This installment of the psionics augmented-series clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 56 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So, what does this pdf cover? Well, on a basic level, we are introduced to a seventh psionic discipline, Athanatsim - which is something I've been wanting for a long time. Let me reiterate: Back in 2nd edition, Ravenloft's psionics liches ranked arguably among the nastiest foes you could face; the by now classic 3.0 module by Malhavoc Press, "If Thoughts Could Kill" featured an epic storyline that may see the end of one psionic discipline in favor of a psionic necromancy in case a foe triumphed...and ever since these two, I've been wanting a psionic version of animating the dead. At the same time, this provided a kind of thematic disjoint - here represented as a tapping into spiritual energies for a fluff-wise representation of how psionics can affect the dead.
Athanatism's specialists are known as conduits and receive Bluff, Sense Motive and Perception as class skills and at 2nd level, the class gets Negative Energy Affinity as a bonus feat as well as the option to 1/day replace a known athanatism power for another athanatism power of an equal level - yes, this means that the discipline nets a free wild-card, which is pretty powerful. Starting at 8th level, the conduit receives a 30 ft.-aura that can be activated for class level rounds per day. Foes in this area treat it as difficult terrain, can't make AoOs and their attacks are penalized by 1/2 conduit's Int-mod, min 1. And we have a big issue - no save, free action-based AoE AoO-negation? That kills all kinds of builds. Overpowered and dire need of a nerf. You may also expend your psionic focus as a swift action to make a for staggered at Fort DC 13+ Int-mod to negate. Finally, at 14th level, 1/day, you can make a melee touch attack, being treated as incorporeal...instantly killing the foe.
Wait...what? Well, wait a second - you see, you rip the soul out of the target, gaining a shadow-minion for the duration; thereafter, the soul returns to the target's body, which rests at a stable -1 hp. The capstone, on the other side, is pretty weak, an always on ghost touch and allows for the psion to become incorporeal and, on a nitpicky side, fails to specify that it's gained at 20th level. In case you do not have the base discipline's benefits: Yes, Athanatism's discipline abilities are damn cool in their imagery...but they're also power creep when compared to the other disciplines: The aura is strong and can neuter whole builds sans save; A similar issue pertains the death touch: While killed, a downed foe is considered RAW to be an unattended object and as such, is an easy target for instant destruction. Worse, the lack of a save or HD cap makes this a guaranteed one-punch-dragon-killer. Not gonna get anywhere near my group. The save DC for the aura also deviates from the formula-standard as established in e.g. the Last Respite ability, which established 10 + 1/2 level + key-ability modifier as a standard, introducing a kind of internal rules inconsistency to the fray. Over all, I am pretty disappointed by the discipline's basic rules array - cool and visually stunning, sure...but also one that represents an unnecessary power-creep and some rules-aesthetic discrepancies to the fray.
Now a new path obviously does also require new class features for the respective psionic classes. Ancestral psychic warriors add a conduit power to their powers known at 1st level and every 6 levels thereafter, but the Ancestral does not receive heavy armor proficiency. 9th level allows for 1/day the tapping into ancestral powers versus a category of foes; +1/day at 11th level. Additionally, we get the ancestral path, which allows for better AC versus the incorporeal as well as Will-save re-rolls - the psychic warrior options here are concise and cool - two thumbs up! The Animist Aegis can only shape his suit into an astral mantle that is treated as hide armor for mechanical purposes, with 2nd level providing free energy resistance customization and 10th level nets the improved armor customization. Additionally, the class receives a gris-gris-based bonus to AC versus incorporeal attacks with variable benefits to add to the fray via a short ritual. The Blood Talisman ability of the archetype is somewhat opaque, though: "If the animist has hit that enemy with a charge attack and dealt damage this turn, he may instead gather blood as a free action." Does this mean "instead of damage? Instead of what? On the plus-side, the customization options provided are intriguing and thematically fitting - from reduced miss chances to rage-like effects, the options are neat.
The Bokron marksman gets a so-called conjure at 1st level, 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter.v Conjures can be activated as a swift action for as long as psionic focus is maintained, with saves equal to 10 +1/2 class level + Wis-mod to negate - and they are interesting: From fear to attracting the ranged attacks, there are some nice options here, with expenditure of the focus for increased benefits as higher level options. Nice one. Bottler Dreads are truly unique - they receive scared bottles, which contain haunts they can unleash upon foes, utilizing a unique mechanic that scales with the levels - I love this one, though its truly interesting component would be the concise and actually working rules to properly bottle haunts encountered or hijacking them - this archetype is absolutely unique and awesome.
Channeler Wilders with a unique surge that offers three different surge-effects based on tapping into the motions of the deceased - including less enervation-chances and minor buffs and a debuff surge effect to target foes - again, a solid and neatly-crafted one. The Ghostblade Soulknife is very interesting in that it allows the soulknife to heal foes with the blade - thankfully, in a limited way that actually prevents abuse - kudos! The archetype also features a series of exclusive blade skills utilizing the duality of life and death, light and darkness, including inflicting crit-based temporary vulnerability to positive or negative energy effects.
The Harnesser Vitalist is powered by his guardian spirit and additionally, keeps members of the collective alive for longer and also helps fortify the members against death effects. The truly interesting component of this one, though, is the ability to possess the members of the collective - which allows for truly unique tactical options in combat - intriguing indeed! The Hounforge psions replaces the discipline and all associated benefits with the option to create a spirit doll that then serves as an anchor for a scaling, deadly eidolon - interesting indeed! Kalfore cryptics have a thoroughly interesting ability that allows them to forgo disrupt pattern damage in favor of spirit's marks, which can be used to force rerolls upon targets, disrupting the patterns of fate, also sporting an interesting synergy with hexes etc.
Soul Conductor Tacticians conjure forth spirits of the deceased to provide easier, ranged aid another. The free flanking assistance these spirits can provide also renders a number of builds extremely deadly - so, while not broken per se, this aspect might need GM oversight, depending on the potency of foes at your table, with higher levels allowing for the limited negation of negative effects as well as the expenditure of these aiding spirits at higher levels. Finally, the shackler psychic warrior, who also gets additional conduit powers as well as the option to bind the spirits of the slain to his body, with the shackler path, which sports spectral shackles and immunity ignoring demoralizes for a kyton-ish one.
The pdf obviously also features new feats, as hinted before - these are interesting indeed, allowing psioncs to shelter their souls in their psicrystals to negate otherwise immediately deadly effects - or there would be one feat that allows you to bind a spirit and pay it via dreams etc. for the limited Psi-like abilities this provided; though there is a lack of italicization for the feat's invisibility-effect. There would also be a strange one that allows for a three-personality psiycrystal. Controlling or deceiving spirits and healing via ability burn is also interesting -and it covers a caveat that prevents abuse!
Also rather intriguing would be two prestige class archetypes that modify the Body Snatcher and Psion Uncarnate to become the Gravebound and Phatom, both of which are rather interesting - the Gravebound bending the spirits of the dead instead of the living, while the phantom instead transforms into a spirit, with appropriately lethal touch attacks. I did like these options for them.
The pdf then goes on, obviously, to prevent a diverse and massive array of powers; on a nice side, these do feature quite an array of augmentation options (often allowing you to add whole new effects or change just about every parameter of a power), some of which are even tied to negative levels gained. The array of powers provided here is pretty much an intriguing one that further emphasizes the themes of spirits, possessions etc. alongside options that temporarily make you count as undead for energy and spell/power-interactions. Utilizing powers to create haunts in a given place. Powers to generate ghosts and similar undead as well as killed foes/echoes of the dead-style investigation-centric abilities can be found here...and yes, there is a Gnadentöter-style mercy-killing power here. And yes, some powers are essentially brilliant story-devices: Orphic Descent sans you to the underworld at night, allowing you to return with a deceased person, returning them to life. There would btw. also a psionic harm-effect and an option to exchange ability drain/damage or hijack haunts. Oh, and a bigger amnesia-effect can also be found here - hearkening to Lethe's legendary waters...
This is not where the book stops, though - the supplement features several monsters: From the dread husk-creating Egophiles that generate soul-deprived husks and clothe themselves in strange cloaks of FACES. Yes, this is disturbing and pretty cool. Cocoon-based mindborn are intriguing and there would be the mirror-inhabiting mirror shade as well as the mirror-bound prisoners. The in-nightmare-deceased Nattmara and the evil whisper outsiders complement this one for an overall great little collection of monsters.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed not much to complain about. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous full-color artworks and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Andreas Rönnqvist, Jeremy Smith and Doug Haworth deliver a pdf with which I honestly got off on the wrong foot. When I started reading this one, I was thoroughly disenchanted by the discipline's OP options that also require slightly more precise wordings...and feared this book would be an exercise in such problematic pieces.
Well, turns out, it's not. Instead, this installment of Psionics Augmented is by far the most refined in the whole series and manages to provide a thoroughly compelling array of options that resonate well with me: We have a full array of thoroughly unique blend of smart options that juggle highly complex concepts in mathematically viable and cool ways, with neat rules-language to boot.
While not as streamlined as e.g. Ultimate Psionics, there are a lot of interesting options that resonate with iconic concepts and indeed, after the initial issue of the discipline in dire need of nerfing, the vast majority of concepts here had me grin from ear to ear. This massive supplement, while not perfect, is certainly an excellent little book; granted, you may need to slightly tinker with some minor components herein...but overall, this supplement is downright inspired and does not shirk away from highly complex topics. Now, obviously, I should bash on the discipline's power a bit more; it is water on the mills of anyone who ever complained about psionics...but that would be unfair to an otherwise rather refined book. In the end, the minor imperfections of this book are outclassed by the glorious components herein, most of which, with the glaring exception of the discipline of all things, are expertly balanced. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.