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Path of War Expanded: Mystic
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/13/2016 02:29:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the Path of War Expanded-series clocks in at 55 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 51 pages of content, so let's take a look!


As always with Path of War-reviews, note that I am NOT judging this book in accordance to the power-levels assumed in vanilla Pathfinder, but rather according to the level of power Path of War assumes. If you're not familiar with my stance on Path of War, its strengths and weaknesses, I urge you to take a look at my review of the book - also, since this is an expansion to the system and e.g. the fact that per-encounter abilities have a precise time-frame as well may not be known...but will the mystic attain the level of coolness of the harbinger?


Mechanics-wise, the Mystic receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as light armors and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and begins play with 7 maneuvers known (which scale up to 21) as well as one stance, scaling up to 7. Mystics can have 5 maneuvers readied at 1st level and increase that to up to 12...however, here, things become interesting: Much like To9S's Crusader, the Mystic does not have 100% reliable access to her maneuvers: The Mystic, before her first turn, determines 2 maneuvers, which are immediately accessible to her; thereafter, each round grants her one randomly determined maneuver from those of her readied maneuvers, unlocking this one for the remainder of the combat. If using the Lightning Recovery or Victorious Recovery feats, the mystic can immediately unlock such maneuvers, providing an option for players that are not 100% fine with the random nature of this mechanic. If, during a combat, the mystic would have not withheld maneuver to unlock left, she instead gets all readied maneuvers back and may choose 2 new ones to be immediately unlocked. The number of maneuvers granted at the beginning of combat increases by +1 at 3rd level, 6th, 9th and 18th level by one maneuver, but unlike the base chosen two, these are randomly determined as well.


The Mystic key-ability is btw. Wis and the class also receives a so-called animus - this means that mystics count as class level arcane spellcaster levels for the purpose of prerequisites and stacks mystic levels with caster levels for the purpose of item creation etc. Upon entering combat, the mystic receives 1 + Wis-mod animus pool; this pool increases by +1 every subsequent round and lasts for 1 minute out of combat and whenever the mystic initiates a maneuver, she adds an additional +1 animus to her pool. Animus may be spent as part of a maneuver initiation action for e.g. a cumulative +2 insight bonus to d20 rolls (atk, CMB, skills) associated with that maneuver, up to a maximum of 3 animus spent for a +6 bonus, increase the DC by +1 per point of animus spent. 4th level unlocks 2 animus spent per maneuver for +1/2 class level damage. Alternatively, animus can be used to ignore 10 points energy resistance or 5 points of damage reduction. The latter is a bit problematic: DR is not a unified concept: DR/adamantine or DR/epic is significantly more powerful than DR/magic - a finer and more precise scaling here via animus spent would have made the ability significantly fairer and more streamlined. At 9th level, mystics can target foes up to 30 ft. away with a melee maneuver or move up to movement rate as a teleportation-effect as part of the initiation - nice to see the acknowledgment of it being a teleportation and the line of sight caveat. 13th level and 19th level unlock up to 4 and 5 animus spent per maneuver, but do not unlock additional options.


Animus is important in other ways, though: Mystics are attuned to the elements and when they ready maneuvers, they select an active element and associated energy type. Whenever the mystic initiates a maneuver that deals damage, the mystic may spend one animus to change the damage type to the respective active element. As a standard action (or as a free action upon assuming a new stance) she can change the active element. If the character is psionic, her active element and active energy type are the same and if the mystic has the Elemental Flux discipline, she treats the active element as the active element for Elemental flux.


It should be noted that the class also has a reset for readied maneuvers, namely blade meditation: As a full-round action, a mystic can spend 1 animus to immediately receive and EXPEND (NOT initiate!) the maneuvers readied, the mystic receives a new set of maneuvers as per the default rules of the mystic's ready-mechanic. Being slightly more vulnerable during this period, foes attacking the mystic still have to contend with the raging elemental maelstrom unleashed: Until the start of the next round, foes attacking the mystic receive 1d6 points of active element damage, +1d6 per point remaining in the mystic's animus pool. The class also receives bonus feats at 2nd, 12th and 17th level, being able to choose from Item Creation and Combat feats. 2nd level provides a +1 insight bonus to AC versus psionics and spells (and psi-like and spell-like abilities), increasing by +1 at 6th level, 11th, 16th and 20th level by +1.


3rd level Mystics may, as a move action 1 animus to affect up to Wis-mod allies within line of sight with her elemental glyph, lasting 1 + Wis-mod rounds and new glyphs supersede glyphs already affecting a target. Glyphs are supernatural abilities and add new effects at 3rd, 8th, 13th and 19th level. Beyond the elements, metal, darkness and illumination provide buffing options - air e.g. is about movement, darkness concealment etc. The mystic also receives solid chances of emulating unknown spells. At 5th level, the class gets an interesting ability: When targeted by spells/psionic powers or spell/psi-like effects that have a Fort or Ref-save partial, she may substitute a Will-save AND is unaffected on a successful save. If she fails, she receives 1 point of animus, but this ability only works while unencumbered and in light armor. The ability is very powerful, yes, but its limitations mean that it works actually pretty well in the Path of War-context. At 6th level, the mystic may 1/day as a free action swap a readied maneuver with another one the mystic knows, +1/day at every 4 levels thereafter. At 9th level, the mystic may utilize animus to suppress magical/psionic effects for Wis-mod rounds. 15th level allows for the expenditure of a move action to gain 1d6+Wis-mod animus points...which can be used outside of combat and, as a capstone, the mystic may create a glyph with the effects of two glyphs at the same time - brutal.


So what kind of supplemental material do we get here? First, one should mention feats: Using Animus for healing would be one - while the healing granted is low and has a 1/encounter cap, the feat can be abused to result in infinite healing by picking/ending fights with either kittens or friendly PCs. Note: I do not, as a reviewer, consider the feat per se broken, but if you're like me and do not want any kind of infinite healing anywhere near your table, then I'd suggest banning this one. The other feats allow for an increased energy resistance ignoring with a chosen element, more animus, more maneuvers and better action economy for the reset ability. An interesting feat allows you to not only increased damage die of katanas by one step and treat them as light weapons...which is per se relatively brutal...I mean, come on...katanas are not a weak weapon - why them of all weapons? There is also a feat for other classes to gain animus. The pdf also sports two archetypes for the class, namely the aurora soul and knight chandler. The aurora soul modifies skills and proficiencies and basically is an unarmed variant of the mystic with modified disciplines available, bonus feats to make unarmed combat viable and a defensive bonus to AC. A solid, function-driven archetype.


The Knight Chandler on the other hand is a pretty detailed, complex archetype: The knight-chandler needs to be non-evil and, at 1st level, receives a soul candle, a fist-sized mote of light that sheds illumination in a radius depending on the knight chandler's illumination pool. Once per round, the knight-chandler may will, as a free action, to move the candle up to her speed, ignoring difficult terrain, but being unable to pass through solid objects. If the candle is within the knight-chandler's space, she can have the candle move with her. Additionally, as a swift action, the knight-chandler may summon the soul candle to her square. Allies within 15 ft. of the candle gain resistance to the active element, equal to the number of illumination points in the knight-chandler's pool and the candle is only weakened in magic-dead zones, not suppressed.


Outside of combat, the knight-chandler has 1 point of illumination in her pool; upon entering combat, she adds +1 illumination point per round. She may also use a swift action to gain 2 illumination points and receives one whenever she initiates a boost. She also gains Tap Animus, which means that she does have animus in addition to her illumination pool. Starting at 3rd level, knight chandlers can utilize candle magic, beginning with votive effects and unlocking lantern effects at 8th level and bonfire effects at 15th level. The effects projected may be changed as a swift action. While it is relatively clear that only one effect from the respective lists can be in effect at a given time, I think explicitly stating this would be a wise choice to prevent ambiguity. The relatively close limitation of the soul candle's light is what makes these work, for the effects are rather brutal: More five-foot-steps, teleport, flat-out immunity to death effects...and then, there would be the bonfire effects, which provide AoE fast healing for infinite healing for the whole group and even ability score damage healing for initiators and a life 3-style option to reduce the pool to 1, but also receive immediate healing for 1/2 maximum hit point total plus an end to just about all negative conditions. I consider the latter to be pretty problematic, since it basically flat-out prevents death negating any damage that would bring the character below 0 Hp when used. Then again, seeing the ridiculous amounts of damage initiators can dish out, abilities like this may be actually needed in the long run. This does not change the fact that this is basically infinite healing once again, meaning the archetype will limited in its usefulness for some tables - as much as I like the archetype's mechanical frame, it won't get anywhere near my table. At higher levels, knight-chandlers may share boosts or counters readied with allies and as a capstone, the archetype gets an apotheosis alongside an increased illumination pool minimum.


Now the book obviously also features disciplines, some of which I've already mentioned. Since I have already covered shattered mirror in my review of the harbinger, I will not be going into details there. The book does sport 3 new disciplines, though, the first of which would be Elemental Flux, associated with Spellcraft and available for monk, thrown weapons and light blades. Elemental Flux requires elemental damage of some maneuvers to be determined in advance, but may choose this as a standard action. Furthermore, quite a few of the maneuvers in the discipline can be augmented via the expenditure of animus points. It should come as no surprise to the reader, then, that we're dealing with highly flexible offense/defense options here - unlike other disciplines, the significant flexibility of elemental flux is pretty hard to counter when combined by the resource-management of the mystic. For future-proofing purposes, this bears mention. As provided, though, the discipline is also highly interesting, with more than one maneuver offering wildly diverging in effects beyond just switching the respective energy damage types - and ultimately, I found myself enjoying this component most about elemental flux: While thematically, I did not consider the discipline too captivating, its flexibility is what ultimately makes me enjoy it. It should also be noted that the respective elemental benefits are pretty well-balanced among themselves. So yes, I was positively surprised here!


The second discipline herein would be Mithral Current, associated with Perform (dance) and the weapon-groups light blades, heavy blades and polearms. The discipline also has a unique flair and mechanical component: Being pretty much about Iaijutsu-style quick drawing, the discipline codifies a type of requirement for certain maneuvers that requires the wielder to properly draw a weapon immediately prior to utilizing the respective maneuver. The concise definition here is pretty much glorious and it should be noted that it does make basically for an optional component that can add additional effects to the respective maneuvers. It should also be noted that some maneuvers and stances here do allow for free sheathing of weapons as part of their usual effects. The discipline also does sport numerous rather interesting defensive tricks - alas, unlike some other more recent Path of War-installments, we once again have a more pronounced emphasis on skill-checks as substitutes for more valuable numeric options like AC etc., adding in the swinging effect more than in e.g. the harbinger's designs and making the content presented here feel less streamlined...and, again, more prone to being gamed. On the plus-side, the actual gaming flow of calm turning to brutal counter-assault and visuals of mithral current are fun.


The third discipline covered herein would be the Riven Hourglass, with the associated skill being Autohypnosis and the weapons being light blades, flails and hammers. Here, things get highly problematic in my book - no-save negative conditions and a 1st level strike that kills action economy for the target: Strike the Hourglass has this nice effect: "If it hits, it deals weapon damage as normal, and the target can only take a single move action or standard action during its next turn." Okay, so this 1st level strike prohibits the use of free or swift or immediate actions on the target's subsequent turn and cuts his actions in half, SANS SAVE. 1st level maneuver. This is, even in Path of War's context, broken. What about a boost you can initiate only at the start of your action that lets you grant a touched target your standard, move or full-round action? 4th level. Riven Hourglass is HORRIBLY BROKEN. It allows you to break any semblance of action economy and is chock-full with abuse-the-system-to-smithereens-combos. I'm at this point used to Path of War playing fast and loose with balance, even in the increased power-context of the series, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to come up with a plethora of ridiculous ways to break...everything with this discipline. Urgh.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good - the complex rules-language employed tends to be precise and well-crafted, though there are some discrepancies regarding the consistency of what abilities need saves and what don't. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version as well - kudos!


Chris Bennett and Jade Ripley's Mystic is an interesting class: The heir apparent to the Crusader, the Mystic has a flow in its maneuver availability I very much enjoyed on paper and, from experience, classes with a flow require playtesting. The Mystic, and this is interesting, is not the first Path of War class with a flow: All classes can freely and easily regain maneuvers and as such, there always was the flowing motion inherent in the system. The Mystic takes this up to 11...or at least, makes you think it does: Basically, the class feels like it's afraid of its own self-imposed limitations. We get a class that says: No reliable maneuver-access...unlike the default "you do x, y or z". Which is not bad per se, but it does mean that the class plays less unique than you'd expect from the set-up. A similar process can be observed in my mechanically favorite component of the mystic: The way in which animus increases over the rounds hearkens back to an escalation die-like 13th Age-style mechanic coupled with resource-management. It pretends to require serious resource-management...when it really doesn't.


Animus is a cool mechanic that has the potential to be extremely entertaining...but in practice, the system awards blasting away: If an enemy's still standing after you run out of animus, that slightly limits your options...but not in a manner that is strictly stifling for even a short duration or render it problematic: Basically, I love the ability's frame-work...but it's not really required for the class. Most combats can be defeated sans tapping into the animus-mechanic. Basically, I feel like this class is afraid of requiring the use of its resources and playstyle: It introduces these cool mechanics, these unique tricks, has the mechanical means to provide a flow and then tells you: "You don't need these, but if you do use them, you're even more awesome."


On the design-side, the high flexibility of Elemental Flux and Mithral Current's draw-component are truly astounding and render play with them exciting, though they do hint at another discrepancy. I also absolutely adored the Knight-Chandler's soul candle mechanic, if not all components of the particular execution here.


My intense dislike for skill-check substitutions is back in full swing here; after the Harbinger's maneuvers clothed such mechanics in effects that sported less potential problems, we have them here again...though, again, in a way that does show growth over the original Path of War, with an emphasis on defense and, since it represents more of a personal preference, is not a key component of my verdict. The book does sport some discrepancies with no-save nerfs and the like.


I think, if you're reading this far, you may be one of my readers using the original Path of War or at least being interested in the system. I've rambled on about a narrow implicit playstyle that does not take table-variation into account in one particular context: Unlimited healing. This installment once again does provide such options, which eliminate this pdf for a significant amount of tables, mine included. And then there would be Riven Hourglass. The harbinger's Shattered Mirror could be broken in some campaigns and brilliant in others. Riven Hourglass is just friggin' broken, regardless of context or powerlevel. It begs to be abused to kingdom come and you don't even want to know what an evil GM can do with this...or what a halfway decent adventurer group can make with this beast. This discipline needs a serious nerf and some significant limitations to make its utterly broken action-shifting more restrictive. "That's just EZG rambling, he doesn't get Path of War." Wrong. Path of War's emphasis on getting more power, more versatility out of your actions, if anything, exacerbates the problem this discipline poses.


In the end, the mystic does sport some conceptually brilliant mechanic innovations, but is too afraid to truly capitalize on them and make them the focus of the class - to me, this felt like the class, time and again, tries to apologize for its own mechanics, stating: "See, it's not so bad, you still get all your crucial tools when you want them." - and that undermines the unique framework the mystic offers. The harbinger's only issues were one out of place ability and the escalating DCs far beyond any you'd otherwise see. However, its accomplishment boils down to being a fun skirmisher that requires the player to treat it as such. The Mystic, in contrast, has these great flowing set-up mechanics...but doesn't strictly require them. It does feel like the class was revised time and again to cater to the taste of people that did not like the class's random maneuver-mechanics - which, to me, is a shame, because it undermines the unique and compelling identity the class actually sports. Worse, the increased flexibility the maneuvers of the new disciplines offer do look like they were balanced to work with regards to a more limited availability, like there was once the intent to offset the lack of control with more powerful options - something the class no longer requires. And yes, this extends to the animus-mechanics.


While I do consider some options here to be brutal power-creep and yes, broken, there is still a whole lot to like and truly interesting material to be found herein. Still, to me, this falls a long way short of the harbinger. It should also be noted that, while Mithral Current and Elemental Flux on their own are powerful (and Elemental Flux surpasses ANY elemental-themed option in power and flexibility, including Solar Wind), Riven Hourglass is pretty much the equivalent of throwing any sense of balance to the wind - it imho hurts this pdf...and it hurts Path of War as a whole. Even in my most high-fantasy of campaigns, I will not allow this anywhere near my table, which is a first for the series - I can conceive of campaigns where infinite healing is no issue and while I won't run one, I don't judge. Riven Hourglass, on the other hand, begs to be broken in any context.


It should be considered a testament to the quality of the other content herein and the pdf's mechanical innovation that this one does not sink the pdf. Ultimately, the Mystic is an exercise in brilliant highlights and darkest shadows - and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars. Even fans of Path of War should take careful stock before allowing this pdf, though.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War Expanded: Mystic
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Psionics Augmented: Seventh Path
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/17/2015 04:16:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of the psionics augmented-series clocks in at 59 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 56 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, what does this pdf cover? Well, on a basic level, we are introduced to a seventh psionic discipline, Athanatsim - which is something I've been wanting for a long time. Let me reiterate: Back in 2nd edition, Ravenloft's psionics liches ranked arguably among the nastiest foes you could face; the by now classic 3.0 module by Malhavoc Press, "If Thoughts Could Kill" featured an epic storyline that may see the end of one psionic discipline in favor of a psionic necromancy in case a foe triumphed...and ever since these two, I've been wanting a psionic version of animating the dead. At the same time, this provided a kind of thematic disjoint - here represented as a tapping into spiritual energies for a fluff-wise representation of how psionics can affect the dead.


Athanatism's specialists are known as conduits and receive Bluff, Sense Motive and Perception as class skills and at 2nd level, the class gets Negative Energy Affinity as a bonus feat as well as the option to 1/day replace a known athanatism power for another athanatism power of an equal level - yes, this means that the discipline nets a free wild-card, which is pretty powerful. Starting at 8th level, the conduit receives a 30 ft.-aura that can be activated for class level rounds per day. Foes in this area treat it as difficult terrain, can't make AoOs and their attacks are penalized by 1/2 conduit's Int-mod, min 1. And we have a big issue - no save, free action-based AoE AoO-negation? That kills all kinds of builds. Overpowered and dire need of a nerf. You may also expend your psionic focus as a swift action to make a for staggered at Fort DC 13+ Int-mod to negate. Finally, at 14th level, 1/day, you can make a melee touch attack, being treated as incorporeal...instantly killing the foe.


Wait...what? Well, wait a second - you see, you rip the soul out of the target, gaining a shadow-minion for the duration; thereafter, the soul returns to the target's body, which rests at a stable -1 hp. The capstone, on the other side, is pretty weak, an always on ghost touch and allows for the psion to become incorporeal and, on a nitpicky side, fails to specify that it's gained at 20th level. In case you do not have the base discipline's benefits: Yes, Athanatism's discipline abilities are damn cool in their imagery...but they're also power creep when compared to the other disciplines: The aura is strong and can neuter whole builds sans save; A similar issue pertains the death touch: While killed, a downed foe is considered RAW to be an unattended object and as such, is an easy target for instant destruction. Worse, the lack of a save or HD cap makes this a guaranteed one-punch-dragon-killer. Not gonna get anywhere near my group. The save DC for the aura also deviates from the formula-standard as established in e.g. the Last Respite ability, which established 10 + 1/2 level + key-ability modifier as a standard, introducing a kind of internal rules inconsistency to the fray. Over all, I am pretty disappointed by the discipline's basic rules array - cool and visually stunning, sure...but also one that represents an unnecessary power-creep and some rules-aesthetic discrepancies to the fray.


Now a new path obviously does also require new class features for the respective psionic classes. Ancestral psychic warriors add a conduit power to their powers known at 1st level and every 6 levels thereafter, but the Ancestral does not receive heavy armor proficiency. 9th level allows for 1/day the tapping into ancestral powers versus a category of foes; +1/day at 11th level. Additionally, we get the ancestral path, which allows for better AC versus the incorporeal as well as Will-save re-rolls - the psychic warrior options here are concise and cool - two thumbs up! The Animist Aegis can only shape his suit into an astral mantle that is treated as hide armor for mechanical purposes, with 2nd level providing free energy resistance customization and 10th level nets the improved armor customization. Additionally, the class receives a gris-gris-based bonus to AC versus incorporeal attacks with variable benefits to add to the fray via a short ritual. The Blood Talisman ability of the archetype is somewhat opaque, though: "If the animist has hit that enemy with a charge attack and dealt damage this turn, he may instead gather blood as a free action." Does this mean "instead of damage? Instead of what? On the plus-side, the customization options provided are intriguing and thematically fitting - from reduced miss chances to rage-like effects, the options are neat.


The Bokron marksman gets a so-called conjure at 1st level, 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter.v Conjures can be activated as a swift action for as long as psionic focus is maintained, with saves equal to 10 +1/2 class level + Wis-mod to negate - and they are interesting: From fear to attracting the ranged attacks, there are some nice options here, with expenditure of the focus for increased benefits as higher level options. Nice one. Bottler Dreads are truly unique - they receive scared bottles, which contain haunts they can unleash upon foes, utilizing a unique mechanic that scales with the levels - I love this one, though its truly interesting component would be the concise and actually working rules to properly bottle haunts encountered or hijacking them - this archetype is absolutely unique and awesome.


Channeler Wilders with a unique surge that offers three different surge-effects based on tapping into the motions of the deceased - including less enervation-chances and minor buffs and a debuff surge effect to target foes - again, a solid and neatly-crafted one. The Ghostblade Soulknife is very interesting in that it allows the soulknife to heal foes with the blade - thankfully, in a limited way that actually prevents abuse - kudos! The archetype also features a series of exclusive blade skills utilizing the duality of life and death, light and darkness, including inflicting crit-based temporary vulnerability to positive or negative energy effects.


The Harnesser Vitalist is powered by his guardian spirit and additionally, keeps members of the collective alive for longer and also helps fortify the members against death effects. The truly interesting component of this one, though, is the ability to possess the members of the collective - which allows for truly unique tactical options in combat - intriguing indeed! The Hounforge psions replaces the discipline and all associated benefits with the option to create a spirit doll that then serves as an anchor for a scaling, deadly eidolon - interesting indeed! Kalfore cryptics have a thoroughly interesting ability that allows them to forgo disrupt pattern damage in favor of spirit's marks, which can be used to force rerolls upon targets, disrupting the patterns of fate, also sporting an interesting synergy with hexes etc.


Soul Conductor Tacticians conjure forth spirits of the deceased to provide easier, ranged aid another. The free flanking assistance these spirits can provide also renders a number of builds extremely deadly - so, while not broken per se, this aspect might need GM oversight, depending on the potency of foes at your table, with higher levels allowing for the limited negation of negative effects as well as the expenditure of these aiding spirits at higher levels. Finally, the shackler psychic warrior, who also gets additional conduit powers as well as the option to bind the spirits of the slain to his body, with the shackler path, which sports spectral shackles and immunity ignoring demoralizes for a kyton-ish one.


The pdf obviously also features new feats, as hinted before - these are interesting indeed, allowing psioncs to shelter their souls in their psicrystals to negate otherwise immediately deadly effects - or there would be one feat that allows you to bind a spirit and pay it via dreams etc. for the limited Psi-like abilities this provided; though there is a lack of italicization for the feat's invisibility-effect. There would also be a strange one that allows for a three-personality psiycrystal. Controlling or deceiving spirits and healing via ability burn is also interesting -and it covers a caveat that prevents abuse!


Also rather intriguing would be two prestige class archetypes that modify the Body Snatcher and Psion Uncarnate to become the Gravebound and Phatom, both of which are rather interesting - the Gravebound bending the spirits of the dead instead of the living, while the phantom instead transforms into a spirit, with appropriately lethal touch attacks. I did like these options for them.


The pdf then goes on, obviously, to prevent a diverse and massive array of powers; on a nice side, these do feature quite an array of augmentation options (often allowing you to add whole new effects or change just about every parameter of a power), some of which are even tied to negative levels gained. The array of powers provided here is pretty much an intriguing one that further emphasizes the themes of spirits, possessions etc. alongside options that temporarily make you count as undead for energy and spell/power-interactions. Utilizing powers to create haunts in a given place. Powers to generate ghosts and similar undead as well as killed foes/echoes of the dead-style investigation-centric abilities can be found here...and yes, there is a Gnadentöter-style mercy-killing power here. And yes, some powers are essentially brilliant story-devices: Orphic Descent sans you to the underworld at night, allowing you to return with a deceased person, returning them to life. There would btw. also a psionic harm-effect and an option to exchange ability drain/damage or hijack haunts. Oh, and a bigger amnesia-effect can also be found here - hearkening to Lethe's legendary waters...


This is not where the book stops, though - the supplement features several monsters: From the dread husk-creating Egophiles that generate soul-deprived husks and clothe themselves in strange cloaks of FACES. Yes, this is disturbing and pretty cool. Cocoon-based mindborn are intriguing and there would be the mirror-inhabiting mirror shade as well as the mirror-bound prisoners. The in-nightmare-deceased Nattmara and the evil whisper outsiders complement this one for an overall great little collection of monsters.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed not much to complain about. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports numerous full-color artworks and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.


Andreas Rönnqvist, Jeremy Smith and Doug Haworth deliver a pdf with which I honestly got off on the wrong foot. When I started reading this one, I was thoroughly disenchanted by the discipline's OP options that also require slightly more precise wordings...and feared this book would be an exercise in such problematic pieces.


Well, turns out, it's not. Instead, this installment of Psionics Augmented is by far the most refined in the whole series and manages to provide a thoroughly compelling array of options that resonate well with me: We have a full array of thoroughly unique blend of smart options that juggle highly complex concepts in mathematically viable and cool ways, with neat rules-language to boot.


While not as streamlined as e.g. Ultimate Psionics, there are a lot of interesting options that resonate with iconic concepts and indeed, after the initial issue of the discipline in dire need of nerfing, the vast majority of concepts here had me grin from ear to ear. This massive supplement, while not perfect, is certainly an excellent little book; granted, you may need to slightly tinker with some minor components herein...but overall, this supplement is downright inspired and does not shirk away from highly complex topics. Now, obviously, I should bash on the discipline's power a bit more; it is water on the mills of anyone who ever complained about psionics...but that would be unfair to an otherwise rather refined book. In the end, the minor imperfections of this book are outclassed by the glorious components herein, most of which, with the glaring exception of the discipline of all things, are expertly balanced. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Seventh Path
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Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
by Derfael O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2015 12:31:43

I cannot help but say that I was disappointed when I flipped through the book for the first time and found not only were there no additional powers, but there was absolutely no support for any of the other psionic classes. Now while I understood that this was a supplement to the psion class, I had hoped that there would be feats or archetypes that would provide other classes discipline powers or abilities.


Unfortunately there were none.


However, the book does what it is meant to, it is entirely focused on the disciplines that a Psion has and it does so in a very elegant fashion. Each discipline has new ways for specialization allowing the player to build his character as he wants. So, while I was initially disappointed, that was more of me expecting what wasn't advertised. And with that I will give it a four star review.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Focused Disciplines
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Psionic Bestiary
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2015 17:37:11

I was thoroughly impressed with this bestiary. With a handful of exceptions, the quality of it was on par with anything that I would expect from Paizo themselves. While I was not crazy about all of the creatures, nor with all of the art, I generally tend to feel that way about Paizo produced bestiaries as well, which I feel is a pretty good benchmark.


Perhaps the thing I found least appealing was certain pieces of art, though some of that stemmed from my dislike of anything resembling HR Geiger, and there was one monster in particular (and not the Cerebrilith) that was very xenomorph inspired, and not well done at that.


That having been said, I loved virtually all of the remaining art, as it was suitably creepy and amazing as needed, and often both those qualities at once.


Though I could not speak with authority on the balance of the creatures, they seemed to be well balanced for psionic parties, giving a lot more credence to the breadth of psionics in general. I loved the creatures that were updated for psionics as well, such as the Intellect Devourer, as those creatures fit perfectly well, but lack the support that make them fit in more properly in a psionics driven campaign.


One other minor quibble was the propensity for creatures to negate psionics entirely. For being a psionic bestiary, it makes sense that some creatures might be angled towards simply being a scourge, given that traditional campaigns are rife with terrible enemies that have spell resistance. However, there were numerous monsters that completely negate psionics, sometimes as an area effect. I suppose this is more of a matter of taste.


However, I did find that the book dripped with plenty of creepiness and weirdness, which I found wholly appropriate given the nature of the bestiary. I also was impressed with the range of creature types and subtypes that were present in the book, given that most psionic type creatures tend heavily towards aberrant creatures.


Overall, I was very happy with the product, and am suitably inspired to use it for reference many number of future games. Well done!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary
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Akashic Mysteries: Vizier
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2015 17:28:18

First, I have to disclose that I received this product as a review copy.


Now to start off, I like this class a lot. There are many good details and interesting concepts here, and everything is presented with relative crispness and clearness.


Though reading the book is a must towards understanding the variant magical system, but in a nutshell the vizier can bind magical effects to various magical item slots on his body, such as hands and wrist slots. You then use points to create and maintain various effects around your body. For those of you wondering, these veils do not interfere with or replace normal magical items; both can be used simultaneously.


I did run into a few places where there was some strange wording on certain abilities, such as the Path of the Ruler Aura of Subjugation. It's a minor quibble, but it did take a few read throughs to understand what the ability did.


That having been said, I did thoroughly enjoy the variations of the vizier through paths, similar to archetypes in Pathfinder. As another nitpick, I wondered about the Path of Seer movement ability, and if it would apply past the range. Again, it seems somewhat unclear.


However, I am very keen on the Path of the Seer and its sharing of teamwork feats. I am always in favor of a class feature that uses teamwork feats without much fuss, as the teamwork feat concept is great, but had a poor initial implementation. The path of the Seer seems like a strange bard type.


I love the feats, and they mostly seemed well balanced, though ones like Essence of the Immortal seemed overpowered, providing far more hit points than the Toughness feat to which it compares itself.


Many of the feats lend the flavor of the Akashic to base classes, give generalized bonuses, or bolster the vizier further. Despite this, they work just as well for non-akashics by providing 1 point of essence per feat. There were a number of feats such as "Access Low Chakra Slot" that allowed for chakra binding (or in other words, higher powers bound to that slot) depending on the character level and not the vizier level. I instantly saw that as a hearty encouragement to multiclass, which is generally not seen in other class builds.


Somewhere between the feats and veils, I started to note that the term allies was thrown around a lot, and it seemed somewhat loose, but I might need to bone up on my pathfinder terminology to see how sturdy the term holds up to scrutiny.


Veils are well thought out, and very interesting. I do worry that the effects, while potent and interesting, have save DC's that are too low, due to the spellcasting nature of the viziers. An average vizier at level 10 might have a save DC of 16 for any of his effects, while a wizard of that level is likely to have a save DC of 19 for at least his most potent effects. This isn't generally a worry, but might become exacerbated at higher levels.


The veils themselves are interesting and varied, giving a wide range of effects while leaving room for other more interesting veils to be provided in the future. The binding feature that escalates the power of each veil was well thought out, and gives an interesting gradient of power that blends well with the class.


With that all having been said, I thoroughly enjoyed the vizier class, and am interested to see more. As I understand, this class may soon receive further updates, and I am looking forward to that product. Until then, I am giving this book 4 stars in anticipation for what I am sure is a 5 star product in progress.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Vizier
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Akashic Mysteries: Daevic
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2015 17:18:37

*note: this review has been edited due to some extenuating information. Also, I received a review copy of this product.


Akashic Mysteries: Daevic is an interesting and very distinct offering into the trio of akashic classes, offering something that to me felt very distinct amidst the other two classes, while infusing enough akashic feel to make this class shine.


I am a bit curious, though, in regards to the Daevic passions and the implications of the class feature as it hashes out in play. Passions are both a filter for your class abilities and the thematic choice for your expressive fighting style. I've not played this class so I don't know what effect, if any, it would have on role playing. Perhaps none, as there is no imperative to play the class in any specific way, but I would presume that the class lends itself to characters that are more passionate than most.


I am also curious to see whether more passions might some day be available for Daevas, since that could at least make
the class seem more robust for the purposes of character concepts. But let's take the focus off of thematic and turn to the actual mechanics of the class.


Daevas are enough of a departure from Gurus and Viziers that I am glad that I came to them after reviewing the other three. It's harder to relate Daevas to the other two classes, as their mechanics really seem distinct, and perhaps understandably so, as their magic must be scaled down significantly in comparison to their less directly combat oriented akashic cousins. I like how different they are, and this could be considered "akashic light" for anyone not quite ready to dive into the new magic class. I find that this is a strength for the class, and a strength for the akashic concept overall, but it makes me then sad to see how they are less versatile as a concept than the other classes.


In respect to the passions as a class ability, they seem to really open up new choices for players to explore by way of various builds and concepts. The non-wrath passions seem less combat oriented, and it would be nice to see the more of a combat focus expressed through class options. I decidedly like the way that passions work as a feature, and can only wish to see more expressed to make the class feel more full.


Feats seem to be standard for the akashic classes, with no real overlap, and no new entries, though that isn't a bad thing. The feats seem to be more geared towards helping to multi-class, and that really appeals to my inner class tinkerer.


But the strongest point of the Daevas so far is the selection of chakras. Here is where the class comes into its own, and I almost wish that I could divorce the thematic passion choices from the class (or otherwise mitigate them) so that I could feel more free to build a kick ass Daeva that could really shine in combat. I'm pleased to see that chakras feel useful and direct for combative characters, really exhibiting the strength and versatility of the new magic system. I'm curious to see if this class received more development, as it is poised to replace Magus as my favorite combat class.


This book complements the other akashic offerings in a very interesting way, giving us a full rounded set of akashic classes. In effect, my biggest complaint is perhaps a lack of options, and some sort of "Akashic Unleashed" or perhaps updates to the class might even remove this complaint entirely. I give it 4 stars!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Daevic
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Akashic Mysteries: Guru
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2015 17:14:46

Once again, for full disclosure, I have received a review copy.


I am very impressed with the Akashic Guru. There seems to have been a special love poured into the design of this class, as it does everything that it sets out to do in spades.


The writing is good, and I didn't notice any errors.


But to dig into the meat of this class... I have to say that I was a little skeptical at first. The basic premise that you would have a class that uses non-lethal damage as a core assumption is tricky. It also relies a lot on status effects that may not affect every creature. My fears were readily assuaged.


And that's the most impressive part of this class; it is not a one trick pony. For a martial class (and an unconventional one, at that), it does a great job of giving enough tricks to make them stand out. When they are able to leverage their specialty, they can significantly impair their opponents without killing them, which I think is damned cool. The only problem I see with this approach is that the nonlethal aspect of the class might be overshadowed by overzealous party members, but it's not a problem that detracts from the class being effecacious and awesome.


I do like that the Guru can eventually damage constructs, though I would have liked a similar exception for undead, even if it would have been at an even higher level.


The Guru does a lot of interesting things, and they get even more varied and interesting as you pay attention to the philosophies. Their ability to invest into the Gentle Touch ability makes them potent status inflicting bad asses, and the abilities that tie in with Stunning Fist almost overshadows Stunning Fist itself, which is actually a good thing.


The ability to bind chakras is similar to the Vizier class, which I reviewed previously, so I won't go into much detail, but the plethora of tricks available there adds a vast quantity of potential to someone worried that they will simply charge and swing a weapon.


While I wonder whether the Guru ability to dispel magic continuously (including other veils) MIGHT be slightly overpowered, it does introduce a kind of dichotomy of power in which a Guru could fit into an ecosystem as an anti-mage, which the fighter can sort of fit into, but not as effectively as they should.


The various philosophies are great, filled with flavor and potency, and almost make the Guru feel like three classes (which may or may not be a good thing, I think it is good). The Akasin leans more towards Paladin, but is distinct enough to sound like a compelling class to take if you want to be a magical healing warrior monk.


The Sineater seemed like an odd choice at first, but is both thematically sound, and mechanically interesting. Here the Guru really becomes an interesting game of resource management in a way that does not turn into a number crunching slog. You hope to suck sin away so that you can use some expensive but awesome abilities. Maelstrom of Sin is an especially fun ability that I would spend whole minutes describing during a battle scene, were I a player using the Guru.


Vayists are even more interesting still, being a true protector in a way that few martial classes can match. I love their thematic, and I love the ways that they can really play up defense and protection, but I just wish that there was a better way to regain essence, as the Sineater philosophy does. They do regain essence from attacks that target and miss them, and I might be underestimating the tendency for that to happen, but I have spent too much time in Pathfinder to know that classes that wear light armor can't rely on not being hit.


Feats again are similar to the Vizier's, so I won't review them. They still rock for multi-classing, and I am even more excited about the prospect of a Guru multi-class. I don't even know what I'd do with a Vizier/Guru, but I'm sure that it'd be awesome.


The veils are again similar to the Vizier, though there are a number of Guru only veils that are equally impressive. I say again that the toolbox that this class has may seem truncated at first compared to a wizard, but the veils really do a good job of presenting an intricate but intuitive system for magic that complements the Guru perfectly without feeling overpowered.


Aerial Nimbus is awesome, and I get the reference. I'll admit, it's cool.


Overall, the veils are a wonderful toolbox of interesting effects that make the Guru (and all Akashic disciplines) an interesting.


The Guru steps outside of the purely martial, being a true warrior of mercy that can impact the battlefield without being lethal, and that makes me happy as a player, a GM, and a freelance designer.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Guru
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Lords of the Night
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2015 07:29:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 82 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 78 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Before I dive into this massive book, let me ramble for a second: As quite a few of you know, most people looking for a convenient label for me, would describe me as either a nerd, a metal-head or as a goth - most of the time, any combination of the above is utilized. It should hence come as no surprise that I'm into vampires - like, a lot. Okay, one may speak of an almost unhealthy obsession with the mythologies - from strange real-world myths to literature, I have read more on the feasters of blood than on any other fantastic creature. I also have probably spent too much time properly analyzing Dracula and similar early vampire fiction like Varney, constructing different interpretations and weighing the pros and cons of academia's diverse readings.


Indeed, vampirism, from the very earliest childhood on, has always exerted its allure in a disproportionate fashion on me. The imagery of Snow-White, the longing for immortality and the blending of Eros and Thanatos, the imagery of blood - it resonates deeply with me. Where many of my friends enjoyed the tales of Raistlin and his fellows or enjoyed the adventures of Elminster, my true (anti-) hero of old, my favorite old-school character, bar none, will always remain Strahd Von Zarovich. No, not the horribly butchered one from 3.5's Ravenloft-rerelease by WotC, but the classic one that Arthaus kept alive (in a figurative sense) in theme and tone before their license was revoked. And yes, if you have to know - for me, the end of the superb 3pp-Ravenloft-line was a crippling blow of significantly higher proportions than the soon-to-follow sundering of the realms via the spellplague. (If you didn't care about either and considered the other takes superior- I don't judge, mind you.)


I have hence played Ravenloft for over 10 years of my life and expanded the mythology of the setting in a huge amount of forms, not the least of which would be a vast array of vampire-strains - beginning with conversions of just about all VtM-bloodlines, I worked my way through mythology to create the super-powerful, highly lethal foes I wanted. Yes, I am opinionated regarding vampires. I, for example, believe that PFRPG nerfed them too much. I furthermore believe that playing vampires is awesome, but also an issue, since it poses an essentially unsolvable conundrum when used in any vanilla d20-based game.


The conundrum I'm talking about, is the Buffy-issue. Vampires are awesome because of the cool things they can do - their speed, supernatural powers, etc. - essentially, they constitute an eroticized power-fantasy that resonates with the ID. The issue begins, when, like in the serialization of Buffy, the vampire becomes a common adversary or an anti-hero. We have an issue of narrative cohesion - while playing a troubled character or anti-hero allows us to delve into the notions that exert the fascination of vampires in the first place, ultimately, it necessarily undermines a foundation of the shared experience that is inherent in roleplaying when such a transformation is singular and not a phenomenon provided without distinction to all players. In more direct terms - if only one player gets the cool toys and power, the others will be fed up. If the vampire is hamstrung by being balanced in a traditional notion against the mortal races, the experience will necessarily feel like a bland caricature of what we truly want out of playing a vampire. It is due to this conundrum, that VtM, for example, assumes all-vampire groups as a default...and it is this endeavor of enabling the full-blown vamp-experience that makes mastering for a mixed-clan coterie, with all disparate passions and allegiances exacerbated by vampirism's tropes such a colossal pain in the rectum. Yes. I've been there. Good ole' WoD - R.I.P.


So this is the general issue that is the base underlying problem faced by this book. A second issue would be, akin to VtM, the necessity of establishing the psychology and social structure of the vampiric society - essentially, here, the book takes a good look at Vampire and translates the crucial enablers for vampiric roleplaying, for establishing a believable society, into PFRPG: From the taboo of one's lair to the importance of the masquerade, here called "occultation" to matters of respect, the vampiric mindset and the rules governing the society of the night are covered -as is the process of siring new vampires (which, as per this book, costs XP) and the impact of vampires in the lightless depths of the underdark.


How does this book, then, depict vampires? Well, first of all, it treats vampirism as an acquired template - the only imho feasible way to handle the transformation - at least from my experience as I've used this particular set-up in my game, offsetting the benefits of the template versus other story-based rewards I handed out to the non-vampires in the group. Vampires as depicted herein gain darkvision 60 ft or extend it by 30 ft., get primary natural vampire fangs and, when used to damage foes that contain blood, provide 1/2 the damage-value as temporary hit points that stack with themselves, up to 1/2 of the maximum of the vampires hit points, lasting for 1 hour. Yes, this essentially provides a means to add 1/2 your hit points temporarily. Vampires also receive channel resistance +4 and may choose from several SPs - disguise self, charm animal and person (later also monster), an animal companion at class level - 3 or two claws - which, I assume, are primary weapons as per the claw standard - still, would have been nice to note, since there are different claw/claw/bite-combo-precedence cases. These claws can also enhance the temporary hit points, which renders them extremely strong when compared to the SPs with their limited daily caps. I encourage GMs using this book to eliminate the temporary hit point gain via claws for PCs to maintain balance. Vampires as depicted here cast no shadow or reflection and suffer from the Thirst - this can only be slaked via blood ingested via the bite, with a paltry 10 hit points per night being enough to slake the thirst for another night - nasty at low levels, but pretty soon inconsequential. Vampires exposed to sunlight do not perish as per these rules, instead being exhausted and taking a -4 penalty to all level-based variables. Furthermore, vampires have to choose one of several weaknesses - vulnerability to holy symbols, a weakened physiology, +15% fire damage (odd - PFRPG usually does not use +1/4 regarding damage factors...)...or Arithmomania, in a homage of our Sesame Street's good ole' count. Vampires get Str, Int, Wis or Cha +2 as well as Bluff and Diplomacy +2 and clock in at a total CR +1. It should be noted that, thankfully, optional restrictions to sapient life have been included as rules-alternatives.


Yes, the vampire is strong as presented here - but the pdf acknowledges this and suggests a whole-vampire campaign as the default modus operandi - and concisely presented modifications regarding playing characters sans Con-score are provided.


Death's Kiss, the mark of transformation, also is properly represented. Obviously, sooner or later, one will be tempted to streamline the process of feeding in such a campaign - this is handled with a skill-check of Bluff, Stealth or Survival-check versus DC 15 + the Alert level. (Though personally, I would disallow e.g. Survival in a Metropolis and Bluff in a wasteland...) Success provides 5 hp worth of feeding, + 5 per point the DC was exceeded. Failure increases a settlement's Alert Level by +2. The alert-system, one of the coolest mechanics introduced here, ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 representing peace and 10 meaning full-blown manhunt. Alert Level is increased when provocations are witnessed - these would be sightings, strange occurrences, etc. - a total of Alert Level occurrences raise the level by +1 - an Alert level of 4 is raised to 5 after 4 provocations. Now the intriguing thing here is that settlements with e.g. dark secrets, superstitious places etc. react differently and that this system actually interacts with the settlement statblock rules utilized in PFRPG - and yes, alert levels and infractions of vampiric occultation are all covered, including concise definitions of the alert level-groups with proper rules-ramifications -if you're a vampire, you better learn your spycraft and cover-ups... Settlement size also features into this general notion - so yeah, this system should be considered a prime addition to this book and from what I have gleaned, the modifications of the respective levels are sufficient enough to make vampires want to avoid mobs...


Further observations for vampire campaigns go into a level of detail I did not expect, including "coming out" as a vampire - and yes, I used this analogue consciously as a note towards the homoeroticism that is just as much part of the vampiric subtext as that of hetero-normative erotica.


At this point, let me comment on a peculiar tidbit - I actually have seen the pre-alpha of this book, the very first iteration of it and thus have a in-depth insight into what has changed. A couple of times so far, I have mentioned explicitly "in PFRPG" or "changed" - this was no lapse on my part. Indeed, this book began as the PFRPG-conversion of Green Ronin's nice 3.X-resource "Fang & Fury" - though, quite frankly, this book does not have much in common with it any more. Where the pre-alpha I provided basic feedback (essentially: "Get this back to the drawing board.") pretty much was defined by a point-by-point-conversion that missed the more subtle changes in design philosophy (and average quality), the authors have since then gone and utterly changed this whole beast - this has just about nothing to do with its predecessor and the book is infinitely better off for it!


For once, would you like to play a vampire's equivalent of a paladin? The Nightguard archetype would be just what you're looking for - essentially, this is a great representation of the fallen knight that clings to a rigid code of conduct, yet still sees his abilities changed, with more and more nemeses replacing mercies. The Frenzied Slayer Barbarian archetype is interesting in that the frenzy they exhibit is Dex-based.


The pdf also provides PrCs and I'm not talking about updates of the exceedingly lame ones from Fang and Fury - greater vampires get d8, 4+Int skills, 2 levels of class feature progression 3/4 BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves - the 5-level PrC is essentially a vampiric paragon class that allows for more vampiric powers, attribute upgrades, mist form - what you'd expect. I like it! The Lethe Adept, at 4+Int skills, d8, !1/2 BAB, Fort- and Will-progression and 7/10th manifesting progression, would be the psionic PrC contained herein. Lethe Adepts may feed via the causing of mental ability-scores and are superb puppeteers and mind-control specialists - at high levels, they may literally will their "hollow puppets" to die as a capstone. No save, just a HD-cap. Ouch. Awesome!


Sussuratori would be, flavor-wise, the secret-keepers and police of the vampires - essentially the enforcers and information control guys and gals - at full BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression, 5 maneuvers known and 3 maneuvers-readied as progression - yes, this would be a Path of War-PrC. At d8 and 4+Int skills per level, Sussuratori are masters of bringing their prey in alive and striking silently. Rather annoyingly, the alignment-based bonuses "axiomatic" as a lawful version of "holy" can be found here - considered them clunky and superfluous in Path of War, still consider them bad design here. But that is just me being cranky. This general level of crankiness is quite frankly offset by some of the coolest abilities ever - like preparing a special coffin, into which your subdued prey is then teleported. Awesome for extractions! Just as the increased nonlethal damage output that may silence its victims. At the same time, I can nitpick this ability- it is not codified to act as a conjuration [teleportation]-ability, which hence makes it RAW impossible to counter or prevent. Oh well, the capstone allows them to pronounce encounters anathema - accounts shrivel, people can't talk about it - talk about a conspiracy of silence. Obviously, the power-level here is geared towards Path of War, so the usual disclaimer applies due to the system - theme-wise, the PrC is just ridiculously awesome - to the point where I'm going to scavenge the friggin' hell out of it for my home-campaign...


The 5-level Black Templar has 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-save progression, d8, 2+Int skills per level and full veilweaving progression - yes, this also has new fodder for the extremely promising akashic mystery-system. The class allows for a touch attack of 1d8 per class level +Con-modifier. Yes, Con, for they are per default assumed to be the living who steal essence from their foes alongside the temporary hit points gained. The class may expend these hit points to generate debuff zones and transform foes defeated via essence burn into zombies under his control.


This ability is as problematic as you'd expect it to be - for one, this fails the kitten-test HARD. Secondly, the stolen temporary essence allows for the continuous maintenance of an unlimited essence-burning option of up to twice the character's level - level, mind you, not class level. Granted, they only last for class level + Con-mod minutes, but the ability still pretty much allows any PC with a bag o' kittens a massive advantage. Yes, this PrC is evil-only, but in the hands of an evil PC...ouch. Take a look at the essence available, the ONE limiting factor of Akashic classes.


EDIT: I'm only human and I firmly believe in OPENLY standing up for my mistakes, so there you go: My original review got one thing wrong - the Black Templar's temporary essence caps at 2 times the class level, which renders my original statement of escalation hyperbole. So let me state this loud and clear - I made a mistake and profusely apologize for this. Thankfully, my players did not make this mistake when we played -they never drained more than two kittens in the sample adventure I ran this in. Once again: Mea Maxima Culpa!


No, you do not only get essence for touching akashic creatures or characters. One touch, at fifth level, nets you 5 essence, which means that 2 kittens net you the 10 temporary essence you require. That would be 12 seconds for this charging, which, provided a halfway decent Con-score, leaves enough room to annihilate your foe. So, the only other class features and options that provides temporary essence would be Bloody Shroud's body-bind and the guru's capstone ability Immortal Essence - but that one's temporary essence only lasts for Wis-mod rounds and requires the expenditure of stunning fist via the sever the flow-ability, making it limited. So, where's the issue? Essentially, the set-up for akashic classes is one of resource-management: They are balanced by making the player's choice matter - essence burn is nasty and is a choice that decreases the otherwise pretty flexible and awesome resources of the system: Essentially, you can go with passive benefits or get the more awesome, burn-powered effects - but for that, your resources for the day slightly decrease, meaning you can't perform it all the time. Even a one-level dip into this class allows a Black Templar to bypass this via a readily available array of essence to be expended sans repercussions. Michael Sayre has pointed out that the PrC does not gain essence per se and this is indeed a limiting factor, though it's one that merits specific mentioning once the Akashic supplemental material hits sites, since e.g. psioncis and spellcasting treat this kind of interaction with a PrC differently. I maintain, though, that this is less of a problem that one should assume - since burn can be completely relegated to the temporary essence and since temporary essence can easily, quickly and more reliably regained in combat than with the guru's capstone and lasts longer to boot, this PrC still gets rid of this limiting factor, making it possible to maintain the existing veils more persistently.


These guys may also infuse devastating poisonous essence into their adversaries and finally, make their undead permanent. A nasty PrC indeed and one I'm a bit weary off - the touch attack's significant damage, when combined with e.g. the guru's damage-output, can result in levels of damage that are rather nasty. In short - I consider this PrC pretty broken in a variety of ways and won't allow this for mortal PCs unless in a vampire campaign to even the odds and I hereby warn GMs of the combo-potential of this one - it's not bad or broken in every context, mind you, but it can pretty easily be made VERY, very nasty and highly problematic.


The pdf also provides a significant array of feats to customize your vampire - from closer semblance to the living to enablers - i.e. influencing undead with bardic performances, adding bites to initiated strikes, ignore the mind-affecting immunity of undead - the feats generally provide nice ways of evening the playing field for the undead. Essentially, the feats here are enablers, i.e. feats that render abilities valid in a context where they otherwise wouldn't be. I like that.


However, personally, I am not a fan of the "ignore immunity"-type of design; it also brings me back to my first campaign, where multiple ignore/don't ignore-effects stacked and stockpiled - a solution that utilizes scaling via HD, e.g. HD+4, would have rendered these imho better balanced and made them feasible for regular campaigns -as written, the content herein fits within the framework of Lords of the Night, but beyond it, I'd be weary of quite a few of them, for example From faking death to undead companions - the concepts are solid, so please do not get the wrong impression here.


Next up would be a new martial disciplines for the Path of War-system practiced by the organization Scales of Mourning - the Unquiet Grave. The Scales of Mourning is interesting in that it actually provides an oath of initiation - you trade one of your disciplines for Unquiet Grave as a consequence of initiation into the order. Oh, and you become immortal (ceasing to age etc.) when joining this order...but only for as long as you maintain your oath. And this one is intriguing - essentially, they perceive the duality of life and death, positive and negative energy, as a necessity and thus try to keep the two forces in balance, which may pit them versus necromancers...or use them to counter the balance of rampant growth via positive energy. Harbingers, mystics, stalkers and warlords may learn this discipline and the associated weapon groups would be axes, natural, polearms and scythes, with the relevant skill being Knowledge (religion). I love this fluffy introduction and the themes evoked here.


The discipline is different in a selection of unique ways. For one, strikes are supernatural abilities and may be expended to utilize negative energy to heal the undead for 1d8 points per expended strike. Quite a few maneuvers have second effects that are only executed if the initiator is undead - these would be marked with "Grace Call," though the initiator has control on whether or not to have this additional effect work. Several of the maneuvers grant temporary hit points that stack with themselves (urgh) and other maneuvers, up to a total of +1/2 the initiator's maximum hit points, for up to one hour. Stacking with itself is a pretty straight and imho unnecessary deviation from how default sources of temporary hit points work, so yeah, not sold here. It should also be noted that the expenditure of strikes, with them being an unlimited resource, allows for the infinite healing of the undead - which is NOT something I'd allow - even in a high-powered vampire-campaign.


Let me go on a slight tangent here - one of the crucial flaws of Path of War and, to me, the most jarring one, worse even than failed kitten-tests, was never the damage-output. Yes, the system offers a low optimization threshold,. Yes, the damage is massive. But for certain campaigns, this system, as mentioned in my reviews of its files time and again, is just what the doctor ordered. And its basic system is FUN. While I'm no fan of the utterly easily exploitable skill-roll versus X-mechanics, this is still something that may not feature as problematic in certain campaigns, while in others, it can wreck all kinds of havoc. However, more so than the design sin that failed kitten-tests will ALWAYS remain, the infinite healing exploits are just horrible, and I will fight anyone on that. Healing is a limited resource in PFRPG - and in every game I participated in, for that matter. Killing the limitation on it radically changes the game and invalidates the assumptions regarding encounters per day, adventure structure, etc. In regular Path of War, the exploits at least require some levels and skill to pull off - not much, granted, but still. Here, it's the basic feature of the discipline. first level infinite healing. For groups, if you're playing all vampire/undead.


Interestingly, the discipline actually works pretty well in non-vampire games that does not sport characters healed via negative energy - in the hands of a non-dhampir etc., this discipline's broken infinite healing can mainly be used to stitch the minions of your necromancer buddy together - which is okay. The problem is, however, that both the vampires to which this is devoted and a certain number of races do not suffer from this restriction.


Here, we have a discipline that allows a first level vampire initiator infinite healing - as well as ALL non-undead characters in the group. If you combine this with any option (and there are quite a few) that allows you to transfer HP to allies, and you have infinite healing for the whole group, even mortal PCs. You are welcome to differ in your opinion, of course, but as far as I'm concerned, infinite healing is BROKEN in ANY campaign, even in (most) superhero-power-level-style ones. Even for a single character, much less talking about a whole party.


Yes, combat-utility is limited, but this still means you go fresh and fully rested into just about every battle. So, a GM in a less extreme campaign is left with either a gentleman's agreement or a mechanic that negates some very basic balance-assumptions of the game. Sure, if you're all about waltzing over your foes, this is fun - but I can wager that, for many groups, this utterly breaks the game, the challenge and thus also, the fun.


"The following section presents a new martial tradition and martial discipline, both of which are suitable for any campaign." is the intro of the maneuver section - and this is, quite frankly, horribly wrong. Infinite healing is not something "suitable for any campaign." And seriously, this breaks my heart, because I actually like Unquiet Grave. Yes, didn't see that coming now, did you?


Okay, so how do the maneuvers of the discipline fare? Extremely well. No, seriously. The imagery is glorious. Temporary hit points via attacks may be nice - but what about the gravekeeper's hood-boost that temporarily makes you immune to blindness? Yeah, damn cool visuals - though, on a nitpicky side, channel resistance increased as offered by its Grave Call usually have a "+" before the increase - but minor hiccups like this do not impede the functionality of the boost or my final rating.


I also enjoy negative energy resistance (or positive energy resistance for the undead!) - or what about a counter that temporarily shrivels your anatomy, revealing the skeleton beneath, while also granting you DR 5/bludgeoning? I'm a bit weary of a 3rd level strike temporarily preventing ANY healing on a failed save, though. A stance that prevents you from being slowed too much by mimicking the unshakeable determination of revenants would also be awesome. While I love the imagery, the Headsmen's Descending Strike can be considered problematic - if your foe is below 1/4 maximum hit points, this one means save-less insta-death. Yes, in a fight versus e.g. a dragon, this strike can be terribly anti-climactic. 6th level imho is too soon for this power - I would have expected it at 8th level, the soonest. Still, there is a LOT to like -for one, no skill versus AC attacks. Additionally, the imagery resonates with me and is awesome in many cases. Indeed, were it not for the infinite healing exploit, I'd consider this the best, most balanced and interesting discipline created so far - the additional effects and tactical dimensions offered by the Grave Call are absolutely awesome. So yes, I will use this...and ignore the hell out of the infinite-healing-option.


The book also sports an array of different spells and powers the undead will indeed cherish - positive energy resistance (or healing inhibition), belching forth clouds of negative energy, emitting blazes of sunlight - some pretty nice options. Making it hard to communicate the contents of a text? Now that is interesting, as is temporarily making the undead come to life again - but with their undead personality intact... What about dissipating into a swarm of bats to move stealthily around, Castlevania Lords of Shadows II-style, interestingly, as a transmutation spell? Now the letter is awesome, but it does have some minor issues - as written, the spell allows for the caster to teleport via the bats, when obviously, line of effect would be required - essentially, the spell would allow, RAW, to get past walls of force, when from the fluff, the ability to move to the area should be required as a caveat. Vascular Snare is interesting - as a 3rd level spell, it reduces a creature's movement to 0 on a failed save, as veins tie it into place. Ripping the target free is possible, but deals 1d6 untyped damage per CL, cap 10d6. The reduced AoE and means to not rip free keep this a balanced and interesting option, though the spell would have benefited from a proper definition whether it can be cast on flying or swimming targets not in contact with the ground - a slightly more precise target-line would have made this perfect, though, admittedly, this would be a nitpick.


The new powers contained herein are similarly themed around the theme of acidic blood and delightfully gory visuals - the 5th level power Kyria's Vascular Disruption, for example, lets the target erupt in a spray of blood, which then congeals into a disgusting, entangling web. I love this power, though the entangling effects of the blood should allow for a Ref-save to negate for the creatures in the AoE. What about a power that allows you to essentially create a contingency stored power to reflexively strike back at your foe? Yeah, pretty damn neat! Of course, an occultation-enhancing power would also be here. The best thing about this section remains something different: Jade Ripley's Wilder-supplement went one step too far regarding the power-level of some powers contained within, but was truly distinguished in several design-decisions: First of all, the powers had numerous, interesting augments and the wilder-exclusive surge-augments constituted a design-element that actually made me enjoy a class I considered somewhat weak and bland. Now this book's powers have inherited the augment-option diversity and great concept of surge augments, but their balance actually feels right for the respective levels - strong, yes, but not OP. This section made me a very happy man, for I seriously hate bashing on awesome concepts due to balance-screws being off - this is not the case here. Kudos and two thumbs up!!


Now obviously, the undead have their own need for magic items - sun-negating parasols for the discerning bloodsucking lady, for example. Or what about a blood vault, which allows for the storage of temporary hit points for a later use...but at a certain risk? What about an artifact that can be attuned to a servant - and, upon being slain, the servant dies and turns into...well, you. Nasty and great for recurring villains! GMs will also appreciate this pdf sporting an array of NPC statblocks for the guardsmen - based on heroic classes and WBL - and that is GOOD. Seriously, putting NPC-classes versus vampire PCs will not yield good results, so personally, I very much welcome this decision. And yes, the builds are pretty solid - nice mini-codex.


The pdf goes beyond that, though - the final chapter herein is devoted to an intriguing array of builds of unique NPCs, as it depicts the Leatherworker's Guild, a sample society of the undead with its own rules and power-structures - much like a miniature vampire-subculture in VtM, we are introduced to multiple, well-crafted and pretty interesting factions that vie for control within the guild, all sporting different ideologies ranging from predatory, but somewhat benevolent to indifferent and downright vicious supremacism. The society depicted utilizes the Dreamscarred Press subsystems from Psionics to Path of War and Akashic Mysteries and generally delivers some pretty solid builds for the sample characters featured (ignoring my rules-concerns above since these guys and gals are subject to the GM's control)- but the true star here would be, once again, the fluff: From the mysterious, cloaked reaper that eliminates vampires (or mortals) that compromise the guild to the child-vampire "The Waif" that guards children and brutally destroys any undead daring to touch them, the characters are intriguing. The locations sketched also fall into this category - from the neutral-ground vampire-pub to the friendly mummy-granny, the panorama drawn here can be considered pretty awesome. In fact, if this section managed to make me want to see some modules in this setting. Kudos!


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are good on both formal and rules-levels - while there are minor oversight snd types here and there (e.g. a missing word or a blank space too much), generally, the formal criteria of the book are nice. Layout adheres to a blood-spattered variant of Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sport quite a nice array of solid b/w-artwork - though you should not expect the level of awesome of the gorgeous cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience with nested bookmarks.


When I first read this final version, I was thoroughly surprised - to get that right out of the way: Even if you have "Fang & Fury", this is worth getting - it has next to nothing in common with its "inspiration" - in fact, it is essentially a whole new book. The only things I really missed from Green Ronin's book were some of the delightfully twisted vampire deities, but apart from that, the fluff and content provided herein mops the floor with the direct predecessor.


This book also provides one massive issue for me as a reviewer: How should I rate this?


Okay, let's start with the ugly: We have failed kitten-tests here, beyond the option to only draw sustenance from intelligent beings. With a bag of kittens drained by the vampire, quite a few of the options herein can horribly cheesed. In the spirit of civil debate and since, by now I have ranted long and extensively about this topic, I'd like to draw your attention to Jade Ripley's blog - there, the author provides a well-reasoned justification for ignoring kitten-able abilities. Check it out! This is not intended as an attack, but rather as a rebuttal: It is, of course, a valid interjection to assume that GMs who have an issue with cheesing of abilities like this can easily resolve the issue. My point is, though, that there should not be a need for gentlemen's agreements like this in good design. I'm not sure whether I am a singular case, but I wager I'm not: I want my PCs to succeed, but I also want to challenge them. Now as soon as a player has an ability that can be cheesed via the kitten-test, the temptation of doing just that will always be there - and if it does show up, both the player AND the GM will be inclined to potentially allow it to e.g. prevent a TPK. This psychological pressure put on a group's social dynamic can create lingering resentment by the player, who might feel that the GM has "unfairly" limited his or her options and puts a strain on the GM - who wants his players to have fun. Good design does not generate situations like this and hence, I consider kitten-failures as rather serious design-issues. Your mileage may vary, of course.


This pdf, while having the Path of War-discipline I like best, the one with the most smooth and streamlined and arguably, balanced options, also offers the most bafflingly broken infinite healing exploit I've seen in quite a while. I am quite honestly baffled at the design-decision to mar an otherwise flavorful discipline this way - it imposes a very singular vision of playstyle on a discipline that otherwise would allow for a significantly broader application - essentially, Unquiet Grave unceremoniously shoots itself in the proverbial foot, when it's an excellent sprinter. Finally, the veilweaving PrC...well, I've ranted about this one in the above. There are minor hiccups here and there, but those would be the big issues I see - and they ultimately make this pdf, if one is to read it as a "allow everything" player-supplement, problematic - to the point I'd at the very highest, could go for something along the lines of 3.5 stars - for there are A LOT of downright awesome (and well-balanced!) options herein that make the unnecessary and to me, incomprehensible, issues stand out even more.
So that's how I'd rate this as a player-supplement.


The problem is - this is and is not a player-supplement. It can be read as such, sure.


But it could also be read as a campaign overlay or template as suggested in the beginning. And the book excels in this category in a triumphant fashion - first of all, the balance-concerns vanish since the GM can simply make them NPC-only. Problem solved. Secondly, this book not only is a valuable resource for vampire games: The alert-system provided is simple, easy to grasp, can be modified by any halfway decent GM and could just as well be used for lycanthrope-games or any gothic horror/dark fantasy campaign. The visuals of the new spells and powers and their effects allow you to create a grittier setting when used properly and the book continues to provide solid adversary-watchmen and an inspired vampire society. The fluff of this book is surprisingly captivating and compelling. While personally, I'll make the required 10 hp per day versus the thirst multiplied by the character's level to represent an increasing requirement of food for older vampires, that is just my personal taste and the fact that the system supports this is nice. Personally, I think summoned creatures, the easiest way to cheese the thirst, should be exempt from being valid options to slake one's thirst, but that is pretty much the only gripe I have against the basic system here. Conversely, one can take a page from Vampire and have certain vampires require noble blood, etc. - all these options are supported by a solid rules-frame.


So how did Jade Ripley and Alex Clatworthy respond to the Buffy-conundrum? Well, by making this a campaign-overlay. The vampires here are VAMPIRES. They are not nerfed losers, they are badass, strong and deadly - and hence, the basic assumption is that of a corresponding campaign. Now mind, you, I playtested this book quite extensively, with the subsystems and my complaints regarding infinite healing and the above issues remained valid in that context. However, at the same time, the alert-system and rest of the content - it's, in one word, superb. As a GM's toolbox, this book constitutes the by far best "Play a vampire"-book for any d20-based system I know. In fact, I like this book so much that I really would love a proper vampiric AP utilizing these rules.


If you modify this book's content and file off the few, but jarringly problematic pieces of content, you will quite frankly receive an absolutely awesome source-book to play the lords of the night. In fact, as a person and someone with his own fair share of design-experience, I will simply modify the problematic pieces - a task of ~10 minutes and what I get is an absolutely stellar, inspired resource. For me as a private person, there's no way around it - this resource blew me away. I really am inspired by it. As a private person, I can definitely recommend this...with one caveat:


For one, the veilweaving rules are still in the process of being tweaked. While promising to be perhaps one of the most awesome resources ever, this pdf's PrC, at least as written, provides some utterly nasty options that break the system's limiting factors. I am convinced infinite essence burning provides significant issues with a system that otherwise is on a great way to becoming an awesome, balanced option -essentially, it makes essence burning infinite (Go ahead, look at easily regained temporary essence in Akashic Mysteries - note something?), something that directly contradicts the very notion of the decision to use essence burning in the first place - indeed, this provides more easily regainable essence than a class capstone. In the end, this PrC makes an akashic class behave like a path of war class, sans the system-inherent inhibitors and with the greatly escalated power-level that is NOT inherent in AM. Akashic Mysteries designer Michael Sayre has commented on the Black Templar on my home page, among other things pointing out a crucial glitch in my review, so thanks for that! I still maintain that the PrC undermines the system itself and is pretty problematic, though.


Secondly, as mentioned above, I strongly urge MOST GMs to tweak Unquiet Grave if they include it in their campaign, even within the paradigm of Path of War - unless they don't mind vampire initiators with infinite healing...and groups with infinite healing. I don't judge, if that's how you roll - but quite a few GMs out there will not like this. The discipline's easy access to significant temporary hit points on its own already is strong enough -I playtested it sans the infinite healing and it played just fine with the other Path of War material.


Both components have one thing in common: They may fit a certain style of campaign. But put them into the hands of any halfway decent min-maxer and you'll suffer. Again, this may very well be within the paradigm of your campaign. If your players smash through most published modules anyway, you'll want to keep a close eye on this book and make sure these components stay far out of the reach of your players. If, of course, your campaign is pretty high-powered anyways and you have no issues with one-shot BBEG-kills and the like, then this obviously won't hurt your playing experience. In short, I do not get, at all, why these options restrict themselves by being more specific than they quite frankly deserve to be. I see a book of great content that could have been the ultimate vampire book for any d20-based game and am a bit frustrated.


But wait...in a way, it still is by far the best take on the subject matter. Necromancers of the Northwest's free vampire rules are okay, but they depict essentially a vampire that is more balanced against the core-races and manage vampirism via racial classes and thus loses some of the badassery of being a vampire. Fire Mountain Games' feat-based vampire-apotheosis may be functional, but personally, I always hated it. I also am not convinced that, even with the modifications mentioned in "Way of the Wicked #7", transition to a vampire-themed campaign properly works there. So in view of these two...yes Lords of the Night is by FAR the best, most compelling, most awesome option available for the subject matter- to the point, where, let me reiterate that, I really would love to see some vampire modules or even a whole AP using these rules. And, once again, a halfway decent GM can customize this book to suit his or her table's unique predispositions. I just wish that was not required, that I could unanimously celebrate and praise this.


Indeed, if this book's few rough edges had been polished off, this would be a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 - it's that compelling, that well-written, that awesome in its visuals. It gets vampires right. At the same time, as a reviewer, I can't for the life of me, rate this as a perfect book, as something for every table - an inexperienced GM with this book can potentially have a rather rude awakening. I sincerely hope that you, my readers, could draw enough information from this review to make up your own mind about this book and, furthermore, I sincerely hope that you either take my criticism, shrug it off and leave it or appreciate it and avoid an unnecessary pitfall in an otherwise great resource.


Finally, if you're looking for a way to make vampire adversaries as awesome as they should be, if you read this as a monster-ecology for the GM, then you'd once again have one damn lethal, awesome 5 star+ seal book.


So, what will be my final verdict as a reviewer, you ask? Well, on a formal level, I can't rate this as perfect, as much as I'd like to. However, what I can do is to add the sign of my personal appreciation to the book - and add my seal of approval. After careful deliberation, I will average the 3 possible ways and respective ratings for different readings and usages of this book.


So, we have:


-3.5, rounded down if read as an allow-all player supplement.


-5 stars + seal if read as a GM's toolkit/campaign overlay


-5 stars + seal if read as a massive vampire ecology


My final "official" verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars + seal of approval - though I have to round down. Please bear in mind, that in the hands of a capable GM and with oversight, this still can be pretty much THE definite vampire resource as both a campaign toolkit and as an ecology.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lords of the Night
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Path of War Expanded: Harbinger
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2015 03:02:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Before we dive into the analysis of this pdf, let me first make some things clear -I am not going to judge this pdf as per the power-level of the base game and instead take a look at it in the context of Path of War and its increased power-level -anything different would be rather ridiculous regarding an expansion to said system, after all. Conversely, this is not going to be a rehash of all my different takes on individual rules-decisions of Path of War that ultimately, to me, are unnecessary design-relics. If you're not familiar with the gripes I have with the base-system (and the opinions which diverged from mine on that, after all, I do not consider my reviews to be the only valid opinion!), you can read up on them in the extensive discussion on my site and certain boards. Hence, I will try to limit my complaining about these old gripes to a minimum, should I encounter them. Got all of that? Great!


This pdf introduces a new Path of War-class, the Harbinger, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and will-saves and proficiency with simple and martial melee weapons, light armor and shields. The harbinger begins play with 5 maneuvers known, 3 of which can be readied and 1 stance, increasing this to 16 known, 10 readied and 6 stances at 20th level. Maneuvers may be chosen from Cursed Razor, Primal Fury, Shattered Mirror and Veiled Moon. For my issues with the old disciplines, please check my reviews of those. I'll return to the new disciplines later. Harbingers can be considered the brooding anti-heroes, the dark bringers of woe and as such, contemplating1 0 minutes of negativity allows the harbinger to ready other maneuvers. In order to regain spent maneuvers in combat, Dark Claim is used - as a swift action, the harbinger can claim a creature in close range she can see - this lasts for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 her class level.


A harbinger can only have up to Int-mod creatures claimed at a given time, though such creatures provoke AoOs when leaving squares threatened by the harbinger with the withdraw action. The harbinger automatically knows the location of claimed creatures, though creatures not seen still receive total concealment and this does not prevent flanking etc. Whenever the harbinger activates this class feature, she recovers one maneuver and when she vanquishes a claimed target, she recovers Int-mod maneuvers. Alternatively, a harbinger may focus and spend a standard action to regain a maneuver. This mechanic is versatile indeed and worked pretty well in my playtest - while I personally prefer maneuver regaining to have a drawback to provide a more strategic process (and a playing experience with more high/low-phases), I really enjoyed how this plays out -clever tactics are rewarded: If played smartly, a harbinger will not want for maneuvers, though they can run out of them, requiring the expenditure of actions. Personally, I do believe it should be easier to run out of maneuvers. Still, the tying of the mechanic to setting up future maneuver-recoveries puts player agenda higher on the level, without providing the warlord's imho too significant benefits for doing so. More importantly, this enhances the skirmisher playing experience the class obviously goes for.


First level harbingers add 1/2 their Int-mod to attack rolls, 10th level harbingers also add full Int-mod to damage rolls, offsetting their 3/4 BAB. I am NOT a fan of dual stats to any roll, but that is documented by now, alongside the obvious means to min-max the s*** out of such a set up, right? They also get +10 ft. movement rate, increasing this by a further 10 ft at 10th level. At 2nd level, the class gets Dark Focus - a kind of specialization on one discipline, which nets +1 competence bonus to atk and save DCs with boosts and strikes of said discipline, increasing the bonus by a further +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. 6th level nets wither Advanced Study or Discipline Focus as a bonus feat; 10th level nets a second discipline and 14th level provides the option to spontaneously expend a maneuver readied to spontaneously perform a maneuver known from the Dark Focus, which has a level equal to or lower than the expended maneuver. Finally, 20th level makes all maneuvers known of the chosen disciplines count as readied in addition to the ones readied regularly.


At 3rd level, harbingers may 1/encounter (thankfully now defined in in-game time in Path of War, so no more complaints regarding that!) move up to her speed as a swift action, increasing this by +1/encounter at 9th and 15th level; however, at these very same levels, harbingers can also opt for fly speed, swim speed and immunity to inhaled toxins/no more breathing required, or climb speed with bonuses to disarm and grapple OR the ability to teleport up to her speed as a move action - while the latter sounds like it is the most powerful of these, that would be a flawed assumption - the action economy versatility does somewhat balance these out, though teleport and flight remain clearly the stronger options. On a nitpicky side, though, I do believe that this short-range teleport ability does need to specify that it is a conjuration [teleport]-effect. Why? To maintain balance with existing mechanics that block teleportation-effects. Still, not a grievous oversight here.


At 4th level, the harbinger may initiate a readied strike as an immediate action once per encounter whenever she reduces a foe to 0 Hp or below, with the strike being required to have an initiation action of one standard action, +1/encounter use at 10th and 16th level. The limit helps to keep this in line and makes it a good resort when a harbinger needs an extra oomph. Now granted, this ability, while not looking like much on paper, is actually very powerful - seeing how, in many games, the GMs are not as adept at drawing out combats, these abilities may be considered very painful for a continuous micro-novaing through "small" encounters. 5th level provides a +2 bonus to AC and Ref when moving more than 10 ft. in a given round, rewarding alacrity - as does the 11th level ability, which allows for the movement of 1/2 movement as an immediate action 1/encounter. I like this ability per se, but does it have the capacity to waste e.g. attacks or spells executed against the harbinger? This messing with the movement economy is not bad, but some clarification would be nice.


As a nice mind game, at-will magic aura at 7th level makes for a flavorful ability, though one that imho would make sense at a lower level. 8th level nets better flanking and 12th level makes claimed targets shaken. 13th level provides one nasty control-trick - for Int-mod rounds, the harbinger may treat close range as melee reach for the purpose of initiating strikes, smartly avoiding the whole mess with reach and threatened areas - which is good! However, in an odd kind of way, the ability somewhat feels like it actually contradicts how the class plays - first, you're all about mobility and then, you extend your reach like a turret? Odd and an ability that ultimately feels like a jarring change of pace that does not fit within the frame of the class and its feel - like a foreign object. This ability fits better into a different class. 18th level allows for strike initiation (strikes with standard action initiation only) as an AoO and 19th level strikes IGNORE ALL IMMUNITIES. Ouch!


Okay, so the base frame of this class is very interesting and it is one of the most solid of the Path of War-frames provided so far - it also makes the flexible skirmisher concept, usually pretty hard to pull off, work very well, so yes, over all, I do enjoy the class, though it could use a tad bit more options to choose from among the class abilities to enhance the diversity among members of the class. However, I do see an issue and this would lie in the excessive increase of DCs - since the class uses Int for almost everything and does not suffer from a significant MAD, the sample builds, thanks to Dark Focus, managed a level of DC that surpassed other initiator classes and casters in direct comparison - with the power of the maneuvers, this constitutes a balance issue even within the context of Path of War even before taking other abilities into account, one that needs to be rectified.


Now there are two archetypes provided herein - the Crimson Countess and the Ravenlord. The Crimson Countess deals damage to creatures claimed - 1d4 at first, then 2d4 at 6th level, +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter. The ability per se is rather cool, though I have an issue with the damage being untyped - the lack of a means to negate the damage renders the character extremely potent against any threat that is short on HP and great on alternate damage-negation. This, theoretically, allows for very easy high-DR construct-slaying, for example. Applying a proper damage type would help here. At 2nd level, the crimson countess receives a pool of vitae points equal o the number of claimed targets, with a max storage capacity equal to the class level of the countess. The pool drops to 0 after 1 minute out of combat and the countess receives +1/2 Vitae points as morale bonus to atk and damage rolls made via maneuvers, +2 when executed against claimed creatures. The ability also scales with levels, providing unlocking additional means of utilizing vitae, with further untyped damage equal to her class level to all claimed creatures as a move action, additionally potentially providing 1d6 hp per creature claimed - the healing may be none too much, but it still makes me think that my countesses would carry bags of kittens around for handy claim-kills and infinite personal healing. sigh


On the plus-side, the ability does provide an expansion of the recovery options available, with higher levels netting forced teleportation (which should specify that the effect is a conjuration [teleport]-effect for the purpose of interaction with base rules) and a 1/encounter option to shove off half damage (or ability damage) to a target claimed creature - the latter can be extremely powerful, though the archetype actually prevents the worst of the ability's potential for OP abuse by establishing a minimum required amount of vitae to execute it, requiring a set-up. The capstone provides an exceedingly lethal save or take damage ability, though one that thankfully does not suffer from the base class's increased DC-issue due to this replacing Dark Focus. On the awesome side, the class receives the powerful ability to turn into a big pool of blood and reform later, getting a bunch of unique benefits while in said form. This archetype, in a nutshell, replaces agility with reliable damage-output - though swift action movement is still here. I love the fluff of this glorious beast. The Crimson Countess actually will see some use in my game (ONLY as an NPC-class) with very minor tweaks and imho, this archetype play radically different, with the minimum of vitae points putting player agenda and planning higher on the agenda than I would have expected. This is not a cookie-cutter archetype and it is fun - some minor tweaks can make it work even within my conservative preferred power frame.


The second archetype, the Ravenlord receives a bird-exclusive animal companion with the harbinger's Int that shares in several class abilities - now the clue is that the ravenlord may have the companion execute maneuvers, though only one strike may be executed per round by the pair. The interesting component here would be that they also generate a small area of debuffing gloom whenever the OTHER executes a strike, allowing for a fluid (and EXCEEDINGLY fun) switching between roles and benefits. Also: They actually can be defended against by being designated in proper rules-terms - good, since the penalties are massive. Still, no complaints against this awesome mechanic. Higher levels net increased durability for the messenger and switching teleportation (again, insert core-rules-interaction-mechanic). While this archetype has the Dark Focus issue persist, if you take this one's issues away (which is none too hard for an experienced GM), you get a thoroughly compelling and interesting archetype I sincerely enjoy.


Now this book also sports new feats, which are interesting - there are two mutually-exclusive feats that penalize claimed creature's atk by the number of creatures claimed, but only either when attacking creatures other than you or against you - but you may only choose ONE of these feats - either you divert or you kite, essentially. Making claimed creatures provoke AoOs when 5-foot-stepping through your threatened squares is cool as it emphasizes the tactics of the class. I also like a feat that lets you claim up to +2 creatures with one action, but I do think it should have a low minimum level - my gut'd say 5th level. Adding debuff effects to claiming, additional uses for limited abilities - the usual is here. Reach through Darkness is odd - it lets you treat creatures claimed that are 35 or more feet away from you as though they were only 30 ft. away for the purpose of powers, maneuvers and spells - this means yes, the target is considered in range. This is VERY powerful, though the lack of mitigation of line of sight/effect still limits the feat a bit, rendering it only a slightly ridiculous, instead of utterly ridiculous- thankfully! The Sin Eater feat is interesting in my book - it nets you twice the HD of a vanquished claimed creature as temporary hit points. Jup, kitten-proof. Kudos! I also like the ability to increase your movement rate by 5 ft. per creature currently claimed. Over all, perhaps the most solid feat-chapter I've read in a given Path of War-installment, with plenty of unique tricks.


Now you are, of course, interested in the two new disciplines herein, right? Well, the first would be Cursed Razor. This discipline is associated with heavy and light blades and spears, with Spellcraft being the key skill. Shattered Mirror, the second discipline, focuses on heavy and light blades and close weapons and uses Craft (glassmaking, painting, sculpture or sketching. Broken Mirror offers stances to curse temporarily foes hit by you and strikes that add nasty spell failure chances (also to divine casters!) - nice! There also would be a pretty interesting counter, one where I actually drum roll LIKE the fact that it's powered by a skill-roll. Why? Because it's a magical counter and it requires the target to be cursed - this requires set-up and provides a grounding of the odd mechanics within the context of the gameworld. Oh, and it helps that the effect is not one that vastly benefits from maxing the hell out of the skill. That being said, the "cursed" caveat employed by some of these maneuvers imho should be defined, unless the harbinger-class is intended to be the ultimate oracle slayer.


Spreading curses inside your aura, using brands to disrupt abilities - the discipline as such provides an intriguing array of options. The maneuvers also allow for paralysis - which is problematic since the maneuver in question ignores immunity to the save-or-suck effect, which, especially considering the VERY high DCs harbingers can get, is too nasty in my book. That being said, long-range teleporting foes into adjacent non-difficult terrain, attack with bonus damage? Cool! Plus: It gets the descriptor-thingy right! High-level stealing of abilities is also evil and fun. This is, no hyperbole, my favorite discipline so far -strategic, bereft of legacy-rules and logic bugs and focused on nasty debuffs and unique tricks, it is powerful - at low levels, perhaps a bit too much. But still - over all, the most PFRPG-feeling discipline I've read so far, with issues stemming primarily from the nasty and excessive DC-stacking of the base class.


The Shattered Mirror lets you do something interesting - utilize, for example, the atk of the last attack of the foe, dealing nasty damage to the target. Know another thing? The Skill/attack-material here is intriguing - using a skill IN ADDITION to attack rolls to add benefits to strikes? Now that a) makes sense to me and b) is elegant and avoids the easy stacking of bonuses on skills - kudos! A very powerful maneuver would be Equivocate - choose a target: When said target is subject to a power, psi-like ability, spell or spell-like ability, you also receive the benefits - and vice versa. While VERY powerful, this also allows for a vast array of exciting tactics. That being said, it is WIDE OPEN for abuse. You can elect to fail saves, so this one ability makes dragon-slaying pretty easy - establish this one, no save, eat harm and watch the colossus eat it as well - have I mentioned that the effects apply to single target spells and so on, even mitigating invalid ranges. OUCH. This needs some serious nerfing in my book. I'm not a fan of using a craft-check in lieu of a save, but that one will not break the game. Doubling strikes and setting the range at close is powerful - as is a strike that curses a target to receive damage equal to what it inflicts - thankfully of the same type. Still - nasty and also open for abuse, though to a lesser extent. Imho, such a maneuver should have a caveat that precludes AoE-damage from being reflected multiple times. The capstone covers a save-or-suck strike that imprisons the target's soul - yeah, ouch. Cool imagery, though. Shattered Mirror is an odd discipline in that it imposes, much like Blue Mage/Mimic-style-classes, a task on the GM - namely one that should be very aware of the potential of NPC/Monster abilities being hijacked. This does not need to be an issue, but it could be one since that type of foresight usually is not required - and yes, I can see a GM walk face first into a brick wall here.


I maintain, though, that integrating a scaling-mechanism into the ability-hijacks would help maintain a balance for less experienced GMs.


Much like Cursed Razor, I really like this discipline - though, once again, there are some maneuvers herein that can, even in Path of War's context need a serious whack with the nerf-bat and restrictions - still, very much more refined and versatile than what I've seen so far and, especially regarding the design-aesthetics, closer to the conventions of PFRPG. This does feel more like an offering belonging to PFRPG for me.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant formal glitches. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with nice artworks (partially stock) and is fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, with a second one being more printer-friendly.


So, I was not looking forward to reviewing this. Path of War was a colossal amount of work and ended up, in spite of me trying to be very clear regarding my gripes and issues with the system, a controversial review. I honestly wondered whether I should review Path of War Expanded at all since the fans seemed to, at least partially, not want any criticism of the system and since the detractors just wanted me to bash it - neither of which ultimately was my intent. In the end, when Dreamscarred Press sent me the file, I admired the company's integrity and figured "What the hell."


I pulled out my copy and scheduled playtests for the material herein. Granted, playtests whose announcement did not elicit much excitement from my players, but when I actually read and ran this one, it turned out to be a thoroughly interesting class - my favorite in the whole series, in fact. The harbinger feels distinct, very distinct - more so than the original Path of War-classes. It is also, thankfully, bereft of any infinite-healing exploits ( with the exception of the Crimson Countess, who can be kitten'd and does get fast healing in blood pool form, but only late in the game), streamlines obsolete mechanics away and instead incorporates the heritage, including mechanics, in a frame that fits more organically with the PFRPG-rules. Chris Bennett and Jade Ripley have, on a formal level, created so far the best Path of War-class out there that has the most refined design-aesthetics. No make-believe damage types, no easy +20 atk.-exploits...nice.


That being said, purists may want to be aware of the very much annoying need to still specify what is "cursed" - which, ultimately, alas, could devolve in the final book into yet another inorganic make-believe term that requires massive revision on part of the GM like the loathsome '*&%§$ that is holy/unholy damage. Let's hope the definition does not go this route. EDIT, since two people have made this observation: Yes, I am aware of Cursed Razor specifying what "cursed" is in the intro-text of the discipline. Alas, there are a couple of issues with that: The cursed condition has no direct effects, which is a violation of how conditions work. Secondly, the term "cursed" is already heavily used in Pathfinder in a context where it does NOT pertain to effects of Cursed Razor, rendering the referring to the "condition" somewhat problematic. In order to future-proof this beast and render it less ambiguous, I'd strongly suggest a fixed definition of the condition set apart from the discipline as well as a new name for the condition that is not already assigned to a plethora of contexts. Or at least very specific referrals towards the condition as specified, as opposed to the other meanings of the word.When e.g. a boost refers to "when you initiate this boost you gain a +1 luck bonus to AC for each cursed opponent within medium range (100 feet + 10 feet per level), up to a maximum bonus of +5." there is no mention of the cursed condition, which creates a gaping loophole.


And yes, much like previous Path of War classes, the optimization threshold for the classes is pretty much non-existent - you will get a very efficient character out of this without needs to optimize; If you do, you'll get a beast, which also remains one of the reasons I am pretty much convinced that, as much as I like this class, the harbinger will not fit into low-powered games.


The harbinger is a fun glass cannon/controller/skirmisher-hybrid that plays very much like a magus on steroids that specializes in actually effective skirmishing tactics over move-into-melee and kill, something the PFRPG-rules usually discourage. Now yes, the class does have some balance-streamlining issues - the escalated save DCs are NASTY and blow the saves against the maneuvers to a point that is beyond what I'm comfortable with, even in a Path of War context. So yes, I do believe that there is some streamlining to be done here. At the same, I have to applaud that the archetypes actually radically change the playing experience. This pdf, essentially, constitutes very much what I hoped to see from the get-go from the series. Would I allow the class in a regular power-level game? No! The harbinger is a debuff monster that can be very nasty and its overall optimization-requirements are very, very low. But I actually will do the work to nerf it for use in my game. Why?


Because I genuinely like the concept of the class and because the new disciplines have some pretty unique tricks I will use for monster special abilities etc. and to make some REALLY nasty adversaries. Plus, I am actually going to use this class in more high-powered games for adversaries, since none of the design-decisions create a frame I can't fix or modify to suit my needs. So yes, this can be considered a good class, one that borders, in the context of Path of War, on the edge of greatness. And as a reviewer, I absolutely applaud what this pdf represents!


At the same time, I still am very much conscious of this class being not for every group - if what you observed in Path of War galled you to no end in components that pertained to balance as opposed to those related to design-aesthetics, then this will still not be made for you.


Now if the minor hiccups are cleaned up and with minor filing off of rough patches to streamline some unbalanced components, this has the potential to be glorious. My final verdict, after much deliberation, clocks in at 4 stars, mainly due to the balance-concerns I still have, even in a Path of War context. Note that, much like the original Path of War, this amps up the power-curve of your game and if you're conservative regarding PC-balance and interaction with established concepts (or if you're playing gritty low fantasy etc.), you should detract a star, though all herein is more refined than the first book. Consider my interest for the series reignited!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War Expanded: Harbinger
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Akashic Mysteries: Daevic
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/12/2015 09:35:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The third installment of the Akashic Mysteries-series clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let's take a look!


So, as you may have gleaned from my various reviews and designs, I really enjoy classes with a lot of moving parts that manage to get the math right - the first two akashic classes are prime examples of how extremely compelling characters like this can be - instead of twiddling one's thumbs while waiting for the next turn, there are A LOT of things to consider - move essence or not, burn essence or not? The vizier pretty much plays a bit like a caster, being defined mostly by interaction with veils, while the guru turned out to be a pretty much more versatile and complex support character who can stand at the front lines, while also handling unique things. Mechanically, the guru was defined more by class features and the interaction of veils with them - though both have in common that variations in class themes via e.g. philosophies result in radically different playing experiences, while also putting player agenda on an extremely high pedestal. Suffice to say, I have extremely high hopes for the final book to be one for the records - so can the Daevic maintain this level of quality?


And more importantly, what's his niche? Well, you've read the above rant - and perhaps, you sat there and thought: "That's not at all what I'm looking for in a class!" Many small choices and tactical options, handling a lot of moving parts - that's not everyone's cup of tea, and this is exactly where the daevic comes in as a simpler, but in no means bland akashic class.


Let's take a look at the frame: Daevics gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, all armors and shields (but not tower shields), full BAB-progression and good fort- and ref-saves. The veilweaving here is different from the previous two classes, but there are similarities - the DCs, if appropriate, is DC 10 + 2 per essence invested +cha-mod (making Char the governing attribute here), but there is a crucial difference to default veilweaving - the veils granted at 1sr, 4th, 9th and 15th level must be associated with the chosen passion, whereas the other veils gained operate like standard veils, meaning the progression is from 0+1 to 4+4 over the 20 levels of the class. Essence is gained at 2nd level and scales up to 10, chakra binds also begin at this level and scale up to 6, with progression being Feet, Hands, Wrists, Shoulders, Belt, Neck, Chest. On the minor engine-tweaks, 5th level nets +1 to saves versus enchantments, which scales up by +1 every 3 levels thereafter.


Now I noted the existence of passions - these are chosen at first level. When a daevic invests essence into a veil of a passion (called passion veils), it counts as being invested in all passion veils, meaning that the very scarce essence pool makes investing points here more efficient. However, at the same time, power escalation is prevented by an explicit rule that forbids synergy with veil-specific feats or effects. or catalysts, though you CAN also bind them as normal veils and circumvent these restrictions, adding a further dimension to these veils. Three sample passions are provided, and all modify the list of available passion veils to choose from, the class skill list and all ultimately change how the class plays, so what are they?


The first passion would be desire - which allows 3rd level daevics to use Cha for Appraise and may replace both Dex and Int as prereqs with Cha for the purpose of feat-prerequisites, offsetting some, but not all strain that would otherwise be burdened MAD-wise on a full BAB character. The in-game rationale for this, while not perfect, at least is sufficient for me - why do I mention this? Because I get pimples from the default "I'm so good-looking I hit foes"-rationale employed by some abilities out there. So kudos! Bonus-feat-wise, they focus on thrown weapons. An interesting option - at 6th level, a passion mutates into one of 2 choices - here, this would be love or avarice. Love provides an NPC-companion that is pretty powerful - but it does not stack with Leadership. Daevics that follow the passion of avarice add the returning and called abilities if within the daevic's possession for more than 24 hours - however, the abilities are lost again upon willingly giving them to another creature. On the nitpicky side, there are some minor formal glitches here. At 12th and 18th level, this ability improves regarding action economy and effects like a miniature bloodline.


The second passion to choose would be dominion, which focuses on two-hand fighting with a shield - yeah, interesting! The 6th level change allows for the choice of benevolence or tyranny, with the former providing a scaling teamwork-granting ability, while the latter provides demoralize support as swift actions with scaling bonuses. The wrath passion has some nasty tricks: Whenever the daevic bull rushes or overruns a foe, he may execute an AoO against the foe, though this powerful effect is somewhat countered by the lack of gained bonus feat. And yes, this also can provide vast amounts of damage. Wrath may transform into justice or vengeance at 6th level, with justice providing access to the vital strike feat-chain...and the option to execute AoOs with Vital Strikes added. And yes, this may not sound like too much, but oh boy can a proper set-up blow damage per round into ridiculous high levels. Still, I can live with this, though GMs should beware - large PC-races + reach weapon + this will be a MASSACRE. As for vengeance:1/round full-attack against a target when succeeding a bull rush or overrun, but only with natural weapons. This ultimately boils down to a true meat-grinder -only shreds and gooey bits remain in the path of such a daevic. At 9th and 15th level, the essence capacity of the passion increases by a further +1.


The Blood Bind ability's write-up fails to mention that it's gained at 12th level - and it's interesting: It provides essentially an additional slot, into which the daevic can bind neck, head, headband and body slot veils, but whenever he does that with a non-blood veil, he takes twice the essence invested damage each round, getting even reassignment abuses out of the way. Nice! The capstone is a boring outsider-apotheosis (native, I assume?) and can reassign veils via 1-hour meditation. Odd - the daevic gains the body-slot at 20th level - so does that mean a daevic can only bind body slot veils to the blood slot before 20th level or is body-slot veil binding only unlocked for the blood slot at 20th level? This needs some clarification.


The feats-chapter does sport some overlap with the already published books, though there is some new content to be found herein - unlocking chakras for classes as well as a significant array of feats to allow for gestalting/multiclass-builds, including support for psionics, ultimately render the whole framework superior in that regard to the predecessor-system Incarnum's take on the concept. Enhanced Capacity is a feat you WILL want as a daevic, though unlike Life Bond's interaction with the guru, I saw no balance-issues cropping up from combining the class with previously established content. (Though said feats and its associates still need a retooling.) One feat deserves special mention: Essence Focus. You can invest an essence into the feat to regain your psionic focus, with a 3-round cooldown preventing the constant spamming of the awesome combos available via this feat's modification of action economy. Even more interesting, the feat allows you to make psionic focus work to activate two abilities that require the expenditure of the focus while essence is invested in the feat. This is pretty much a genius way of providing truly distinct combos - powerful, yes, but oh so awesome. That Extra Essence pretty much is a no-brainer for Daevics with their limited essence pool should not come as a surprise. Over all, the selection here feels pretty refined.


The veils, obviously, do sport some overlap with the other akashic classes, though especially bull rush/overrun specialists will definitely enjoy the option to avoid the feat-tax and adding damage as insult to the injury. Interesting would also be that you can find veils herein that have no effect unless imbued with essence and/or bound to chakras, providing e.g. significant synergy with vital strikes, which becomes very relevant regarding the new builds available for AoO-Vital Strikes - size-increase is the name of the game here. While there are minor rules-language presentation hiccups herein ("Fortitude 1/2" instead of Fortitude halves, for example), there are also some rather versatile veils herein that not only provide different effects depending on the essence invested/chakras bound, but rather providing different options within those choices as well - and yes, we do get exclusives for the daevic's unique blood slot - like duplicating unnatural lust or gaining blood that causes both fire and acid damage to the creature attacking the daevic...and binding it to work as AoE via chakra-bind. Imagine my surprise, by the way, when I saw a classic, German slot introduced - "Wrathful Claws" are bound exclusively to the "Hans"-slot - definitely the funniest typo I've seen in a while. ;)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting do show that this is still WiP -while in no means bad and pretty functional, this pdf does sport numerous italicization glitches, typos and the like. The rules-language is more precise than in previous Akashic Mystery-pdfs, though. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful 2-cpolumn full-color standard and the pdf does sport a mix of nice original art and some I have seen before, all in full color. The pdf comes with a more printer-friendly version as well. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.


As before, all the gushing about the base system and its mechanics that I have indulged in previous reviews of the series hold true still here. Michael Sayre does provide an actual compelling, tactical full-BAB-class with a plethora of options and things to do - and, coincidentally, the akashic class that does not require constant tinkering: Indeed, the daevic does require the least constant pondering, unlocking the system for players less intrigued about constant complex modifications - while it does support this playstyle as well, it can be played more like a prepare and forget type of class, which is ultimately the design-intent here. The daevic is a glorious class, though GMs heavily using DR should take not that the options of the class pretty much waltz all over the DR, making the daevic a powerful shredder if build properly. Ultimately, I adore this class and enjoy its unique slot and the options provided within; more often than not, one can see the growth of designer Michael Sayre that denotes him as one author to definitely watch!


Now I do have to somewhat bash on the pdf due to the editing glitches that can be found herein and minor wording issues that can use streamlining, but once these are cleaned up (and if Michael doesn't drop the ball in the supplemental content-pdf), Akashic Mysteries may become one of my absolute favorite new system - it has all the potential and makings of an EZG Essential. My final verdict for the daevic as presented, for now, will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform...and for now. I really, really hope Dreamscarred Press makes the final book live up to the vast potential!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Daevic
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Akashic Mysteries: Guru
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/23/2015 03:17:37

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second installment of Michael Sayre's Incarnum-style series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Depicted herein would be the Guru-base-class, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor and simple weapons, but not shields and enhance these based on class choices made - more on that later. Chassis-wise, the guru gets 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref- and will-saves. They begin play with 1 veil and scale that up to 8 and 1 essence, which increases to up to 20. The veilshaping of the guru has the DC equal to 10 + points invested + wis-mod. Essence investment into prepared veils can be reallocated as a swift action.


I really enjoy the first level ability gentle touch - if a guru invests one point of essence into this ability, all damage he does with a weapon becomes nonlethal, but also receives + wis-mod bonus, rewarding not killing everything that crosses the PC's path. What's also pretty odd - per essence invested, the ability deals +1d4 nonlethal damage. Now the issue is - does this stack with the wis-mod bonus damage? If so, then this is pretty much a very powerful damage boost, perhaps beyond what one would expect. Also: Does the first, unlocking point of essence invested add the +1d4 as well or just the wis-mod? The double increase to damage makes me think that the wis-mod perhaps was supposed to replace Str or Dex for the purpose of BAB-calculation? Be that as it may, while not broken, this ability could use some clarification. Beyond this, I also believe that the ability perhaps could use an exclusion-clause for shuriken and the like - since the damage applies to everything, combining that with shuriken and/or multiclass'd flurries of stars...OUCH.


1st level Gurus also choose a philosophy,. which grants a linear progression of abilities at 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter. Philosophy abilities tend to burn essence points, which means that the essence cannot be used or reassigned until the guru has had a chance to meditate, providing a complex game of resources between flexibility and power - you can't write player agenda in larger letters. Additionally, gurus of first level get stunning fist, but with some tweaks - the benefits can be applied to weapon attacks made with gentle touch and the guru can burn three essence to regain 1 use of stunning fist 1/day, +1 at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 2nd level nets chakra bind in the progression of Hands, Feet, Head, Headband, Neck, Belt, Body. 4th, 10th and 19th level increase the essence capacity of chakras by +1.


The 3rd level guru may interrupt the chakras of foes when executing an attack - this works as a standard action pretty much akin to vital strike and has a DC of 10 + wis mod, +2 per essence invested in gentle touch, which allows for a pretty nasty escalation of DCs - imho, this one should be nerfed to at least +1 per essence. You don't need me to make the math for unbeatable DCs. The negative condition lasts for wis-mod rounds (odd, seeing how the DC is essence-based - why not also increase durations here?) and scales up over the levels.


7th level nets an autohealing ability determined by the amount of essence invested, though essence invested in the limited-use ability cannot be reinvested until rest. 8th level allows gentle touch to act as sunder-attacks that ignore 1/2 hardness AND allows for the damaging of foes that are immune to nonlethal damage. 16th level provides, apart from a lack of bolding of the ability name, the option to expend stunning fist uses when attacking foes to double as what amounts to a single-target disjunction that leaves items intact. The capstone provides healing and even temporary essence to the guru when e.g. disjoining foes - cool and surprisingly powerful!


Now I mentioned philosophies - a total of 3 are provided, with each granting its own set of uncommon proficiencies the first of which would be the Akasin. When meditating in an area of bright light, they can gain a pool of temporary essence that is burned first by the respective philosophy abilities. Alternatively, these points can be used to execute as a veil of positive energy. At 4th level, healing blindness is possible, as is shooting rays - which deal an untyped damage AND lack information on their range. Both should be rectified. Higher level akasins further marginalize the poor shield bonus to AC, bypassing it alongside 2 points of AC with blades of light - it should be noted that expenditure of stunning fist uses can further upgrade this ability.


The akasin may also use an essence-burn-powered raise dead, thankfully with a daily limit. At 16th level, I am not complaining about taking essence burn of up to class level to add as bonus damage that ignores all resistances and DRs, though factor 5 is NASTY. I think adding a daily cap would be in order here for reasons of preventing (relatively inefficient) one-strike-builds- "After all, the guru can always conjure forth light and meditate for temporary essence points...blablaba" - you get the rationale: Burning temporary essence at 16th level would grant up to +40 to damage for one attack. Now this looks much worse than it is in game - meditating this one back would require 8 minutes, so no spamming AND it is a significant expenditure. See, that's why I playtest these classes - this one looks much more powerful than it is. So yes, I like the ability, though I believe it could be one that will sooner or later end in undeserved pointed fingers.


The sineater philosophy is somewhat problematic - it allows for the regain of essence burn via attacks of gentle touch when used against targets with an Int of 3+ . The ability also allows for the reflexive burn of essence to negate damage that would bring the guru down to below 0 hp - interesting, since the amount of damage negated is significant and would be overpowered, were it not for the restriction, thus making the guru a good candidate for last man standing. While the Int-caveat avoids failure of the kitten-test, I'm still not 100% sold here - though the rest of the philosophy is balanced against this - limited DR and limited fast healing/regeneration for essence burn make sense regarding the established, steep costs while allowing the guru to work as a functional tank. Burning essence to increase the damage dealt to evil outsiders, aberrations and undead on a 1:5-basis is brutal and allows for damage outputs that dwarf paladin smites, but only on singular attacks. So yeah, the guru is brutal here. 10th level provides atonement (lacking italicization) and some minor non-standard wording - inescapable unarmed attacks (powered by essence + grab quality...) and AoE unarmed attacks are cool, though the most powerful ability here lacks a duration for the paralyze effect -and if it's supposed to be permanent...ouch. Even at level 19 nasty.


The third philosophy would be the Vayist, who would be the agile trickster to the sineater's tanky playstyle - using essence burn to increase the range-increments of ranged weapons or duplicate spells (lacking italicization) as well as getting back up quickly. 10th level nets breath of life and is solid. The base ability allows for debuffs of foes that target creatures that are not the vayist, essentially making him a solid kiter - why? Because not including the vayist in attacks allows for them to regain essence burn - which works perfectly considering the emphasis on movement and flexibility - for players that enjoy flexibility and movement superiority, this one is fun indeed. It's also the most refined philosophy in that it imho has the least minor hiccups.


The pdf, obviously, also sports a significant array of feats, some of which you will probably know from the vizier's pdf - that is, obvious gestalting functionality is still maintained in the tradition of incarnum, surpassing the options of this system by quite a bit. Now some feats imho could be a tad bit more refined - when untyped energy damage (against which no DR or resistance helps) can be added to attacks, that's nasty. Increased maneuver-bonuses AND better damage outputs in conjunction with Piranha Strikes and Power Attack are pretty strong, though that is balanced by requiring, obviously, essence-investment. Enhanced Veil Capacity, still proved to be pretty much a no-brainer in my playtests. Life Bond proved to be somewhat problematic for akasin gurus - why? Because it lets you take damage and heal allies - since the akasin can heal himself indefinitely as long as he has time and access to light, we're seeing an infinite healing option for the group here and one that can break in-game logic pretty hard - can you see the nightmarish visions of guru-healing-batteries beyond the front-lines of the evil empire? I can. Damn. That imagery is actually cool. Still, I think there needs to be some limitations implemented here. This problem also extend to the Martyr's Toga veil, btw., though that one's wording makes me believe it was supposed to have a daily limit of uses akin to other healing veils.


Dual binding of veils is also possible and offers yet another tactical option. Essence of the Immortal provides 2 x essence pool bonus hp and counts as toughness - a pretty blatant power-escalation even without the additional essence granted by feats et al. - this can easily upgrade your hit points by ~50 for non-optimized builds. While fitting the theme of specific builds, I still consider this in need of a gentle whack with the nerfbat - or a different scaling mechanism that is not based on total essence. Perhaps grant a base hp-bonus and allow for essence burn to temporarily increase that?


The veils presented obviously have some overlap with those of the vizier, but are not limited to those already known from the first pdf - there are quite a few cool exclusives here! One theme you'll note is movement - from air walking to increased movement rates make sense - though the latter's lack of bonus type means it'll allow for a nasty combination of speed-types you usually don't see - with items and spells, you can get problematic speeds here. The Stalker's Tabi is a pretty nasty beast - unlimited short range teleportation and hide while being observed/in plain sight is slightly earlier than usual - 6th level, when usually HiPS is relegated to 7th or 9th level - perhaps include a level-based scaling mechanism here? The Eyes of the Hawkguard can be bound first as see invisibility, later even as true seeing - constant! And yes, this one gets the balancing right! Fluid partial conversion of energy damage taken to one favored by the guru is also an option provided by veils - one that can be considered an unique take. It should also be noted that some of these veils actually do interact in rather cool and unique ways with class abilities, including psionic abilities - providing further combo options and screws to tinker with.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting can still be considered good, though I noticed quite a few instances of missing bolding, italicization glitches and the like on a formal level. Michael Sayre's rules-language is pretty concise and more refined than in the vizier, with a more concise terminology - on a nitpicky side, establishing one type of wording for essence burn vs. burn essence would make the pdf more concise still. The pdf comes in two versions, one in gorgeous 2-column full-color layout and one more printer-friendly version. The artworks are a combination of original pieces and stock art. Strangely, my full-color version had no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.


All the positive things I've said about akashic classes in my review of the vizier still hold true, so if you want to read about me rambling over the superiority of the system over incarnum, take a look at that review - it still holds true here.


I adore the akashic classes I've read so far - the classes are ALL about player agenda - there are so many options to choose, screws to tinker with, math to run - the flexibility of the classes and fully functional gestalting options are exceedingly versatile and utterly fun. They are also a nightmare to review, but that's beside the point - most classes I LOVE tend to fit that criteria. The guru's rewarding of nonlethal damage, of actually not being a murder hobo, is something that resonates deeply with my convictions of what it means to be good, so thematically, I ultimately ended up loving this class.


That being said, as much as I'd like to praise this in the highest tones, there are some instances where the wording still needs some refinement, some rough edges that need to be sanded off. If my review above seemed nitpicky, then mainly because I so want the final book to be perfect. One surprise of this pdf, at least to me, was that the guru, on paper, looked essentially broken, with many knee-jerk-reaction inducing choices that mellowed out when doing the math/actually playing the class. The grand potential of problems can be seen in Life Bond - the feat itself isn't that strong, but as soon as it allows for infinite healing (which it didn't for the vizier), one can see one tiny oversight in the rules-language that radiates outwards - this needs a daily activation cap akin to similar options to maintain functionality with the akasin - and to future-proof the system to prevent ample future abuse.


So how to rate this? I love Michael Sayre's akashic classes and can't wait for the final book, but with the rough edges still in here, I can't go higher than a final verdict of 4 stars for now - with the explicit note that this very much resonates with me - I am stoked to see the final book - it may be one for the EZG-Essentials-list if Dreamscarred Press can get rid of the rough patches!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Akashic Mysteries: Guru
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Psionics Augmented: Wilders
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/20/2015 06:47:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This pdf clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This pdf begins with a short introduction of the wilder class and a contemplation of its themes before diving right into the two new archetypes herein, the first of which would be the surging muse.


The surging muse is all about the Surging Aura-feat, granting such an aura even if the archetype does not have the feat or otherwise expands the range of it. More importantly, though, would be the fact that allies within the aura receive an insight bonus to damage equal to the surge's intensity. Surge blast is replaced with a very powerful ability - at the cost of expending psionic focus, the surging muse can add + her Cha-mod as force damage to all melee and ranged attacks of her allies within her aura and at 2nd level, the allies within the aura also receive a +1 dodge bonus to AC, which increases by +1 every 4 levels thereafter. I really enjoy the concept and generally, execution of this support archetype - the buffing capabilities are cool and the archetype is solidly written. That being said, the stacking of massive bonus damage to attack for all allies can very quickly escalate - badly. A wilder of 1st level can expend her psionic focus for AoE + 4 force damage, +1 for wild surge; that's AoE +5 to atk and damage at first level - presuming "only" a Cha-mod of 18. I've playtested this ability and it makes a meatgrinder out of any halfway decent adventuring group - +5 to damage at first level for all allies with 15 ft. may not seem like much, but try it in-game and you'll know what I mean. Additionally, I'm not that big a fan of force damage at first level, though here at least, the ability allows other PCs excel in the otherwise frustrating cliché shadow-boss fight that is sported in so many 1st level modules. One more thing - this ability makes dipping in the archetype much too good and resource-balancing wise, force damage is usually a limited resource for casters, not a semi-unlimited one, much less one available in this quantity. All in all, an archetype I really enjoy and one only a different, better balanced scaling mechanism (for said force damage) and some finetuning away from being really neat!


The second archetype herein would be a complex one, namely the voidheart. Not drawing upon emotion per se, but rather a sense of nihilistic emptiness, her surges actually decrease the manifester level of the surged power, but also decrease the level of means of dispelling powers and spells by such an amount. Effectively, this makes the surged powers less boomy, but also impedes means of actually eliminating them. And yes, this does get the complex wording required right. Voidhearts do not suffer from psychic enervation and receive immunity to energy drain in lieu of surge bond. More interesting would be the replacement of surge blast - by emitting a roar, a voidheart can affect a creature within medium range -on a failed save, this ability prevents any form of healing for Cha-mod rounds. I really, really, really love this ability - I've been experimenting with the like in my home-game and it adds an interesting dimension to combat. Now personally, I would have very much preferred an explicit statement regarding fast healing and regeneration, but since that is kind of subsumed under "healing of any variety", I won't hold that against the archetype. Further immunities centered on negative emotions and the theme of death and a surging euphoria complement this archetype further with a theme of an emotional vampire. The capstone allows for a 1/day-limited super surge at -10 ML that causes negative levels and power point loss. I adore this archetype. It completely changes playing experience, does not shirk from complex concepts and has style galore. Kudos!


Next up would be the first 5-level PrC, the cross-discipline master, who gets 3/4 BAB-progression, medium will-saves, d8, 5/6 manifesting progression, d8 and 4+Int skills per level. Yes, this PrC covers 6 levels, not the usual 5 or 10. As befitting of the name, at 1st level and every level thereafter, this PrC nets the character 1 power from a discipline chosen - even if it is not on the character's list. This gets multiple list-caveats right, btw. Additionally, the manifester level of the PrC for that discipline increases by a further +1. Conversely, it is this last component of which I am not a fan - Apart from 1 level, all levels net manifester level progression. This ability is supposed to broaden the options of the wilder, but, if you choose to, you can focus on one discipline, stacking up +6 ML for this discipline in addition to those granted by regular PrC-progression. Taking a look at the chassis of the PrC, I am pretty sure this is intended to offset the one progression-less level for the chosen discipline - so yeah, a slightly more precise wording to prevent a reading that allows for single discipline ML-stacking would be in order here.


3rd level nets 3/day swift action wild surges to temporarily learn a new power from a selected discipline for minutes equal to the wild surge's intensity, i.e. the plus-bonus. This is interesting since the PrC does not explicitly grant surging progression, making this a limited wildcard trick that broadens the very limited focus of the wilder without being broken. 5th level nets a decrease of all power point costs by 1, to a minimum of 1. 6th level nets an ability which hits one of my pet-peeves - you choose a metapsionic feat and can use it to manifest a power sans expending your psionic focus - 1/encounter. I do like the action economy and flexibility this grants, I really do...but why use a per-encounter-mechanic? Why not simply go with a cool-down based on actual in-game time?


The surge-adept gets d8, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves, 4/5th ML-progression and, surprise, is all about the surge. The surge adept decreases her psychic enervation chance by 5% (to a minimum of 1%) and stacks class levels for the purpose of surge progression. At 3rd level, the adept may invoke her wild surge as an immediate action whenever an ally within 30 ft. manifests a power, lending the surge's effects to said ally, while the surge adept still is the one risking enervation. As a capstone, the PrC can 1/day declare a surge a master surge, ignoring power resistance and energy resistance equal to the surge adept's ML and does not cause enervation. The nitpicky sucker in me assumes that the ML in question is the one modified by wild surge, not the non-surged ML, as per default, but I won't hold this minor ambiguity against the PrC.


The 3rd one would be the Volcanic Mind, which uses the same basic class-chassis as the surge adept. They also stack wild surge-progression...but increase their psychic enervation chance by 5% every round not suffering from it, up to a maximum of 80%. Instead of suffering from a condition gained through psychic enervation, this PrC may opt to take 1d6 Wis-damage instead. Whenever a volcanic mind suffers psychic enervation, hostile creatures within 30 ft. suffer manifester level damage and become sickened for manifester level rounds due to the psychic eruption. Here, I am honestly not sure whether the ML of the surge that prompted the enervation or whether the unmodified ML is the one you go with. 2nd level nets cleaving power, a new feat, sans increasing power point cost - this works like cleave for targeted powers, btw., at the cost of +4 power points. Higher levels also add the deafened condition. More importantly would be that suffering from such a power eruption essentially negate the distance-requirements between wilder and target - the victims are treated as in range for as long as the effect persists. This is kind of problematic - while it works well for non-targeted powers with ranges à la close, medium, long, etc., the ability does fall apart to some extent when faced with powers of a different range, mainly because they cease making sense: Cover and concealment apply still, but what if the target teleports away? The ability explicitly states that it only requires the targets to remain on the same plane - no line of sight or line of effect. Is attacking foes that teleported away handled as attacking a target while blind? What about powers with a range of personal or touch? Can touch-based powers be enhanced like this? If yes, that is very powerful and pretty much an invitation for some very nasty, broken combos. What about otherwise personal powers? I firmly believe that this ability requires some clarification - I think the intent is to mitigate the range-restrictions. If that is the case, I'd suggest allowing for ranged touch attacks to work with it (providing rules for creatures out of sight/how the ability interacts with line of sight/effect) and explicitly excluding regular touch and personal powers. The Vent Agony feat, which extends overchannel or psychic enervation to the 30-ft.-radius and may one hostile creatures with its effects, also gets an AoE-upgrade and as a capstone, the staggered condition is added to the collective debuffs these guys can heap on opponents.


If the above was not ample clue, yes, this pdf does sport an array of new feats specifically for the wilder. In this chapter, the new [Surge] feat descriptor is introduced, which requires wild surge as an activation and prompt psychic enervation-checks. Enduring Mind and its follow-ups can be seen as providing a cushion for mental ability damage/drain, reducing that by 2, but thankfully not allowing for abuse regarding abilities of the character powered by burning mental ability, with the follow-up feat allowing for the expenditure of the psionic focus for full-blown negation while also scaling the base cushion up by a further +2. Gaining temporary hit points via psionic focus with a daily limit and follow-ups that grant fast healing (with a cool-down - hallelujah!) can be found alongside those that net you an AC-bonus while focused.


Not all of these feats are this well-crafted, though - I am, for example NOT sold on using wild surge as a resource to heal damage to physical attributes equal to the surge's intensity - while not bad at mid to high levels, the low prereqs of this feat allow for pretty easy healing of attribute damage at lower levels, where it is supposed to be a powerful resource that cannot be easily negated. Mental Equilibrium is a feat that must die. It renders immune to the effects of psychic enervation, your own or others, apart from hit point or power point loss. This essentially takes away one crucial component of balancing the already pretty uncommon and somewhat wonky wild surge mechanics - and its effects are opaque - "You still suffer any other effects of psychic enervation." - so is one immune or not? Does this render the debuffing of the voidheart moot? If one assumes immunity, one cuts off a significant amount of the cool tricks of volcanic mind and voidheart in addition to the benefits for the wilder. Oh, and what about the extended target/range-abilities of the volcanic mind? Do they still work or not? This feat can btw. be taken at 1st level. It opens a can of worms of issues and imho is jeopardizing the intricately-linked abilities presented in this pdf. Well, there would be an option to make wilders superb counterspellers/manifesters, reducing the ML/CL of spells by wild surge's intensity, but increasing your chance of psychic enervation. Feats like this add much-needed breadth to the wilder's arsenal, but become infinite toolboxes once this loathsome Mental Equilibrium is introduced, it invalidates their drawbacks.


This is especially jarring since I do actually enjoy the design-style. Another feat would allow you to form a psionic collective that allows you to disperse the negative effects of psychic enervation to willing targets, providing concise rules for dividing damage incurred via Overchannel etc. and making for a much more compelling experience of teamplay - while also begging to have its cool idea expanded. Piercing energy and power resistance via a feat may be powerful, but seeing the wilder's limited power selection, it renders some otherwise bad choices more viable. So that one's fine with me as well. Another feat that needs to DIE is Psychic Celerity. Expend your psionic focus to move up to your movement rate as a swift action. No limits. Know what one of the most powerful low-level items is? Quickrunner's Shirt. It has a 1/day cap, sure, but ALL of my players try to get it as soon as possible. Any breaking of the action economy is a VERY strong benefit and this allows for the nigh constant breaking of it. Usually, the very few limited means of doing the like on a more flexible basis are relegated to beyond 10th level, usually capped in daily uses - and they are powerful then. With only 2 feats as a prereq, this one is terribly broken and needs some severe smacking with the nerf-bat. On the other hand, using wild surges to enhance mind blades is pretty cool, as is a reflexive damage to attempts at unwanted telepathic contact.


The new powers introduced here also sport a unique new rules-innovation - surge augmentations. These augmentations are only applied to a power when it is manifested as part of a wild surge. Getting a buffer versus physical attribute damage can for example be used via surges on other characters or to grant you DR/- equal to the surge's intensity. Yes, these augments provide the one thing the wilder severely lacked - breadth and versatility and in one case, once can choose from 4 regular and 1 surge augment - pretty cool, especially considering that the increasing costs of the regular augment provide an interesting scaling mechanism to keep the power relevant over the levels. Not all powers are perfect, though - there are some ambiguities. Take Fracture Pattern - it essentially forces a foe to take +50% damage from a damage type -you create a vulnerability and one that makes sense for the levels. However, the augment can also add UNTYPED damage. You know, the kind that has NO means of being negated. Worse, it is not clear whether this added damage effect is also negated as the primary effect of the power on a successful save - I assume so, yes, but clarification would be in order. EDIT: Since this has been questioned - yes, I am very much aware of "Save negates" usually also referring to the effects of augments, but when an augment provides a unique secondary effect, I consider a wording akin to how it's handled in pretty much every spell-write up that distinctly notes whether the effect is prtially or wholly mitigated in order. An aura of crystalline shards that can either provide some defenses or nasty damage to nearby targets, plus bleed damage on a failed save. While this aura only covers 10 ft., I do think it could require a nerf - why? Because 5d6 slashing damage sans save to halve or negate is pretty much a meatgrinder. I love this power's imagery and flexibility, but its balance imho is off - take a look at comparable effects of 4th level powers and you'll get what I mean - 5d6 + 2d6 bleed for 1/round per level, no save to mitigate 5d6 damage....that's capital letter level nasty. I do not object to the surge augment using offensive and defensive at once, but the offense does need a nerf.


AoE sonic damage emanations are cool, though the wording here has a minor hiccup - "For each additional power point you spend, this power's damage increases by one die (d4)" - This may not be ambiguous, but usually, one would go for a wording à la "increases by +1d4". The words "increase" and "die/dice" in combination usually denote an increase in die-size from d4 -> d6 -> d8, etc. - now this will not influence the final verdict, but I still considered it worthwhile to mention. And yes, I am aware that psionics have used this type of wording before. As mentioned, a nitpick. Spreading fear-based affects between targets is also a cool idea - I btw. also like that this one has different power point costs for dreads and psions/wilders, though here, the massive debuff the surge augment grants is pretty nasty. Sacrificing up to 1/2 of your hit points to also deal this amount of damage to a target, with only a will to negate the added sickened condition would be another power that needs a heavy whack with the nerf-bat. It's terribly broken - a) The damage incurred by the target is untyped. b) The target has no save to negate. c) The damage is extremely reliable. d) The damage can easily be healed. If you can't see how this is broken as hell, make a high Con-character and combine that with reliable healing. If that's not enough to drive home the point I'm making, instead use a monster with high HP and add this power - this outclasses all 3rd and 4th level powers in damage potential as the numbers go up. "But Endy, surely that's not so bad?" - My group's 7th level witch has more than 50 Hp. Were the character a psion, that would amount to 25 points of guaranteed damage per round, with healing the damage being within the paradigm of what his friggin' cohort is capable of delivering. Need a better example? Give that power to a dragon. This archmage enshrouded in immunities and x protective sorceries? Pff, drop 100 hit points and booyah, guaranteed kill, no means to mitigate and through the PR you can cleave. If the dragon has wilder levels and surges, you could use the surge augment to instead deal 200 points of damage! Yeah, not gonna happen anywhere near my game - this 2nd level power outclasses harm and must DIE.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - I noticed no significant glitches, though here and there some minor deviations from rules semantics have crept in. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. It also sports some nice original full-color artworks and comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.


The wilder is the one psionic class I considered not too compelling -all about power, at the cost of limited flexibility. While nice for min-maxers who are okay with a limited array of options, I never considered the class too compelling due to its lack of breadth. Jade Ripley does a stellar job at expanding the options at the wilder's fingertips and I adore many of the choices herein: I love the voidheart. The PrCs are quite cool and while not perfect, they actually do some damn cool things with the wild surge - they feel UNIQUE and offer different playing experiences. The Surge-feats and Surge-augments are AWESOME choices and I sincerely hope we'll see many, many more powers with surge augments in the future -adding player agenda to alleviate the one-trick-pony playing experience of the wilder is EXACTLY what this class needs! I love this pdf for all of this and the total absence of anything that even remotely resembles cookie-cutter design -this is complex, worthwhile, high-concept material.


At the same time, I can't fathom how some of the feats and powers EVER got past playtesting. The numbers don't add up for the respective levels and some feats are more powerful than 10th-level-plus class abilities - essentially, there are quite a bunch examples herein that are textbook-broken. I'd honestly bash this further, but at the same time, this pdf provides several choices I absolutely adore - to the point where I was contemplating a 4.5 star + seal rating before properly analyzing the feats and powers chapters. Alas, these issues are here - and they are significant. I sincerely urge DMs to carefully consider allowing some of the options herein at the table, but at the same time, I find myself incapable of not recommending this pdf - it makes the wilder infinitely more compelling and offers some design-innovations I really hope to see expanded in the future - Jade Ripley has, in a nutshell, made a class infinitely more compelling, but also broke balancing HARD in quite a few cases, making this, in spite of the inspired components, a mixed bag that oscillates between "OMG, how awesome is this?" and Plinkett-voice"What were they thinking?" /Plinkett voice.


Still, as much as I love much of the content herein, with glaring balance-issues like this, I cannot go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform - I can still recommend this to any GM seeking to add actual identity to the wilder, though - just be sure you check this carefully and ban the living hell out of some components - what works herein in stellar material, after all.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Wilders
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Psionics Augmented: Mythic Psionics
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/24/2015 03:38:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 75 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 71 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This supplement was moved up in my queue as a prioritized review by my patreons.


So there we have it - the massive sourcebook that brings the much beloved psionics system up to mythic proportions, but can it whether the test of numerical escalation while also providing some iconic tricks? We'll see.


First of all, the pdf does something smart - it covers terminology. Why is that smart? Well psionic powers tend to have an Augment-option, whereas mythic spellcasting has established an "Augmented" line - making the difference clear is pretty vital, with a similar potential confusion regarding psychic warrior paths and mythic paths being another topic that is clarified from the get-go. This deserves special mention because it renders nomenclature precise from the get-go and renders the potential for ambiguity issues minimal - kudos!


We begin this supplement's huge array of crunchy options with a psionic-exclusive mythic path, the path of the overmind. Covering the whole ten tiers, with each tier netting 3 bonus hit points, this path begins with a psionic secret. these include the option to expend one use of mythic power to manifest any one psionic power without expending power points, with augmenting being treated as if augmented to the manifester level of the character, if applicable. The power thus manifested cannot be improved via metapsionic feats and requires non-mythic creatures to save twice and take the worse result - so yes, this is kind of a modified wild surge that is different from the regular wilder ability in some unique ways - and yes, having both actually yields different results in their customizations, so mythic wilders may still get something out of this - and the two abilities can work in tandem, though there are more efficient uses of either. Another option allows for the expenditure of one mythic power as a swift action to execute an attack that bypasses all DR and adds +tier to damage, but does not allow bonus damage from e.g. weapon special abilities still are subject to resistances and immunities.


Surging psionics allow you to expend a use of mythic power as a standard action to treat your manifester level as two higher for level-dependent effects, with the power being treated as if augmented to your manifester level, should it provide augmenting. You can apply metapsionic feats to this power, but still need to expend your psionic focus and still have to pay for the power, which may not exceed your manifester level and still count versus psionic augmenting. On a nitpicky side, I do consider this wording to be somewhat less precise than it could be, as the wording does not specify whether the surge-enhanced modified manifester level or the base manifester-level applies for purposes of augments - I assume the modified level, though. Where things become somewhat complex is once you apply this power to powers enhanced by wild surges - the stacking of manifester levels can potentially be rather nasty here, with potential ML-increases of up to +8 being rather significant. Via one path ability, one may even expend one use of mythic power to increase ML by 1/2 tier, which translates to a potential +11 ML for wilders. Both leave me HIGHLY uncomfortable.


A more important change of pace these mythic path abilities provide would not be apparent at first - since the reduction of manifesting time down to 1 standard action is pretty massive, astral caravans/travelers, augured answers etc. pretty significant changes in the utility of such powers -checking through Ultimate Psionics, the powers for which such a decrease proved relevant turned out to be mostly information-based/utility/healing-centric, so not that bad - just something to bear in mind regarding the future-proofing of mythic psionics. This also deviates somewhat from Paizo's standard of tackling similar abilities - in the base array, the intent is to expend a swift action for mythic power to ENABLE the better casting of the respective spell. While the prominence of swift/immediate actions among powers would render this less effective, just locking psionic powers into standard actions overrides their manifesting time and thus can result in problems. Additionally, this changes action economy in a second, significant way - it allows you to break the 1 swift/immediate action limit per round by fixing the mythic augmented manifesting time at the standard action-level. While per se presenting a concise way to handle the general system, I am at this point not 100% convinced this system is airtight - while psionics makes excessive use of swift/immediate actions on its own, the combination with other classes and sub-systems may be used to execute some truly nasty combos otherwise prevented by the hard action-type-limit. While this is less of an issue with mythic rules in general, I can see issues arising from this and wished the manifesting time modification had a slightly more limited flexibility. I really wished this mechanic did not lock manifestation times as standard actions.


1st tier and every tier thereafter net the overmind an overmind path ability or, of course, an universal path ability, with the capstone netting 15 +highest manifester level PR, forcing non-mythic targets to roll twice for any save and take the worse result. Additionally, once per round when subjected to a power manifested by a mythic foe that fails to penetrate your PR, you regain a use of mythic power. Here, I got ready to complain hard, but the pdf at least specifies that the foe needs to be an enemy, thus preventing an easy infinite mythic power-exploit. Nice job! As with all paths, tier abilities come in 3 general categories: 1st, 3rd and 6th-tier abilities. The abilities here all have in common that they do something rather significant: Psions may, for example, unlock additional discipline abilities of a second discipline and a scaling force-field that provides a 3+tier AC-bonus that works essentially on an unlimited basis as well as aforementioned surge-improvement all have in common that they change the way in which a psion of mythic proportions works. Getting power points from the collective and using mythic power to manifest powers of a member of the collective also can be considered unique benefits, with thankfully tier being utilized as a means of limitation.


Bypass mental defenses also deserves special mention - the ability allows you to affect a creature immune to mind-affecting effects with a class feature or psionic power for the price of one use of mythic power. While this pretty much can translate into an "I win"-button versus certain enemies, the caveat that this does not work versus mindless foes renders the whole trick actually valid without marginalizing constructs and similar adversaries, so kudos here. Better crafting can be found herein alongside significant increases to ML for the purposes of discipline abilities, thankfully sans netting earlier access to them and one favorite of mine allows for the free distribution of dice between two active energy types, thankfully applying the bonus to either to all dice and attack rolls - more impressively, the ability does provide a wording that prevents confusion with e.g. the Elemental Blast feat, being limited to powers. Gaining resistance to energy you manifest and access to discipline-exclusive powers can also be found herein and adding an augment to a personal healing power is also covered, thus allowing for an interesting interaction with vitalists in particular. Numerical escalation of class ability-granted insight bonuses and more efficient methods and warrior's path abilities can be found alongside having a focus active while being asleep, unconscious, etc. Using mythic power to ignore any and all energy resistance and immunity does not gel well with me - usually, the default mode would be to differentiate between non-mythic and mythic adversaries and flat-out ignoring of all instead of a scaling formula does feel a bit off to me. Reflexive blasts when being crited as well as better and faster astral construct generation may be awesome, though e.g. expending mythic power to swap one of your psionic powers with another one on your class list of equivalent level feels VERY powerful.


Among the higher-level abilities, using metapsionic feats that do not increase the PP-cost of a power sans expending the psionic focus via the expenditure of mythic power can be considered an interesting option. Psychic Tsunami is pretty iconic in its imagery: For one use of mythic power, you generate a 30-ft.-aura that damages all non-magical objects in range for 5 x tier force damage that ignores hardness for tier rounds, with psionic focus allowing you to exempt structures, creatures and objects at your leisure. Additionally, the vortex makes the area difficult terrain. An aura of scaling fire is also among the cool options one can take here. Ravaging Time, as an ability, imho needs a tighter wording: "When you are affected by time stop or similar effects that alter your time relative to the manifester’s, you can expend one use of mythic power to take a standard action during the effect." So, as per this definition, what constitutes an eligible effect? Can an allied spellcaster cast haste on you and thus unlock an option to expend 1 use of mythic power for + standard action? Or does this only apply when being targeted by a detrimental effect? I get what this ability tries to do, but as written, it remains less precise than what I'm accustomed to by Dreamscarred Press. The 6th tier abilities allow for mythic power-based immunity to mind-affecting effects for 1 round and AoE telekinetic bull rushes also work rather well - as do the creature-enslavement-enhancer tricks. Sample builds for overmind are provided.


Beyond the path of the overmind, we also receive expanded path ability lists for the other mythic paths, with a storm of AoE-mindblades for champions, significantly increased DR for astral suits and grapple-based cages for guardians. personally, I'm not a fan of the parrying mechanic used here, but that is a personal preference - the rules-language is precise enough and the immediate action-requirement prevents abuse. Marshals may choose to use any marshal mythic power on any creature in their collective. As a 1st tier ability. This is powerful. Fitting, yes, but it specifically makes powers you could only target on yourself available at bigger ranges, so that's definitely something to be wary of. Extending the collective to all creatures within 100 feet at a 6th tier ability also is something that may be pretty nasty.


A glitch has crept in among the trickster abilities - "You can expend your psionic focus to add your mythic tier to your altered defense value for one round." - is that supposed to be AC or is it supposed to apply to the cryptic's altered defense class feature as implied by the prereq? If so, the wording is not 100% in line with how such things are usually phrased. In any case, the wording could be slightly more concise in its reference towards the correct class feature. And yes, I'm aware this is nitpicking - I certainly won't rate down the pdf for this hiccup, just wanted to provide this as an example. Project Impossible Location is, on the other hand, a trickster ability that is worth its weight in gold: As an immediate action, you can expend a mythic power to make a 5-foot-step, making the attack miss. If a creature fails a will-save, further attacks may miss as well. The ability manages to get the 5-ft-step limit covered as well, so kudos!


The universal path abilities can mostly be summed up by "numerical escalation" -better disrupt pattern, more astral suit customization options, expanded collective, better devastating touch, breaking the mind blade's +10 limit - you get the idea. Interaction with select core mythic rules pertaining spellcasting is also covered.


The next chapter covers a literal ton of mythic psionic feats - enough so that the feat-table spans no less than 2 full pages. Perhaps most interesting would be Ascendant Power - this metapsionic feat requires the expenditure of your psionic focus and increases the power point cost by a whopping +8 - for this, the power instead uses its mythic version, but still does not count as a mythic power for the purpose of effects interacting with it. The thus improved power cannot benefit from mythic augmentation and does not allow for the utilization of effects that require the expenditure of mythic power. What this feat essentially does is unlocking mythic psionics for non-mythic manifesters. It also allows for a significant increase in flexibility beyond the feat-tax that Mythic Powers Known imposes, which clocks in at 1 power per tier. Mythic Psionic Attack is interesting, allowing for all attacks in a given round to benefit from the expenditure of your psionic focus - I say "interesting" because it decreases the focus on singular, exceedingly powerful attacks towards a support of multiple ones, rendering characters with many attacks instantly superior to those with just one. This changes basically how Psionic Fist/Weapon-builds work and puts the whole thing on its head. While not a bad choice, imho, this could have required a more fluid balancing - as written, it just inverts the build, thus greatly decreasing the comparative efficiency of single-hit-builds. A great idea, though one I wished had more complex mechanics for a more fluid experience.


The other feats herein represent mythic versions of the numerous feats and they can, like most mythic feats, be grouped into various types: For one, we can find numerical escalations, which, while fitting, tend to not exactly blow me away - essentially, I am of the conviction that mythic gameplay already is escalated enough in that regard. The second and in my opinion, more interesting array of feats allow for an increased array of tactical options - going into breadth and flexibility over numerical depth, if you will. Here, the feats and their benefits range from the solid to the exciting: Using mythic power and a swift action to change the alignment component utilized by Aligned Strike, for example, would constitute such an increase in flexibility.


Body Fuel would also be interesting in that it only requires one attribute to suffer the ability burn of the base feat, mitigating one drawback of the original feat and increasing its potency. Rendering astral constructs mythic for the purpose of interaction with other creatures and increasing their DR is impressive, though rendering the DR as bypassed only by epic weapons makes them pretty strong in certain campaigns - personally, I would have preferred a DR-bypass that scales with the levels of power or manifesters. Burrowing Power's mythic version also should be noted in that it no longer requires line of sight - a powerful and fun option generally, though I wished the wording were a tad bit more specific regarding the failure criteria: "If no creature is in that space, the power fails." - from an aesthetic position, I would have preferred this to reference the target/area of effect of the power itself. Now note that this does not render the feat bad or problematic, it only constitutes a minor nitpick that will not influence my final verdict. Deep Impact's mythic version may be a bit nasty, allowing for the expenditure of mythic power to treat all your attacks as touch attacks for the remainder of the round. Efficient Aid not only increases the efficiency of healing requested by +50%, it also allows for the expenditure of mythic power to allow for the healing of attribute damage.


Of course, mythic upgrades of the +x class ability-type feats can be found in this chapter. Nomads fast stepping as a swift or immediate action are interesting - though, alas, the immediate action trick opens up an issue that was not part of the original Fast Step - the teleport can now be used reflexively, though the feat does not specify whether using it as a response to an attack negates said attack, makes it miss or lets the attacker decide in which way to utilize he attack that would have been directed at the psion phasing away. While this is no something a DM can easily fix, it still remains a minor blemish. I am also not a fan of utilizing mythic power to make a skill-check count as if a natural 20, as some feats utilize in their mechanics. Adding a tier-based or scaling bonus would probably have yielded a bit more flexible results.


The next chapter provides us with a massive, huge list of mythic powers - again, we begin the chapter with a rock-solid explanation of functionality and terminology of mythic powers, how to get them and how they work, including nice options to make them spontaneously more potent or more resilient towards being dispelled. This section can be considered a very well-written piece that provides the functionality and examples required to make the blending of psionics and mythic rules work. All in all, one can assert that basic modification via these choices and the aforementioned options as well as the non-mythic augment-options render the powers themselves more flexible than comparable spells, thus making up for the decreased flexibility from power selection itself. Kudos! The power-lists come organized by class and level.


The powers provided do sport some instances of numerical escalation and, of course, augmented-options dependant on tier in some cases, with just about all tiers being featured. Yes, this includes 10th tier: The augmented option for temporal acceleration allows for the use of 3 uses of mythic power to increase the duration of the now multi-target power to 1 hour per level. Yes, this is essentially permanent, mass crush-em-all and broken as all hell, but at tier 10, that's exactly the capstone-level of brutal destructive potential I like to see. Telekinetic force's now longer duration should also be considered to be interesting in that it enhances the move option and provides a more powerful throw option (that also expends it) - a nice example for numerical escalation that in fact is no escalation, but rather an expansion into breadth rather than depth.


I also enjoy the option to selectively exclude some targets from swarms of crystals and while slumber nets a linear increase of hit dice affected by the power, its true benefit imho would be the control exerted over which creatures are affected. Now the 8th tier augmented option is AWESOME: Affect all living creatures with 8 HD or less within a mile of you - for days on end! Yes, 3 uses of mythic power are steep, but this is narrative gold. Love it! Schism's second augmented option also deserves special mention, as it provides a swift action to the second mind you create. If that does not sound like much, then you've never had a psion with this power as a combo-enabler in your game. Personally, love the engine-tweak here! As a nice note, even basic powers that did not provide this much strategy like the energy-based powers do benefit from an extension in breadth - energy push foes straight upwards? Yup, this can be pretty awesome. Over all, this chapter did impress me most among the pieces of content provided so far - it is relatively imaginative, provides a significant array of tactical depth and goes beyond basic formula for the powers - it very much feels like something lovingly handcrafted.


The final chapter of this book provides 9 mythic versions of monsters introduced in the Psionic Bestiary, from the deranged trepanner to the puppeteer and phrenic scourge, they range from CR 16/MR 6 to CR 2/MR 1. They provide some interesting, added signature abilities and enhancements for their respective mythic powers - generally, a solid array...so when do we get the full mythic psionic bestiary? ;)


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting generally are very good - I noticed no serious, formal hiccups, though here and there a minor rules-glitch has entered the fray. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf provides an array of nice full-color artworks, some original, some I have seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version - very considerate!


Jeremy Smith, Andreas Rönnqvist, Eric Hindley, Guillermo Daniel Ordoñez - gentlemen, you have my respect. Psionics and mythic are not that easy to blend - I've been experimenting with it myself and there is a LOT to take into account. Psionics has more connected, moving parts than regular spellcasting and as such, the task of upgrading this system to mythic rules is not something I'd consider easy by any means of the word.


That good news is, my nitpicky complaining-tirades none withstanding, this is pretty much the functional, neat upgrade to mythic rules fans of psionics have been clamoring for. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the relative diversity of options provided herein, many of which go above and beyond what one would expect to see in such a massive supplement. More often than not, the authors have opted to provide unique perspectives and tactical options rather than succumbing to the numerical nuking less inspired mythic design is prone to.


On the other side, it would be remiss to mention that the complex interaction of mythic and psionic rules with all the moving parts inherent in either system does result in some sand grinding in the well-oiled engines of both systems. While some of the gripes boil down to nitpicks, minor inconsistencies and similar issues that can easily be handled by a capable DM, this pdf also does sport some combos that leave me shuddering and which are, ultimately in my book, in need of a nerfing. Even in the context of mythic rules, there quite frankly are some combos herein that are a tad bit too good to be considered okay in my book. Especially the fixed reduction of manifesting time to one standard action is not only a component that deviates from how the spellcasting-analogue works (which is required, as powers adhere to a different manifesting action economy), but also changes in a somewhat wonky way how the systems interact with one another. The new mythic path provided does sport some of these components. However, at the same time, the path does not sport boring or pseudo-feat-abilities, instead opting for utterly unique tricks - kudos for getting that right!


If you've read this massive review, you will have noticed quite a few instances where I picked apart some components and mechanics - however, at the same time, this pdf does provide a staggering amount of content, much of which can be called downright inspired. Finally, and there are no two ways to look at this, this is the all but required supplement for use of psionics with the mythic rules. How do I rate this brute, then? I've been honestly struggling with finding a verdict here. On the one side, this supplement works perfectly (for the most time) in game and has some awesome, inspired components. On the other hand, it does have some rough edges that can be abused and/or grind the game to a halt - essentially, there are also some design-aesthetic deviations from how Paizo and Legendary Games have structured mythic augments etc.


In the end, I could have settled on a review in the middle range of my rating system, but that would have been a disservice to the content provided herein. While obviously, this pdf is not perfect, chances are that you'll find some truly exciting and interesting options within these pages and for mythic campaigns, there are no two ways around this, this book remains a must-buy option. My final verdict, hence, will clock in at 4 stars, with the caveat that DMs using this book should have some serious experience with psionics under their belts to prevent some of the combos this enables from overwhelming them and to be in a position to say no to some of the combinations.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Mythic Psionics
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Psionics Unleashed Revised
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/12/2015 03:01:45

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This Core-psionics-system clocks in at 236 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 232 pages of content, so let's take a look!


First of all: What is this book?


There are multiple answers to this question, the first of which would simply be:


The properly tidied-up, pretty version of the original Psionics Unleashed-book, with some added material.


To be more precise - this book contains the two new races of Forgeborn and Norals introduced in Psionics Augmented Vol. I. It also fully implements the talent-system introduced in Psionics Expanded (think of that book as the APG for psionics - just as good and just as distinct), thus fully integrating the one "patch" of the base rules that wasn't 100% elegant.


This review will be a bit different from my usual in-depth analysis shtick, mainly since I have already tackled the classes and content in detail in previous reviews - and repetition is boring. As a general assessment, the 10 races provided can be considered rather well-balanced and diverse and provide fitting substitutes for the closed-IP-losses of some races from 3.X. It should be noted, though, that the races as provided herein do not sport favored class options, which are present in Ultimate Psionics - personally, I think that including those for the classes herein would have made sense.


The main focus of the book, and where it imho excels, though, would be the presentation of the base system of psionics as a point-based spellcasting system and, more importantly, the way in which this book makes what once (in 3.X) were boring, linear one-trick-pony-classes work properly - whether it is the wilder, soulknife or psychic warrior, the respective individual takes on the base classes greatly increase the diversity of builds available and overall, are easy to understand and execute - if you're read the Paizo CORE-rules and the APG, none of these should provide a daunting task to understand.


Indeed, one can argue that the same holds true for the copious PrCs provided, which, while more linear than the base classes, arguably do mostly not suck - something I wouldn't say about the PrCs provided for the CORE system. If you need advice on what to steer clear off: The Pyrokineticist still is very much unfocused and none-too-awesome and the telepathy-enslavement-specialist thrallherd can be broken by an experienced player; other than those two, the PrCs all have something unique and fun going for them.


Since you're reading this review, I assume you're not particularly familiar with the system, so let me give you a run-down: Psionics work pretty similar to spellcasting. You have your levels, governing attributes etc. Where things are different is with the resource. Psionic characters can be likened to spontaneous casters in that they need not prepare powers (that's the name of the psionic "spells") - unlike spontaneous casters, though, they draw their casts from ONE resource, the power points, which regenerate after resting. This is a numerical value that increases over the levels - to manifest a power ("Manifesting" being the term for psionic "spellcasting"), you need to expend power points. These are streamlined by level - level 1 powers cost 1 PP, level 3 powers cost 5 PP, etc. However, unlike regular spellcasting, quite a few psionic powers do not get automatic scaling - putting player-agenda higher on the radar, there is an augment-option for quite a few powers, allowing you to increase their potency in one way or another. To avoid abuse, a firm cap is placed on the amount of points you can spend on a given power. Know all those rants about psionics and nova-problems? Most of them boil down to not understanding this cap.


Psionic powers do not sport somatic or verbal components, instead providing displays - from odd smells to eerie lights, this component of the system deserves special mention because almost all reviewers tend to overlook it, when it makes imho for a cool, constant and subtle differentiation from regular spellcasting.


Psionics is not just spellcasting with a different flavor, though - it also extends to enabling people to do things beyond the providence of non-psionic creatures. Whether via helping to avoid death by poison via the new autohypnosis-skill or via one of the myriad ways in which one can use the psionic focus. This can be considered an infinite, yet limited resource: Basically, you can expend actions to gain your psionic focus and then expend it at a later time to fuel some thoroughly unique tricks. However, expending it always may not be wise either, for there are quite a few passive abilities that require you being focused. It's simple, concise and fun.


It should be noted that this pdf does an excellent job at explaining the various different concepts in a very concise and easy to grasp manner - basically, if you understand basic PFRPG, you'll get how this works and a handy glossary at the end makes looking up terminology very easy.


One crucial difference from the Ultimate Psionics-book would be the inclusion of a base array of psionic monsters to harass your players with -while obviously not reaching the level of depth the and breadth the Psionic Bestiary does, it does provide a solid first glance and some nice drag-and-drop adversaries. Whether you prefer monsters in a book that will be used by players or whether you prefer them in their own book depends on taste, but I personally prefer them separate and thus consider the Ultimate Psionics/Psionic Bestiary-combo superior.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The copious amounts of gorgeous full-color art render this a beautiful pdf indeed - and a huge step up from the admittedly pretty ugly original Psionics Unleashed.


Andreas Rönnqvist and Jeremy Smith (with additional design by Philip J. Leco II) are considered the fathers of PFRPG psionics - and for a good reason. Not only did they vastly enrich my 3.X games back in the day, their psionics for PFRPG are as close to a cross-publisher industry-standard as one can get with a subsystem. There is a reason for that.


Psionics RULE. I love them. I love the system. I love the flair. I love psionics. There's a reason Ultimate Psionics is on my EZG Essentials-list as one book ALL of my campaigns use. Conversely, Ultimate Psionics, as massive a tome as it is, probably makes for a significant investment and, since it covers Psionics Expanded and the advanced options from that book, can seem overbearing. Think about a book that sports the mechanics of both the CORE-rules and the APG for a fitting analogy of what Ultimate Psionics does - beyond providing a huge amount of material to digest, the complexity of the rules utilized vary between material from Psionics Unleashed and Psionics Expanded - the latter, obviously, imho sporting the more interesting classes and options, but also requiring more system-mastery that can be daunting for players new to psionics.


This is where this book's raison d'être can be discerned: This is essentially the CORE-book sans frills: The fancy, complex material is left for the other books and we get an inexpensive way to take a look at the basic system and material and dip one's toes into psionic waters.


Basically, this is "My first psionics sourcebook," an easy, all-encompassing way of taking a look at psionics and integrating its basic classes, races, items, etc. and ideas into your game with needing to buy the glorious, massive Ultimate Psionics and the Psionic Bestiary. Yes, you don't get the favored class options and the more complex classes from Psionics Expanded, etc. in this book, but you get all you need and the presentation and layout make grasping the rules pretty simple.


While my firm recommendation for players and DM with some experience under their belts would still be to get the combo of Ultimate Psionics + Bestiary, in case you're looking for an easy one-book-and-go way of using psionics, this should make for a great way of judging whether you like the system or not. (Note: If you want more complexity, the other books do provide that!) Especially groups and players with less experience regarding subsystems and the like can consider this book a nice way of getting to know how psionics work. Conversely, groups that already have Ultimate Psionics have no reason apart from the copious artworks to get this book.


How to rate this, then? I consider this to be a good introduction/core book for psionics, one specifically targeted at an audience who is not yet that familiar with psionics - as such a book, it accomplishes its task in a formidable manner and deserves a final verdict of 5 stars. Why no seal of approval? Because I'm a sucker for complexity and still croon over Ultimate Psionics when no one's looking. ;P Kidding aside, I do believe that the aforementioned PrCs could have used the chance at streamlining and inclusion of favored class options would also have made sense to me. Still, consider this a testament to how good Ultimate Psionics is - and if you like this book, you'll love its bigger sister!


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Unleashed Revised
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Psionics Unleashed Revised
by Adam B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2015 05:06:55

This book begins with fantastic cover art by Joe Shawcross, and continues to impress with gorgeous layout and art throughout the book.
This book is a rerelease of the original Psionics Unleashed, but with extra content including all errata, the psionic talent system (Psionic cantrips), 2 extra races, and new full-color artwork.


Chapter 1 – Races:There are 10 psionic races presented in this book. Included in each race are information on their society, psychology, and other details to help create a fully-developed character. These aren’t just stat blocks, but actual races.
There are psionic goblins known and Blues that try to infiltrate goblin tribes.
The Dromites are insect-like humanoids that try to maintain individuality in a culture very focused on community. They also have different carapace colors based on their caste. I found this pretty interesting.
Duergars, who are completely unrelated to the Paizo Duergar, are still related to Dwarves. Their origin lies in digging too deep into the earth, and being changed mentally and physically by the horror they found. Surprisingly cool.
Elans are a psionic race that resembles humans, but in actuality they can originate from any race. Other races are turned into Elans by other Elans in a secret psionic ritual. They have an air of creepiness about them, but that is part of what makes them appealing.
Forgeborn are half-construct half-humanoid, and gain resistances to many effects constructs would be immune to. Truly a fantastic race for anyone who wants to play a character like an android.
Half-Giants are very strong, very psionic, and written as strong individuals instead of just being tragic backstory fuel.
Maenads resemble humans at a glance, but their skin is actually embedded with crystals, and their emotional extremes run higher than most. They actually get bonuses for being played as barbarians.
Norals are a short stocky race that bond with a psionic symbiote at an early age, gaining greater psionic power in return.
Ophiduans are a very structured race that places psionic prowess above all other variables when it comes to social station. They are reptilian in appearance, and seam more combat oriented than I expected from their write up. I guess it’s just part of being reptilian?
Xephs are very quick humanoids and quite personable. I don’t find their fluff interesting, but they are solidly designed.


Chapter 2 – Classes: Psionics work very similarly to magic, but they use a completely different resource mechanic and are called manifesters. They use power points, which can be likened to a mana bar if compared to video games. Where power points differ from a mana bar is that you can choose how many power points go into a psionic power, making it as strong or weak as you want. Of course, there are sane limits placed. You cannot put more power points into a power than your level, and you cannot put less power points into a power than the power’s level. Additionally, your character gains additional power points depending on their key mental ability score.
Additionally, there is a feature known as psionic focus. Psionic focus requires a full-round action to be replenished, but can be used up to take a 15 on a concentration check, to power metapsionic feats (similar to metamagic, more on this later), and to power many martial or utility based psionic feats and class features.


The first psionic class introduced is the Psion. The Psion would be what psionics considers a full-caster; a full-manifester and is the most like the wizard if compared to core rulebook classes. There are six psionic disciplines, and the Psion can choose to specialize in one, or to become a generalist. Each discipline grants additional class features and the option to select a few strong psionic powers that are unique to their discipline. Through the use of feats, characters who are not members of that discipline can select some discipline powers. For instance, the best psionic blasting powers are locked into the Psychokinesis discipline. If anyone wants these powers, they must spend a feat and get it levels later. This presents a more balanced way of selecting powers, instead of letting all psionic characters cherry pick the best powers of each level. All together, the Psion is a very powerful and versatile class, and definitely deserves the name Psion in a book about Psionics. You could easily run multiple Psions and have a different experience every time.


Up next is the Psychic Warrior, which has no resemblance to the fighter. It is d8 hit die, medium BAB, and gets 6/9 levels of manifesting. These warriors gain martial weapon proficiencies, and all armors and shields except tower shields. Psionic Warriors gain a warrior’s path, which gives them scaling benefits to a combat style, and psionic powers that benefit that combat style. For instance, the Feral Warrior Path can grow natural weapons using its psionic powers, gets a scaling bonus to attack rolls with natural weapons, and can even expend its psionic focus for a pseudo-pounce ability. Aside from this, they can get bonus feats, and eventually a second warrior’s path. As a martial/caster gish, this class succeeds in every area. It definitely measures up to other gish classes like the Magus and Inquisitor, while bringing its own unique playstyle to the party.


Soul Knifes have gotten a big revamp since 3.5. In here, they are a d10 hit die, full BAB, and 4 skill points per level. Unlike the other classes in this book, the Soulknife is not a manifester. It does have a mind blade however. This mind blade is basically a transforming, scaling, magic weapon (Gets up to +9 without talents). They can even throw their mind blade as a ranged option. If so desired, they can form 2 smaller mind blades for dual wielding purposes. They also can charge up their mind blade to use Psychic Strike, which provides a scaling damage bonus to one mind blade attack. Charging up a psychic strike is a move action, but they stick around until expended. This means you can always start combat with one at least. This class also gets blade skills, which are very similar to talents on other classes. Blade skills offer a wide variety options, new blade forms, and ways to manipulate psychic strke. A lot of these blade skills are strong, but they only put the Soul Knife on the edge of being an amazing class. Blade skills in later psionic books push this class over that edge magnificently, but they are not included in this book.


The Wilder is the final class introduced in this book. In a way, the Wilder is like the sorcerer to the Psion’s Wizard. However, their execution is quite different. Wilders are full-manifesters, but have a d8 hit dice, medium BAB, and 4+ skill points. Despite this, the Wilder is quite balanced, and possibly a little weaker than the Psion. Wilders have significantly less powers known than Psions, but the same number of power points. Their main class feature however gets to break that golden rule on expending more power points than their character level on a power. This is through their wild surge feature. As part of manifesting a psionic power, they may add free extra power points to their power, but at a risk. Every time they wild surge, they have a 15% chance of suffering psychic enervation; losing their character level in power points and being inflicted with a debuff associated with their surge type. Surge types you ask? Each Wilder may select a surge type at level 1. This surge type grants them additional benefits, and determines the status effect they take when their wild surge goes wrong. For instance, the leader’s surge grants the Wilder the surging aura bonus feat, which allows nearby allies to gain an attack roll bonus when you wild surge, and shakes the Wilder when they suffer psychic enervation. Additionally at 5th level, the range of the aura begins to increase, and also to share the benefits of your surging euphoria class feature. Surging Euphoria grants the Wilder a scaling bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws for a short time. Altogether, the Wilder is a very cool and powerful addition to the psionic line up.


Chapter 3 – Skills and Feats: Psionics Unleashed brings two new skills to Pathfinder. First is Autohypnosis, which allows the player a limited amount of “mind of matter.” For instance, they can use autohypnosis to focus hard enough to ignore the pain caused by caltrops, still taking the damage but ignoring the movement penalties associated. They can also use autohypnosis to memorize things, stabilize themselves, get additional saves against fear, and even to ignore the hit point damage from standard actions when disabled (0 hit points).


Knowledge (Psionics) can be used to identify psionic monsters, ancient mysteries, recognize psionic traditions, psychic symbols, cryptic phrases, astral constructs, and psionic races. It’s basically what you would expect from a Psionic knowledge skill.


The last part of the skill section includes a modification to Spellcraft and Use Magic Device to allow them to interact with psionic content.


Feats are numerous, granting a variety of interesting benefits. Here is where metapsionic feats are found. Metapsionic feats require the character to expend additional power points for their effects and expend psionic focus. Additionally, these additional power points count towards the total amount of power points you can invest into a power. These 2 factors cause metapsionic feats to be significantly more balanced than metamagic builds.


Besides metapsionic feats, there are a variety of feats that grant a small benefit, but grant a significantly larger benefit when psionic focus is expended. For instance, Speed of Thought grants your character a +10 insight bonus to movement speed, but increases this bonus to +30 for one round when psionic focus is expended.


There are other fun feats such as Mind Over Body, which allows you to heal ability damage at a rate of 1+constitution modifier per day naturally, instead of the normal 1.


The most interesting feat is the iconic Psicrystal Affinity. Psicrystals are very similar to familiars, but instead of being animals or magical creatures, they are crystals with a fragment of your personality powering them. They grant everything a familiar grants, but instead deliver touch powers. Additionally, they grant +3 to a skill or +2 to save, depending on which part of your personality they sprang from. There are other feats to upgrade your psicrystal, such as Psicrystal Containment. This feat allows your psicrystal to hold a second psionic focus for you, but you must still use your own actions to charge it up.


Chapter 4 – Psionics: This chapter explains in detail the entire psionic power manifesting system that I briefly summarized earlier. Powers vary about as much as spells do, and with manifesting, you can generate a variety of similar effects. Additionally, the authors include some suggestions, such as the psionic-magic transparency, where psionic powers and magical effects are treated as the same things for the purposes of dispel magic or the barbarian’s superstition rage power.


Chapter 5 – Powers: Psionic Powers are basically the magical spells of base Pathfinder, but for psionics. Where Psionics differentiate the most from spells is that most basic effects are actually low level powers. By putting more power points into a power, its save DC will increase, and often its effect becomes stronger. For example, Entangling Ectoplasm is an unassuming 1st level power. For 1 power point, our character makes a ranged touch attack that entangles a medium or smaller creature and dissipates in 5 rounds. The strength check/escape artist check to break out is 11+your key mental ability modifier. However, for every 2 power points you expend on this power, this DC increases by 1 and this power may affect a target one size category larger. Seems pretty cool right? All of the blasting options work the same way, where every power point spent increases damage by 1d6 and every 2 power points spent increases the power’s save DC.


Powers in this book are very balanced, and quite a few of the powers that are similar to spells have actually had their targeting limited, becoming personal buffs.


Chapter 6 – Prestige Classes: This chapter begins with a few ground rules that psionic prestige classes follow. They always advance your psicrystal. For Soulknifes, any prestige class level with “+1 level of existing manifesting class” improves their mind blade class feature, so that they do not fall behind. Meanwhile the Wilder’s Wild Surge is advanced in any prestige class level where power points are gained. This little detail makes a huge impact on a playability of these classes, providing incentives to actually leave their own class.


The first prestige class presented is the Cerebremancer. They combine arcane spellcasting and manifesting not unlike a Mystic Theurge, allowing them to spend power points to strengthen spells, and expend spell slots to boost their power’s effectiveness.


The Elocator is a highly mobile prestige class that never even has to touch the ground. They are always floating, and all of their class features focus on movement in some way. Additionally, they gain 7 levels of manifesting.


The Metamind is interesting in that it focuses on making your power points last, as opposed to making your powers stronger. It advances your power point pool at every level, but advances your powers known and maximum power level at 7 of its 10 levels. For a Wilder, this would mean that every one of its levels advances Wild Surge however. In return, this prestige class can store power points into a psicrystal to be used any time in the future, and can temporarily forget powers to gain extra power points. If your goal is to be a living battery, never running out of power points, this is the perfect prestige class for it. You sacrifice power for durability.


The Phrenic Slayer is a slayer of psionic creatures. They advance manifesting at 9/10 levels, gain one favored enemy that must be psionic in some way, and gains special mental defenses against her favored enemy.


The Psion Uncarnate is a prestige class focused on becoming disembodied psionic might. They gain 6/10 manifesting can become incorporeal for a very limited amount of time. As they advance in level, they become more adept as becoming incorporeal, and can affect the corporeality of nearby things and creatures. Finally, as their capstone, they become permanently incorporeal, and gain massive bonuses to their manifesting. They can return to being corporeal for a limited amount of time per day as well.


The Psionic Fist is basically a gish prestige class. It advances major monk class features and grants 8/10 manifester levels. They get a few other toys, such as DR/- as long as they maintain psionic focus, or the ability to spend 2 ki points to make an autohypnosis check to ignore damage taken (DC being twice the damage. OUCH).


Pyrokineticists can generate a flaming whip, gaining additional benefit if the character previously had soulknife levels. The class is unfocused, with almost every class feature having either no synergy with their other class features, or being unable to interact with their other class features. They can manipulate existing fire as to heal, create blinding fireworks, or create smoke clouds. Heck, they can even shoot fire for minimal damage.They can gain bonuses to unarmed attacks, and eventually being able to set themselves on fire once a day for a charisma buff and to gain a touch attack. This touch attack not having the strength, or range of their own touch attack whip, not able to be empowered by their unarmed attack bonuses. Eventually, they gain the ability to explode into flames, dealing a very good amount of damage and has a fairly easy to save against save-or-die attached. With no manifester levels and disjointed features, the Pyrokineticist is not a good prestige class.


The Thrallherd on the other hand, probably tops the power scale on prestige classes in this book. They gain 8/10 manifesting, pitiful skill points, but also get an ability similar to leadership, with the exception that these followers are totally under your control. Additionally, you get a thrall (similar to a cohort) under your control. They get discounts, and eventually free augments to the Mind Control power, and as a capstone (active at level 15) gain a second thrall. Both thralls are essentially cohort level in power, and all for the cost of losing 2 manifester levels. This is very strong, discounting that you also gain a small army of 1st-6th level followers loyal completely to you. As a GM, I would never allow this class to show up at my table.


The War Mind is a mighty martial gish, and mostly a prestige class for Psionic Warriors. They grant full BAB, and strong melee buffs including temporary increases to strength, constitution, and armor class. They gain a little bit of manifesting on their own, that does not stack with any manifesting from any other class. If they had prior Psionic Warrior Manifesting, then they can advance that instead of gaining their own separate manifesting.


Chapter 8 – Psionic Items: Here in the psionic items, many wonders are stored. First, the basics are covered with Psionic Armors and Weapons. Included are rules for creating psionic armor and weapons, which function as magic weapons and armor. There are also a few new enhancements, such as the Floating armor property, reducing the armor check penalty of a piece of armor to 0 for swimming and granting a +4 swim bonus on top of that. This enhancement was especially nifty for being a flat cost, instead of taking up a +1. Meanwhile, Heartening armor adds 720 gold to the cost of armor, but it can grant +5 temporary hit points once a day.


Cognizance crystals, which can be used to store power points. Stored points stay inside the crystal until used. You can’t use the stored points to augment a power that you are using your own power points for. Powers can only be used from one source at a time. Still, this is very nifty and highly balanced.


Dorjes, Powerstones, Psicrowns, and Psionic Tattoos which function as the psionic versions of wands, scrolls, staves, and potions, in that order.


There are a variety of magical items that allow the wearer to use a psionic power once a day, such as the Boots of Stomping, which allow the wearer to manifest the stomp power once per day. There are also items with more mundane powers, such as the Boots of Landing, which reduce your falling damage by 2d6 once per day.


Crawling Tattoos are similar to the psionic tattoos, but can be used offensively! When activated, instead of providing you with the benefits of a power, the tattoos crawls towards an enemy and effects them. These cannot be created with psyhcometabolism (Healing) or telepathy (Compulsion) powers. To be honest, these are really cool. They are basically offensive drone potions!


Of course, this book also contains psionic artifacts. The artifacts included all have interesting stories, and could easily be used as key plot elements. My favorite of these artifacts is Annulus, which is basically an ancient psionic nullifier that has the potential to cause great upheaval in any psionic setting.


The crafting rules for creating all of the items covered in this section, as well as 2 new materials for weapons and armor. Deep crystal and mundane crystal. Deep crystal costs 1000 extra gold when used to craft a weapon, but allows melee weapons to be charged with psionic power as a free action. For 2 power points, the weapon’s next hit within the next minute deals an extra 2d6 damage. Meanwhile, mundane crystal weapons and armor are automatically masterwork and cost as much as normal masterwork equipment. They provide no benefit, but look and sound very cool!


Chapter 9 – Psionic Monsters: The final chapter contains a variety of beasties ready to be thrown into any game. Here the psionic subtype, psi-like abilities, undead psionic creatures, and creatures with psionic powers are explained as well. The most interesting and dangerous creatures contained in this bestiary are the Phrenic Hegemony. These otherworldly (otherplanar?) invaders come to conquer, destroy, and collect breeding stock from whatever planet they come across. They multiply by implanting larvae in creatures that make their way into the brain of their victim, eating it and killing them. These vile creatures also have mind-controlling slug minions called puppeteers to gather bodies and brains for their masters. Truly a horror to think of, and truly a great foe for any group of players.


Of course, there is more to this chapter than the Phrenic Hegemony. In fact, there are creatures of most CRs available in this book that provide a variety of challenges. The monsters in this bestiary are creative, and unlike any monster I’ve seen in a Pathfinder book.


Glossary: The last few pages of this book are a glossary, defining the many terms found in this book one more time. This is a very nice addition, and is rarely done.


Overall:Psionics Unleashed is a fantastic book. It was great before it was remade, but with all of these new additions, it has become complete. Despite having 2 less than stellar prestige classes, this book manages to be one of the most fun products I have ever read. As both a GM and a player, I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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