This expansion for LPJr Design’s neat Machinesmith-class clocks in at 14 pages, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
We begin with a new greatwork, the constructor – this greatwork occupies the head-slot and can be used to create items instantaneously from thin air. And yes, if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll realize that the very concept is a hornet’s nest – weight-limits, masterwork items, material restrictions, etc. – there is a lot to take into account. Now here’s the cincher – the items are fleeting and come with material and weight-restrictions that, believe it or not, prevent abuse. The necessity to know what you want to make prevents the manifestation of fitting keys from thin air (unless the DM is lenient) and the restrictions even manage to maintain the balancing scarcity/price-level of firearms, clockworks etc. – Which renders the greatwork’s basic capabilities one impressive feat of design. Kudos!
Now where a basic nod from me becomes a full-blown grin would be with the progression of the upgrades of the greatwork – here, steel and yes, even progressive magic item creation on a temporary basis become possible. If you even remotely think about the very notion, you’ll realize the sheer amount of issues this necessarily creates – and will realize what an impressive feat the avoidance of just all of these problems is. The rules presented are so concise, they even take destructible items à la staves of the magi into account – oh, and the upgrades come at times, when the creation of firearms etc. from thin air become more than valid and not unbalancing. The permanent item creation at capstone levels, feat-interaction – this greatwork is a mechanical beauty and should be considered the reference work for crunch like this. Yes, charges etc. are covered. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed this greatwork and want to stress that yes, this makes non-magic crazy-prepared characters very much within the realm of possibility.
We also receive new machinesmith tricks – analyzers allow for the rerolls of natural 1s, faster motion analysis and a pretty cool idea: Scanning spells from scrolls to cast them on the fly via the analyzer – once again a hornet’s nest of design to cover that manages to get expensive components, etc. – all RIGHT! Mechanus augmentations have a different formatting for their header than the other tricks. The tricks here include additional charges, storing and launching drones from the mechanus, adding poison-biting capacity and even providing a rudimentary intelligence – yes, complete with a limited skill- and feat-list. Moebius suits can have crossbows/firearms installed, can provide monk-style improved unarmored strikes and higher level suit-wearers may even dimension door or spell turn.
If you have a moebius weapon, a crit-stunning impact hammer, additional, charge-costing attacks and progressive replacement of str/dex with into for attacks/damage (with multiple taking of the trick providing progressively better replacements) as well as bleed damage and maneuver-enhancers provide for neat tricks. The aforementioned new constructor can create more items, recall them or produce on greater scales – and at high levels , execute mage’s disjunction. The augmentations provided for the converter include environmental attunement, short-range fire-novas and high-level time stops.
Of course, we also receive an array of new gadgets – from alchemical sprayer (including improvements and concise mechanics), crank-powered third arms these are just as awesome – and I’m saying that before the more unique options, like deploying melee-turret-style fighting bots, instant-minimoat-creating brass worms, folding horses, flamethrowers, pneumatic launchers and portable cannons enter the fray. What about circular saws? One-man rampage armors? Dune-style water-purification devices? Sound-based stunners? Yeah. Awesome!
The techniques provided include losing prepared prototypes for greater dispel magic or even share their tricks – the techniques herein may be less flashy than the aforementioned options, but they nevertheless are powerful, nifty options. Finally, we also receive numerous new prototypes, some of which utilize the new and concisely-defined construct-subschool – here, we get animated swordsmen and shieldbearers, concussive bombs, emergency stabilizing constructs, electroshock coils for weapons, explosive tips for ammunition, prototypes tailor-made to blow locks apart and even vibro-blade enhancements.
Editing and formatting are good, but the one component I could complain about – the formatting of the titles and subtitles is not consistent. Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with gorgeous full-color art – all original and as beautiful as you’d expect. The pdf’s printer-friendly second version is also in full-color – and less than 1 mb! I thought at first something went wrong with my download, but no – fully functional. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This pdf can be summed up in “Stepping up your game.” After the evocative, but rushed and flawed first two machinesmith expansions, I was not looking forward to this one – and oh boy was I wrong! LPJr Design’s high-concept books have a surprisingly pervasive way of sneaking into my games, even when I complained to no end regarding a flawed piece of crunch or another – there is usually this sense of pure joy, of high-concept awesomeness in the books. Know what? This one marries this unmitigated joy with crunch mastery of some of the most difficult-to-execute, complex systems for one simply inspired expansion. I am not kidding when I’m saying that this utterly blew me away and that it should be considered a must-own pdf for any user of the machinesmith. Even if you don’t use the class, any steampunk/magepunk/whatever-system can benefit from the wealth of riches and precisely-executed crunch. Unless I’m sorely mistaken, this was the first such pdf by Jonathan Palmer I’ve read – and I definitely want more – Sir, my hat’s off to you for this glorious expansion. Same goes for LPJr Design – this level of quality definitely deserves accolades! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – and yes, I am very glad I am able to dish out this verdict – the machinesmith deserves tools of this quality.
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