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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.




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.


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.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[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.


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.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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The Vivomancer's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2018 05:29:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion books clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, ½ a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 33.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief piece of introductory prose, we begin with the first big chapter, traditionally one that contains new archetypes. This time around, we get a total of 5 new such options, the first of which would be the essentialist alchemist, who is an Int-governed Mid-Caster. The archetype also receives class level as a competence bonus to Craft (alchemy) for creating alchemical items and may use it to identify potions. This replaces, obviously, the regular alchemy class feature of the alchemist. Spell pool-wise, we get character level + Intelligence modifier spell points and a new magic talent with every increase of the caster level, but not with CL-increases from other sources. Instead of throw anything, the essentialist gets access to the Life sphere and the Water of Life talent as well as the Medicinal drawback. If the character already had the Life sphere, he does not gain the drawback. Water of Life, if previously present, may be replaced with a substitute. When using Water of Life, the essentialist may use class level as caster level.

What is Water of Life? It’s one of the new basic talents herein, one that lets you imbue food with the Life sphere’s abilities – you target the consumable item and only one consumable may be imbued at any given time and it may only hold one ability. The consumable may be used by other characters as a potion, though. Here’s the catch: Liquids thus imbued, like alchemical reagents etc. provide the benefits of the imbued ability as well as their original buff. Limited, yet versatile and creative – love it! What does the drawback do? Well, medicinal prevents you from targeting a creature directly with Life sphere talents – instead, this drawback forces you to take Water of Life and limits you to it – no Ranged Healing. It also prevents the taking of the Glorious and Sympathetic drawbacks introduced here, but more on those later.

Now that we have established how the base chassis works, let’s take a look at essences, which replace bombs. The essentialist may imbue consumables affected by Water of Life further as a free action, but it only works if the consumable has been imbued by the essentialist in question. The ability can be used class level + casting ability modifier times per day and grants a +2 alchemical bonus to the highest ability score of the target, with ties allowing for choice of the ability score affected. The bonus increases by +1 for every 4 class levels the target has. Essences last for 1 minute per class level and one provides enough sustenance for 1 day. Abilities that grant extra bombs instead grant extra essences. Instead of mutagen and persistent mutagen, the essentialist may 1/day produce a mutated essence in a 1-hour-process. This explicitly counts towards the daily essence cap! Like mutagens, only the essentialist may properly use these, and others are nauseated. Upon imbibing the mutated essence, the essentialist freely chooses the attribute to which essence applies, increasing the bonus granted by +2. Nice: Since we suddenly have choice here, the archetype specifies that only one essence can be applied per target, something implicit in the base ability, made explicit here for comprehension’s sake. At 14th level, duration of the mutated essence increases to 10 minutes per level. Unless I have miscounted, we also get no less than 15 specific, new discoveries that tie in with the new essence-engine presented here. These include +2 essences, applying poison resistance and immunity, respectively, to diseases, also adding a +2 alchemical bonus to a creature’s lowest ability score when using essences, adding invigorate to the effects of the Life sphere power, etc. Very interesting: Using Enhancement sphere enhancements as Life sphere abilities for the purpose of Water of Life. And yes, the ability manages to get the complex ability interaction right. There also is an analogue ability for the Alteration sphere’s shapeshift, just fyi, and other discoveries allow for the use of essences to create non-sellable poisons. While I am never a fan of untyped damage, the option to create untyped poisonous exhalations is relegated to a high enough level to get a pass. All in all, an interesting, meaningful and well-made archetype.

The folk healer ranger loses shield proficiency and is a Wisdom-using Low-Caster with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points. The archetype replaces wild empathy and endurance with the Life sphere and a magic talent at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Instead of favored terrain, we get a scaling bonus to Heal checks and penalty-less self-healing as well as skill unlocks for Heal. Swift tracker and tracker are replaced with Brew Potion-less potion-brewing for the Life sphere and the ability to increase crafting DC by +5 to include a Life talent. At 8th level, the creation of a Life potion may be crafted in a single standard action, but, before you complain, such hastily made potions deteriorate within the hour, so no, you won’t break the assumptions of most fantasy worlds with it. At 7th level, the folk healer may spend a spell point as a full-round action to temporarily gain a form of favored terrain (i.e. skill bonuses), replacing woodland stride. Funny typo: “apples” should read “applies.”

The pharmakon soul weaver gets the Life sphere and the Affliction talent, as well as the Limited Restoration (restore only – so no cure/invigorate) drawback. What does Affliction do? This new talent lets you use restore as a standard action to interfere with the life force of other creatures, requiring a touch attack. The target must succeed a Will-save or become exhausted, fatigued on a successful save. Here’s the thing: If you have Life talents that remove conditions, you get more options, though only one per use. These include being disoriented (penalty to concentration, Perception, no morale bonuses), being nauseated, confused, etc. As always, if the character already has the Life sphere, he does not gain the drawback. When using Affliction, the pharmakon may spend channel energy uses instead of spell points. Instead of the blessing/light class feature, the pharmakon gains an iatrogen at 2nd level and every 4 class levels thereafter, which is similar to an Affliction, but more potent. These may be used with channel energy or spell points, with the save DC equal to the classic 10 + ½ class level + casting modifier. Really cool: When using an iatrogen on a creature already under the effect of 3+ different iatrogens, the target must succeed a Fort-save or drop to -1 hit points and dying. This makes them potentially deadly, but since they require a set-up, I can live with this. The iatrogens include bleed damage, ability score penalties, fear-based conditions (properly codified), temporary staggering, a temporary stimpack-like boost to HP, Inflict Disease or Drain. Nice one!

The spirit mender druid is a Wisdom-using High-Caster with level + Wisdom modifier spell points and gains 1 magic talent per level. Knowledge (geography) is exchanged with Knowledge (religion), and if the druid chooses a domain as nature bond, she gains the associated sphere as well as a bonus talent at 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level, analogue to the sphere cleric. BAB, however, is reduced to ½ level, for full-caster progression, and while the archetype if proficient with club, dagger, dart, quarterstaff, scimitar, scythe, sickle, shortspear, sling and spear, they are not proficient with any armor or shield. Instead of wild shape, these fellows get spiritual protection, which translates to a Wis-governed, scaling bonus to AC and CMD while unarmored and sans shield, somewhat akin to the monk’s bonus. However, these folks have attendant spirits – think of these as a kami-like blessing (as an aside – any form of general Animism can similarly work here), cleaning clothes, stains, etc., but the spirits are adverse to metal, and metal armor and possessions will fall off quickly, with e.g. alchemical silver and the like as noted exceptions.

The spirit mender gets + ½ class level to Escape Artist (not italicized properly) and gets Cantrip for free and cantrip-effects affecting her can be performed as a swift action. The spirit mender also gets the bond spirits ability, with 3 + Wisdom modifier spirits at once (minimum 1) acting as maximum. Summoning spirits takes 1 minute and they orbit the character and they are properly codified. These spirits can be used to duplicate a variety of spirit powers, the use of which requires a standard action and expends the spirit, sending it back to its origin. At 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level spirit powers are unlocked and allow for an interesting gameplay: They basically behave mechanically like a cooldown buff-option that allows for high-level condition-removal, enhance skill checks, stabilize allies, aid the living, temporarily gain a Life talent she qualifies for, etc. They count as a soul weaver’s bound nexus, using spirits as souls. Nice! Instead of woodland stride, we have a universal version that also makes the spirit mender take no Stealth penalty for moving. Instead of trackless step, we get a universal version, as the attendant spirits clean, get rid of scent, etc. Cool!

The worldsoul incarnate would be the final archetype, available for both regular and unchained barbarian, replacing rage with a state of rapture that can be maintained for 4 + Con-mod rounds, +2 rounds per class level.. While enraptured, the restrictions to Cha-, Dex- and Int-based skill checks with the usual restrictions applies, and the state of rapture also includes -2 to AC. After rapture, the character is fatigued for 1d4 +1 rounds. Here’s the thing: While enraptured, the worldsoul incarnate may channel primal energy: When spending a free action to maintain or enter rapture, the initiate gains class level vitality points. These are lost at the end of the turn, so no hoarding. These vitality points may be spent to gain temporary hit points, bursts of speed, replenish minor amounts of hit points (5:1-ratio), +1 attack versus a target previously hit for 8 vitality points…or, at higher levels, restore (not formatted properly) for 11 vitality points…and sundering magic for high level characters can also be found. This replaces the rage tree as well as indomitable will and fast movement. This is a really cool, player-agenda-emphasizing rage variant I thoroughly enjoyed. Beyond that, the archetype comes with an impressive array of rapture powers that include channel energy fly speed (behind a proper minimum level caveat), an aura of light…really cool stuff!

Regular barbarians can choose from 3 new rage powers that include limited healing, temporary hit points and ignoring DR of creatures harmed by positive energy. Armorists can choose new properties for the bound staff as well as the driving unique ability that uses Invigorate at full armorist level as CL. Incanters get two new 2-point specializations that include lay on hands and mercies. Mageknights get 3 new mystic combat abilities, which allow for the set up of a mark: If an ally hits the target, you can invigorate him as a free action; Self-reliance allows for better self-invigorate/cure-ing and Signature Scar allows you to scar foes and temporarily siphon off healing. There are two new ki powers, which nets a temporary hp buffer for monks and a chance to block the ki of enemies, stifling healing. Rogues, unchained rogues and slayers can choose 4 new talents as well. There is one that lets you immediate action attack when regaining hit points, but with a cool-down that prevents abuse. Reducing natural armor via decreased sneak attack damage (which can be properly healed), adding a swift action feint to seriously damaging hits and siphoning off healing temporarily on a failed save are interesting. There also are two new hexes, one that hampers healing and one that makes targets harmed by both positive and negative hit points, healed by neither. That one should probably have a 1-per-day caveat. There are minor formatting snafus, but nothing that truly hampers the functionality. All in all, this player-facing chapter is INSPIRED. The archetypes are meaningful and balanced, offering different playing experiences that also sport cool flavor. Really well done!

Now, there are 23 new basic talents here. I have already mentioned e.g. Affliction, though there is more: For example, Contagion interacts with restore, allowing you to attempt to attempt to redistribute a negative condition to another target. Quite a few of the respective talents provide numerical boosts – Deeper Invigorate enhances invigorate to instead grant 2 temporary hit points per CL. Clarified Strike lets you make a single ranged or melee attack as a standard action, affecting the target hit with a Life Sphere ability. What Diagnose does should be pretty self-evident and Esoteric Healing lets you heal non-living creatures, while Latent Healing provides a latent fail-safe cure/invigorate that the target can trigger a s a swift action. The talent thankfully does not allow for holding more than more Latent Healing. Interesting: Disruption allows for nonlethal damage and Painkiller also heals nonlethal damage. Healing charm (but not compulsion/control), an update of Revitalize and using positive energy to really penalize the undead…some nice ones. The section also introduces the (vitality) tag. These grant bonuses to allied targets that receive a Life sphere ability’s benefits, lasting 1 minute or taking damage from an attack or failed save. Only one vitality talent is conveyed per sphere-use, but individual vitality talents may be chosen when affecting multiple targets. These include bonuses to atk and damage, +30 ft. movement or +4 to AC and saves. There is one option that may be a bit overkill, or that could at least have used a minimum level: Adrenaline Surge lets you expend 1 spell point when using a Life sphere ability on an ally, who then may spend an immediate action for a full-BAB atk, moving the speed, stand up from prone, etc. For 2 spell points, multiple affected allies can gain this. What’s my problem here? RAW, the surge does not need to be used on the next turn, which I’m pretty sure it should be. Storing it seems weird to me.

There are 3 different advanced talents included in the pdf. Hypervitalize is the minimum-15th-level superbuff to Revitalize, which nets a whole smörgࣸåsbord of different immunities that include immunity to death effects (will be interesting regarding interactions when the Death handbook hits sites), immunity to physical attribute damage and drain, etc. for +2 spell points. Life-Saving Cure makes cure always suffice to bring a creature to minimum 1 hit point and Transfiguration suspends old age penalties and increases temporarily current and maximum hit points as well as providing immunity to diseases. There is an incantation to cover the restoration of the dead to life and there is a 0-level ritual to preserve organs and e.g. conserve detached limbs. There also are a total of 26 new feats that include Wound Manipulator, an Alteration Dual Sphere feat that adds the classic minor healing to shapeshift. Another dual sphere talent allows you to swift action use a Life Sphere ability to follow up Destruction’s disruption. Increasing the size of Fount of Life, quick treating of wounds via spell points or ki, using inspiration as well as invigorate (self-only), gaining temporary hit points upon spending grit, panache, etc. is interesting. I particularly enjoyed Psychosomatic Healing, which allows you to create an illusion of healing that actually translates into a kind of DR-ish mechanic that reduces damage the target takes. Allowing allies to use Fount of Life, and the usual extra x feats are included. There also are a couple of Anathema feats, which build on the feat of the same name – the feat allows you to use channel energy, fervor or lay on hands as a touch/ray to damage targets, and as such, is actually usable sans the whole Spherecasting engine, with increased damage output, range, etc. as the usual modifications for such ability-types available via follow-up feats.

The section also includes 5 nice traits (properly codified and typed!) and I already mentioned a few drawback details: Requiring that Taste of Victory is triggered would be one: Taste of Victory is btw. a new talent that lets you heal when reducing a target to 0 hp or below – and yes, the talent cannot be cheesed! Kudos! Slow Recovery prevents instant healing; only being able to take conditions onto you or having creepy healing that needs targets to save…all pretty cool.

The pdf also includes alchemical items – Restoreing fish liver grog, temporary hit points via liquid life – nice. If you enjoy spontaneous alchemy (I love it), recipes are provided for both! Huge kudos there! 3 new herbs are also provided, though some harvesting-related DCs etc. would have been nice here. We also get 8 new potions/consumables, which include a cleansing potion in two versions that can get rid of quite a lot of negative conditions . A standard healing potion, healing Halfling black bread, a last-second save that can bring creatures that have just died, a seed, which, when planted, can produce a seedpod that duplicates the body of a deceased…solid array of classic themes. I already mentioned before that a class option provides access to new Life staff properties; equitable allows for limited condition removal of tough conditions at +1, which may be a bit low. Vital fortifies vs. Death sphere and negative energy/death effects and yields Counterspell, usable only vs. Death sphere abilities at +2. Wellspring includes a pool that can enhance cure. There are 3 regular wondrous items. Alabaster gloves enhance positive energy use via the Life sphere; clear gem duplicates any healing via positive energy within 60 ft., which, even for 75K price, is pretty damn OP. As a nitpick: “Wondrous” is not a slot. Limited fast healing boots are interesting. Beyond these items, we also get an armor, a shield and a necklace that behave pretty much like godling-items, increasing in power over the levels, with new abilities gained at almost every level. These can btw. be taken apart and made non-scaling sans issue, as GP values are provided for each level an ability is gained.

The pdf also introduces the Caladrias, a CR 1/6 Tiny magical bird, raven-like with white feathers, which can sense diseases and remove them. I love this critter, but I wish we got familiar/companion stats here. We also get the CR +0 damaged soul template, which represents a target that regenerates quickly and violently…oh, and they’re functionally insane, which is not good news for everyone else. Cool! We end with a nice two-page advice-section for players.


Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules-language level. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series and the full-color interior artworks are really neat – I haven’t seen any of the pieces used before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J. Gibson, with additional material by Amber Underwood, Derfael Oliviera and Trevor Stevens, provides an impressive spheres-handbook. After the somewhat underwhelming rules-issues in the Mentalist’s Handbook, this provided more than a breath of fresh air. You see, Life/healing is a sphere that isn’t exactly “sexy” – this pdf acknowledges this and manages to make healing interesting and versatile; the tweaks possible to action economy are nice. The archetypes are pretty much all-killer and the rules-language of healing requires notorious amounts of care to prevent cheesing. While I cannot 100% guarantee that a combo can’t break the material herein (I may have overlooked a combo), the engine components as presented herein do not per se offer such exploits – the rules-language is precise, to the point and interesting, sporting the necessary checks and balances. Moreover, the book actually sports rather flavorful angles for roleplaying and character concepts, rendering this one of my favorite installments in the series. Now, I am not a fan of every single design decision herein, but this still should be a considered a must-have for any Spherecasting-game that features healing. (I.e., probably all of them!) My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars. Well done!

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Vivomancer's Handbook
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The Mentalist's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2018 04:03:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion books clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, we begin this supplement with a brief piece of nice introductory prose before getting an overview of the content within, moving then forward towards the new archetypes, of which there are 4 this time around. The first would be the impressor fighter, who replaces the armor training ability sequence with the emotions eliciter class feature, gaining an emotion power of his choice at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, using fighter levels as eliciter levels. 5th level acts as the minimum cap for lesser powers, 8th for greater powers and 11th for master powers. The archetype employs Intelligence as governing ability modifier. AT 19th level, the archetype may execute an emotion power as part of a full attack, here erroneously called “full round attack”, to nitpick a bit. The emotion power may be executed against a target different from the full attack and provides synergy with Elicit Strike and Impressionistic Strike. What is the latter? A very potent new feat, which builds on Elicit Strike and allows you to spend a swift action to add an emotion power delivered by touch to the target of your attack, but only with weapons you’re proficient with.

The second archetype would be the egregore symbiat, who gains the Mind sphere as a bonus sphere, or a Mind sphere talent if he already has it. The psionics of the egregore are modifier as well: Telekinetic manipulation is replaced with coordination. Whenever an ally within 60 ft. damages a target, until the end of the egregore’s next turn, he adds + class level to damage AND automatically confirms one critical hit per round. Sure, this only works to targets susceptible to precision damage. But it’s auto-crit-confirming. AT FIRST LEVEL. Yeah, not gonna happen anywhere near my game. 6th level’s extension allows the egregore to use, as an immediate action, a lesser charm versus an enemy successfully hit by an ally’s melee attack. This expands to include greater charm at 16th level. The ability does not allow for target expansion, which is an important balancing factor here – like it! 11th level nets all allies within 60 ft a bonus (untyped, should be insight) to Will-saves equal to the number of allies within 60 ft., capping at the egregore’s Int-modifier. This replaces psionic fortress. 16th level replaces telekinetic colossus with trepanation. As a move action, the egregore can become pure thought and reside in the mind of an ally within 30 ft. Defeating the ally ejects the egregore and the ally may eject them at will – I assume as a free action. The ally gets +2 Int, Ref-saves and Will saves and may use the egregore’s “magic defense score” – that should probably read MSD. SoP does not sport a “magic defense score.”

Instead of pushed movement, the egregore who deals damage to an enemy within 30 ft with a weapon or natural attack may use an immediate action to establish a connection to the creature’s mind, increasing the save DC of mind-affecting abilities versus the target by 1, as well as gaining a +1 insight bonus to saves versus the target’s mind-affecting abilities. These bonuses increase by +1 for every 3 levels after 6th. The bonus is doubled to Bluff, Intimidate, Perception, Stealth and Sense Motive checks and the egregore is cognizant of the target’s position and conditions. The effect lasts for 1 hour per class level and may be ended as a free action. This is relevant, since the egregore may only have one such connection active at 3rd level, increasing that to 9th and 15th level. Starting at 6th level, the connection may be used to deliver Mind sphere abilities, ignoring distance towards a target thus affected, but when a charm fails to affect the target, the splinter ends. 12th level allows for the delivery of greater charms, 18th for powerful charms.

I want to like the egregore, but its ability sequence is wonky – the most potent ability is utterly OP and gained at first level, making dipping into the class too easy; the higher level options are interesting and per se well-crafted, but I still can’t fathom how auto-confirmed crits and almost always on class level bonus damage (when WON’T you have an ally within 60 ft.?) got into this AT FIRST LEVEL. This needs serious nerfing and I’d strongly suggest redistributing the abilities gained by this one.

The fright wright is an eliciter that replaces the fascinate ability of hypnotism with…staggered. Due to a fear-effect, granted. OH BOY. Where do I start? Unlike regular hypnotism options, this has NO SAVE TO NEGATE. It’s auto-stagger for class level rounds. Now look at fascinate and staggered back to back. Notice something? Staggered is one of the most brutal conditions in PFRPG, whereas fascinate is…situational. Highly situational. Staggerlock options are NOT something you should have at low levels, much less SANS SAVE. Note that, while duration is equal to eliciter levels, this still allows a 1st level character to reliably stagger-lock targets for the rest of the party to pick off for 3 rounds. At 3rd level, the fright wright becomes immune to fear and nets Persuasive as a bonus to Will-saves versus fear for allies within 10 ft. At 4th level, enemies within this range lose fear immunity and all hostile creatures in that range take a -4 penalty to saves vs. fear effects. These abilities replace defensive empathy and liberate and it should be noted that creatures with 4 or more HD than the character do not lose fear immunity. This neat little balancing tool is delimited at 16th level instead of inspire heroics. 9th level allows the character to take 10 with Intimidate checks if she has ranks in that skills. She may always add +1d6 to the result of an Intimidate check, which is somewhat weirdly phrased – I assume that this unlimited surge only applies when not taking 10. 1/day, she may take 20 for Intimidate, adding this surge. 13th and 17th level add an additional daily use to this ability. This replaces convincing. 10th level replaces inspire greatness, which adds Persuasive’s bonus to magic skill checks “When using the fear’s herald class feature […]” – here’s the problem: You never use that class feature. It’s the always-on fear-immunity canceling/penalty feature gained at 4th level. Does this mean that the effects apply when a target is within that range?

Instead of link, we get ochlophobia at 15th level, which is cool: A frightened or panicked target’s sight and hearing may be shared by the fright wright, provided the target is not protected from mental intrusion, etc. The fright wright may cast Mind sphere talents or emotions that cause fear effects through the target’s eyes. This is so cool – why not gain this sooner? Sure, it’d need some restrictions at lower levels, but this ability has the coolness of really allowing for a meaningful, different playing experience – relegating it to higher levels in favor of the numbers-boosts is almost criminal.

The next one would be the beastlord shifter, who replaces quick transformation with the Mind Sphere, but comes with a hefty drawback – the beastlord is treated as an animal for the purpose of charms and other mind-effecting effects. However, he may also affect animals, vermin and magical beasts with mind-affecting effects. This is a simple, yet thoroughly compelling modification of the base chassis here. Like it! 4th level yields Hunter’s Call, which lets the beast lord spend two spell points to target any number of animals, magical beasts or vermin at medium range, with the cap being 2 HD per CL affected (cool: Magical beasts count as 1.5 HD – rounded up or down? No idea) and a duration of 1 hour per caster level. On a failed Will-save, the critters treat actions “favorably” (which not employ the starting attitude-system?), though orders must still be made with an opposed Charisma check…which is a bit weird. Also: What’s the activation action of the ability? No clue. Can you convince more targets at once? No idea. The deviation from established wild empathy is not only not required, it makes the otherwise really cool concept somewhat wonky. This replaces lingering transformation.

All right, after the rather sobering archetype-section, we move on to a 5-level PrC, the waking sleeper, who gets d10 HD and must have BAB+3, 5 ranks in Knowledge (nobility) and underwent the rite of waking slumber, cast by a character of at least CL 12. “What’s that exactly”, you ask? Well, it’s one of the new incantations featured within this book. This incantation basically represents a number of subtle, hypnotic suggestions that unlocks the powers of PrC and makes for an interesting master/slave or teacher/pupil-relationship. The PrC gets full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-progression as well as 4 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons. The incantation leaves the character with the mark of the master, a sign or tattoo, which imparts a -10 penalty to resisting the DC of scrying and autofails any Will-saves triggered by mind-affecting effects originating from the master. Masters dying and then returning to life resume the effects, unless the waking sleeper dealt the killing blow. The ability requires that the master’s power exceeds that of the waking sleeper and takes undead apotheosis into account. Waking sleepers gain a pool of combat feats for which she meets the prerequisites – 2 at first level, +2 more at every subsequent level in the PrC. These feats, however, cannot acts as prerequisites except for other feats in the pool, and may only be accessed in a so-called state of recall. A state of recall may be entered for 4 + Wisdmo modifier rounds, +2 per level after first – that should reference the class levels here. In this state, the character gets +2 Strength, +2 to Will-saves (morale bonuses) and choose one feat from the pool, gaining access to it. The ability has a fatigue cooldown, somewhat akin to rage. How do you enter a state of recall? No idea. The ability fails to specify its activation action. While in this state, you are immune to scrying, and while in regular form, your sleeper version can’t be scried…okay, why not simply employ the vigilante’s dual identity engine here? As an aesthetic nitpick: This ability is missing from the class table.

2nd level nets catatonia, which translates to + PrC levels healed per night’s rest. The class can also will itself intoa deeper sleep, regaining more ability score damage, but at the cost of not being able to make Perception checks while sleeping. Being awoken from this state via shaking etc. causes 1 round of being dazed. 3rd level increases the morale bonus to saves to 4 and increases the feats granted in sleeper state to 3. At 4th level, attempts to influence the waking sleeper in a state of recall must pass an MSB-check versus DC 15 + total levels in a casting class. Note that the PrC is NOT a casting class! The capstone at level 5 increases the bonus granted to +6 by state of recall to +6 and allows for the selection of 5 feats. Additionally, two feats may be changed as a free action. Complaint here: I assume that the prerequisite-caveat is still in place here, but RAW, it could be read otherwise.

We also receive two new eliciter emotions: Excitement nets a bonus to speed (5 ft. per two class levels, min 5 ft.) and 1 + 1 per 4 class levels to AC, Ref-saves and Acrobatics/Fly checks. This is usable 3 + Cha-mod times per day and the boost lasts for 1 round. The lesser upgrade increases the duration to 2 rounds, the Master version to 3. The Greater option lets you do the following: “You may target an ally within 30 ft. as a swift action to grant them an immediate attack at their full BAB.” It can only be used 1/day, thankfully, +1/day for every 4 levels beyond 8th. Minor nitpick: I assume that the target needs no action to execute the attack – “immediate” as used in the verbiage does imply immediate action, though. Choosing another word would have been prudent here.

Tranquility is the second emotion, and allows you to grant a target 1d6 +1 per 2 levels (should be class levels) temporary hit points that last a minute. 3 + Cha-mod uses per day. These temporary hit points increase to 1d8, + 1/level (again, should be class level) for the Lesser version, 1d10 +2 per level (should be class level) for the Master version. The Greater power would be a standard action to remove the exhausted, fatigued, frightened, nauseated, shaken or sickened condition (choose one) from a willing ally within 30 ft., usable 1/day, +1/day for every 4 class levels beyond 8th.

All right, we begin the basic magic chapter with a new Mind sphere base ability, namely cloud. Talents with this tag emanate in a cloud form the object/creature/etc. targeted and creatures entering the cloud are affected. Objects may be imbued with one, with cubic feet maximum affected based on CL and creature affected based on size category, with multiples of 5 levels as the scaling for size categories. Somewhat odd: Components of objects or creatures may be targeted, which poses a serious issue: The example talks about targeting a head of a two-headed dragon, for example. Does this use the dragon’s size category or does it reference the head? In the latter case, how do you determine the head’s size? The radius of the area thus imbued is 10 ft. + 5 ft. per CL, or you can make a 10 ft. + 10 ft. per CL line. Establishing a cloud takes a standard action that Provokes AoOs and they behave akin to charms in that they have different strengths and require e.g. Powerful Charm to execute the powerful versions. A single creature or object may only be imbued once per day. Group Charm may not be used to affect clouds, but they otherwise behave as charms. Apart from the wonky component part, a cool and welcomed option!

4 such (cloud) talents are included within: Dispersion creates basically a “hiding spot”, akin to how many Stealth/Survival horror games (like the Clock Tower franchise or Haunting Ground) handle this – first, enhancing Disguise (akin to e.g. the Hitman games) and then, we get breaking of line of sight, hiding from being observed, etc. – I LOVE this. It’s pure gold for infiltrations. Esteem represents a buff to social skills, though one that becomes easier to perceive at higher power-levels. Lure lets you invite or repel creatures of a type/subtype, acting as a debuff even if you manage to pierce the defense this provides. HD is used as a cap.Misdirect does what it says on the tin, scrambling movement.

We get 10 new charms herein. In all brevity: Amnesia is really cool, eliminating a progressively longer duration of events and getting the respective interactions with e.g. Break Enchantment and similar effects right. Calm is also neat, eliminating [emotion] effects, but also morale bonuses and the like, which more potent versions eliminating the will to fight. Candor lasts a bit longer than usual and forces the target to speak only what is believed to be true. Nice! Cerebral strike provides means to cause nonlethal damage, with more potent options adding ability score damage and making the save to negate halve instead. And no, you can’t abuse this, as it can’t reduce ability score below 0. Disrupt focus is a great anti-caster tool, forcing concentration checks, with more potent options no longer requiring your concentration. Gestures is really cool, hampering somatic casting and, at more potent versions, cause targets to drop items, drop them prone at range or force them to execute AoOs, using your own, move them, etc. You may even, with the powerful version, make the target the origin of your magic, forcing them to provide the somatic components…obviously, depending on the requirements there. And yes, Utterances-synergy included. Love it. One complaint: Forcing targets to move into damaging or suicidal circumstances should provide the customary reroll for the save to resist the effect. Utterances, then, would be the verbal brother to gestures’ somatic trickery.

Inception implants memories in the target, first seeding rumors and then progressively more potent ones. Really cool for intrigue games. Mind shield is a progressively better boost to Will-saves, which first discharges, then halves its efficiency with each use and then, in the powerful version, yields immunity to enchantment spells and effects that may be surpassed with a check versus your MSD. Mind spy lets you use the target’s senses.

Wow. I almost can’t believe the same author wrote these! While the power-level of the talents oscillates, this chapter was inspired and provided a welcome breather after the less than superb first chapter. Advanced magic in the book provides something I loved to see – synergy with Occult Adventure’s dreamscapes, which is really fitting for the Mind sphere. When using a powerful Enthrall charm on another target with the Mind sphere, you can create at +1 spell point a Memetic Link, using the caster stats, but using you to determine results, allowing for the establishment of a chain of Enthralled targets. Perfect for masterminds. Recondite Stimuli allows you to choose one type like plants, oozes, etc. and affect them. The Zeitgeist (cloud) advanced talent allows you to extend charms to whole populations – really creepy and full of storytelling potential. 6 rituals are included here: Agreement is basically a sphere-based form of binding contract, with Pact being an even more severe version. Create mindsphere is self-explanatory. Dreampath guides you and other creatures into your or another willing target’s dreamscape. Dreamquake can severely damage thought constructs. Mental block fortifies your dreamscape. While we’re on the subject of longer duration effects: The second incantation herein would be River of Reverie, which makes you use magically-charged cheese to fish for dreams, acting as a superb defense versus the undead.

Three examples of spellcrafting are provided – Confirmation crisis, at 2 spell points, instills the target with rage and confidence of success, goading them to attack foes. Liar’s lament, at 1 spell point, makes liars catch fire. Meralda’s delirious donnybrook can only affect the caster’s type, but at 4 spell points, it stuns targets and inflicts nonlethal damage, as if pummeled by tiny fists, with saves to stop it. Nice.

The pdf also includes 10 new feats: Deceptive Advisor makes your requests laced with Mind magic and thus more reasonable (neat). Dynopathy lets you use spell points as daily uses of emotion powers with limited daily uses. This one will need careful observation in the future – it would have been easier to future-proof by establishing different costs based on different daily uses – 1 point for 3 + CAM, etc. Mind Over Matter lets you delay the onset of received damage and poisons via spell point expenditure. This is a surprisingly complex and potent feat I really enjoyed. Otherworldly Mind makes your dreamscape behave as another plane and thus makes scrying etc. harder. Pressure Point Proficiency penalizes Will-saves of those hit by your unarmed strikes. The penalty can be increased with a follow-up feat. Silver Tongue lets you reroll social skill checks with a scaling bonus, at the cost of spell points. Swarming Strike lets you expend 3 rounds of psionics to gain a bonus to damage from up to casting ability modifier allies to coordination. Synchronicity lets you extend single target touch range emotion powers to a range of 30 ft. and affect up to Charisma modifier beingts. Problematic here: Touch-based options are balanced by requiring an attack; AoEs usually allow for saves. This bypasses the save-requirement and the touch. Begs to be cheesed, in spite of the resources required.

There’s a trait to affect another creature type with talents usually only applicable to your type. The casting traditions Beast Charmer, Chi Trancer, Gadgeteer, Hypnotism and Bonneteur are presented, all being solid. We get the new Mental focus drawback, and 4 neat new sphere-specific drawbacks are included – blatant side-effects (like e.g. a Joker-smile by the affected, a twitch, etc.) needing to share a language…really cool ones. Boons include Embodiment, which allows you to consider yourself to be philosophically kin to something, potentially allowing yourself to be affected as such – rules-wise, this is too wide open for my tastes. Virtuoso makes you caster savant regarding Skilled Caster checks, as well as providing some stealthier somatic/verbal casting. Wild Will makes critters froma chosen terrain more susceptible to your magic.

The final page provides the conscription special weapon property, which can add the Command charm’s powerful effect to targets hit at +3 cost, thankfully with a cooldown to prevent abuse. The jamais vu armor quality, at +2, can be activated via command word to cause onlookers to save or forget you for a short duration. Nice. Staves can get the meditation quality for +2000 gp, granting double the enhancement bonus to concentration when casting a spell or sphere effect to which the staff’s enhancement bonus applies. Mesmerism, at +3, nets a gaze that interacts with charms – which is per se cool, but as a whole, feels more like something an archetype should convey – tying it to the item feels weird to me.


Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good – I noticed a couple of formatting deviations and internal inconsistencies, but nothing too glaring. On a rules-language level, the pdf is WEIRD. Power-levels fluctuate rather significantly between options and rules-language, at times, manages to convey highly complex concepts, while in other cases falling a bit flat. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf features full-color interior artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that more authors have worked on this. John Little delivers a book that starts of really badly: The archetype-section is a mess and made me put down the book for a while. That being said, I am actually glad I returned to finishing the review for this book! As subpar as it started, as interesting it becomes. The basic and advanced magic chapters are really interesting and sports some narrative gold-mines that can yield truly complex intrigue/infiltration/etc.-scenarios. While the options presented oscillate rather wildly in their respective power, there is a lot to love in this book once you get past the first chapter. While there are problematic options in subsequent chapters as well, the majority of the book remains interesting and features some truly cool tricks.

That being said, it also feels significantly less refined than usual for the series and ultimately, in its current form, amounts to a mixed bag for me. The good aspects are really, really cool, but the bad things are also rather atrocious. Personally, I can just disregard the problematic options and enjoy the gems herein – as a private person, I’d round up. As a reviewer, though, I noticed no-go-issues that I tend to penalize rather harshly. Hence, my official verdict cannot round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Mentalist's Handbook
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Wild Magic
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/17/2018 16:00:46

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as part of the Patreon campaign that funded it.

So! This is a little different from most of the Spheres of Power expansions, and as the name implies, it's all about magic going bonkers. Sometimes this is unintended, like when the GM has a 'wild magic zone' the characters get into. Other times it may be on purpose, as powers like the Cantrips feat can be used to deliberately trigger a minor magical effect.

Much like the ultimate in wild magic - the Deck of Many Things - the actual effects can swing between amusing, beneficial, or harmful. This isn't just one or two tables, though - this PDF is 94 pages long for a reason.

We start off with an introduction to Wild Magic, including details on chance, how effects stack (short answer, "yes"), and what to do with chances over 100%. There's also the chance of a major magical event if your risk goes too high and you're using that rule, and while it's not quite as bad as the Deck, there are events like getting disintegrated, permanently changing the normal temperature of an area, or negating every summoning for awhile. (Awkward if you focus on Conjuration!) Helpfully, the first section also includes a reprint of the Spell Schools to Spheres table for quick reference, as well as a couple of variant rules.

After the short introduction, we get into archetypes and class features that use wild magic. The Elementalist and Thaumaturge do well here, while Armorists, Mageknights, Prodigies, and Scholars get a few options.

We also get two pages of player options, starting with Wild Magic Feats, a new category of feat impacting your use of - surprising nobody - wild magic. Some of the feats get better if you have more feats from the category, giving incentive to go all-in on wild magic. There are also two new casting traditions, a boon, a general drawback, and two traits. We also get two equipment properties and a magical item.

But after all of that, we're barely into the book - the real reason we're here follows, with the massive wild magic tables. Not satisfied with a single event of options, this book offers a truly ridiculous number of options (many of which can easily be converted to work with the normal spellcasting system, by the way).

We start off with the basic Universal Wild Magic Table, which can kick in whenever nothing else is appropriate. Following that, we have the Cantrips table (mostly minor effects) and the Major Events table (risky as heck). You might think that would be enough, but no, Drop Dead Studios went all-in on this.

After the 'general' tables, we have tables for all of the spheres (although, as of the release I'm reviewing, not all of these were bookmarked for quick access - a minor oversight). These are heavily themed tables (yes, 100 options each), allowing for results that are related to the kind of magic that spawned them.

So... this isn't necessarily a book that should be a permanent part of every game, although it's great if your group enjoys being unpredictable. Put simply, this expansion is wild magic at its finest - sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful, and sometimes weird, but always unpredictable. I love it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Magic
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The Conjurer's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2018 08:37:41

Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign to create this product and paid for my copy of it.

After a bit of a delay, here we are at expansion number thirteen - and returning author Andrew Stoeckle brings us plenty of new content. Of note: This is the first release since Spheres of Might, and it shows.

The book opens with a set of archetypes, beginning with archetype choices for companions summoned by the Conjuration sphere. There's actually quite a broad selection here, from the animal-like Bestial archetype to the weaker but cheaper-to-summon Familiar. The Martial Companion option grants progression in the combat options from Spheres of Might. Spheres of Power has always been a strong supporter of ideas, and these archetypes are a nice touch. (Yes, you can stack these archetypes as normal.)

From there, we move on to character archetypes. There's an interesting spread here, and the choices include:

Alter-Ego (Vigilante): Literally swap places with your summon, so only one of you exists at a time

Awakener (Armiger): Summon the spirit of a weapon to wield it for you (requires Spheres of Might)

Knight-Summoner (Mageknight): Call up a mount that's a little more exotic than a mere horse

Pact Master (Thaumaturge): Swap casting ability for the ability to create pacts, summon various entities, and gain magical powers while close to them.

Twinsoul Elementalist (Elementalist): Summon an elemental spirit that you can channel power into, allowing it to unleash more powerful bursts of energy.

Void Wielder (Armorist): Retain the energy of dead foes inside a void blade, then summon it to fight for you later.

After these archetypes and a sprinkling of new class options, we get into the most important part of the book - new [b]Basic Magic[/b]. The Conjurer's Handbook starts this area off with a selection of new base forms for the Conjuration sphere, including:

Avian: They fly.

Ooze: They slime.

Orb: Hey, listen!

Vermin: They crawl.

The new talents follow, and we're introduced to a new category: Type Talents. The Undead Creature is errata'd (when using this book) to be a Type talent instead of a Form talent, and the major difference is that companions can only have one of them. Otherwise, they're like Form talents. Options in the book include things like Constructed (the companion is partially or wholly mechanical), Ooze Companion (properties of oozes, yay), and Planar Creature (pick two of four alignment-themed options, and the other two if you take it twice).

New Form talents include options like Camouflaged Companion for drastically better stealth, Capable Companion to get a bonus feat, Explosive Companion (somebody's going to have worrying amounts of fun mixing this with the Orb base form), and Mount (so yes, you can ride what you call up).

A few untagged talents round out the options, including Call the Departed (resummon a slain companion), Spell Conduit (companions can deliver spells), and Spell-Linked Companions (spend spell points to let Companions benefit from your buffs).

At the end of this bit, we get an extended table of growth for levels 21-40, should anyone care to play a conjurer at that level.

As usual, the next section has Advanced Talents, with new options ranging from particularly large/small companions to improved fast healing, mass summoning, and even turning your companion into a Swarm or Troop (the rules for which are helpfully reprinted at the end of the book). Other advanced options include new Incantations for calling up otherworldly beings and guidelines for adapting the system and creating new options to support a player's idea. (Remember, Spheres is about saying "yes" to concepts - it's okay to be creative!)

The Player Options section opens with new feats, including a new type (Companion feats) that can be taken by either a conjurer or their companion. Feats of this type allow things like having a companion concentrate on spells to maintain them for you and suppressing a size-altering talent. More general feats include things like improving the Explosive Companion talent a la Destructive Blasts, applying the benefits of your equipment to your companion, and using your Casting Ability Modifier (instead of always Charisma) when using the Summoning Advanced Talent.

We also get new Sphere-Specific Drawbacks (from no normal companion but the Summoning Advanced Talent to having all summoned companions share a pool of hit dice) as well as new Traits and Alternate Racial Traits. One new item (a foldable summoning circle) is added as well.

The main content finishes with a section on Gamemastering, with advice on issues ranging from too many companions to the details of summoning, roleplaying, and a bit of love for the Ghost Sovereign archetype (expanding its options to support the new talents). The Appendix, as mentioned above, reprints the Swarm and Troop rules for convenience.

Overall, this is a solid expansion to the Conjuration sphere, and any character focusing on that sphere is probably going to want this expansion to go with it. There are plenty of fun and flavorful options sprinkled throughout, and despite a few small formatting hiccups, I didn't notice any real problems. This product earns a 5/5 from me.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Conjurer's Handbook
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Spheres of Might
by Benjamin M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2018 05:20:21

Spheres of Might is a fantastic product that goes a long way towards changing the feel of melee combat in Pathfinder. The focus in SoM is moving away from the 'stand and slug' kind of full attack that martial classes in core Pathfinder tend to get stuck in, moving instead to 'special attacks' that can be done in conjuction with a move action. The Spheres don't feel too similar, and cover a broad range of fighting styles, from barroom (bar-room, that one confused me for a while) to open hand, or barrage for ranged characters. It also ups the power of martial characters, making their ability to deal damage and control the battlefield continue much further into the progression. Finally, I love the unchaining of abilities from long feat chains, and the lack of feat taxes.

All in all, an easy system to integrate and one that makes gameplay more fun. Highly recommended.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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The Creator's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2018 11:48:58

Disclaimer: I backed the creation of this product on Patreon and paid for both this and the Hero Lab files.

We're more than halfway through the Handbook line now, and it continues to go strong. Creation is a somewhat strange sphere - its real power lies in how creative you are with it, so it's not as straightforward as most.

This product opens with some archetypes and class options, heavily emphasizing the common sphere classes. They range from the Word Witch (a Fey Adept with particular command of certain words of creation) to the Knight of Willpower (a very determined Thaumaturge indeed). We also get a new Incanter Specialization (Master of Creation) and a Hedgewitch tradition (Transmuter). All in all, it's a fairly solid set of options for players who want to specialize in this sphere.

The real meat of the book is, of course, the new basic talents. While we don't get any new types of talents, the new options significantly expand what Creators are able to do. Most notably, the Expanded Materials talent is drastically expanded to encompass several sets of options, from classic substances to gas, plasma, and even acids.

Other new talents include changing the size of objects, making things out of force, and an option to increase the casting time in order to reduce the spell point cost (which matters, given the normal cost of this sphere!).

The Advanced Talents are quite diverse, ranging from making things from precious materials to completely disintegrating objects. As with most Advanced Talents, be careful of adding these to your game - they CAN significantly change your game.

The Feats section adds multiple new options as well - including the return of Dual Sphere feats (mainly emphasizing mixing Creation with Enhancement and Telekinesis). The rest of the book provides the rest of what we've come to expect - drawbacks, traits, alternate racial traits, and so on. A few new items (including, curiously, an energy sword) are included, and things round out with some rule clarifications to make it easier to run the Creation Sphere. That alone makes this helpful for any table making heavy use of this sphere.

This book didn't wow me quite as much as some of the other handbooks did, but it's still a solid addition to the handbook lineup and an excellent supplement for any character focused on the Creation sphere.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Creator's Handbook
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The Nyctomancer's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/25/2018 02:06:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, as always, we begin with a nice piece of prose before we get a summary of how to use this expansion for the Dark sphere – perhaps one of the “less sexy” spheres and one of the more difficult to write and expand upon, so how this fares is rather interesting to me.

The first chapter starts off with the new archetypes, the first of which would be the darkshaper, who gets a modified skill list, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency in both simple weapons and light armor. The archetype uses Charisma as governing casting ability modifier. The archetype is primarily defined by the shadow limb ability, which replaces bound equipment, summon armor and bind staff. What does it do? As a move action, the darkshaper may animate his shadow as an extra limb. This limb has a 5 ft.-reach and a primary natural attack that inflicts 1d4 piercing and slashing damage (1d3 for Small darkshapers – minor complaints: “Small” not capitalized; dual damage types can be a bit wonky in interaction – that aspect would have been more elegant with options to switch. The darkshaper employs Charisma instead of Strength for atk and damage with the limb as well as on CMB checks. At 15th level, activation can be alternatively done as a swift action, and at 20th level, the darkshaper may do so as a free action.

The limb may be used for delicate manipulations and can wield weaponry, activate spell completion/trigger items etc., but not wear armor. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the shadow’s reach increases by +5 ft. Dismissing the shadow limb is a free action and it gains a +1 enhancement bonus at every odd armorist level beyond 1st. Kudos: +5 limit remains intact and the wording covers special weapon ability gains properly, noting which ones wouldn’t work. The darkshaper may manifest an additional shadow limb at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter and multiple shadow limbs may be manifested with the same action. The limbs all share their enhancement bonuses and qualities, thankfully, for the qualities may be changed each time the limbs are manifested. Additionally, this counts as Animated Shadow for the purposes of prerequisites and simultaneous use is not possible. Additionally, a darkshaper that hits a target with a shadow limb attack may use a swift action to cast a (shadow) talent at the usual spell point cost on the target.

All in all, an interesting archetype with cool visuals – enjoyed it! Next up would be the invidian symbiat, who gains both the Mind and Dark sphere as bonus talents at first level, replacing mental powers. The archetype also begins play with Step Through Darkness as a bonus talent, being constantly under its effects sans requiring spell points to activate it. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the range of the talent by +10 ft..

Unlike regular symbiats, these folks draw from their inner demons to generate effects, replacing the symbiat’s psionics, but counting as such. This ability would be the blackened psyche, and its save DCs are governed by Intelligence. The abilities include 60 ft.-range concealment for one round as an immediate action, with the miss chance scaling. 6th level nets the ability to render targets within 60 ft. flat-footed, as they jump at shadows, with 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding an additional target; instead of an additional target, this effect may instead be applied to additional attacks versus the target…your rogue buddy will love you for it. This one replaces telekinetic edge. At 11th level, targets within 60 ft. become shaken on a failed save, replacing psionic fortress. 16th level provides a brutal debuff, allowing the invidian to render targets briefly staggered as well as getting -6 to Str and Dex.

The shifter class is next, with the Nocturnal Predator, who begins play with both the Alteration and Dark spheres as bonus talents, but at the cost of the Photophobic Casting and Lycanthropic drawbacks. As usual, if you have a sphere already, you do not gain the drawbacks. The drawbacks are each linked to one of the spheres. Within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may employ the Alteration sphere’s shapeshift to herself as a move action, and maintaining it only requires a move action to maintain concentration while in areas of dim light or less. This replaces and counts as quick transformation. The archetype also receives +1/2 class level to Stealth as well as Nightvision and a bonus Bestial trait. 10th level unlocks using Stealth while observed. Also at this level, while near/within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may hide sans cover or concealment. Kudos: Own shadow does not qualify. Nice catch! This replaces wild empathy, steal language, boundless communication and endless communication. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide sneak attack, but only with natural attacks, replacing enhance and enhanced physicality.

Next up would be an archetype for the unchained monk, namely the shadow boxer, who gains a slightly modified class skill list and uses Charisma as governing attribute for monk abilities instead of Wisdom. The shadow boxer’s shadow has a reach of 5 ft. an may be assumed and dismissed as a free action, functioning as a means to deliver attacks and touch attacks and modify, analogue to the darkshaper, complex tasks. They do lose stunning fist and fast movement for this. It should be mentioned that the shadow’s attacks count as unarmed strikes for the purpose of monk damage scaling and use in conjunction with flurry. The shadow does not grant extra attacks or additional magic item slots. Instead of the 1st and 2nd level bonus feats, the archetype gains Basic Magical Training, but is locked into the Dark sphere. Extra Magical Talent is treated as an eligible monk bonus feat for the archetype. Instead of using spell points, the modified dark ki points are used to pay for point costs and talents from the Dark sphere may be used instead of ki powers. The pool is btw. also governed by Charisma. Nice one.

The skulk fey adept replaces fey magic with the Dark sphere as a bonus magic talent. A Dark sphere talent not maintained through concentration (or one that no longer is maintained) retains in effect for ½ class level rounds before disappearing. This replaces master illusionist. Instead of create reality, 6th level yields siphon shadow. The skulk may use the fey adept’s shadow point reserve to attempt to siphon away a creature’s shadow as a melee touch attach. On a success, the target must succeed a Will-save to avoid having the shadow stolen. The skulk gains 1 temporary spell point for every 2 dice (should be plural in the book) of shadowmark damage when successfully stealing a shadow. These do not stack with others or other points gained by this ability and only last for 1 round per caster level. Oh, and the skulk may NOT gain more spell points than the target has HD! Elegant caveat that prevents exploits by tormenting bags full of kittens. Kudos! A target whose shadow is stolen is immune against effects that manipulate the shadow. Items hidden in e.g. shadow stash remain inaccessible while a shadow is stolen. A single target can only be subjected to the ability once in 24 hours. But wait, you can still abuse this via summons etc., right? WRONG! Thankfully, the ability has another caveat that prevents abuse versus 0-Int or summoned creatures. Impressive!!

When a skulk has stolen shadow, she gains insight into the target’s available spells, SPs and talents and may spend a shadow point to temporarily duplicate a sphere and a number of talents possessed by the target. The number is governed by level: 1 talent at 6th, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. These arcane forgeries remain for caster level rounds and must be paid for with the skulk’s spell points. Alternatively, instead of a talent, a single-use SP or spell may be chosen; once more, the complex rules-language holds fast. Kudos: No material component or focus cheesing. 20th level lets the skulk ignore advanced talent prerequisites of arcane forgery’d talents and copy a second sphere. This archetype is AMAZING. It entwines the base class options in a complex, well-constructed manner with the archetype AND manages to get a truly complex, massive rules-operation done right. Well done!!

The talent thief would be an archetype for the unchained rogue. The archetype nets a modified skill-list. Instead of rogues’ edge, talent thieves are Low Casters using Intelligence as casting modifiers, with a spell pool equal to class level + casting ability modifier, min 1. They may select magic talents from the Dark sphere instead of a rogue talent. Minor complaint: While evident from the context, the archetype should probably be locked into the Dark sphere. At 4th level, debilitating injury is replaced with shadow theft. Critical hit confirmations with melee attacks that qualify for sneak attack damage get the option to forego all sneak attack damage to gain temporary spell points for each sneak attack die foregone. The limitations of shadow theft noted above apply here as well, though willing targets may have their shadow stolen sans damage. Weird: The ability mentions that such targets don’t get an AoO…but RAW, the ability does not trigger an AoO…looks like some sort of hiccup. 10th level provides basically another variant of the aforementioned temporary talent stealing, though this time around, number is tied to sneak attack damage dice forgone. Beyond that modification, the archetype may also steal feats, though prerequisites still have to be met.

The void gazer thaumaturge begins play with Dark sphere and the clouded vision oracle curse, with class levels as oracle levels for the purpose of determining effects, with other classes counting as 172 level. Maximum vision increase beyond the curse is expressly prohibited. As part of the action of activating a spell or sphere, the CL can be increased by 2, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter; however, there is a chance of 15% to suffer occult backlash. When this occurs, vision, including e.g. blindsense/sight is reduced to 5 ft until the character rests to regain spell points. Occulted vision in conjunction with the Dark sphere and its talents only has a 5% chance of backlash. Honestly…I consider the CL-increase, in spite of the potentially brutal penalty, to be overkill. That’s up to +6 at 17th level! Halving these would still make for a powerful option, The void gazer only gains ½ casting ability modifier uses of invocations per day, but may choose to suffer occulted vision’s backlash for an additional use of eldritch invocations. The new invocations available to the class allow for the addition of confusion for a round, adding the Stygian Immersion meld to one target (3rd level), all targets in range at 11th level; at 7th level, when suffering backlash, he can blind a nearby target temporarily; 15th level adds confusion to those within a blot or darkness as a result of Stygian Immersion. It should be noted that these invocations and their mechanics are interesting in that they are tied to the activation of occulted vision and Dark sphere.

There also are 3 new arsenal tricks: Add shadow-themed qualities to summoned weapons/armor, or gaining Shadow Stash, even if you don’t have the Dark sphere – interesting, though the shadow-themed tricks are not uniform in their formatting. While we’re at that subject: 3 special weapon qualities and 2 for armors can be found; shade-hexed weapons get better in shadow, worse in light; tenebrous weapons may be stashed in your shadow. Umbral edge weapons can be used to trigger shadow theft on critical threats, as opposed to confirming them. The shaded armor quality nets Shadowed Mien, sans temporary hit points. Shadow warded armor grants full AC to touch AC versus attacks by a shadow.

Okay, you probably had some question marks when I referenced blot talents, right? These are darkness-effects on two-dimensional surfaces, basically splotches of dark that do not influence the level of lighting. Dark talents with the (blot) tag can be added to an area of darkness to cause additional effects, but only one such effect may be added, though different instances modified may overlap. They do not stack with themselves or other blot or darkness effects. In order to be affected by a blot, a creature must be in contact with it. They are treated as darkness for meld-purposes as well as interaction with the Light sphere.

These are interesting, allowing the nyctomancer to conceal terrain, stagger targets in a darkness or blot (thankfully with follow-up saves and immunity against that specific casting upon making the save to balance the AoE), causing Wisdom or Dexterity damage…and there is basically a blot-based portable hole! Really cool! Speaking of which: A status/direction-knowing trick based on darkness, blot or shadow is really cool for investigations. What about manipulating darkness or blots for thievery or creating a slick darkness? Some really neat options here.

(Shadow) talents manipulate the target’s shadow sans requiring a manifestation of darkness, unless otherwise noted, at Medium range with a standard action to activate. Once again, one per target, with Will-save to negate. They are not suppressed by glows and Light caster need to surpass the MSD of the shadow-effect’s caster to apply the Light effect; otherwise, the Light effect is suppressed. These include rendering a target blind via their shadow, splitting a shadow off as a shadow lurk that acts as a kind of modified unseen servant and aforementioned Shadowed Mien, which grants a social skills-enhancing shadowy aura, optionally with added temporary hit points. Shadow Stash, which I mentioned before, is a pretty self-explanatory option to stash stuff in your shadow – gold for infiltrations.

New basic talents sans these tags include the sickening Black Lungs, particularly nasty for Verbal Casting folks (and you can take it twice to add poison as insult to injury). Centering darkness or blots on targets and items rather than areas is a HUGE gain of flexibility that the sphere really needed; making darkness only block light from one vantage point is glorious regarding the tactical applications. Extinguishing nonmagical light rather than suppress is will probably be a boon to dark/ice-themed characters and you may use the darkness to dispel magical flame sources. Making darkness flow like liquid is also really cool. A counter versus divine, gaze into the abyss, also had me smile – I know what the criminals and less savory sphere users will consider to be mandatory… There is btw. also nice interaction of Obfuscation with the potent tricks introduced in the Diviner’s Handbook. Applying melds to more targets via additional spell point expenditure is another trick the sphere needed. Applying more shadow talents based on CL, making darkness or blot traps…really cool. The Stygian Immersion I mentioned before would btw. be a meld that makes a blot behave as a pool of water. Really cool! Clearsight, Disorienting Darkness and Step Through Darkness also gain augmented options for investing an additional talent in them, with the new tricks interacting well with the engine-extensions herein.

In the category of advanced talents, we can find the self-explanatory Animated Shadow, darkness, shadows or blots that render alignments NULL (cool!), upgrading Shadowed Mien to protect from daylight etc. – neat! As a formatting complaint that should definitely have been caught; Melt into Shadows’ title has not properly been depicted as a sub-header. The talent is damn cool, though: It makes you a blot , with climb speed and modifications and all. One with the Void does the same for darkness. Shadow Double, finally, is just what you’d think it is – basically the spherecasting version of the shadow clone trope. Really neat: We also get a new incantation assigned to Death and Dark spheres, the Rite of the Revenant Shade, which calls forth just that: A creature that was slain has its shadow seek out the killer to exact horrid vengeance.

The feat-chapter spans a total of 15 feats, which interact well with the material herein: Aura of Mystery makes your Obfuscation a constant effect; we have several shadow lurk upgrades; follow-ups for Step Through Darkness…and there are sphere-spanning feats for e.g. Dark/Warp-synergy, making targets more susceptible to Mind effects, etc. The new types of talents are also gainfully used, with Imbue Shadow allowing you to choose (darkness) or (blot) talents to make them behave as (shadow) talents. 3 solid traits are included (e.g. darkvision for your own darkness – cool!) and a new general drawback represents performance anxiety when observed. 4 Dark and one Light-sphere-specific drawbacks complement this section. Fetchlings, Tieflings and Wayang also receive alternate racial traits and there is even a familiar archetype here. Wanted a shadow familiar? Well, now you can have one.

In the equipment section, we have contrast spectacles that help identify Dark sphere effects by clearly outlining boundaries – now I really want a truly DARK dungeon (think Dark Souls’ 4 Kings-boss area, just with traps and corridors…) – this one is interesting! The soot-stained bell known as obdurate douter can snuff fire and light; obsidian keys allow those donning them to benefit from Clearsight and Darkvision with regards to the attuned Dark user. Shadow-dipping gloves allow enterprising thieves to pick items from Shadow Stashes. There even is a minor artifact, the Spike of Affixion that represents the classic trope of nailing a creature’s shadow to the floor, thus restricting it. Nice!

The bestiary section sports the CR +2 (less than 9 HD)/+3 (9 or more HD) darkened creature template for full-blown stealth action; The CR 8 devouring hole (nice picture included!) is basically a sentient , really dark portable hole construct…cool idea! And yes, construction notes included.


Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good; rules-language, with very few exceptions, is precise and concise, and becomes problematic in none of the cases where it’s slightly glitchy. Most boil down to aesthetics or formatting-consistency. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art I’ve seen before and some new interior art; particular the new pieces are interesting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven Loftus did not have an easy task here – the Dark sphere is, arguably, one of the less sexy and more specialized spheres. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have never encountered a book penned by him before, so this does get the freshman bonus – and it is one promising start!!

That being said, what he has done with the material herein must be commended. The added flexibility the new talents provide is a boon indeed; the new options are balanced, interesting, employ cool visuals and, as a whole, make this an amazing addition to the series. Some folks may complain that eh complex engines in the archetypes have some overlap, but that only proves true on a cursory glance: The individual modifications are well-made and math-wise sound.

In spite of my expectations for this book, or rather, lack thereof, this managed to put, time and again, a smile on my face, courtesy of the highly complex and rewarding operations performed herein…and due to the fact that it makes the Dark sphere as cool as it should be – all without just copying and palette-swapping the Light sphere…and all that, while maintaining compatibility with the other books in the series.

Well done, sir!

There are precious few complaints I can field against this; as mentioned before, I consider the thaumaturge CL-escalation a bit too much; the editing could have been tighter. But those drawbacks are mitigated by the cool concepts herein. It is only due to these minor gripes that this misses my seal of approval; my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Nyctomancer's Handbook
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The Battlemage's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/24/2018 02:39:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-book for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a nice bit of introductory prose and some notes on how to use this book, we begin with the new class options presented, the first of which would be the combat engineer alchemist, who replaces alchemy with being an Int-based Mid-Caster and a spell pool of his level + int-mod, with each level granting a magic talent and War sphere as a bonus sphere at first level. The archetype gains alchemical engineering, which focuses on creating so-called devices, which are single-use alchemical items used to enhance sphere talents, working per default only with totems, though that may be rectified. Using a device expends a use of the bombs class feature, but unlike bombs, devices do not need to be created beforehand and are used as part of the action activating the talent. Devices that enhance sphere abilities that are attaches to targets necessitate a touch attack with the device to do so. When the engineer uses a device, he can add 1 modification, + another one for every 4 class levels thereafter, culminating at 5. (It should be noted that some modifications count as multiple modifications.) At total of 12 such modifications are provided and include having to save twice, making the sphere ability conveyed as though a bomb. For 4 modifications, the device may even create sphere abilities the engineer doesn’t know – he still has to meet the prerequisites. Better MSD and fuses complement an interesting array, and we also get very shorthand-style discoveries that list, somewhat oddly, their prerequisites in the discovery-names, which also are bolded. Needless deviation here, but ultimately cosmetic. The discoveries are cool and tie in with other spheres as well as including a reduction of multiple-modification-costing device costs.

Next up would be the Dark Presence eliciter, who gains the War sphere and treats his CL as class level and increases the save DC of the sphere by +2 (same bonus applies to the three social skills), which also increase at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter by +1. This replaces persuasive. 3rd level nets Soul-Piercing Gaze. The archetype gains custom hypnotisms, the first of which makes the target lose Dex-mod to AC for one round on a failed save. 4th, 10th, 16th and 19th level provide confusion, non-lethal damage, nauseating (sickened on a successful save!) and hopelessness, replacing the inspire greatness/heroism, liberate and reverence abilities. The capstone allows for the expenditure of multiple hypnotism uses to affect multiple enemies within a totem’s area – cool one, though I wished that sort of interaction came sooner. The divine heretic warpriest is a Cha-governed Mid-Caster, with class level + Cha-mod spell pool and a magic talent each level. He gains Steadfast Personality at 1st level, using Cha as the feat’s governing attribute and two spheres as domain spheres, one of which must be War. He also gains Totemic Aura as a bonus talent and the Personal Conflict drawback, no drawback if he already has the War sphere; if both are already possessed, he instead may choose a War bonus talent. The second sphere is freely chosen and domain spheres employ class level as CL. Fervor is modified to allow, as a swift action, expend a use of a sphere ability with a casting time of 1 round or shorter, and the ability thus enhanced may only affect the divine heretic and his equipment and effects that move with the character work as well. Ongoing effects are extended by Charisma modifier rounds. This replaces fervor and, in essence, makes abilities that target others or multiple targets personal instead – system-immanently, this is an ability I’d keep a very close eye on, as it is pretty wide open; not broken per se, but definitely an ability that should receive some GM oversight.

Instead of channel energy, 10th level yields domain mastery: Expend 2 fervor to add a magic talent for a single sphere use, with the talent chosen from domain spheres. When used in conjunction with fervent casting, this costs no additional fervor. The capstone nets a 1/day swift action ability to use an unlimited number of self-targeting sphere abilities to target himself or equipment, but spell-costs are retained.

Next up would be the ghost sovereign soul weaver archetype, who replaces Heal with Knowledge (nobility). 2nd level nets a linear ability progression of royal commands that can influence ensouled creatures. The basic buff sports a layout relic, a blank box, as an aesthetic aside.. Higher levels let you cause critters to attacks others; causing others to move, buff bonus upgrade…nice. The 18th level ability to use a standard action to execute a “full-round attack” –this may be further expanded by also allowing for movement by also expending a move action – per se interesting, but also very strong…and potentially bring for the player. This replaces blessings and blights., 4th level nets the option to call forth twilight courtiers, undead designed per Conjuration + undead Creature. 8th level provides totem/mandate-less rally and requires, like calling courtiers, soul expenditure. The capstone allows the character to be whisked away temporarily to the afterlife and to auto-resurrect with negative levels. These sovereigns also have their own twilight kingdom, made with Create Demiplane – interesting!

The Iron mage hedgewitch adds Intimidate, Knowledge (history) and knowledge (nobility) and 4 + Int skills per level. The archetype has good Fort- and Will-saves, poor Ref-saves and loses one tradition. He does gain the War sphere, at class level equal CL with it and a bonus feat with a limited choice-array. The archetype gains casting ability modifier authority points per day, which also represents the maximum cap for them – they behave somewhat like grit, but also take allies into account. Thankfully, they cannot be kitten-cheesed. Iron mages may use a command 1/round; use of a command when it’s not the iron mage’s turn instead consume next round’s command. It would not do the archetype justice to just make it out to be grit-like, though: You see, the ally caveat allows for more reliable regaining of points, and the commands, which are gained in a linear manner, interact in interesting ways with both totem and mandate. Minor complaint: E.g. answer the call lacks the italicization of rally. Plus-side: Moving totems, moving allies, temporary momentum points…damn cool (and more on that later. The archetype also provides an array of tradition secrets, which interact in similarly interesting ways with the base engine of the class – my favorite archetype herein so far: Interesting, unique and meaningfully different playing experience.

The war hero fighter also gets a kind of fleeting resource – greatness, which may, interestingly, be also replenished with breaking shields, succeeding saves, etc. Cool here: Anti-kitten-abuse caveat included! Here’s the interesting component: While not becoming a spellcaster per se, the war hero can, whenever he achieves greatness, trigger an aura, which may duplicate spell point cost-less talents or Totem of War, with higher levels granting totems, multi-aura activations, etc. – nice representation of the gloryseeker and certainly more interesting than the base. The wardmage mage knight is basically a bodyguard-style archetype that may intercept attacks on warded creatures, replacing 1st level’s talent. Resist magic is replaced with a variety of virtues – these are interesting, but sometimes a bit weird: Dedication costs a standard action, for example, and allows the character to make an unlimited amount of such intercepting attacks, which can become ridiculous pretty fast; just picture how war would look between these fellows. It would have been more feasible to us a hard, scaling cap of additional intercepting attacks here. Still, there are some cool tricks here, including ones that reward having specific spheres. 7th level provides another interesting angle here, allowing the target of an attack to be marked, treating any creature the target attacks as warded. This replaces marked and mystic defense is replaced with scaling DR versus enemies intercepted.

The final archetype would be the warmonger symbiat, who replaces Fly with Bluff as class skill and gains a variant proficiency list. He gains War Sphere and Totemic Presence and the Personal Conflict drawback; as usual, already having access to the sphere cancels out the drawback and alternate choices for those that already have the gained options are included. CL is equal to class level; totems have a 60 ft.-radius and allies within the radius may expend momentum from the archetype’s pool. Instead of trap sense, we get a scaling initiative boost, and he gets the option to change weapon damage of allies…which is interesting. Highly problematic: Doubling a successful attack of an ally as an immediate action. So, god-strike, crit-fisher ally and you = double ridiculous damage. Not getting anywhere near my game, particularly considering that the already very potent second attack doesn’t even require line of sight or a roll, which is a bit puzzling, considering that the higher level abilities are potent, but weaker.

The pdf then sports an array of new class features: We get 3 new armorist arsenal tricks, which include substituting casting ability modifier for Strength or Dexterity when wielding a bound/summoned weapon, for example, as well as new special weapon qualities – which are not properly formatted. Eliciters can now choose two new emotions loyalty and resolve; the former is cooperation-focused, while the latter focuses on buffing allies. 10 new mageknight mystic combats include spell point based enhancement of attacks as though using sacred weapons, sharing a mandate versus marked targets or potent swift action assaults can be found: Full BAB-attack with class level as bonus versus marked targets are pretty strong.

Anyways, we also get 3 new rogue talents (once again, oddly formatted), which may sound not like much, but they’re all killer: Not only do they sport interesting interactions with mandate and (rally) talents, they also have an option to be treated as ally for the purpose of a spell, SP or sphere ability – which is pretty amazing. However, this does not cancel being treated as an enemy, which can result in some really wonky interactions. Similarly, limited amount of target abilities and the talent, how do they interact? Can the rogue hijack another’s place? No clue. I really like where this is going, but RAW, it could have used some further gestating.

Then, we begin with the heart and soul of this pdf, namely the magic-section: The War sphere’s talents are codified in various categories that are defined properly; totems (distinguishing between totemic aura and fixed totems), rallies (immediate action ally buffs for targets in totem-range or affected by a mandate), mandates that exist between two characters and there are (momentum) talents, which may be used as a standard action by spending a spell point, granting a momentum pool for 1 hour per CL, holding caster level + key ability modifier points that may be employed by allies within 30 ft. – easily my favorite component of the sphere’s mechanics, btw. – neither activating the pool, nor using it generally provokes an AoO, btw., making this party-driven resource really cool. Momentum, per se, is amazing, let me state that loud and clearly – and the talents offer e.g. the option to use swift actions and 3 momentum to grant yourself another attack at the highest BAB – which brings me to a peculiarity of the book: The bonus-attack-granters, exceedingly potent, universally stack with haste, an interaction that should not work according to PFs regular paradigm. It doesn’t have to break your game, but in the hands of a skilled powergamer, these options become pretty shredder-prone. Particularly since aforementioned momentum talent does not have a minimum level or similar limiter.

Don’t take that the wrong way, though: While I do consider these components to be problematic, there are also a lot of really cool tricks that made me smile: Fast healing/regeneration-suppression via totems, using momentum to demoralize, counterattacks after misses – there is a lot here to love, even before adding benefits to rallies. Minor complaint: I did notice, for example, a reference to the Escape Artist skill not capitalized properly. Also weird: Half of page 23 is blank, making it look like there’s an artwork missing and some text cut off – it’s not, but it generates a somewhat unpolished look there. On the massive plus-side, subverting charms and compulsions, quicker totem movement, buffing negative energy…there are MANY really cool tricks here that made me think of quite a few fun character concepts, like sharing movement, etc. The advanced magic section is rather brief and focuses on attaching totems to vessels or buildings; here, just fyi, the italicization is also not consistent.

The pdf also contains more than 50 (!!!) feats/drawbacks. These include bonuses to Intimidate (not properly capitalized in the pdf) after using a War sphere ability, forbidden lore/totem.crossover, several Dual Sphere talents (like rally allies in wards or dismissing an aegis to reduce the spell point cost of a rally), using Combat Stamina as a spell-point substitute for basic (rally) talents, to be precise, for rallying yourself – which is the only thing that saves this from being OP –Stamina as a replenishing resource acts as a delimiter, so care should be taken if/when building on this. Using spell points as part of a full-attack to replace the first attack with a sphere or supernatural attack is an impressive feat, and one that manages to get its high-complexity verbiage done properly. Synergy between banner and totems, regaining points spent on a self-rally, and a whole array of feats that build on Squadron Commander, which basically establish a collective (the squadron), allows the PCs to gain increased benefits from totems and do so cool stunts…what about e.g. a high-level totem-upgrade that makes foes fade and become less real, treating others as incorporeal? Yeah, that is pretty damn cool.

Beyond the huge feat-array, we also get 6 nice, meaningful traits, 3 generic drawbacks and 4 sphere-specific ones. The pdf also sports new magic equipment – one of these would be the selfless armor quality, which can be used to inflict nonlethal damage to the wearer to grant buffs, which is really cool, since only a full night’s rest helps recover it, making for a per se glorious set-up – unfortunately, the item lacks the caveat that it should not work for creatures immune to nonlethal damage. A shield for amateur interception and 4 different war staff properties can be found. We get banners imbued with totems and there are rally-items – to avoid cheesing, you can only use one of them per 24 hours: Kudos!! And yes, there are stone spheres, which, bingo, serve as mandate items.

The bestiary section sports the blood brothers template (CR +2), which sports a couple of tricks – weird: There are no blank spaces between words in any of the trick-names, which makes sense for some, of them, but not all. Still, throwing your ally, making a miss into a feint for the ally…cool. As a balancing mechanism, these may btw. only be used once per combat – people don’t fall for them twice…usually. (Insert my rant against “per-combat” making no sense in-game here…)

The pdf closes with a page of Player’s advice – which, oddly seems, to reference material that has since been renamed (or not yet released), making the page a bit weird.


Editing and formatting, on both a formal level and rules-language level, are not as tight as usual for Drop Dead Studios. There are more formatting issues and minor hiccups than usual, but at the same time, rules-integrity manages to juggle highly complex concepts. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf employs solid stock art, as well as quite a few artworks that are probably original, since I haven’t seen them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J Gibson’s battlemage’s handbook has me more torn than any previous Spheres of power-expansion. On one hand, this book does a phenomenal job of providing amazing engines for the War sphere, an upgrade it certainly required. On the other hand, the pdf, more so than usual, feels like it could have used some additional editing and development. The options here, while cool, often feel a bit weird in internal and external balancing. Spheres of Power is already a wide-open system and the couple of unlimited use-tricks and the synergy tricks need careful monitoring. The explicit stacking of swift action full BAB-attacks with other options and haste also represents an escalation that I don’t consider to be necessary…and potentially unpleasant. Considering that Spheres has a built-in options to differentiate between lower-key and more high-powered gameplay, this component in particularly feels like it could have been handled more elegantly.

In short: While the War sphere needed a power upgrade, this handbook imho overshoots the target-line and comparing power-levels of some options, it looks a bit like some minimum-level-requirements etc. were lost or not implemented. The book, in short, ends up closest to the shapeshifter’s handbook in power-level, a development I consider somewhat troubling for the series, considering that Spheres of Power’s original selling point was to feature more toned down, non-vancian casting.

That criticism out of the way, from a mechanical perspective, I absolutely ADORE the engines employed herein, even if I disagree with some details of the respective implementations. While I wholeheartedly disagree with several balancing-decisions herein, there are plenty of solutions that I like. Similarly, evocative combos, cool tricks, flavorful, high-difficulty crunch – you can find all of that in here. In short: If this had been a bit more streamlined in the dev-department, it would have been my favorite Spheres-expansion so far, bar none, perhaps even Top Ten candidate-level. However, the rough patches and editing/formatting hiccups that make this feel a bit less polished, do drag it down from the level of excellence that this would otherwise represent. In short: This is a very good file, but one with rough patches that a GM should be aware of; my final verdict is 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Battlemage's Handbook
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