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DragonCyclopedia: The Combatant
by Jake H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2011 14:11:44
This whole series strikes me as ill-thought-out. Clearly there was a lack of research and fact-checking here, where incorrect rules are called out and redundant or useless feats are offered up in what appears to be a patch for the lack of a non-mystical monk.

This was a real disappointment after the quality and flavor of the Stygian book, and I have to caution people that in the sorting of wheat from chaff, this book is mostly chaff. The Combatant is clearly a reskinned fighter archetype, even going so far as to take use of the bravery mechanic, and the feat-trees the 'styles' are based on often rely on completely pointless feats made solely to support those styles in this book.

The styles mechanic IS robust and versatile, and to give credit where it's due, there are some interesting conceptual themes in the book for archetypes for fighters, rangers, and even barbarians, but I cannot help wondering if the supplement would not have been better served being modeled after those archetypes found in the APG rather than trying to craft a modular class capable of taking on a few of those archetypes at once, but in a way that invalidates both the archetypes, and it's own misstated mechanics.

Just as an example, compare: Far Shot and Focused Aim.

All that said, there IS some wheat in this booklet! Some gaps and flavor issues are handled by the systems here that work, though some may be over-powered (some stances in particular), and some may be woefully underpowered to the point of having far better options in even the core book (such as the above mentioned focused aim), or to have been basically nonsensical (air strike).

All in all, not bad -for a dollar-, but double check every part of every rule before you use any part of this book's system mechanics. Much of it is worthless.

As for printing and presentation, the book has the standard artifacts and editing issues of most third party books, and virtually non-existent art (consisting of woodcuts and greek vase reliefs), but what do you expect for a dollar? The typeset is clear and the whole thing is neatly organized and correctly formatted for a Pathfinder Book. I still like the crinkly-parchment backgrounds he uses.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DragonCyclopedia: The Combatant
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Jake! Obviously, a somewhat negative review, but those are at least as helpful as positive ones, if not much more so. You got me on Focused Aim; I've updated the file with the version that it was supposed to be, and you and other purchasers should be getting the option to download the new version. I hope you get some enjoyment out of the book. I enjoyed writing it.
DragonCyclopedia: The Stygian
by Jake H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/09/2011 01:19:14
This book is a great resource for bringing compatible undead to your table. Everything appears balanced and well presented, and the simple template addition onto a PC race means you can start playing undead from anywhere in your career, even character creation! With four 'breeds' of Stygian and all the peripheral support to bring them into your campaign, this promises to be an excellent book for an almost unbeatable price. It's practically free!

Since it's third party there's always the question of editing, and the few editing mistakes aren't terribly glaring. Only that and the reuse of the Nosferatu name (Pathfinder already has a Nosferatu-type vampire! One features prominently in Curse of the Crimson Throne.) keep it from getting all five stars.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DragonCyclopedia: The Stygian
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DragonCyclopedia: The Mage
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2010 22:51:28
The fire-and-forget style of spellcasting is one of the hallmarks of the Pathfinder role-playing game (spontaneous spellcasters being a minor variation of this same formula). It’s also one of the biggest points of divergence from most fantasy fiction – unless you’re a fan of the works of Jack Vance – wherein wizards are generally able to toss around magic with no appreciable limit. Now, while we have been seeing some attempts to recapture this in Pathfinder, such as the unlimited nature of cantrips now or warlock-style classes who can toss around a very small set of effects without limit, but none of those really call to mind the wizards from our favorite novels.

And then Glen Taylor Games published DragonCyclopedia: The Mage, and much to my surprised created a class that allowed for an unlimited number of arcane spells to be known, and let you cast them on the fly without preparation…or at least, without much preparation. Let’s take a look at the book and see how it does this, and if it’s balanced.

A twenty-one page PDF, The Mage is nothing spectacular from a technical standpoint. There are no bookmarks, something I feel every PDF should have. Beyond its front and back covers – which contain wavy full-color images that seem almost like watercolors – there are two interior illustrations in the same style. While the cover illustration is credited, there’s no mention of who did the other pictures, though I presume it was the same person. Moreover, while the book does declare Open Game Content, it fails to reproduce the proper citations under the Section 15 of its Open Game License, both for Pathfinder and for itself.

Graphically, the book is fairly spartan. The aforementioned illustrations notwithstanding, every page is given a tan background that has a sort of crumpled look to it, like parchment that’s been in the bottom of a cramped sack before being retrieved. This doesn’t distract from the text, but said text frequently left large open spaces on pages when it didn’t want to break up sections of the book. More illustrations, or perhaps some sidebars expounding on some aspect of the class, would have helped make the book seem less empty in those cases.

But enough about how it’s presented, you want to hear about the class itself! The book opens with a one-page introduction that takes the form of FAQ which covers why this class was designed, how it’s balanced, and how to use it. It’s after this that we dive into the new class itself.

The mage is like a wizard in many regards. It has the same Hit Dice, BAB, and save progressions. It has the same skill points per level and class skills (save for adding Use Magic Device). It suffers arcane spell failure chances in armor. There are some minor differences (weapon proficiencies being one of them), but the big one is the “how” of the mage’s method of spellcasting.

The mage has no spellbook that it records spells in, nor does it have a spells known list. When a mage learns a spell, it’s learned forever, without external record. Casting a spell, however, requires that the mage do something that I like to call “preparing on the fly.” If a mage wants to cast a spell, it must first spend an action preparing it – this will be a full-round action for its highest-level spells, but as the mage gains levels its lower-level spells can be prepared faster. Once prepared, the spell can then be cast normally at any time. But the mage can only have a single spell prepared at a time.

In other words, the mage needs to keep spending an action preparing a spell before it can cast it. So in a fight, he’ll spend a round preparing a spell, and cast it on the next round, then prepare another spell on the following round, and cast it on the round after that, then prepare a spell on the next round, etc. It’s this limit which acts as the major balancing factor to the class. It’s not the only one though, as the mage gains less spells at both character creation and leveling up than the wizard – it can learn new spells from spellbooks and scrolls, but this comes with a significant cost in both time and gold pieces, which also act as limits. In theory, it all balances out.

In practice, however, I’m less certain. I haven’t had a chance to play-test this class at all, so I couldn’t tell you if it was overpowered, or if the increased casting time (which is really what the preparation time is) and drain on gold to learn new spells really balances the class or not. As the mage levels up, it takes less and less time to prepare spells of lower level – as early as thirteenth level, a mage can prepare a 1st-level spell as a swift action, a 3rd-level spell as a move action, and a 5th-level spell as a standard action, all in a single round. Of course, it can still only cast one at a time.

Beyond that, the class gains a mage talent at every even-numbered level. These are special class features that expand on the mage’s capability in some regard. It’s here that I thought there needed to be some serious double-checking on balance concerns, since some of these were far-and-away too strong. A mage talent that lets the mage substitute half his class level instead of spell level for calculating a save DC is much too powerful, for example. Still, there’s some good versatility here. The best of which is that some talents belong to mage colleges – themed collections of mage talents that you can access only if you take a mage talent to join the relevant association (of which there are seven).

The book then discusses various flavors of mages (e.g. explorer, war mage), and how various player races tend to approach being mages, but each of these gets only a paragraph of exposition, so there’s little here that goes beyond common sense and stereotypes. Two new magic items round out the book, a wand and a staff that seem to do almost the exact same thing, save that the wand is slightly more limited than the staff.

Dishearteningly, there were some grammatical and typographical errors in the book. For example, the standard mage way to determine the save DC for a mage’s spells is the same way every other spellcasting class determines them (10 + spell level + key ability modifier). However, the text from the mage talent that lets you use half your class level instead of the spell level had been erroneously cut-and-pasted into the class’s main listing for spells, which made me cringe. Things like that gave me some serious pause about this class.

Ultimately, I came away from the mage with some real concerns about its balance. A mage with the right combination of mage talents can prepare multiple spells, boost the save DCs, and even gain not-insignificant bonuses to spells that require attack rolls. I don’t know if that’d make it more powerful than a wizard or sorcerer, but I’m betting it would. Between that and the technical shortcomings of the book, I seriously considered giving this product a lower rating.

However, when push came to shove, I found that I couldn’t do so, simply because of how intriguing the core mechanic for this book was. The basic spellcasting for the mage is brilliant, and on the surface doesn’t seem overpowered (at least when coupled with the reduced spells gain from leveling, and increased cost of learning new spells). It’s the auxiliary aspects of the book – the mage talents and the PDF’s own technical details – that soured my appetite for what was here. Fix those, and you’ve got something (even more) wondrous and new for your Pathfinder game.

I don’t know if the mage is a class that’s balanced compared to the standard Pathfinder wizard…but I really want to play one and find out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DragonCyclopedia: The Mage
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Publisher Reply:
Shane, Thank you so much for your review! You are very thorough, and it shows. I fixed some of the typos you mentioned (and some you didn't) and updated the file. As for the play balance problem, I'm concerned as well, but haven't run into any problems. One particular area of interest includes the two mage talents that provide bonuses to attacks with ray spells. The bonuses are significant, but since they only affect ray spells, and require talents to be selected that could be used for something else, and are typed (competence and insight) bonuses, are less of a problem than they might seem. They are intended to bring the mage's accuracy with rays up to a fighter's accuracy, but only in a limited scope. The same goes for the two included new magic items; they're a mage's equivalent of magic weapons. I hope I get more reviews that are as helpful as yours for the editing and design process. Glen Taylor
The Conjunction: A Role-Playing Game
by Richard P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2005 00:00:00
Let's sum things up in the simplest of terms. The Conjunction is meat and potatoes served up on a turd platter.
While the concept is intriguing (a fantasy rpg where the players themselves are the characters), the content sound (basic fantasy fare), and the mechanics are alright (nothing new but more than enough to get you by), the presentaton leaves much to be desired. The writing isn't exceptional but neither is it poor - in fact, it's fairly good.
The layout plain stinks - even if things are properly allocated to their various sections. Cut n' paste, miserable scanning, artwork that leaves you scratching your chin and wondering what it is the artist was trying to draw all leave you gasping for air. Furthermore they undermine any desire to plod on. It seems like they had all the text and just slapped everything together at the last minute to meet some sort of self-imposed deadline. They'd have done better to have taken their time, a lot more time.
My advice to the reader? Ignore the artwork, ignore the layout, and hyper-focus on the game's content.
Hopefully, Glen Taylor will overhaul this baby and release a second edition.



LIKED: The concept.
The GM prop at the end of the book.

DISLIKED: The sloppy layout.
The rotten artwork - although to be fair not ALL of it is poor.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Conjunction: A Role-Playing Game
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your comment. I can't say that I disagree with anything. You are right about the layout being thrown together too quickly. My artist was pulled away by real-life events at the worst moment, and I realized that with my schedule as a soldier, if I didn't get it published now, it would be on the back burner forever. However, as soon as sales show enough interest I will completely rework the layout (and hopefully hire a dedicated artist), and re-release a free revision to everyone that bought it. Thank you again for taking the time to do a thought-out review. Glen Taylor
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