By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Alluria Publishing is 98 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page list of thanks for the Alluria kickstarter, 2 pages of Index, 1 page inside the back cover and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 88 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This is a pdf I honestly thought I’d never see – Alluria Publishing has created THE definite book for underwater adventuring with their massive, stellar quality Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting. Unfortunately, after that, the company got put on hold and now, like a phoenix from the ashes, has risen to once again grace us with their material – but can the psionic supplement, fully compatible with Dreamscarred Press’ Psionics Unleashed material and made in association with these masters of the mind stand up to the incredibly high standard Alluria has set for themselves with the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting?
Only one way to find out! This book kicks off with a flavourful introduction about the cycles of divine might, arcane power and psionic potential and then goes on about how this product was made and a set of basic terms one should understand when reading this book. Without any significant further ado, we are then introduced to new aquatic psionic races that might be added to a regular heavily aquatic campaign or used with the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting. First in the array of new races would be the Amphian, a subtype of clownfish-like-looking merfolk that is renowned to be a race of gifted entertainers and scoundrels – they get either the wild talent psionc feat (if non-psionic class) or the psionic talent feat (if they choose a psionic class) at first level as well as fast swim speed, +2 to Cha and Dex and -2 to Str as well as the favoured class option to get +1 power point when taking a level in the wilder class and a resistance to venoms. The Thalassic Asrai, a new type of medium feykith, get either the wild talent psionc feat (if non-psionic class) or the psionic talent feat (if they choose a psionic class), are boneless and thus get +2 to acrobatics and escape artist checks as well as +1 to CMD & CMB, +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Con, can get a power point instead of hp or skills when classing in a psionic class, deal cold damage with their natural attacks and swiftly die when brought out of the water. They also gte +2 to checks to overcome psionic resistance instead of feykith magic.
The Melusine are an interesting race that sprang from the nommo and can be considered a psionically changed race that is heavily influenced by its rigid caste system and the fact that beings from diverse castes produce offspring belonging to certain caste combinations, enforcing a complex structure that is interesting to explore in game. Rules-wise, these beings get +2 Con and +2 Int, -2 Cha, are of the merfolk subtype, get 40 ft swim speed, darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity, suffocate out of the water, get a +2 to Perception due to compound eyes, get either the wild talent psionc feat (if non-psionic class) or the psionic talent feat (if they choose a psionic class), can get a power point as a favoured class option when levelling in a psionic class. They are also acclimated to extreme depths, meaning they suffer at low depths of 300 ft. from being pressure sensitive and can negate damage they receive as an immediate action by burning power points, ignoring 2 points of damage for each power point spent.
Speaking of interesting races: The Merkoth, is a weird merfolk indeed, ending in multiple, octopus-like tentacles. They get +2 Dex and Int, but -2 Cha, have a normal swim speed, get either the wild talent psionc feat (if non-psionic class) or the psionic talent feat (if they choose a psionic class), can cast detect psionics and concealing amphora 1/day as a psi-like ability – well, and they have tentacles, enabling them to hold up to 4 items ready (but not use them) to be retrieved as a swift action and also granting them +4 to CMB when trying to grapple. Oh, and they have a unique peculiar behaviour as well: They hate their own race, trying their very best to avoid each other as often as possible, even having their young brought up by foster parents and actually get sickened without a save when within 30 ft of another being of their race. Now if that is not story-telling gold!
The reptilian-headed Benthic Naga are next on the list. They get +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Cha, belong to the anthromorph subtype, get +1 natural armour to AC, get either the wild talent psionc feat (if non-psionic class) or the psionic talent feat (if they choose a psionic class), are immune to mind-reading and get +2 to saves vs. enchantment and poison as well as a mildly poisonous bite. The DC of latter scales with the character’s level, ensuring prolonged usefulness. The final new race is actually one you might recall from another Alluria publication, namely the Remarkable Races Compendium. The Zef, originally parasites that have taken over the collectives of a form of snail-like humanoids and guided them benevolently, granting them sentience. The small snail-people are presented here in a psionc variant that gets +2 Int, +2 Wis, -2 Str, 20 ft swim speed, can choose a knowledge skill as a class skill at first level due to their inborn knowledge and also feature a protective shell in which they can retreat. If you remember the campaign setting, you might recall the eclectic options to play half-breeds of a wide variety of races and here we also get seafolk/amphian, seafolk/melusine and seafolk/benthic naga crossbreeds. It should also be mentioned that the chapter includes tables that comprehensively list all racial modifiers of the new races, tables to determine random height and length, age-tables for starting age and age effects as well as information on racial buoyancy and depth tolerance, both in the respective racial entries and in the table – great service and concise presentation there!
After that we are introduced to Alluria Publishing’s take on the psionic classes released so far in the context of underwater adventuring, providing easy to implement conversion advice ranging from cosmetic remodelling to some minor crunchy modifications before we delve into the new base-class, the Aquanaut. The Aquanaut gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armour, shields and all natural weapons they have, but more on that one later. The Aquanauts also gets full BAB, good fort and will-saves, up to a total of 74 power points and can learn powers of up to 4th level. Sounds like a martial class? Yes and no, for the Aquanaut is so much more than that! The Aquanaut starts off with something called Phylum and gains an additional phylum at fifth level and every 4 levels thereafter, gaining an empathy with creatures associated with her phylum – examples would be Cnidarians, Crustaceans, Mammals etc. Now, the Aquanaut foregoes membership of her original race, becoming essentially a race of her own she shares with other members of the class (Aquanaut). She also becomes an inherently magical being that increases her natural AC, makes her resistant to pressure and means that she counts as magical for means of attacks. Can you see where this is going? The Aquanaut is actually evolving her own body, learning to change her body with her very own brand of mutations, to which quite some space is devoted: Starting by explaining the basic [armour], [extra arm] and[shell]-descriptors of the introduced mutations, we are then presented with phyla and their associated mutations: 6 phylums are detailed, each coming with a plethora of these new mutations – from root-like tendrils, to anchor yourself, coral-style to surfaces to extruding poisonous slime or growing a coral head, from poisonous and shootable spines to fins to crab legs, chitin skin, additional tentacles, lobster claws to an otter’s keen sense of smell, a sonar, up to the option to change colours and thus speak the cephalite language and gain a stealth bonus, extrude octopus ink or being able to grow, puffer-fish style – or grow a turtle or nautilus shell: Not only are the respective options sheer genius in their iconicity, they also are so rock-.solid and balanced in their rules-implementation that I can do naught but utter the utmost praise for this class: Even in the reign of excellent PFRPG-classes, the Aquanaut stands out and surpasses all regular Cerulean Seas-classes, being on par with my favourite pathfinder-classes ever. The best new base class I’ve read so far in 2012! Take heed, designers – this is how it’s done!
Next up are the regular psionic PrCs and how they can be changed to fit in an undersea environment and goes on to provide us with two new PrCs – the 10 level Current Adept (d6, 2+Int skills, 1/2 BAB, 1/2 will-save, 8 levels of power progression) are beings that can manipulate water to work telekinetic style and gain vast speed enhancements as well as the option to create impassable water and change water temperature – interesting casting battlefield control/mobility class. The second class, is the 5-level shark incarnate, a feral melee PrC for psychic warriors that gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, good fort and ref-saves, only gains an additional 9 power points and 3 levels of power progression, but gets special enhancements options to make truly devastating bites and can be considered a fearsome foe indeed: The shark incarnate can add double the str-mod to attacks when blood is in the water or an enemy is almost dead and can get additional attacks to follow up on critical hits, may reroll class levels saves and add his strength modifier on the rerolls. Worse, once the shark has destroyed a foe, he gets temporal life-force from cannibalizing. The capstone is also cool, offering the option to treat power points as hit points on a one-for-one-basis if the shark incarnate would otherwise be dropped below 0 Hp. Both PrCs are absolutely neat, though, unsurprisingly, they are “only” excellent, not a class of its own like the Aquanaut base-class.
The pdf also provides us with 23 new feats, including e.g. the option to craft mystic starfish (!!!) to gaining ectoplasmic ink to the option to gain a hypnotic angler-fish style gaze or even turn to water to 1/day automatically escape a grapple or change your naga venom to one that deals wis-damage that makes susceptible to your psionic attacks. You could also form psionic quills of ectoplasm while focused, granting you access to armour spikes in any armour or even unarmoured. Beyond that, we are also introduced to a variety of psionic powers and the careful consideration towards environmental factors we’ve seen in Cerulean Seas – e.g. the fact that cold energy effects may result in ice-crystals, but only up to a certain depths. It’s small bits and pieces that make the difference between a good setting and a stellar one – attention to detail and internally consistent logic. We also get a complete powers-list for the new Aquanaut-class, including highlighted and altered aquanaut powers. This care is extended towards the psion and wilder as well as the psychic warrior class, before we delve right into the selection of new powers.
Oh BOY! Aqueous Coalescence thickens the water around you, halving enemy movement and hampering attacks and damage as well as preventing ranged attacks. Better yet – the power also effects buoyancy and can be dissipated by currents. You’ll see powers like this more often in the chapter than not – i.e. powers that not only offer interesting tactical options, but also exhibit a true mastery of psionic rules (the Dreamscarred press connection is evident) as well as taking the stellar rules from the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting into account, merging both in an accomplishment of great design. Whta I mean with this rather cryptic wording is that these powers take three-dimensional fighting, buoyancy, floating ice, etc. into account, create devastating vortexes, use atomic agitation to create superheated blasts of water, etc. into account.
Not even here does the pdf stop, though, and instead it provides us with 2 new item classes, the mystic starfish and the ioun bubble, as well as 6 new psionic items and a new psionic material. If you’ve read the Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting, you’ll distinctly remember the racial perspectives on the setting’s history and the grand panoply their combined perspective offers – just like the setting, this pdf provides a chapter of fluff in this vein, containing famous members, adventure hooks and myths galore, enough to fill a wide variety of adventures and campaigns. It should be noted that the perspectives on non-player races have not been ignored – we also get to know at least a bit about the psionic jellyfish called medusians and similar NPC-races.
The final large chapter provides us with a bestiary in true Alluria Publishing-style – i.e. with easily identifiable creature-glyphs and gorgeous full-color artworks for every creature. We are introduced to the golden-scaled Apsara merfolk, the enigmatic Arichteuthian shapers, to calcified skeletons and brain corals that kill their victims and make them their calcified skeleton slaves, to tiny, yet deadly brain crabs, the demonic and powerful Jormungandi, to a new almost cthulhoid-looking species of song dragon, to nightmare-inducing eels, frogs on whose backs brill grows to the non-player castes of the Melusine to disturbing mindshrimp swarms, to translucent, glowing deep sea octopi and psionic slurgs, host creatures for the Zef and their racial blood foes, the Zoh, – the bestiray is of a stunning quality and many of the artworks herein would even stand out in Alluria’s excellent oevre.
In order to make navigation easier, we get an appendix with aquatic psionic monsters released so far by CR, a pronunciation guide, an index of tables, an index for art and 2 pages of cardstock minis.
Editing and formatting, I am happy to report, are up to the stellar quality Alluria left off with – I did not notice any glitches, top-notch! Layout is GORGEOUS and up to the highest standards conceivable, using the same awe-inspiring full-color blue-tinged loook as the campaign setting. Alluria Publishing’s artwork was always stellar, but some pieces herein, be it the monsters, the chapter-introducing artworks or the Aquanaut blast the lids off of what to expect from a 3pp artwork-wise. Only rarely does one see so many awesome full-color artworks in one pdf. Impressive indeed! The pdf also comes fully bookmarked, with nested bookmarks, making navigation easy. The only formal point I could nag about is the lack of a printer-friendly version. Then again, if you do print this out, you’ll want it in full color or even print from the get-go: The pdf is that pretty.
And best of all: The content is up to the visuals! Whether it is crunch or fluff, this pdf leaves nothing to be desired – much like the spell-adaption in Cerulean Seas, this pdf not only goes the extra mile, it goes an extra marathon and then some. Advertised as a psionic underseas sourcebook I at first considered the publisher’s blurb speaking of “mastery of Psionic Unleashed and the Cerulean Seas Setting” sounding like hubris. It’s not. It’s the plain truth. I did not find one piece of content I’d consider off, not one single piece. Better yet, the pieces herein are not contend with working – they strive to be iconic.
They ooze heart’s blood and passion. They provide innovative synergies and take the peculiarities of undersea adventuring into account. This pdf, much like the original Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting, is not content with being good, or very good – it strives to excel. And that shows. In every page and every idea. Let me spell it out: My expectations were insanely high. They were met and surpassed. My expectations, when this high, are almost universally disappointed. Instead, e.g. the Aquanaut should be considered a compulsory addition to ANY campaign featuring psionics and could, with some minor tweaking, work in regular settings as well. I only have one thing to ask for: Do we get Waves of Thought 2 with more support for the Aquanaut and additional support for Psionics Expanded: Advanced Psionics Guide? Please?
I forgot my verdict. It should come as no surprise: This book is a must for fans of psionics, of the Cerulean Seas setting and all those who felt even remotely intrigued by what I described here. This pdf is worth every cent of its asking price and I hope there’ll be a print option. Final verdict: 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval. Congratulations for the triumphant return -it comes with a bang!
Cerulean Seas: Waves of Thought is available from: