RPG Review – The Gadgeteer: Mother of Invention
The Gadgeteer: Mother of Invention is a massive, highly-customizable, complex base-class by Interjection Games, 38 pages long, 1page front cover, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 35 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
The gadgeteer-class gets d8, proficiency with medium armor and shields as well as simple weapons, hammers (light war- and lucerne), 3/4 BAB-progression, 4+Int skills per level and no good saves. Yeah, all slow progression -how come? The answer is simple: At first level a gadgeteer chooses one of 3 so-called professional angles – essentially a set of skills that are added to the list of class skills. Beyond that, each professional angle corresponds to one save, which then becomes the good save of the class, with the regular good save progression as noted in the class table’s professional angle save entry. Nice idea for some basic customization here. To represent a wide array of expertise, 5th level and every 4 levels after that net the class Skill Focus: Knowledge (any) as a bonus feat
Gadgeteers of 2nd level also get a bonus to saves against mechanical traps and a bonus to AC versus their attacks that scales up to +5. As a minor gripe – the ability once calls the gadgeteer “rogue”. At 11th level, the gadgeteer also gets essentially evasion against traps as long as she/he is not under the effects of int damage/drain or wearing too heavy armor. Now onwards to the central feature, the gadgets – Gadgeteers need to have 10+ total amount of structure points of the respective item, with saves per default being 10 + 1/2 class level +int-mod. There are two types of blanks for gadgeteers: Custom weapon and custom accessory blanks. Each blank starts with 1 structure point assigned to it. The total amount of structure points per blank increases by +1 at 3rd level and 7th level and every 4 levels after that. Accessory blanks can be enhanced via add-ons (which depend on the item) and custom weapons have three types of enhancements: Offensive, defensive and addon: Each custom weapon can only have one enhancement per type, i.e. no two defensive customizations on one weapon. In order to improve a weapon, a gadgeteer needs to be proficient with it and apart from that, anything, from mundane to artifact-level may be enhanced by the gadgeteer. HOWEVER, in order to retain a weapon’s enhancement bonus, a number of SP equal to the weapon’s enhancement bonus need to be expended, thus meaning that powerful weapons are harder to modify. If the points are not expended, the weapon counts as simply masterwork. The preparation of these gadgets follows much the same rules as the prepared spellcasting of spellcasters, i.e. 8 hours rest + preparation time. Daily uses, if applicable, are also reset thus. It should be noted that custom weapons take a full 8-hour slot to assemble/disassemble. Gadgets have a fixed maximum amount of Gadget Points assignable per blank, starting at 1 at first level and increasing by +1 at 3rd level and every 4 levels after that up to a maximum of 6 points (GP versus SP)
So far, so (relatively) linear – additional blanks (either accessory OR weapon!) are gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter up to 16th level, though a gadgeteer may never have more than 3 accessory or 3 weapon blanks. While I get the restriction here, 3 feels a bit limited – personally, I would have preferred a limit of 4. At 2nd level, gadgeteers get access to a second pool of SP – 1/2 class level + int-mod. These can be used to further modify blanks that already have their SP expended.
Finally, at 20th level, the gadgeteer may chose from one of 6 different capstones – so-called masterpieces, which can come as a bonus to saves and an attribute via a self-performed operation. More interesting would be a filtration-unit that can fire adamantine needles that deal five points of attribute damage in addition to some base damage. Alternatively a 10d6/instant-destroying crystallization-spray (cool idea, but why not follow the extreme-damage-formula of most PFRPG-death effects?) or contact lenses that provide a fire-damage dealing gaze attack, 3/day rerolls via talking to alternate reality versions of oneself, while universal lubricants can add +20 to checks rolls against grapples, cancel entanglement/staggered conditions and autotrips anything trying to pass over it.
We also get favored class options for the core-races, aasimar, tieflings, kobolds, puddlings, hobgoblins and drow and 3 feats for the class: Extra Parts increases your spare parts pool gained at second level by +1. Jury-rigging allows you to McGuyver your way out of tight situations – each accessory gadget has materials – as long as these are available, you may scrap one of your accessories (or use a blank if you have one) and spontaneously recreate one accessory of your liking at a -2 SP-penalty. This takes 1 minute per SP-cost and can be done only to one accessory per day. Finally, quicker custom weapon assembly/disassembly is possible.
Speaking of custom weapons – a total of 3 pages are devoted to the list of custom weapon modifications, providing type, SP-cost, prerequisites and effects at one handy look before going into details. So what do these do? Well, let’s take the first cluster of abilities – via diverse alchemical procedures, weapons can grant +2 to Str, Dex, Con, damage or +1 to hit – all with different requirements regarding the necessary ranks in Craft (alchemy). None too wowed, well, as always with Interjection Games’ classes, there are some abilities here that make use of more obscure rules – there is for example a berserker button – pressing this declares the next attack with the weapon a smite (unfortunate nomenclature there), which, when hitting a construct, nets it a significant chance to from there on go berserk. Especially tinkers or machinesmiths will learn to hate this one, I’d wager! You can also add e.g. +1 bleed damage for -2 to AC, +1 AC for -1 to initiative( which makes me wonder – does the penalty apply even when not wielding said weapon?) or make your weapon a charge-deterrent.
The weapon can also net you AoOs at -4 (reducing the penalty at higher levels) against charges made against you. Increasing CMD or CMB, a capsule that releases 1 minutes worth of breathable air, adding a battery to a weapon that deals additional damage (untyped, probably should have either the weapon’s type or deal electricity damage) when expending charges (or later, lesser damage sans charges…) or ignoring partially miss chances and damaging incorporeal foes – quite some options here. Adding small cones of elemental damage is also possible, as would be easier hiding of weapons via sleight of hand, absorbing up to gadgeteer level points of physical damage. Elemental batteries can provide resistance at the cost of minor penalties to saves against other elemental attacks. You can also have your weapon mimic the energy you’re damaged by, hurl balls of energy, react to energy damage by gaining temporarily fast healing – thankfully with a minimum amount of damage. *packs away the bag of elementally-infused kittens* What about adding a hamster-powered light to your weapon? Yes, the class is suffused by cool, unobtrusive humor like this. Beyond expanded threat ranges, adding int-mod instead of str to weapon damage (also relevant for composite bows now using int) is another option available to the gadgeteer. The Kinetic Potential Conversion unit may act either offensively, defensively or both, allowing you to gain charges by being damaged physically and using this momentum either offensively or defensively – depending on which version you chose. While in theory, you could get 1-damage-dealing dire-kitten-adversaries and fast heal/regenerate/orison-cure, the limited bonuses granted don’t make this strategy rewarding.
Laser Sights added to ranged weapons allow you to make a standard attack action at +4 to hit and you can tie weapons to your hand via leather straps, gain SR, mental/physical poisons…and there is Mr. Thingy. What’s that, you ask? Well, it’s a gadget that temporarily adds a random condition to foes hit by your weapon upon the expenditure of a charge – said conditions upgrade over the levels, getting a second table and more rolls. And yes, fear-based ones count as mind-affecting – nice catch!
Rerolling mind-affecting saves at +2 DC, adding a weapon’s enhancement bonus again as an insight bonus to damage or as enhancement bonus to AC, immunity to mundane splash weapons (alchemist bombs are still a problem), incurring bleed damage to cancel out poisons/diseases on a successful save…there are some rather unique tricks here. Take for example one particular gadget that converts your weapon’s damage to positive energy, thus healing the person hit (at decreased potency at range to maintain balance) – cool idea as a minor support healer, though limited by charges. What about a gadget that turns the weapon to creature-type bane for the day upon hitting the first creature? Or gadgets that penalize natural attacks/unarmed attack by dealing thorny retribution damage? Increased combat maneuver bonuses? There are A LOT of customization options here, especially when taking into account that magical weapons can be enhanced with these, stacking further damage upon them.
Which also brings me to a minor point of criticism – the additional SP-cost-tax is dependent on a magic weapon’s enhancement bonus, thus requiring the weapon’s custom special qualities like flaming etc. be suppressed – while I get why this was done, a synergy would have been awesome to see, especially since due to not all enchantments adhering to straight bonuses; codifying these would have been a monumental task and a near endless herding of multi-dimensional kittens on speed, but still – it would have been awesome to see. Okay, so this was me complaining at a high level, so onwards to accessories, shall we?
A total of 13 accessories are presented, each with its own custom set of add-ons – take adhesive strips: a total of 10 add-ons can be added to the strips and they can be used to repair objects, weapons and be used to improvise weapons – sans add-ons. With them, they can be sued to tape shut the mouth of adversaries (including bleed damage upon removal for bearded adversaries) and yes, even the fixing of constructs and complex devices, glue foes/objects to walls, improvise ammunition, entangling taped foes, or add bleed damage and further increase the efficiency of improvised weapons. As mentioned, each entry of add-ons etc. comes with materials for true Mcguyver-scrapping AS WELL AS information whether or not it can be jury-rigged.
What about a chemical dispenser that can be used to render alchemical items useless but also alternatively maximize their numerical potency? Sounds awesome…BUT: Can they be used on extracts/bombs/etc.? I *assume* no, but as written, a tag-team of alchemist/gadgeteer would be fearsome indeed. On the interesting side, the add-ons allow the dispenser to negate e.g. the effects of glitterdust, blinding powder etc. or makes the dispenser dissolve unattended inorganic objects (why no damage for constructs/items?) or temporarily grant DR, but receive the damage after that (but not below 0) via Titan.-(Arkham City, anyone?)
Next up would be Cigars – these come with an integrated micro-camera. Yes. Photography. No, I don’t see an issue there -especially since info on cracking the micro black box is given -nice story-telling potential for espionage-themed scenes and in a world of excessive divination, I don’t see this breaking the mood. On to the add-ons – Itching powder, knockout darts, especially noxious fumes, increased DCs to crack the box or detect it and yes, even a PARACHUTE (clamp down on the cigar…as tight as your mouth allows…) make this gadget awesome in every way.
More esoteric would be the Doppler Device, which provides concealment that can’t be pierced by true seeing and may be extended to allies -that’s about it, though. Only 3 modifications here. More are available for the energy bar compressor – these can turn food into energy bars that heal the persons eating them (or damage undead – yeah, death by snickers!) – but eating more than one causes indigestion (sickened!) sans save – nice bluffing potential here. Special animal bars that make handling them easier. If you don’t want to spend ranks in profession (cook), you can use craft (metalworking) via add-ons instead and yes, you can make mushroom-bars that nauseate tricked adversaries via their disgusting food additives. Still, overall, this one feels rather weak for its investment… I can’t help but feel it could require a power-upgrade.
Extreme Vision Goggles can grant the gadgeteer low light vision and can be enhanced for a low-range fire-damage-dealing gaze attack and/or darkvision, increase saves versus blinding/dazzling effects (and resistance versus light-based spells), dazzle adversaries or help your sleuthing. The Facetome allows the gadgeteer to duplicate an adversary’s face, producing very convincing disguises by pressing the mold first to the target to be copied and then to him/herself. Among the add-ons, “saving” one face for later use, gaining DR 5/- and further increasing disguise and bluff as well as distorting the face in a frightening manner are possible. I got a distinct clayface-vibe here – which is awesome as far as I’m concerned.
The Fist Cannon can be enhanced by elements, supercharge it and convey additional detrimental effects to those hit depending on the elemental damage chosen. Flare Guns can be used to create colored flares, burning and/or smoking flares and even add inhaled toxins to the smoke of the flare gun. All right, the next one had me chuckle – the joy buzzer allows the gadgeteer to daze foes with melee touch attacks, dealing electricity damage, send foes prone via the shock, stun or bull rush the target or reduce the target’s movement rate. As a joker-fan, I really liked this one! The multifunctional pocketknife is all about utility, getting an inexhaustible supply of tindertwigs and one daily use of antitoxin (which I assume can’t be sold – a caveat would be in order here…) , bonuses to open locks or disabling traps, ignoring the hardness of glass or reflect incoming rays with an opposing attack roll as a readied action or create mundane metal or wood items, raw materials provided, in one hour or extend to a 10-foot pole.
Sound Emitters are essentially remote-wired megaphones that can be augmented to deal sonic damage (including a dog whistle option that only damages animals, magical beasts and anthropomorphic humanoids like catfolk, canids, tengu etc.), longer wires, ear-drum rupturing blasts, damage to objects (and beings of glass/crystal) – name the sound-based mayhem, it’s here. Something for dandys and femme fatales would be the stealth lipstick -poisonous like the kiss of Poison Ivy, the potency of the poison and which attribute it affects can be changed – as can the poison be made plant-based. Personally, I would have enjoyed a slightly reduced poison-damage for a longer duration/multiple saves to cure, but that is somewhat cosmetic of a gripe. Get it? Yeah, I’ll punch myself in the face later for that one.
The final gadget would be the automated workhorse – while useless in combat, it can make your bed, cook etc. and thus delivers morale bonuses to those employing them. Functions can, via add-ons, be triggered at precise times and the morale bonus can be upgraded and even shared. It should be noted that all accessories come with add-ons that increase their uses/day – these can be taken multiple times, limited by the class level of the gadgeteer.
Editing and formatting are good – though not as tight as I’m used to by Interjection Games: For once, the header spells “Gadgeeer”[sic!], missing a “t” on each and every page’s central box – which made me exceedingly neurotic during the reading of this. Beyond that, quite a few entries read “Gadget points” instead of “Structure Points”, which was the beta’s terminology and could result in some confusion. Layout adheres to Interjection Games’ 2-column b/w-standard and artwork is thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes with rudimentary bookmarks – but not truly extensive ones. Individual accessories, for example, get no individual bookmark, which makes navigation slightly less comfortable than I would have liked.
Ahhh, Interjection Games classes – there are none quite like them out there. With the notable exception of Morgan Boehringer’s Direlock, none take me as long to review as mastermind Bradley Crouch’s beasts (looking especially at you, Ethermancer and Mechgineer!), and there’s a reason for that – they have a lot of customization-options, are complex and never simple in their math. That being said, my primary gripes with them tend to be minor instances where things are handled slightly differently than in comparable spells/maneuvers etc. Then I started looking in-depth at this one…and was honestly surprised.
Why? Well, most classes are centered on combat. This one is not. Yes, it has combat capabilities, yes, fiddling with one’s customized weapons is fun. But honestly, the class is simply not that awesome in combat and after Tinker, Herbalist and especially Ethermancer, I somewhat expected another class with such a focus. Still, the spark did not really ignite me – the weapon customizations are nice, yes, but the gadgeteer is generally is decidedly not about inflicting max damage.
It’s not intended to. Its only restrictions to what it can do are the skill ranks/levels required, which means each gadgeteer has an incredible amount of things to do/jury-rig – and these, especially the accessories, can be summed up as “Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery’s Gadgets – the Class” – which honestly hits a VERY soft spot of mine. I’m a total Batman fanboy and from cigar-parabols to buzzers, the gadgeteer makes for a superb gimmick-based agent-type character. Will the gadgeteer shine in every campaign/environment? No. While not a bad choice in dungeon-crawls, the class is simply not that geared towards hacking and slashing everything apart, instead providing ample thoroughly unique options that have been lacking in the game so far. In short, it does something defiantly new in its focus on the ROLEplaying, with multiple options requiring smarts of not only the character, but also the player. If you’re into espionage/investigation-modules, this should be considered a required purchase. The gadgeteer makes for a great support character that has its best moments to shine beyond the tawdry concerns of combat – and it is, at least in my opinion, that is what makes it great.
That being said, I also think that the gadgeteer, more so than other Interjection Games base classes, would benefit extremely from expansions, so here’s to hoping we’ll see some – the agent’s toolbox still has quite a few options the class could emulate beyond its already impressive arsenal and an Innovator-like monster-weapon with even further enhancements to weapons might turn out to make the class also more interesting in combat. What about customizing armor? Bluffing magical means of detection/discerning truth? Expansion potential galore that unfortunately also shows that teh base-class, while good, could use some further fuel to widen its focus.
That being said, there are some minor glitches here as well – take e.g. the custom weapon modifications: Do e.g. penalties also apply when not wielding the weapon? Why can certain acids not be applied against constructs? There are a few of these instances, and while not enough to drag this class down, they remain minor blemishes.
The gadgeteer is not a min-maxer’s class, but it’s a great class for anyone who wants to go secret agent/MacGuyver and aforementioned complaints should not deter you from taking a look. As written, due to the glitches and minor oversights, though, I have to rate this down to 4 stars – in spite of really, really loving what the class does.
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