Mar 262015
 

128921By Endzeitgeist

The final book for the first “Path of War”-book is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1

page SRD (leaving 22 pages of content) and is  all about supplemental content, so let’s take a look,

shall we?

After a short introduction of the topic at hand, we delve into new archetypes for the Path of War-

classes, so let’s check out the Judge first, an archetype for the Stalker. If the name wasn’t ample clue

for you – the stalker can be considered a blend of inquisitor and stalker and thus gains additional

options to use via their ki pool over the levels of their class-progression: +4 to bluff/sense motive,

detect alignment and similar shenanigans, +4 to a save as an immediate action and at 9th level, they

may spend ki to change a readied maneuver for another one they know and have it immediately

readied – thankfully with a limit beyond ki here, the trick that only takes a swift action can only be

pulled off  wis-mod times per day.

Judges also get judgments (1/day, +1/day at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter) – here, some

problems have crept in: Take the “Bloody” judgment –  The judge inflicts horrible, bleeding wounds

that gush with the deity’s rage. The target suffers 1d6 points of bleed damage for 1+wis-mod rounds.

Unlike the regular inquisitor judgments, this one is ACTIVE and, as written, can be read as the wound

materializing upon pronouncing the judgment as opposed to hitting the foe with an attack. A clearly

unintended RAW vs. RAI -glitch and nothing serious, but still. The “Deadly” judgment’s text is

completely absent from the pdf. A formatting glitch, probably. The other enhancements are okay,

though personally, I’d consider level 10 a bit early to make attacks count as adamantine, but then

again, this s Path of War, so yeah – within the context of this series, it works – especially, since the

archetype pays for the bonuses with deadly strike and the related stalker arts. At 3rd level, instead of

a stalker art, judges may choose a domain or inquisition sans spells/bonus spells according to their

deity’s portfolio. At 7th level and every 4 levels after that, the judge gets a stalker art or may choose

the new final judgment-art. This one requires one round of studying the target as a standard action.

On the following round, attacking the foe with a maneuver denies said foe the dex-bonus against the

attack AND requires a save versus 10 + 1/2 class level + wis-mod to avoid dying. Yeah. Ouch. I know

Path of War is all about amping up fighter potential etc., but insta-death attack available as soon as

level 11 is…uncommon. While the assassin’s death attack has a higher DC, it also requires 3 (!!!)

rounds PLUS a sneak attack. No way. sorry. There’s no limit on the insta-kill strikes for the judge apart

from immunity if you make the save – for one day. This is arguably more lethal than MANY similar

spells, declasses the assassin and needs another caveat – HD, something like that, even in the context

of Path of War.

Blending and greater blending are replaced with discern lies and the ability to spend 1(!!!) ki with a

martial strike to act as greater dispel magic for wis-mod effects that ALSO deal +1d8 damage per

spell/effect dispelled. Come again? Yeah, the ability requires judgment to be active, but still – this

ability would be strong even sans the bonus damage(or do I have to explain how to hoard ki?), but

the bonus damage…urks.

The second archetype for the Stalker would be the Soul Hunter – these guys recover maneuvers via

standard actions or via their soul claim ability: Up to wis-mod creatures at a given kind can be

claimed – these guys provoke AoOs when withdrawing from the soul hunter. Upon reducing a

claimed creature a claimed creature, the soul hunter immediately regains wis-mod expended

maneuvers. See this issue? Yeah – epic fail of the kitten-test. Put bag of kittens next to soul hunter,

claim kitten plus foes, kill kitten if maneuvers run out, rinse and repeat for instant unlimited

maneuvers. Broken and needs a HD-cap based on the level at least.

Claimed foes also suffer from soulburning for +1d6 bonus damage, +1d6 for every 4 levels per

attack/maneuver. Soulburning replaces deadly strikes and works like it with respect to stalker arts –

which may be fine and all, but at 5th level, all claimed within 30 ft. can receive the damage of

soulburning for 1 ki. No save, no option to negate the damage. Combined with soulclaiming’s flawed

mechanics, that makes the kitten-test even more failed, though the other ki-based options granted

are admittedly nice, as are the option hunting-based options to scry on targets and scent plus better

tracking versus claimed targets…though at 12th level, the class recovers an expended maneuver

when reducing a claimed target – I assume this stacks with all the other ways to regain maneuvers,

though the ability fails to explicitly state it and could be misread. The archetype needs some work to

properly work.

We also get 4 new warder archetypes, the first of which would be the Dervish Defender may grant

allies their shield bonuses and is less heavily armored, granting int-mod (also vs. flat-footed) to AC

when not heavily armored. This ability per se isn’t bad, though calling it “Two-Weapon Defense”

when no weapon in the off-hand is required feels a bit weird. While the archetype gets a damage-

boost ability for two-weapon fighting and while there’s nothing wrong with that, the archetype felt a

bit weird to me due to the hidden feat-tax that is heavily implied by some abilities – the archetype

gets no bonus-feats for dual-wielding characters – which feels a bit weird here. Warders and the

action-economy intense dual-wielding seem like a good match (especially with light armor thrown in

the mix) and the general idea of extending the narrow focus of the class is great, but the archetype,

as written, feels disorganized to me – the dual-weapon benefit at 15th level feels disjointed from the

rest of the archetype’s tricks, seeing they don’t provide any benefits for dual-wielding and indeed

more feel like one-hand/buckler-style. Not sold on this one.

The Hawkguard may use ranged weapons and bucklers together and replace access to iron tortoise

with solar wind (including corresponding class skills) – beyond that, a threat- range of 15ft. around

the character, excluding adjacent squares is interesting, though it doesn’t make sense with context to

ranged weapons/tricks to attack with them in melee, though that gets remedied at 3rd level, so yeah.

1/day extending the use of defensive counters to one round is interesting – one minor gripe being

here that “defensive counters” isn’t a defined term – why not just call them “counters”? Also, I’m not

100% sure what “Extending the instantaneous duration to 1 round” entails – Potentially twice the

damage? Doubled duration of detrimental effects? Using one counter sans expending it on all eligible

targets for one round? Some clarification would help here. Overall, solid ranged warder, though in

need of some slight rephrasing.

The Sworn Defender may choose specific wards to protect and may, a limited amount of times per

day, intercept attacks on the wards and increase their AC and extend readied counters with a range

of personal to adjacent allies. Cool bodyguard archetype! The final archetype for warders would be

the Zweihänder (Just can’t write the umlaut-less version sans cringing…) Sentinel, who gets aegis-AC

bonus when wielding two-handed weapons. They also gain access to Scarlet Throne in exchange for

Broken Blade, may treat their two-handed wielded weapon as a shield for purposes of shield bash et

al. The archetype also either extends reach by +5 ft. or make reach weapons work in adjacent

squares and instead of aegis, gets bonus damage when using AoOs/counters. Nice one – no

complaints.

Warlords get 3 new archetypes as well, the first being the bannerman, who gets AC-bonuses when

using medium/light/no armor and wielding light weapon plus buckler/ranged weapons as well as

three additional tactical presences:, one netting a massive +4 bonus to all social skills, one providing

a fear-aura and one, at 17th level, allows the warlord to lend readied maneuvers to allies within 30

foot – which is cool, but does the ally retain the lent maneuver when moving further than 30 foot

away from the bannerman? Immediate action boosts and bonuses for allies when in Golden Lion fit

well with the topic of the archetype.

The second archetype for the warder is the Steelfist Commando replaces Scarlet Throne and Solar

Wind with Broken Blade and Steel Serpent and if that wasn’t ample clue – unarmed strikes plus dodge

bonuses make this one somewhat monkish, including some stealth-capabilities. Per se cool

archetype, though personally, I think limited access to rogue talents/ninja-tricks in lieu of some more

conservative warlord tricks would have made it even more distinct – still that’s just a personal

preference here and won’t be held versus this archetype. The final one would be the vanguard

commander, who loses solar wind in favor of iron tortoise, starts game with improved shield bash

(and modified proficiencies) and gets a new gambit – when shield bash charging, allies within 30 foot

can gain a 5-foot-step – nice. They also add cha-mod to ref-saves, mitigate somewhat ACP when in

iron tortoise or golden lion. Heightened Defenses deserves special mention here – when using a

boost, the character gets +1 immediate action to initiate a counter, but only 1+Cha-mod times per

day. This can b a rather powerful option when played right and breaking the exclusivity of the

immediate action as one of the most valuable action-types feels problematic. Also potentially rather

powerful – free shield bashes with EVERY melee strike and EVERY counter versus adjacent foes. NOT

a fan of these.

Next up would be 14 new feats – one making bucklers shield bash-eligible (also for the purpose of

disciplines), one that adds shield bonus to ref-saves and touch-AC (the latter, I can see – the former is

OP as all hell, especially seeing how the feat offers both in one package and ONE component of it

surpasses similar feats…). There is also a teamwork feat that increases threat-range  for you and

flanking allies by +1, a further +1 if both have steel serpent stances activated. While these do not

multiply with usual abilities and thus are applied afterwards, an EVEN FURTHER increase of threat

ranges by up to +2 is something that won’t be used in my games – high-crit-builds already are rather

ludicrously easy and this makes it even worse. Speaking of broken as all hell – Defensive Web. When

refreshing maneuvers as a full-round action (lacks caveat for refreshments faster…), adjacent

enemies CANNOT LEAVE YOUR THREATENED AREA BY ANY MEANS. Yes, allcaps. Acrobatics? Screw

that! teleports? Pf. Withdraw? Please! A passive, unlimited refreshing can infinitely keep ANYONE in

the area. This is better than ALL options to prevent escapes COMBINED. Broken as HELL and needs to

die a fiery death, even within the context of Path of War.

Not all feats have issues, though – focus on disciplines, ending charges with strikes, temporary hit

points for penalties to atk (with a one-round caveat, somewhat analogue to expertise/power attack)

- nice ones. Ricochet Weapon, when used with a strike, nets the weapon gets the returning quality

for 2 rounds. Serene Stride is also rather broken, allowing you to ignore movement and acrobatic

penalties when moving through difficult terrain and even water as long as you have 1 point of ki.

Victorious Recovery also requires some clarification  -1/encounter you can regain a maneuver when

reducing an opponent to 0 hp. What about non-lethal damage? Also: Fails the kitten-test. Does the

feat stack with similar abilities, regenerating even more maneuvers or is the feat mutually exclusive?

It can be taken multiple times – does this increase the number of uses per encounter or the

maneuvers regained? Both? Tactical Rush allows you to 1/encounter move up your movement as a

move action. Utterly broken, even in Path of War’s context and suffers from the same multiple-taking

ambiguity of the former feat.

Next would be the Prestige Classes: At d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 fort-save

progression and +8 levels of spellcasting progression over 10 levels as well as 1 golden lion/ two of

disciplines s/he had access to prior entering the PrC, the Battle Templar. Now this obviously is a

divine/martial combi-PrC and generally, the idea is cool. Reach of the Divine, granted at level 2, is

already insane, though – martial strike = casting spell on self or ally within 25 ft +5 ft. per 2 initiator

levels, even if the spell’s range is touch. Worse, the cast is PART of the attack. Now remember -that

probably still leaves the move action, swift and immediate action after that dual assault.

Furthermore, the ability, insanely powerful and utterly breaking action-economy also fails to specify

whether the spell-cast provokes an AoO, though the wording “As part of the [attack] action” makes

me think that no, the cast does not provoke an AoO – after all, regular strikes don’t. Even in Path of

War, this is a serious power escalation. Other classes get tricks like that as a CAPSTONE. Even before

adding further AC-bonuses to the ability at later levels. They also later get + spell level cast as morale

bonus to atk for a  minute and can expend spells to regain maneuvers – or make allies regain them. At

least that’s probably the intent. The wording: ” and may expend his divine spell energy to

recover a maneuver of this ally” could have been more elegant and sounds like the templar

can recover expended maneuvers of the ally, poaching in ally’s maneuvers. Oh, at 9th level

all nearby allies will have unlimited healing via fast healing 5. Whenever the templar

recovers maneuvers (which can be done infinitely) all allies in close range (25 ft + 5 ft.per 2

initiator levels) gain fast healing for initiator modifier rounds. Wohoo – unlimited healing –

never again prepare heal spells, channel energy next to obsolete, no more healing

potions/scrolls. This ability, even as a capstone, would be broken and needs to DIE. It’s

literally INFINTE HEALING. Compared directly, the capstone which allows you to sacrifice

high-level spells to net allies healing and morale bonuses is ridiculously weak. This is officially

the worst PrC I’ve seen in ages.

The Bladecaster gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB progression, 1/2 fort-save

progression, 8 levels spellcasting progression, limited martial maneuver progression- notice

a similarity? Yeah, this one is the arcane equivalent. At 1st level, the PrC can ” The

bladecaster may select one arcane spellcasting that he possesses;” and cast that sans arcane

spell failure in light armor. What is “one arcane spellcasting”? A spell? ALL spells granted by

e.g. levels in wizard? One arcane spell-list? Don’t know, though I assume the second option…

The PRc also gets a special stance that allows the PrC to sacrifice spells for bonuses – and this

one is insanely powerful – damage-potential of the spells outclasses the benefits by far. Or so

it seems – you get e.g. +1d6 bonus damage per spell level – of the sacrificed spell’s energy

type if applicable OR, if not UNTYPED. Not even force, UNTYPED. You know, the damage-

type you can prepare against? Now even slashing, piercing – UNTYPED: Urgh. What about

spell level to ALL saving throws? 5 x spell level resistance to ALL ENERGY TYPES? Yeah,

duration only scales up to 3 rounds, but still. (Don’t get me started with cantrips, btw. – the

class ignores them completely.) Then again, the class gets a martial strike/cast spellcombat-

like ability – as a swift action, useable 1+ initiator-mod times per day. Which renders me

baffled – does this override the casting duration of the spell in question? Is it in addition to

the swift action/action required by the strike? Does the spell still elicit a SR/save etc.? This

ability needs severe cleaning up and gets utterly OP at later levels, when it actually gets a

REACH. Countering spells via initiator-checks may also be powerful, but at least the ability

works as intended and sans wonky mechanics. As a capstone, spells requiring an attack can

be used to deliver martial strikes – even as a capstone in Path of War, broken – no more

range limits. All melee strikes on range. Against touch AC. Urgh. At least the casting still

potentially provokes AoOs here…

The third PrC, Dragon Fury, gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, +1 maneuver at every odd level,

+1 readed per day at 3rd, 6th and 9th and +1 stance at 3rd level, full BAB-progression, 1/2

fort+ ref-save progression and is all about two weapon fighting – less penalties, power attack

as if main-hand for both (or even as if two-handed), repeated counters – all mostly cool. At

8th level, the class  gets a kitten-bag-fail ability that recovers an expended maneuver for

every foe brought to 0 hp.(Insert Kitten-Bag rant again, plus nonlethal damage still not taken

into account…). The capstone is cool, though – move 2x movement rate and attack like crazy.

Neat capstone. The first PrC herein that I don’t want to throw into the deepest fiery pits of

hell – this one’s actually cool. Nice!

The Mage Hunter, at d8, 4+Int, 3/4-BAB-progression, 1/2 ref-save progression and get access to

spontaneous spells up to 4th level. Which they can cast governed by their initiator attribute – which is

a blatant breaking of how spells are cast by any class. Int, cha, wis – can see that. I’m so tough/strong,

I can cast magic? Nope, sorry. Admittedly a nit-pick, though. The mage hunter may expend spells as

part f martial strikes to dimensionally anchor foes (which is nice, though aforementioned feat is

better…), add damage-dealing dispel magic effects to strikes etc. The criticism of the former iteration

of the simialr ability still applies here. There is also a class ability/stance that allows the mage hunter

to cast spells as a swift action as part of a martial strike (see criticism above) AND not take any

damage when making a save vs. an effect that has partial effects. That is a combined mettle and

evasion. Mettle was broken in 3.X and has, for good riddance, not reared its ugly head in PFRPG. This

is worse, even in the context of Path of War. Nuff said. The capstone, which eliminates the option to

cast defensively, is the other nail in the coffin for this class – Knowledge  (Martial) DC 21 to realize it

before hand? Nice, only casters don’t get the skill as class skill…Also: Hit point regeneration via SR

and even granting temporary hit points. Doesn’t sound so bad? AT this level, your PCs will have At-

will abilities, which translate, once again, to INFINITE healing, though this time “only” for the

character, not everybody. Still, broken as hell, even for a capstone.

The final PrC, the Umbral Blade, gets d10, 4+Int skills. full BAB-progression. limited maneuvers and

1/2 ref-save progression and is all about a connection to the plane of shadow, increasing power of

veiled moon etc. Which is kind of cool, though I’d suggest a minor re-fluffing here, if only to avoid

confusion in planar environments that lock out cross-planar effects. Using wis INSTEAD of str-mod to

damage is in this context fine with me -kudos here! What leaves me utterly baffled would be “Blade

of Night:” As the umbral blade’s shadow blade becomes a conduit for darkness and shadow,

he is capable of opening a dread gateway within his soul to cause this darkness to surge

through him and through the open conduit that is his weapon. The umbral blade may charge

his shadow blade with this power as a move action, and later when needed, he may release

this power as a free action as part of an attack or martial strike. This hungry and chilling

darkness inflicts cold damage, and Blade of Night is added to each attack that the character

makes during the round it is activated on.” What the friggin’ hell does this mean? Does it

change regular damage to cold damage? If so, is there a more convoluted way to say it? I

don’t get, at all, what this ability does. Which is a pity, for the signature stance of the class

rocks and is really evocative in its imagery, increasing its power over the levels into

essentially an area, where it nets at-will blink (no italicization in the text), bonus HP and even

turning incorporeal. One potential issue – the pyramidal way martial maneuvers are

organized means that the changing effective stance level can lead to some confusion here.

Better stealth, hide in plain sight and shadowy apotheosis also work. Over all, another solid,

if not perfect PrC.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are worse than in previous Path of War-installments, with more

glitches and rules-ambiguities. Layout adheres to DSP’s 2-column full-color standard and the

pdf utilizes stock art that is thematically-fitting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two

versions, with one being more printer-friendly.

I feel like I’ve jinxed it. Author Chris Bennett’s last two Path of War-supplements on the

Warder and Warlord were vast improvements and had cool rules, neat ideas, streamlined

design. They were not perfect, yes, but still – they worked. And honestly, the archetypes

herein do mostly a good job and left me generally smiling. Then came the feats and PrCs.

All right, to make that clear – I judge this pdf not by regular PFRPG-power-levels, I don’t

compare it with fighter or, whatever divine being you worship or ignore, rogues and monks,

but rather by the one implied by all previous Path of War-installments. The characters

therein can compete with spellcasters on a damage-output level, while not suffering from

depleting resources – which changes the dynamics of the game, yes, but it remains

manageable. Most abilities are single target and somewhat restricted by atk, by a balance

that may not be standard PFRPG, but it exists – good, that leaves SOMETHING for the casters

to do beyond utility spells. The martial PoW-classes are a bit on the short-end regarding in-

class variation, so adding archetypes = exceedingly good idea. In fact, I was utterly stoked

about this release. Then I read it. So many failed kitten-tests. Infinite maneuvers. And then,

the feats came. Want to know how broken some are? I can name HORRIFICALLY

OVERPOWERED feats by Rogue Genius Games I’d rather allow into a 15-point-buy-low-

magic-game than letting “Defensive Web” get anywhere near even a mythic game. This is

not an increase, it is an escalation. Not starting with the caster/martial combo-classes that

make the magus run to the next corner and cry his eyeballs out. Even if you just shrug at the

power-level and think “Endzeitgeist is an idiot who’s just nitpicking and complaining” – riddle

me this: Do you consider PrCs that can net a whole group infinite healing good design?

Nope? Thought so. This pdf is far from unsalvageable and indeed, some of the content works

for me and fared exceedingly well under scrutiny/playtesting. That being said, this is still the

most flawed of the Path of War installments to date and has ample issues that require fixing.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this

platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Mar 262015
 

141630By Endzeitgeist

This pdf clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages of

advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always with Rite Publishing’s 10-items-series, the first thing you may wish to know is that you

actually receive much more bang for buck than the 10 items promised on the cover – quite a few of

the items herein come in a bunch of variations – e.g. a lesser, standard and greater version with

increasing power. Now another peculiarity established by the series would be that this improved

versions do not simply provide numerical escalations of bonuses, but instead provide additional

abilities, making the better versions of the items a whole slew more unique than one would expect.

That out of the way, let’s take a look at the items, shall we? The first item, the boots of jaunting, will

probably immediately end on the wish-list of any wizard interested in a longer lifespan – they grant

motes of movement, a mini-pool of 3 points per day. The lesser ones allow the wizard to use a swift

action to escape grapples or teleport into a standing position. The standard version lets the wizard

blink automatically away from critical hits or any attacks that would reduce the wizard to below 0 hp

- if the wizard manages a second save equal to DC 10 + 1/2 attack bonus or DC of the ability, the

damage is negated. The greater set also has the option for short-range teleportation. Damn cool

items that would be utterly op, were it not for their limited uses. Still pretty strong for the price point

(greater boots cost a mere 6300 GP – that is *very* liberal…), but that may just be me.

The next item, the Emerald Familiar, is pretty cool – it can be tossed to the floor (and reforms the

following day) and increase the size of the wizard’s familiar into…let’s say, nasty dimensions – the

greater variant increases sizes by 3 categories, including natural weapons, attribute bonuses, etc.!

Yes, that is awesome. Conversely, the lesser version, which is now included, just becomes a regular

sized creature. Damn cool!

The emerald of expectation comes in no less than 10 variants – one for each spell level and one that

can contain up to two spell levels. What does this item-class do? It allows the wizard to swap a

prepared spell with a spell of an equal level or lower (provided the spell is upgraded to the target

spell level via metamagic) from her spellbook 1/day. Generally, I enjoy this type of item since it

allows for an increased flexibility, without treading too hard on the toes of spontaneous casters – that

being said, I consider the frame of time required for activation to be too liberal – 1 standard action is

nasty. Depending on the power level of your campaign and the amount of spells your wizard finds,

this may be a nasty kick in the shins for spontaneous casters, whereas in other groups, this may be

just what the doctor ordered – still, DMs should very carefully contemplate the massive added

flexibility for wizards – remember, this allows for infinite spell-changing due to a lack of daily uses,

bringing wizards almost up to spontaneous casters in terms of flexibility! They cost less than pearls of

power and while they do not increase the spells per day, they have no daily limit…for most groups,

this will probably be too strong. (If you like the idea, set the activation to 10 minutes or 1 hour to

make them less useful in combat/stressful situations…)

Eyes of the Studious Failure are interesting – the more a creature saves against your single-target

spells, the more insight-bonuses to your spell’s DCs against said target you accumulate. The lesser

version can activate this once per day, the standard thrice per day and the greater one always

triggers it.

Gloves of the Ray allow you to increase the range of spells with a range of touch to close as per the

Reach Spell feat a limited amount of times per day, but they now require ranged touch attacks. The

different item qualities denote the spell level at which these items cap – lesser can cast up to 3rd,

standard up to 6th and greater up to 9th level spells this way. Additionally, the gloves can 3/day as an

immediate action completely negate an incoming ray, with the max level of the incoming ray

following the same formula. Designer Steven D. Russell has eliminated all prior ambiguities – now

these gloves work properly and rock!

The Mantle of the Schoolmaster doubles the duration of the 8th level wizard school class feature,

while diviners and scryers may 1/day spontaneously convert a spell into a divination (scrying) spell of

equal level or lower. Cool item that enhances one of the few truly iconic wizard tricks – kudos!

The Robe of the Schooled instead allows activation of the 1st level school ability as a swift action or

temporarily extend a continuous 1st level school ability to an ally within 30 ft. as an immediate

action.

The Wizard’s Battered Hat is high in concept and imagery-wise – it acts as a handy haversack for

spellbooks only. Additionally, once per day, the wizard identifies a spell from his spell-list being cast

(here at DC 15 + double spell-level), the spell is automatically inscribed in the book without cost or

space required in the spellbook. Before, this lacked a daily limit -with it, it is a pretty nice, cool item!

Wizard’s Journeymen Rings allow for the 1/day reroll of d20-rolls, with lesser applying only to

concentration, higher ones also applying to caster level checks, failed melee/ranged touch attacks

and dispel-checks.

The pdf also provides a minor artifact/legacy item with Alymmanthar, “the Dire Wand” – to give you a

brief run-down: legacy items are specific items that grow in power with your character level, increase

their potency thus and require specific tasks to become better. Their chosen wielder senses an omen.

This item has been crafted by some of the legends of Questhaven from a new special material and

sports generally some nice abilities that involve dampening magic items, high jacking them and yes,

even golems, as well as dire magic item related curses. Better yet – the wording of this cool, complex

item has been streamlined to be easier to grasp.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of the revised edition of this pdf are neat – I noticed no rules-relevant glitches

survive the purge. 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.

Steven D. Russell can craft superb crunch – I never doubted that. But thatis something quite a few

(though by far not “many”) authors can do. Where he excels, though, is in capturing high-concept,

iconic imagery and representing said material in tight rules-representations: There aren’t many books

I review that tend to make me grin feral smiles as often as Rite Publishing books.

Now there is another reason I thoroughly respect Rite Publishing – Steven cares about quality. If a pdf

(like this one’s first iteration) has glitches, he fixes it. The first iteration of this pdf was nice, but had

some issues. It is a small, inexpensive pdf and I wouldn’t have been surprised, had it not been fixed.

Well, it was. The issues are gone, the new writing is concise and improves even my nitpicks. This is

customer service…AND it renders this pdf the cool book it deserves to be. Now on the nitpicky side, I

consider the emeralds as an item class too strong for all but the most high fantasy of games (or those

where players never want to play spontaneous casters in the first place), but that is just about all of

the negativity I can muster towards this cool pdf. The items herein are glorious, interesting and often

downright inspired. My final verdict for this revised edition will hence clock in at 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.

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Mar 132015
 

Animal-Races-Clan-of-the-BearBy Endzeitgeist

Clan of the Bear, an installment of the Animal Races-series clock in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Much like prior installments to this series, we herein receive rules for PCs belonging to one of the tightly and concisely-presented animal clans, with bear therians this time being the focus of attention.

Bear Clan therians are humanoids with the adlet subtype, have a base speed of 30 ft., scent, natural armor +1 (increasing to +2 at 10th level) and begin play with a natural primary bite attack one step in damage below what would be considered normal for a creature of the size, with the option for upgrade..but more on that later. Members of the bear clan may select one of 5 basic attribute arrays.

Regular members of the bear clan receive +2 to Str and Wis, -2 to Cha and may take the clan’s heritage feat instead of a rage power. Dancing bears receive +2 to Cha and may take the clan’s heritage feat instead of a versatile performance class feature. Grizzly bear clan members receive +2 to Str and Cha, -2 to Dex and may take the clan’s heritage feat instead of a fighter bonus feat, Honey Bear-members receive +2 to Str and Int, – 2 to Cha and may take the clan’s heritage feat instead of a rogue talent. Finally, there is the Panda Clan who receives +2 to Str and Wis, -2 to Dex and receives its own racial clan heritage feat as well as the lethargic quality – this translates bonuses to movement-rate enhancement to a bonus to CMD. Which per se is a cool idea that has now been stripped of a prior ambiguity. Kudos!

Now I already mentioned the clan heritage feats – the base bear clan heritage feat allows for the gaining of claws, faster movement, loner survival sans food or water (and overheating, allowing you to go some days sans food and water), better bites, claw attacks and additional damage while grappling. Upon taking the feat 6 times, you may elect to become large instead – and yes, after careful consideration and some math, the entry barrier, prescribed by both feat-taking and level-restrictions, feels right to prevent low-level reach abuse. The panda does not gain this capstone.

A cool, thematically-fitting feat makes members of the bear clan less susceptible to swarm attacks (with DR and immunity to distraction) and another feat for limited daily shapechanging into human form. A new feat allows bears to gain stonecunning and polar bears may select the cold resistance racial trait.

In the cool tradition of the series, we receive both information on the genealogy of the clan as well as the clan’s folklore, providing information on some of the fantasy monsters and how they pertain to the myths of the clan. A racial deity can also be found herein and, like in other installments of the race, racial traits may be exchanged for a heraldic symbol, with each granting a bonus feat, but also imposing a penalty on either a save or initiative.

Now the pdf’s revised edition has received probably the coolest update in any of the revised animal races so far – we receive two massive games enjoyed by the Clan of the Bear – which can be used as awesome encounters, competitions or skill-challenge-style challenges – Tooth and Claw Fishing and Twig Racing. I absolutely ADORE these – they do an incrdible job at further fleshing out the race and provide inspiring dieas for DMs – absolutely awesome! The pdf now also sports a new bloodrager bloodline, the boreal bloodline, which allows you to add ice damage to your attacks, nets you the racial clan heritage bonus feat and is generally a nice, fun, ice-themed bloodline.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, there is not much to complain about here. Layout adheres to a very crisp and concise two-column b/w-standard with cool heraldic crests and stock art mixed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Eric Morton’s take on clan bear is absolutely awesome – and better yet, whereas before, the supplement was neat, but not perfect, he has updated the supplement to sport absolutely stunning, awesome new content while also fixing all issues I pointed out in my first review – this is absolutely great and deserves to be acknowledged. My final verdict for the revised version clocks in at 5 stars + seal of approval – now can we have more of these damn cool racial games/challenges?.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

MechromancerBy Endzeitgeist

The Mechromancer: A Theurge Tinker Prestige Class is 5 pages long, 1 page front cover,1 page SRD, ½ a blank pages, leaving us with ~2.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

Mechanically, the Mechromancer is a 5-level PrC that has a slow BAB-progression, gets d6, needs to be not of a good alignment and gets good will-saves. As to be expected from a class offering a theurge-approach, it offers +1 level of spellcasting and +1 level invention-usage per level, meaning mechromancer-levels stack with tinker-levels for the purposes of determining maximum number of available build points per blueprint, max amount of blueprints, inventions known and maximum invention level known as well as effective level of inventions and automatic HD-progression. I’d also comment of the amount of skill points per level, but unfortunately, the pdf lacks this crucial information. – Especially relevant since the PrC only offers two class-skills – this might have been intended as a means of balancing the class, but I can’t ascertain that.

Now fluff-wise, the Mechromancer is a blending of necromancer and tinker – i.e. of the two classes offering the most minions. Prerequisite-wise, this is reflected in needing to be able to cast animate dead as well as having an alpha. Now the first ability already had me chuckle “Blue Screen of Undeath” allows you to resurrect an automaton that has died within 1 minute mechromancer class levels times per day. Said revived construct only persists for a limited duration and counts as undead for the purpose of what affects it without gaining the undead traits. The reanimated automaton also can be directed sans using actions. Unfortunately, the ability fails to specify whether said reanimated automatons count towards the maximum amount of automatons a tinker can have deployed at a given time.

At 2nd level, the mechromancer learns to add one single mechormantic graft to each of his/her blueprints, including the alpha, which, at 4th level, gets a second graft. A total of 15 such grafts are provided and they range from a stomach that allows an automaton to heal 10 HP when digesting food for an hour to +3 natural armor via the addition of a skeleton, +5 to perception, an increased reach (only for combat maneuvers by 5 ft.) or the option to be healed by negative energy – but harmed by positive energy. There also is a graft that replaces the damage dealt by the kamikaze invention by negative energy – including a minor typo that speaks of “Customkaze”, but oh well. More significant are other glitches: Take adding a mechromantic brain-graft: It allows for the addition of a brain to an automaton – at the cost of counting as two deployed automatons. The automaton does deactivate when leaving the tinker’s master’s presence radius, though, paying thus for being autonomous. However, this does entail some peculiarities, as does the existence of reanimated constructs: Do these automata (either normal undead or those with a brain) get the awareness to make AoOs? What about combat maneuvers? Can automata with a brain be revived temporarily via Blue Screen of Undeath? The text mentions “irrevocable shutdown”, which makes me not so sure.

Another issue would be that adding a lymph system adds channel resistance +3 as well as +3 to fort-saves for the automaton – per se nice. However, channel energy usually deals damage to the living or undead – not constructs. It requires the variant channeling provided by the Forge portfolio to heal constructs via channel energy and damaging them via the channeling of an opposing energy is impossible until the mechromancer reanimated the automaton – prior to that, constructs are neither harmed, nor healed by positive or negative energy since they are neither living, nor undead. – i.e. channel resistance only applies once the automaton has been revived – prior to that, the ability implies that automata can be hit by negative or positive energy, which they RAW can’t.

Mechromancers may also add a secondary bite attack to their arsenal, I assume at the standard 1d4 for small creatures, but actually listing the damage said attack deals would have been helpful.

The Mechromancer’s Alpha also starts to radiate a permanent aura s per the desecrate spell and later adds the channel resistance provides by unhallow to its array, but not the other abilities of aforementioned spell.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not up to the level of quality I’ve come to expect from Interjection Games – from the missing skill points per level to non-italicized spells and minor typos, for such a short pdf the amount of glitches is too high for my tastes. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ neat 2-column b/w-standard and the product does feature some nice b/w-stock artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

I really wanted to like the mechromancer- it really caters to my sentiments and has a delightful mad science-feel in concept. In execution, though, I think it unfortunately falls rather flat: From the missing skills per level to the uninspired capstone, the PrC feels a bit raw and less imaginative than its concept deserves – while the necromantic additions to the automata are great, as is the option to temporarily revive them, they do suffer from some problematic uses of the rules-language and over all require more clarification regarding when/if they count as undead, constructs etc.. And they only cover one half of the equation: “Theurge” implies a duality and this pdf misses the awesome chance of adding inventions to the undead – the class essentially is a one-way street, only one side of the coin, and feels honestly cut down, like it was supposed to be so much more. Were it only for unrealized potential, I wouldn’t have rated this pdf down as much – but with the glitches that actually severely impede the functionality of the class, I am left with no choice in spite of liking the concept of this PrC: My final verdict will clock in at a final verdict of 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

131124[1]By Endzeitgeist

Islands of Plunder: Spices and Flesh is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Wait, before we go into the details – what is this series about? Well, essentially, the Islands of Plunder-sub-series is a part of expansions intended for the Skull & Shackles AP, providing sidetreks etc. on an island per island base – they can essentially be considered island-focused mini-adventures that work just as well within the context of a Freeport campaign, Razor Coast or Savage Tide – if it’s remotely pirate/island-themed, these will work – and probably beyond that, but that I’ll take a look at on a case by case basis. This Island of Plunder-module is intended to be run for level 4 characters during #2 of the Skull & Shackles AP.

Hence, since this is an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players are strongly advised to jump to the conclusion.

When the PCs board the Tamarind (fully mapped in gorgeous full color!), captain Batholomew Shaw immediately surrenders his weapons -alas, things are not as easy as they seem. While the captain sports minor enchantments, the module does mention this and provides excuses for the DM to rattle off – nice to see obvious PC capacities taken into account. Beyond the magic, astute and observant PCs can notice quite a few discrepancies in the Tamarind’s make up that should make them aware of the potential issues with the craft -if they fail, though, they may very well be subjected to non-lethal poison that may knock them out and put them at a severe disadvantage.

Whether they are imprisoned and need to escape from the secret cargo (including slaves) hold or whether open hostilities break out – the PCs will have a conflict on their hands -and one that is not too easy. While it is my personal opinion that the ship’s alchemist’s buffed AC at 20 isn’t too bad, the module does sport advice for extremely low-powered groups to prevent frustration. Searching the ship, the PCs promptly stumble across the legend of Shayonna and a hinted trade planned by the pirates; Said being, though, is now known as the legendary Gaunt. Embarking towards her islet, the PCs are soon greeted by a less than friendly merrow strike squad.

Despicable PCs may well sell the slaves for an excellent price, but more heroic PCs will have to brave coral flensing traps, ravenous urchin swarms and worse before finally facing down legendary Shayonna, who has the strange power to transform regular beings into merrow – and yes, she is a mythic threat and one that will challenge the PCs to the utmost. It should be noted that her legend can be gleaned by the PCs, making sure they know they do not have a regular adversary before them and her stats, fully provided herein, contain all required rules to run her.

The pdf concludes with player-friendly versions of the maps, including Shayonna’s islet. Going above and beyond, the underwater tunnels do not show on the player-friendly map – AWESOME.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Each named NPC receives his/her own artwork, which is awesome. Even better, both island and fortress come in lavishly drawn full color maps that also sport player-friendly maps to use as handouts – kudos to the cartographer! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Goodall and F.D. Graham have provided a neat sidetrek here – with smart adversaries, a nice, short, concise story and fitting consequences. The BBEG is neat as well, though her foreshadowing does not match that of a similar module. The cartography is neat, quite some advice is given that helps run the sidetrek and the module’s gorgeous original artwork and cartography help make it a nice, unpretentious sidetrek. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t have to – easily dropped into just about every kind of nautical campaign, this one has the potential for massive expansion, should a DM choose to do so. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Feb 162015
 

Necropunk-BestiaryBy Endzeitgeist

Necropunk Bestiary for Little Red Goblin Games’ SUPERB, intelligent dark-scifi-setting necropunk clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 40.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

This pdf kicks off with the new alien type and all required information to create more aliens – and these creatures are more colorful than you’d imagine – weird, yes, but also pretty organic. Resonating the themes of Necropunk, the aliens provided herein often hearken back towards strange insectoid beings or creatures that look like they may have spawned in an alternate evolution, so kudos. Attack Bug Swarms, gigantic clusters of nanomachines that can scourge and disintegrate foes, dissipating seamlessly upon facing too pronounced a danger -the adversaries herein are distinct and awesome and fit well not only within the context of Necropunk, but also within the frame of another setting.

Strange, squishy gas drifters with three tentacles, off aliens that look like a cross between a tapir and a kangaroo that can drain confidence with a mere gaze (including an improved, higher CR variant), deadly orbital crustaceans (that can leap hundreds of feet, generating deadly shockwaves upon impact), behemoth-like all consuming scoop mouths…or what about crosses between multi-eyed felines and hammerhead sharks? Yes, these creatures are alien and odd, but they are believable and have unique abilities and fitting full-color artworks. They also make good use of bulletproof defenses, evasive maneuvers and similar unique tricks, though, admittedly, I would have loved for them to make more use of Necropunk’s unique rules-assets like social combat, phase combat and the psychic system. A further downside for those of you who want rock-solid stats – I did notice some (minor) glitches in the statblocks themselves.

Now I feel obliged to mention that the statblocks herein adhere to an unnecessary diversion from presentation standards – special abilities are presented not below the ecology section of the statblock, instead showing up right below the offense-section, before the statistics – this pulls the whole statblock unnecessarily apart and, while not impeding functionality, it does require some getting used to.

Beyond creatures, though, this pdf also provides us with Necropunk iconics, all with their own artworks and sample builds for level 1, 5, 10 and 15. A Total of 5 such iconics are provided and mooks, from mass-produced ghouls to security agents also help the DM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – the non-standard formatting of statblocks, while consistent, is unnecessary and makes them slightly harder to read and the minor glitches beyond that remain a blemish on the file. The pdf adheres to Necropunk’s printer-friendly two-column standard in full color, with most monsters receiving their own, unique artworks with a thoroughly distinct style. Kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Scott Gladstein, Jeremiah Zerby, Caleb Aylesworth, Maverick Bishop and Dayton Johnson have created a bestiary perhaps my favorite scifi-setting right now – I find myself craving a TV series, novels, more supplements for Necropunk on a rather regular basis and the innovative rules inherent to the system have found their way in one form or another in many facets of my home game. The aliens provided herein could have easily wrecked the distinct style, the hard to grasp cohesion of the setting’s superb atmosphere. They didn’t, so that’s a massive plus for me. Instead, like many good scifi creatures, whether those encountered in George R.R. Martin’s lesser known scifi stories (Necropunk meets Meathouse Man would be pretty interesting…) or those provided by classic scifi/pulp authors, they feel alive and believable. They also sport a diverse selection of unique abilities and tricks and the sample NPC-builds spare both players and DMs a lot of time. That being said, as much as I’d like to, I can’t remain mute on the minor glitches in the statblocks, the unnecessary formatting decision that makes them harder to read. These constitute detrimental factors.

On the plus-side, though, this bestiary is cheap and makes sense in non-Necropunk-settings as well. Still, try as I might, I can’t rate this bestiary higher than an enthusiastic 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 since the pdf is too good for a mediocre rating.

Endzeitgeist out.

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