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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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Everybody wants to be Ezio nowadays

5/5

The Assassin for Pathfinder is Interjection Games’ version of the assassin concept but in base class form. Assassins have been part of D&D for a long time, since there was a class back in the day of D&D (Read my trivia section at the end for more history). Roguish classes have always had it rough, even with all the improvements over the years. Even with classes like the slayer from the controversial Advanced Classes Guide, or the Prestige Class in the core, (which do the Ezio well enough) one needs to wonder why we have yet another assassin class. Well, the concept is so broad and previous executions so focused (limited really) that there is always room for more. And, if you have, or at least read about, the Master of Forms by the same company and the wonders of its system, it is used here but retooled as to better represent the class concept.

What’s inside?
33 pages of content for 6 1/2 bucks (nice), which include:

-The Assassin base class, who here has an unusual chassis: medium BAB, good Fort and Ref saves, d8 HD, but only 4 skill points. They get a broad enough class skill list, but you have to think what you are going to focus on to know what skills you want/need. They are proficient in light armors, simple weapons and a fitting assortment of martial and exotic weapons. Apart from this basics, Assassins get sneak attack at a reduced rate than rogues (up to +7d6), and evasion. This is all well but expected. Where this Assassin truly shines is in its novel, unique tricks. They get to chose 4 assassination techniques at first level, coming from 2 broad types called Hot and Cold, which are further subdivided into Categories, kind of “schools”. Assassins are trained in 2 of hot and 2 cold schools, but can learn and use techniques from other schools at certain levels, albeit executing them (hehe) at reduced efficacy. They also learn the basic universal techniques of assassination, getting some toys to function properly even if you screw up during character creation. All techniques’ DCs are based on Int by the way.

Hot techniques are further divided in Acupressure, Execution, Initiation and Magehunting. They are the most similar to Master of Forms abilities, but instead of filling a Focus pool, opponents near the Assassin get their own Presence pool at 0, representing a kind of nervousness, dread and acknowledgement of their possible killer. This pool empties over time when out of the assassin’s range, based on his charisma. Cold techniques (divided into Infiltration, Intuition and Poison) are more traditional. They are fueled by a technique pool, but a lot are passive. Apart from active abilities, some are called lukewarm and can be fueled by either the presence pool of an opponent or the technique pool of an Assassin. There are also a couple techniques that don’t have a cost and passive and always active.

-Favored Class Bonus: As always, these cover the core races plus a few others, and they give abilities like extra-speed, extra poison points, higher DC vs. specific foes, a free alchemical weapon attack with a specific technique, extra hp after executing powerful techniques correctly, etc.

-Feats: This section include 19 feats. Many of them are specializations, with increased DCs, category-only pools, or increasing the spell stealing of magehunters. There are two techniques which lets you train others in the killing arts, although only for a short period of time, which is an awesome way to introduce the Assassin’s engine.

-Assassin Technique Summary: This a list of the categories’ techniques. You will notice that there are a few that require a certain class level, but beyond that, you don’t really have to mind anything else when choosing. The techniques are followed by their Presence change and a short description of their effects.

-Techniques: They are divided by category with 15 each (plus the Toxin Mixology base ability of the Poison Category), so if you add the 5 universal techniques you get a grand total of 111 different techniques! They are presented in a format similar to spells. After the name, the techniques mention if they are extraordinary or supernatural, followed by category, Pool compatibility (if they can be fueled by the technique pool), range, target, presence source, presence required, presence change, execution time, duration, and requirements (if any). Since there are tons of forms, I will cover one per category with no requirements at random. Reflex Trigger makes the target attack itself, Lacerate deals additional bleed damage, Steady Snipe increases your weapon’s range, Rattling Presence require target magic-users to succeed at concentration checks to cast high level spells with an extra cost to cast any spell, Kong Vault (actual name) lets you ignore some feet of difficult terrain per round, Anticipate makes the opponent provoke an attack of opportunity after targeting you with an attack or ability, and Bilious Edge transforms your poisoned blade into a magical and later aligned weapon. And these were only 7 random abilities available at first level! Just imagine the higher level abilities!

Of Note: The customization. The sheer amount of options at character creation, from race, feats, skills and even ability score arrangement, plus the choice of 4 categories and 4 techniques will make it very difficult to have similar assassins, so even if two players want to play one no biggie. The categories themselves are cool (intuition and acupressure are so ninja), but of course the magehunting is the dopest thematically. Finally, the out-of-combat presence of the assassin denotes an improved design ability of the author from the last “momentum” class, the Master of Forms, who outside of combat is not that good (better than fighters but that’s not saying much). Finally the Presence pool feels videogame-y in the best possible sense, and I will use poker chips under my minis to denote presence pools of enemies (which would be a bar over the enemies heads in most cases).

Anything wrong?: There skill points seem too low IMHO, but the fact that they need high Int to get the best DCs for their techniques mitigates this. The Poison category could use ranks in Craft (alchemy) instead of assassin levels, since this poison crafting is completely disconnected from standard rules. The name “categories” is too plain and it looks like a missed opportunity (traditions, schools, disciplines… some are taken but is better than “categories”), and in the technique entry they would look better (and save some space) as a school/subtype like spells do, for example: Rattling Presence (magehunting). Finally, the technique presentation sounds complex and looks worse on paper but are really easy once you play one or two combats; I think there may be a way to present the engine in a more player-friendly way. An example of this would be the pool compatibility and presence change for cold techniques, which by the way doesn’t interact with presence. Why not just a Technique pool cost entry that, if present along presence change, denotes a technique as “lukewarm”. This may seem like too much complaining but in fact, it’s quite the contrary.

What I want: As always with IG, more support. In this case, I was hoping the feats would let other poor stealthy classes to dabble in assassination, but they will have to retrain I guess LOL. Apart from this, magical items that interact with the many categories would rock. Also some crossover, how does a Monk, Ninja or Master of Forms archetypes (or tricks, talents, ki powers etc.) with some acupressure and intuition? An alchemist with poison? Also the author can read minds since there is a 4th cold category for interaction (that’s what my other wish saw).

What cool things did this inspire?: More than anything, this book inspired me to play a solo campaign, either as a player or gamemaster. While I have had games where all characters are ninjas or part of some sort of order, I think this class has enough oomph to do it, maybe increasing skill points and techniques per level. As a gamemaster, I have had the itch to make an adventure where the main enemy is an assassin, and I think IG’s assassin will be the one I chose. I want to see my player’s face when I describe how the guards start sweating, then trembling and suddenly the assassin strikes and delivers Tenchu to the poor blokes, and then the PCs start getting nervous themselves.

Do I recommend it?: Fans of games like Tenchu, Shinobido or Assassin Creed, and maybe even Metal Gear, will feel in Disneyland with this bad boy. Even if I had several disagreements with the nomenclature or the rules presentation, IG takes a concept nearly as old as the game and makes it fresher than the Fresh Prince (lord I’m old). So, 5 deadly poisonus stars.

Trivia: There have been assassins in D&D for a long time. Thieves themselves were not one of the first classes! After the first version of D&D, Thieves appeared in Supplement I (Greyhawk), and Assassins later in Supplement II (Blackmoor). Later on they were part of the core game in AD&D. Also for 1st edition, the Oriental Adventures book introduced the gestalt-y Ninja class, which let you play stealthy “Warriors”, “Wizards”, “Clerics” and extra-stealthy “Thieves” (I use quotation marks since these roles were called by another name in OA). Later for 2nd edition, Assassins (and Monks) didn’t appear as a base class until the dawn of that edition; they were, however, represented in the base Thief class via the “backstab” ability (which sucked), the base Ninja class found in the “Complete” series, and later as many “kits” (think archetypes). The best in this regard was the Holy Slayer kit in Arabian Adventures, which line included the Assassin Mountain boxed set, which rocked (try to get it even in electronic format, the fluff and art is amazing). In 3rd edition things got weird. Assassins became part rogues, part wizards (with spell book and all), as a Prestige Class, which later became a spontaneous caster in the 3.5 revision. There were many other base and prestige classes that stole the Death Attack of the Assassin Prestige Class. Finally, Pathfinder took out the nonsensical casting of the assassin and exchanged it for many flavorful abilities, my favorite being Angel of Death. After this, there have been many books trying to reinvent the wheel, but everything is from “kind of OK” to “very nice”, but nothing as awesome as this one.

Now, on the Magehunting category. There was a Spellthief base class in 3.5 D&D whose main shtick echoes in IG assassin, but before that we had the Spell Slayer kit for wizards, coming again from the awesome Al-Qadim game line for 2nd edition, specifically from the Sha’ir’s Handbook. Spell Slayers were wizard who didn’t cast spells, and instead gained many spell-like and supernatural abilities to counter wizard, their main ability being spellslay, which was similar but way more powerful than the Rattling Presence magehunting technique. The spellslay ability prevented wizards (maybe all arcane magic?) to cast and, depending on the saving throw result, lasted from hours, to days, to weeks!


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, silent as shadow...

5/5

This book is the awesome follow-up for The Master of Forms for Pathfinder by Interjection Games. It includes a fully supported 6th element (and kind of a 7th), pluse four archetypes. (even my review's title is the follow-up of the previus book's review's title)

What’s inside?
15 pages of content for 4 1/2 bucks, which include:

-The Shadow Element: This 6th element for the master of forms is special. While the other five elements are described as the building blocks of the cosmos, the shadow would be what binds the others together. It includes a shadow stance that makes it easier to shift to other elemental stances. Like the other elements, shadow has 2 secret arts, one that wild cards 3 other elemental forms, and another that impedes supernatural powers (think pressure points). Finally, shadow has 16 forms to choose from (one more than the other 5 elements, who does he think he is?). Like in my past review, I will choose two at random. Imitation is an advanced form that requires the full four Focus points to use and it uses all 4; in exchange, you can activate any form that you meet the requirements for, even if you don’t know it. This form has a duration of one round, but you can perform an extra form (meaning you use the extra form to use the temporary one). Reckless Retaliation can be performed in response to an attack of opportunity, giving you damage reduction equal to half your level against it. If you are damaged anyway, the attacker provokes an attack of opportunity from you.

-4 Archetypes: While not really missed from the original, more options are always good.

Drifting Ones are masters that avoid focusing on one element. They in fact don’t gain stances, since repeated use of same element forms makes them lose focus. Instead, they get a Drifting Stance that comes into play after activating 3 forms but of different elements. They also can’t learn Secret Arts, since they can only be activated during an elemental stance. Instead of them, they get unique abilities that let them imitate or manipulate other elements, even able to enter a stance momentarily and at high level even perform any Secret Art once per day! They are not thematically compatible with the other archetypes, but you CAN be a drifting one and a Partisan and/or Unbalanced Master.

Elemental Partisans focus on one of the 5 elements (not shadow) and eschew another specific element. Unlike Greek, they are not diametrically opposed to another element, instead following a kind of circle. They can’t learn forms or Secret Arts from their opposed element, which bars them from entering that element’s stance and activating its Secret Arts. To make up for the lost element, Partisans get access to three elemental forms unique to their specialization, upping the available forms to 18 per element (take that shadow!).

Unbalanced Masters similarly specialize in one of the 6 elements (shadow gets some love). However, instead of locking out one element, they can’t access the most powerful forms of all the other elements (those that require -4 Focus change), and the +1 Focus change forms of other elements don’t work after having 2 Focus. In exchange, they get a pool of points equal to their level, which functions differently according to the elemental specialization. Earth, Fire and Cold (should have been Earth, Wind and Fire but oh well) can use these points to pay for the costs of their forms under certain circumstances, allowing them to get out the big guns without too much preparation. The other three elements can use their points for especial, thematically fitting abilities.

The last archetype, Vessel of Darkness, can be considered a variant class since it changes the base class so much. They can be thought as specialist on Darkness, which would be the anti-element and they are kind of possessed by a dark being called an “Observer” from “Elsewhere” (both TM). They can’t learn standard forms, which bars them from entering Stances and thus activating Secret Arts. Instead of Secret Arts, they get a Gift from Elsewhere at 2nd, 7th and every 5 levels thereafter, which are strange darkness based abilities (17 in total). Choosing at random, Baleful Observation gives them a damaging gaze attack, while Fortified Vessel, a high level ability with another gift as prerequisite, gives the Vessel medium fortification. They get a Darkness/Escalation pool (it is called both ways in the text; I would use another name since I THINK they share a name with pools from another class by the same author) that is used by some of the forms that can be escalated. They also loose Purity of Body and Diamond Body in exchange for having their Observer exert some influence and giving more power to the Vessel, similar to an intelligent item.

Walker in Darkness forms (shouldn’t it be vessel? The author sure juggles with his own creations) are similar to other elemental forms, but some have an escalation cost that is paid with the previously mention escalation pool. There are 25 darkness forms, which makes even shadow jealous. Again peering at random, Dust to Dust starts to disintegrate its target (!), dealing ongoing damage for 3 rounds, and 6 more when escalated under certain circumstances. Groin Shot (ROFL) staggers the target if he has external genital, but even if not, it can be staggered via escalation (kick that ooze's… no, not nuts, jellybeans?).

Of Note: The addition of the shadow element may make some players crazy at character creation but is a welcome addition to the Master of Forms repertory. The archetypes make for very interesting player experiences, even when we have 2 specialist archetypes. The Vessel of Darkness is basically the antipaladin of the Master of Forms, a distorted, bizarre mirror image of sorts. Also, there are two character images that look from Al-Qadim books' artist Karl Waller, who is amazing, but I'm not really sure.

Anything wrong?: The few erroneous names irk me because the rest of the book is so amazing, and the again, I don’t like the Vessel of Darkness name, especially since I use the Vessel class from Everyman Games. I ALSO don't like the names of the new elements, since they overlap with the Antipodism magic system (taking inspiration from Eastern elements, I will call them Ether and Void). Also, the feat Overflowing Elements from the last book, what type of damage does it do when in a shadow stand?. Apart from that, all is well.

What I want: This is the kind of support I like. While magical items and monsters would be cool, there is enough material already to play. I would like some crossover action between Interjection Games classes, like an archetype for the Edgeblade that gives access to some forms, or the other way around.

What cool things did this inspire?: Vessels can be the perfect boogieman in a wuxia campaign. You could also rule that Elsewhere Observers are actual outsiders, maybe Aeons, Psychopomps or even Sakhils! What about kami or genies with access to forms? Or better yet, reimagine genies to have 7 races based on the Master of Forms’ elements? Finally, in a full bender/wuxia campaign, using both specialist archetypes could work to make 5 npc’s that are each a master of one element, plus a drifting one secret master that abused the extra form feat to know many, many forms and with a high level ability to mimic any secret art, which could be roleplaying gold (oh noes! The fire master died and I’m his successors, but I went remedial on secret arts! Fret not, search for the legendary master of shadow who can teach you any secret art LOL)

Do I recommend it?: If the base rules of the Master of Forms were reprinted, I would recommend it as a standalone jus for the Vessel of Darkness. However, if you are already shelling those 5.50 for the original, shell the 10 bucks for the whole package of martial arts goodness. I assure you you won’t regret it!


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Swift as wind, gentle as forest, fierce as fire, unshakable as mountain

5/5

The Master of Form for Pathfinder is Interjection Games take on “bending”, popularized by the Avatar cartoon. Beyond multiclassing or taking specific feat chains and archetypes for the monk, this was not really possible before, but we are talking about the monk here, who has a lot of problems. This offering changes that by stealing the best parts of the monk, flavoring it with elemental bending, and seasoning it with amazing design.

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

-The Master of Forms base class, who has a chassis similar to unchained monks: good BAB, Ref and Will saves, d10 HD and 4 skill points. They get a nice enough class skill list, with a couple of stand outs like Fly, Intimidate and Use Magic Device, the last being cool on a Charisma-dependent class. Apart from this, the Master of Forms steals the monk’s fu: they get the same unarmed damage and AC bonus, this last based on charisma; they also get similar weapon and armor proficiencies. They later get some other monk class features: Evasion, Slow Fall, Purity of Body, Diamond Body and Diamond Soul

There’s where similarities end. Masters of Forms don’t have an alignment restriction. For class features, they get Forms, Stances, Deep Focus (the ability to perform a second form in the same round as a free action a couple of time per day), Secret Arts and Stance Savant as the capstone.

Forms are their main feature. They are extraordinary or supernatural abilities with an elemental theme, further distancing the inner contemplation and mastery of the monk with the “be the world” philosophy of the Master. To empower their forms, they get a Focus pool which, unlike others like ki or arcana pools, begin empty at the start of combat and get filled in the heat of battle, with a hard maximum of 4 focus points. Each form require certain focus to function, and each form has a focus change that fills or empties the pool. This in-battle management is what make this class cool and a blessing for melee-ers who don’t want to go Vancian. All forms that require a save use the old formula of 10 + ½ class lvl + Cha modifier. The base class give you bonus, universal forms that give you enough oomph to prevent your character from sucking by choosing forms at random. Beyond these, you start with three elemental forms of your choice and get another at every level. The elements here are not standard: Earth, Fire, Ice, Lightning and Wind, with a sixth (shadow) if you have the expansion. If you perform 3 maneuvers of the same element within one minute, you automatically starts a Stance and stays in it until performing a different element’s form. The capstone, Stance Savant, gives the Master of Forms the stance of his favored element (the one he knows most forms of) as always active. This ability is on top of the normal stance, so the Master effectively is in two stances at once, but can’t be in the same stance twice so no stacking.

Stances are a special kind of form that doesn’t require actions to work. Once active, they give their bonus to the Master of Forms. Don’t expect lame fire or acid resistance here: each element has very different ability, from bonus to speed to damage reduction to temporary focus.

Secret Arts are special, powerful forms that have some special rules. They are the only form that can be started during a turn, and if they are not instantaneous, you can’t perform another form while the duration lasts. One Secret Art is gained at 5th level, with a new one gained every 4 levels thereafter. Each Secret Art can only be performed once per day per time chosen (yes, you can re-learn them to use them more frequently). There are two Secret Arts per element, so you have plenty to choose from.

-Favored Class Bonus: As always, these cover the core races plus a few others, and they give abilities beyond the old “extra something”. Some of them depend on your current focus and give you an armor bonus, damage reduction or energy resistance. They will be useless outside combat, however. I also would have loved what the “genasi” races would have gotten.

-Feats: This section include 4 feats. One that lets you use Deep Focus an extra one time per day, Extra Forms, Elemental Focus to increase the DC of one element and a little extra elemental damage when in a stance.

-Forms Summary: This a list of all element’s forms. You will notice that there are a few that require a certain class level, but beyond that, you don’t really have to mind anything else when choosing. The form are followed by their focus change and a short description of their effects.

-Forms: They are divided by element with 15 each, so if you add the 7 universal you get a grand total of 82 different forms! They are presented in a format similar to spells. After the name, the forms mention if they are extraordinary or supernatural, followed by Focus required, Focus change, duration, and requirement (if any). Since there are tons of forms, I will cover one per element with no requirements at random. Seismic Surge deals damage and trips at range, and leaves difficult terrain; Spark the Inferno changes one single attack’s damage to fire (nice against creatures vulnerable to fire), and you can expend extra focus to maximize it. Cumulative Exposure reduces all speeds of the target and it stacks. Streaking Strike makes a melee or thrown attack ignore damage reduction or hardness. Wow, just wow. And I chose at random!

Of Note: Everything. You will want to play all kinds of Masters with this book and you will make kineticists and elementalist wizards/arcanists/oracles jealous. In particular, I liked lightning and wind the most, since they are the ones who share a “standard” element and feel really different.

Anything wrong?: I don’t like the name LOL! I have always preferred one word class names, even if they are made-up like bloodrager. Just call them benders ;) Apart from this, I have always disliked the association of earth and acid in D&D/Pathfinder and here, where the author distances from tradition, would have been the perfect opportunity to rectify that. I mean, the feat that gives extra elemental damage uses slashing for air, why not bludgeoning for earth? Aaaaand, that’s it, one single part of a single feat I can homerule and the name. As always, I would have liked more support (basically feats, items, archetypes, monsters or templates that let players and gamem asters to dabble in the system), but maybe I was left spoiled by old books that introduced new systems like Psionics, Incarnum or Pact magic.

What I want: More support for the class! Of course there is the expansion that introduce another element and archetypes, but I would like multi-element forms. Magma? Storm? Steam? Dust devils? I think that could make for at least a couple of nice forms!

What cool things did this inspire?: Beyond clichés like dwarves who master earth and fire, I would like a catfolk or another fast race specialized in lightning, since it is the element who uses speed the best. Also, a friend wanted a fire genasi (ifrit in Pathfinder) who was an ice elementalist wizard. Well, I think it would work wonders with an ice master. Also, an elf or even a suli that dabbles in all elements is thematically fitting. As a game master, an Aeon, Asura , Manasaputra or Oni with Master levels or abilities as either a teacher or a foe for a PC with the same class. I would also love to play or game master a game where all characters are masters, maybe gestalting a bit or with variant multiclassing to further differentiate PCs.

Do I recommend it?: If by any chance you like Avatar, Naruto, fighting games or high-fantasy wuxia movies, this book is a godsend. I offer full five deadly poisonous stars! And do yourself a favor, if you buy this, shell some more bucks for the sequel, it’s really worth it!

Trivia: Among my favorite hobbies beyond role-playing is playing fighting games. It is very difficult to convey the excitement of games like Street Fighter in a tabletop game, and I have seen many attempts without success, except for this book! The same can be said for high-fantasy wuxia like The Storm Riders (do yourself a favor and look for some comics, or the first live-action movie), since they are high-octane action pieces that are difficult to portrait on tabletops. Again, look no further!


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When you peer at the darkness, the light peers back at you, or something.

5/5

Ultimate Antipodism for Pathfinder is a reimagining of the shadow magic system, from the old 3.5 book Tome of Magic (and maybe a prestige class in the old Tome of Battle, called the Shadow Sun Ninja), by Interjection Games. The original had amazing art and flavor plus enough support to stand on its own, but it was flawed mechanically. It includes all the content from two other class books (The Edgewalker and the Antipodist, plus the Mote Bringer), plus a 3rd class, the Edgeblade, and expanded content for the original two. Interjection games’ products are perfect for people who are bored of the same Vancian magic and spell lists, the same 3.5 sub-systems.

What’s inside?
93 pages of content (for 11 bucks!), which include:

-The Antipodist base class, who are the “wizards” of the antipodism world. They are kinda like commoners (worse BAB, saves and skill points possible and only simple weapons proficiency, but nice skill list though and they can increase all saves later) with strange powers. They get access to two pools of energy, radiant and shadow, to empower their abilities, both equal to their class level but one adding wisdom modifier and the other intelligence. Their “spells” are called loci, but they can be extraordinary, supernatural or spell-like. They come in 3 broad types (light, dark and both), and are further divided into 9 philosophies (4 dark, 4 light and one both). There is an important distinction mentioning antipodists as philosophers, not spellcasters; while basically the same, they can’t take spellcaster-only feats or access prestige classes. Some loci don’t cost anything to activate, are passive, and always active. Powers that do have costs are active, require a specific type of action to activate, and use specific DC formulas that scale better than spells, since there are only four levels of power.

The antipodist has a kind of in-class specialization called a philosophical leaning, where you can devote to radiance and almost double your light pool, loosing access to the 4 shadow philosophies. You can do the same for shadow, or you can devote to twilight, the most versatile of the three specs; this choice also dictates your capstone ability. Later on their careers, they get some other abilities. They get a kind of cantrip (more at higher levels), an active 1st level locus that costs 0 points but works at reduced power, and later can treat higher level loci in this way a few times per day. They can also increase one or both of their pools and get a save bonus, depending of the philosophical leaning. Finally they get an ability dictated by their most-studied philosophy, ranging from miss chance, to bonus hp, to extra pool points. The class finishes with favored class bonus for the core races plus some others.

One thing of note is that, while the philosophies themselves are not tied to alignment, there is a lot of roleplaying potential in the Antipodist progression, like getting away from the light and embracing the darkness, and it is supported by the author! You could further this with the re-train rules but are not needed, and you could always surprise your friends when your pacifist healer suddenly throws a vile darkness attack!

The Antipodist gets access to two archetypes. The Extremist is like a 4th philosophical leaning, one that embraces the difference between light and darkness and rejects twilight, and is barred from choosing twilight loci! They get a third pool, albeit empty, that has its own rules to fill and spend.

The second archetypes is the Specialist Philosopher, whose choice of preferred philosophy dictates many of the normally versatile class features. In exchange for this narrower focus, they get extra loci from their specialty and a different capstone ability.

Now on the loci themselves, they are tied to either light or darkness (some both), in theme and metaphorically, since they cover things like dreams, illusions, illumination of thought etc. The effects are so varied that you won’t miss arcane magic schools. As mentioned before, loci are divided in 9 philosophies with 4 levels of power. There are 6 1st level loci per philosophie, 5 2nd, and 4 3rd and 4th each, for a grand total of 171 loci! (19 per philosophy)

-The Edgeblade base class, people of action and warrior philosophers. They are the “warriors” among the antipodism classes, and as such are the most combat able. Like the other two, Edgeblades get two pools to empower their abilities. Unlike the others, they get two empty residuum pools that are filled by using non-finisher waypoints (the powers of the class), but start emptying if no waypoints are used, to a minimum of a so-called stability score that starts at 1 but doesn’t go up by simple level up. This residuum points are used to power residuum abilities, which come in the by now familiar light/dark/twilight flavors and are either extraordinary or supernatural in nature. The Edgeblade starts with 1 of each, and while they learn more as they level up, they have to prepare exactly 3, one of each type, from among the ones they know (they can prepare 4 as a capstone). Some of this are passive abilities that give an incremental bonus based on the size of the residuum pool, while others are active and spend points from it. Since many of their abilities depend on wisdom and intelligence, Edgeblades receive an incremental insight bonus to both, for the purposes of calculating DCs only. They also get a bonus to their pools like the antipodist, and also bonus feats (they’re warriors after all).

Now, waypoints are the powers of the class. Like loci, there are dark, light and twilight (meaning both light and dark) waypoints, but they are not divided by philosophies or levels, though some have level or other prerequisites. A total of 12 waypoints are learnt by Edgeblades during their careers (2 at 1st level, plus one every even level). At 5th, 10th and 15th levels they unlock greater waypoints, which are more powerful but otherwise are and function as waypoints. From 6th level on, when a single-classed Edgeblade would gain their first iterative attack, they can use a non-finisher waypoint in place of their first attack each round, or a finisher in lieu of all attacks of the round (important if the Edgeblade somehow got the pounce ability). We finish the base class section with favored class bonus for the core and some other races.

Like antipodists, they receive two archetypes. Dawnblades focus on the light, losing access to darkness pool (though they almost double their radiant pool), darkness residuum pool and abilities, and the ability to learn dark waypoints. In exchange they get access to exclusive residuum abilities, their residuum pool doesn’t empty by itself, and they reduce the residuum cost payment of finishers by 1. Duskblades are the dark counterparts of Dawnblades, but focus on darkness instead. They aren’t just mirror copies, though; on top of all the mirroring, instead of cost-reduction they tie their residuum abilities with 4 phases of the moon (each with different abilities), which have a 1 in 5 chance to cycle to the next phase each round, giving the Duskblade a kind of chaos magic feel.

-The Edgewalker base class, the shadow dancing, thieving monks of the antipodists. They have medium combat abilities, two good saves (supposedly) and 4 skill points per level (which would normally irk me, but they are infiltrators, not facemen). Like other roguish types, they get sneak attack (up to 7d6), evasion and uncanny dodge and later the improved versions of both, and hide in plain sight. They get the same radiant and shadow pools and access to waypoints and greater waypoints of the Edgeblade, sans residuum. As a capstone they can expend radiant points to empower dark waypoints and vice versa. We finish the base class section with favored class bonuses for the core races and some others.

Like the Edgeblade, we have two specialist classes for Edgewalkers. Mote Bringers would be the light specialists, almost doubling their radiant pools and losing access to darkness-only waypoints. Their unique feature is the ability to craft a shawl made of light itself. As it is made of light, it gives penalties to Stealth checks but gives a small dodge bonus to AC, but the creator can deactivate it losing all bonus and the sole penalty. The shawl is infused with mote points, which power “Infusions”, magical abilities learned by the Mote Bringer. At the beginning of the day, the creator infuses the shawl with as many abilities as he can pay for. The Shadowfriend would be the darkness specialist. Instead of a versatile magical item, Shadowfriends are friends of their shadows! Lameness aside, this in game terms translates to having the shadowy remnants of yourself from an alternate dimension as your “pet”. They become dynamic allies, making for completely different playing and tactical experiences.

-Feats: This section include 15 “antipode” feats, which is a way to denote them as antipode classes only. Edgeblades and Edgewalkers can get a first-level locus from the Antipodist, treating it as a waypoint with the Compatible Philosophies feat, and this becomes a mini-chain of feats. Other feats increase pools, residuum stability scores, give a bonus when alternating loci, among other things. No toys for other classes though.

-Waypoint List: The original “antipode” magic before loci were introduced. These come in a format similar to spells, starting with the name, their types (Ex, Sp or Su, as well as Dark and/or Light and if it is a Finisher), followed by range, area, duration, cost, requirements and compatible classes noted before the effect. There are many different abilities available, from a simple dodge AC bonus to blasts of light, from a perception bonus to a shadow illusion that fools attackers into wasting their abilities, from a little sneak attack bonus to the ability to coat your weapons in liquid light. Most of the abilities are accompanied by awesome visuals, ripe to give descriptions that give the feeling you are in a fantasy world.

Of Note: Having looked at tons of base class designs, it is easy to play it “safe” and just use what is there with maybe one or two “new” things, which is not a bad thing, as seen in the Occult Adventures book or other 3pp books like Path of Shadows (all classes but the kineticists are spellcasters). Not so with most if not all the material from Interjection Games. There is just this feeling that you are not in Kansas anymore, that you are playing with something really new, a feeling I got when playing 2nd edition psionicists, or 3rd edition warlocks and totemists. The best thing this book has is its novel design with compelling and intriguing design choices. Beyond that, the Edgeblade is my favorite of the base classes, even if you have to juggle with many concepts at once.

Anything wrong?: The author must be a swimmer, because he surely like pools (…). Awful jokes aside, the Edgeblade alone has 4 pools to juggle. Also, leveling up can be a bit painful since there are so many options to choose from. Finally, while it is understandable, there is not a single character art, not even on the cover. I should be grateful I have this book, since after reading the individual parts’ reviews I was left salivating and I FINALLY could get a compilation at a good price, but at least one illustration on the cover would have been nice. There are many repetitions in the book, and I think this is a side effect of the book being a compilation with months between the designing of each individual part. I know Wizards and Paizo do it, but I don’t particularly like it. The worst offenders are in the archetype section, since normally you don’t see repetitions there, especially grating was the Mote Bringer, since it is the only archetype sporting a full class table progression, while all the others don’t. Why is it special? What does it have that the others not? Why do you love my brother more, mom? Er… The PDF lacks an index, which makes navigating it a pain in the donkey (I used two readers for easier navigation) and, as I mentioned, the editing suffers a bit from repetition. The book also retains a problem I mentioned when I first bought the book like a year ago: The Edgewalker is supposed to have TWO GOOD SAVES! It is still missing a good Reflex save.

What I want: I would have liked some kind of nomenclature for the waypoints, something that made the creation of characters a bit easier (the players in my group are lazy). Maybe something as simple as passive, active, reactive, like the original Tome of Battle did, or maybe divide them into schools, akin to the antipodists’ philosophies. I would have liked the author to run with the all-bad-saves-but-with-bonuses-later feature of the Antipodist for at least the Edgeblade, it makes for further diversifying of “builds”. Also some way for other classes to dabble in antipodism; I mean, psionics do that, incarnum does that, why not antipodism? Maybe some archetypes for other classes like bards, sorcerers or oracles. Maybe some hybrid prestige classes that mingle antipodism and traditional magic. Also a couple of items, or monsters (light, dark and twilight monster template?). More support in general.

What cool things did this inspire?: From the players’ side, I’m gonna make a twilight specialist Antipodist with a homebrew race called a “Rilmanar” (basically the neutral version of aasimar/tiefling, borrowing the name from the original true neutral outsider race of DnD), which doesn’t necessarily descend from Aeons; in my character’s case, he is the son of a reformed tiefling witch and a disheartened aasimar paladin. Also, a witchwolf (skinwalker variant) duskblade is thematically fitting. A dhampir shadowfriend is also intriguing, giving that vampires normally don’t have shadows and suddenly a vampire-descendant is friend with one LOL. From the game master side, I have been wanting to hack one of Paizo’s adventures, with different encounters, and the “end boss” of the Ruby Phoenix Tournament presents a pair of Wizards, one master of air and the other of earth but with some Monk levels. I’m gonna change them to a pair of Antipodists, one focused on light and the other on darkness but with Edgeblade levels (or hungry ghost Monk? Or GURU sin-eater from Akashic Mysteries). Finally, a type of Efreet sun soldiers with locus-like abilities instead of spell-like will be a perfect addition to my Return to Al-Qadim adventure (with Pathfinder rules).

Do I recommend it?: Hell yeah! I bought the book after reading End’s review, and I don’t regret it. Even with the conservative, Paizo-like editing and the lack of art, this is a book that oozes awesome. As always from the publisher, don’t come expecting Paizo or Legendary Games level of art, and don’t come expecting yet another tasteless class which basically is a variant of another but with Vancian casting. With those two caveats in mind, I would grade the book with 4.5 morning stars, but since this website doesn’t support half, I will round up. The quality of the material and design deserves it.


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Final Fantasy 6 flashbacks in 3, 2, 1

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.

Magitech Archetypes is a sci-fi/fantasy fusion-themed book by Legendary Games. As all books by the publisher, this one includes amazing layout and art, but they are not only beautiful; they are handy for players because of the many electronic links it includes, so you get a lot of information interconnected.

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

-7 archetypes: Astrologers are mesmerist who study the stars, and exchange many of their tricks for star-flavored abilities, even creating miniature satellites to attack their foes or travel to and survive in another planet! Delvers are wizards who are very at home in the underground and, in exchange for their arcane bond, get many abilities useful in dungeons and ruins, and can also summon some underground creatures (ending with neothelids!). Engram channelers are spiritualists that summon not a restless phantom, but the encoded memory of a dead being that presents as a hologram; a flavorful and very strong class hack that gets away from the undead and becomes closer to technology; Nanotech infusers are sorcerers who replace several bloodline powers for some abilities that derive from your nanites, without overspecializing on robots or technology; while this archetype doesn’t replace your bloodline, it does replace many bloodline powers and I wonder if it couldn’t have worked better as an aberrant bloodline, but to be fair, some of the abilities are so strong that they replace bloodline powers AND feats! Necrotech masters are vile, unliving (construct or undead only) kineticist that focus on the vilest portion of the new machine element mixed with void; these guys aren’t that player oriented, but work wonders for enemy NPCs; Penumbral arcanists focus on darkness and shadow, gaining access to many appropriate spells and to some exclusive exploits and at the end of their careers they can create darkness so powerful that not even true seeing can penetrate, and only those that can see inside magical darkness will be able to see you; finally, Robot fighters are rangers who specialize at hunting constructs, especially robots, losing many nature-themed ability for more appropriate abilities.

-1 kineticist element: Machine, with a heavy focus on interacting with the technology rules, also work with metals and other constructs, with many abilities to enhance the user’s own body, and even others’! While many abilities work and interact with machines, I can see a technokineticist character built for campaigns without technology, robots and the like, but they shine and have wider options in games that include such. Later in the book we find an elemental saturation, a place of power, with a greater benefits on technokineticists.

-7 Feats: 4 of them are available only to necrotech masters, 2 of them interact with technology and grant a weird telepathy/hacking ability to interact with computers. The final feat gives you the ability to spontaneously summon junk golems of increasing potency. It is worth noting that this last feat is open to technokineticist (they can even ignore prerequisites), but they can’t use it as is since they can’t cast spells. I suppose the summons could have a burn cost but I can only wonder (unless they multiclass).

Of Note: Engram channelers are a roleplaying goldmine and a nice tool to have as a game master to give hints to the PCs. Robot fighters sound lame but are anything but, they are urban warrior that could work in steampunk campaigns. I was expecting lame bonuses to attack and damage, but believe me, these guys rock!

Anything wrong?: The astrologer mesmerist archetype is cool, but the abilities don’t mesh well with the base class flavor; I would have preferred the archetype for wizards or psychics. Delver wizards and penumbral arcanists are cool and flavorful, but also don’t really scream “magitech” to me. These three feel sci-fi but not magitech, which is a shame in a book called “Magitech Archetypes”. Also, no magus? No occultists? No summoner? These three classes would have rocked in a magitech campaign with an appropriate archetype. Maybe for the sequel? (wink wink)

What cool things did this inspire?: Necrotech master androids or, better yet, ghouls with class levels, could fuel an entire campaign of technofantasy horror. What about undead giants with class levels? Something like Attack on Titan meets Tetsuo? I would play/run that! I would also LOVE to play a samsaran engram channeler whose engram is his past life or past life’s love! (you seem strangely familiar). An android kinetic shinobi who uses the new element sounds too obvious but awesome at the same time. Also obvious but cool: a ghoran, elf or any sylvan race robot fighter in the same party as an android technokineticist would bring several roleplaying opportunities for intra-party interaction, or would be perfect as a good-aligned enemy for a techno-heavy party.

Do I recommend it? Yes! I have yet to be disappointed by a LG’s book, but I must say the title of the book is a little misleading. I rate this book with 4 ½ stars, rounded down for plain blend-y, magitech campaigns but rounded up for sci-fi meets fantasy campaigns.


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Another awesome Kineticist book by LG and N. Jolly? you bet!

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.

Legendary Kineticists II is a sequel for the critically acclaimed volume 1, by the same author and master of all things kinetics N.Jolly.

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

-8 archetypes: Bestial Kineticist for animal companions, which mean you artic druid can have a cold-breathing wolf, or a sky druid an air-blasting eagle etc. Metakinetic savants are kineticists who get different, more varied metakinesis ability, and a metakinetic buffer that has more points but are only usable for metakinetics. Nihilicists are weird, using the power of nothingness itself; their blasts dealing a new type of “nihil” damage; they lose any access to other elements and getting only universal talents, but are their own breed of awesome. Onslaught Blasters are multiple targeting kineticists, able to throw myriad of weaker blasts. Order of the scion is not really an archetype, but an order for the cavalier and samurai classes; they devote themselves to an element, gaining a minor blast ability, and enhance the power of certain powers and spells related to their element. Planar Custodians are druids whose devotion to an elemental plane becomes a blessing, in the form of kineticist abilities. Planestouched Oracles lose both their mystery and revelations in exchange for kineticist’s toys. Telekinetic bladeshifter are the true warriors among the kineticists, getting a full BAB and getting a normal Ref save; they control their blades with their mind!

-6 general infusions: Two manipulate water-related blasts to dehydrate their targets, two other counter spells, one affects them with the masochistic shadow spell and one makes blasts ricochet.

-13 wild talents: These include basic abilities for cold and electricity, while the others mostly focus beyond the basic 5 elements presented in OA.

-11 Feats: some of them focus on multiclass kineticists, while others enhance archetype’s abilities.

-4 Spells that interact with the burn mechanic, forcing it on targets, delaying its effects etc.

-1 Prestige Class: Kinetic Mystic, a 10 level “theurge” class that mingles kinetics with either arcane or psychic spellcasting.

-1 variant class: Legendary Kineticist sport many changes, but the biggest one is how burn affects the LK. They also get a special, temporary “battle burn” that instead of weakening the kineticist, weakens the ability it enhances. This class hack may sound too strong, but it is still ok when compared with what wizards or clerics can do.

-1 variant multiclassing for the kineticist, perfect for Avatar-like campaigns where everybody who is somebody does the kinetics.

-1 NPC: Trueno, Herald of the White Sky, an 8th level middle-aged female half-elf onslaught blaster legendary kineticist who focuses on wind and aether. Trueno has ties with Mindfang, another NPC from the previous Legendary Kineticists book. She is different in the sense that she LOOKS like she has been in some serious adventuring, sporting a missing arm and eye. As always with the author, the NPC can bestow a boon, but in this case it is a tad too strong for my tastes.

Of Note: The nihilicist archtype is awesome in concept, while the non-kineticist archetypes and options are perfect introductions for the kineticist system. The NPC looks like a true adventurer, with scars and even missing body parts to show it.

Anything wrong?: This book is not really about kineticists but about “kinetics”, their unique magic system. Many of the kineticists toys are used by many a class, which is good in my opinion. The only thing I’m missing is the class template for monsters. I would love an efreet fire kineticist, or a dryad wood kineticist… You get my drift. Also since there is an archetype for animal companions, why not familiars? Eidolons? Elemental eidolons with a kind of minor magic evolution but with kinetics.

What cool things did this inspire?: A dhampir or tiefling nihilist is too obvious to not try one. A sylph telekinetic bladeshifter makes my wuxia boil. And man, I really want a dwarven planar custodian druid with an earth badger.

Do I recommend it? If you really like the kineticist magic system, yes. If you just wanted more options for the kineticist, you might be disappointed. So, 4 stars if you wanted more Kineticist-only stuff, full five if you wanted more kinetics in your games.


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Yakuza, or how to be a Smooth Criminal (TM)

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.

Legendary Hybrids: Yakuza is Legendary Game’s hybrid for the Cavalier and Ninja classes. It includes a new base class with supporting material.

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

-Yakuza hybrid class: Yakuza get medium BAB and a d8 HD, with good Ref and Will saves and sporting a nice 6 skillpoints per level, with a vast enough class skill list to cover different roles. Their gang choice supposedly increases this, but no gang offers additional ones (not needed anyway). They get proficiency in all simple weapons and light armor, with a short list of martial and exotic weapons. Here I would have preferred the option for the game master or player to choose, or maybe that the weapons were dictated by their gang.

They start getting access to new game tech, in the form of contacts from Ultimate Campaign, which may or may not be from the same gang. The choice of gang is similar to how cavaliers become members of an order, with the option of changing gangs which is, in the case of a criminal organization, much more dangerous. Also like cavaliers, Yakuza get free teamwork feats that they can share with their allies. From their ninja class parentage, they get a charisma-based ki pool but with different, more appropriate benefits; they also gain sneak attack a slower rate than ninjas. Later they get access to ninja tricks, which is a good decision instead of making their own list of poached class talents and also increasing the options for yakuzas for every other ninja class book available!

Unique to the Yakuza, they treat “urban” as a ranger favored terrain; get tattoos which make them fearsome and fearless; are adept at dealing with black markets and get one of the new feats from this book for free; are better at flanking (which makes a lot of sense since they are going to deal with a lot of other classes with Uncanny Dodge); later, they become very good at using their ki to enhance poisons, drugs and alcohol. As master gamblers, they are better not only at that but at luck in general. As a cool capstone, age doesn’t affect them anymore and can even become “younger” using ki!

-5 Yakuza Gangs,which are formatted in a similar manner to cavalier orders, having edicts, situational bonuses to sneak attacks (similar to challenge bonuses), situational bonuses to skills, and three specific abilities gained at 2nd, 8th and 15th levels. These include the Black Rain, information specialists adept at metaphorical backstabbing; the Blood Tong, “honorable” loansharks who are devilishly able at making deals, getting mystical abilities to ensure getting their end of the deal; the Dragon Lords, loyal as Hell (or Nirvana?) and better at fighting with their gang brothers/sisters; the Jade Triad, terrorists supreme and masters of intimidation; and the White Tigers, which are the only gang that have abilities with one theme (pack hunting, immobilizing) while having a completely different outlook (gang above all), which is not a bad thing in itself.

-8 archetypes: the Absent Bansho is the solo Yakuza, who get the dual identity and other toys of vigilantes in exchange of all gang abilities, especially nice for adventurers. Flying Tigers are wuxia criminals who fight both unarmored and unarmed (well, mostly), getting many monkish abilities; this one is especially suited to characters who want to play a non-standard, un-sneaky, flashy criminal. Gun Runners fuel their poached gun-slinging abilities with ki, and lose their gang’s special techniques in favor of being better shots; sadly, they don’t get shot on the run for free (they are called Gun Runners after all). Junk Pirates are especially good at smuggling and fighting on board, and even gain a pet! This archetype changes a lot of the base class and sports one of the funniest names out there (junk being, you know, a type of old Asian vessel); Pack Rats are those funny rogues who have a pet trained for larceny; Serpent Chemists are the poisoners of the yakuza world, getting even mystical abilities to help them with making and administering drugs, poison and alcohol; Tatooed Ones get help from the magical tattoos they wear, getting the ability to summon illusionary allies, this one is cool but maybe too fantastic for some games. Triad Enforcers are strong at demoralizing, even denying morale bonuses and uses of resolve (a samurai ability), getting a resolve ability of their own.

-Favored Class Bonuses for the Core and Featured races

-3 Feats, including Black Market Dealings (you are able to buy more goods from a settlement when you get access to their underworld market), Mind Trick (which give charismatic characters an edge at finesse activities) and Overflowing Ki (perfect for any character with a Ki Pool).

-1 NPC: Shinsuke Tatsu, an 8th level human tattooed yakuza. This fellow has ties to another NPC from the book Legendary Villains: Vigilantes, who is the murderer of his lover. One thing I really liked is that the sex of the lover is left vague and Japanese names can sometimes be given to both sexes, so if you are OK with gay relationships in your games, you can go that route. If not, simply rule that the lover was female and end of the story. Unlike some other NPCs in the series, you can use Shinsuke just as he is as an emergency PC, story an all, since he has a reason to adventure!

Of Note: Wow, what is there not to like? All the gangs and archetypes are really flavorful and present many opportunities to play criminals. My favorite archetype being the Flying Tiger, Tatooed One and Triad Enforcer. They are just plain cool!

Anything wrong?: While I appreciate the Pack Rat, it is the weakest archetype, specially next to the Junk Pirate since both get a pet. It is, however, not a bad archetype. Also, as I mentioned under the class entry, the weapon proficiency is a missed opportunity. Finally, I would have appreciated an archetype that changed your ki pool for panache, grit or luck, especially for non-Asian campaigns. Maybe more archetype for other classes belonging to gangs, but that is beyond the scope of a brand-new class’ book.

What cool things did this inspire?: I was just planning on running a fantasy campaign in modern Mexico, and this class is perfect for some of the villains I had in mind, being Maras Salvatruchas (Google them if you dare, they are scary). Apart from that, I’m planning on adding to the gangs, with a Geisha-ish, female only sisterhood coming out of the top of my head.

Do I recommend it? Yes, especially for grittier, down-to-earth campaigns even in a fantasy context. The underworld can be a difficult topic to run for some gamers, while being pure gold for intrigue-heavy campaigns. Don’t get fooled by the Japanese name, Yakuza can just as easily represent triads, mafia, narcos, hashashin, and hooligans! The unique roleplaying opportunities separate this hybrid class from both of its parents, and in some cases being better representations of ninjas than, well, the ninja class. So, my veredict is 5 poisoned shuriken of death!

Trivia: The Yakuza have been part of D&D since the Old Oriental Adventures, where it was a bit different that your base thief. It had a ki power where you could halve any damage a few times per day (which suspiciously sounds like certain rogue talent). You could also be a ninja at the same time, since any human character of any class in the old OA could be a ninja (it was sort of a multiclass).

As someone native of a country with another type of glorified criminals (narcos), I really appreciate adventurers that are part of a “criminal” organization. These type of characters are humans, and they can represent some of the most complex characters out there. Recently, criminals started giving away free gasoline, which of course was stolen, to the common citizen, as a result of the government suddenly increasing the price. But then you cannot trust them, since they stole it in the first place so…


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