panicked. Pounce and Haste are among their highest level abilities, as is Ki Shout and Tireless rage. If you have ever wanted to rage with a monk, this is your best chance. To my chagrin, I can’t combine this with Leikung but well, we can’t have everything.

Tempests (U) are monks who focus on speed. They get a modified, more thematically appropriate bonus feat list, get a Skirmish ability (a kind of moving sneak attack) instead of flurry of blows, and can be faster instead of getting extra attacks. Like one version of the Flash, Tempests must eat double since their speed also affects their metabolism, and they also heal more quickly. They also get their own version of Ki powers called Speed Stunts, and there are a lot, 27 to be exact! Among them are a couple of ki powers, but most of them are new abilities that make use of the fastest character archetype I have seen. They also change Flawless Mind for Flawless Agility, working similarly but for Reflex saves. If you have ever wanted to play the Flash, or you have a coming medieval super hero campaign, look no further!

Voidminds (U) represent one of the most esoteric archetypes I have read, reminding me of the Akashic from Monty Cook’s Arcana Unearthed. They can emulate some divination spells, and get several abilities to get and give access to feats and skills they may or may not have. They can also manipulate fate gaining humongous bonuses to some rolls, but of course limited by your Ki. Following the Void theme, their highest level ability lets them inflict negative levels! A really weird, almost alien archetype, excellent for players who want to play a melee-er that can also buff himself or his allies. Another winner IMHO.

Yogi close the archetype section. They gain many abilities to control their bodies, able to choose one (later two and then three) ability from among 8. They also get Psychic Sensitivity as their first bonus feat, and can chose other feats that have this as requirement for their other bonus feats. Instead of evasion and its improved version, Yogi get access to the more fitting Resolve ability of samurai. They can also get Wis to attack rolls and manoeuver checks! They can fascinate foes, as the bardic performance, with a droning chant. And of course, iconic as Yogi are, they can levitate. An iconic, non-Shaolin-esque monk that represent another type of self-mastery!

-Honor and Vows, which include 10 new Vows, which avoided the trap of the Still Mind requirement, an ability traded by many archetypes and that only Monks have, even when the text in Ultimate Magic mentions “any character with a Ki pool” IIRC. These vows only require a Ki pool so they can be accessed by many characters. Vow of Hard Gold is the opposite of what most associate with monks, becoming materialistic in a dogmatic way. Vow of the Ki weapon is an options for anyone obsessed with one specific weapon. Vow of Knowledge demands protection of academic texts. Vow of Obedience gives you a master you have to obey. Vow of Secrecy impedes you to tell facts, or betray hidden allies. Vow of Self-Sacrifice gives you a ward you have to protect (perfect for Imperial Guards). Vow of Sightlessness is the iconic situation where a character becomes blind by choice. Vow of Simplicity is wonderful for character who want to play the blunt, non-socialite character. Vow of Superiority is awesome for nobles and people from theocracies, and remind me of the Scarlet Brotherhood from Grayhawk. Vow of Total Freedom is for character that don’t want ties, and many chaotics fill the bill. I found a couple of typos here and there, and most Vows mention monks, where the introduction mentions otherwise.

My favorite Vows are Simplicity, Superiority and Total Freedom, for different characters. These Vows, like the originals, are excellent role-playing tools, especially for power-gamers to force them earn their benefits, and for newer gamers too, so they have a compass to lead their role-playing.

-Ki and Psychic Power is an obvious but still amazing section that codifies many options from Occult Adventures as Ki powers for the Qiggong-archetype for monks, and expands the reach of unchained monks who selects the Qiggong ki power. From the lowly Psychic Sensitivity to the powerful Akashic Form, there are many, many new options for monks who want to focus on their mystical side.

-Ki Tatoos are like an archetype. In exchange for the Bonus Feat class feature, a Tatooed Monk gets a Ki Tatoo at 1st, 3rd, and every 3 levels thereafter. Some tattoos have passive abilities and most have an activated ability that costs a point of Ki. Bamboo enhances your constitution, Cobra lets you Poison (as the spell) by touch, Dragon gives you a breath weapon, Tengu gives you proficiency and weapon focus on one sword, and so on. These ones remind me again of Rokugan. I would have loved some interconnection between these tattoos and ki users in general, since the archetypical tattooed mofos are Yakuza, another Ki-using class by LG. As always, I will yell “PAY A FEAT” to any player asking for one.

-Ki Tomes are a follow-up section of one of my favorite books ever, Meditations of the Imperial Mystics. Ki Tomes are a special type of magic item that can serve as a learning source for feats and spells, and you can rule that some of the options contained herein are not general knowledge and BAM! Instant adventure seed: the hunt for the Text. Anyway, on the Ki Tomes.

Text of Burning Wind and Iron Rain is a powerful tome that contains many unorthodox techniques that focus on weapon and firearm combat. Just by meditating on the tome nets you a Ki power: Ki Arrow as a spell-like ability usable at-will, with a Ki cost of one point. You can also learn a lot of feats described here (18!), and you can also pay Ki to learn them temporarily. There are a couple of feat branches: one focuses on wielding one weapon better, to the point where you can give it special weapon qualities it doesn’t normally have (you could brace with a staff, for example); the other allows you to fight with monk weapons and guns at the same time, culminating in a kind of Flurry of Shots (TM). Apart from these, there are a couple of assorted feats (one is a follow-up for the Crane style!). There are two worth mentioning because they could unbalance the game if left unchecked: Soul of the Gun lets you trade Grit and Ki freely (so you could arguably get infinite Ki), and Rain of Needles extends shuriken range and increase its damage, up to 2d10 if taken enough times! Of course, this will eat 8 feats, but the range and damage may be too over the top for your campaign.

To Serve Stone’s Stern Will is a zealot’s tome devoted to the might of the Shaitan, or earth genies. Studying it teaches you a Gunsmithing (like the feat), gaining a hefty bonus to craft firearms and gunpowder. You can also learn Shaitan and Tiger’s styles, a couple of Vows, and the Earth Affinity extraordinary ability. The latter opens up a couple of Qiggong powers and two exclusive feats that have Earth Affinity and a Ki pool as prerequisites. The text has a typo, mentioning a Lesser Earth Mastery not included in the text, which I think was a beta name for Earth Affinity.

The rest of the review is in the comments sections.


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Magic from the Far East!

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Asian Spells Compendium is a collection of 101 spells by Legendary Games for their Far East product line. Like other LG’s products, it includes amazing art, handy electronic features, and top-notch content for your gaming table.

What’s inside?
28 pages of crunchy content, which include:

-A short Introduction with a nice optional rule (that you can easily poach by the way) and 3 pages of spells listed alphabetically, by class level, and by school and sub-school. The classes include every single spellcasting class in Pathfinder, but one… Yeah, sorry adept lovers, no new spells for you LOL. I find particularly handy the school and sub-school section, since there are many abilities out there that refer to only one school or even sub-school of magic. I missed the elemental school, however, and while you can basically just use descriptors, it would have been nice if they were acknowledged.

-101 Spells: Some of these are fan-favorite reprints that are pulled from the 1st D&D Oriental Adventures! One of my favorite spells ever, Ancestral Wrath, is the very first one! It calls the spirit of one of your ancestors to attack the target, dealing more damage to undead and having full power on spirits! How cool is that?!?! Another favorite of mine is Inscribed Enemy, which blesses one weapon for one attack against one specific enemy, which in-game is amazing but I would have restricted in to melee weapons or have a maximum number of weapons blessed at the same time (I hereby houserule it to 1 per point of spellcasting ability modifier). Fault Line is a modernized version of Earth Bolt, my all-time favorite blast-y spell which basically is a bludgeoning lightning bolt, which also creates difficult terrain! Many old spells were re-flavored under the Koan line of spells, which is thematically fitting, and they incluad Koan of Castigation for chastising opponents of opposite alignments, and Koan of Vulnerability which is like a 1st level version of mass magic weapon, but affecting the opponent; don’t worry if it sounds OP, it has many balancing factors!

There are some new, however, and most of them rock! Glory Of The Chrysanthemum Throne (all words starting with caps, it is 9th level so to hell with grammar conventions ROFL) is an amazing spell that creates a throne surrounded by ghostly flowers, harmless for all but the evil-hearted; being a throne, you can sit there and gain +6 charisma and opponents targeting you getting a miss chance. Oh boy, I love when good is the one with the cool toys, without an evil, chaotic, lawful version… Each alignment should have its own unique toys! Irresistible Onslaught is a powerful spell, accessible only by the most martials of casters (pallys and their mirror brethren, magi and bloodragers), and it converts you basically into the Juggernaut, fomenting mobility in combat instead of the bland 1 square step then full attack. Marvelous Chopsticks is another new one, think of it as the meanest of the force hand spells, but with chopsticks (and a mouth? The spell mentions a mouth but the description doesn’t… I will go the Vampire Hunter D route for the mouth’s placement).

Of Note: Oh boy, no matter what caster class is in your group, there is something for everyone (except adepts). The modernization of classics from Oriental Adventures an Dragon Fist, even if they appeared in later editions of D&D, is something I applaud, since they are cool spells and I wish the new generations of gamers to cast them.

Anything wrong?: If you are like me and has a long story with D&D, there is a chance you won’t like the reappearance of these classics, so there is that.

What I want: While I would have liked new spells, if it is not broken don’t fix it. What better way to pay homage to Oriental Adventures than to cast the best spells from it? And with the cool new Paizo classes to boot!

What cool things did this inspire?: More than inspiration, this book brought back memories. I remember casting the hell out of Earth Bolt (renamed to Fault Line here) and ripping hearts out with my kung fu wizard in Dragon Fist, making my opponents feel my Ancestral Wrath and Castigate-ing them with my evil shukenja, and getting fiery Phoenix Wings with my travelling Zakharan Fire Genasi Flame Mage (Ifrit in Pathfinder). If anything, I want to try these big guns again but with occult classes. Finally, I converted a couple of these spells into psionic powers back in the day, so enterprising Game Masters could do the same for psionic classes and other 3pp ones.

Do I recommend it?: If by any chance you love Oriental Adventures so much as to have updated all spells to Pathfinder, then it MIGHT be useful for the few new spells. If you haven’t seen back your old books, or haven’t ever played older RPGs, then yeah! I was wondering what was in store in this volume of the Far East product line, and after unearthing memories, I can fully recommend it, with 5 Eastern Celestial Stars.


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PAO MI POLO MI!

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Asian Archetypes: Magical is the second archetype book in LG’s Far East product line. Like its companion book, it covers a wide range of arcane and divine magical classes (11 to be exact), including even a paladin and a bloodrager one. As always with LG, their books include awesome full color art and handy electronic features. By the way, the title for my review comes from random words spoken by a kung fu movie spellcaster LOL!

What’s inside?
Not counting covers, ads, index etc., 21 pages of juicy, crunchy content, which include:

-14 Archetypes for 11 classes:

Bodhisattva Paladins can be of any good alignment. They are better at magic and their abilities are more heavenly in origin, an example being their lay on hands hurting fiends and their spawn instead of undead, and their channeled energy getting more righteous options. They can literally smell evil, even able to track evil creatures by their scent! Finally, instead of summoning a weapon or a steed, Bodhisattvas summon “sattvas”, disembodied celestial spirit that buff the party instead of attacking, and there 4 types, each summonable once per day. An amazing class hack that completely re-flavors one of the most Western-inspired classes.

Censor Inquisitors are like imperial detectives. They distance themselves from hunting monsters and fighting in tandem with others. Instead, they focus more on hunting criminals, especially spellcasters since they get many abilities to counter illusions, magical disguises and shapechanges. Censors feel like they belong more to city adventures, but their abilities work well in any campaign that includes tricky opponents.

Jade Fist Bloodragers remind me of a Jade version of The Thing from Marvel Comics. They get better unarmed attacks, can transform their flesh into jade while raging, and become hardier and tougher in general. They also represent jade’s purity by fighting undead better, first with their fist and later when wielding jade weapons. For bloodlines, celestial, elemental earth, kami, and maybe even kappa would really fit thematically (these last two are from Asian Bloodlines by the same author). A nice archetype that echoes both The Thing and Rokugan!

Jinshi Wizards are servants of the government, with duties to match, and get an enhanced class skill list to better represent their roles, but no extra skillpoints. The familiar arcane bond is closed to them, but instead get a badge of office that lets them fill a few empty slots with any wizard spell, but then they have to “pay” extra spell slots for their acquired magical debt. Apart from that, they get the Allied Spellcaster as bonus and can use it with other casters even if they don’t have it, and can even use some of their resources to share it for a while. Later in their careers they get promoted and have different duties, and can share Allied Spellcaster to more than one ally at a time, and even have a bonus for non-casters! Very flavorful archetype that works not only for Asian spellcasters but also for any court or guild wizard. Game masters could even potentially restrict the list of spells to better represent the government or guild!

Kaiju Caller Summoners are awesome. They can summon bigger creatures and won’t even summon an eidolon until they can make it large (5th level), and then have to make it huge at the first opportunity! Their eidolons by the way are unintelligent and brutish and get some exclusive evolutions. They get some abilities that forebode the power of kaiju, first demoralizing enemies and later inspiring allies. As a capstone they can invoke natural disasters by spending some uses of their summon ability and yes, they can even summon a true Kaiju! They can’t control it but hey, they CAN summon it and run!

Kannushi Druids are devoted to kami. As such, they get some extra class skills to deal with the nature spirits, add a couple of kami-themed spells, and get improved summon lists to include a few kami. Later they also get entrusted with a shrine that is perfect to keep important things or corpses (yes, corpses). This come at the cost of spontaneous casting, venom immunity and having a weaker nature bond. A small, nice “kami priest” but even if they don’t have an alignment restriction, don’t make a chaotic and/or evil Kannushi to get the most of it. And be aware that the “shrine” cannot be changed, so also be prepared to play in a site-based campaign or lose access to this ability (or bribe your GM with sushi rolls to let you move it).

Kenja Clerics are pacifist priest that eschew armor and most weapons, but gaining instead unarmored defenses and unarmed damage like a monk. They also lose a couple of domain abilities and channel energy for more thematically appropriate abilities, like the paladin’s mercies. A pacifist, monkish archetype for those players who want to play a different “sacred fist” but also to have more magic. Again, be prepared to be Lawful or Chaotic Good to get the most of this archetype!

Mantis Madonna Magi have weird, alien, almost illuminati fluff, but really are what I have wanted since seeing the magus for the first time: a monkish magus. They are wisdom-based, spontaneous psychic spellcasters (they even all psychic spells from the levels they can cast to their spell list!). Their arcane pool is also wisdom based (and why it is still called arcane is beyond me, except maybe to still qualify for feats and stuff), and can only enhance their fists, but can also make their flesh way harder (up to +8 natural armor). They also lose proficiency with all armor and with martial weapons, getting unarmed damage like a monk, get A LOT of exclusive arcana, better access to style feats, and get many esoteric abilities. One thing they don’t get is Wis to AC but beyond that, THIS is the archetype to get to represent the most mystical of martial artists. It would be my fave in this book since it has many builds possible with its unique magus arcana and style feat mastery, but there are a couple of things I would have changed: No Wis to AC begs for one level in monk, access to Evasion and Improved Evasion begs for a good Reflex save instead of Fortitude or Will (or maybe Stalwart instead of Evasion?), no Ki pool instead of Arcane (although there is a Arcana IIRC that does that), and the fuse style ability should have been optional making even more builds possible.

Miko Shamans get a different style of casting, akin to the Kami Medium from Occult Adventures, that makes it impossible to dispel their spells magically. Anyone can “destroy” their spells, since non-instantaneous spells create an ofuda (think mini-scroll) on the opponent that, when retired, ends the spell. Beyond this, they lose a couple of hexes to be able to better deal with kami, summon them as monsters or familiars, and get a really cool magical ability to bless a community with either safety or bounty, the latter using the downtime rules! Perfect for site-based campaigns but not dependent on them!

Numerologist Wizards feel like they were pulled straightly from the Sha’ir’s Handbook for 2nd Edition D&D, which is awesome. They have to be lawful and their spell/mathbooks and scrolls are more space-efficient, but it’s more difficult for normal wizards to understand or copy spells from a Numerologist’s spellbook or scroll. Also, since they focus on quality over quantity, they can cast one less spell per level. Instead of Arcane Bond they can use math to get insight bonuses to attack, skill, ability, caster level and even miss chance checks, to get an edge when casting spells. They get other divinatory, metamagic-like, defenses, and probability manipulation abilities. A powerful archetype that pays dearly for its powers, and demands to be used by expert players or GMs.

Origamist Arcanists lose a bit of their exploits to gain powerful, origami-based powers. They start with an origami construct familiar, can fold scrolls into origami to expand their prepared spells for the day, can cast shadow conjurations made of paper a couple of times per day, and can themselves transform into paper. A high-concept archetype that again trades flexibility for power.

Raiden Shamans are locked into the wind spirit. They are better archers and get an increased spell list with many electricity-based arcane spells. They also lose their “wandering” abilities to get more electricity and sonic powers. Take this archetype if you want a more specialized, blaster-y shaman (yelling incomprehensible things like the namesake from Mortal Kombat is optional).

Skyflower Alchemists really devote themselves into making their extracts and bombs more flashy. They lose mutagen and greater mutagen, brew potion, swift alchemy and all poison related abilities. To make up for the hefty loss, they get to add arcane evocations, or discoveries from a specific list. Their bombs always explode like fireworks, and they get progressively more resistant to fire. This one is a blockbuster version of the alchemist.

Wushen Wizards are the new Wujen from D&D. They get a small edge if they prepare spells of the same element, have a ki pool, get taboos, and can create spell-specific fetishes to better cast said spells, all in exchange for bonus feats and arcane bond. An intriguing archetype if you are using The Way of Ki from the same product line, but it’s a bit sad you lose the bonus feats.

-4 Spells: These are reprinted from the Asian Spell Compendium. Handy to have if you don’t own that book. The spells are Blessed Jade Strike (which transforms your weapon into a bane for undead and incorporeal creatures), Jade Prison (a powerful holy spell that paralyses and gradually petrifies creatures with the evil subtype and evil undead), Paper Vessel (which creates a self-moving boat made of paper), and Unfortunate Origami (which transforms an object into a weak, fragile paper origami version of itself). All in all, an awesome little collection of spells!

Of Note: It is difficult for me to choose something that is above the rest since, in all honestly, all archetypes are cool. Now, I commend the paladin, bloodrager, magus and inquisitor archetypes since they are more often than not melee-ers than casters. Also, the paladin and cleric archetypes represent a type of gaming different from the norm, which is always a challenging gaming experience for everyone involved.

Anything wrong?: There are a couple of formatting issues, under the 15th level ability of Jinshi and under the proficiencies of Kaiju Summoner, but beyond that there are some design decisions that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Japan in particular is well represented at the cost of, again, not representing other obscure regions of Asia.

What I want: Beyond having more new games starting for trying out some of these, I would have liked the inclusion of some of the occult classes, but to be fair there are some already in the Occult Adventures book. I have wanted a fakir even since occult adventures was released, maybe either as a monk or mesmerist archetypes. Maybe for a sequel?

What cool things did this inspire?: With the Jinshi wizard, Censor Inquisitor, and Mandarin investigator (from the companion volume for martials), plus maybe a samurai or yakuza, I really want to run or play a city-based campaign. As a player, I want to take the Mantis Madonna to the lab and see what builds I can do with it!

Do I recommend it?: If you are reading this you are probably on the fence on whether to buy it. I can wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone with an interest on the Far East. There is enough material for all kind of groups and tastes out there, and I really enjoyed the interconnection within the product line. My verdict is 5 direction sacred stars without question!


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Feel the wrath of my Ancestors!

5/5

DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.

Asian Bloodlines is a book in Legendary Game’s Far East product line. It is a very focused book, containing only bloodlines for the Sorcerer and Bloodrager classes (and maybe some feats, archetypes and other 3PP classes). As always with LG products, it has amazing art and handy electronic features that really show the production values.

What’s inside?
18 pages of pure crunchy content (plus 3 amazing full-art pages) for 6 bucks, which include:

-9 Bloodrager Bloodlines, presented with a nice, fluffy introductory paragraph, followed by bonus feats, bonus spells, and bloodline powers.

Imperial Dragon is special, since it borrows heavily from the normal draconic bloodline. It includes specific changes, especially with the Forest Dragon Bloodline. Like “vanilla” draconic, these are very flavorful and will be popular among many tables (who doesn’t want to have a dragon ancestor?).

Imperious is one of those sorcerer bloodlines that didn’t have a bloodrager version… until now. It focuses on being a better face and leader for his allies (even when raging!), and fearsome for his foes. The capstone is really amazing since, among some immunities, the imperious bloodrager no longer ages, sleeps, eats or drinks! Talk about campaign building potential! Using the real world as reference, this bloodline works better thematically for a bloodrager, reminiscing me of great legends like Gilgamesh or Iskander.

Kami is a good bloodline for nature lovers, focused on mobility and interacting with the spirit world. Their first ability is my favorite, awakening the kami within a progressively bigger object and animating it to fight at your side!

Kappa are weird, since like most Japanese monsters they are depicted in many ways. The bloodline, however, focuses on watery powers and having better defenses. They can also transform into dragon turtles at high levels, and as a capstone can always water walk and in normal circumstances won’t be attacked by aquatic animals.

Kitsune are mostly depicted as trickster but the bloodrager’s version of this bloodline, rather than specializing on illusions and enchantments, focuses on being nimble, hitting fast and hard, and transforming into a fearsome wolf-like fox with a progressively nasty bite attack and getting some precision damage, culminating on literally ripping a heart with its fangs! It gains a few magical trickster-y abilities but really is more of a swift and dirty natural attacker.

Nagas are a varied group of monsters, and the bloodline focuses on the few things common to all of them. They are good swimers, get a poisonus bite, are resistant and later immune to poison, can transform into nagas, and as a capstone they become difficult to deceive with magic, their minds becoming really hard to manipulate mentally and they can see invisibility and read thoughts. Perfect bloodline for nagaji bodyguards of the bloodline’s namesake, or maritime adventures ;)

Oni are normally fiendish gigantic creatures, so this bloodline fits better thematically for bloodragers. As powers they get horns to make gore attacks, extra eyes to see better, and can become giants, large and later huge ones! Like many actual oni they can fly, become invisible, regenerate (fast heal really) and alter shape. An excellent bloodline, flavorful and true to its source.

Rakshasa are another race of tricksters, infamous for their secrecy, charm and deceit. This bloodline is what I expected from the kitsune one, since they can charm and fight dirty, bluff and mind-read. What makes this more Rakshasa-flavored is the enhanced defenses from divine magic (something asuras have, not rakshasa, but still fits thematically speaking) and their backward hands actually do something: improving feinting in this case. They become a beast-headed outsider as a capstone, able to change shape back to your old form. Overall an intriguing bloodline!

Tengu are a legendary race that is more earth-bound and mundane in its Pathfinder incarnation. This bloodline lets you portrait a more mythological tengu, focusing on being a better swordsman (swordsbird?), even getting a changeable style feat chain! A very thematic and flavorful bloodline that will be a fave among players who like styles but don’t like to commit themselves (and their feats) to only one.

-8 Sorcerer Bloodlines (and 4 mutated), following the same presentation as the bloodrager’s, adding skills. It is worth noting that 3 of these: naga, oni and rakshasa, are reprinted here from official Paizo material for ease of reference. The mutated bloodlines are for the Wildblooded sorcerer archetype, and include two for the Naga, one for the Oni, and one for the new Kitsune bloodline.

Imperial Dragon, like its bloodrager counterpart, is a variant of the core draconic bloodline. It features a couple of changes to include the 5 imperial dragons, but this time only the forest dragon gets abilities different from the norm.

Kami is, again, a nature-themed bloodline. Apart from borrowing some druid spells and getting some mobility options, Kami-blooded get many protective spells and powers, and can also create temporary origami-animal familiars for Shikigami to inhabit temporarily, and becoming a full Shikigami later.

Kappa increases the sorcerer’s defenses and mastery over water like the bloodrager’s, but also mastery over earth and shapechanging powers.

Kitsune for sorcerers is a more traditional take on the legendary foxes, with all the foxfire, illusions, enchantments, possessions and shapechanging one has come to expect from these trickster spirits. The Kyubi mutated bloodline nets you a ki pool to enhance your magic instead of some trickster illusory abilities, and works wonders with another product by LG, The Way of Ki.

Naga bloodline is not new, but it is presented here since we have two mutations for it. Guardian Naga derive their power from the Kyubi! (copy-paste error most probably) Kidding aside, it gets some increased protections and can spit poison, but more intriguing is their ability to add a couple of cleric spells to their repertory. On the other hand, Spirit Naga become more sinuous and charming, being able to slither and also getting a mesmerizing gaze, which also works better with humanoids and reptiles.

Oni bloodline is also not new, but we have the Nogitsune mutated bloodline for it. Strangely enough, they gain one charm-related ability instead of flying, but lose their charm-related bloodline arcana in exchange of being able to see through any sight-hampering spell they cast (darkness, fog and the like), and moving as part of the casting time of the spell. The weakest entry IMHO, and I would have liked the movement to happen AFTER the spell was cast, that way they could move without their opponents knowing where too.

Rakshasa is the last of the repeated bloodlines and the only one that doesn’t include a mutated variant, but there is a bloodrager version for it so IMO its inclusion is justified.

Tengu is the last of the bloodlines. It lets sorcerers represent the magical abilities tengu are famed for, and have some sword-related abilities for those who want to dabble into melee, or multiclass. Powers’ themes include birds, flight, swords and linguistics. As a capstone they can turn into tengu and crows. I wouldn’t recommend this bloodline for tengus since there are some overlapping abilities. Here I would have liked a better deal for tengu sorcerers, but to my knowledge there are noprecedents for this, so it’s fair.

-3 new spells, reprinted from the Asian Spells book from the same product line. I commend their inclusion since this way the publisher doesn’t force you to buy another product to fully use this one. The spells are Dancing Weapon, Snake Mother’s Kiss and Tengu Fan. They are almost self-explanatory, and really cool by the way.

Of Note: The Imperious and Kitsune bloodrager bloodlines really impressed me, Imperious for the imagery and Kitsune for it is not a mirror of the sorcerer version. Both Kami bloodlines also have cool and fitting powers, and the Kyubi mutated bloodline with its Ki pool is a welcome addition for those who, like me, own other products from the Far East line. Finally, the Guardian Naga mutated sorcerer bloodline, with its access to some clerical spells, is really intriguing.

Anything wrong?: The one mistake I found, and the fact that three (or five if you want to include Draconic) bloodlines are reprints, are the only things worth noting as “not good”, since they are not really bad.

What I want: I will play the spoiled brat and wish some cross-over 3pp action with a Yaksha bloodline, which is a new type of outsider from Monsters of Porphyra 2 by Purple Duck Games. Also, who do I have to end to get a Kamaitachi monster (and thus bloodlines)? And why, oh why, isn’t there a Shinigami bloodline!?!? A Ki bloodline!?!? Tanuki!?!? To be fair, there are already some bloodlines that with the mutated treatment would work for these. Maybe for the sequel? ;-)
EDIT: THERE IS A KAMAITACHI IN BESTIARY 6, SO BLOODLINE PLEASE!!!

What cool things did this inspire?: An adventure where a legendary Imperious bloodrager adventuring king, retired and presumed dead, returns to reclaim his kingdom from his great grandchildren, since they have divided and spoiled it. A Nogitsune Oni (or even a plain old kitsune) bloodrager with the Kitsune bloodline would be a nasty surprise for characters expecting to fight the illusions and charms normally associated with these foxes. You could also convert kitsune, nagaji and/or tengu into full monster races, using the sorcerer and bloodrager classes to represent different types.

Do I recommend it?: There is a reason Eldritch Heritage was a very popular feat, since it opens the wonders of sorcery to many classes. There is also the Eldritch Scion magus archetype, although not as popular, and with the advent of the variant multiclass rules (from Pathfinder Unchained), ANY character can benefit from this product, and even the Game Master can join the fun by slapping the sorcerer creature simple class template (from Monster Codex) to any monster. While a niche product, Asian Bloodlines does as advertised and deliver cool options not only for the two classes it is intended for. I give 4.5 eldritch bloody stars to this book because of the few repetitions and the even fewer mistakes, but I will round up because of the amazing production values and electronic features.


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The Hags with White Hair

5/5

The Baleful Coven is a sidetrack adventure by Legendary Games in the Far Easter product line. It combines a hag, a winter witch and a white-haired witch, who form an unlikely and unusual coven in their quest for vengeance against the PCs (because of their actions in the main Adventure Path) in a dreamlike, Ravenloft-esque mini-demiplane that the PCs have to escape from. While not as genre-stretching as “Under Frozen Stars”, this adventure is just as good! I really liked the encounters herein, especially the ones with the “sisters”, my favorite being of course the white-haired witch. If you have seen the movies The Bride with White Hair and/or The Forbidden Kingdom, you know what I mean!


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You could make an Anime of this adventure, and it would rock!

5/5

Long before there was a Technology Guide or an Iron Gods adventure path, Legendary Games launched this innovative adventure in their Far East product line. As to not spoil anything, I’ll make it short. Imagine you put in a blender sword and sorcery, sci-fi, and chambara, the result might not be a good one, unless you are Legendary Games. One of their very first products, this adventure has everything I love: Pathfinder, martial arts, ninjas and creepy monsters, all in an unknown, alien background. It is one of my favorite adventures ever, perfect as a one-shot or part of a longer campaign (like the Jade Regent adventure path). It is nice to see what LG did with Pathfinder when it was much younger, and the Legendary team was just starting. I would love to see a revisited version of this adventure, but it is one you can make yourself. I offer 5 cyber-stars of destiny.


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Give your eyes (and gaming group) a feast with Beasts from the East

5/5

Beasts from the East is Legendary Games mini-bestiary in their Far East line of products. It is a beautifully illustrated and well detailed bestiary that doesn’t fall in the East=China/Japan trap.

What’s inside?
Without taking into account covers, table of contents, introduction, legal stuff and advertising, 16 pages of art and crunchy content, which include exactly 8 monsters, each with a full page illustration with a short description, and a full page monster entry, for 6 bucks:

-Flame Naga (CR5, NE): These large, red nagas have the head of an Eastern courtesan, as seen in the book’s cover. They have modest sorcerous abilities and a fire damage-dealing poison. They are often found near nagaji. They can be good as a low-level “boss” or as a crony of a more powerful evil naga.

Kami, Neak Ta (CR8, NG): These cute, small kami with a proto-smiley wooden face protect their wards (normally small buildings) with their magical powers. While they can be on the player’s bad side if the group needs to destroy the Neak Ta’s ward for whatever reason, these cute outsiders work better as allies. Maybe the Neak Ta wants to leave its ward but can’t do it until an evil Oni or undead is destroyed, or maybe it is missing.

-Kmoch Pray (CR11, NE): These evil, nightmarish intelligent plants have scythes for “arms” and have a caustic sap that damages those that strike it, and it can fling a blob of it. Interestingly, they can be harmed by positive energy, since they are animated by the dead of a mother and/or child. These guys are true monsters, most of the time solitary, but I can imagine a cult of evil druids forming around the tree (maybe with a penchant for acid spells?), maybe started by the spouse/father of the mother/child that died near the tree?

-Kting Voar (CR4, N): This one is bullsh… No, this bull is the sh… Yeah, these animals have amazing, extraordinary natural abilities that represent how to make a cool, legendary animal without having to resort to magical beasts. Every druid is going to love this beasts, since they make for amazing animal companions AND crafting materials, since they horns have the qualities of adamantine. You can treat them like modern-day ivory, where it is questionable to have items made of it, but they are awesome. How about a Kting Voar cemetery? Druids would kill (oh, the irony) to go to a place like that!

-Oni, Bakeneko (CR3, CE): I love Pathfinder Oni, but like many fiends they don’t make good adversaries for low level characters. Bakeneko fill that niche, being a cool tying of the traditional Japanese creatures with the Pathfinder race of fiends. Like most Oni, they have some magical abilities and can change shape, along with the awesome “Mark of Envy”. Unlike other Pathfinder Oni, Bakeneko aren’t tied with a humanoid race (sorry catfolk, no Oni version of you… for now).

-Oni, Yeren (CR6, NE): Another intriguing Oni, these guy also aren’t tied to an existing humanoid race. Think of them as fiendish, thieving Bigfoots (or Bigfeet?) that, unlike other Oni, don’t dwell in cities and prefer natural sites, which they overexploit. Excellent opponents for druids, rangers and the like, since they are like parasites of nature but fight well in it.

-Quyrua (CR6, N): Forget about stones or lakes, real heroes get their magical weapons from giant Galapagos-sized turtles! These turtles ooze potential (ninja levels optional). A paladin, samurai or other worthy hero could get so many quests from one of these intelligent turtles!

-Srin Po (CR7, LE): These undead were nobles who died a shameful death. They get cool fear-inducing claw attack and a wisdom-damaging bite to lower those will saves, and they get more powerful when in presence of a fearful opponent.

Of Note: The art, crunch and fluff galore! Wait, that’s most of the book, isn’t it? Yes! You see, there are two types of monster books. One that crams as much as possible in whatever pages it has, sometimes without depicting the monster, and one that devotes a whole page to each monster (like in the old days). This book, however, takes a radical approach of having A FULL PAGE MONSTER PICTURE! The art alone would be cool for tattoos or posters, but as intended it does the game master’s life easier by not making him show the picture while covering the stats, or having to take a photocopy or picture of the art.

Anything Wrong?: There is some blank spaces in some entries. I would have loved encounter ideas and adventure seeds here.

What cool things did this inspire?: That damned acid scythe tree gave an idea for a whole campaign! Imagine an evil ghoran kung fu druid (monk dip for the AC bonus LOL, if the players do why not the GM?), who leads a cult of evil druids venerating erosion, dies in a climactic battle with the PCs, and then the second in command recovers the ghorus seed. After regrouping, the new cult leader attacks the PCs, and in the middle of the fight he EATS the seed and transforms into a Kmoch Pray! What? The ghorus seed doesn’t work like that? I never let something as banal as rules get in the way of a nice adventure, and it looks like a videogame multi-stage boss. As did the Srin Po, but I won’t spoil my adventure seeds here.

Do I recommend it?: Unlike the Treasury of the Orient, this one gets a little away from Japan/China and borrows from many Eastern cultures, so yeah, this one is a winner. Even with the blank space and the modest number of monsters, there is no filler “kung fu elves with funny hats” or the like, so I wholeheartedly recommend it. 5 demonic half-oni stars for this one!


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Exotic treasures brought straightly from beyond the Silk Road!

4/5

Treasury of the Orient is a collection of magical items with an Eastern theme by Legendary Games for Pathfinder, for use with the Jade Regent adventure path in mind but usable in any campaign with the right mood.

What’s inside?
Without taking into account covers, table of contents, introduction, legal stuff and advertising, 14 pages of crunchy content, which include:

-1 Alchemical item, which is a red paste that makes you stink like a troglodyte for an hour. Nice inclusion in a magical item book!

-2 Armors: Bestial Haramaki can store spells, but when one of the physical enhancement spells are stored, it gets a physical motif of the animal in question (bull hide, cat fur etc.), and gives the user the enhancement bonus of the spell continuously. Unraveling Silks is an awesome ceremonial armor that lets you change into a tangle of silken threads! This armor is just plain awesome and you can build an entire adventure around it (the legend of the moth vampire, here we go).

-7 Weapons: The incredible Beheading Blade is a fantastic version of the Flying Guillotine (youtube it, it’s a movie and there’s an old and a new version, they are outrageously awesome), and it is more useful in the hand of a ki user. Biting Blade of the Ten-Thousand Blossoms is a garish pink holy katana that explodes into sakura blossoms when it crits. Bloodthirsty Blade, also called the Muramasa (again, google or wiki it for cool ideas), is a version of the infamous cursed berserker axe but in katana flavor; it is a really good interpretation of the legendary blades. Laughing Spirit Bow is kind of weird, since it makes incorporeal creatures hit by it to laugh (hence the name), which is cool; the spell this is based on, however, is a mind-affecting effect, so incorporeal undead wouldn’t be normally affected, but the bow doesn’t mention it; cool weapon but it should note if it affects undead or not. Ronin Blade grows in power the more opponents the wielder faces, which is very cool but I think it is too pricey since the max bonus is +4 and a +4 weapon costs… Not much more. Here I would have preferred the ability as a + ability, or reduce the cost since it is really circumstantial. Stalking Serpent is a cool-looking naga-headed flying blade, with some bonuses when making AoO. We finish the section with the iconic Typhoon Fan, which can create powerful winds to attack foes in a line. I would have loved to be able to spend ki or spell slots to create more powerful winds, or use the fan more often.

-3 Rods: The Rod of Butterflies allow the user to appear old, or to change literally to another age category; the name comes from the other ability, however, which is summon a “harmless” butterfly swarm, which just hinders a target. I say “harmless” since trying to damage the butterflies can change you into one! The Rod of the Monkey King is awesome, as it should, since it can change from the size of a needle to the size of a weapon accord to the wielder size! The coolest ability of course is the traditional ability to elongate, adding to the user’s reach. Finally, the Rod of Shadow Puppetry lets you paralyze and the control foes! A few times per day only and again, I would like to be able to spend ki or spell slots to use it more often but one can only dream.

-19 Wondrous Items: Since there are too many of these, I will mention the ones that I liked the most. Ghost food is an encounter gold-mine and a hilarious item to present to undead characters or characters with undead pets/cohorts what-have-you. It is missing its DC however, but I would use DC 13 because of the caster level. The Ink Set of Shifting is one of those items everybody has seen the effects of somewhere, but here you have it ready to be used in many adventures. Ki Capstan is a magical items FOR SHIPS, and needs to be imbued with ki points to function (really easy if you have Legndary Games’ The Way of Ki). Kimono of the Honored Ancestors let you commune with your linage spirits and has an awesome benefit for Samsarans. Koto of Ki Shards is one of those items inspired by wuxia, letting a performer unleash devastating sonic attacks, and the user can use his ki instead of the items charges! Noh Masks are similar to scrolls and potions in the sense that they come in many types and powers, and they have enough details to give an enterprising game master tons of encounter ideas. Papercraft Sheets let you origami anything you want, making objects as strong as mithral but lighter and weak to fire, and they can be further enhanced! Here I would have preferred this item as a Special Material instead.

-3 Magical Teapots: This group of items basically let you cast specific spells and grant their powers to a group of individuals, excellent for starting adventures.

-1 Powerful Item: The White Peacock Crown is variant Helm of Brilliance, but with more flavor and it doesn’t explode with fire damage. It is a reprint from the “Under Frozen Stars” adventure from the same product line, so if you are a collector like me, one less item, but one which took a column from an otherwise novel product.

-1 Minor Artifact: The Lucky Mallet is a fairly weak melee weapon but with the powerful ability to create miracles. It includes a clause for destruction that can work very well to make an adventure around it, following the mallet around.

Of Note: The extra benefits for ki users is very welcome especially for owners of the amazing The Way of Ki which lets most characters into the ki fun. Some items are weird in a good sense, since they are example of the sometimes not-so-mysterious-anymore Orient.

Anything Wrong?: Beyond the minor bugs here and there, I could only complain about the repetition of the Crown, but I won’t. There are also too many items from Japanese and Chinese cultures and the Asian continent is so big I would have loved more Korean, Thai, Mongol and Hindu-inspired items.

What cool things did this inspire?: I know I want to make an adventure around the Lucky Mallet’s destruction and the Ghost Food!

Do I recommend it?: Yes, but only if you want to introduce exotic Eastern items. Some could work for other cultures but a couple are too Oriental. I would give 3.5 or even 3 stars for such a niche product, but it does SAY in the title they are from the Orient and a couple are worthy adventure seeds, so I will settle for 4 ninja stars of the shinobi.


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Final Fantasy VI-ers, channel your inner MOG!!!

5/5

The Primordial Dancer for Pathfinder is Interjection Games take on the Dancer class. Surprisingly, there have been many dancers in the history of D&D, from the Kingdoms of Kalamar 3.X base class (variant bards) to elven blade-dancers. There have been WAY MORE magical dancers in videogames, but most are just gimmicky classes, best among them being Mog’s unnamed class from Final Fantasy 3/6, which was kind of a Geomancer that summoned effects via elemental dances. Be it in tribute or just a coincidence, Primordial Dancers have this cool, Mog-y feeling that just plainly makes me smile.

What’s inside?
23 pages of content for 5 1/2 bucks, which include:

-The Primordial Dancer base class: With a chassis weaker than a Bard’s (regular BAB, good Ref save), less skilled (4 skill points to spend on 14 class skills), and only proficient with simple weapon proficiencies and light armor, Dancers don’t look like a class to build a front-liner. They are also medium spontaneous spellcasters with access to part of the Druid spell list: Dancers can only cast Conjuration, Divination, Evocation and Transmutation spells. Their main power, however, comes from Dances. These are supernatural abilities activated by mystical dances. You start knowing two Dances and learn a couple more over you career, to the maximum of 9 Dances at 18th level. Unlike bardic performances, Dances have individual rounds of use, so you have to take extra care not to burn out your favorite Dance. They also have subtypes (cosmos, land, life, sea, sky, subterrane), and the system rewards specializing in a dance type with extra rounds of use to all dances of that type! All dances but Tangos have a passive ability and three active abilities unlocked over your career (1st, 6th and 12th level unlocks). Dances are very powerful and difficult to resist, having a DC of 10 plus class level plus Charisma modifier! Yeah, not half, full class level, and you can increase this via feats! At 1st level Dancers can only activate one dance at a time, but at 5th this increases to two dances, and 3 at 11th. They get From Sea to Mountain at 4th level which lets a Dancer to, once per day (and more times later), activate two abilities of two different dances you are performing with only one dance, which is strange since you can’t perform two dances at the same time until 5th level. They receive evasion and improved evasion a bit higher than other “swift” classes, and as a capstone they receive a pool of points to expend as “dance rounds” on their favored dance subtype. Finally, all races have the same favored class bonus: an extra round of one dance known.

-2 Archetypes: Primalists lose one dance known at first level, are prohibited to learn the Rhythm of Life Dance, and lose the From Sea to Mountain ability; in exchange, they have one extra round of each known dance, plus the ability to create (not summon) a small elemental, upgrading over time to elder! This created elemental follows commands as a summoned creature and can learn one dance taught by its Primalist master. Weavers also lose From Sea to Mountain, but get the awesome ability to re-write creation, changing one energy “instance” to another by expending associated dances’ rounds. Think of this as a kind of metamagical effect that affects any association with that energy type! Suppose your pyrokineticist friend is feeling down because he got his ass kicked by a red dragon. No worries! Just spend 2 rounds of a sea dance and look as how his kinetic flames change color and do cold damage! At first they can affect only willing targets, chaining to unwilling later on (Will to save), and even ONGOING EFFECTS! This is an encounter goldmine waiting to happen! Finally Weavers can meta-element their own spells, which is cool and all but the previous ability just stole this abilities capstone’s thunder (hehe).

-13 Feats: Most of the dances pertain a specific dance, while a few are a bit more open, like increasing DC of one subtype of Dances, increase the range of Tangos, or get more rounds of a particular Dance per day. Believe me you will suffer with your feat choices!

-36 Dances: Each subtype of Dance has exactly 6 Dances, and 1 of these are special Dances called Tangos, which benefit an ally that is within 10 feet when the dance starts, and that ally remains your dance partner for as long as you dance and the ally is within 30 feet. To give an idea of the power of the Dancer’s namesake ability, I will cover two normal dances and 1 Tango of different elements. Beat of the Deep lets you emit Obscuring Mist at increasing range, and later this is treated as Solid Fog. This fog you emit doesn’t impede your vision. As active abilities, you can extinguish all non-magical light sources in your fog’s range, later becoming magical darkness; later you can double the dance’s radius by spending another round, and this dance culminating ability lets you, for two dance rounds, to deal your class level in fire damage (Fortitude negates), gaining a few temporary hit points as part of the deal. Cantering of the Medicine Man gives you fast healing starting at 1, and finishing at 4. As active abilities, you can share this fast healing to allies within 10 feet; later you can spend 1 round to augment this fast healing for a single ally within 60 feet by d10 per point normally granted. This Dance capstone lets you heal ability damage or dispel an effect to one score, and lowering fatigue levels for two dance rounds. Now on the Tangos, the author specifies that all share the same passive text so he doesn’t have to repeat himself, but he DOES REPEAT the text in each Tango’s passive ability! No matter, Aquatic Tango’s active ability let you move your ally 5 feet for free without him provoking AoO, effectively letting you shimmy your ally into full attack range, for example (you do provoke AoO, but see next ability). Later you can ignore one or all AoO of your own movement, and finally, by spending two rounds on the final ability, your weapons (yours and your ally’s, that is) become frost weapons that also inflict non-stacking fatigue for one round (Fortitude to save). Your weapons remain frosty for the duration of your Tango.

Of Note: The design decision to use another class’ spell list may seem lazy at first, but this way you save space on the spell list and it increases with each and every spells book you own. I would recommend Rite Publishing’s landscape-themed books of spells if you want to continue with the Geomancer’s theme. The Dances themselves are intriguing and I would like to see a Master of Forms archetype that can learn only one element and instead do Dance-like katas, or something around those lines.

Anything wrong?: Beyond the glitches on the abilities mentioned and the embarrassing reprint of the passive text of the Tangos, there is nothing else to complain. I think we can “forgive” the author since everything is just plain awesome, even the mistake for the LOLs.

What I want: To play one NOW? Unlike many other books by IG, I have little in the “want” list for this one. I WOULD love to have a small main spell list, with different dedicated spell lists tied to the subtypes, gaining a level worth of access for each dance of that subtype you know, so you would have to master all 6 dances to cast the higher levels spells, but that is something I can do on my own. I would also like the option to have a variant Dancer that has a Dance pool to fuel all dances, and learns them like a wizard, so a single Dancer could know all Dances and prepare a few of them, but then again that’s just personal preference and something I can do myself.

What cool things did this inspire?: A type of fey, similar to veelas, dryads and nymphs, that master one subtype of dance. They could be mentors of PC Dancers and maybe know a unique Dance. Also, a Dragon with a Weaver cohort could be a nasty surprise to a prepared group of adventurers.

Do I recommend it?: I felt a little blue when the author told me this one wasn’t one of his best sellers, since it’s plainly awesome! If you want a much more dynamic artsy PC beyond Bards, or you want to do the Moggle dance, do yourself and your group a favor and give Dancers a chance. 5 steps of the Dance of the Dead for this!


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You can’t get more Japanese than this!

5/5

The Onmyoji for Pathfinder is Interjection Games' take on a real-world concept, an old type of nature priest from Japan’s past. There have been many more Onmyoji in D&D that I can recall, but all of them were just either a cleric or a wizard with a funny hat. As with many other versions by IG, THIS Onmyoji is made from scratch, combining point-based casting, pet and temporary item creation to present something completely new, all stepped in Japanese flavor and tradition.

What’s inside?
20 pages of content for 4 bucks, which include:

-The Onmyoji base class: With a chassis similar to a wizard (bad BAB, good Will save), but more skilled (4 skill points to spend on 14 class skills, of note being linguistics, 4 areas of knowledge, and even use magic device), and only a little over simple weapon proficiencies and only shields, we don’t have a front-liner. The Onmyoji has an interesting armor restriction where abilities are costlier if you don armor that you aren’t proficient in, so 1 level of fighter or something will let you cast in full armor sans penalties. Like clerics, Onmyoji derive class abilities from both wisdom and charisma, so this makes them neither SAD nor MAD.

Onmyoji have three defining class features: Prayers, Petitions and Shikigami. Among their other assorted class features they get access to a couple of cycle-able wizard and cleric cantrips, and a Charisma-based Spirit pool to empower some basic abilities of their talismans, and their Petitions.

Talismans can be thought as temporary magical items. The Onmyoji starts knowing two Prayers to place on the Talismans, and 1 more at 3rd and every two more levels (11 prayers at 19th level). Talismans can be made in two ways. O-fuda are placed and emanate power in a 10-foot radius, while Omamori are placed on 1 creature and only affect that creature. Onmyoji can place a number of Talismans equal to their class level plus their wisdom modifier.

Petitions are the Onmyoji “spells”. They learn their first at 2nd level and learn another every two levels. Since they are granted abilities, the Onmyoji uses charisma as the casting stat. Each Petition has a Spirit point cost, but only a few have a level required and most scale with level.

Shikigami are the “pets” of Onmyoji. They are kami bound to tiny origami paper constructs, so while they are treated as a construct, they are intelligent. As tiny creatures, they are not really combat able, but damn they are though. They work more like wizard familiars and even give the Onmyoji the ability a familiar of their form would grant. They can activate talismans (albeit a bit weaker) that count towards their master’s maximum, and they have their own spirit pool they can use to affect talismans it placed.

-Favored Class Bonus: As always, these cover the core races plus a few others, and they give abilities beyond the old “extra something”. A lot of these enhance the Shikigami beyond a hit point or a skill point. You can get extra feats for it, give it hardness or even heal it a little for free after using a petition. Other bonuses interact in interesting ways with talismans and petitions, from making them tougher, deadlier or just plain meaner.

-Feats: This section include 26 feats, in three categories: Onmyoji, Shikigami and Friendship. Onmyoji feats start with 4 “Aid” feats that improve their minor magical abilities, getting more cantrips and from more lists and a specific 1st level spell once per day from said list, improving to twice per day with another feat, which rewards specialization; this mini-feat chain culminates in one that interacts with a couple of “Gift” petitions tied to said “Aid” feats, reducing the Spirit point cost to 0 the first time you perform the petition. Then there are two feats that interact with one another, one giving you an extra petition and the other extra Spirit pool points, but you can’t get the later feat more than the former, demanding commitment (which is nice). Extra talisman prayers, reduced petition and a feat that basically gives your shikigami a bonus feat cost round up the Onmyoji feats. Now, Shikigami feats ARE NOT for the Onmyoji, but for the Shikigami itself to buy with its own feats: from getting magic item slots, to learning petition from its master, to being tougher physically and spiritually. It is nice to see the new pet getting this much love. Finally, Friendship feats are a collection of 7 feats that lets you be favored in the eyes of one of the 7 Lucky Gods of Japanese mythology. You can only take one, and all have a specific petition as a prerequisite. The powers are flavorful and varied, but some are more powerful than others.

-33 Onmyoji Petitions: All of these are steeped in Japanese mythology and are so flavorful that after running an Onmyoji expect all wizards and clerics in such a campaign start retraining. Kami of the Morning Dew summons a creature composed of dew (seems to have been pulled straightly from a Ghibli movie!), that explodes and heals the recipient of the petition after it receives an attack or a minute passes, whichever comes first. Not only this ability is more tactical than say, Cure Wounds spells, it feels more immersive and magical. On the Spring Breeze could just be a Fly spell, but the Onmyoji surrounds the recipient in ethereal cherry blossoms that lift the target. It could be argued that a Fly spell could be flavored like that, but not all players and game masters are gifted at descriptions, and this could make new players feel the magic of fantasy roleplaying.

-29 Talisman Prayers: Now these can come in two versions, Omamori and O-fuda, but not all of them have both. You can use Censured Warding to protect a place with continuous force damage, or maybe use the Foresight talisman to either give a substantial insight attack bonus to allies in range of the O-fuda, or the recipient of the Omamori a similar bonus, but huge.

Of Note: Everything. That’s right, every single part of the class is just plain awesome, evocative and really captures the feeling of the Onmyoji. My favorite part are the talismans, since these temporary magical items are something no other class does! They can be attacked and destroyed, which create unique encounter possibilities (we have to destroy that thing!).

Anything wrong?: The Onmyoji’s greatest strength might arguably be its only weakness. If you are in a campaign that is far away from fantasy Japan, or that doesn’t even have one, it could be a bit difficult to justify the existence of this class... But only a bit, since you can re-flavor the class as a fetish maker, witch doctor, or other practitioner of older folk magic. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but you HAVE that option in case you need it.

What I want: Since this is a Japanese-flavored class, I would like more interaction with parts of that region that are already in the game… Mainly Kami and other Japanese monsters, but also Monks and divine casters. How can Spirit pool interact with Ki? Granted powers? Finally, I can’t complain with support for the class itself, since it is going to be part of Strange Magic 2 and there is already a short follow-up with two archetypes.

What cool things did this inspire?: If you have ever seen the movie Onmyoji and its sequel, Onmyoji 2, you WILL want to play an Onmyoji, maybe of the Kitsune race, that’s part of the court. I was also going to run a Japanese-themes campaign with dark tones using the Kaidan campaign setting, which is almost out by another awesome company, Rite Publishing, who by the way have their own Onmyoji archetype for wizards, but this one mops the floor with that one.

Do I recommend it?: If you are tired of Vancian magic and it’s squalid presentation with 0 flavor text or descriptions, and if you want a tactically compelling caster that requires more from you than just reading an on-line guide on how to “win” at Pathfinder, I fully recommend this little great book. I offer 5 elemental star-shaped magatamas!


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The 4th Cold Technique tree for the assassin is here!

5/5

I just wrote a review for The Assassin by IG. This cheap, short expansion is just 3 pages long, but it contains a 4th cold technique tree that, while not undispensable from the original, expands the character concepts you can build.

A couple of techniques come from the "contacts" mini-tree, starting with a choice from alchemist, blacksmith, beggar, that sort of things. The more Integration techniques you learn, the more contacts you get. (maximum of 4). With a follow-up you can make your contacts move to another part of the city, and with the highest ability you make it a kind of cohort that is also an assassin with exactly the opposite technique trees you have (the 2 cold and the 2 hot you didn't choose at 1st level).

Another mini tree is the Mark. The first technique give you extra Technique points against the target of your mark, and the follow-up lets you keep a memento of the victim that prevents them to be raisen as undead or from the dead, giving IG assassins the one cool ability of the core PrC.

Other abilities get you accostumed to gore, fear and even poison.

All in all an interesting technique tree (weren't this categories? I prefer tree by the way) for just a meager dollar. If you already bought the assassin and read it, you will know how cool it is and you will want this book, so shell out that dollar already!


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Eyes of the hawk, ears of the wolf, strength of the bear, speed of the puma

5/5

The Animist is a martial base class for the Pathfinder RPG by Interjection Games. It gets its powers from the communion with animal spirits. It uses a mixture of mechanics similar to pact magic and Incarnum.

What’s inside?
17 pages of content for 5 1/2 bucks, which include:

The Animist base class: A full bab, good will save, 4 skill points per level class with proficiency in simple weapons plus some others, light armor and shields, who derives its powers from communing with the animals, called “Animism”. Apart from the main ability, animists can change their unused minor Aspects (more on this below) a couple of times per day, and as a capstone they gain a wildcard major aspect slot.

Animism is divided in Major and Minor aspects and slots. 3 major and 3 minor Aspects are learnt at first level, but you learn one that you meet the requirements for at every level. You prepare a few from the ones you know, similar to wizard preparing his spells, but instead of studying a spellbook you do a kind of ritual where you paint yourself; unlike wizard, you can opt to not bath and keep the same abilities for the next day, and apart from stinking your ability uses refresh after eight hours of resting. However, what makes this class awesome is that you can stack Major slots into one aspect, called “Prominence” (starting at two but increasing up to five), and gain greater communion and thus bigger, better and sometimes new abilities to make up for the loss of the Major slots; of course, you can change the aspects you commune with each day. Do you specialize in one aspect? Or do you prefer versatility while looking like a freak even in a fantasy context? The closest among Paizo classes to this would be the medium. Aaaaaand… that’s it, really, a “simple” class by Interjection Games with exactly 1 class feature (well, 3 if you count the once mentioned before), which makes for incredible ease of play but rewarding, interesting and unique at the same time.

-Favored Class bonuses: This include core plus some others, and add new aspects, higher DCs, interaction bonuses and some others, all fitting and flavorful for the race in question.

-Feats: 4 of these, gaining new aspects, more uses of Minor aspects, and juggling with the Prominence of the aspects. And finally, we have one feat that lets you dabble in one of IG base systems, of course the system being Animism!

-Two archetypes: Tatooists lose the ability to change their Minor aspects a couple of time per day for “pigments”, which are meta effects that last for a week, but you can’t change the pigmented aspect for that time. While very cool, this archetype is a must if you just want to dip, since you get a first level ability in exchange for a fifth level one, effectively gaining something for nothing for the first four levels of progression. Verdant Heralds are forced masters of versatility since you can have an aspect have a higher Prominence than two; Instead, they get an Equality pool at fifth level that can wildcard uses of Minor aspects you prepared, or pay more to use any Minor aspect you KNOW. Another archetype for dips, since you gain the pool at fifth but can’t have a Prominence higher than two before seventh. Don’t get me wrong, the archetypes are very cool and I’m just nitpicking.

-Aspects: 21 Major aspects (plus one more in the free expansion) and 30 Minor ones (three more in the expansion) make for a very varied list of abilities at the Animist disposal. We start with the Major aspects that each take almost half a page! I will cover one Major and three Minor aspects to give the idea of what to expect: The Scorpion aspect makes you chitinous, and fuses your fingers into pincers that are treated like secondary natural attacks but give you penalty to Dex checks. The pincers ignore natural armor up to the number of slots you devote to the Scorpion aspect. At two slots your pincers can deflect attacks, which is an opposed roll with a bonus equal to your Prominence. I’m not really a fan of opposed rolls but you can just rule you get a stacking deflection bonus to AC equal to Prominence. At three slots you treat your pincers as a primary natural attack (normally they are secondary). At four lots you get special combat manoeuvers to crush an arm or a leg (or similar appendage), impeding movement or inflicting penalties to attacks. Finally, at 5 slots you grow a poisonous stinger as a primary natural attack. The Bloodhound gives you scent, the Chameleon lets you cast Vanish as a spell-like ability a few times per day, and the Cornucopia lets you speak in Tongues, as the spell, with natural beings.

Of Note: For an Interjection Games class this one is easy to grasp, and it gives players who like martials the versatility of a casting class. The variety of the aspects is also very nice, enough for many kind of builds. It is also very good for game masters who want to create monstrous humanoids, fey or even outsiders on the fly by just giving them effective Animist levels and just rule they can’t change aspects.

Anything wrong?: If I want to be an ass, I can with the right aspect ROFL! Kidding aside, the only thing I dislike beyond what I mention under archetypes is the "Prominence each" ability’s NAME.

What I want?: More aspects of course, and more support. Why not a prestige class that “theurges” herbalism with animism? It would rock! Maybe aspects that let the Animist dabble in one of the other IG systems. Death for the assassin, Sun and Moon for antipodism, the elements themselves for the Master of Forms, etc.

What cool things did this inspire?: Sometimes cliché is good. A Drow who always slots Spider, Dwarf Mountain, Vishkanya Viper, Catfolk Lion, Flumph Jellyfish… Maybe an Ifrit with Decay, representing the rebirth of the phoenix. Beyond this, an alien Android who communes with an AI god to run “programs” learned from creatures native to “this strange planet” to adapt, changing the flavor of the class (an Int-based archetype perhaps?). Also, seasonal templates for fey based on the 4 seasons aspects, since fey have 4 courts in my campaign.

Do I recommend it?: If you are old like me and liked Bravestarr, or maybe Incarnum Totemist, or even the manga/anime Terraformars, and was wondering how to play that in Pathfinder, this is the book for you. I offer 4 seasonal spirit stars, plus 1/2 for the rainy season, rounded up since there are no half stars here at Paizo. If you DO buy this book, get the expansion for free!


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