|Rick Kunz Webstore Coordinator|
Part II of my review:
We get 10 new charms herein. In all brevity: Amnesia is really cool, eliminating a progressively longer duration of events and getting the respective interactions with e.g. Break Enchantment and similar effects right. Calm is also neat, eliminating [emotion] effects, but also morale bonuses and the like, which more potent versions eliminating the will to fight. Candor lasts a bit longer than usual and forces the target to speak only what is believed to be true. Nice! Cerebral strike provides means to cause nonlethal damage, with more potent options adding ability score damage and making the save to negate halve instead. And no, you can’t abuse this, as it can’t reduce ability score below 0. Disrupt focus is a great anti-caster tool, forcing concentration checks, with more potent options no longer requiring your concentration. Gestures is really cool, hampering somatic casting and, at more potent versions, cause targets to drop items, drop them prone at range or force them to execute AoOs, using your own, move them, etc. You may even, with the powerful version, make the target the origin of your magic, forcing them to provide the somatic components…obviously, depending on the requirements there. And yes, Utterances-synergy included. Love it. One complaint: Forcing targets to move into damaging or suicidal circumstances should provide the customary reroll for the save to resist the effect. Utterances, then, would be the verbal brother to gestures’ somatic trickery.
Inception implants memories in the target, first seeding rumors and then progressively more potent ones. Really cool for intrigue games. Mind shield is a progressively better boost to Will-saves, which first discharges, then halves its efficiency with each use and then, in the powerful version, yields immunity to enchantment spells and effects that may be surpassed with a check versus your MSD. Mind spy lets you use the target’s senses.
Wow. I almost can’t believe the same author wrote these! While the power-level of the talents oscillates, this chapter was inspired and provided a welcome breather after the less than superb first chapter. Advanced magic in the book provides something I loved to see – synergy with Occult Adventure’s dreamscapes, which is really fitting for the Mind sphere. When using a powerful Enthrall charm on another target with the Mind sphere, you can create at +1 spell point a Memetic Link, using the caster stats, but using you to determine results, allowing for the establishment of a chain of Enthralled targets. Perfect for masterminds. Recondite Stimuli allows you to choose one type like plants, oozes, etc. and affect them. The Zeitgeist (cloud) advanced talent allows you to extend charms to whole populations – really creepy and full of storytelling potential. 6 rituals are included here: Agreement is basically a sphere-based form of binding contract, with Pact being an even more severe version. Create mindsphere is self-explanatory. Dreampath guides you and other creatures into your or another willing target’s dreamscape. Dreamquake can severely damage thought constructs. Mental block fortifies your dreamscape. While we’re on the subject of longer duration effects: The second incantation herein would be River of Reverie, which makes you use magically-charged cheese to fish for dreams, acting as a superb defense versus the undead.
Three examples of spellcrafting are provided – Confirmation crisis, at 2 spell points, instills the target with rage and confidence of success, goading them to attack foes. Liar’s lament, at 1 spell point, makes liars catch fire. Meralda’s delirious donnybrook can only affect the caster’s type, but at 4 spell points, it stuns targets and inflicts nonlethal damage, as if pummeled by tiny fists, with saves to stop it. Nice.
The pdf also includes 10 new feats: Deceptive Advisor makes your requests laced with Mind magic and thus more reasonable (neat). Dynopathy lets you use spell points as daily uses of emotion powers with limited daily uses. This one will need careful observation in the future – it would have been easier to future-proof by establishing different costs based on different daily uses – 1 point for 3 + CAM, etc. Mind Over Matter lets you delay the onset of received damage and poisons via spell point expenditure. This is a surprisingly complex and potent feat I really enjoyed. Otherworldly Mind makes your dreamscape behave as another plane and thus makes scrying etc. harder. Pressure Point Proficiency penalizes Will-saves of those hit by your unarmed strikes. The penalty can be increased with a follow-up feat. Silver Tongue lets you reroll social skill checks with a scaling bonus, at the cost of spell points. Swarming Strike lets you expend 3 rounds of psionics to gain a bonus to damage from up to casting ability modifier allies to coordination. Synchronicity lets you extend single target touch range emotion powers to a range of 30 ft. and affect up to Charisma modifier beingts. Problematic here: Touch-based options are balanced by requiring an attack; AoEs usually allow for saves. This bypasses the save-requirement and the touch. Begs to be cheesed, in spite of the resources required.
There’s a trait to affect another creature type with talents usually only applicable to your type. The casting traditions Beast Charmer, Chi Trancer, Gadgeteer, Hypnotism and Bonneteur are presented, all being solid. We get the new Mental focus drawback, and 4 neat new sphere-specific drawbacks are included – blatant side-effects (like e.g. a Joker-smile by the affected, a twitch, etc.) needing to share a language…really cool ones. Boons include Embodiment, which allows you to consider yourself to be philosophically kin to something, potentially allowing yourself to be affected as such – rules-wise, this is too wide open for my tastes. Virtuoso makes you caster savant regarding Skilled Caster checks, as well as providing some stealthier somatic/verbal casting. Wild Will makes critters froma chosen terrain more susceptible to your magic.
The final page provides the conscription special weapon property, which can add the Command charm’s powerful effect to targets hit at +3 cost, thankfully with a cooldown to prevent abuse. The jamais vu armor quality, at +2, can be activated via command word to cause onlookers to save or forget you for a short duration. Nice. Staves can get the meditation quality for +2000 gp, granting double the enhancement bonus to concentration when casting a spell or sphere effect to which the staff’s enhancement bonus applies. Mesmerism, at +3, nets a gaze that interacts with charms – which is per se cool, but as a whole, feels more like something an archetype should convey – tying it to the item feels weird to me.
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good – I noticed a couple of formatting deviations and internal inconsistencies, but nothing too glaring. On a rules-language level, the pdf is WEIRD. Power-levels fluctuate rather significantly between options and rules-language, at times, manages to convey highly complex concepts, while in other cases falling a bit flat. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf features full-color interior artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that more authors have worked on this. John Little delivers a book that starts of really badly: The archetype-section is a mess and made me put down the book for a while. That being said, I am actually glad I returned to finishing the review for this book! As subpar as it started, as interesting it becomes. The basic and advanced magic chapters are really interesting and sports some narrative gold-mines that can yield truly complex intrigue/infiltration/etc.-scenarios. While the options presented oscillate rather wildly in their respective power, there is a lot to love in this book once you get past the first chapter. While there are problematic options in subsequent chapters as well, the majority of the book remains interesting and features some truly cool tricks.
That being said, it also feels significantly less refined than usual for the series and ultimately, in its current form, amounts to a mixed bag for me. The good aspects are really, really cool, but the bad things are also rather atrocious. Personally, I can just disregard the problematic options and enjoy the gems herein – as a private person, I’d round up. As a reviewer, though, I noticed no-go-issues that I tend to penalize rather harshly. Hence, my official verdict cannot round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.