This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Psioncis Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!
We begin this pdf with a welcome and well-explained discussion of the basic differences between psionics and psychic magic: As noted by yours truly before, psionics are drawn from an internal power, while psychic magic channels effects and draws its potency from an external source of power - but beyond that, the pdf goes on to discuss the interaction of both and the potential that can be drawn from their interaction in both narrative and mechanical terms, discussing how class features and overlaps do work between the two. (For an example how AMAZING this blend can be, look no further than the glorious Living legend penned by Forrest Heck...)
Now, that may all be nice and all, but let's look at the archetypes contained herein, shall we? We begin with the mesmerist mindrender, who replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Intimidate. He replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to saves versus fear and emotion effects. His touch treatment allows for the progressive removal of increasing fear-based conditions (including cowering when he can treat greater conditions). Additionally, the mindrender may expend one such use starting 2nd level to inflict minor untyped damage and temporarily eliminate immunity to fear, with 7th level allowing for the addition of mindrender terrors from the custom list. Said terrors can be activated as a swift action.
Now here's the thing: The terrors can delivered via both distressing touch and hypnotic stare. Terrors are governed by Cha, can be used class level + Cha mod times per day and the archetype retains compatibility with other terror-granting classes. The most powerful terror requires 16th level to choose and may kill, though a once per 24-hours hex-like caveat retains balance there. Temporary hit points for allies, fear-inflicting. At 14th level, inciting paranoia, leeching life and the implanting of multiple tricks represent some seriously nice options. Instead of manifold tricks, the mindrender can, at 5th level, employ his gaze to "mindlock" a foe, which leaves the foe free to act, but allows the mindrender to employ terrors usually delivered via distressing touch at range. 11th level is interesting: While the mindrender is generally immune o fear and emotion effects, he can willingly suspend this immunity - the more such detrimental spells affect him, the more his power grows. This is wording-wise a pretty impressive and uncheesable one. Kudos! The capstone nets DR, SR and 1/week may reincarnate upon dying from the fears of a creature affected by his fears and terrors! Very, very cool!
The second mesmerist archetype contained within would be the ringleader, who replaces consummate liar with bonuses to Diplomacy and Intimidate and Expanded Collective as a bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Wait, what? Well, the ringleader receives a cool variant of the psionic collective called carnevale, replacing painful stare: The tricks the ringleader can employ make excellent use of this telepathic, Will-enhancing bond, allowing for mobility increase and repositioning effects added or grant significant bonuses to allies/daze foes. 2nd level provides the option to 2/day as a swift action enhance the next spell cast, with the maximum spell level the ability can affect, allowing for the proper support of allies. Starting at 3rd level, the ringleader may use his gaze to force hostile creatures to become part of his carnevale, allowing the ringleader to move certain detrimental effects to the respective character and force the poor sap to reroll checks. Starting at 11th level, this does not even require hypnotic stare. Guided meditation may target any member of his carnevale, with 7th level allowing for a bold stare improvement taht can potentially affect mindless creatures at the cost of psychic inception. Creatures removed from the carnevale may be drawn back in at a glance, sans range, with higher level options allowing for almost Joker-like mocking debufss and the capstone rendering the carnevale almost addictive, penalizing the Will-save to resist the ringleader...oh, and those nearby may be drawn in as well. Oh BOY, I love this! The creepy ringleader of quasi supernatural powers is such an AMAZING and time-honored concept. Caligari, anyone? JAck of Tears? I adore this complex, amazing archetype.
The next archetype herein would be the athanatic channeler spiritualist receives psionics of up to 6th level, drawn from the dread list, with up to 20 powers known and a power points increasing to 120 at 20th level from a humble one, using Wisdom as governing attribute. Instead of knacks the archetype receives two dread talents and a phantom adjacent to the athanatic channeler may be affected by powers manifested on herself when within 5 ft., replacing share spells. 4th level replaces the detect undead ability, instead detecting creatures immune to fear and mind-affecting effects, which is one intriguing twist, allowing the channeler to treat detected creatures as not immune for Wis-mod rounds after detecting them, making a lame detect act as a two-step-set-up for a combo. Nice psionic alternative to the spiritualist.
The second spiritualist archetype within these pages would be the crystalline binder, who harbors the phantom in her psicrystal, gaining Psicrystal Affinity (reprinted for your convenience!) as a bonus feat at first level. Being close to the crystal nets bonuses to saves versus mind-affecting effects as well as skill bonuses determined by emotional focus and 1/day, they may shunt mind-affecting effects into the crystal, at the temporary cost of these skill bonuses. AT higher levels, this works even when the phantom is manifested. Starting at 3rd level, the crystalline binder may 3 + class level rounds fuse psicrystal and phantom into a powerful gestalt entity, granting it AC and DR as well as bite attack (properly codified: THANK YOU!) and later even attribute bonuses, making this entity...AMAZING! Phantom recall draws the phantom back into the psicrystal and at 17th level, the total duration of the gestalt entity is increased to 3 + twice class level. AWESOME.
The pdf also contains archetypes for phantoms, the first of these being the unpatterned, who gain a touch attack inflicting 1d6 + Cha-mod damage that bypasses all DR and resistances, but loses the damage progression of the usual slam attack for this reliable output, which makes it actually okay as far as I'm concerned! 4th level increases this damage to 1d8 and enhances CMB when sundering, further increasing that at 10th level. Interesting: When such a phantom attacks, it rolls 2d20: If it uses the higher result, it deals normal damage; if it uses the lower result, it increases the base damage dice by one die...which is a cool gamble, though, as a nitpick, the ability should specify that the choice must be made before results are made known. At 12th level, the unpattern can generate a 10-ft.-whirlwind attack instead of delivering touch spells. Really, really cool.
The final archetype herein would be the shadow aspect, dealing not with shadow as a physical concept, but more as a Jungian concept: An emotional negation that puts into question whether wilder or shadow aspect is truly in charge. The archetype receives access to a phantom which is harbored in the wilder's psyche and dispelled upon being reduced to - Con-score hit points. Manifesting the phantom requires 1 minute. It may be affected by spells (not italicized) and does not naturally heal. Being entities of base desires, they thankfully have a caveat that prevents them from manifesting alongside other pets. This replaces surge bond and improved surge bond.
The phantom thus called is affected by the negation phantom archetype, which replaces share spells with share powers and may deliver touch powers. They do not gain Skill Focus, but gain skill ranks determined by the emotional focus. The phantom also receives access to a limited array of powers that can be manifested as psi-like abilities. This special phantom also ties in with the shadow aspect's special wild surge, which is called shared surge: Increased manifester level at the cost of more power points, with 7th, 11th and 19th level providing increases to the bonuses. Cool: The archetype may expend psionic focus to pay for the increased power point cost, but doing so increases the chances of shadow enervation to 25%. Shadow enervation? Well, instead of the normal psychic enervation, the shadow enervation (base-chance 10%) ends psionic focus when the phantom is not manifested; if it is manifested, the two swap places - and yes, the wording accounts for dimensional lock (not italicized) and similar effects and even space issues. Additionally, when the phantom woud be dispersed by an attack, the wilder may choose to pay power points on a one-to-one ratio to prevent the dispersal of his phantom. This tether, however, also links the two entities together and means that both cannot be far away from one another.
As a standard action that requires expenditure of the psionic focus, the shadow aspect may unleash a 10 ft. Aoe force damage blast around the phantom, with damage scaling depending on shared surge, replacing thus surge blast. 4th level provides a buff to phantom attack, damage and saves in the aftermath of a shared surge as well as temporary hit points, with higher levels increasing the bonus and a 1/day Will-reroll thrown in for good measure, replacing surging euphoria. As a capstone, the archetype may 1/day manifest TWO phantoms at once, but at the cost of psionic focus and an inability to regain it while they're manifested. have I mentioned the fact that this cloning operation actually manages to get item-duplication and interaction,s omething also covered by the phantom wording, right? This archetype is glorious, high-concept, strong, and OOZES roleplaying potential. Its powerful pet is paid for by several key wilder tricks, making it a damn cool addition to the game.
The pdf also contains 4 feats: One for multiclassing phantoms (usual up to +4, up to character level formula), one for 6 more crystalline bond rounds, one that makes the phantom a free part of a collective and enhances synergy between phantom-granting and collective-granting class and a phantom feat that nets far hand (not italicized)at will while contained within the spiritualist's psyche or incorporeal.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, with only a couple of missed italicizations as hiccups. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise like a razor's edge, in spite of the highly complex subject material. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the art employed is amazing and thematically-fitting, dark art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.
Project lead Forrest Heck, with design by Doug Haworth, Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher (Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher are credited as designers for this one on OBS), delivers the second psionics augmented-installment that knocks my socks off so hard, they slap back on my feet. The athanatic channeler is the one archetype herein that I expected to see: You know, a well-made psionic spiritualist. It was pretty clear that this would be in the series sooner or later. But even that one has a couple of cool operations. I already discussed in my review of the amazing Living legend-archetype the fact that Occult Adventures bakes in roleplaying potential and smart options into the very classes and this pdf excels at employing exactly this design paradigm.
Let me state this load and clearly: This pdf is one all- killer, no filler gem of pure amazing, glorious, high-difficulty, high-concept designs. Even the most complex of rules-operations is executed with bull's-eye-precision. The ringleader and shadow aspect alone are worth twice the asking price and the other archetypes are similarly inspired and have truly distinct, unique and exceedingly impressive options. No kitten-failures; no ambiguities. Even when damage is untyped, it is untyped for a reason that works perfectly in the concept of both low-powered and high-powered gaming. The archetypes feature player agenda, intricate interactions of amazing class-features at the highest difficulty and complexity level, glorious visuals and high concepts. in short: This is anathema to bad cookie cutter design; this is the antidote to lame archetype design. It is precise, balanced, and reading the ringleader and shadow aspect made me really want to be a player for once: The roleplaying potential included in them is staggering and can be harnessed in highly intelligent and evocative manners towards the funny or creepy in equal amounts. This, in short, is alongside the absolutely stellar Living Legend, the second Psionics Augmented-pdf I consider an absolute must-own.
If you do not already have this glorious gem, get it right now. Unless you have serious design chops, you won't be able to pull off designs of this beauty and precision. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans the slightest hesitation. I so hope that this remains the direction of awesomeness the PA-series will continue to follow. This book has two archetypes that rank among my Top Ten PFRPG-archetypes. That good. Get it.