Sep 072017

Grimoire of Lost Souls.jpgThe massive hardcover Ultimate-style book for Pact magic clocks in at 387 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page KS-thanks, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 376 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

I was a KS-backer for this book and as such, I have received the massive hardcover. My review is mostly based on the print version, though I have also consulted my pdf-iteration for it.

So, what is this book? The short tl;dr-version would be that it is for Pact Magic, what Ultimate Psionics was for psionics. A more detailed response would also note that this book is not simply a compilation of previously-released material; in fact, this massive grimoire does feature a lot of new material, material previously not seen for PFRPG and some massive tweaks to existing options.

So, what is pact magic? Well, the short reply would be that it was the original Pact Magic. First conceived in 3.5’s Tome of Magic, the system had some serious hiccups and balance-issues in its initial iteration, but at the same time, it was a revelation for me: The idea was that named spirits exist; said spirits have fallen past the usual confines implied by D&D cosmology and, from their in-between status, they hunger for the chance to interact with the realms of mortals. From legends to archetypical beings to strange demons, all kinds of weird spirits, some of which were influenced by the key of Solomon, were thus presented.

This system was greatly expanded in two massive hardcovers back in 3.X, “Secrets of Pact magic” and “Villains of Pact Magic”, both of which are undeservedly obscure and have a place of honor on my bookshelf. They tweaked the balance of the system, expanded it and made it more unique – and, more importantly for me, they rank as some of my favorite rule-books of that age – the spirits came with HUGE short stories depicting their legends, adding a vast amount of flavor to each of the options herein. Then, two stand-alone updates/expansions for PFRPG were released, expanding the concept and translating it to PFRPG, though these did cut back on the beloved legends I enjoyed so much. This book once again features a lot of legends, though some have been externalized to a short-story collection.

Fast-forward to this book, which presents basically the latest and most refined iteration of the concept. At the heart of this system lies the pactmaker class, which gains d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves. The class adds +1/2 class level, minimum 1, to Knowledge (arcane), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion) and Knowledge (planes) and gains a bonus on these to research a spirit’s knowledge tasks, instead gains a bonus equal to full character level.

So, what are knowledge tasks? Each spirit has a specific, occult seal that is drawn by the binder: This seal and the spirit need to be researched via knowledge tasks – basically, these represent the effort to learn a spirit. This is important, in that there is no limit otherwise on spirits known, if you will: While a pactmaker can only bind spirits of 1st level in the beginning, he may learn all of them. New spirit levels are unlocked at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter and spirits are organized by levels, much like spells; the 9th level spirits being obviously the most potent. A pactmaker may bind multiple spirits at higher levels – 2 at 4th level, +1 one spirit every 6 levels thereafter. 7th level and every 6 levels thereafter allow a pact maker to replenish an expended spirit ability 1/day and the capstone makes spirit abilities count as extraordinary and allows for the ignoring of personality influences and also nets the class automatically the capstone empowerment. Bear with me for a second – those are spirit terms. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide a choice of bonuses while bound to a spirit. Saves against abilities, generally, are determined by Charisma as a governing attribute.

And that is already pretty much the basic chassis of the class. Let’s move on to the basics of pact magic, shall we?

The term to denote a character using pact magic is “binder”; a binder level is the equivalent of the caster level, for the purpose of governing the spirit’s abilities. A binding check is a d0 + ½ binder level + Charisma modifier, and it is made upon summoning a spirit to determine the power of the pact. This requires a ceremony and a binder check versus the binding DC of the spirit in question – rushing the ceremony is possible, but results in massive penalties to the check. On a success of the check, the binder gets a good pact. A binder that makes a good pact can freely suppress the physical sign or minor granted abilities of being inhabited by the spirit (like horns, tentacles, weird voices, etc.) and suffers no penalty when acting against the spirit’s influence – basically, the personality of the spirit. If failing the check, he still gets the spirit, but makes a poor pact; the binder must exhibit the physical sign and suffers cumulative penalties when disobeying the spirit’s influence, lasting for 24 hours, even if the spirit if exorcised before that duration has elapsed. Suppressing a spirit eliminates all benefits, but also all penalties that may be incurred by having a spirit inhabit you. The process of making a good pact can be improved by using totems – basically optional material components or terrain components. Additionally, some spirits are more well or ill–disposed towards some races (favored allies and enemies), beings with certain alignments, class features, etc., while others reward those that call them in dark places, while stricken by illness, etc. the possibilities here are endless and tie in very well with the flavor of the spirits in question, rewarding players for caring about the story of their spirits.

Here is the catch: Spirits have three types of abilities: Minor abilities, which are always granted; major abilities, which are expended for 5 rounds after being used unless otherwise noted, and capstone empowerments, which are only gained when the spirit’s DC is beaten by 10 or more, making even low-level spirits retain their usefulness at higher levels.

It is not in the chassis of the pact-maker class or one of the numerous pact magic based class options that the system’s appeal lies; it is within the massive, colossal array of spirits. It should also be noted that most spirits are assigned to a constellation – upon binding them, the binder gains constellation aspects and these general affiliations double as thematic restrictions and schools of spirits if you will; you can focus on binding nature spirits…or fiendish ones…or those that hearken from the dark beyond. Whether you want to focus on slenderman-like entities or strange fey or on any combination of them, the spirits are here and allow for a wide variety of different types of character. And yes, benevolent spirits like cynical detectives that have fallen through the cracks of reality or basically saints can also be found – this is important to note, for pact magic, requiring less study thanb comparable magic and no divine oversight either, does carry with it the flavor of the forbidden, of the occult. And yes, there are starless, more obscure spirits.

As you may have gleaned by now, a strength of spirits lies in the way in which many of their abilities operate on a cool-down mechanic…and frankly, I went through this massive tome with my analysis, and rules-wise, there are precious few hiccups: To note two remarkable ones: The spirit Sevnoir, for example, heals you when inflicting damage to a creature suffering from a fear-effect. If you have a character with a fear-aura on hand, the 1/round caveat doesn’t prevent cheesing this via kitten slaughter.

At the same time, this book does predate the release of Occult Adventure regarding when it was worked on, and as such, unfortunately does not provide synergy with that glorious tome. Prestige classes, magic items, feats, special binder secrets (talents), spells, races, planes and organizations (apocryphal desert…nightmare weald…need I say more?) – the book has a ton to offer in crunch and I could bloat this review to 14, 20 pages even – easily, and still scratch the surface of what the book offers in terms of sheer content. There are some minor formatting inconsistencies to be found, with abilities that should be red showing up in black instead and the like.

There is one more thing you should be aware of: RAW, binders do NOT gain new spirits upon reaching new levels. While *personally*, I require downtime training to gain the benefits of a level up (I really dislike just *pling*, getting level-ups mid-dungeon…), I know that many groups do just that – in such cases, I’d suggest automatically gaining a spirit upon reaching a new level. So yes, this may be, for some groups, a drawback of the RAW engine, though one that can be houseruled away with ease. System-immanently, groups that do not engage in a lot of roleplaying as opposed to rollplaying will have a bit less fun with this, though please do take a look at my conclusion for what I mean by this.

I have to break my usual system of presentation here a bit in order to convey what this book provides, so let me prematurely interject my


Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of hiccups here and there, some formatting glitches and the like; less than in many books of this crunch-density, but enough to notice. Layout adheres to a gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the book comes with a TON of absolutely phenomenal full-color art; some of which was previously used and colored, but most is new. Each spirit has his/her/its own seal as a visual representation, so yeah, you can actually draw the seal, if that’s how you roll! The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience and thankfully, the book has a massive, multi-page index that helps navigating this tome. The hardcover is a beauty to behold and well worth getting.

You know, as a person and as a reviewer, I generally tend to gravitate towards complex options; beautiful mathy constructs and subsystems that provide an interesting playing experience. I can honestly appreciate it when math works out, when some abilities do something utterly unique with complex rules operations. While certainly not simple in these regards, pact magic never reaches the complexity of akashic mysteries, ethermagic or similar systems. And still, it is one of my favorite systems ever.

I am not a sentimental man, so nostalgia is not the culprit here and it took me quite a while to deduce why pact magic works so well for me. There is no simple answer. One, though, would be that much like psionics, I can see it completely replacing the standard spellcasting classes for a completely different campaign experience, one steeped in occult lore, research…and one that makes magic more dangerous, feel more forbidden, medieval. In fact, I’m regularly stealing spirits from this book when playing OSR-games, breaking them down to the simpler rules of such systems. LotFP, LL, S&W – it works and fits thematically perfectly will the often more gritty aesthetics there. This has literally transcended the bounds of its system, at least for me – something only precious few books in my vast library achieve.

At the same time, the strength of the system, its appeal, does not lie wholly in its mechanics; pact magic, to a degree, is the original occult magic, prior to Occult Adventures. In my review of Paizo’s phenomenal hardcover, I commented on the fact that I love how player agenda AND character agenda are emphasized, and how the classes have ROLEplaying potential hardcoded into their respective rules. This is, ultimately, why I adore this massive tome; I adore tactical combat and I’m the first to appreciate a well-made combat-encounter with strategically-interesting hazards etc. – I love these. I love the tactical, complex combat aspects of PFRPG. But I also adore the storytelling aspect of the game; I love good roleplaying between characters, between PCs and NPCs; I use story-rewards a lot. To me, the beauty of roleplaying games with a high rules-density lies in the blending of strategy and story-telling, in the fusion of stories and tactics. Ultimately, for me the best rules let me do either unique things in the strategy department, in the roleplaying department, or both.

Every single spirit is a bit like an unruly character that influences the PC or NPC; they all have personalities, quirks and goals, enemies – and they may grow with your PCs. When a spirit helps vanquish a certain foe after being bested by him, you have your work cut out for you as a good roleplayer; you can tweak your character with spirits and keep them perpetually fresh and interesting; perhaps your character is a teetotaler, so binding some spirits may be something he’d be loathe to do; perhaps bidning one spirit and succumbing to the spirit’s influence nets you some complications…or new allies – it’s small, organically happening constellations (haha! – sorry, I’ll punch myself for that later) that make this shine as brightly for me.

There is another aspect to this book. One that perhaps bears no importance for you…but then again, I think it does.

No other system I have used has made me write this much custom material.

When, for example, Aldern Foxglove was a very popular character in my RotRL-game back in the day and then died (trying to be SPOILER-less), I promptly had him come back as a spirit with peculiar personalities, fluid constellations and abilities depending on the dominant personality; when my PCs liberated the ghost lions from the Ghostlord in Red Hand of Doom, I made the pack return as a spirit to be bound; When Kyuss fell, he became the master of the Worm constellation. The Crimson King is a spirit in my game. So is the Dark Tower.

And yes, you can use the spirits herein as guidance, tweak and reskin them for a lot of purposes. Don’t like a legend or a particular spirit? Chances are that you won’t have to do a lot of writing, just replace an ability and come up with a new legend. Done. When one of my players happened upon notes on a blood-drinking lizardfolk thing from ages long past, I took N’aylia the first vampire, tweaked her abilities a bit more towards the lizardfolk-esque and there we go. I actually improvised that reskin on the fly while GMing and nobody noticed.

Or, you know, you can pretty much write infinite amounts of new ones, based on your campaign. I have psionic spirits, akashic spirits, ethermagic-spirits…you name the subsystem and I pretty much have a spirit for it. Why? Because the engine per se is simple. You can easily complicate it in a vast variety of ways by grafting pretty much anything on top of it, with only your own skills as the limit – and the glue that holds all together is this basic system, one that is defined by choice, yes…but more than that, it is defined by the stories you tell with it.

A haunt put to rest? Potential spirit. An outsider slain? Potential spirit? Anything weird, from mages that fell through space and time to sentient constructs? Potential spirits. Fey kicked out of their courts/dethroned fey queens? Potential spirits. Defeated campaign endbosses? Potential spirits in the next one. Paladin PC that sacrificed his soul to seal the demon-lord in an artifact? Potential spirit. Endzeitgeist, a zeitgeist-like spirit of the end-times? Potential spirit. In fact, the book does an amazing job at showcasing the sheer infinite breadth of themes that you can cover with these spirits.

Pact magic is a nice, well-made system on its own – probably one that deserves, when divorced from all flavor, a verdict of 4.5 to 5 stars, somewhere in that vicinity. But this would not do the system the least bit of justice. Dario Nardi and Alexander Agunuas deliver with pact magic perhaps the most literally inspiring system I have ever encountered for a d20-based game. Its genius does not necessarily lie within its rules, but within how it is an incredibly potent narrative instrument, how it can change the depiction of a fantasy world to make magic feel more magical, how it rewards customization and making the system your own more than any comparable system I know. I guarantee that, when using the system thus, you will have perhaps the most impactful alternate system ever on your hands.

In case you haven’t noticed by now: I absolutely LOVE this system. Even my reviewer-bot-persona can’t really adequately complain about it, mainly because separating the fluff from the crunch divests the system of its core principle – it is, frankly, impossible to rate this fairly as anything but the sum of its parts, and that sum is a thing of absolute, inspiring beauty. This book will grace my shelves for years to come; it has already spawned more ideas than I’m ever likely to put to paper. It is, in short, the streamlined, improved heir of the old system; tighter and more concise, yet without losing any component of its uniqueness.

This is one of the most inspiring books, quite literally, that you can purchase for PFRPG. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. This is also, big surprise there, a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. It also receives the EZG Essentials tag as a book I consider a must-own expansion for the system.

Now, can we have an Occult Adventures/Horror Adventures-crossover sequel or do I have to write the spirits myself? Who am I kidding – I’m going to write them either way!

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jun 152015

age_of_electrotechBy Endzeitgeist

Age of Electrotech clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 (!!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

So what is this book? Well, it can be thought of as a huge campaign-template akin to LPJr Design’s Obsidian Apocalypse – the age of electrotech has dawned and now, super-science and magic exist side by side, with electricity-based gadgets and the like influencing how everything is run. A fitting analogy would be a kind of Tesla-Punk – how to integrate this (e.g. just one country – à la Golarion’s Numeria or Ravenloft’s Lamordia) to the full world – all depending on the DM’s whim.

The book kicks off with the Technician base class, which receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, simple weapons and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-and will-saves and a so-called maximum tinker-level scaling from 1st up to 6th. The class also receives 1 battery point, scaling up to 105 at 20th level…but what does all of that mean?

Well, first of all, obviously, technicians receive Electrotech Proficiency as a bonus feat as first level and they also receive + class level to Craft (electrotech)-checks analogue to alchemist et al. High intelligence increases the battery points the class has and battery points recharge after 8 hours. They are essentially the technician’s resource, which powers his gadgets, tinkers and similar devices. hooking up a device to the battery pack requires 1 minute. Technicians may construct so-called gadgets – these can be used by paying their base cost, upgraded by allocating additional battery points. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the technician can craft progressively better upgrades from +1 battery point cost to +5 at 13th level. Gadgets take up one of the item-slots – chest, hands, head or feet and equipping/removing them requires 10 rounds, with the option to hasten it at the chance of rendering the gadget broken. Effect generated by gadgets are extraordinary effects, but unlike most such abilities, they are subject to SR and can potentially be counterspelled/dispelled – we have full system-transparency here.

Tinkers on the other hand are devices that can be wielded like wands to duplicate effects, functioning pretty much like spellcasting. Unlike spells, though, a tinker may be charged with battery points to increase the daily amount the tinker can be used. The formula for their creation are marked in a tinker manual, somewhat akin to a spellbook. Now beyond this exceedingly flexible base system, the class ALSO sports so-called innovations – gained at 2nd level, +1 every 2 levels thereafter, these constitute the talents of the class and allow for even more options – for example combining multiple gadgets into one, on-the-fly reassignment of battery points etc. Better driving-skills (more on that later), weaponized tinkers, better weakness analysis of foes – this is very much a scientist-class – but the technician does NOT stop there – at 1st level, the class also decides on a trade (though, again, this can be modified by innovations!) – trades work somewhat akin to oracle mysteries or bloodlines in that they provide a trade skill as class skill, a bonus-feat selection and a linear progression of special abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level. Sounds like a bloodline, not a mystery? Yeah, but I also evoked mysteries due to one fact – each trade add certain, exclusive innovations to the array the technician can choose from. The trade provide for a focus on crafting, firearms (including grit), junker’s jury-rigging, vehicle/driver-specialization, soldier, tinker, trap and symbiont specialization – more on that later. And yes, were I to go into details regarding these options, this review would bloat beyond belief. More than one page of favored class options can be found herein. It admittedly took some time to properly analyze this complex class…and know what? It WORKS. Superbly so. One note – if you’re using Interjection Games’ Tinker or Gadgeteer-classes, I’d suggest renaming the technician’s tinkers and gadgets. 😉

The technician’s flexibility does NOT end here, though – beyond the absolutely astounding flexibility provided by the base class, we also receive archetypes for the class – beyond providing more than superb crunch, these guys cover quite literally everything cool I would have wanted from technician archetypes – Cyborg? Check. Electromedics (who needs clerics?) – check. Pact Magic-crossover occult esotechnicians? Check. Grenadiers? Check. Holotechnicians? Check. Necrotechnicians creating techno-undead? Friggin’ yeah and check! Transmogriphiers that specialize in transmuting and mutagens? Check! At this point, picture me drooling wide-eyed and grinning at the screen.

Now a complete subsystem of items and a class should render it no surprise that the pdf also sports quite a significant array of different feats. These include metatech feats (guess what these do…) and the usual improvements for additional uses of limited daily use-abilities etc.

At this point, the 32-page mark, we enter the electrotech gear chapter – yes. I’m not kidding. So, the weapons. The table covers a whole page. And yes, modifications like double barrels can be added to e.g. nucleonic rifles, while sawridge shields and splinterhail grenades as well as stock prods breathe the spirit of scifi, super-tech, tesla-punk…however you want to call it, the chapter is glorious. Beyond these implements of death, several defensive items and household items can be found herein as well – chamber lamps, air stabilizers, heaters, iconographs, phonographs – it may seem like nothing special, but without these, the book would be missing vital pieces that really help get into the mood of the material Specialized tool and skill kits also help portraying a society that has moved beyond the traditional confines of medieval society.

And then, there would be madnesses. These truly go off the deep-end and constitute technical wonders beyond what is readily available in a default society – what about e.g. a pod that can modify your age, pigmentation and even gender or race? Stasis pods? Helms that can be used to stimulate or hamper a character’s performance? Hypnotist’s helmets? Color-coded mind-influence? The equivalent of an atomic bomb? A machine to purge foreign subjects from a target? Pleasure-hazes creating orbs, with truly nefarious extensions? A chair that allows you to extend the reach of your magic to miles? Röntgen booths? Machines for forced alignment changes? Yes, these essentially artifact-level wonders run the gamut of traditional scifi and weird fiction, making me constantly envisioning my favorites of the classics – I am not engaging in hyperbole when I’m saying that EACH of these items can change a campaign, nay can even power a whole campaign. They’re this iconic, this interesting.

Of course, classic science-fiction is, more often than not, also defined by the fantastic vehicles sported within – especially Jules Verne has become pretty much the default association just about anyone would have in that regard. And yes – from flying saucers to hover-vehicles to jetcrafts and tanks – vehicles upon vehicles, all ready for your perusal…oh so AWESOME!

Now I mentioned gadgets – these do not simply pop up, as one could have expected – instead, concise and easy to grasp rules for research and crafting them can be found within these pages alongside comprehensive tables of gadgets – from ant-inspired better carrying/less armor issues (and even wielding oversized weapons) to blasters, jetpack-like vastly improved jumps, the gadgets are surprisingly versatile – and, more often than not, do something utterly, completely UNIQUE. The gadgets alone would be cool – but combine their neat basic premises with aforementioned, rather interesting special tricks AND the 5-step upgrade system for maximum customizability and we have a system that ends up as not only flexible, but downright brilliant. And yes, we get grappling hooks, bionic commando style, scanners, magnifiers…even personal translators! Beyond these, there are symbionts – and, as an old Venom fanboy, I was pretty much looking forward to them, their concise rules and implementation. And yes, these symbionts are rather interesting – though surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly mundane though they turned out to be. What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, there is nothing wrong with the symbionts – there rules are concise, their benefits unique and they make for a very cool way to reward players even in campaigns that sport no electrotech – just explain it via aberrant stuff etc. and you’re good to go. That being said, they are pretty much one note-augmentations – no detrimental effects, no symbiont-highjacks – nothing. Again, this does not make them bad and their acquisition, recovery and death-rules are concise, but especially when compared to the rest of the book, they feel very static and ironically, inorganic when compared to the vast panorama of options provided by gadgets et al. One deserves special mention, though – the animan symbiont can transform normal humans into an animal-like race called mutamorphs, one of two new races.

The base mutamorph race receives +2 Con, -2 Cha, count as both mutamorphs and humans, receive -4 to all cha-based check and get low-light-vision. Additionally, they may select one of 8 basic sets, which align them with e.g. bears, wolves etc. and influence thus their movement rate, a further +2 bonus to an attribute etc. Here, the rules-language could be a) slightly more precise and b) balancing is off. Natural weapons fails to specify whether they’re primary or secondary and bite attacks, for example do not adhere to the standard damage for medium creatures. Additionally, we have unassisted personal flight at 1st level for e.g. Bat mutamorphs, which can be a problem in quite a few campaigns. The second new race, the raccoon-folk Nashi receive +2 Con, -2 Int, are small, slow, receive +1 to diplomacy and Knowledge, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), Appraise, Perception and Spellcraft as well as early firearm proficiency. Okay race. Both races receive full arrays of favored class options. Nashi can also select a bunch of alternate racial traits, some of which are pretty strong and replace bland +2 bonuses to skills – which renders them pretty much a no-brainer. Not a particular fan of this decision.

Character traits, new skill uses for old (and new skills) etc. also make an appearance

After the rather sobering racial write-ups, we’re back to form – with technician background generators akin to those found in Ultimate Campaign as well as *drum-roll* KIMGDOM-BUILDING SUPPOORT! Electroplants, hydroworks, MONORAIL TRACKS (!!!), radiation sickness, airfields, broadcasting towers – even in completely unrelated settings, the content provided here is gold. Better yet, new rooms and buildings for my beloved downtime system are also provided for – including airfields, factories etc. – and there it is again, the manic, stupid grin that was on my face for most of the time while I was reading this book.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no glitches – quite a feat for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has copious amounts of awesome, original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Radiance House does not publish books often, but when they do, they tend to rank in the upper echelon – indeed, so far, I have yet to be truly disappointed by a given book. Dario Nardi and Alexander Augunas did not break this trend. Instead, they deliver something special: I expected this to be a PFRPG-book of the Electrotech-world detailed in other supplements – instead, I received a thoroughly concise campaign-overlay. With the content herein, you can easily introduce electrotech in any doses you deem appropriate into your campaign – from full-blown all-out scifi to fantasy with fallen spacecrafts to anything in-between. Whether you’re playing Rhûne or Pure Steam, Iron Gods or any other even remotely steampunky/science-fiction-style setting, this delivers. In fact, if you’re aiming for a magic-less system sans deities etc., this answers the healing question. From hardcore scifi to teslapunk, in small doses or in buckets – the Age of Electrotech is an absolute must-own publication. The technician is one of the coolest classes currently available and its massive customization options are downright beautiful to behold. After some tinkering, I am proud to say that I could not flaws with this exceedingly versatile class – which is quite a feat. Indeed, this is quite probably the best gadgeteering class currently out there – and one for which I really hope I’ll see more material. Making a technician is simply an immensely rewarding experience and the playtesting does show – even more impressive then, that a class of this complexity is so utterly easy to grasp. Kudos indeed!

My criticism towards the symbionts should be considered nagging at a high level, and thus, we only remain with the racial write-ups not being on par with the otherwise exceedingly high quality of this book. But that also pales before the VAST array of utterly inspiring options contained within these pages – from the Ultimate Campaign-support to the vehicles, this book is a joy and one I definitely will get in print as soon as my finances permit it.

Before I gush even more and start to sound like a complete fanboy – the Age of Electrotech should be considered a must-have addition to any game that likes to introduce a bit of the uncommon into their fantasy – the content’s rules alone, heck, the class alone maybe worth the asking price. Add to that the fact that you can easily reskin the fluff to treat this as magic, steam or whatever, and we have a massive book of glorious crunch, with inspiring fluff sprinkled in that can eaisly be summed up with the words “must have”. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 – this book deserves your attention and delivers excellence for its price.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Apr 252014

pact_magic_unboundBy Endzeitgeist

The second Pact Magic-book is a whopping 107 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 blank page, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 100 pages of content – so let’s take a look!

So, how do we start? Well, essentially with class options for all non-core classes – from exorcizing bombs to spirits in a bottle (i.e. poor pacts via mutagens), we get two damn cool discoveries for the alchemist as well as the occult chymist archetype – who gets diminished alchemy to pay for access to spirits. As a cool drawback, the alchemist develops an addiction to one chosen constellation, getting penalties when not bound with a spirit of said constellation – it should be noted that slowly, the penalties of this addiction can be overcome. Cavaliers may choose from two new orders – the order of the Occult Eye and the Order of Saelendrios – whereas the former would be dabbler in the occult, the former are devoted to the eradication of pact magic, following in the footsteps of a particular order from Tome of Magic – only with vastly superior rules and proper benefits! Of course, Cavaliers also get a new archetype, the Pactsworn Knight – essentially a cavalier with binder capabilities – here the synergy between bound spirits and cavalier abilities is formidable, allowing the cavalier to e.g. challenge a foe and treat it as the favoured enemy of his bound spirit(s). Occult Avengers are Gunslingers that live only for revenge – and thus use pact magic to hunt down their respective marks – while bound to spirits, their two exclusive deeds allow them to act as superb trackers of adversaries.

No other class is as predisposed fluff-wise to opposing pact magic as the inquisitor and hence the class gets a new anti-spirit inquisition. The occult abolisher is hence also a specialist of combat against pact magic – whereas the occult sadist pays for binding spirits and a painful touch (i.e. an antipaladin’s touch of corruption -PLUS cruelty later!) with slightly diminished spellcasting, while the Pact Protector is just the opposite – a protector of spirits and occultists that has a glorious idea – instead of solo tactics, it allows for teamwork-feat synergy between practitioners of pact magic instead of the regular solo tactics! Glorious and elegant! The Magus may now opt for the Sibyl archetype – using essentially a pact magic’s equivalent of spell combat, these beings can also use arcane strike to replenish the expended abilities of spirits and later even quickly exchange spirits!

Of course, Occultists also get a new archetype, the Occult Scholar – these scholars get access to a revelation from the lore mystery, but also are barred permanently from one constellation, unlike the other archetypes, which more often than not choose a particular constellation alignment and prohibit the respective binding character from binding opposed spirits. We also are introduced to new binder secrets – for example one that allows you to redirect abilities that have been saved against to other eligible targets! Echoing abilities (for increased cool-down), affecting incorporeal creatures, a spirit alarm-system, particular efficiency against favoured foes and even a way to heal oneself by temporarily suppressing spirits. The occultist also gets favoured class options – including ones for all those ARG-races! Oracles of the Spirit Realm mystery can learn via a revelation to bend targets into greyish mockeries of themselves, cloak you and your allies from the unwitting eyes of mortals and whisper maddening, confusing whispers, reincarnate those perished by virtue of your connection to the spirit realm and even untether your very soul from your body! The Spirit Medium comes with a custom curse that represents the continuous onslaught of spirits, worrying away the medium’s will and subjecting them always to the influence of spirits. Have I mentioned that they may bind spirits (d’unhhhh) and also gets an actually functioning Ouija-board.

Summoners may now add minor granted abilities to their eidolons or have them steal minor abilities! Archetype-wise, summoners may now opt for the Spirit Caller – these beings essentially replace their eidolon with vestigial spirit companions that can easily be suppressed and further enhances said companions – damn cool! The Spirit Drudge Witch has the familiar exhibit/suppress the sign, making for a rather unique situation roleplaying-wise – depending on the constellation chosen, the archetype also gets a neat array of different bonus spells, but also prohibited constellations.

Chapter 2 kicks off with new uses for established skills and new feat: Ability-sharing via teamwork-feats, increasing binding DC for a higher effective level, minor access to low level domain powers, occult spells modified with metamagic that automatically succeed at their concentration-checks for +2 levels, having a reserve spirit, partially ignoring DR of favoured foes via the expenditure of grit, more control on monstrous aspects – these feats are surprisingly, all killer, no filler!

Next up would be new spirits – 31 of them! Fans of the original “Secrets of Pact Magic” will rejoice here – for not only do we now get full legends for more of the respective spirits! Forash the mule-headed demon and e.g. Marat, who may have been either an intelligent construct with a story that is an interesting twist on the old Pinocchio/Gaining of sentience-trope, the first of the gearforged or a similar case would be two of the old favourites that have been updated here – much like the first Pact Magic Unleashed, the mechanics and their application to Pathfinder are vastly superior to the original D&D 3.X-iteration – Alexander Augunas is having a roll here. Even Milo of Clyde, the cynical detective, originally appeared in Villains of Pact Magic, makes a return here – and awesomely so: You may as an immediate action convert regular damage into non-lethal damage, but only if you’re not immune against the former: Awesome to survive uncommon threats and possibly even survive what otherwise would be a TPK! Other favourites like Lord Foxglove IV, the exchequer of the stole purse or Cornelius Button, the dual-minded gardener of dreams or the grisly tale of Ethaniel Midnight, the sadistic torturer that not even hell wanted to accept – all of these and many more can be found herein.

To my delight, the rather complex “spirit” of Circe’s 32 runes has also been upgraded – in a rather interesting way: instead o simply gaining access to some spells depending on the runes chosen (in addition to the other benefits), the spirit now makes a distinction between upper case and lower case runes and the spell-like abilities they grant, adding another dimension of tactics to the fray when choosing runes. As a minor fly in the ointment, I would have loved to see the visual depictions of the original runes in this book as well – but that’s just me being obsessive about runes and symbols, I guess. The Primordial Titans, Merickel, Hero of False Destiny – many of these have been updated, but it should be noted that unlike most updates from 3.X, these often come with new, revised and thoroughly changed/streamlined abilities, often not even being the same level as their original iterations – so yeah, even if you do own the original books, this one provides so much more than even a diy-conversion in line with PU 1 would offer – and that is what makes a great update, at least for me! Now originally, the spirit known as Overmind was rather broken – it is my utmost pleasure to report that the spirit’s power to jump forward through time is still there, though now balanced by a higher level! The tomb of the immortal god-king Septigenius Maximus is featured fully mapped – by the way, this one allows you to gain a gaze attack that can transform adversaries into salt, granite…and even gold!

Not all spirits herein are simply conversions, though – take Al’akra. Also known as the Tall Man. if you’re not shuddering at least slightly by now, go watch “marble Hornets” on YouTube. I’ll be waiting.



Back? Yeah. Want paranoia-inducing powers, terror and spatial blending at your disposal? All possible! Damn cool! Speaking of which: Especially Midgard-aficionados should have a very wide grin upon reading of the option to bind FRIGGIN’ JÖRMUNGANDR as a level 7 spirit! Synchronizing wounds with foes, control water, raining poison from the skies – this is incredibly awesome and makes for a damn cool addition to the plethora of spirits available! Now what happens when Alexander Augunas’ preference for Kitsune meets with Lovecraftiana? Yith’ Anu, a trickster/body-snatcher kitsune/Great race of Yith-hybrid that not only allows you to emulate the mind-swapping gambits of said kitsune and erase the memories of others – instead of vestigial companions, you can get extra bodies into which to swap! What about making a pact in what is essentially Lamashtu in all but name, allowing you to summon deadly, powerful spirit-touched monsters and even heal yourself by drinking the blood of the freshly slain. As an adversary, the wolf-headed, extremely potent Worglord, first of the Hero constellation, is also tied in a rather interesting way to aforementioned mother of monsters.

Next up would be new spells – but first we are introduced to the new [occult]-descriptor as well as the aging-necromancy subschool as well as 3 new cleric subdomains – since this review already is rather lengthy, I’ll skim over these and just say: Awesome, cool – no complaints. Among the magical items, we get new qualities, exorcism bells – and thoroughly unique items like lenses that may store and copy information – or what about the orb of soul binding, which is a massive 100 pounds heavy!- oh, and we get gnostic tomes, which include the information to bind spirits – nice to offer them as treasure!

Chapter 5 is titled as esoterica and adds an “occult” background to… *drum-roll* the easy character background generator from ultimate Campaign! Hell yeah! Now that is not only useful, it’s awesome! Of course, we thus also require new traits, of which we get 16 and yes, we even get 4 new drawbacks to accompany these! Finally, we get Pact Magic’s spellblights, so-called pact maladies – essentially supernatural afflictions that can result from Pact Magic.


Editing and formatting are excellent, I didn’t notice significant glitches, only minor ones and few to boot. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard that is both elegant and nice to look at. The b/w-artworks are raw and convey well the unique feeling of pact magic and the respective spirits all come with depictions of their seals, which is something I consider thoroughly awesome – having players draw the seals themselves is a fun means of immersion, by the way. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Pact Magic Unbound 2…is essentially Pact Magic’s APG – not only in support of the non-core-classes, but in the vast array of new options, the smart conversions, the quality of the new material – this is a completely non-optional expansion for the awesomeness that is Pact Magic – not only do the respective rules go beyond lame spell-like abilities and instead offer some truly unique things to do that no other class covers, it also irons out many of the glitches old spirits had in their former incarnation and simply adds so much more to the fray. While not all spirits have legends, we get more of them than in PU 1 and the tie-in with Ultimate Campaign’s char-generator is a blessing indeed. Mechanically more than solid and creative and expanding the lore of Pact Magic with thoroughly awesome new spirits and options, Pact Magic Unleashed Vol. 2 is a superb book in just about every way, with great production values and awesome content – If you’re looking to introduce Pact Magic into your game, get it along Pact Magic Vol. 1 – the two books combine to give you a much richer experience that allows you to make Pact Magic a vital, cool component in your gaming world – so bring a sense of the occult to the table and bind the friggin’ Tall Man/Slender Man/Operator! Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval + candidate for my top ten of 2014 since I didn’t get review done in 2013!

Endzeitgeist out.

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