Advanced Options – Oracle’s Curses
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Super Genius Games is 6 pages long, 2/3 pages front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 5 1/3 pages of content for the new oracle-curses, so let’s give them a closer look!
The pdf kicks off with a discussion of the nature of Oracles before introducing the curses. It is here that I should mention that the concept of Oracles is quite close to me: Drawing strength from “curses”, be they disabilities or ailments is a beautiful topic: Both from personal experience and from the trials and tribulations some of my close associates and friends had to endure, I can attest to the sheer force of will impediments may conjure up from individuals and this up until the release of the APG largely untapped potential finally has a powerful representation in the Oracle’s curses. The basic concept, thus, is close to my heart and I’ll try to be as objective as possible in the face of the topic.
The curses start off, unfortunately, with one I consider extremely over-powered: Addict forces you to be constantly consuming drugs (whose saves you can, of course, make) and as a benefit, all your spell-DCs are calculated as if they belonged to your highest level of spells known. OUCH! Giving the drug-rules a quick glance, I can see this curse being abused like crazy. The ailing and amputee-curses let you add some spells to your list of spells known. The drunkard-curse, quite iconic in itself, unfortunately suffers from too weak a benefit: Bonuses to Cha-based ability and skill-checks don’t make for a compelling reason to take this curse. Additionally, I’m not entirely sure whether I get the Cha-bonus in relation to being drunk and the curse suffers from a missing verb in the rules-section, which makes identifying the benefits/drawbacks a bit harder than it should.
The frail and insomniac curses on the other hand, rock, or at least their ideas do: “Frail” makes you easily exhausted due to damage but nets you additional skill points and class-skills, but uses a clunky mechanic, as it depends on you calculating 50% and 25% of your HP – while not insurmountable or too inconvenient, I am hesitant to recommend any ability that needs additional book-keeping. “Insomniac” on the other hand, rocks, as it exemplifies the “strength-from-weakness”-mentality I’ve elaborated upon earlier: A resistance to fatigue is progressively gained and even immunity to exhaustion is gained. While I would have loved to see an additional rules-representation of the fugue-state people long deprived of sleep suffer, I still enjoy this curse, as its benefit coincides with my personal experiences of suffering from bouts of insomnia.
The provocative curse, which lets other people lust for you and makes knocking you unconscious easier (think Helen of Troy) is interesting, though its diplomacy-related benefit feels rather bland. Unfortunately the same is true for the extremely cool Cassandra-curse that marks you as an unbelievable source to other creatures –cool curse, boring implementation.
Then there are the peaceful soul and squeamish curses, both of which make violent behaviour problematic. Both don’t feel like curses to e, but rather conscious decisions based on ethics and believe and subsequently I consider them failures as curses.
The star-crossed curse, again, is a killer, though: “11”s also count as “1”s for you, but you get a nice selection of additional spells. I still think that an additional ability related to luck would have been appropriate for this curse, though: Essentially doubling the chance for a critical failure is a significant drawback and the selection of additional spells does not entirely make up for this drawback.
Next up are 4 new feats, one granting resistance to curse-related spells and the others centring on Oracle’s Curses: Second Curse lets you select a second curse, which I am not a fan of: Combine e.g. “Insomniac” and “frail” and the penalties of frail can be subsumed in the penalty of “Insomniac” – abuse ensues. “Suspend Curse” as a feat lets you ignore your curse via sacrificing spell-slots for a limited amount of time, essentially undermining the central premise of the Oracle-class. I hate it. The final feat, variable curse, is one of the cooler ones, though: You choose 5 curses and assign numbers to them and roll a d6 every day: You are afflicted by the curse you rolled. On a 6, though, you suffer from 2 curses, which, again, is prone to abuse, but being temporary and unreliable, I still adore this feat.
The pdf closes with a brief, 1-column discussion of alternate uses of Oracle curses.
Editing is ok, though I noticed a missing verb, which is unnecessary at this length. Formatting is top-notch and layout adheres to the 3-column standard. The CGI-Artwork by Sade is ok, though nothing to write home about. The pdf features no bookmarks. I’ll come out and say it: I’M terribly, terribly disappointed by this instalment of advanced options: The curses often don’t feel like curses, but rather like moral choices and I’ve got some balancing concerns with them. Some of them feel like they don’t make enough of an impact, while others impede the oracle a bit too much for my tastes. The mechanics of the curses are simply nothing to write home about and felt uninspired to me. Even iconic curses like the Cassandra and Helen-curses felt lacklustre and bland in their execution. Among the feats, I only liked one and this one is quite a burden on the player, potentially necessitating a lot of book-keeping for 5 different curses and/or combinations. I was pretty excited about this instalment of advanced options and was terribly underwhelmed by its lack of focus on true CURSES, their half-hearted execution (does e.g. “Amputee” impede spell-casting? Skill-checks? –any rules for only having one hand? –Why not gain ghost-hand like special abilities? Why does this curse feel so damn boring when e.g. in the Malazan Book of the Fallen Saga a certain priest has a variant of this curse and is MUCH more exciting?) and finally, the feeling that balance-wise this pdf is painfully subpar. Uncharacteristically for SGG-pdfs, the crunch doesn’t stand up to even casual examination and due to the tradition of SGG-pdfs of lacking exciting fluff, not much positive to talk about is left. Unfortunately, my final verdict will be a rather devastating 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 star – there is only one feat and 1 curse I’ll probably use, not enough to recommend this pdf to anybody.
Arcane Archetypes is available from: