Echelon Reference Series: Cleric (PFRPG) 3PP & PRD PDF

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Each book in the Echelon Reference Series is written to be a complete reference for a single topic.

This book focuses on the cleric class, the chosen champions and heralds of the gods.

They are a flexible class, with good core abilities and options that let them take on many roles.

In this book you will find 2 classes, 13 archetypes, 63 class features, 337 class subfeatures (including 40 domains, 90 subdomains, plus exalted versions of most of the domains and subdomains, and expanded channeling options for most domains), and 93 feats, all accessible or directly related to the cleric class. Also, 56 stat blocks for a mix of NPCs of levels 1-20, and monsters with levels in the cleric class.

This book contains material from the PRD and from third-party publishers.

This sales item contains the files for both the 3pp+PRD book and the PRD-only book.

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An review


This colossal reference-book clocks in at 542 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 9 pages of SRD, 1 page echelon reference dashboard, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a staggering 527 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

So, first things first – this is a reference work and I will rate it as such. This book focuses on the cleric and my review is based on the iteration that is based on both PRD and 3pp-material from a wide array of different sources. After a brief introduction, we begin with the cleric at a glance, including class skills by attribute, class features and the like; Rite Publishing’s by now venerable Divine Channeler is also listed in such a way.

From these base classes, we move on to the archetypes – these are provided alphabetically, noting their respective sources under the header, making it pretty easy to determine sources for them at one glance. Now, the respective class features have their name, their header if you will, in brown bubbles, with the type of the ability noted for each of them – also, available at a glance in a rather efficient way of presenting the material at hand. In a similar register card-like protrusion atop the bubble, we also have notes for the level in question where the ability is first gained – this is particularly helpful when an ability like channel energy is only partially replaced – to take a random example: The evangelist gets channel energy at 3rd level, losing a few of the progression steps in favor of sermonic performance, so the class feature bubble notes a “3.”

Slightly odd when first reading such a book: Below each bubble is the source of the respective ability noted as well – but there’s a reason for this! On another note: While the rules-formatting of the book is really impressive for a tome of this size, I did encounter e.g. references to cure/inflict spells that are not italicized – cosmetic, but hey – I do have to complain at least a bit, right?

Now, if you want something with more of a go-play angle and considered the application of archetypes to a given class work, then you will really enjoy the next chapter – cleric archetype classes basically presents the cleric class with the archetype in question already applied; presentation adheres to the same principles as the base class-depiction – at a glance summary, full information, breakdown by class feature. Each new class/archetype combo begins on a new page, btw. – on one hand, this means that you’ll have a few pages with some serious blank space, but on a plus-side, you can save ink/toner when just printing out one class/Archetype-combo – this makes the section rather helpful, as far as I’m concerned. So yeah, for me, saving ink/toner trumps coping with a bit of white space.

It is also here that you’ll probably get why abilities note their sources: archetype class combos note sources for the base class as well as for the supplemental rules-material used in making the respective combination.

But what if you want to look up a cleric concept by class feature? Well, chapter 3 has you covered: It lists the class features alphabetically (with type and level) and then proceeds to sport the class name/cleric archetype that sports the feature below it in an extra bubble – this is really helpful, though it would have probably been even more helpful with internal hyperlinking to the respective archetype or archetype class-combo. When a class feature is modified, you’ll find the modifications under their own sub-bubble denoting the archetype in question, which is really neat.

Now, I really loved this in the Barbarian-installment, but both class features and feats have helpful feat/ability-chain diagrams illustrating connections – channel energy + domain, for example…and here, we have the extremely helpful hyperlinks once again, so yeah, maximum utility achieved. (it should be noted that class features from other classes are NOT included in the book and thus, not hyperlinked – but that was to be expected and should not be taken as criticism of the pdf!) And yes, when applicable, level bubbles are included here as well! And yes, e.g. the divine channeler gets his own flow-chart-style diagram!

Interesting, btw.: Not *all* content herein is drawn from external sources – there are some domains, for example, that reference Echelon Explorations: New Domains – a book not available/released as per the writing of this review; this references the concept of hybrid domains, which is intriguing enough, though, as a minor nitpick, the second such example hybrid featured is missing the “1” in the first-level spell notation of domain spells gained and said domaijn also lacks the level-bubbles for the class abilities gained; not a big hassle, since the information is still within the text itself, but still worth mentioning.

Subdomains are provided with the base domain noted behind “/” in the header, which, once again, is useful; it would be even more useful, however, if the specifically noted parent domain had been internally hyperlinked – something that btw. also holds true for the exalted domains featured herein and their respective subdomains. Parent-domains listing and linking their subdomains with hyperlinks would have also imho improved how easily and quickly this chapter can be used.

The pdf also features variant channeling, with each of the entries listing both heal and harm options for your convenience; however, once again, the variant channeling options have not been hyperlinked to switch between the respective domain and its variant channeling – while I am a big proponent of the variant channeling having its own chapter, from a comfort point of view, internal switching between the two would have made sense to me.

In the section covering feats, we have some serious comfort, though. The book goes above and beyond, with feat-chain diagrams/flow-charts and feats noting domain channeling, when appropriate, in the appropriate bubbles. The book also contains a massive spell-list (though not the spells themselves – they have their own reference-installment) and the pdf moves on to a massive array of diverse NPCs for various CRs – some of these do note the racial traits of the respective race, but not all of the builds come with this supplemental information. In some cases, multiple statblocks of the same NPC are provided for various levels – namely Delfina Ambrosi’s stats.

The massive pdf also features a huge index spanning no less than 24 pages that help finding the respective abilities, feats, etc. even quicker. Beyond these, there is a massive 3-pages index that notes the location of the helpful, aforementioned diagrams.


Editing and formatting are very good and impressive for a tome of this size, though I did notice a couple of minor hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to an efficient two-column standard that is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf comes with excessive, nested bookmarks for your convenience and makes, combined with the indices, the navigation pretty simple. The pdf does feature a significant amount of internal hyperlinks, but not as many as I’d have liked.

Keith Davies’ massive reference book of cleric options is a great reference tome that helps collate a ton of information; it achieves its intended goal and makes for a well-made offering that should reduce the (electronic) book-keeping required at the table. It is a system-immanent issue that domains can’t be hyperlinked to spells (combining both books would exceed 1K pages!), but I was a bit disappointed to see the lack of internal hyperlinking between domains & subdomains – that would have added some seriously nice comfort beyond what’s already provided. The diagrams for the respective ability- and feat-chains make for a helpful offering, though.

As a whole, I really enjoyed this massive reference tome – we have a helpful tome here, though one that falls slightly short of some comfort it could have provided. Hence, my final verdict will represent that – to me, this is a 4.5-stars-pdf, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Now available!

Is this a collection of material previously printed elsewhere or is this new stuff? Do you expand on 3pp material, and if yes, which companies and which ideas are represented here?

Hm, I had thought my question from above would be easy to answer...

Publishers do not get any sort of notification when you pose questions. I will go poke Keith for you.

Oliver Volland wrote:
Hm, I had thought my question from above would be easy to answer...

Hi Oliver,

Thanks for your interest. I'll answer in two parts.

First, regarding "new content":

The short answer is "little new game text here". If you have all the same game references I do, you won't find any new feats or archetypes or the like here. This particular book does have three previously unpublished domains, but they account for less than 1% of the book, really.

The long answer is a little more involved.

The Echelon Reference Series started as a set of research documents for another project. I found while researching various topics that I had to go to too many places (currently, what, half a dozen hard covers of player options? plus four bestiaries, and quite a large number of 3pp PDFs) to try to get all of a topic. This eventually became unmanageable -- even something as simple as barbarian rage powers meant a stack of reference material several inches thick.

The relationships between the game elements is often unclear. It can be surprising just how many choices can hang off something (by my count, and including 3pp content, I see 44 feats that ultimately have "Shield Proficiency" as a prerequisite).

This is further complicated by 'design by exception', places where a new game element is created and defined as "just like that, except change this and this". Archetypes and subdomains are two of the bigger examples, but even many spells are defined in terms of each other. There are many game elements where you have to look at multiple pieces (often in different books) in order to get the entire picture.

So, these books have three main goals:

  • Gather related material in a single place and organize it.
  • Make clear (using diagrams) the relationships between the game elements
  • Ease understanding of the material by applying deltas from 'exception objects' such as subdomains and archetypes to their base objects

In a strict sense these books add 'no new game content'. What they do add is organization (all the pieces in one place -- in this case more than 15 archetypes, more than 50 domains, almost 90 subdomains, almost 100 related feats, I couldn't tell you offhand how many channeling options), clarification (each archetype is presented in it's original definition, and applied to the base class and presented as a class so you can see it all in one place; each subdomain is applied to its associated domains and each result presented as a new domain -- apart from the base domains), and navigation (each class feature, each class subfeature, and each feat is diagrammed to show how it relates to other game elements).

Second, regarding 3pp:

With the exception of adding a very small number of new domains (one of which is entirely to fix an oversight by the original publisher) the Echelon Reference Series does not generally add new game elements. As research documents I did not deem it appropriate at this time, because these books are intended to be a baseline of existing material to be built upon further.

As for 3pp present, I include many, pretty much all related content I can lay my mitts on. I have a rule of no 3pp content less than a year after publication, and none when it would mean basically republishing an existing book (such as Dreamscarred's psionics material, which is still primarily in Ultimate Psionics). Only where I think I am adding one of the three things -- concentration, organization, clarification -- do I consider it.

I do have other products in mind that will expand on things, and they may ultimately end up folded into these books, but at this point I feel the intended purpose of these books would be clouded by intruding and introducing new content.

Webstore Gninja Minion

Purple Duck Games wrote:

Publishers do not get any sort of notification when you pose questions. I will go poke Keith for you.

You can go to a company's page (like Purple Duck's, for example) and click on the Discussion tab to list all the Product Discussion threads for a particular company. There is an RSS feed icon for "Recent Threads" in the upper right corner.

Liberty's Edge

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You know, since this book (this series, actually) is made up almost entirely of material created and published by Paizo and other third party companies, it would be nice if the product description at least listed what 3PP are represented, perhaps even giving credit for what elements come from what 3PP.

Not to criticize, but it kind of seems like the least you could do ...

Marc Radle wrote:

You know, since this book (this series, actually) is made up almost entirely of material created and published by Paizo and other third party companies, it would be nice if the product description at least listed what 3PP are represented, perhaps even giving credit for what elements come from what 3PP.

Not to criticize, but it kind of seems like the least you could do ...

I don't disagree in principle, Marc, but that can run afoul of "don't use our name in advertising" policies. I have explicit license to advertise compatibility with Pathfinder (the PCL), but many PI declarations include book titles as PI and/or trademarks.

For that matter, the PCL is pretty specific that I can only name certain sources. I could copy the Buccaneer (Privateer? There's a pirate-based archetype) from one of the Pathfinder companions almost word for word and all I have to do is include the Section 15 information (and file off any setting-specific names), but I can't otherwise stamp it with the name of the source.

Ah, that's very helpful Liz, thank you.

Hi Marc,

I just PMed you links to this book and the barbarians book.

I reckon approximately a quarter of each book -- and at least half the time compiling it -- is new content that aims to make the material easier to use.

This includes:

  • applying archetypes to the base classes to show how the archetype looks... well, applied to the class. Instead of just the delta, you can see how it looks as a class, in context with the bits that remain.
  • applying subdomains to the associated domains, for similar reasons.
  • diagrams. So many diagrams showing the relationships between the various elements.

Simply compiling the information was perhaps a quarter of my time spent on this. Another third or so has been spent on layout (and I've just spent the last few weeks gutting and rebuilding the layout engine so I can make it better). The remaining time has been spent largely on the diagrams and other bits that hopefully will make the material easier to use.

Reviewed first on, then submitted to NErdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

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