Jan 312015
 

Slayer_Talents_LethalitiesBy Endzeitgeist

Advanced Options: Slayer Talents & Lethalities, now dealing with the slayer base-class from the ACG, clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial/SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now first of all, even if you do *not* like the slayer hybrid-class, this actually has some merit in owning – why? Well, are you aware of the rather popular talented versions of base classes RGG puts out? Well, the slayer talents and lethalities herein can be potentially used in conjunction with just that system! SO yes, even if, due to (imho partially more than valid) balance concerns or just fluff-preference you have elected not to use the ACG, this may have something for you, especially since the guidelines provided for the use of either turn out to be pretty conservative.

That out of the way, let us take a look at the talents first. A total of 16 talents are provided herein. The talents include a non-kitten-able heal upon defeating adversaries or converting the sneak attack bonus damage into energy damage (for the love of all that’s holy, be *very* careful when allowing that one for rogues, even as an advanced talent!) – the latter here would be something a tad bit too powerful for my admittedly conservative tastes. On the other hand – why would I ever waste a valuable talent slot on increasing my crit multiplier while coup-de-gracing? Don’t get me wrong – I *get* the style behind this feat and I *like* the executioner idea – but as a talent, it probably isn’t particularly valid. How many times do you get to coup-de-grace an opponent and have that foe actually survive? Most of the times, unless a target is extremely hardy, the save boils down to nat-20-or-dead anyways. So yeah, that one…pretty useless.

The total opposite would be the face-stealer tree, which allows you to disguise yourself as the enemy you’ve defeated – if you can’t see the glorious potential of that one, I don’t know. Suffice to say, the narrative potential and “Did you see what I just did there”-level of coolness is quite pronounced here – kudos! On the functional and useful, but not world-shattering-level, we would have options to better infiltrate certain groups by gaining class skills and ways to use UMD via int and become generally more adept at hunting down foes. The shank-mini-talent-tree that allows you to substitute a 1d6 (1d4 for small, 1d8 for large – + 1 dice step for the better versions) base damage plus 19-20 threat range for light melee weapons thankfully avoids the issues of shuriken/flurry of star-abuse and does allow for efficient whips and the like. While certainly a matter of taste, this talent-tree may actually allow for certain builds that otherwise would be unfeasible. On the downside, one could argue that specific exotic weapons are balanced via a decreased damage/threat range to account for their improved versatility in other areas…then again, exotic weapons do usually require the steep cost of feat investment… What I’m trying to say here is that these particular talents are not for every round, but for some, they may just be awesome.

Rewarding brains over brawn, a specific talent enables you to meditate on a specific poison and net yourself a massive +8 bonus after meditation against it. If you’ve been following my reviews, it will come to no surprise to you that I absolutely love this school of design, where clever roleplaying and planning can provide more than tangible benefits. Two thumbs up! Tossing aside unconscious foes is also a pretty cool idea- until you realize that this lets you toss aside slain dragons due to no restriction whatsoever regarding the weight of the creatures subjected to the ability. As cool as shoving a carcass str-score, rounded down to 5 ft. increments is, I can’t see that one. Stylish, yes, but I wished it had a weight cap (e.g. the weight allotted to lifting or dragging…) and a slightly more tangible benefit. Directly opposite that would be Zealous Drive, which lets you 1+Int-mod times per day add +1/2 class level to any single opposed skill or ability-check or to any Str, Dex or Con-based ability check – this can be pretty nasty when used for a demoralize/feinting build, but on the other hand, it is also thematically consistent.

A total of 12 advanced talents are part of the deal, with follow-ups to the face-stealing tricks and shanks providing a nice linear progression of concepts. Being able to declare one strike per round an aching strike is interesting as a concept -if the slayer hits, the caster treats the damage as ongoing for concentration purposes, rendering slayers with this talent pretty dangerous to casters – one sneak attack = almost guaranteed casting failure. While this level of power is probably intended and the need to declare the ability in advance acts as a limitation, I still feel the talent should sport a (scaling) save against its effects. (And/or declare that this is a [pain]-based effect – can’t see e.g. Kuthonites being hampered by pain-effects like this, but that may just be me…)

5-foot steps whenever a target is downed, on the other hand…well, that makes for interesting tactical options. Death-effect and even Angel of Death-like resurrection-prevention on the other hand should be considered a pretty nifty tool to have in a slayer’s arsenal – especially since it blocks a source after a failed attempt. Nice, especially since it explains why high priest xyz couldn’t resurrect noble zyx to shed some light on the dastardly plot threatening the kingdom…

Mathematically interesting would be the option to only deal regular damage on a crit that would not be eligible for a sneak attack and instead add sneak attack damage. Why? Well, because there are quite a few feats out there that exchange sneak damage for negative conditions and this slightly increased crit-control that trades in superior damage output for more versatility can, once again, result in interesting tactical options. Rather odd – follow through: The talent allows you to execute a combat maneuver against an adjacent opponent as a swift action after dispatching an enemy – without provoking an AoO. Why odd? Because it theoretically lets you game the wording rather easily: Throw kitten in adjacent field, kill kitten, AoO-free attack. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not suggest that this abuse is a *good* strategy, but it is one that could have been easily prevented by a tighter wording with a liberal HD-cap that at least prevents use with mook-level adversaries.

+ 1 crit multiplier is also something pretty nasty, while focusing on one studied target via a Vendetta makes for a pretty nice add-on of flexibility.

So what are lethalities? Essentially, they are edges by any other name (and btw. -the pdf *does* call them edge here and there – so don’t be confused by these minor terminology inconsistencies) – studied target and sneak attack, respectively. This pdf rewires studied target and sneak attack as edges and allows you to choose different options, rendering this basically the “talented” slayer, “light” version. The lethalities herein include divine prepared spellcasting with a restriction on necromancy, [shadow]-spells and those of the shadow subschool, governed (somewhat oddly) by Int. This can be further improved by allowing for spellcasting while holding a weapon.

Utterly odd – the Blood Rage lethality. First of all – why impose the arbitrary restriction of only allowing for this rage while below 1/2 max hit points? Bloodied, anyone? Secondly – why call it “Blood Rage” when there’s the Bloodrager class with the Bloodrage ability that does something completely different? Unfortunate nomenclature that could have easily been avoided… More interesting and quite frankly, the stars among the lethalities, would be the death blows and steal power lethalities. Death blows adds +1 death blow every two levels after the lethality is taken. Each of these strikes can be used 1/2 class level + int-mod per day, adding more choice to combat. Doing the Batman and letting targets take the brunt of falling damage (and remaining standing!), swift feints, rolling twice an attack as a standard action at the cost of being flat footed versus other targets – a total of 10 such strikes are provided and I quite like them. Kudos! Steal power has varying benefits depending on the creature type the slayer – the slayer kills a target creature and receives a part of the spiritual essence of what makes the type “tick” – the creature does not need to exhibit the ability gained. This one is a pretty awesome take on the “draw from vanquished foe’s power” trope. Preventing vocalization while grappling foes further helps the implied anti-caster angle of the class.

The pdf also provides 3 archetypes. The first would be the headsman, a specialist of all 2-handed weapons (free weapon focus for all of them!) who may receive less studied targets, but does gain temporary, more flexible studied targets based on who or what authorities condemn. Additionally, sneak attack damage dice are increased to d8 and coup de grace damage is always maximized, but he pays for this with a lack of proficiency in medium armors. The Seditionist receives trapfinding and selective spell resistance against determining his true causes or enforce truth-telling. He also receives alchemist bombs at effective class level =slayer level-2 instead of sneak attack and the trapper’s trap feature. This archetype is concise and thematically really cool – hard to pin down, explosives, traps – what could you want more? Really like this guy! The third would be. The Warhound, who gains an animal companion and instead of stalker and slayer’s advance and delays studied target’s acquisition to 2nd level, may be an okay archetype, but elicited more or less a yawn from me – sure it’s solid in concept, but I think streamlining an animal companion into the edges (pardon, lethalities) would have been a more elegant option – perhaps at class level -4 or with similar restrictions. Oh, have I mentioned this archetype’s big glitch? It doesn’t have Handle Animal as a class skill. Without traits etc., the warhound can’t train his animal companion.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed a couple of minor glitches. Layout adheres to RGG’s two-column full-color standard with color stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with bookmarks to each talent AND hyperlinks.

There is a reason Owen K.C. Stephens was hired by Paizo and this pdf does offer some glimpses as to why. That being said, it is my unfortunate duty to report that he has done better work than this. On the one hand I really enjoy the futureproofing of this pdf and the synergy with the talented class options. On the other hand, I don’t really get why the pdf had to introduce the term “lethality” in the first place – it sounds cool, yeah, but apart from that…well, it needlessly complicates the talented-terminology.

But back to less meta concerns – It took me some time to get to this one mainly due to the ACG-classes not being among my favorites regarding their balance and execution- but that’s for another rant. I applaud their concepts and this pdf does something the slayer was in dire need off: Provide unique benefits. The issue with this pdf is that the internal balance of these options is all over the place – from what amounts to “cool, but tactically useless or highly circumstantial”-fluff abilities to ones that are *very* strong (energy sneak attack, verbal-casting-negating grab-attacks with flails etc….ouch!), the balancing is pretty much all over the place. Now the options are not necessarily broken, but they do very much feel like they’ve been written for two completely different gamer-groups. The death strikes (again, perhaps slightly unfortunately named) and abilities to draw powers from defeated foes once again are pretty awesome. The archetypes once again show well this discrepancy again – the hangman being pretty strong, the warhound somewhat like an extended, flawed edge and the seditionist being downright awesome.

This pdf was a roller coaster ride for me – it felt uncharacteristically rushed for something Owen K.C. Stephens made, at least to me. There are more flaws and balance-concerns in here than I’m accustomed to from his usually rather airtight designs and the inconsistency of the internal balancing is so pronounced, it is almost jarring at times. That being said, on the other hand, the superb face-stealing tricks and cool, complex and unique options doe have something to add. This pdf is a mixed bag of awesomeness and problematic and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 292015
 

usa-chanBy Endzeitgeist

Blessed and Hunted – The Story of the Usa-Chan is 4 pages long, 3/4 of a page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 3 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this little pdf with a short origin-myth of the new race of the Usa-Chan – who are essentially bunny people in the style of Usagi Yojinbo (and if that does not ring any bells, google it!) and ties it neatly in with an alternate origin legend for the kitsune.

Usa-Chan get their own subtype, +2 Dex and Str, -2 Int, +2 to climb, -2 Disable Device & Sleight of Hand, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, get a base speed of 40 feet, always treat as having a running starts, may move freely through any undergrowth and 1/day as an immediate action, these guys can enter a rage for +2 to Str and Con and will saves, -1 to AC, maintained for con-rounds.

As far as FCOs are concerned, we get those for barbarian, cleric, druid, monk, ranger and oracle and we also get alternate racial traits: Spell-like abilities (disrupt undead, guidance, stabilize, protection from evil OR detect poison, know direction, longstrider, pass without a trace) 1/day, +2 to acrobatics, no penalty to AC when raging, better shadow-bloodline/darkness domain cha-score/CL, two primary natural attacks at 1d3 or +4 to CMD versus bull rush and trip.

As a variant, some Usa-Chan are born with Black Furs – these are small, get +2 Cha and Wis, -2 Con, chooses two skills to always be class skills AND gets +3 to both, +2 to initiative and run as a bonus feat, +2 to climb, -2 to Sleight of Hand and Disable Device, normal speed AND burrow speed 20 feet and can move unimpeded through undergrowth. They also get their own FCOs for the cleric, monk, oracle, rogue, sorceror and witch-classes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to ana easy-to-read, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with a drop-dead gorgeous piece of line-drawing b/w that is almost worth the price alone. The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but doesn’t need them at this length. The pdf comes with a second, hyperlinked version that sports the good, unobtrusive type of hyperlinks.

This is one of *those* races. On the one hand, the writing by Cleveland English and Jaye Sonia is awesome, the races are high-concept and cool. But damn, are they BLOATED AND OVERPOWERED. These guys mop the floor with just about all ARG-races. Yes, that bad. They are geared towards classes in stronger ways than the races of Rhûne (and this setting includes races that are literally made for certain purposes!) and overall feel like a typical Mary-Sue-race. One has this concept one loves, adores and all the cool stuff a character of this race ought to be able to do. Well, it’s NOT the job of a race to do that. What can’t be done via classes, feats etc. – THAT is what a race should do. And this one fails. The power is beyond tieflings, aasimar etc. – far beyond them. The superb mobility (Hey, let’s have them have the most useful power of a friggin’ druid in wilderness at low levels and devalue this class choice!), burrow speed at first level. URGH. Remember, that means EVERYONE of the Usa-Chan can do these things. To quote Sam & Max: Let’s all bow to our lagomorph overlords.

Another thing that irks me to no end would be the lack of an age, height and weight table: How old do these guys get? What branches can sustain them? Don’t know. Finally, if you’re halfway adept at Japanese, you’ll know that -chan as a suffix denotes something cute and is usually used in a patronizing way or to refer to e.g. a cute girl, a sister etc. For guys, you’d usually use -kun to achieve the same end, unless you really wanted to emasculate them. I know that in my game, my players would never, ever stop complaining about this, but let’s face it – in the presence of these overpowered races, that is a nitpick, though one I felt compelled to mention since some people might be annoyed to no end by it.

Personally, I only got fluff out of this book. I wanted to like it and ended up loathing the overpowered crunch. I’d strongly discourage all but the races-wise most high-powered games from using these fellows. The fluff is glorious, though, as are the production values and the artwork and bang-for-buck-ratio save this from being trashed to smithereens by yours truly. Since I have to take all of these into account as well as the possibility that you just might happen to be looking for this insane power-level, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded slightly up by a margin to 3. If you want to get this for a balanced race and not the fluff, though – steer clear.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 262015
 

10_paladin_magic_itemsBy Endzeitgeist

10 Paladin Magic Items clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this pdf with 2 new enchantments – harm’s way allowing you to intercept attacks on adjacent allies a limited amount of times per day, whereas the Patience enchantment is *very* interesting – it confers +2 to atk and +2d6 nonlethal damage if you or your allies do not execute the first attack in a combat encounter, thus rewarding *not* setting up a first strike ambush scenario. Cool way to reward paladins for behaving virtuously. That being said, on a slightly nitpicky side, the wording does refer to “the paladin” instead of “the wielder”, insinuating that the enchantments are paladin-exclusive when they aren’t. This does not impede their functionality, but it does constitute a minor glitch. This partially extends to the items.

In the tradition of the 10-series, we actually receive much, much more than the promised 10 items – with the exception of the new artifact and 2 items, all of the items herein come in three versions – a lesser, a standard and a greater version. Though, on an admittedly nitpicky side, some items instead differentiate between lesser, greater and superior versions for a slightly confused terminology. As far as I could tell, GP-costs are not a factor between deciding which terminology to use, rendering thus the chosen words just non-unified. Once again, this is a cosmetic glitch, but one that potentially could cause unnecessary confusion.

Enough nitpicking, onwards to the items: Boots of the Brave allow you to excel when kicking down the door and protecting your allies when covering their retreat (temporarily enhancing their flight-speed!), including an option that allows you to make combat maneuvers to shut down enemy movement. Pretty cool item, though the latter option to negate movement of target creatures may be a bit strong for the 18,500 GP price-tag of the superior boots. Bracers of Heroic Deeds allow you to catch allies about to fall – which is iconic. Switching positions with an injured or helpless ally should probably specify that the effect is a conjuration (teleportation)-effect and magically taking an effect or attack – all of these have a limited number of uses per day to balance them. Once again, extremely useful and damn cool.

Gauntlets of Remand hearken back to the exceedingly cool “Manalces of Idonis” from Rituals of Choice I, granting the character an extradimensional prison, with efficiency increasing over the levels – exceedingly cool and awesome to take foes alive, this also allows for pretty cool infiltration strategies. The heavenly helm (here, there’s only one) allows you to use lay on hands as a gaze attack a limited amount of times per day. While it’s called “layout on hands” once, that once again is a typo I can live with – it does not impede functionality.

The Ring of Honor’s Justice is also interesting -it penalizes foes that use poison or similarly cowardly tactics with scaling curses. Nice! The Tabard of Righteous Metamagic increases effective spell levels for spells with the [lawful] or[good] descriptor. On another nitpicky tangent, formatting of the presentation of the 3 variants deviates from the one established in the other item entries.

Vestments of Honor’s Virtue defines honorable attacks and allows a paladin to receive a powerful defense buff a limited number of times per day.

The final item herein would be the artifact Harngaul, “The Righteous Storm” is created from alchemical ceramic, a new material, and is a double-edged greatsword and also a legacy item – this would be Rite Publishing’s take on magic items that increase in power over the levels. a hint of the significant power is granted via an omen the chosen wielder experiences. The blade increases in power at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 15th level, with unconscious-rendering effects to grant foes mercy to increased smiting capacity, channeling spell-like or supernatural abilities via the blade to dimensionally anchoring foes and even making force-weapons to accompany your strikes and finally adding holy avenger-style abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this pdf are its weak point – the pdf has a number of cosmetic glitches that render some rules slightly opaque and some typos are in here. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s 2-column full-color standard. The pdf comes with nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before and is fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its short size.

I sometimes wish RiP-mastermind and author Steven D. Russell had more time on his hands for writing – Steven ahs a massive flair for creating iconic, cool things that just rock and this pdf is no different. Where other pdfs would have bored me with celestial pseudo-apotheosis number 3849 or bland numerical escalation 489, the items herein dare to be *unique.* There is not a single, lame item herein – this pdf is literally all killer, no filler in the content-department, offering powerful, cool tools for good PCs as well as great fluff in between the crunch. Were it only for the content, I’d immediately rate this 5 stars + seal of approval. However, the pdf does sport more glitches than usual for Rite Publishing and some of them could conceivably cause confusion on whether the item in question is paladin-exclusive or not. As much as I want to, I hence can’t rate this the full 5 stars, instead settling on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4. HOWEVER, personally, I love the items herein – they are often just godsend on the utility level and hence we have one of the rare pdfs here that receives my seal of approval in spite of not getting the full 5 stars – to denote how cool these items are, in spite of the formal glitches.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 262015
 

channelerBy Endzeitgeist

The Channeler is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

The channeler is an arcane casting class that casts spontaneous via charisma and gets no armor or shield proficiency, but may use simple weapons. Crunch-wise, channelers get 3/4 BAB-progression, full spellcasting (more on that later), good fort and will-saves, 4+Int skills per level and always 8 hp (of the d8) per level – uncommon, but makes sense when taking into account what the channeler essentially is about – casting via life-force.

Whenever a channeler casts a spell, s/he loses spell level x 2 hit points and channelers may additionally overcharge their spells, risking a percentile-based chance to become sickened or stunned. Unlike regular damage, the damage incurred by spellcasting DECREASES not only current hit points, but also the maximum hit points the class has that day – only rest replenishes the maximum hit points (and only rest can cure the aforementioned negative conditions incurred by overcharging) back to their usual level and no – temporary hp or those netted by con-increases can’t be used, nor can a channeler lower his hp below 0 or kill him/herself via casting.

The channeler gets a fixed number of spells, starting at 2 and getting up to 21 at 20th level. At 3rd level, s/he gets access to 2nd level spells, at 5th level to 3rd level spells, gaining access to higher levels earlier than e.g. the sorceror. The one limiting factor of the channeler’s spellcasting is the amount of hit points s/he has, which means taking two toughness feats allow the channeler to cast +1 3rd level spell or +3 1st level spells per day before the additional hit points of the feats for HD come into the equation – still, for the investment, a solid power that is not too strong.

Meta-magic can be added by the channeler for free regarding spell-level increase, but doing so deals constitution damage equal to the spell’s level-increase by the metamagic added, capping at 4 spell levels and this damage may, as other damage incurred from spellcasting, only be healed naturally.

The class also gets “Eschew Materials” as a bonus feat (though it features one of several typos, calling it Eskew Materials”) and may learn a favored spell of first level at 7th level, casting said spell 3 times per day sans hp cost and later gaining an additional favored spell of 2nd, 3rd and 4th level respectively. These favored spell uses may also be substituted for metamagic-powered con-damage on a one-to-one basis.

Similar to a sorceror’s bloodline, the channeler also chooses a source for his/her powers – at first level, each of these sources provide a unique power and a bonus spell at first level and over the levels bonus spells taken from the list provided for each source. A total of 12 such sources are provided – mostly focused on dichotomous basic concepts – light and darkness, life and death, creation and destruction, the classic four elements as well as chaos and nature – but surprisingly not law. Most of the sources net (with the exception of the elemental sources) the channeler an aura of 600 ft. that can be started as a standard action and maintained as a free action indefinitely, spanning a massive 600 ft. Creation e.g. nets everything within its aura DR 1/- and +1 hardness – affecting not only allies, but also enemies. Destruction auras would conversely add +1 to every damage roll versus creatures (but surprisingly not objects).

Each source also nets channelers an ability at 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level and the abilities per se are interesting, allowing e.g. for the creation-channeler to spontaneously created animated object servants for a limited amount of rounds per day or net 3+cha-mod times per day, a bonus of +2 to AC against one attack or saving throw, even retroactively, increasing over the levels. Instead of auras, the elemental channelers get to use one of their attribute modifiers when determining the DCs and variables for their spells – which per se is fine – but earth using con feels a bit overpowered for my tastes, as it essentially takes away one of the two attributes the class needs – what was before cha and con is now only con – and that’s NOT a good thing balance-wise. Especially, since at 13th level, con may also be used in place of wis for will-saves. Speaking of things that are problematic – the aura of the light source is BROKEN AS ALL HELL.

It grants every creature in it BLINDSENSE 60FT. AT FIRST LEVEL. 600 ft. radius. Do I even have to tell you why this is broken? Especially with standard stealth-rules, this is bad and while Drop Dead Studios’ “Rogue Glory” can slightly remedy this via the closer and more detailed take, but as a DM, handling blindsense on such a vast scale makes a rather significant array of problems regarding not only modules, but also in-game logic – put one of these guys into your mansion’s vault as security and watch rogues despair.

The pdf also provides advice for using channelers in your game and a short paragraph concerning their roles in the world.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not as good as I’ve come to expect from Drop Dead Studios – I encountered more easily avoidable editing glitches than usual, though they did not impede my ability to understand this class. Layout adheres to a two-column full color standard and the artworks are nice for the low price point. The pdf has no bookmarks, though they would have been useful. It is extensively hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, though there are some glitches, with e.g. the word “destruction” being linked to the spell, though it refers to neither the spell, nor an ability – and there are a couple of those in here. The pdf comes in three versions – standard, unhyperlinked and more printer-friendly.

The channeler per se is an interesting take on the full caster, offering not slots, but a number of spells known and thus also quite a bit of flexibility and offering a solution for the concept of life-force-powered casting. I am also quite a big fan of the concept of granting them auras, adding a unique option not tied to spellcasting, which especially at lower levels will give the class something to do besides burning spells. But…really, 600 ft. is a LOT of ground and at lower levels too powerful – a scaling formula that expands the aura over the levels would have worked much better here. I’m also not a fan of the attribute-substitution of the elemental sources, with especially the earth one being too strong, as it takes away all but one attribute’s necessity for the class. Another design decision I’m not a fan of would be the classes 3/4 BAB-progression – nothing is done with it. If the source-abilities required a plethora of touch attacks and the class didn’t get full spellcasting, I wouldn’t complain, but they don’t – and in the end, that means the class is better with touch attacks than wizards and sorcerors while getting the high level spells sooner than sorcerors.

On the downside, the class gets continuously weaker and frailer throughout the day, meaning they can nova hard, but have a hard time for longer adventure days. And that’s one of the classes detriments – it requires a lot of tracking on the side of the player and after a massive battle, the character will become easily killable, whereas before, the class could almost tank – which is interesting combined with its BAB-progression. This is hard to rate for me, but honestly, I can see several problems with some abilities and multiclassing could offer additional ones, especially when combined with HD-intense classes and high con-builds, showing imho that the class somewhat lacks a further limiting factor. Also, I think that a slightly broader spell-selection would have helped the class.

All in all, a solid class with minor issues, though personally, I wouldn’t use it analogue to wizards or sorcerors. For some campaigns, though, this will fit the bill just right. But why don’t I rate this higher? Because spellcasting is a limited resource – and unlike any other class, channelers have various ways of increasing their array of available spells – and more so than e.g. wizards and sorcs via attribute-dependant bonus spells, allowing for more ways of getting magical power. Still not thinking this might be a problem? Take one high con creature with many hp and slap one level channeler on them and compare that to the power-increase the same creature would get from a level of sorceror. Yeah. the result’s not pretty and system-inherent, not truly solvable – but still. The decision to make such a class also means that if such issues are not addressed, the .balance is off.

On the one hand, then, this class works – and does so well with a number of interesting options. Then again, it can imho be broken – more easily so than it should. DMs allowing this class should definitely beware and consider the results. Hence, in spite of me actually liking what the class offers, I have to take this potential for abuse into account and thus, combined with the minor glitches, arrive at a final verdict of 2.5 stars – still rounded up to 3, though, since the class does not deserve being cut down to 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 192015
 

Mythic Minis 27: Feats of the Monastic Master By Endzeitgeist

All right, you know the deal – 3 pages – 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page content, let’s go!

  • Cloud Step: Air walk full slow fall distance, remain aloft via ki. COOL!
  • Cockatrice Strike: Use as a standard action, petrify non-mythic creatures on any hit.
  • Crusader’s Flurry: Expend channel energy to increase potency of flurry of blows damage, also +atk when expending mythic power. Damn cool, though this can make you a pretty fearsome shredder. In the hands of the right player, this may be very nasty, even for a mythic campaign.
  • Deny Death: Use mythic power instead of ki to stabilize and get + number of ki points remaining as a bonus to saves versus death effects. I really like the aesthetics of this feat – the less life energy, the more susceptible to death effects – reminds me of a great many masters and how they died in WuXia movies. Two thumbs up!
  • Domain Strike: Use it as a free action or with +tier bonus to cleric level to determine its effects. Solid, but boring. Beware: If your campaign deviates greatly from the “2 levels equal roughly 1 mythic tier” convention, this may be broken for you.
  • Hex Strike: Same as domain strike, just for hexes; same caveat applies.
  • Ki Stand: No more AoO; for ki and/or mythic power, you can also move when standing up. Nice flexibility increase!
  • Monastic Staff: Temporarily make your staff ki focused as per the property and increase its potency via mythic tier.
  • Quarterstaff Master: Better 1h your quarterstaff and potentially temporarily break the +5 limit on enchantment via mythic power. Not a big fan of the latter, though it helps keep the weapon relevant.
  • Revelation Strike: Same as domain strike, for revelations.
  • School Strike: Same as domain strike, for arcane schools.
  • Spider Step: Like cloud step, only for spider step.
  • Touch of Serenity: Better efficiency versus non-mythic targets, use mythic power to use it as a touch attack; can be used more than once per round, including in a flurry. Solid.
  • Tripping Twirl: Better trip; If you’re also a magus and follow trip with spellstrike, you receive +4 to overcome SR. *Generally* pretty awesome and I love the class-specific bonus, though I do think the bonus should scale. That being said, formatting-wise, the additional benefit would usually be reserved to a “Special:” – line analogue to the non-mythic feat.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ 2-column full color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Tork Shaw and Jason Nelson provide quite a bunch of feats herein – this mythic mini is pretty much chock full. That being said, some feats feel slightly less inspired to me than in regular mythic minis – while I love the multiclass feat tricks in general, and yes, my gripe with them is highly situational, it is a gripe. I love the linking of ki and mythic power and while I do consider crusader’s flurry a tad too strong, I am quite sure that for some character out there, this will be just THE feat. All in all, though, these feats are pretty much ranging from solid to awesome and provide quite some flexibility. In the end, I will settle on a final verdict of a solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 – a good pdf for the price point, if not as mind-blowing and tactics-changing as other mythic minis.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jan 162015
 

Gates-of-TarinaBy Endzeitgeist

This new base class is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

The Maestro-class gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves, d6, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and shields (but not tower shields), but not any kind of armor. They also ignore the arcane spell failure chance of said shields. From this, one would presume a full caster class – the notion of which a quick glance at the table dispels: The class starts with maximum spell level 0 and only gets 1st level spells on 3rd level. Yes. Weird. But we’ve come to expect that from Interjection Games by now, haven’t we? So let’s see what this class has to offset that.

The Maestro starts game with 2 scores and gets an additional score at 5th level and then another one at 11th level and 17th level for a total of 5 scores. However, each score can be modified by a melody – at st level, only one melody can be applied per score, which increases to 2 at 3rd level and then by +1 at 8th level and every 5 levels after that for a total of 5 melodies. Furthermore, there are so-called refrains, the first of which is gained at 2nd level. At 8th level and every 6th level, the number of refrains available increases by +1 for a total of 4 refrains at 20th level. Finally, at 4th level and every 3 levels after that, the Maestro gains an opus. *takes a breath*

Let’s start with the spells, shall we? Maestro-spells ALWAYS have a somatic component and are cast spontaneously via cha. Spellcasting is completely different from any other class – a maestro can cast every spell s/he knows once per day – no more often, no less. They also don’t get bonus spells per day, but rather use this value to determine bonus spells KNOWN. They also are limited by not ever being capable of using any type of metamagic, whether by feats, class features or items.

So what about those compositions? Let’s start with scores. A Maestro starts the game with 2 scores plus 1/3 int-mod, rounded down, min one score. These consist of an intro, a melody and an outro – at least from the beginning. As mentioned, later levels allow for more melodies to be added to the respective compositions. To prepare a score, the Maestro requires an int-score of 12+amount of melodies used and the DC clocks in at 10+1/2 class level + int-mod. If a maestro’s int-mod is higher than his cha-mod, he may use that modifier to supplement his/her perform skill instead of cha.

A Maestro also has a composition book, which is somewhat akin to a spellbook, hut is only required when changing prepared compositions – lacking that, the previous compositions are regained upon rest, meaning a maestro is not left crippled upon losing his/her book, just stuck with their currently prepared compositions. They may also prepare compositions from recorded compositions on folios and get 1/2 class level to all knowledge-checks pertaining music. A maestro starts with 3 of any combination of intro/outro and 1+int-mod melodies, min 1. Each new level, a maestro gains one intro/outro and 1 melody. Beyond these, much like prepared casters, maestros may write compositions via a costly process into their books.

How does the Maestro cast, then? An individual score can be maintained for Perform (conducting) skill ranks + Int-mod rounds per day. Starting a composition is a standard action that provokes AoOs and it then can be maintained as a free action. The intro-effect of said composition begins immediately upon starting conducting, as do all melody effects associated with the performance. Now a maestro can either opt to end a performance as a free action – however, there is another option. By spending a standard action that provokes AoOs, the maestro can instead end the performance with the outro-effect chosen for the composition, which is immediately triggered upon completing the finishing flourish. While conducting cannot be interrupted in the most common ways, killing the maestro or incapacitating the character via paralysis etc. also ends the composition. Only one composition can be in effect per Maestro. Now refrains can be used to further spontaneously modify the compositions – by spending a move action, the maestro can use a refrain for one round, suspending the regular melody benefits of the composition (though the times still counts against the total time limit), while intro/outro remain unchanged.

12 intros, 13 outros and 2 that can act as either provide the basic framework for the melodies, of which we get no less than 40 (unless I’ve miscounted). Each has certain prerequisites, which can range from none to requiring e.g. spell focus (enchantment) to certain skill ranks and minimum levels. It should be noted that, though one composition requires leadership as a prerequisite, there is an alternate prerequisite for campaigns where that feat is banned. Compositions are considered supernatural abilities unless they contain one component that is a spell-like ability, in which case they count as the latter. Finally, it should be noted that, provided the requirements are met level-wise, most melodies stack with themselves – this way, e.g. the buff to wreathe the Maestro’s weaponry in +1d3 fire damage-dealing flames could be stacked with itself, as could the save-enhancing blare within 30 ft. against sonic descriptor-spells and verbal-component dependant bardic performances.

Now if that doesn’t look that impressive so far, remember that that’s just one of the components – take for example the accelerando-intro, which nets you and all allies within 30 feet +5 ft. movement to their base land speed, + an additional 5 ft. is added every round after that capping at +5 ft. for every two maestro levels. Nice way to create a rules-representation of the rising speed – and it should be noted that the bonus is untyped, thus allowing synergy with your spellcasters…one thing to keep in mind when running from the errupting/volcaano/collapsing dungeon/avalanche next time your PCs are in a shuffle…

Now if you instead want to use perform to gain money, you can also do so with an outro that allows you to instead add the remaining rounds as a bonus to increase the check to earn a living via perform in downtime activities – nice synergy with the underused downtime rules there! Another intro generates a continuous aura of indiscriminate sonic damage around the maestro. What also makes this interesting is the interactivity between the components of compositions – via the melody Deceptive Cadence, the outro-DC is increased by +1 per times the melody is chosen. Or take the outro encore: Requiring 13th level, its effects only work after conducting a composition for 5 rounds or more, but after that, the outro allows you to restart the composition with a bonus of +1d4 rounds that do not count against the composition’s daily limit.

The End with a Whimper outro also deserves special mention – a target creature within 30 feet of the maestro must save or die, provided it had less HD than the Maestro and listened to the composition for at least 3 uninterrupted rounds. Here, we get some minor nitpicks – for one, this ought to be classified as a death-effect to take immunities into account. What about the interaction with undead, for example? Finally, it is an instant death effect and as such probably should deal massive damage analogue to disintegration/destruction, not flat-out death. I would harp more on this, but the limitations make me consider this, if not optimal, then still feasible. Still, I maintain a slight cleaning up/mechanics streamlining would improve this ability – also thanks to the flawed requisite: The outro requires 15 ranks in heal and a maestro level of 13, which means that a maestro can only take this outro at 15th level, try as he might. So yeah, either one of the two is probably wrong. Rather annoyingly, this extends to just about all skill requisites, probably in order to maintain backwards compatibility to 3.X – still, that makes the design per se flawed for PFRPG and probably not work as intended. Elegy for the Living with its prereqs of level 3 and 6 ranks could only be taken at 6th level in PFRPG, when it clearly is intended to be available at 3rd level.

While no dealbreaker, this is unfortunately an issue that drags down 7 of the entries. And weirdly, all the other ones adhere to the rank=level standard established by Pathfinder, so I *assume* that’s a glitch rather than an intended (and nonsensical) design decision.

Another melody allows maestros to cancel out morale bonuses from just about any source – which should make evil parties with e.g. antipaladins cackle with glee. Synergies that bolster bardic performances as well as maestro compositions also are within the range of possibilities here. There are also options to use an outro to maintain a refrain for 1 round after the respective composition has ended or until a new composition has started.

Via Klangfarbenmelodie, the Maestro can also influence foes that have already successfully saved against a melody, thus being rendered immune against it to require a new, second save. Creating a variant air elemental that can deafen targets also is within the distinct realm of possibilities here. There is also an option via an intro that halves the area of effect, but also makes melodies that can be taken multiple times count as if they’ve been taken an additional time without counting these against the melody-limit. Conversely, doubling the effect of melodies via an intro for one round also is possible, as would be the AoO-provoking option to create walls of solid, damaging sound – the latter per se works well, though I would have liked some clarification whether the sound wall is visible. I assume it is, but if it should be rather an imperceptible blur, a perception DC to notice it in the heat of battle would be appropriate. That’s a nitpick if there ever was one, though.

Healing via an outro can also be a nice benefit, as can the melody that allows a down on his luck maestro and his allies to make just about any food more palatable.

Now I’ve mentioned the Opus – where the regular compositions of a maestro are very much customizable, the opus is not (with one exception: Via an intro, aborting a regular composition to start an opus still triggers the outro of the composition) customizable – they are essentially 1/day complete packages of effects. Each Opus can be selected multiple times, adding +1 use per day to said opus. And these offer quite significant benefits – 10th level maestros can resurrect allies at 10th level. Other examples include granting massive physical benefits to one target creature, deal ability damage to ALL scores, a lesser version of irresistible dance… and then there is the option to darken the skies and rain down fiery death or even, yes cannonballs! Yes, bombard adversaries with cannonballs while conducting other melodies (here is an exception to the no-synergy/parallel compositions-rule). Fly speed for multiple allies, sanctuary + SR and calling forth walls of stone – quite a few neat options here, though one save-or-die effect once again could use some streamlining towards massive damage, analogue to my complaint about the End with a Whisper-outro. Really cool: Real life masterpieces of classical music, the inspirations for the respective opus-compositions, are provided for each and every one of them, aloowing you to get in the mood (or even play the piece at the table!) – awesome!

Now at 20th level, a maestro can choose 1 of 3 capstones – one makes you famous throughout the multiverse (resulting in e.g. demons wanting your autograph) and also making the chosen composition available as a bardic performance to EVERY BARD. A second capstone nets the maestro an infinite amount of royalties for creating a new genre equal to 1d6X 100 GP, while the third option lets the maestro create a new instrument, gain 20 ranks in it and allows the maestro to inspire competence as a bardic performance AND maintain that while also conducting. Very unique, epic and damn cool capstones.

We also get favored class options for the standard races, aasimar, drow, hobgoblin, kobolds, puddlings and tieflings. We also get a spell-list (unfortunately sans denotions where the respective spells can be found – slightly uncomfortable when not allowing laptops at ones table and relying on books, but then again not that bad due to the limited amount of spells available) and also 6 feats to increase the DC of favored scores, +3 compositions, longer durations for favored scores, and +1 round duration for all scores. One feat also allows you to conduct refrain AND melodies at once, but consumes 2 rounds of the composition IN ADDITION to the rounds it already consumes.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any true flaws. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though not excessively so. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ elegant 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with thematically fitting stock art.

The Maestro is an exceedingly awesome class – the base concept of making essentially bardic performances a three-component, highly complex and customizable array of cool unique options is simply great. The amount of tinkering here is mindboggling and the overall playing experience is complex and more intuitive and easier to grasp than any other Interjection Games class I’ve reviewed so far – so either I’m getting just better at analyzing them or author Bradley Crouch has improved his writing further. The options galore reward careful planning while not stifling creativity, making this class a) unique, b) damn cool to play and c) an all-out success.

Were it not for the rather grievous issue with level-requirements/skill ranks that just don’t match up in 7 of the cases – while not *too* bad, that does mean that you’ll be left scratching your head regarding them and how they were intended. Not adding death-effect caveat and the save-or-die formatting of two options also falls among the small design glitches, which, while easily remedied, drag down what would otherwise be an instant must-buy recommendation to a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4. Once/If these are remedied/if you don’t mind, though, this is a full-blown must-purchase.

Endzeitgeist out.

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