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The Creator's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2018 08:15:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Drop Dead Studios‘ expansion of the Spheres of Power-series clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We should start analyzing this book from the back, as the last chapter provides quite a few rather important clarifications of the Creation sphere’s parameters – particularly, the woefully brief definition of what can and can’t be created receives a much-needed, more precise clarification that should prove to be a boon for many GMs out there. Interaction with magic items, anchoring items and destruction/dismissal of objects also are very much relevant. Additionally, the base sphere now allows for the expenditure of a single spell point to extend the duration to 1 minute per level SANS concentration. That part is important and helps render the sphere significantly more appealing. The pdf also clarifies the interaction of the creation of multiple falling options and size categories and the creation of slippery and dangerous terrain. Similarly, the creation of very small objects and dropping objects is tightly codified, making these rules-clarifications pages worth the price on their own.

All right, that out of the way, if we do tackle this supplement in a linear manner, we begin with a well-written introductory prose before presenting an assortment of new archetypes, which begins with the lingichi warrior for the armorist base class, who receives proficiency in light and martial + 1 exotic weapon as well as light armor and shields, excluding tower shields. Instead of summon equipment and quick summons, the archetype provides armory arena, which allows for the summoning of an infinite array of weapons surrounding the warrior, causing damage in an area surrounding the character that grows over the level, with damage caused allowing for the choosing of physical damage type. The character may exclude targets up to spellcasting ability modifier from the aura, and the aura leaves a difficult terrain of weaponry in its wake, allowing characters to pick them up and fight. Higher levels allow for the use of create in conjunction with the ability, making it possible to establish the aura in a faster manner.

Higher levels also provide the means to maintain multiple contiguous auras. Instead of bound equipment, higher levels provide scaling enhancement bonuses for these ephemeral weapons; armor training is replaced with nimble and the archetype receives no less than 10 exclusive tricks that provide the means to use spell points to increase the damage output, control between enhancement bonus and special abilities, establishing a kind of control within the arena, exclude targets from the difficult terrain effect, have weapons dance…this archetype is INSPIRED. I mean it. Perhaps it’s the otaku within me, but I found myself reminded of Fate’s Gilgamesh and similar characters. This is a very magical archetype, and obviously not one for super-gritty settings due to its theme and supreme magic item flexibility, but for high fantasy? HECK frickin’ yes!

Archetype number two would be the word witch for the fey adept class, who uses Intelligence as spellcasting ability modifier and gains, surprise, the Creation sphere as a bonus magic talent, replacing fey magic. Instead of master illusionist, creations made by the archetype that require maintenance or concentration, ultimately remain for +1/2 class level (min 1) rounds. Shadowstuff is replaced with a massive engine-tweak dubbed “words of creation”, which is powered by a word pool equal to Int mod + ½ class level, with the DC being the classic 10 + ½ class level + Int-mod, if any. These word points may be used to create a wide variety of effects that include the creation of runes of flame that may then be launched in bulk or against multiple targets; similarly pillars of ice trapping targets, severe blasts of wind (correctly codified!) and analogue effects can be created – overall, I enjoyed these and was once more reminded of a rather compelling ability array, with higher levels providing the means to render objects animated or silver them. The adamantine coating is also secured behind an appropriate minimum level, and the archetype provides an alternate capstone.

Next up would be the dustbringer mageknight, who gains proficiency with simple and monk weapons as well as light armor, and begins play with the wrecker oracle curse as well as Creation and the limited creation drawback – as always, this can be offset if the character already has the sphere. The archetype nets alter (destroy), which should, alongside the curse and name, cue you in on what it specializes in: The dustbringer is an unarmed monk-y item-destruction specialist that blends unarmed strike with alter (destroy) and sports 7 unique mystic combat options that include auras that can destroy incoming attacks, extend the ability of alter (destroy) to animated objects and constructs, or, with another talent, living beings etc. Minor complaint here: Formatting isn’t perfect in this one and somewhat inconsistent. Some moderate Destruction sphere synergy is also possible, allowing for (blast shape) talents to be added.

The thaumaturge may elect for the path of the knight of willpower, who modifies forbidden lore to add +50% CL increase to Creation, Light and Telekinesis, though this does not influence invocation bonus. This may be boosted even further, but at the cost of unavoidable backlash. I consider the increase here to be somewhat overkill – sure, the drawback is significant, but the escalation of CL is something that worries me greatly. The meditation and lingering pain invocations are replaced with Will-save rerolling and adding a shaken effect to glow effects from the Light sphere. They also get a buff/debuff aura versus fear plus immunity instead of occult knowledge, and an alternate bonus feat list. Incanters can gain two new specializations, one of which, at 2 points, Master of Creation, prevents taking Sphere Focus (Creation) and represents a specialization here, while Sword Birth nets armory arena and limited arsenal tricks. Hedgewitches may choose the new transmuter tradition, which nets Knowledge (engineering) and (nature) as well as Intimidate and limited use item changing via touch that improves regarding the maximum size of item affected at higher levels. Later, these folks may transmute objects into creatures and animals into different types, while also bestowing knowledge on how to use this new body via one of the 4 new tradition secret. 3 grand ones are also included here. A general one allows for dabbling in these tricks, and the section closes with a talent for the unchained rogue to create tools.

The undoubtedly most important chapter within this book, though, would be the basic magic section, wherein the creation of alchemical items and poisons is tightly codified and makes for a very important, and flexibility-wise super cool modification. Similarly, being capable of altering unattended non-magical objects in burst is great…and creating objects with momentum makes dropping objects on foes a significantly more feasible option. Fans of the Loony Tunes should take heed! The update of the Expanded Materials talent, which encompasses acidic creation, gaseous creation, plasma production, etc. is similarly a godsend. Magnifying and minimizing objects, creating matter from force, generating significant amounts of liquid…and what about the talent that lets you generate a constant stream of replicas with your effects. Manipulating how rigid objects are, creating restraining cases for targets, making material transparent…this chapter is a complex expansion to the sphere that it desperately needed, and it presents a whole slew of versatile options for clever players.

The advanced talent array this time around, and it contains 10 advanced talents; as an aside, I am not the biggest fan of the talent Plasma Production having the same name as the ability of the subsection of aforementioned Expanded Materials: Plasma Production; a single “advanced” or somesuch word would have made working with the nomenclature here easier, but that is me nitpicking. And yes, this allows for the creation of energy weapons. Want a light sword? There you go! Really high-level characters can learn to create adamantine and similar materials, and yes, with these, you can use advanced talents to modify the body of targets into other materials. Skin of gold? Yes, siree! There also are crossover tricks here – spherecasters that also have the Nature sphere and fire package can create/alter lava and magma. Picture me cackling maniacally here. All in all, I very much enjoyed this section as well.

The pdf then proceeds to present no less than 12 different feats. Once more, formatting is not always perfect within these pages, but there are feats that provide multiclassing support…and there are some really neat ones: One lets you ready an action (alternatively, works with spell point + immediate actions) to alter destructive blasts and codifies the types via damage and interaction there correctly. Countering ranged attacks and spell effects is another pretty potent and cool option here. The classic Dual Sphere talent array that we expect here is included as well, providing synergy with e.g. Enhancement and Telekinesis. Creating longer walls and disguise specializing via wardrobe creation may be found as well. 4 traits can be found – these are potent and meaningful, going beyond boring numerical bonuses.

The drawbacks presented are interesting: Being limited to water/ice/steam creation, to gaseous forms or needing to be in contact with objects certainly made me think of comic book heroes and interesting character concepts. Using your own body in a painful way to “create” could be seen as an interesting engine base-line to duplicate an array of iconic scenes as well. The pdf also sports a new general drawback that requires the drawing of a diagram to work – this reminded me, obviously, of Full Metal Alchemist – and that is a good thing. The section also presents 7 alternate racial traits that focus, unsurprisingly, on the Creation sphere.

Finally, it should be noted that the pdf contains 6 magic items. Beyond aforementioned energy swords, there is the +3-equivalent plasma blade property; Wall slats allow for a the creation of expanding walls as a nice low-cost item. The wizard’s cube of gaming is basically a fold-out gaming table and acts as a challenge of skill and luck that rewards those that play well; two variants of this item are also part of the deal here.

Conclusion:

Editing per se is very good on a formal and rules-language level; formatting, on the other hand, isn’t. I encountered quite a bunch of faulty italicizations and formatting instances of rules-relevant material, and due to the complexity of the system at hand the nomenclature employed, these deviations made a couple of rules harder to grasp than they otherwise would have been. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a couple of solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Uhland has vastly improved his design-game since his humble beginnings. The handbook for the creation sphere certainly was one of the harder ones to craft, much less provide inspiring and interesting content for. This pdf manages to achieve that and makes creation fun and exciting, clarifies rules and vastly expands the material at hand. This would, were it not for the annoying formatting hiccups, my favorite handbook in the whole series so far; it offers a bunch of very interesting character options; unique feats, great talents – all in all, this is a really, really cool supplement and a worthy addition to the series. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, though I will round up for the purpose of this platform. The book is too good to round down. Well done!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Creator's Handbook
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Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Package: Air
by Jeremy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2018 16:59:23

This is a sorely needed update to Nature in terms of the Classic Four Elements. It could be argued that Weather was supposed to take up that slack, but that takes time to get going. This allows for the sort of instant "air bending" that feels truer to having an Air element.

Basic package gets you "cooling breeze that blows away gasses", "instantaneous strong gusts", and "purify air". There's some rules text about needing to make Magic Skill Checks to affect various weather severities.

Talents gets you: Absorbing Inhalation: Do the Superman trick of just breathing in harmful gasses. Air Ball: Create a platform of wind to ride on (no flying). Air Geyser: Fling someone upwards. Air Leap: Jump better because winds assist you. Air Support: Boost movement. Airlord: Raises how severe weather can be before you have to make a check to use your abilities. Buffeting Winds: Use wind to mess up melee and ranged attacks against you. Create Air: Self-explanatory. Feather Fall: Basically the same as the spell. Steal Breath: Not asphixiation, but makes breath-related stuff impossible or harder. Wind Blades: Create an area with winds so hard they do damage.

Advanced Talents: Whispering Wind: Send verbal messages up to 1 mile. For 2(!) spell points and being "advanced" this doesn't seem all that game/setting-breaking.

Updated Content: this mostly deals with updating previous options to include Air versions.

Nature Sight: Apparently they decided to stick a new (spirit) Talent at the end of this product. Each Nature package has it's own version, granting a special sense (though often limited from standard versions) plus the ability to ignore certain kinds of cover, particularly against being with a corresponding elemental subtype.

I mostly wrote this review to mention one oversight: there is nothing in this document updating the Wind Warrior (Expanded Options) to fall in line with the other X Warrior Elementalists. Even as unnecessary as it might seem one would think it's so minor they could have easily thrown it in with the other Updates.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Package: Air
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Spheres Apocrypha: Dark Talents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2018 07:00:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with 7 new basic talents:

-Dampen Light: 1 minute per caster level variant of darkness that doesn’t require concentration to maintain; dims light by one step and can allow for (meld) talents to work, but not (darkness) talents. Effects that interact with darkness can apply to a Dampen Light area. May be taken twice for the option to move light levels by two steps. Interesting one.

-Dappled Shadows: Reduce darkness radius in 5 ft. increments to create a second sphere with a radius equal to the subtracted amount. You may do this multiple times to create multiple areas. Okay, so is each area the size of the subtracted total, or do the areas have to be paid for individually? I assume the latter due to a lack of other limitations, but it would have behooved the talent to specify that. The Wall of Darkness’ cubes may also be affected thus, eliminating the need to place them contiguously. Okay, how does that interact with Clinging Darkness? Does that allow for multiple targets? How does it interact with Rolling Blackout? Do all darkness effects move in the same direction? Can they be individually steered? I assume that these additional spheres are still treated as the original darkness, but rules-language could be clearer there.

-Dual Darkness: Spend a spell point to add two (darkness) talents to a single darkness. Get interaction with midnight right.

-Ranged Darkness: Increases range to Long.

-Shadowing Darkness: Make darkness cling to a target for one round after leaving your darkness, including effects; any light level but bright light is treated as total darkness, bright light as dim light while the effect clings to the target. If you spend a spell point when creating the area, the effects linger for +1 round per 2 caster levels, though a creature can attempt a Ref-save at the end of the turn to end it. Slightly odd mechanically: RAW, if the target is forcibly moved from the darkness, it gets no save from the talent, while with spell points, it does. This could be slightly more precise, but I’m nitpicking here.

-Shifting Shadows: As a free action at the start of your turn or when beginning your turn, you can remove 5-ft. squares (1 + another one per 2 caster levels) from the area to add them to another contiguous area of darkness. Has a limit of how many you can modify per turn.

-Umbral Burst: Spend a spell point to create darkness as a swift action. It only lasts for a round, but may not be maintained or extended. Nice one!

The pdf also sports 3 advanced talents:

-Eternal Darkness: 2 spell points, makes darkness permanent. It’s unmoving though. Problem: Works with Shifting Shadows, which RAW allows you to slowly move your permanent darkness effects around, a couple of squares at a time. The problem here is Shifting Shadows not specifying that the darkness reverts to its original shape.

-Pitch Black: Pure Darkness no longer counts against the number of (darkness) talents that may be applied to darkness. Additionally, lets you spend an additional spell point to make even bright light become darkness and limit other forms of sight.

-Vanish in Shadow: Lets the target benefit from Hide in Darkness meld, even when the target is in an area of darkness or dim light that you did not create. For +1 spell point, those affected by the meld also require Perception to be noticed by targets with blindsight and similar sensory effects.

The pdf also includes two sphere-specific drawbacks:

-Black Spot: Shrinks area of your darkness to 5 ft.; it can’t be changed in any way.

-Penumbra: You can’t use darkness or Darkness talents; instead, you are locked into Dampen Light as bonus talent.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level is very good. On a rules-language level, there are some minor hiccups in the details, but nothing game-breaking. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a solid stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t need any at this length.

Amber Underwood’s dark talents are solid; while I was slightly saddened to see no new shadow or blot talents within, we do get a couple of nice ones. At the low price point, I will settle on a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Dark Talents
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Spheres Apocrypha: Destruction Talents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2018 08:21:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of small expansion-pdfs for the Spheres of Power system clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin with 6 blast shape talents:

-Branding Taboo: By spending a spell point, the blast automatically affects a target in range; the target gets a brand and the caster specifies a general forbidden action, with the GM as arbiter as what does and doesn’t go. A list of suggested prohibited options or more detailed examples would have been nice here. The target is aware of this prohibition, which lasts for level rounds; I assume caster level to be intended here, analogue to the talents in the base book. At the end of any turn after executing the prohibited action, the target is affected by the blast, unless the target makes a Will save. A given target may only have one brand at a given time. Tying the brand to Will save is weird in my book and makes for a pretty potent effect. I assume that (blast type) remains consistent throughout the rounds of the duration, if any.

-Destructive Maw: Shape destructive blast as a swift action into a bite attack. “this bite attack functions normally in all respects, except instead of dealing damage and effects as normal for your destructive blast.” This lasts 1 round per caster level, and (blast type) talents need to be applied upon shaping, and may not be reassigned. Öhm. Yeah. While no longer at range, this allows you to combo REALLY nasty stuff, and the interaction between bite and blast is anything but clear. Str-mod? Multi Attack? Blast shape interaction? Nope, “functions normally” is not nearly precise enough.

-Energetic Affliction: Spell point use for auto hit sans attack roll. Lasts 1 round per caster level. Target takes damage at the start of the round on a failed Fort-save. Two consecutive saves end it; alternatively, the target may use a full-round action to make a Ref-save with +4 to end the effect. Does the Ref-save happen at the start of the round? Or after taking the full-round action? Also: This does not have the limitations of Branding Taboo regarding consecutive effects, which can make this rather brutal.

-Energy Nova: 10 ft. +5 ft. per 5 caster levels burst blast, Ref for ½ damage. Excludes caster at his/her discretion.

-Energy Rift: Choose a corner from a square in range and draw a 10 ft. + 5 ft. per 5 caster levels line; all squares must be in range. Everything in that line must take a Ref-save, ½ damage on success.

-Mutable: Create an area of contiguous 5 ft. cubes, max 5 + 1 per 2 caster levels. One must be adjacent to you. Targets in the area must succeed a Ref-save, ½ damage on a success. This is really weird. It’s arguably better and easier to control than most blast shapes. Shouldn’t this one cost spell points to make up for the increased flexibility?

The pdf also features 4 other talents:

-Damage Control: Change damage to nonlethal (or increases nonlethal damage output with (blast type); gets the interaction with damage types right. Also lets you forego damage. Damn cool!

-Demolition: Better attacks versus inanimate objects.

-Energetic Response: Make AoOs with destructive blasts, with a reach of 5 ft., + 5ft. per 10 caster levels. You may execute these as melee touch or ray attacks. (Blast shape) may not be applied and this type of blast doesn’t provoke an AoO.

-Spirit Blast: Blasts affect ethereal targets and incorporeal targets normally, negating the defense-boosts.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the pdf is good, but not as precise as usual for the author. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard and the pdf has a single stock artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Amber Underwood’s talents are interesting, though I also found them to be internally inconsistent in the power levels they offer, falling on the more potent side of things. I’m not sure I’d allow them in all my games. The pdf also has a few instances where it could have been more precise. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Destruction Talents
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The Wraith
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/02/2018 18:29:16

Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon that helped to create this class, and paid the full price for it.

It's been awhile since we've had a new base class for Spheres of Power - the more recent Spheres of Might and Champions of the Spheres have had their own classes, but the Wraith is a true spherecaster. The Wraith is a mid-BAB, mid-spherecasting class with good Reflex and Will saves.

This class focuses on three powers: An incorporeal wraith form (usable in rounds/day), a Haunt Path (the manifestation of their haunting powers, with many thematic choices), and Wraith Haunts (special abilities gained at 3rd and every odd level thereafter to improve the Wraith's powers). Between the flexibility of spherecasting, the many path choices, and the multitude of haunts, the Wraith is a flexible class and builds can end up playing very differently.

All in all, this is a solid addition to the spherecasting roster - and a great choice if you want to play a character that's on the spooky side.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wraith
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Champions of the Spheres
by Brendan E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/27/2018 02:07:28

Champions of the Spheres is the follow-up to Spheres of Might and Spheres of Power, and it goes off the assumption that you have both books. I don't know why you'd buy this book if you didn't, but the point is that it requires those two books to function properly.

Originally supposed to be a part of Spheres of Might, Champions of the Spheres is the combination of the two systems and has unique ways to mix and match mystical and martial might. It should be noted that this books has no new spheres, but it has three new classes, a ton of new archetypes and class options to use both systems to their maximum potential. It also has a bunch of new feats and with it a new feat type: Champion feats. Basically, these feats require you to have both systems to take. Also, most of the classes and archetypes in this book have a new class feature called Blended Training. Basically, whenever you would get a talent due to level-up (as opposed to your martial tradition or the 2 free talents all casting classes get), you can pick either a combat talent or magic talent and you use your key ability modifier for both systems. Let's start from the top:

The Prodigy is a 3/4th BAB midcaster based on your choice of Int, Wis or Cha; good Reflex and Will saves and 4+Int skill points. The prodigy has a unique feature called Sequence. Basically, you have to start a sequence you need an openeer, which include many basic things like defeat a monster, hit with an attack, etc. You then need to follow it up with links, which are a bit trickier (disengage, make a save, etc), all building up to a finisher which do things like get temp HP, automatically threaten a crit with ther next attack, etc. The interesting thing is that each of your spheres give you more options for your sequence, so it pays to have a breadth of spheres rather than picking one or two and going deep into them.

The Sage is a 1/2 BAB Proficient practitioner based on Wisdom, all good saves and 4+Int skill points. The Sage is a very monk-ish class; it gets the Monk's Wis-to-AC and a ki pool, but that's where the direct correlation ends, as a sage has a variety of ways to channel their ki called Esoteric Training, either to debuff foes, buff himself, or just fired it at foes as la DBZ. They also bonus talents in the form of the Style talents every odd level, which can be combat or magical a la Blended Training. They also get Esoteries on even levels like a rogue talents, though most are limited based on which Esoteric training you chose, but include things like 1hr/level flight, raising people from the dead, and even Krillin's Destructo Disc by essentially giving a blast the vorpal weapon special ability.

Finally, the troubador is a 3/4th BAB lowcaster and proficient practitoner based on Charisma, with good Reflex and Will saves and 6+Int skill points. What sets the troubador apart is that they have secondary identities known as Personas (insert "I am the Shadow, the true self" joke here). Baiscally, they are dramatic archetypes (in the original sense) where you play the role of a servant or a theif or a mage and get abilites from the part. It's worth noting that if you choose one part and you find it not to your liking, you can swap it out for another, but it takes 5 days to 'craft' a new persona, so don't do it willy-nilly. You also get a bunch of things that help you be a sneaky face, like halving the time it takes to Gather Info, or bluff truth detecting magic.

As mentioned, there are a bunch of archetypes, some quite simple (like the ones for Mageknight and Amorist that just give them blended training), and others are more involved, like the Antequarian, an Armiger who loses full BAB to learn how to put magic talents in their customized weapons or the Vector, basically an updated Telekinetic Warrior that makes the most of the new system. There is a practioner archetype for the Shifter, but alas it isn't compatible with the Warshifter, so no double dipping with Path of War. There's also a few class options for classes that can dip without needing a full archetype, like a new Hedgewitch Tradition and some bestial traits for the shifter.

Other than about a dozen feats, the rest of the book is about Unified Traditions. You see, any class that is both a caster and a practitioner at level 1 gets 6 talents to set them up, the two for being a caster and your martial tradition. Unified Traditions seek to find a way to set both up your initial talents and your casting tradition. A unified tradition has a bit more leeway, as some of them have 3 combat talents and 3 magic talents, or 3 combat talents, a bonus feat and 2 magic talents or the like. Even if you allow custom traditions, I'd be wary about custom Unified Traditions as there's a lot of ways to mess that up. There's also a half dozen NPCs that you can include in your game world or just use as a template on how to build a character, but they are mostly there as a way for backers to get something into the book, but it's still functional and flavorful, so nothing to complain about.

In conclusion, the champion classes are a bit trickier that the Spheres of Power or Spheres of Might classes, so you might not want to jump right into this material, but once you've got the system mastery to handle it, there's a lot of good material to use in here. Happy gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Champions of the Spheres
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Spheres of Might
by Brendan E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2018 22:50:56

If you've ever gone on RPG forums and read about Pathfinder (and to a greater extent, 3rd and 3.5th Edition D&D), it becomes obvious that, all other things being equal, not all classes have the same capabilites and some can do way more than others. There's a term that shows up to describe this: Caster/Martial Disparity.

Now, one of the major problems that Spheres of Power, the predecesor for this book, did is to lower the ceiling as to what magic can do. There's no more planar binding to get efreets to chain gate spells and summon an aribtrarily huge number of them to fight for you, or fabricate enough wood to destabilize the economy, or any of a dozen of other things that Pathfinder only partially fixed, so your caster types aren't doing everything by themselves and making everything of note.

But we're not here to talk about Spheres of Power, because the casters being too powerful was only half the problem. The weapon guys (or 'martials' to borrow a word) only had damage. If the problem could be fixed by stabbing it, they were fine, but literally anything else needs be done they might as well just wait for the caster to do it. Add to the fact that they all had the extremely same-y turn of "I move/I move and attack/I full attack/I charge/(if they were lucky) I charge and full-attack. That's where this book comes in.

Not only does Spheres of Might allow for a diverse array of fighting styles (They described it as "Every Soul Caliber character can be made with 2 spheres"), between the classes (8 in total) and the spheres, there are a ton of stuff that was previously caster only. Healing and removing debuffs? Alchemy sphere. Want an animal companion or familiar? The Beastmaster sphere. Minionmancy? The Commander class can do it wonderfully. Bringing someone back to life? The Scholar class (especially the Doctor archetype) is the one you're looking for.

Between Spheres of Might and Spheres of Power, there is a consolidation of power so pretty much everyone can keep up with the action without either hogging the spotlight or feeling useless. While they can be used seperately, I find they complement each other really well, especially with the addition of Champions of the Spheres, the "gish" book that marries the two systems. With these options, you can have a lot of fun and balanced gameplay that the core materials just don't always live up to.

As an aside, no 3rd Party system for martials is complete without talking about Dreamscarred Press' Path of War. While POW is a fun system that lets you do a bunch of stuff, in the end, it's about giving you extra mobility having damage be done with Standard Action attacks that give bonus damage to "make up" for lost full attacks. And while there's a lot you can do with the system, what it boils down to is that, for the most part, they're combat only. Very little a, for example, Stalker does matters if combat's not an option. Maybe they've got a stance that gives them a neat buff, or maybe they'll use their skills, but since everyone has skills and only a handful of stances help out of combat, for a good chunk of the adventure, they're stuck in the backseat, waiting for a fight to break out.

In conclusion, Spheres of Might and its sister book Spheres of Power deserve to have a place in your campaign for reasons ohers more skillful than I have proven, and I just wanted to say something to that effect. Happy gaming!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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Spheres of Might
by Jonathan O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2018 02:55:17

With nine new classes and hundreds of combat talents this book gives a wide range of options and is excellent resource for macking martial charcters fun. Allows warriors to shine on and off the battlefield without needing to be spellcasters, and gives options for evertything ranging from frontline killing machines to alchemists, trapsmiths and devious tricksters. The sheer level of custmisization possible may seem intimidating at first but the book is well laid out and very easy to understand. An emphasis on mobile fighting and standard actions eliminates the full action slog pathfinder warriors often seem to get locked into and creates a more dynamic battlefield in which every action is useful.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/05/2018 07:09:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

All right, this massive module & bestiary clock in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping219 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we dive into the module: If you are only interested in the bestiary section, which takes up 124 pages of the pdf, you should know that it is available as a stand-alone file, as "Fantastical Creatures and How to Survive Them - A Student's Guide for Adventure & Study." If you want to know about these creatures and what I think about them, please consult my review of that tome - the combined reviews should provide the information you need for an informed decision.

The next thing you need to know before we get into the nit and grit of this module would be that this is very much a highly modular book: This is reflected in the villain choice, who is randomly determined for massive replay value. Adding further to that would be the tiers: The book features color-coded boxes for 5 tiers and different objectives for players, depending on the raw power-level:

Tier encompasses levels 1-4; tier 2covers levels 5 - 8; tier 3 levels 9 - 12, tier 4 levels 12 - 16 and tier 5 levels 17 - 20. So yeah, you may run this module in a wildly different way, multiple times, if you're so inclined. It should also be noted, in case you're not aware of that, that this module makes ample use of the Spheres of Power system.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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..

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All right, only GMs around? Great! Windfell Academy is situated on the world of Skybourne and can relatively easily be used in any world that has a sufficiently prominent and organized magic tradition - as such, it fits best with high fantasy worlds. But the academy is different from regular schools: One look at the stats for the professors should make clear that this is quite probably THE wizard's academy of the world. They pretty much almost all clock in at epic CR 20s, with the headmaster transcending even their mighty powers. The academy circles the planet atop a massive, floating island...and it specializes in secondary education, which, yes, means that this place is for the pros. As such student disappearances are not really uncommon - but lately, they have been happening more often...and a month ago, none other than the headmaster has vanished!!

The deputy headmaster, the tiny gnome archmage Tocs has vowed to keep the school open...but the headmaster needs to be found...and it is quite likely that the PCs, enrolled as students, will have all of their hands full with the rigorous studying required - here, the module is somewhat reminiscent of Persona, in that tiredness, end of the week tests, classes and adventuring have to be managed by the party. A teacher will be designated ally, one villain, and this constellation influences directly the read-aloud text and respective interaction that the various events that are interspersed throughout the module's day-to-day-routine. These events also include tests of various types of prowess and may yield information, magical items, etc.

The module also allows for the gathering of rumors, provided your time-management skills are up to par, and a small cadre of supporting cast characters, no less colorful than the amazing Profs, makes for a nice help. Speaking of them: Beyond the stat-information provided in the bestiary section, the respective professor entries sport the villain clues...and in e.g. the tier 5 scenarios, they have the Great Ally - a vastly powerful wildcard that makes their threat even more potent. Better yet, the colorful and intriguing Professors, amazing characters one and all, feature valid justifications for being both allies, villains or neutral parties - the module manages to retain its internal logic in all of the characters. Impressive indeed!

The academy, just fyi, covers no less than 4 floors and 2 dungeon levels (all featured on player-friendly maps denoting the respective areas - for they ARE the regular spaces of the academy) - and now that the basic set-up of the plotline has been customized, the adventuring can begin...though it should be noted that the surrounding landscape is also properly mapped...and that is not even the primary adventuring locale, for there are levels of secret dungeons under the academy - abandoned, at least seemingly, and teeming with dangerous threats, powerful foes and highly modular challenges. the dungeon-levels are massive, their effects are creative and diverse...and with rooms like vampire kitchens, abomination fighting arenas and the like, are certain to remain with the players long after the module is done.

Now here is the truly amazing aspect of the respective modularity: Each of the professors has his/her own lair - a final mini-dungeon, if you will - and these are fully mapped in gorgeous full-color as well - and yes, they are befitting of the respective personality! From caverns with underground rivers to floating castles, mighty workshops and the like, the respective boss lair-mini-dungeons are highly hackable and easy to use as stand-alone, smaller dungeons.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports solid, sketchbook-like artworks, which in particular make the bestiary section really feel like a field guide - it is an acquired taste, though, and will not sit 100% well with everyone. The cartography in full-color is excellent and now comes with full player-friendly map support!

Adam Meyers, with Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a massive, extremely modular adventure/ supplement that really surprised me.

Why? Because I really, really hate Harry Potter. I am not the biggest fan of the magic school trope. But this one is amazing - it is bonkers, creative and the unique professors and personalities are thoroughly captivating. The schedule and time management issues, the modularity - all of these potentially enhance the value of this book...oh, and as a bonus, it manages to feel a bit like playing a Persona game. Heck, I bet I could easily craft a whole campaign against the backdrop of this module and its evocative academy - add characters, students, etc. and there you go! Additional dungeons and materials are similarly easily sprinkled in, blending to a degree the boundaries between module and campaign setting. Particularly as a high-level module, when you get to use the cool NPCs and high-level threats, this really shines.

In short: This is well worth getting! The colorful NPCs and creative monsters and the modular set-up make this a really interesting offering that has plenty to offer beyond the plotline it features. In short: I really love this. If you're using Spheres of Power, then this is pretty much a no-brainer-purchase...and even if you don't, this may be worth it for scavenging-purposes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, and since by now, player-friendly maps have been added, this now also gets my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
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The Abjurer's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2018 12:50:25

Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign to create this product and paid full price for it.

This is a 37-page, full-color product. The Protection sphere is an interesting one, covering many different ways of shielding characters from the challenges of their world. This book opens with a selection of new archetypes, including:

The Faithful Shepherd (a Cleric who specializes in healing and protecting

The Impossible Warrior (a Fighter who's especially good at countering magic)

The Living Weapon (an Armorist who summons pure magic for defense)

The Marshal Controller (a Mageknight who gains Practitioner talents and can set down rules)

The Shield of the Gods (an Inqusitor who can quickly create protections)

There are also a number of new class abilities, including Armorists' Arsenal Tricks, an Eliciter Emotion, a Hedgewitch Secret and Tradition, an Incanter Mastery, some Mageknight Mystic Combats, some Magus Arcana, and a few Rogue Talents. It's a nice spread of abilities, and helpful even for people who aren't playing Spherecaster classes.

After this, we get into the new Basic Talents. The Abjurer's Handbook introduces Succor talents, which can be used by sacrificing an existing aegis. Healing Aegis and Luck are errata'd to be Succor talents, and Healing Aegis has had its spell point cost removed. This part of the book also gives some clarifications on stacking aegises and setting up barriers.

New basic talents include things like giving allies a miss chance, creating a series of barriers that fill specific squares (and must be destroyed individually or with AoE attacks!), and designating a warded creature as a friend who can be immune to sphere and supernatural effects that target the area they're in (even if those effects aren't from the caster).

New Advanced Talents include things like creating permanent wards and tying defenses so they're extremely effective against a specific foe (but not anything else). We also get two new Incantations (Demonseal and Impenetrable Dome) and a Ritual (Arcane Rune, which is cousin to a certain famous explosive spell).

The Feats section offers a variety of new abilities, though no new feat types this time around. We do, however, get a lot of Dual Sphere powers, as well as a multitude of Protection-focused options that let you do things like use your Base Attack Bonus for your Caster Level (handy for full and 3/4ths BAB characters!) or ignore difficult terrain (more helpful if someone in the group is good at making that).

After three Traits, we get a series of new Drawbacks and a collection of items, including new weapon and armor properties, things for a Protection staff, a scaling item, and more.

The book closes out with a one-page Player's Guide, which looks at several ways of playing a Protection-focused character and how to get the most from them.

Overall, this is a solid addition to the Handbook lineup and well worth a 5/5 rating.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Abjurer's Handbook
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Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Spirit
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/13/2018 18:46:20

Disclaimer: I purchased this product at full price.

As the name suggests, this is an expansion to the Spirit talents of the Nature sphere. The core of this is three new basic talents - one that lets you speak with vermin, one that gives you concealment (20% or Spell Point for 50%), and one that causes vermin to treat you in a friendlier way.

After that, we get several new feats. These include options for granting Spirit powers to additional allies, some dual sphere feats to blend it with the Enhancement or Alteration spheres, and a pair of drawback feats that let you poison the land to decrease the cost of metamagic feats and improve your caster level. Plus the general drawback that lets you do it in the first place. This handbook definitely leans a little towards darker character concepts.

Overall, it's a tidy little expansion, and not a bad value for the price you're paying. I'd have liked to see one or two more options here (that'd bring it closer in line to some of the other Apocrypha books - 11 or 12 options for players is about right), but if you really like Spirit talents, you'll find some good options in here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Spirit
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Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Earth
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/02/2018 12:30:29

Disclaimer: I bought a copy of this product at full price.

This is a 5-page PDF, three pages of which are actually content. This product opens with five new geomancing talents, including ones that expand the radius of talents based on how many you know, provide bonuses to your AC and CMD while concentrating on earth spells or standing on the ground, breaks apart the earth to create dirt or sand, turn dirt or sand into rock (both could be handy), and try to push burrowing targets towards the surface (<- very situational, probably not worth taking in most games).

Next, we have a rare expansion - a few spellcrafted options, including options to Bless/Curse the ground, improve the user's land speed, create a mudslide, generate a sand barrier, and create a sandstorm that spawns stalagmites. An appendix at the back provides reminders about cave-ins.

All in all, this is a tidy and affordable product. Obviously, it's most useful to anyone dedicated to the Earth group of talents (and I wouldn't really recommend it outside of that), but it's nice to see a few more talents being made available.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Earth
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Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Fire
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/25/2018 12:28:04

Disclaimer: I purchased my copy of this product at full price.

This is the third entry in the Spheres Apocrypha series, and as the name suggests, it focuses on fire talents for the Nature Sphere. The PDF itself is four pages, two of which are actual content. On first read, some of the talents felt a little like they were leaning into other Spheres. The Dragonlung talent, for example, gives you a breath weapon - and to an extent, that also fits with the Alteration and Destruction spheres. It also makes sense with Nature, though, and I'm not overly bothered by its presence there.

Other new talents include things like a big boost to the size category of flames you can create (going up to CL 35, should that be relevant), flying on flames (rather like a Kineticist), and create a path through difficult terrain that allies can use. That's not very good on its own, but the Nature sphere has a lot of battlefield alteration abilities, and it might combo pretty well with other talents.

New advanced talents include exploding in fire and reforming with temporary HP and creating a truly massive fire (that might hit allies if they're not prepared!).

Supplementing the talents, we have three new feats. One lets you heal while using Feed on Fire, a Dual Sphere talent lets you apply effects from the Light sphere when creating fire (<- this is a great choice for a Dual Sphere power, thematically speaking, given the fire-makes-light thing), and an improvement for the fire flight.

Overall, this is a tidy, solid supplement for anyone focused on the Fire package of the Nature sphere. It's not something everyone will want, but anyone who wants to be a pyromancer will find a lot to love here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Nature Talents, Fire
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The Auspician's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2018 18:41:19

Disclaimer: I support the Patreon creating these handbooks and paid for this product.

All right! Here we go with another Spheres handbook - and I'm not gonna lie, the Fate sphere was one of those most in need of the help. We open with four new archetypes for players.

These include the Grim Disciple (a Mageknight who draws power from fey hounds that signal doom), the Lucky Bastard (an Unchained Rogue who takes great risks for great reward... or great failure), the Ordained Hunter (an Inquisitor who uses kismet to track foes), and finally, the Parzivalian Knight (a Paladin empowered by their belief in stories).

We also get a scattering of additional class options, mostly allowing the archetypes to get a bit more access to fate-based powers.

The truly important part, as per standard format by now, is the Basic Magic that follows. This book introduces a new talent type - Motifs, which are talents that allow you to nudge fate in a direction of your choosing. In general, these are touch-range and cost a spell point, last an hour per level, and can be discharged for a short-term benefit.

New common talents allow for things like aligning weapons (which feels a little Enhancement-y, but Fate is the sphere that deals with alignment stuff), borrowing luck, forcing creatures to identify themselves, and a whole Tarot set of Motifs. For example, the Empress gives a pool of points (equal to 1+CL) that the target can spend to improve many types of rolls. They can also discharge it for a bigger boost that's affected by the number of points remaining. The Fool, on the other hand, imposes a -3 penalty to all saving throws (that goes down as your CL goes up), but allows each throw to be made twice. It can be discharged to roll three times, or simply ended with no other effect. If your games prefer the Harrow, alternative names are provided.

Following this, we have new advanced talents, including powers that let you compel things you've exorcised, avoid a specific threat, and create permanent curses. All told, pretty nasty stuff - not always the most immediately powerful in battle, but vicious long-term. GM's may want to make use of these for major villains.

New Incantations allow you to petition the fates or summon up a bunch of powerful fiends to lay waste to an area (stopping this is a quest in its own right!).

Following that, we get to our new feats. The Auspician's Handbook introduces a new type of feat: Chance feats, which provides kismet that can be spent to activate the effects of the feats. We've also got a variety of older feat types returning here, including new Metamagic (Align Spell), an Admixture feat (Auspicious Admixture, allowing you to hit foes with a word effect instead of a second blast type - this is GOOD for Destruction/Fate builds), and a Dual Sphere feat (Sanctified Vigilance, which is Fate/War).

Chance feats include things like automatically succeeding on Con throws to stabilize when you have kismet remaining, healing when you heal others, making an extra attack when you crit, and getting a large luck bonus when you roll a Natural 15 or higher on skill/ability checks.

Rounding it out, we get a few new traits, a new sample casting tradition (Cartomancy), and four Sphere-specific drawbacks.

Towards the end of the book, we get a few creatures (mostly tying in to the Grim Disciple) and a GM advice section that adds clarifications and suggestions. This includes notes on what actually counts as a curse, more thoughts on alignment, and what to do in games that use alternate rule systems (like not having alignment or using hero points).

All in all, this is a solid addition that makes the Fate sphere significantly more attractive for a variety of players. Whether it's Elementalists looking to slap on some debuffs with the Admixture talent or specialists who want to take control of the world around them, there's a lot to love here. I'm happy to give it a full 5/5 stars, and I'm already eager for the author's next release.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Auspician's Handbook
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Spheres of Might
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2018 11:13:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive rules-book clocks in at 238 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page forewords, 1 page blank,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 229 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreons.

All right, we begin this massive beast of a tome with a brief piece of introductory prose to get you into the proper mindset, before explaining the basics of the system: Each character gets a series of talents, called combat talents. The number of these is defined by the class, though a feat exists that nets you an additional one. A combat talent may also be spent to gain access to a combat sphere, gaining that sphere’s base abilities and providing access to the sphere-specific talents. If a character would gain a sphere they already possess, you instead choose a talent. Saving throws, if any, are based on DC 10 + ½ BAB of the attacker + the relevant key ability modifier, here called “practitioner modifier.” If a character uses a talent, but has no class feature that defines a practitioner modifier, you default to Wisdom. Multiclass characters may use the higher of the two modifiers of their practitioner modifiers – this is important, since it retains multiclassing viability sans requiring a feat tax. Combat training nets you bonus talents that usually, but certainly not always, mirror the BAB-progression: Full BAB is equal to “Expert”, ¾ BAB-progression to “Adept” and ½ BAB-progression is equal to “Proficient.” This codifies talent-advancement in a way that is independent from the classes and easy to reference, while also providing an elegant balancing tool. Furthermore, characters may choose to exchange feat-progressions they’d gain to instead purchase Proficient or Adept combat talent progression – this, fyi, maintains compatibility with Spheres of Power.

And that’s already the basis of the system! Nope, I am not kidding! It’s that simple and elegant. That being said, there is more associated terminology that we need to define, some of which you’ll know from standard Pathfinder. It is a testament to the foresight exhibited by the authors that e.g. the Attack action as such is properly defined – something that regularly causes confusion on the various messageboards. This step is also important, since some combat talents and e.g. Vital Strike, both modifying an Attack action, can be applied to the same attack. This also properly mentions the interaction, or rather, lack thereof, with e.g. Cleave and similar Standard action-based attack forms. In short: Attack action =/= standard action. The definition here also makes clear that we can expect the book to reward flowing combat, i.e. fights that do not boil down to just trading full attacks and waiting who keels over first. “Special attack actions” should also be noted – they behave pretty much like attack actions, but only one per round may be executed. This is an important balancing caveat.

“Associated feats” denote feats whose effects can be duplicated by specific talents, which also means that the talents can act as prerequisite-substitutions for the associated feats. This is important once we get to the feat-groups that require a significant array of feats to qualify for and retains transparency in that regard without invalidating the feats themselves.

Now, the book does something really clever with action economy to combat the tendency to constantly just trade blows. The book takes a two-pronged approach here. The first would be the battered condition, which imposes a -2 penalty to CMD and also prevents you from executing AoOs. Furthermore, certain talents have different activation actions or effects versus battered targets. The condition may be removed simply enough – the Life sphere’s restore does the trick, as do effects like lesser restoration…and here, things become interesting: You can get rid of it via taking the total defense action. This obviously costs you precious actions, but it makes sense – when we picture being subjected to a battering down, like e.g. in the original Star Wars trilogy or similar media, it makes sense that you have to collect yourself. The second approach here would be the introduction of the martial focus. Any character with a combat talent or a feat granting access, gets the martial focus after a minute of rest or after taking the total defense action. HOWEVER, you may never regain the focus more than once per round. You may expend this focus as part of making a Fort- or Ref-save to have the result rolled treated as 13, and, analogue to psionics, there is a VAST amount of options that is based on expenditure of the focus. Once more, we have an action economy game here, and one that ties into the battered condition: Since you regain the focus as part of the same condition-removing action, this encourages you to actually alternate between combat strategies. Additionally, the base ability use allows you to be more reliably competent versus things that you should be capable of evading.

This modification of basic combat strategies are absolutely amazing, but the book does not stop there, not by a long shot. We also get rules-clarifications for e.g. double-barreled weapons and e.g. improvised weapon damage by size. Similarly, unarmed damage now scales independent of class, which is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned. The number of talents the character has governs the damage inflicted.

Now, the book does not just leave you in the dark regarding actual expressions of martial arts in the game world. You do not have to read and digest the whole book to start using it: Instead, we begin with a massive chapter of martial traditions, some of which are gained as part of the proficiencies of a class. This codifies basically a talent array for you, not unlike e.g. combat styles of the ranger class. One could also see them as thematic suggestions and the book provides notes on designing your own martial traditions. This section, beyond codifying mini-talent-trees, can also be seen as a perfect guideline for your own tinkering. Want to have a shield master? Check the tradition. Steppe rider? Suitable talents noted. I love this.

Now, the book contains no less than 8 new classes. If I analyze these in the level of depth that I usually go for, then this review will become a bloated 30-plus-pages monstrosity, so I’ll be a bit briefer than usual. The first class would be the Armiger, who gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, proficient talent progression and may choose a mental attribute as practitioner modifier. This would also be a good time to note that classes here grant e.g. a martial tradition when taken at 1st level – this provides access, obviously, but also prevents multiclass-cheesing. The armiger is obviously inspired by games like the latest Final Fantasy, centering around the idea of customized weapons, each of which grants a sphere and talent – basically, you have combat modes hard-coded into the class, and no, you can’t cheese that with dual-wielding. Only one customized weapon grants its benefits at a given time – though TWFing with them, obviously, is still possible. The class also gains options to cycle through these special weapons, which also improve. The low general progression regarding talents is offset by the modes, making this an inspired class. I really, really adore it.

The blacksmith get d10 HD, 4 + Int skills,full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves as well as Expert martial progression, with Constitution as governing practitioner modifier. The blacksmith is obviously somewhat equipment-themed and can provide benefits to allies by finetuning their equipment, basically providing 24-hour buffs. They also are sunder/anti-construct specialists, gaining scaling bonus damage and later learning to damage natural armor/weapons. The class also has some serious crafting prowess going on and the class receives an array of smithing insights that can provide e.g. Gunsmithing, damage objects to hurt their wielders, etc. He can also learn to reforge items, which is pretty cool.

The commander gets d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves and Adept martial progression, with Int or Cha as governing practitioner modifiers. Now, there are a couple of really good, commander-style classes out there. As far as favorites are concerned, Amora Game’s battle lord from Liber Influxus Communis, and, obviously, Dreamscarred Press’ Tactician come to mind. Where the former is a leader from the front, the latter is a coordinator defined by a psionic network and psionics. The commander is, chassis-wise, closer to the latter. The commander actually has next to no overlap with both: While tangible and potent benefits for allies are the bread and butter of these fellows, we also have terrain-specific tricks and logistics specialties – these provide really uncommon and intriguing benefits that focus on adventuring beyond combat. This class is fantastic. Love it to bits.

The conscript gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as Expert martial progression, governed by one of the mental attributes. This is basically the “build your own” SoM-class type class. From dual identity to banner to studied target, it allows you to customize options galore and also comes with sphere specializations, basically bloodline/domain-ish linear ability progressions that kick in at 3rd, 8th and 20th level. This is the class for the folks who want a certain skillset be viable sans requiring a ton of multiclassing shenanigans.

The scholar gets ½ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, d6 HD, 8 + Int skills per level and proficient martial progression governed by Intelligence. Beyond being capable of providing some healing, we get flashbangs, DaVinci-style gliders, etc. – this is basically the Renaissance ideal of the universal scholar, embodied as a class. Super helpful, versatile, interesting – and perfectly capable of working in even no/low-magic games. That is not to say that this fellow is not viable in your regular fantasy setting though! I really love how the system allows you to play a really smart, versatile non-magical scholar. Another huge winner.

The sentinel gets d12 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, 4 + Int skills per level, as well as expert martial progression, using Wisdom as governing practitioner modifier. The class, unsurprisingly, is the tank of the roster, and is an actually viable defensive base class. It is pretty technical in comparison, but comes out rather nicely. I am not a fan of the decision to be able to use Wisdom bonus instead of Dexterity to govern the one, at least pro forma, bad save of the class, but the capping of class level here prevents low level characters with universally good saves. Otherwise, the focus on challenges, ability to lock down targets etc, is nice., and stalwart, one of my least favorite abilities in all of Pathfinder (evasion for Fort AND Will) is relegated to 9th level. So yeah, I enjoy the class more than I figured I would!

The striker gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, good Fort- and Ref-saves, full BAB-progression as well as Expert martial progression governed by Constitution. The class is something of a monk-ish specialist, but that, at least in theory, sounds less interesting in the system, with monk-ish powers not more broadly available. Well, instead of just slapping several talents on the class, the striker takes a different approach: It is, in essence, a mana-bar martial. Let me explain: The striker has a resource called “tension” that increases upon taking damage, upon successfully hitting creatures, and upon moving a lot. This builds and may be expended to generate special effects, with the class gaining striker arts, which can provide unique effects or expand the ways in which you can spend the resource. And no, you can’t hoard it out of combat, and it doesn’t have a dumb per-combat mechanic. The playing experience here is really interesting and fun – but from all the classes, this is one that has the most expansion potential. Basically, you have a cool resource-management game in addition to the spheres-engine, making this a surprisingly strategic class to play.

Finally, there would be the technician, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int mod skills per day, good Ref- and Will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression as well as adept martial progression governed by Intelligence. This class takes up no less than 18 pages, and it is a BEAST. This is, in essence, the practical inventor to the scholar’s more theoretic approach; the sapper, the golemsmith, the pulp fantasy exploring inventor. It is the most complex class herein and the one that requires the most amount of system mastery, but it rewards you for allowing for an impressive amount of different concepts being realized even before you begin diving into the depths of the spheres system.

Now, the book also contains a ton of archetypes for your perusal: Alchemist, antipaladin, brawler, cavalier, fighter, gunslinger, hunter, investigator, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, ninja, rogue, samurai, slayer, swashbuckler, thaumaturge and even the vigilante get their due here, and that is before we take a look at the archetypes for the new classes, some of which made me smile from ear to ear. Battlefield armigers, for example, modify their chassis to instead make an improbable weapon, like an axe-bladed crossbow or the like. The iron chef blacksmith is a neat take on the battle cook, while the techsmith provides the means to poach in the technician’s playground, while doctor or slime savant scholars make for meaningful tweaks of the base engine of the class. Some of these tie in with the spheres system to a rather impressive degree, with e.g. the adamant guardian changing the focus of the sentinel from challenges to patrols, while another interacts with the berserker sphere. There also would be basically a true neutral paladin-ish variant here. Striker can opt for blackpowder or mutation specialties, and expert shadowed fists, scouts and grappling specialists are covered here as well. Technicians may elect for the mad scientist archetype (yes, you can make shrink rays…), and a suit pilot and basically a mythbuster can also be found here.

The whole classes/archetypes-chapter has been a huge surprise for me. You see, as much as I like Spheres of Power, I’m not the biggest fan of its classes. To me, they always felt like vessels to conduct the sphere-engine, not like truly distinct concepts that would make me go for them on virtue of their own engines. This book does not suffer from this limitation. I absolutely would love to play, in slightly varying degrees, all the classes introduced within this book. There are a TON of amazing concepts here and the engines presented for the classes are actually compelling and interesting BEFORE you start adding the sphere-engine! Furthermore, the classes herein allow you to do unique things that set them apart before diving into sphere-selection. That is a huge plus as far as I’m concerned. Add to that the fact that the classes actually manage to present compelling engines that reward versatile playstyles even before the main meat of the system is in place, and we have what must be called a resounding success.

Now, approximately 60 pages are devoted to the respective spheres. I cannot go into in-depth analysis regarding all of them here, but to give you an idea of the different spheres: Alchemy, athletics barrage, barroom, beastmastery, berserker, boxing, brute, dual wielding, duelist, equipment, fencing, gladiator, guardian, lancer, open hand, scoundrel, scout, shield, sniper, trap, warleader and wrestling would be the spheres. Alchemy nets you options to improve classic items, fused grenades, condition-healing, stimpacks, etc. Athletics sports concise rules for climbing around on big foes, wall run, etc. Barroom covers your improvised weaponry and drunken master tricks. Berserker, much like in the Fate/Stay-series, is about staying power and destroying stuff. Boxing features a nice counter-mechanic. Brute nets you Hulk-like stomps, topple foes, etc. and gets manhandle options to add further debuffs. The duelist sphere has a well-designed bind weapon-mechanic and can generate nasty bleeding. The equipment sphere sports the item-specific tricks. Now, I am not the biggest fan of the Fencing sphere’s Parry and Riposte, as it is based on an opposed attack roll, but its use of martial focus prevents the mechanic from bogging down gameplay.

Gladiators are specialists of boasting and demoralizing targets, the former allowing for actually tangible benefits. Guardian has two packages – challenge and patrol, the former of allows you to kite, while the latter lets you set up a defensive perimeter of sorts. I really enjoy this sphere. Lancer also is really cool, providing concise mechanics for the impalement of targets, making spear-wielders etc. more interesting and viable. Open palm and scoundrel are pretty self-explanatory, while the scout sphere focuses on keen perception, taking abilities usually relegated to rangers and characters that fit the ranged specialist or detective trope and makes them more universally viable. The shield sphere allows you to spend AoOs to increase AC and makes the often maligned item class more viable. Huge plus there. The Sniper sphere is something I have NEVER seen before for Pathfinder: It is a BALANCED, yet potent option for the sharpshooter concept. Thanks to essentially bonus damage for single shots, trick shots and the like, it is actually very well made. It even has a viable, powerful, yet balanced variant on the headshot-concept. The trap and wrestling spheres and warleader spheres do what you’d expect them to. It should also be noted that some sphere nets you 5 ranks in an associated skill, with progressive levels providing further boosts at higher levels. Snipers can shoot into melee sans penalty, etc. – you get the idea. The chapter, as a whole, is inspired. I do not envy the designers that will work on e.g. expansions to impaling options, for example, as the engine is VERY concise and could break if handled without due care, but as a whole, this chapter must be, once more, considered to be a resounding success of epic proportions.

Now, this would be as well a place as any to comment a bit on the design paradigms employed and what they mean for you: Spheres of Might did not attempt to offset caster/martial disparity. This feat is only possible by making martials ridiculously powerful and allowing them to basically behave like casters. And if you do want full-blown responses for every eventuality, why not play a caster in the first place? I believe, firmly, that playing a caster and a martial character can and should be somewhat different playing experience. The central issue with martials lies in a plethora of design decisions of the core game. Low skills per level meant less out-of-combat usefulness, which hampers roleplaying. Spheres of Might addresses that and fixes it. More importantly, though, the system’s focus on iterative attacks makes single target damage seem like the end-all raison d’être for martials. There’s a reason so many threads focus on improving AC, damage output, accuracy, and the like. The issue at the root of a lot of player-frustration with regular martial characters does imho not lie in their potency, but rather in the playing experience itself. It simply isn’t that interesting to walk up to a foe, roll X standard attack rolls for as much damage as possible, rinse and repeat. GMs will need, in such cases, to focus on mobility of foes or start a numbers-race that isn’t fun for anyone. And yes, you can accumulate a variety of different options for martial characters, but it takes time, feat-investment, etc. In short, you’ll still be doing your specialized routine. Very well, granted, but the experience can still be somewhat stale. This issue can be further exacerbated by certain classes having what conceivably should be general notions, hardbaked into the chassis, making some martial classes always exceed others in their available options for certain ability-trees.

Spheres of Might changes that. In other terms, the central design paradigm employed here is one that focuses, with tremendous success, on breadth rather than depth. Instead of adding a fireball’s worth of bonus damage to your attack to make up for the “lost” full attack, the system focuses on giving you MORE options to choose from. Yes, damage-enhancers are a choice, but they are not your only recourse to contribute to a combat situation in a meaningful manner. You can buff. You can debuff. And the very core of the system already rewards variance, doing different things each round. Do you expend your focus and execute talent xyz? Or do you get rid of that battered condition first? Do you focus on damage, generate a set-up, debuff a foe? The system makes different attacks MATTER. They are no longer just vehicles to transport more or less static damage values. Playing a martial character suddenly involves strategy. Choices beyond making a certain build. This has a rather remarkable effect: Suddenly, low-magic games, ones with a more pulp-like aesthetic, perhaps even ones sans magic whatsoever, feel more interesting for the players. As an added benefit, this takes one of the toughest challenges a Pathfinder-GM faces off the shoulders of the GM. You are no longer solely in charge of making the battlefield dynamic, of making combats require more than “I hit as fast and hard as I can.”

This changes the playing experience all on its own and supports a rather impressive array of playstyles that are simply less rewarding without this system.

But what if you actually do want high fantasy, potentially perhaps more significant boons that those assumed by your average Pathfinder adventure? Well, that’s where the book thankfully takes a cue from Spheres of Power: The high-powered, truly potent and more fantastic options are found in their own chapter, codified as legendary talents, organized by sphere. Here, you can, for example, find double jumps à la Devil may Cry, leaving speedster-style afterimages, the rules to make a philosopher’s stone via alchemy, execute Final Fantasy-style dragoon leaps, infinite ammo, generate a staircase of arrows/bolts, fire-breathe alcohol, instantly call animal allies to your side, rip open space and time, generate cyclone cut dual-wield effects, etc., generate vacuum with your strikes – you get the idea. Basically, this chapter includes the more over-the-top, fantastic options. The decision to distinctly set these apart if one of my favorite components in Spheres of Power, and I am glad it was retained here. So yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too. We also get a couple of new feats (and ones referenced, meaning you won’t have to skip books – kudos!) as well as an assortment of new traits and a ton of favored class options. These deserve special mention, for they seem to follow the design paradigm that class/race combos that are slightly less optimal should gain slightly better FCOs. I like that. The book also contains new drawbacks and sphere-specific drawbacks, which can further help customizing martial traditions and differentiate between schools. The equipment section includes some stuff that made my southern German heart swell – I know I need a battle stein! And yes, 10-foot-pole as codified as weapons. Never leave home without it! A few weapon mods and magic components can also be found here.

Now, the book does not leave the GM sitting alone in front of the book. Advice on running cinematic combat, martial monster tactics and talents and traditions – all concisely explained. The book also contains a massive bestiary (CR 1 – 21) of sample monsters modified to use the system and furthermore features an NPC-codex.

Oh, and that’s not all. The final chapter provides a surprisingly tight conversion appendix for Starfinder, which is a definite plus. At the same time, applying the concise conversion notes will take time. Furthermore, while Starfinder is similar to Pathfinder, it is still its own beast, and frankly, I found myself wishing we’d get a full-blown version of the book dedicated exclusively to Starfinder. The conversion guidelines are better than I anticipated, but ultimately, they represent a graft for a system for which this wasn’t necessarily intended.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are pretty damn close. The proof-readers did a very good job here, particularly considering the massive crunch-density of this ginormous tome. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard and the interior artwork is significantly better than in any other Drop Dead Studios book I’ve read so far. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I do not (YET!) own the print version, so I can’t comment on its merits or lack thereof.

The team of primary authors Adam Meyers, Andrew Stoeckle, Michael Sayre and N. Jolly, with contributions by Amber Underwood and Siobhan Bjorknas, have provided an impressive…

…ah, who am I kidding?? This is a frickin’ masterpiece, pure and simple! Yes, I am not a fan of every single design decision herein, but I adore A LOT about this book. As in 99.999% of it.

As in: O M G, this is amazing. Spheres of Might is a jack-of-all-trades in that it allows for a wide array of different character concepts, but more than that, it actually enhances the experience of playing non-casters by making them significantly more rewarding. The classes are more inspiring than the vast majority of stand-alone classes you can purchase. The very engine this champions enhance the game all on its own, and the design of these martial spheres deserves lavish praise. More than even spellcasting, this completely tweaks, redefines and imho improves a central aspect of the game we all know and love.

Spheres of Might is one of the most inspired, well-crafted books of crunch I have ever read. It is not only well-made, it truly inspired whole settings, while campaign-ideas. Every single aspect of this book, every chapter, sports some truly remarkable ideas and gems. This surpasses Spheres of Power, a book I absolutely love.

The final verdict, hence, should not surprise anyone: This is 5 stars, gets my seal of approval, and is a hot contender for the number one spot of my Top Ten of 2017. Furthermore, this tome represents such an impressive improvement regarding versatility and playing experience quality, that it receives my EZG Essentials-tag – this book should be on the shelf of any self-respecting pathfinder GM.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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