The second book of Dreamscarred Press‘ item-centric Steelforge-series clocks in at 27 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, ½ a page blank, leaving us with 21.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, so first thing you should know, is that this supplement attempts to present an encompassing view – that means that it not only lists special item properties from Ultimate Psionics in its appendix, it also features the crown of chaos, dancing robes of Sharatwan, disruptor, dissonance, groundscorn boots of the twice-loved, heartstaff, helm of the hydra, Moldev, Severis and the Tempest’s Blade from Ultimate Psionics – basically the whole psionic items of legend series.
In case you’re new to the concept, here is the gist of it: Items of Legend are special magic items that level with their owners, but which also require a specific set of prerequisites to properly use, unlocking new abilities and combating the disposable-item-syndrome, sporting unique and evocative abilities. Many of the items have new artworks, and there is something that makes this section be more than a rethread: Unlike in Ultimate Psionics, we now get values for the respective items. That legendary item with 3 of its powers unlocked? It has a GP-value listed, which makes WBL-determining much easier on the GM. Depending on how nitpicky you are, this alone may make this worth getting. Each of these items also has its own full color artwork, which is nice for sure, though I wished the pdf used a less pixilated version of the artwork of the heartstaff. This is an aesthetic nitpick, though, and will not be taken into account regarding the final verdict. So yes, this section can be considered to be a success and helpful due to this inclusion.
On the player-facing side of things, we get the 5-level forgelord PrC, who gains up to +3 BAB-progression and Fort- as well as will-saves, no new proficiencies, d8 HD and 4 + Int skills per level. The PrC begins play with a bonus equal to class level to the crafting process’ related skill checks, as well as the ability to use the Master Craftsman, if you have it, to qualify for any Item Creation feat – essentially, this allows you to use class level as CL for all of them, instead of just for Craft Magic Arms and Armor and Craft Wondrous Item. At 2nd, 3rd and 4th level, the PrC nets access to class features of a previous class prior to entering the PrC, retaining its viability for classes that require the progression of their base features. The key ability of the PrC would be item attunement, which allows the forgelord to spend an hour in meditation with a magic item in order to attune to it. This grants the Least item attunement bonus for that category of item. At 3rd level, the forgelord may attune two items one of which also gets the associated Lesser benefits, while the other only has the Least benefit. This improves with 5th level, the ability providing the means to have up to 3 items attuned at any given time, one of which may also bestow the Greater benefit, with another only granting the Least and Lesser benefits and the third granting just the Least benefit. If an item would fall into more than one category, then the forgelord gets to choose in which category he’ll apply the benefits.
Okay, regarding the benefits: The Least benefit of weapon attunement grants Weapon Proficiency as well as Weapon Focus while attuned; the Lesser one increases critical multiplier by 1 (not a fan), and the Greater one increases the enhancement bonus of the weapon by +2, explicitly allowing the raw boost to transcend +5, the total to transcend +10. I am not too happy with the latter one either; mathematically, it basically offsets the BAB-progression of the class, upgrading it to full, which isn’t a problem, but the breaking of hard limits imposed upon item bonuses further tilts an already offense-biased system further in favor of offense, with the critical multiplier enhancement an angle that already is problematic in PFRPG’s base chassis. If you’ve ever seen the PC and boss-ending capabilities of x4 weaponry in the right builds, you’ll know what I mean. The armor section, on the other hand, is amazing, providing bonuses to AC, reduced armor check penalties, and increased maximum Dexterity bonuses, with Lesser providing DR and the Greater one sporting something unique: You no longer count as wearing the armor if it would be beneficial for you! This is pretty damn cool and allows for e.g. armor-wearing monks to retain their class features. Here, the boost of defensive capabilities is very much appreciated.
Spell-in-a-can items increase CLs and UMD to use them is easier (minor nitpick – Use Magic Device). The Least option is cool: If the item has limited charges/uses per day, there is a 10% chance it won’t expend a use/charge. The Greater version allows for Metamagic/psionic addition to the effect, at the cost of a longer casting duration. Finally, disposable items begin with a 10% chance of not being expended as well as a Use Magic Device bonus. Expendables reappear in your hand, potions refill, etc. while ammunition does not explicitly state that – it just isn’t destroyed. This is a smart verbiage, as it prevents reloading confusion. The Lesser boon increases CL of the items, while the Greater one makes the DC scale based on ½ character level + highest ability score modifier. Really liked this one!! Finally, wondrous items allow for quicker activation, no longer occupy their slots (But nota bene regarding item stacking restrictions! They still apply!) and the Greater power allows them to continue working when suppressed for any reason, provided they succeed a Fortitude save versus the effect. The DC begins at 15, and increases by +2 for every subsequent round.
At 2nd level, the forgelord may 1/day as a standard action bestow one temporary charge to a charged item he’s attuned to, which lasts for one hour before dissipating. The ability gets a second daily use at 4th level. Also at 2nd level, once epr class level per day, non-instantaneous or continuous item effects with a duration may have their duration doubled, but only when replicating a spell or power with an effect to not exceed 3rd level, and only when attuned to the item. At 4th level, once per day when using the ability to extend an effect thus, the forgelord may choose to make it last 24 hours. Kudos: No sleep-cheesing here: Using the ability again before the previous one has run its course cancels the first use. At 5th level, we get a cool capstone: We get to create a lesser artifact, with some general guidelines provided that do not restrict creativity unduly, but which still provides context.
I really like the wide-open forgelord and the universal appeal it can have. The benefits are potent, and while I am not a fan of the weapon tweaks, I get the ideas behind them. All in all, I consider this to be a successful PrC.
While we’re on the topic of artifacts: The pdf provides 3 of them: Liar’s Quill is amazing. This item is subtle, and if you write something that is currently true, the quill changes what it writes. It can’t predict things, but as a research tool, it is great. This is a simple premise, sure, but using it in clever ways can be downright glorious for investigations and the like. (And yeah, sure, it also helps lying through writing, but the concept’s the star here.) The Incinerator Cannon can be programmed daily with a single sentence of no more than 20 words. When a target fitting that definition (which I assume may not be a named target, but which needs to be general…spelling that out would have been nice) enters range, it fires an empowered disintegrate at the target, with +20 atk. Oh, and it can be folded into an ioun stone-like orb that blasts foes nearby that fit the definition. Here’s the thing: Beyond programming, there is NO control of the artifact possible. This can be a great extermination-level weapon for PCs, but it can also be a rather dastardly liability when manipulated by smart villains. The final artifact would be the chessboard of the astral army, which comes with a full set of a new item type, the chess pieces of the astral army: These are different-level astral constructs, with precisely-codfied menu choices. The board has its full set and may store them, and when drawing the pieces from it, it enhances them. This one has a really cool means of destruction, requiring basically besting it n speed chess. And yes, the pieces are basically astral constructs in bottles, powers-in-a-can, but I maintain that this is how you make items and item classes interesting. Kudos!
Now, as you all probably know by now, I am a pretty big sucker for legendary items – I adore the concept, and I really love them; in fact, in may game, every PC end up with at least one of them. Considering this, it should come as no surprise that the chapter I’m most interested in here, would be the new legendary items. As in the revisit to the previously-released ones, we get GP-values for their respective levels, allowing for easier WBL and treasure-calculations. A total of 4 such legendary items are provided, with the first being the city in a bottle. This one increases its power in 5 steps and basically combines bag of holding with Leadership and settlements that increase in size! This is conceptually amazing and super-useful for mega-dungeon campaigns, if you’re going for a less survivalist take on such mega-adventures.
Razor, the warrior’s weapon (written by Erin Heck) is a glasslike weapon made of magical force, and increases its powers in 10 steps. The weapon is basically a devouring blade that can consume other magic items, somewhat akin to e.g. the swordmaster or the bladebound magus. Values for fed and unfed statuses of the blade are provided. The weapon also becomes intelligent and Quick Draw, returning to the owner’s hand, uncanny dodge, 1/month true resurrection and changing properties complement an item, which btw. takes bladebound magus into account. Love this one! The ring of the grand vizier is a ring of protection with scaling improvements, occupying the ring chakra, enhancing the UMD skills of the character. The item also enhances Aid Another, insight bonuses and as a capstone, adds least akashic catalyst to all chakras. Finally, there would be twisted gambit, a 10-step improving glove (which oddly, does not specify occupying the proper slot in what I assume to be an oversight) that enhances your skills regarding gambling and Sleight of Hand, as well as the ability to use Sleight of Hand instead of Stealth. Gloves of storing function, the means to upgrade the gloves via gambling winnings, a luck pool for rerolls, calling for high or low rolls (with bonuses for right calls, penalties for wrong ones), high-level swift action teleport (with Stealth synergy), limited consumable creation…once more, a potent and cool item!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level: The pdf juggles complex concepts and manages to blend concepts and the rules that represent them well: The gambling item, for example, requires that the player gambles for a few of its tricks. I like these blendings. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press’ elegant 2-column full-color standard, with a blending of original and old artwork in full color, of varying quality. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version – Kudos! The pdf has basic bookmarks, but not ones for every single item.
Jacob Karpel and Patrick Miller deliver a great booklet of complex items. The GP-values for the psionic items of legends make this book much more useful, and the new material, as a whole, must be considered to be all-killer, no filler. Furthermore, while I am not happy with all design-decisions, and while I have noticed a precious few minor hiccups, none of them really impede the functionality of this supplement’s content, and I’d rather have amazing, ambitious material with VERY few minor blemishes, than bland perfection. In short: This is still on par with Dreamscarred Press’ high track record of complex, high-quality crunch. Highly recommended, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval for this cool booklet!