This interesting little supplement feels as if it had been rushed out the door, I'm almost checking the ink to see if it's still wet! You see, there is no introduction, no sense of direction. Just a brief bit of 'flavour' fiction that doesn't seem to connect and straight in to the first of three oriental-style classes.
The first is possibly the most fascinating and unusual one. The Tao is a spontaneous divine caster with a novel take on maintaining balance: TWO spell lists. The Ying spells are offensive, the Yang more gentle, tending towards curative and similar effects... and each time one is cast, the Tao's internal balance shifts in that direction. As the class is required to be neutral in alignment, it is quite important not to lose your balance! There's a neat chart provided to keep track.
The street samurai reads like he's been ripped straight out of a Shadowrun book and reskinned for Pathfinder. Somehow he doesn't fit in a mediaeval fantasy world, never mind the quasi-Japanese setting predicated by the rest of this book.
The third class is the Warrior-Poet. Fundamentally, he's a bard with attitude and suitable for those who want to play a more robust role than that of a minstrel. He'd fit well in standard fantasy as well as the oriental style and is worth a look if you find bards a bit wimpy for your taste.
An interesting addition is some martial arts styles: real-world martial arts forms written up as a series of feats that you can take if your character wants to develop in that particular direction. Whilst you are probably thinking 'monk' at this point, with care any character who wants focussed unarmed combat skills could make use of them. Aikido, Boxing, Tai Chi, JuJutsu, and Muay Thai are given this treatment and if the ones I do know are any example, these are about as good a table-top abstraction of each style as you're going to get.
I'm torn. This is a four-and-a-half-star book. The lack of coherence at the outset and the street samurai stop it being a five-star product, everything else is well up there!
Heroes of the East is a 18 page pdf that opens with a nearly blank first page, which is followed by a page of credits before moving to the 16 pages of content.
The bulk of the content includes a new class and two archetypes. I will mention each briefly below.
Making up 4 and a half two column pages, the Tao class’s thematic description fits a monastic character that mechanically aligns with the bard as far as flexibility is concerned. Although the class involves some bookkeeping beyond conventional classes, it is a great addition. Beyond minor errors, see discussion, this is four star material. Personally, I'd give it five stars.
The Tao is a moderately capable unarmed combatant that is limited to non-lethal damage in most situations. Although the Tao's unarmed damage does scale, it's spontaneous casting ability (think Qinggong Monk style spell use) really seems to be what makes the class viable. Although some flavor and description is included for the class along with a gray scale illustration (oddly posed, but well done otherwise), much of the content is devoted to mechanics.
A full spell list and Tao Scale (at the end of the pdf) are included for use with the class.
The two archetypes include The Street Samurai and Warrior Poet.
An archetype for the samurai class, the street samurai has garnered quite a bit of discussion. The current pdf only contains one version, so I am unable to know which version I have. Anyhow, the flavor is a great addition in my opinion and in the version I have the mechanics are still easy to follow. If you enjoyed LRGG's King of the Ring then you should like this archetype. Likewise, if you checked out King of the Ring and enjoyed, as I did, then I'd recommend checking this one out.
The street samurai includes 2 and a half pages of alternative class features for the samurai. Most of them focus on cinematic style combat tricks/maneuvers that enable the samurai add additional effects to their attacks beyond damage (bleeding attacks, disabling limbs, and the like). When it comes to which core abilities are replaced for the alternative features the flavor centered description does make the class tough to adjust. The levels for alternative abilities are included, but the replaced abilities are not listed until the end of the archetype description.
A Bard archetype, the Warrior Poet enables the bard to focus more on melee combat in exchange for diminished performance abilities and spell casting. These combat abilities are provided through access to fighter bonus feats and base d10 hit points among other adjustments.
Just over two pages, the Warrior Poet seems to be the easiest class/archetype in this pdf to add to a game. A well balanced and easy to follow archetype, the Warrior Poet feels a great deal like the magus, but with performance abilities and spontaneous casting. Though no illustration is included, the short opening provides a solid sense of the inspiration for the archetype.
The book's content closes with three pages of Martial Arts Style feats, including one of the best illustrations in the pdf. These feats include the martial art areas of Aikido, Boxing, Tai Chi, Jujutsu, and Muay Thai.
Each of the feats seems to attempt to follow the established progress of existing style feats. The feats for each area range from three to six, with a total of 21 (Aikido (3), Boxing (4), Tai Chi (6), Jujutsu (3), and Muay Thai (5)).
Though many of these feats are well thought out mechanically and thematically, the formatting and mechanics overall are not well done. This part of the pdf really disappointed me. I'd give this section two stars for execution.
The pdf closes with a full color version of the Tao Scale to print out and OGL / copyright information.
Overall, the pdf is full of some great ideas. If you don't mind copy and paste mistakes and formatting issues the product is worthwhile. If you are looking for style feats I would suggest looking elsewhere.
Heroes of the East is a 19 page PDF by Little Red Goblin Games. It has 2 cover pages, one page of OGL and one Page of the Tao Scale (we'll get into that when we get into the Tao), leaving 15 pages. The PDF has a new Class, the Tao, the Street Samurai archetype for the Samurai, The Warrior Poet alternate class for the Bard and a bunch of new style feats that represent real life fighting styles.
As far as the PDF itself, it's fairly nice looking. There is some black and white art in it, and charts for most of the archetypes. Various text errors are around, but nothing too large (In class features for the Tao it calls it the "standard Bearer", It says add 1/4th of your ki pool for the favored class bonus of the tao? Every level you get a whole 4th of a bonus would be very strong, haha, A weird space inbetween the letters fo and r in the street samurai's description are the ones that stand out). Other then those, the PDF seems fine, though I'm guessing it doesn't have any cover art? either that or it's missing.
Starting off very strong they start off with the completely new class, the Tao. He's got a d8 HD, 3/4 BAB, 6 levels of spellcasting, and Unarmed Strike progression as a Monk/improved unarmed strike, but as a caveat, only when dealing nonlethal damage. The most interesting feature about it, of course, is it's casting pool/abilities. It casts via Ki, very similar to a psionics. They cast spontaneously so they don't need to worry about anything to that effect of preparing spells, however it doesn't list how many spells known it has, leaving me to assume it has it's full spell list at all times (well what it can cast of that level), which could be dangerous. It has two spell lists, a Yin Spell list, focusing on Inflict spells, Lawful Spells and Offensive Buffing and a Yang spell list, Focusing on Cure spells, Chaotic spells and Defensive buffing.
Each time it casts an Yin or Yang Spell, it moves a step on the Tao scale, giving it a token in respective part (Yin or Yang). The Tao scale is a 10 scale going from 5 in Yin and 5 in Yang. The more steps it makes into either Yin or Yang, the stronger they'd be, up to +2 CL on Yin or Yang depending on how far they've gone. If they go too far into either of them, their alignment changes and they are forced to spend 1-7 days atoneing. A good way to balance out people and make them make different choices in what they are doing in combat.
It can remove Yin or Yang tokens by casting spells that are opposite (casting a yang spell removes a yin token and visa versa) or at 6th level it can cast Dispel Magic removing a token as well, eventually upgrading to greater dispel at 12th. Staying in Yin or Yang provides bonuses as a you can do more damage with your centering strike, or possibly have always active detect law/chaos on.
The Martial aspect of the Tao is also explored upon with it's nonlethal strikes. Eventually they start debuffing with their natural attacks, using their Ki to do that. They also get Trigrams, which are similar to stances (but you can have them up with stances as well), getting fists that will reduce DR, longer ranged fist strikes, or more attacks. A very cool way to customize your Tao, and a really really good reason to stay balanced. Eventually they get quivering palm just like a monk.
For their capstone they are unable to age, and get nindan strikes, which give him the ability to age people with his fists, a very flavorful if mechanically not so useful ability.
All in all they seem pretty balanced, though their spell list being around at all times could be problematic, it has the ability to balance itself out by not going too far in one direction. It basically will fill the same slot a bard does in a party, being a supportive caster/frontliner.
The next thing up is the Street Samurai. When I downloaded the PDF, it didn't include the "clean" version of it. I could understand it was a nice experiment to try for an archetype, but as it stands, this archetype feels more like a Vanilla Ice album then a street samurai. Maybe a blurb would be nice, but eh... I guess I was expect more Mugen from Samurai Champloo then Justin Beiber's rap album.
The Warrior Poet is a bard alternate class that basically acts as a main BSF type while bolstering the rest of it's allies like a bard would. It gives up spellcasting and some skills per level for a full bab, a better hitdie, better armor/weapon proficiency and some different performances. All and all, a snazzy fit especially if the Cavalier isn't your fit for a leader styled warrior.
Last and certainly not least, there are new fighting style feats that are based on real life fighting styles. Always imagined your monk as more of a Boxer, using strong blows over many quick ones? Totally got that covered. Nothing TOO out of line with them, just good fair feats.
All and all, it's strange to see a publisher with such professional products with a low number of reviews. Not counting the issue with the Street Samurai (since there IS a clean pdf somewhere), this rounds out at a 3.5, up to a 4.
It was a test to see if things written "in voice" was something that would catch on. We've got both good and bad feedback on it.
Trace Coburn wrote:
I don't know if I'll ever buy or use this supplement, but g!*+##n if the DTRPG preview of the street samurai isn't the funniest PFRPG product I've ever read. 'Strong' or not, the informal and colourful language is a refreshing change of pace. :D
We can do a plain release as well. (If the stars align, we can do it by tonight, if not we can probably get something out by this weekend.)
Part of the reason I got the PDF was due to a friend playing a samurai who may have fit the archetype. I brought him over to check it out, and he found it a bit painful to read. Eventually we were just scanning for keywords. (He ended up not liking it enough to ask for a change of archetypes, partially due to them still getting the mount).
Are the title page and left column of the Tao class (page 3) supposed to be empty? The title page is showing as completely white with the little red goblin and pathfinder icons only. Credits on the second page appear correctly, but the third page has a right column that includes "Heroes of the East" and nothing else.
So far I have to say the ideas in the pdf are pretty awesome. I really like the Tao class and the way modern day martial arts are represented in the feats. However, the pdf is riddled with copy and paste mistakes and typos; for example, the Tao is referred to as a sorcerer and "that" appears instead of "the" in the "Way of the Harmonious Spirit" style feat.
Considering the updates already made to the pdf it seems a shame to pester you all for an edited version, but figured I'd mention the issues. Hope to work up a review.
A question and couple quick notes before I work up a review.
Question: The Tao seems to employ both counters and a balance mechanism. Counters accumulate (and may be expended) while the Tao's balance shifts back and forth (due to spell use / class abilities). Am I understanding the mechanics correctly?
Page 15, "Tuishou" feat seems to be missing text or suffering from phrasing issues.
"While using tai chi you may expend a ki point as a free action as part of the reposition attempt this style grants you as a free action instead of an immediate reaction"
Is the feat intended to let you spend a ki point in order to make the reposition attempt as a free action? I think that is what the feat is trying to get at, but the wording is confusing.
"Internal Alchemy" benefits has both "HD" and "level;" using "character level" or just "HD" would work better.
Page 16, the "Arm Bar" feat seems to also include the text for the "Momentum Redirection" style. Looks to be just a couple of formatting mistakes (hard return / feat title formatting missing).
Muay Thai style is a bit to effective as the use of commas is making my eyes bleed ;-)