The Shapeshifter's Handbook (PFRPG) PDF

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The Shapeshifter's Handbook is an expansion to the Alteration sphere from the Spheres of Power magic system. Inside these pages you’ll find new talents, new feats, new racial abilities, new incantations, and GM information for making the most of alteration magic in your games.

The Shapeshifter's Handbook is book 7 in a multi-part series.

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion handbooks clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction to the matter at hand, we begin with a new Monk archetype (compatible with unchained monks as well), the Beastsoul Monk, who gains Transformation instead of the usual level 1 bonus feat. (This would btw. be a feat that nets you access to a no-spell point cost alternate form). Starting at 2nd level, Hybrid Transformation and Improved Transformation are added to the bonus feats available. Transformation may be chosen multiple times, with each feat granting a new form. The archetype may employ natural attacks while flurrying, gaining Str-mod to damage with them while flurrying, but the monk loses the increased unarmed strike damage. The archetype may choose from a number of monk abilities and instead gain the Alteration sphere - to nitpick: The reference to the standard monk refers to these as ki powers, which is inaccurate. Unchained monks lose all ki powers in favor of the sphere. The archetype is a low caster, using ki instead of spell points and CLs don't stack with Advanced Magical Training (not properly capitalized).

The second archetype would be the experimentalist thaumaturge, who gains the ability to generate casting attribute modifier vials, so-called alchemical boosts, which may be drawn and consumed as a standard action, granting temporary boosts to sphere-based casting, with the bonus scaling over the levels., but each time the boost is used, the character has a percentile chance of being nauseated. Additionally, such a boost nets the benefits of an Alteration sphere trait known, which are increased in increments of 5 levels. This allows for synergy with shapeshift and the benefits may thankfully not be stacked. This replaces forbidden lore. 2nd level yields the option to preserve and consume the remnants of dead creatures, allowing for either the disguise as the creature or mimicking of its abilities - by choosing an appropriate sphere talent. This is pretty much wide open and would really have needed imho a table of sample correlations between critters and sphere talents - could e.g. a creature with lunge grant the thaumaturge pounce? Am I missing something? Both are options of Bestial Reflexes, after all...The maximum cap of samples that may be preserved is increased at 6th level and every 4 thereafter and a handy sidebar allows for alternate dressing for anyone not comfortable with the potentially cannibalistic implications of the option. The archetype, unsurprisingly, gets the Alteration sphere with either Lycanthropic or Fleshwarper as drawback and 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter net alchemist discoveries instead of invocations. Instead of bonus feats, they gain the option to choose sneak attack instead of an alchemist discovery.

The protean shifter gains the Alteration sphere and the Beast Soul drawback with Anarchic Transformation, which is gained as normal. This modifies shapeshifter and the archetype gains breadth of form, which lets you, as a standard action, grant yourself an Alteration sphere talent you did not have, provided you meet the prerequisites. This lasts only temporarily and thankfully has a hard daily cap of 3 + 1/2 class level uses per day. Multiple uses do not stack and 5th level yields 2 talents, or the option to select one as a move action. The action economy improves throughout the levels, at 9th and 17th level, with 13th level increasing this all to 3 talents. Instead of endurance, 3rd level nets quick transformation. This is pretty wide-open and potent - not an option I'd allow in a gritty game, but suitable for most.

The second shifter archetype herein would be the warshifter, who gains the Lycanthropic drawback in conjunction with the Alteration sphere. They add Acrobatics to their class skills gain access to 3 maneuvers from Broken Blade, Primal Fury and Thrashing Dragon and has 3 maneuvers readied at first level, 1 stance and increases that to 15 maneuvers known, 7 readied, up to 5 stances and maximum maneuver-level of 6th. This replaces the transformation-tree of abilities and bestial traits. Yes, you read right - this is a Path of War/Spheres of Power-crossover archetype. Personally, I think the systems don't blend too well and the archetype uses two of my least favorite disciplines, but your mileage may vary.

The Resizer mageknight archetype loses medium armor proficiency (which is not bolded properly) and gains Size Change of the Alteration sphere, treating class level as CL, lasting for 2 rounds + 1 per level - and the resizer may choose to reduce the number of traits gained from shapeshift to retain use of the ability while subjected to it. This replaces 1st level's magic talent. At 11th level, this may be used as a swift action sans paying spell points and may be used at the cost of one spell point as an immediate action, replacing mystic defense.

2nd level lets the character ignore size penalties when changing sizes and is treated as mystic combat, but replaces it. 7th level nets permanent size changes. 15th level nets further size increases, allowing the character, with the right talent, to become gargantuan, with the right advanced talent even Fine or Colossal, replacing draw power. The mystic combat options net you grab and allow you to beat foes to pulp with their buddies, which is pretty cool and generally concisely-presented. I am not sold on this one: Size increases can be incredibly potent and the lack of costs at high levels and ridiculous sizes can be pretty problematic in some games, particularly sans the penalties. Not in all games, mind you, and I can see this work well for some campaigns, but it is an archetype that requires some serious GM-oversight and player mastery.

We do gain 3 arsenal tricks that tie in with the new wild fang property, summon morphic weapons as Grafted ones, and add wild (see SoP) to summoned armor and shields. 8 bestial traits cover temperature adaption, better spider climbing, grab, grafted weapons, better jumping...and Leaping Attack,. which is OP: Jump as part of a charge - if you clear the target's height (which is NO issue, considering how far you can boost such checks...), you treat it as flat-footed and increase threat range - worse, the threat-range increase stacks, which is a violation of how such things usually happen. I'd strongly suggest banning this. Shaping limbs into weapons and growing spines are neat tricks.

Graft Weapon is also available as a Mystic Combat option and we get better grappling, silvered weapons (and spell point auto-crit confirming versus polymorphed creatures, which BEGS to be abused to smithereens...) as well as the option to cancel out shapechanging via spell point empowered attacks.

The third chapter is massive and includes a ton of really versatile Alteration sphere talents - Aberrant Body, for example, unlocks acid spit, flanking immunity, an aboleth's mucus cloud (airborne, potentially choking foes - though thankfully, that can be offset by cleaning the mucus!) and roper strands. Aerial Agility unlocks Hovering, improved maneuverability and wingover as options. Agile Transformation nets +2 dodge bonus (Notes stacking with other dodge bonuses - which is redundant; dodge bonuses stack with each other.), Evasion (not italicized, which it should be in this context), +4 initiative (ouch) and uncanny dodge (improved if you already have it). That's, again, one talent. We can go through the whole chapter this way - we get aquatic tricks, ooze tricks, etc. and even find swarm transformations here. Now, the base SoP's Alteration sphere justifiably is considered to be one brutal array of options and this further enhances that - if you're looking to make a deadly shifting character, this one will yield enough material with the versatile traits available for each of the talents. Comparable spheres will certainly look with unmitigated envy at the potent options here and a player with sufficient system mastery can make some truly frightening builds here.

The advanced talents chapter allows these options to be further enhanced - diffused swarm forms, energy immunities and vulnerabilities, fusing two creatures into an amalgam, regeneration, the Size Mastery talent that allows for further size control or Star-spawn Transformation allow for potent tricks. All in all, a nice chapter for the more high-powered campaigns.

The pdf also sports 3 incantations - one to permanently fuse two creatures, one to make shapechangers and one to reconfigure the flesh of a target. Big plus: The Adaptation-section provides guidance for generating your own content within the confines of the Sphere, using the platypus as an example. The feat chapter sports aligned attacks as soon as 5th level (which is too soon), free counterspells when initiating a grapple (cool: Gets interaction with anti-grapple effects right), feats that help with Fusion tricks, Cursed shapeshifts, high-level grapple/swallow whole synergy, reflexive disarming transformations, Disguise shifts and retaining some tricks while under Transformation. A tree for Two-Head-enhancements can be found and we do get the option to spit venom, reflexive poison ichors...pretty extensive array here.

The pdf does sport 3 nice drawbacks as well as 4 traits and 14 alternate racial traits for a variety of races beyond the core. The equipment section contains a lycanthrope hunter's kit, oil that helps against shifters, an iteration of the transformative wolf pelt and a stabilizing vest. The 7th chapter provides advice on handling shapeshifting in game (kudos for the inclusion!) as well as handy tables that correlate creature types and form talents as well as form talents and casting abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal, rather impressive on a rules-language level - while I noticed a couple of formatting glitches and hiccups, more than usual for the series, the complex rules-language and operations required have been handled rather well as a whole. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf uses a blend of nice original pieces and stock art. The supplement comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Stoeckle's take on shifters should put a smile on the faces of players, particularly those who enjoy tinkering and optimizing the material: The already extremely impressive array of options of the base sphere has been significantly expanded by this book, adding a serious array of versatility to the arsenal of options herein. This should be considered to be a must-buy for any fan of the Alteration-sphere, though GMs should talk with their players about some of the combos herein: The sheer versatility of options allow you to make truly fearsome shapechangers, to the point where they may be a bit overbearing for more conservative campaigns.

That being said, this pdf should most certainly be considered to be a required purchase for fans of the spherecasting engine - as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


Exactly What I Was Hoping For

5/5

Disclaimer: I am a Patreon backer for the campaign creating these handbooks, and I paid the full price for this product.

All right, the seventh handbook for Spheres of Power has (finally) been released, and I've been looking forward to this one - I have a character who specializes in Alteration, and you can bet I plan to make use of this. Let's dig right into the content, shall we?

After its introduction, the book moves right into several new archetypes. The Beastsoul Monk is an archetype for both the normal and Unchained Monk, and switches their focus from unarmed strikes to natural attacks. They also make heavy use of the Transformation feat (a new option detailed later in the book), as well as feats linked to it. In addition, they can learn the Alteration Sphere and its associated talents in place of ki abilities... so they're not quite a caster, but they're close. This is a flavorful, interesting choice for anyone who wants to play a nature-themed monk (or something more exotic - that would work, too).

The next archetype is the Experimentalist, an option for the Thaumaturge focused on alchemic boosts and harvesting parts of dead creatures for later use. If you like the idea of chugging drinks for power, this archetype definitely has options. The book also has a sidebar discussing the ethics of this, and notes that an alternative to eating dead creatures (such as taking "ethereal essence" or "morphic energy") can be done with no mechanical impact. It's also noted that it may be possible to purchase samples instead of harvesting them.

The third archetype, the Protean, is focused on the Shifter - and gives them access to the Breadth of Form ability, which allows them to access Alteration talents they don't actually know. This ability improves as they increase in level, and it's best-used by someone who truly knows their options and has the most common choices written down. XD Either way, a solidly flexible option.

The Resizer is a Mageknight archetype, and as its name implies, it focuses on growing and shrinking as-needed. At second level, they ignore the penalties for changing size (but still get the bonuses), and eventually get to stay whatever size they want without even having to concentrate. So, if you've ever seen the movie Ant-Man, it's pretty much that. There's also a pair of Mystic Combats exclusive to this archetype, and I'm not going to lie, getting to use your enemy as a weapon is awesome. XD

The Warshifter is another Shifter archetype, and it makes use of the Path of War rules (by Dreamscarred Press) - yes, that means you can now easily have a spherecasting initiator without spending feats or using gestalt rules. Hooray! The Warshifter has access to the Broken Blade, Primal Fury, and Thrashing Dragon disciplines.

Following this, we get a selection of new arsenal tricks, bestial traits, and mystic combats that any character with access to them can use.

Now for the part of the book that really matters - the new basic talents. The real power of Alteration is the ability to adjust yourself based on the situation, and hoo boy has that been expanded. Aberrant Body, for example, teaches traits for things like spitting acid, sprouting eyes so you can't be flanked, or creating roper strands. There's improved flight, enhanced agility, and options based around the aligned outsider types - and even transforming limbs into weapons (*Cue evil laughter*). You can even turn yourself into an object, which has all sorts of horribly creative uses.

So, has this book truly expanded what a shapeshifter can do? Yes. Yes it has. There are a lot of fun options here, and following Spheres' usual style, many of them are excellent at supporting ideas. Want to play a character who transforms into an angel? You can do that. Want to turn into a swamp monster? You can do that. Want to erupt into a swarm of bees? You can do that. Want to hurt other people by transforming them into something weaker? You can do that.

The next chapter, as usual, is the Advanced Talents. Remember, these are not normally allowed in games - mostly because they tend to seriously mix things up. Among the options here are fusing creatures together, drastically increasing the offensive power of transformations, or removing a target's fast healing. There's a few Incantations as well, but perhaps more importantly, there's the Adaptation section. The designers of Spheres of Power are completely aware that it would be difficult to create a talent for every conceivable form - there's just so much variety that it doesn't make sense to do that. We don't get a table the way we did for the Destruction sphere, but the book does offer advice on creating new talents for specific transformations, and GM's ought to read this before rejecting a player's wild idea. Who knows? It might be workable after all.

Moving into the next chapter, we get the Player Options, starting with new feats. Unsurprisingly, most of these are related to either general transforming or specific, related class abilities. There's also the Transformation feat and a number of options that go with it, which allows you (at the start) to morph into one specific creature. There are also several new Combat feats, a trio of sphere-specific drawbacks (which can be taken for bonus talents), and several traits. This handbook takes things a step further by offering alternate racial traits for quite a few races, and players interested in using the Alteration sphere should definitely look through this part.

To wrap things up, we have the new equipment options (from a lycanthrope hunter's kit to a new weapon property and some specific items, including anti-shapeshifter stuff), some advice for GM's running characters that make heavy use of transformation, and a quick-reference guide for which form talents are associated with which creature types (and what kind of components they can normally fulfill - note that Spherecasters do not have components by default, but can take them through drawbacks).

This PDF is 42 pages long in total (minus a few for the covers, OGL, etc.), full-color, and adheres to the standard two-column layout. Editing was mostly sharp, although I did notice a few hiccups, but those weren't enough to seriously detract from the product. Overall, this book is exactly what I hoped it would be, and it's a definite buy for any Alteration-focused character. My final rating is 5/5 stars, and given that I love transforming characters, it's also a favored product that's definitely going to see some use.


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Aaaaaand reviewed! I would've posted it up yesterday, but somehow I missed the original comment here. XD


Under Resizer "Weapons and Armor Proficiencies" is not Bolded.

Under Aberrant Body "Gibbering" is not Italicized.


Under Agile Transformation "Evasion" is not Italicized.


This is a *very* good book for creating shapeshifting themed characters. Not only does it give additional options for Spheres Alteration users, it gives players the option of taking the Transformation feat to make their character into a supernatural shapeshifter with a single alternate form just like a Kitsune.... without even being a spellcaster.

That transformation feat is super useful and flavorful. You could take it (with improved transformation for size change) in order to give any monster a human form that doesn't detect as magical. Or you could create a level 1 human fighter who can turn into a medium dragon. Or you could create a character with a Wolf form, and take Hybrid Transformation for a hybrid form for a werewolf themed character. The options are endless and I love it :D


As I like to say... Spheres of Power is about saying "yes" to your ideas. XD That's one of the reasons I love it so much.

(Incidentally, are you interested in leaving a review? I'm sure the creators would love to hear more of your thoughts - and that could help influence the content we'll get in future handbooks.)


GM Rednal wrote:

As I like to say... Spheres of Power is about saying "yes" to your ideas. XD That's one of the reasons I love it so much.

(Incidentally, are you interested in leaving a review? I'm sure the creators would love to hear more of your thoughts - and that could help influence the content we'll get in future handbooks.)

I was thinking of leaving one, though I'd have to put it on drivethrurpg.com since I bought it there ;)


p.20 under Serpentine Transformation "Swallow Whole" is not Italicized.


The one thing in the book that I have to complain about is the "Unnatural Transformation" drawback. This could have been a very flavorful drawback option with the way it leaves signs of your true identity and makes you weak to silver weapons while shapeshifted. However, the silver weapons weakness is too extreme.

Make a will save with a DC equal to the damage dealt to you with a silver weapon or lose the transformation? You know that damage based DCs are nearly impossible to make at mid to high levels and especially when you might have to make several saves during a full attack, right?


Star-Spawn Transformation lists "Aberrant Transformation". No such talent exists; it should probably read "Aberrant Body".


Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Can the Favored Form feat be applied to Blank Form, or does that not work since it's a form you get from taking the Alteration sphere, rather than an Alteration sphere talent?

Edit: Also, for the Favored Curse magic trait, is any Alteration talent a form talent (such as Size Change or Twisted Transformation), or does it have to specifically be a talent that grants a form (such as Anthropomorphic Transformation, Serpentine Transformation, etc.)


Base Spheres are also Magic Talents, so by my reading, Favored Form can indeed work with the base ability.

For Favored Curse, I would say that it has to specifically be a talent that grants a form. Anything that only grants traits probably shouldn't qualify as a "form" talent, even if they're not marked as such.


Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Another question: For the Twisted Transformation Alteration talent, the Seal Eyes, Twist Legs, and Wrench Stomach traits say that the target needs to make a Fortitude save to avoid them, however, a shapeshift already offers a Fortitude save to avoid all traits associated with it; does this mean that targets get two (or more) Fortitude saves to negate the effects, one for the shapeshift carrying those traits and one the traits themselves?


I think they only need to make one Fortitude save in order to resist those negative effects - the fact that they were mentioned in the traits was basically a reminder that, yes, enemies do get a saving throw to resist the power

Requiring someone to make two saves of the same type at the same time against one effect would be extremely unusual. I mean, Reflex Save to reduce damage if you fail a Fort Save? Sure, there's precedent for that. But not two of the same throws.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'm currently playing an Eberron Changeling, so I have great interest. Is this compatible with non-Shere magic? If 'knd of', is there a conversion guide or similar.


This is an expansion for Spheres of Power, so no, it's not inherently compatible with other types of magic. (Although there's always magic items...)

That said, the system does have archetypes to convert most of Paizo's classes to Spherecasters, so it's not too hard to switch over.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

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