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Psionic Bestiary
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/18/2014 08:49:36
If you are running a campaign in which psionics feature, it only stands to reason that you'll want some psionic monsters to throw at the characters... and even if none of the characters are psionic, it can prove an interesting challenge to give them psionic opposition (cue evil GM chuckle).

Laid out in standard monster format, but repleate with additional information to help you adapt each one to your precise needs, this is a useful collection of critters that share the common characteristic of being psionic or at least able to wield psionic-like abilities. There are even some undead psionic entities - a mind-wrenching idea, as like all undead they are immune to mind-influencing effects even when capable of exerting them themselves!

And it's got the brain mole! Not sure quite why, but I delight in them! My players had better watch out :)

The various constructs and automata are fascinating as well. Many of the creatures are outsiders, leaving it open to you to introduce them as alien visitors to a non-psionic campaign world if that's what you run. Alternatively, you might decide that only certain creatures in your world are psionic - dragons might be a good choice, and there's plenty of material here to support such a concept.

It's a fascinating selection which should enhance any campaign in which psionics occur, however common or rare you decide that they are.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary
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Path of War: The Warder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/17/2014 03:36:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Path of War-series is 45 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 42 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Okay, one thing out of the way - I assume at this point that you're familiar with the terminology of PoW, that you are aware that now per-encounter abilities have a precisely in-game defined time-frame and that PoW does NOT represent standard Pathfinder-balance - the aim of this series is to add power to martial characters, with special martial-arts style maneuvers and new classes. This means that balance, by design, is different from what you'd get in regular PFRPG. I'm not going to criticize the increased power of these characters, since that's the design-goal. Relevant for DMs would be the fact that with these guys around, war of attrition no longer works - since maneuvers can be (with some actions required to regain them) performed ad infinitum, resource-depletion as a strategy akin to dealing with spellcasters no longer works with PoW - or at least, is significantly less effective. This caveat out of the way, If you're interested in the basics, check out my previous PoW-reviews.



That out of the way, let's take a look at the difficult concept of a defensive warrior, herein exemplified by the new warder base-class. Warders get d12, 4+Int skills per level, good fort and will-saves, full BAB-progression, proficiency with all armors and all shields and start game with 5 maneuvers known, 3 readied and 1 known stance. Over the 10 levels, these expand to 16 maneuvers known, 10 readied and 6 stances. Maneuvers expended can also be regained by this class in a unique way, by entering the so-called defensive focus. First, there is a passive benefit - warders get the combat reflexes feat and use int-mod instead of dex-mod to determine AoOs per round. Recovering maneuvers as a full-round action, the warder gets an interesting ability - he sets up a defensive perimeter, threatening an additional 5 ft., + another 5ft. per 5 initiator levels (not sure whether that's intended and shouldn't be CLASS levels instead - multiclassing warder/warlord/stalker and having this one grow at full force seems excessive to me). Until the beginning of the warder's next turn, he may make AoOs against targets provoking them in this increased perimeter. The warder may still move as part of these AoO, but only up to his speed - this feels a bit powerful when compared to similar defensive builds, but I guess that's intended. Finally, the warder imposes a penalty equal to class level + int-mod to acrobatics-checks made to prevent AoOs from the warder. At 10th level, this becomes worse - the warder's threatened area becomes difficult terrain for foes and his own movements don't provoke AoOs anymore when in defensive focus.



Not provoking any AoOs by moving anymore can break A LOT of builds - which doesn't seem so bad. Want to see these get truly scary? Reach weapon + creature with reach + size-increase (the latter especially for PCs) - deadly. I'm seriously not sure whether +25 ft. reach IN ADDITION to all the reach-increasing tricks out there isn't...well...insane.



Warders also increase their ally's defenses by mere proximity, granting a +1 morale bonus to AC and will-saves to all allies within 10 ft., scaling up to +5 at 17th level and increasing range to up to 30 ft. Nothing to complain about the defensive aura here. At 2nd level, the Warder also gets an ability called Armiger's Mark -usable 1/2 class level + int-mod times per day, and no more often simultaneously than against 3+int-mod targets, as a free action, warders damaging foes may mark them to force them to attack the warder for warder's int-mod rounds at -4 (scaling up to -8) to atk and with a spell failure chance increased by 10% +1% per 2 levels. No save. Which brings me to an issue here - I GET the idea of this ability - it's intended to force a target to attack the warder (and not the healing-spamming cleric/druid/oracle). I actually applaud that! What I don't like is that there's no scaling, no success/failure-dichotomy here - personally, I think the ability would be more rewarding (and exciting and balanced), if the target got a save to negate the penalties imposed by the mark BUT NOT the ability's crux, i.e. still have to attack the target. Now at 9th level, a warder can expend two uses of this ability to impose the penalty to all creatures within 30 ft. on a failed will-save for int-mod rounds. While being limited by a save and being language-dependant (meaning unlike the mark, it does not work against animals etc.), I still think that this debuff as a free action is a bit excessive. At 16th level, warders may regain maneuvers by dropping marked foes to 0 hp.



The class also receives a bonus combat (or teamwork) feat at 3rd level and every 5th level thereafter. At fourth level, warders may use int instead of dex to calculate their ref-saves and initiative (making them essentially a 3 good save-class - which is excessive). In contrast, reducing armor check penalty by 2 over the whole class feels not that impressive. Personally, I'd nerf the former ability and improve the latter - also to allow for slightly more varied char-builds - i.e. dexterous warders instead of strong warders.



Extended defense unfortunately doesn't work - 1/day (+1/day every 3 levels) as an immediate action, warders may designate a counter readied, which the warder may then execute as a free action at will until the start of his next turn. The thing is - free actions can't be RAW performed when it's not your turn. So we have a conundrum here - also regarding the counter itself; It *could* be spammed infinitely since there is no caveat there - if one presumes a free action to work also on another's turn (which it doesn't), action economy gets all jumbled for the counters (not to start with implications for other free action tricks of other classes...). A more elegant solution would have imho be to simply allow the ability to let the warder execute the counter at will as a substitute to regular AoOs provoked by his opponents - simple, elegant and sans this action economy labyrinth the ability opens.



At 7th level, warders can expend one use of their mark to expend int-mod readied maneuvers and replace them with an equal amount of known maneuvers as a full-round action. At 15th level, a warder may make fort-saves against the atk that would reduce him to 0 hp or below and instead have an item absorb the damage, potentially getting the broken condition...per se cool. The problem is, what happens to indestructible armor/artifacts etc.? Seriously, a warder with these is a force to be reckoned with... while not 100% foolproof, at 15th level, the ability comes late enough to make me still consider okay. In direct comparison, gaining +int-mod to AC versus crit-confirmation rolls at 19th level feels rather anticlimactic. The capstone again is rather epic though, allowing the maintaining of defensive focus as a move action, while also netting aegis bonuses, immunities and preventing death from hit point damage - he is "unable to die from hit point damage" - each round consumes aegis marks, though, and at the end of this ability, he's exhausted, which can only be cured by rest. per se cool...but: The warder's immortal via hit point damage - so far, so good. Does that mean that a 200 hp dragon-flame blast hitting the warder simply does no damage or that he can't die from it if his hp are down to 49? What after the blast? Assuming the warder would die at -16 hp, would he be at -15 hp and unconscious (meaning the ability would cease immediately?)? Would said warder be stable or die the next round on a failed check? Or is the warder locked at 0 hp and staggered? Or is the warder's hp locked at 1hp for the duration of the ability? Some clarification would help make this cool capstone really awesome...



All right, next up would once again be the short primer on the Knowledge (martial) skill (still sans info which non-PoW-classes should get it as a class skill...) and new (and old) feats from the PoW. So let's see how these fare! General feats to specialize on disciplines, learning more maneuvers etc. and letting other classes wilder among the maneuvers presented as well as offering the finesse etc. feats already known from the previous installments. The feats also include one that doubles the duration of the aegis mark ability. One feat. Doubled duration. Even within PoW, this is BROKEN. Extra marks is okay - as is the option to make foes demoralized and marked flee from you (which is probably smart - two massive debuffs don't make for a good melee...) and finally, the feat that nets temporary hp in exchange for a penalty with full attacks is back; While not broken, it's also not particularly awesome - it's essentially a free array of temp hit points as long as full attacks are performed, which makes for a very strange in-game logic indeed...



Next up would be the maneuvers - Golden Lion and Primal Fury you'll know from the Warlord (covered in my review there), Broken Blade from the Stalker (ditto) - but there's also a new discipline, namely Iron Tortoise. I will ONLY cover Iron Tortoise in this review.

Iron Tortoise's associated skill is Bluff and it requires proficiency with shields. This discipline is defensive in nature - which I applaud. I also enjoy that NONE of the maneuvers uses a skill check for attack-mechanic! Yeah! One of the most powerful counters allows the initiator to make an opposed attack roll + shield bonus versus the incoming attack as an immediate action - success negates the incoming attack, while failure still nets you a DR of 50/- against it. Yeah. Ouch - but the true joke is - not that much better than the level 6 version, which does essentially the same, but "only" nets DR 20/- on a failure.

Remember that this ability can be refreshed relatively easily. See what I meant in the beginning with PoW adhering to a different power level than standard Pathfinder? Still, within PoW's frame. Another boost of the discipline allows the initiator to heap cumulative penalties against targets other than you upon foes for each successful attack you hit them with. What's fundamentally broken is burnished shell - which renders all spells requiring attacks utterly useless - by succeeding an attack against CASTER LEVEL (lol, 5? 10? Even for 20 - The discipline cannot possibly fail this one!), the maneuver negates the targeted spell. Disintegrate? Pfff! The check is the same for all spell levels! Its DC is ridiculously low at ANY level range! Oh, the maneuver is LEVEL 3. Seriously? Even in PoW's increased power-level, this is utterly, completely INSANE. Not all maneuvers have problems, though - whirlwind shield-bashing foes? Yeah - works and is cool. I also LOVE that there's a maneuver that lets you add shield-bonus to fort and ref-saves against specific attacks- simply because that's one of the iconic things that shields ought to be able to do: Fireball incoming: Hiding behind the shield may save you from being burnt to a crisp! Yeah, that one works neat! Another high-level attack I like can attack multiple foes with one shield bash and massive bonus damage, knocking foes back! an opposing attack roll including movement to negate attacks on allies also works rather neatly! In contrast the shield bash attack to negate incoming non-spell/power attack-level 1 counter once again somewhat rubs me the wrong way, though here mainly because of the d20 vs. d20 fluctuation. This is a matter of personal preference, though, and unlike the skill vs. attack complaining I did (which does have massive issues), attack vs. attack will not cause me to rate this pdf down.



I do like the stance that makes your armor count as one step lighter, shield throwing and yes, the inevitable defensive position-style stance. Overall, I have surprisingly few issues with the whole discipline and consider it perhaps the best one so far...if you can deal with one concept.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches, though here and there ambiguities have slipped past rules-editing. Layout adheres to DSP's two-column standard and artworks are mostly thematically-fitting stock-art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Chris Bennett's growth as an author is quite interesting to observe - the warder feels more concise than the previous classes and makes for a very interesting take on the defensive fighter, with a lot of interesting abilities and some rather cool ideas. That being said, while it doesn't fail the kitten-test this time around, there are some rough edges in this class as well, though decidedly less than before.



The same can be said about Iron Tortoise - gone from this discipline are the 3.X-relics, all vanished in favor of more PFRPG-oriented mechanics. While personally, I'm not a fan of opposed attack rolls (why not resolve it versus opponent's CMD?), I can live with attack versus attack since they adhere to the same scaling mechanism and thus can be balanced against each other. The vast majority of the discipline works rather well and while there are some components which can use some balance-tweaking, overall, within the increased power-level of PoW, I can see it working well.



This pdf is the so far most refined Path of War installment. That being said, as written, one can create a terror-inducing tank indeed - I could hand this to one of my players and get a strong, but balanced character. Much like the other PoW-books, I could also hand this to one of my number-wizards (get it? spellcaster-analogue...Okay, I'll hit myself now and put 2 bucks in the bad-pun-jar) and they'd utterly break balance with the other classes.



So overall...Yes, there's some filing off of rough edges to still be done here - though less than before. Another note I feel I should mention would be the concept of aggro - many abilities herein force foes to attack certain targets and reward/penalize certain actions on behalf of the warder's foes. While personally, I don't necessarily mind the concept (though I'd penalize the hell out of a player not properly rping WHY s/he draws the foe's ire/how s/he interposes her/himself into attacks!), I can imagine certain DMs being annoyed by this - I'm mentioning this primarily because two of my playtesters were exceedingly annoyed by this. It should also be noted that this class is VERY linear; Not much choices class-option-wise.



How to rate this, then? I actually like the class abilities (and, even if the class isn't revised/further streamlined, will scavenge the hell out of it!), but some of them as written, require some finetuning. The same goes for the new maneuvers, some of which vastly outclass others in power/usefulness. The good news here is that these glitches, unlike previous complaints I had in the series, can be VERY EASILY fixed - they require no incision into central mechanics or the like and boil down to minor fixes, though the amount does accumulate. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 -with the caveat that if you mind neither the glitches I noted, nor the strength or the aggro-drawing concept, you should DEFINITELY round up to 4 stars instead. A moderately talented DM can smoothen the rough edges him/herself.



One final promise - I *will* revisit ALL maneuvers in the final, inevitable compilation and once again see whether this series manages to become the legendary book it sets out to be or whether the minor rough edges remain.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Warder
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Psionic Bestiary: Part 9
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/28/2014 03:15:15
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 9th part of the Psionic Bestiary is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We kick off this mini-bestiary with a new CR 5, tentacle-mouthed monstrous humanoid with emergent brain lobes, the Brataurus, who can emit wis-damage dealing screams and worse, they actually feed on said damage, healing themselves. Cool!



The CR 3 Dedrakon, a scaled predator that adds crystal shackles to their prey via their attacks, which increase in movement-hampering potency the more creatures are shackled with them - oh, and they can emit roars to paralyze shackled foes on a failed save - throw these in groups, add some hit and run-tactics/feats and watch them squirm. And yes, the base creature is inspiring enough for me to actually do that.



At CR2, the 3-eyes lizard-like Dulah-humanoids have a nice ability - they can barf their treasure at foes! Since my version of the dire beaver barfed splinters at foes, yes, I do like that one!



At CR 6 and 8 respectively, the Ensnared Earth Elementals and their Greater cousins are glorious - part elemental, part plant, they may strike through stone and ground those nasty fliers with psionically chargeable pulses of gravity! Awesome!



At CR 2, the somewhat ferret/cat-like Ferax have some nice minor psi-like abilities and can emit bolstering hums. Finally, at CR 3, the bat-like, winged, one-eyed Reva can manipulate objects, target foes with force damage and are superb spies indeed that can detect sentient, sapient life-forms. Nice spies for the BBeG - or your PCs, for these "builder bats" are actually LN and rather intelligent!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though I did notice minor typo-level glitches, nothing rules-problematic. The pdf adheres to DSP's 2-column full-color layout, with bookmarks being there, but broken (and unnecessary at this length) and the artworks for the creatures, all in full-color, being simply WEIRD and awesome. Add to that the lack of glaring glitches in the math - and we also get in that department, one damn impressive little bestiary!



Authors Jeremy Smith, Andreas Rönnqvist, Dale McCoy Jr. (commander in chief of Jon Brazer Enterprises) and Jade Ripley deliver a bunch of psionic creatures that are just fun - each one coming with at least one cool signature ability and production values to supplement their unique abilities as well as with the more than fair price point, this bestiary can be considered 5 star material indeed - which also reflects my final verdict, omitting my seal only by a margin.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary: Part 9
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Psionic Bestiary: Six Monsters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2014 09:34:49
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psionic Bestiary-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction,1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages, so let's check out those beasts!



The first critter would be the Azrathid at CR 3 - a truly deadly psionic ambush predator with a truly NASTY paralysis-inducing poison - nice, in spite of being sans signature ability: The combination of psi-like abilities makes these work!



Next would be the CR 6 Brain Worm - body horror indeed: These worms try to subdue you and then, burrow into your flesh, wrap around your spine and then extend tendrils into your brain. And yes, you're essentially dead if the parasite can't be extracted, gaining the infected host template. A per se cool creature, though I wished it had some intrinsic way of actually making its prey helpless- guess host bodies and pummeling foes into submission will have to do, though bleeding out and no heal-skill to stabilize prey on the side of the worm make assuming new bodies somewhat ineffective.



At CR 5, corpse beetle-swarms may emit a drone that makes flying impossible and if swarms weren't bad enough, these critters also make you shakened on a failed save...ouch. Oh, and the, much like aforementioned worm, have a connection to a creature called Skull Thrasher (CR 7, btw.) - which is the final part of the life-cycle of this strange being - first a beetle, then a worm, then a skull with an attached spinal cord suffused by tendrils and an otherworldly intellect that can control its lesser brethren - over all, quite a cool creature array and rather disturbing in the fun, mind-flayer-way.



At CR 4, the Ghaar, monstrous-looking, psionic plants are a dying breed - bereft of their racial heart tree, these beings may have necromantic powers, they may be damaged by positive energy and yes, they can hurt themselves to inflict damage upon you - but if you get to know them sans dying, they aren't so bad...



Finally, at CR 9, there's the Mathra Tree - think essentially hang-man's tree psionic cousin and you'll get what these do - entangling vines, charm-like effect, neurotoxins - nice, if not particularly special.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to DSP's background-less two-column full-color standard and each creature herein gets a stunning, awesome piece of original full-color artwork - kudos! The pdf comes sans bookmarks, but doesn't need any at this length.

Andreas Rönnqvist, Jeremy Smith and Michael Pixton did a neat job here, offering a nice cadre of psionic creatures - I particularly liked the Gathra, surprisingly the Azrathid and the idea behind the 3 monsters connected by the life-cycle, though I'm not 100% wowed by the respective execution of them - there's nothing particularly wrong with them, but I still feel the worms and skull thrashers could have used some minor fine-tuning/unique tools of the trade. All in all, still a great little bestiary, well worth the fair asking price - final verdict? 4 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary: Six Monsters
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Path of War: The Warlord
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2014 03:21:05
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Path of War-series is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 49 pages of content, so let's take a look...



...wait. Since my review of The Stalker was met with downright hostility by some people (but not the designers, I should add!), let me make some things clear: I have excessive experience with To9S. And while I loved the basic concepts, its flaws became abundantly clear in game. One caveat DM's ought to have in mind when using PoW is that the classes herein are INTENDED as a power boost. Multiple d6-bonus damage, attack negation etc. is beyond the capabilities of regular martial characters and since their abilities can universally be refreshed infinite times, these tricks can be pulled off more often than the spells of a caster, thus making a DM's war of attrition as a tool much less effective. So no, we're not looking at regular PFRPG-balancing here. In short: DMs should be aware that PoW increases the power-level of the party.

Path of War has established, as a spiritual successor, a superior take on the concept of To9S, one that works much more streamlined.



Why do I consider it superior? Take the refreshing of maneuvers: By allowing for actions, i.e. concisely defined time-frames, as a means to refresh maneuvers, the classes are more in line with the in-world logic. I consider per-encounter refreshing of abilities, pardon my language, stupid, since it makes no sense in-game - an encounter can span any duration from 1 round to, hypothetically, hours and is a metagame concept that makes in-game no sense.

...

Or rather: MADE. Path of War is SMART - we actually now GET a concise in-game definition of per-encounter abilities, one THAT MAKES SENSE in-game!!! Yes, you can now put away your axes.

This takes care of an unpleasant relic from the 3.X days and streamlines the whole system. Excellent. I already explained the basic system, just in case you're not familiar with it - essentially, Path of War wants to bring martial characters more in line with the casters, allowing them to use martial maneuvers, essentially supernatural martial abilities that they can use to destroy their opposition. These maneuvers have different sub-categories: Boosts tend to buff/debuff as instant effects, stances are maintained and offer bonuses as long as they're active and strikes are special attacks. Finally, there are counters, which you can usually use as a reaction to attacks etc. - many of these utilize immediate or swift actions, which means as a player, you ought to be rather familiar with these types of actions to properly plan your action economy.



Another caveat before I FINALLY start the review - the goal of Path of War is a power-upgrade for martial characters. As such, I will not reference other martial classes in direct comparison - PoW-classes, by design, are supposed to be superior, something DMs ought to bear in mind. That means, my balancing complaints, should any come up, do not refer to the power-level assumed by CORE-martial characters, but rather to potential issues within the frame of PoW. I, of course, will otherwise be the obnoxious complainer about any issues that I see. Got that? Awesome!



So let's take a look at the Warlord! The warlord gets d10, 4+Int skills per level, good fort-saves, full BAB-progression, proficiency with light and medium armor, bucklers and simple/martial weapons. They start with 1 stance, 6 maneuvers known, 4 maximum maneuvers readied and expand these to 18 maneuvers known, 11 readied and 6 stances at 20th level. Now I've already touched upon regaining maneuvers and the warlord may regain an expended maneuvers as a standard action... or the warlord may use a so-called warlord's gambit.



Each gambit can be initiated as a swift action and consists of 3 components, a risk, a rake and a reward. The gambit describes a risk, an action the warlord must undertake. If the action is successful, the reward of the gambit kicks in, thus rewarding combat behavior that is not the "I attack routine" - cool. When succeeding the gambit, the warlord regains cha-mod, min 2 maneuvers. If he fails, he only regains one maneuver. If a maneuver helps a warlord accomplish a given task, it should be noted that it can used to succeed in the gambit by initiating it. However, a gambit cannot be used to refresh a maneuver that is expended as part of the gambit, thus preventing the looping of maneuvers. Warlords start the game with 2 gambits chosen from a list of 15 and gain another one at 4th level and every 4 levels after that. Now if a warlord fails at a gambit, s/he incurs a penalty of -2 to d20 rolls for one round - which seems harsh, however, one should bear in mind that ANY d20-roll required to succeed at a gambit (be it skill, CMB/attack/whatever) gets the warlord's cha-bonus as a luck bonus, which can be quite a significant bonus - for many 1st level warlords this will probably mean at least +3, more realistically +4 or even +5 - which is more than an improved xyz-feat would grant.

Generally, I think this somewhat undermines the point behind gambits - refreshing maneuvers, especially at low levels, should not entail such significant bonuses: To compare: A paladin's smite evil would apply in a similar manner to the attack and is limited in daily use. And yes, I am aware that the smite's bonus damage is the primary benefit of the ability, but still. Gambits do have some limits, though -they can only be used once per encounter. Some gambits also provide benefits to allies within 60 feet - for example, when using dastardly gambit, a warlord tries to use dirty trick. If s/he succeeds, s/he and all allies get the warlord's cha-mod to a single attack against the target in the next round. Other gambits allow you to follow up on successful combat maneuvers initiated via gambits to follow up with an AoO against the target, usually with +cha-mod bonus damage.

Granted, the gambits do not offer AoO-free combat maneuvers, but also, their risk is often rather minor - Pinhole Gambit requires the warlord to make a ranged attack into melee, with one feat rather easy and with a decent cha-mod, it even makes precise shot not necessarily required. Additionally, the foe takes a penalty equal to the warlord's cha-mod to AC for a round if the gambit succeeds.



I LOVE gambits - their concept is downright friggin' AWESOME. How do you get players to play more risky, more diverse? Offer them actual incentive to do. Tying the whole process to maneuver replenishing is a win-win - make more interesting combat decisions and be rewarded for it by getting to do more of your favorite tricks. This mechanic rewards planning and smart playing and that is always good in book. However (I can hear the "boos" as I'm typing this), I do think the system needs some fine-tuning. Why? Because there currently is simply no reason NOT to gambit. At low levels, cha-mod as a bonus is a huge thing in itself, even before the additional benefits come into play. Let's take the pinhole gambit as an example, shall we? So, a warlord starts the gambit to shoot into melee. If the warlord doesn't have precise shot, the cha-mod of Cha 18 would completely offset the penalty for shooting into melee, if he does have the feat, we're looking at a +4 bonus to atk. If the attack hits, the target incurs a -4 penalty to AC. Furthermore, our warlord would regain 4 expended maneuvers upon hitting. This is the success criteria. The failure criteria would be to incur a -2 penalty to all d20-rolls for 1 round. Yes, this trick can only be pulled off once per encounter (thus no complaint in that regard), but it is, especially at first level, a VERY powerful trick. Still, not enough to make me yell OP...at least in the context of PoW.



What does irk me about it, would be that the system seems to somewhat deconstruct its intent - as far as I've understood, the intention of gambits would be to reward risks in certain contexts, but the penalty on failure feels like it is not in a significant relation to the rewards. Due to not scaling both benefits and drawbacks, the former start off as strong, whereas the latter become more and more insignificant over the levels. This becomes especially apparent when taking a look at acrobatic gambit, which rewards an acrobatics check through a threatened square by dealing +1d6+cha-mod damage upon a successful attack. At first level, that can be rather impressive, double damage even. At let's say, level 10, I can't imagine anyone being impressed by this -especially since CMD for acrobatics-DCs scales differently (i.e. more rapidly) than AC (as per pinhole gambit) does. Now apart from this rather different scaling (and thus, diverging utility of the gambits), I do think that right now, there is simply no reason not to use a gambit if you can...ever. After all, you only get -2 to all d20-rolls (which is unpleasant at low levels, but there are worse debuffs out there) and still regain one of your signature tricks. And this relative minor consequence for failure detracts from the potential of the whole concept - if the penalties (and benefits!) did scale and were at least a bit more severe at higher levels, their significant benefits would make enacting a gambit no less rewarding, but actually more exciting for the player - can s/he pull off the gambit and regain her arsenal or be kicked in the shins, only regaining a portion of his/her arsenal? That would be the situation where the whole group holds the breath and stares at the dice as they roll...



Another issue would be that two gambits fail the kitten-test: Brave gambit requires you to charge a foe, then nets all allies your cha-mod as bonus to their first attack. You could throw a kitten in the field, initiate a gambit against said kitten dies horribly, which emboldens your allies. Weird that here, among all gambits, the tie of the bonus to the target of the gambit has been forgotten. Second failed kitten-test: Deadeye Gambit. Initiate a called shot against a kitten. He and all allies within 60 feet gain cha-mod hit points. While this infinite AoE-healing via shooting kittens, takes long due to the definition of per-encounter in concise terms, it's probably still an oversight not intended and makes potions of healing and similar low-level healing items completely obsolete.

Another nitpick I have here would be with the bonuses granted to allies as part of successful gambits - as per the writing of this, they are universally untyped and thus stack with other sources. They probably should be labeled as luck-bonuses (like the one the warlord gets when executing a gambit) or as morale bonuses (which would make more sense to me) - in either case, they would prevent stacking with defense buffs and thus make the whole gambit-system more streamlined. To cut a long ramble short: Glorious class feature that could use some streamlining both in its system and in balance between the ranged and maneuver/melee gambits.



Beyond gambits, warlords may, at 2nd level a warlord may maintain a so-called presence as a move action (free action starting at 7th level) - there is no choice here, the progression of presences is linear. Not that you wouldn't take the second level presence: All allies within 30 feet get the Diehard-feat and + warlord's cha-mod to saves against death effects, fatigue/exhaustion and poison effects as a morale bonus. Yeah. That means, for a significant amount of effects, the allies get the equivalent (again, presuming a cha 18 warlord) the equivalent of Inspire Heroics, a level 15 bardic performance. More if the cha is higher. Okay, I can see the tighter focus on which saves this is applied to as a mitigating factor. Paladin's get their SU aura at 3rd level, after all...the aura that nets allies +4 to saves against fear. Within 10 feet. Okay, I won't compare those two, though presence is Ex and thus not subject to antimagic fields. What does irk me, beyond that would be the warlord's presence neither requiring line of sight, nor actions to maintain. nor audible or visual components - there is simply no way to negate it. RAW, the presence doesn't even stop if the warlord drops unconscious or is paralyzed. The ability also fails to specify whether allies already unconscious get to choose whether to benefit from diehard upon the warlord using the presence or upon falling to/below 0 hp. What if an ally is unconscious and the presence is initiated? Does the unconscious character get to choose whether to remain lying or start acting as per the feat or are only conscious allies eligible to receive the bonus?



At 5th level, a warlord may use rallying presence to add his cha-mod as a bonus to will-saves of allies versus fear, death or compulsion effects within 30 ft. The overlap with death effects here is a bit strange, as is the fact that this presence, though received later, can actually be interrupted. At 11th level, 2 of the presences can be maintained at the same time and at 15th level, all 3 may be maintained at the same time - bear in mind that these are morale bonuses, though and thus the overlaps between the first two don't stack.

The final presence works - starting at 9th level, the warlord and all nearby allies within 30 feet get character level + cha-mod temporary hp upon the warlord being reduced to 0 hp. at this point, the action to enter the presence is a free action. HOWEVER, as Caedwyr pointed out (yes, I did not catch that one), the reflexive nature of the presence doesn't work - free action can only be taken upon one's turn. While the ability uses the word "immediately" in the wording, it does NOT state that receiving the benefits of this presence requires any actions. As written, the presence can be adopted as a free action, but does nothing until its conditions are met. I'm not entirely sure whether the intention was to make this presence available reflexively or not - in dubio pro reo, though, so I'll assume the ability works as intended.



At 3rd level, the Warlord gets the Warleader ability, which translates to receiving a teamwork feat that the warlord, as a standard action (later as a move action and even as a swift action), can share with allies. Alternatively, the warlord can thus benefit from an ally's teamwork feat - for a total of 3+cha-mod rounds. The ability can be used 1+cha-mod times per day. The warlord also learns to add cha-mod to will-saves at 3rd level and later, when flanking foes, instead of the net +2, warlord and ally flanking a foe get +cha-mod instead of +2 to atk. The warlord also gets a bonus to atk and damage when using a weapon associated with a fighting style when in a stance of said style.



At 6th level, warlords learn to execute 2 boosts as a swift action 1/day, +1/day every 6 levels after that, use aid another for allies at range with cha-mod instead of the standard bonus. As a capstone, a warlord may enter two stances simultaneously.



After that, we are introduced to the Knowledge (martial) skill to identify maneuvers etc. - nice one, though I hope the final book will offer information on which non-PoW-classes ought to get this as a class skill. Next up would be new feats, 17, to be precise. 6 of these allow non-PoW-classes to wilder in PoW-maneuvers. Of course, expected feats can be found - for example one to learn more maneuvers/stances, one that nets you another gambit, an extra maneuver or a focus on a discipline and its weapons that increases saving DCs and weapon damage. Increased damage for unarmed attacks (significant for non-monks), entering both a style and a martial stance via the same swift action - all possible. Deadly Agility, which allows you to add dex-mod to damage instead of str-mod when using a finesse weapon also deserves mention, as does a feat that allows you to finesse double weapons. Another feat allows you to 1/day regain a maneuver as a free action. There also is essentially an improved version of quick draw and a feat called martial power. This one allows you to incur a -1 penalty to melee atk and CMB-checks to gain 2 temporary hit points. This increases by -1 and +2 temporary hit points when your BAB reaches +3 and every +2 thereafter. The temporary hit points increase by 50% if you wield a shield. You may only use this feat as part of a melee attack or when initiating a maneuver. Temp hit points only last one turn, but the feat doubles as an alternative combat expertise. All in all, solid, since its limit means it does not fail the kitten test.



Now let's get a broad overview of the maneuvers, shall we? If you have the Stalker-pdf, you'll notice that both the thrashing dragon and solar wind disciplines also are available for the warlord. They also get access to the Golden Lion, Scarlet Throne and Primal Fury disciplines. It should be noted that among these, only the scarlet throne has an equipment restriction - the maneuvers require the initiator to have a shield, buckler or ring of force shield in order to initiate the maneuvers. The Golden lion discipline can be hearkened to the White Raven of the To9S, focusing on buffing allies and charging into battle, allowing the initiator to provide additional flexibility to the respective ally. Additional 5 ft. steps and even move actions for allies resulting from your attacks are distinct possibilities for adherents of the golden lion, as is the initiative moving of allies that at my table, once was rather well-liked. Primal Fury on the other hand, surprisingly often is about destroying the weaponry of foes, coming off as a combination of martial arts and a fighting style reminiscent of savage battle skills, whereas scarlet throne is defensive, but also allows for quite some celerity while moving around the field of battle.



So...I actually have good news to report - no insta-death effects. And only a couple of the new maneuvers herein follow the "make an opposed skill-check versus attack roll"-formula. As I've mentioned before in various contexts, I consider skill-roll versus atk/AC not optimal. Skills had been easy to buff in 3.X, and they're more easily buffed in Pathfinder. Don't believe me? Look for items that net you a significant skill-bonus, note the cost and then find an item that nest the same bonus to atk or AC. Note the price of that item. Compare. Same goes for spells. Yeah, note a slight discrepancy there? Also: Note how many bonuses to said skills granted by magic items are untyped and how many different slots grant those bonuses...much more stacking potential than atk/CMB.



I can see the outrage flare up again "You hate on the key concept of To9S 1111eleven!!!" No, I don't. The basic concept is maneuvers and using them/managing them, not rolling a skill versus something that adheres to completely different scaling-mechanisms, also regarding treasure/WBL/buff-spells. "But this is required to maintain the feel of Path of War!" No, it's not - take a look at Golden Lion. A grand total of ONE counter uses diplomacy versus attack roll. ONE counter. Other than that, the discipline is completely free of the d20 versus d20-roll/skill-check using relics. Two of the primal fury maneuvers use survival. Unfortunately, scarlet throne relatively heavily relies on sense motive versus x. I'm not getting into the perception/solar wind stuff or thrashing dragon/acrobatics. I particularly object to "roll skill x to negate attack z"-maneuvers. They are essentially better evasions against more common attacks, exceedingly easily buffed through the roof with inexpensive items.

Some of the maneuvers herein could also use some minor clarification, unfortunately also sometimes tied to said skill versus X-mechanics. Take thrashing dragon's devastation roll: Here's the text:



"The martial disciple’s movements are so quick and precise, his deadly strikes are hard to evade. With a sudden twist and Acrobatics through the opponent’s defenses, the disciple strikes hard into the exposed and undefended foe. The initiator must move at least 10 ft. alongside his opponent and make a Acrobatics check equal to the target’s AC. If successful, the target is considered flat-footed until his next action due to being put off-balance from the strike, and the attack inflicts an additional 6d6 points of damage."



So...what does "alongside" mean? I *assume* it means the target moves through two squares adjacent to the target, which would mean that an acrobatics-check against the opponent's CMD per threatened square, CMD +10 when moving full speed for half speed movement. But is this acrobatics-check in addition to the one the maneuver calls for? If so, why? Why is AC the opposing value, not CMD as per the standard of moving through threatened squares? Does the maneuver's use of acrobatics incur AoOs or doesn't it? Also: Why not simply use the CMD/CMD+5-formula standard in acrobatics?



Another example for a maneuver that could use a bit (literally - just one word...) of rephrasing would be Primal Fury's Panthera on the Hunt - per se a cool strike - full round action, charge at +2 (for a total of +4) and it ignores "attacks of opportunity from moving through a threatened square." I assume this means ONE threatened square, not ALL in the charge. If so, then please specify this and also, please denote whether the initiator can freely choose which square doesn't provoke the AoO.



It should be noted, though, that the VAST MAJORITY of the maneuvers actually work sans such clunky mechanics and do a MUCH BETTER job at utilizing Pathfinder-streamlined rules...at least the new ones.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good - while I noticed a typo and relic here and there, the vast majority of the pdf is concisely-written and well-edited. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with original pieces of art and stock being mixed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a second, printer-friendly version.



So...Path of War: The Warlord. I'll be honest. After the stalker, I did not look forward to reviewing this one. I was consigned to being "that guy who hates on PoW", in spite of actually believing in the concept and trying to help make it better. After reading this pdf, I was pleasantly surprised - I said it in my review of the stalker - Chris Bennett is a talented designer...and here it shows, even more so than with the stalker. There are reasons for this claim:



Number 1: Per encounter is concisely defined, maintaining in-game logic. Great! Number 2: "Skill vs. X"-rolls obviously aren't required for PoW - in fact, I am of the certain conviction that the system can perfectly work without them. The decrease in their prominence is a promising factor in favor of the system and its streamlining within established PFRPG-rules.



Beyond that, the warlord as a class is just...rewarding as all hell. The capable, cool commander is a neat trope and the warlord is great at fulfilling it...though it does have its rough edges. Even within the increased power-level presumed by PoW, the presence-abilities need to be knocked down a notch. As written, they are extremely powerful when compared to similar effects, both among spells and class features by casters and martials alike, not starting with them requiring no actions to maintain or somatic/visual components.



The gambit system is a stroke of brilliance, but as written above, I think that the risk/reward-ratio is off, somewhat negating what the system tries to do - instead of being a tension-inducing choice for the players to actively make, right now it feels more or less like a non-maneuver maneuver, a cooldown that's actually a defensive maneuver in disguise, if you will. Add to that the fact that the gambits vary more than a bit in strength and we have a couple of strikes against the pdf, even when assuming PoW's increased power level. Some sort of scaling instead of fixed bonuses would make these components much more useful (and balanced over the levels).



But not enough to put this pdf in the box. Overall, we have a massive improvement over the last PoW I looked at and generally, a superior book that shows A LOT of promise. I sincerely hope that some of the rough edges will be filed off prior to finishing the compilation, for this pdf actually renewed my hope in the PoW-series, making me actually want to take a look at the warder very soon.



How to rate this, then? As mentioned, I see a couple of rough edges, but the discrepancy between could be/and is-state is much less pronounced. If you don't mind the skill-check issues, minor wording hick-ups and mentioned power-level of the warlord, then I encourage you to check this out - while not perfect, I do think that fund can be had here. Since the design is much more in line with PFRPG-standards, since this time the class doesn't fail as hard the kitten test: it still fails it, twice, but is less easy to abuse than usual due to the concise definition of per-encounter.



Still, while I do see quite some potential for improvement and streamlining, I still consider this installment of PoW a big step in the right direction. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 - while I'd love to rate this 4 stars or even higher, the failed kitten-tests, minor ambiguities and rough edges do crop up, even when assuming the increased power-level of PoW. If you didn't mind the examples given in this review, then check it out - I'm fully aware that not everyone is as critical regarding these things as I am and chances are, you'll enjoy this.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Warlord
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Ultimate Psionics
by Luke M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2014 15:53:40
This is a fantastic addition to the world of Pathfinder. You will want to review this book carefully with your GM as many of the powers are, well, Ultimate Psioncs. That being said, it is nice to have this as an option and was missing for those of us who still remember the 2nd Ed Psioncs days.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Psionics
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Complete Control
by Jonathan A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/09/2014 18:31:45
Okay, so the writing could've used some more proofreading, but let's face it--you're buying this for the charts anyway, right? And charts this book delivers: Level progression charts detailing Experience Point costs for every aspect of your SRD character, from Domain Spell Casting to Craft: Basket Weaving. (Or is that Profession: Basket Weaver? So hard to tell...)
If you're looking for an out-of-the-box solution for bringing a true point-buy system to your SRD game and you don't mind using a calculator or spreadsheet (especially if you're planning to generate NPCs with this) to ring up your point costs, buy this now. It's fun to spend the points, the system leaves you with plenty ideas on how to advance your character after it's created ('Dang! I wish I could've afforded that second point of BAB... Time to go kill some kobolds!'), and you can replicate standard class characters without much trouble if you really want to.
Even better, with this system, getting 500 XP will actually make your players happy. Do you recognize this conversation:

DM - "Good session! Hope to see you next time."
Player 1 - "How much XP did we get?"
DM - "Everybody gets 500 XP for the session."
Player 2 - "Aw! But that only puts me 200 XP away from the next level bump! I wanna go kill that troll we saw on the road!"
Player 1 - "Yeah, me too! I've only got 195 XP to go! Okay. Player 2, you go up and start shouting at him and I'll go behind him and Sneak Attack with my Alchemist's Flame! That'll do..." [Spends time Doing The Math.] "16d6+4 fire damage. Fire damage will kill trolls, right?"
DM - "Wait. You mean the troll cleric that was selling you discount healing potions to raise money for the goblin orphanage?"
Player 2 - "Yeah, him. I never trusted trolls!"
Player 1 - "Or goblins!"
Player 3 - "Ooh! I'll bet they're 'discount' healing potions because his goblin street urchins lifted them off a real cleric!"
DM - "He was a priest of the Healer and only had one good leg!" [Throws hands up in disgust.] "Okay, fine. But he's only worth half XP for the kill. That's... 175 XP each."
Player 4 - "Hm. Wonder where that goblin orphanage was..."

--Never again!
And perhaps best of all, you can use the standard XP progression from your favorite SRD game as-is with this book. The only thing that'll be changing is how the players use their experience rewards, and this book covers that subject from top to bottom.
Now, how the author chose to handle class abilities is consistent, if a little confusing; however, he took the time to spell out how to handle all the class abilities from the standard SRD classes in a listing in the back of the book, so I can't complain. There's also a complete index of XP tables in the back, which is very nice. (Although... publisher, if you're reading this, it'd be nice if the Skill Rank Cost by Intelligence chart were in the index, too.)
One last warning: the XP costs presented in this book are rounded to the nearest multiple of 5, so your players will actually have to use The Math, rather than just winging it. If that turns you off and you're not comfortable using a spreadsheet for whatever reason, you may want to think twice about buying this product. For everybody else, fear not! The author wisely chose to tabulate the final XP costs for pretty much everything up through level 20, so most of the Strength-20 lifting has been done for you.

My overall impression is favorable. Although there's about 40 pages of solid reading the DM should invest to make the system work, it's easy to pick up and it's consistent enough that you don't have to go back and refer to the text every time you make a new character. That also makes it easier to explain to the players. The charts are all arranged in the back of the book so it's easy to print off copies or hand around an e-Reader for character creation sessions. And best of all, it's fun to make characters!
Just remember, if your player complains about how it's hard to add 36 + 45 + 100 to make his 1st level barbarian, just point out that his 1st-level barbarian can start with Cleric spells and the War domain, if he wants to. That should make him happier.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Complete Control
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Path of War: The Warder
by Nick S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2014 13:23:56
Warning: I really hate the Warder, and I want to be clear it is all for reasons of personal preferences and taste, I've tried to be objective but I just can't. The warder may in fact not be an objectively bad class, and some people might like it, but I can't see it. So here is a subjective review of the warder which I hope remains informative if not as constructive as I normally try to style my reviews.

The Warder - This is the sort of class which combines all the things I like least into one little package and feels to me like it is closer to D&D 4th edition's design philosophy than Pathfinder's. I was expecting something exciting and dynamic, similar to Dreamscarred's previous armor based class the Aegis from Ultimate Psionics, instead we get the Warder. What made the Aegis work was, not only the huge list of options you have to choose from with the aegis which were phenomenal, but also your ability to adapt making the aegis fun and relevant in almost any situation. The warder sadly is as far from that as possible being static, dull and very narrowly focused.

Thematically this class is the worst, there is nothing here, it is just a meat shield in a can. I just can't imagine the epic tale of the kid who grew up to be a legendary Warder after watching her local hero take blow after blow to the face for a wizard and say "Oh man I want to be that guy, I'm going to eat, breath and live armor from now on so I can learn to be like that guy!" and mechanically it isn't any better. Let me just go down the list of things, things you might love, but I hate about the warder:

1. No options, ever ability is fixed.
2. Video game like taunt mechanics.
3. Dull technique recovery mechanic.
4. Too many passive abilities.
5. X per day mechanics.
6. Very little utility outside of defense and taunt.

I really dislike that class's taunt ability armiger's marks, just becomes another by the numbers X per day ability to be spent on various things like monk's Ki or a number of other class mechanics. This is very rarely a good class mechanic and it has been done to death so I'm really sad to see it here in Path of War. Worse none of the warder specific feats do anything to really improve this situation, which is the first time I've been unhappy with some of the feats in path of war.

Other Content - The same non-warder specific feats that were in previous Path of War PDFs are here again and they are still good with the and the feats to allow non martial classes to pick up a few techniques standing out as truly excellent and should be, along with the amateur gunslinger feats that standard for all such feats.

The mechanics governing the martial abilities are much the same as in their D&D inspiration the 3.5 Tome of Battle. If you are familiar with them you should know what to expect. The fighting styles included in this PDF include 3 styles we've previously seen Broken Blade a monk like unarmed style, Golden Lion a rally/team buff focused style and oddly for the warder Primal Fury a charge and bull rushed focused set. New to this PDF is only one style the Iron Tortoise which combines a wide array of taunt powers with captain america like shield techniques for the player who wants to double down on tanking. It is something of a pity iron tortoise includes taunt mechanics because otherwise it is a pretty decent shield based fighting style, though I have to say the high level techniques are not quiet as good as the ones introduced with the Warlord and seem like one or two might benefit from small adjustments. It is one of the few fighting styles which offers a strong mix of defense (both personal and for allies), ranges throwing attacks and a few offense options. I only wish it had more options to counter or intercept attacks on adjacent or nearby allies. If this option is available to other classes I might well run sword and shield combo and just skip the taunt techniques.

If you wanted to main a tank ala an MMORPG...well congrats you have the warder now. It does exactly what you would expect from a video game tank class. For everyone else, or least everyone else like me, I would say that on the Path of War you should skip over the Warder.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Warder
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Path of War: The Warlord
by Nick S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2014 12:04:10
The Warlord - The Warlord, as presented here, is a martial support class. Their abilities are very much focuses on being a front line force that can act as a force multiplier. Thematically I feel the Warlord is much stronger than the previous stalker and comes off as a bit like the barbarian's answer to the paladin, a warrior who leads from the front but also can support his party, though this is more inferred from the art, for like the stalker little flavor text is devoted to the class.

The warlord's abilities are mostly fixed and mostly focus on increasing his presence, an aura like mechanic for nearby allies and duel abilities allowing the warlord use more and more martial abilities together together. While the Warlord aura like presence I strongly dislike the "X times per day" duel abilities which clash with the free flowing nature of the martial classes which are supposed to stand out from the "X per day" Vancian inspired mechanics of other classes. Perhaps most importantly though is the classes gambits, the only area when a warlord has some choice at level up.

Gambits are actions the Warlord can take such as playing a dirty trick or making a called shot, which if successful offer a wide variety of bonuses for success such as attacks of opportunity, a small heal or leaving a foe flat footed. If they succeed they regain all their techniques AND get the bonus, while if they fail they get a small penalty next round and only recover one maneuver. I really like these gambits as a Warlord mechanic, but I hate them as a recovery mechanic. The idea of the Warlord for example playing a dirty trick and cracking a joke in combat about it to his men just fits so well, we see it from roguish leaders all the time. But I think it would go stale very quickly, particularly early when warlords have few techniques and fewer still gambits. A warlord will likely be trying the same reliable gambit every other round to try and recover techniques. Gambits seems like they could be a lot of fun and I'd love to see them expanded upon as I don't feel like there are enough right now, but making them basically mandatory seems like a mistake to me.

The other content - The feats here are the same as the ones included with the stalker. Once more they are a less than 20, so certainly room for them to add more, but all feats present are good and the feats to allow non martial classes to pick up a few techniques are excellent.

The martial arts, or Techniques and Stances to use game terms, work much the same as in D&D. This is good as fans of the previous techniques and stances will enjoy it but also bad in that it fails to update what was a rushed tail end part of D&D as much as I would like resulting in something a less refined than their take on Psionics.

The fighting styles present here include two from the stalker, the ranged focused Solar Wind and two-weapon style Thrashing Dragon but also 3 new ones Gold Lion, Primal Fury and Scarlet Throne. Golden Lion almost begs to be used with the Warlord as it focuses on teamwork and giving bonus, Primal Furry is a barbarian like fighting style while Scarlet throne is supposed to a refined dueling style but seems to lack a bit of mechanical identity compared to the other fighting styles.

Golden Lion is definitely the most utilitarian of the all the styles we've seen so far offering a number of buffs, bebuffs but also many opportunities for allies such as allowing a friend to use your initiative and act with you. Additionally it can still bring a lot of pain and doesn't lack for damage if you feel you need it. Primal Fury puts a lot of emphasis on charge attacks with almost half their moves being charge or bull rush related but otherwise has the normal mix of strikes and parries found in most styles. Scarlet Blade seems to lack a strong theme and just does a little bit of everything a few AC boost, several powerful strikes, a few counters, a few movement options and one or two utility opinions without any strong mechanical theme to tie them all together. One thing I can happily report is these new three new styles high level moves seem a bit better than the styles present in the stalker and while perhaps not perfect don't involve unwelcome mechanics like save or die.

On the whole it feels like a slight step up from the stalker, but with slightly few mechanical problems. I imagine I would probably end up house ruling Gambits and giving the Warlord a different recovery mechanic. Perhaps allowing the warlord or other players to give up move actions to "rally to the warlord" allowing him to recover a technique allowing team work to be a two way street. Once again I feel the class is a good and I feel a small step up from the stalker, but still with a few uneven spots that hold it back.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Warlord
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Path of War: The Stalker
by Nick S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2014 10:57:35
I'm going to break this review into two parts. One covering the Stalker itself and one covering the non-stalker specific content.

First the stalker: I've mixed feelings about the stalker. This first class in the path of war series feels far less iconic than the original Tome of Battle classes. I had a clear concept of what a sword saint was thematically while I feel the stalker is more just an amalgamation of abilities. It is clear the stalker is supposed to be some sort of fighter/rogue or assassin type but we've already got a lot of those and the stalker does little to stand out thematically. Mechanics aside there seems to be almost no difference between a rogue and a stalker and I always consider that to a negative with a new class.

Like their 3.5 predecessors the stalker enjoys a healthy mix of class abilities and martial abilities which is good as it help these classes stand out from each other. While I applaud Dreamscarred for thinking outside the box a little with these class abilities and not just giving the usual remix of other class feature, I must confess I found them to be a little hit or miss. For example the passive Deadly Strike, which leave victims of critical hits open to extra damage, isn't something I've seen before, but isn't very interesting. Fortunately, like many pathfinder classes, the stalker has "stalker arts" which allow for some customization of the class and those offer some nice options which will help mold your stalker.

So in short their is nothing wrong with the stalker, if you want a sneaky assassin type, but honestly you could have just made the stalker an alternate rogue package where they trade in some stalker arts for Techniques and stances.

Part II: The other content

I'm happy to report the feats included in this book are excellent and a real high point for the path of war. While some are better than others none of them feel like duds nor do any seem over powers. I particularly enjoyed the martial training feats allowing single class characters to pick up a few path of war techniques and stances. These are the best feats since the amateur gunslinger feats for allowing other classes to dabble in other classes. I wish ever class had well balanced feats like this to allow people to add a little crossclass flavor without level dipping.

The new martial system is very much similar to the 3.5 one and that is a mixed bag. The Tome of battle was one of the last 3.5 books and was rather rushed which is evident by great ideas but a clear lack of editing and play testing. If Path of War has a flaw it is that it follows them a little too closely in some parts. A few entries are not as clear as they could be and some powers particularly at the higher levels feature very 3.5 mechanics like save or die which I'm not a fan of.

Since Dreamscarred couldn't use the original fighting styles from the Tome of Battle they've had to make all new classes and have taken the opportunity to shake up some of the old ones as well as adding in all new ones. Broken blade is the most martial arts like and my current favorite, while solar wind goes into much welcome new territory by being a non-melee style, steel serpent becomes the new assassin style, thrashing dragon the new two handed style and finally veiled moon takes all the teleport moves which in tome of battle were bundled into the assassin style and expands them into a nightcrawler/shinobi like teleportation oriented fighting style.

One element I really enjoyed about these new styles was the attempt to add more utility to these styles while also exploring ways to keep them from being abused, something of a problem with the original fighting styles. Most of course are still all about either just dealing extra damage or avoiding damage but there are a few items here and their that show their is potential for the path of war classes to be well rounded without being broken. I'm sad to say however that at 9th level each fighting style leads to only a single typically save of die super move which isn't something I enjoyed about the original fighting styles and I like it no better with these new ones. I hope before we see "Ultimate War" that Dreamscarred finds a way to really round and these fighting styles and fix up a few of the techniques.

In the end the Stalker isn't a bad start to the path of war, but neither does it fully live up to its potential and correct all the issues from the Tome of Battle. If you enjoyed tome of battle and could look past it flaws than you simply must buy Path of War there is much fun to be had here, however I must confess this isn't nearly as polished or refined as Ultimate Psionics at least not at the time of this review.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Stalker
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Ultimate Psionics
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2014 02:44:19
An Endzeitgeist.com review

Sooo...this is it - 453 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement... 448 pages of content, so let's take a look!



All right, to properly preface this - I've been using psionics for about 80% of my DMing career - from 2nd edition to the rather poor 3.0 version (and its kind-of-fixes by Malhavoc Press) to the great 3.5-version...and this is when I found Dreamscarred Press. I liked what I saw there and got just about everything. Fast forward to pathfinder and Psionics Unleashed. It might sound weird, but without this book, my campaigns would simply have missed a central ingredient, like a dish missing salt. It was then I supported the diverse subscriptions offered and got Psionics Expanded - and at first ripped some of the content a new one. The resulting book, though, remains one of my favorite rulebooks ever, on par with the APG. So yes, I was very excited about this book, but alas, the KS came at a bad time for me and thus I don't (yet!) have the hardcover in my hands.



Now there have been quite some errata over the years and getting essentially the "final" up to date version, with new artwork etc. is great. In case you didn't know - this book doesn't stop by collecting the information from Psionics Unleashed and Expanded - it also contains new material galore, which was also made available to customers of the former books in a very fairly priced expansion called Psionics Augmented Vol. I. All of these books have one thing in common beyond their themes, content etc.- I've already reviewed them - in excruciating detail. Were I to go into this level of detail here, the review would probably clock in at well over 30 pages and let's not kid ourselves - no one would read that. I'm already surprised that some people read my lengthy ramblings.



So what I'm going to do instead is give you a brief synopsis of what to expect - 10 psionic races, including old favorites like the blue goblins and new ones like the half-construct forgeborn - all of which come with age, height & weight, attitudes to other races, favored class options and yes, alternate racial traits. Furthermore, each race gets an array of exclusive racial archetypes, often making use of the unique talents of the respective race.

10 psionic 20-level base classes, all of which are superior to any prior incarnation - the soulknife no longer sucks, to just give you ONE example. The classes are also very customizable and some of them rank among my favorite classes for PFRPG - PERIOD.



Basic concepts like the psionic focus, psionic displays etc. - all explained very concisely and thoroughly, with the latter even coming with an extensive, comprehensive list of sample visual, auditory, mental, material and even olfactory displays are provided - as is essentially a beginner DM's guide to how psionics work and how to introduce them to your campaign, including a sample reskin should you not enjoy the flavor of psionics. Skills are also covered, as are feats - how many? The table alone spans 6 (!!!) pages! And yes, having all of them in one chapter instead of three books is a major comfort-plus. The same holds btw. true for the powers. How many do we get? An insane amount. No, really. No less than 100 pages of the book are devoted to powers. now take into account that unlike spells, psionic powers can be augmented, thus requiring less variants of one spell concept than spells and you'll get an inkling of how many options are herein. Have I mentioned all the legendary items (not the mythic ones) - powerful magic items that increase in power over the levels, all with unique artworks and stories to discover? (Yeah, I've reviewed all of them as well...)



There also are no less than 19 Prestige Classes to be found herein and no less than 56 pages of magic items...oh, and beyond that, we also get a glossary that explains terms...and one fact I enjoy tremendously - the book offers astral construct stats and similar player-relevant monsters, but unlike the previous iterations, psionic monsters will be released in a separate bestiary, making this book fully and completely player compatible. Two thumbs up for that!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting of this massive tome are of a surprising quality - excellent and top-notch by any realistic definition. Glitches indeed are thoroughly minimized to the point of being almost non-existent. Layout adheres to a drop-dead gorgeous full-color two-column standard and the pdf comes with a vast array of mind-blowing, awesome, beautiful artworks - and a Wayne Reynolds cover. Can't get much better than that in the art-department! The pdf is lavishly detailed in its bookmarks, making navigation simple - as is required by such a massive tome.



Sooo...what we have here is interesting: It's a bit like reviewing the CORE-rules or the APG: We're talking about what essentially is a completely non-optional book in my opinion.

Every campaign that shirks psionics not for flavor, but for by now completely inaccurate accusations of balance-issues is missing out on one of the most rewarding expansions for Pathfinder.

While this is not my personal opinion ( I enjoy both for what they do), I do feel obliged to point out that my players consider unanimously psionics to be the superior system when compared to vancian spellcasting (even though at least one of them dislikes the flavor) and in multiple years of using Dreamscarred Press' psionics have we not once encountered any crucial difficulties. Now this book collects all these nifty bits and pieces from 3 massive tomes in one book that is greater than the sum of its parts by sheer utility, by scope...and superb production values.

While I don't enjoy EVERY component part (see my individual reviews for that), the vast majority of the content should be considered simply stellar - awesome and a book that will enrich just about every game it is introduced to. Were I to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book has no index, at least in the pdf version on which this review is based since I don't yet have the hardcover.



So let me make that abundantly clear: If you have the component books, this is useful. If you don't have any of them, then this ranks among the best possible purchases you can make to expand your game and I stand by that. For me, this content of this book, whether as the component books or the superb Ultimate Psionics, is non-optional. It is as much part of the game as vancian spellcasting, as much part of my concept of Pathfinder's identity as a distinct system as the APG. Psionics Expanded, one of the component books, made it on my Top Ten-list of that year -and this is THE ONLY reason this book is not a candidate (and let's face it - high ranker or even winner) of 2013's list. Rare is the book that so wholly transforms the game, feels so concise and well-presented, offers so much and in this quality - rare indeed is such a monumental grimoire of crunch and much like Paizo's APG, this book does infinitely more to establish the identity of a distinct, diverse fantasy full of options than just about all crunch-books I've read. If you have so far shied away from psionics- here's your chance: Take it! If you have the component books, wager utility (all in one book) versus price point. If I may: The book is beautiful; personally, I'd go for the slightly more expensive full color version - the artwork's worth it. Final verdict? Unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Psionics
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Ultimate Psionics
by Nick S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/03/2014 10:40:56
Dreamscarred really hit it out of the park with Ultimate Psionics. Aside from some occasional failures of the art to fully capture the essence of the material Ultimate Psionics was pretty much everything you could want form a self contained Psionics book. The material is clear easy to read and includes a fair number races, classes, powers, feats, items, options and rules information.

Ultimate Psionics not only very effectively updates virtually all the 3.5 psionics to pathfinder and matches it in volume with all new content. As with the original D&D psionics much of it is hit and miss since psionics covers a very wide range of ideas and has never been as well defined as the more traditional fantasy inspired classes, but the misses are a lot fewer than in previous editions and the hits are darn near perfect much of the time. The only things notably absent are D&D specific copyrighted material such as the Zerth Cenobite and a bestiary but with over 400 pages of solid, well written content they are hardly missed.

Ultimate Psionics truly lives up to it name and gives you tons and tons of content written by people with a clear passion for this often over looked and part of fantasy gaming.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Path of War: The Stalker
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2014 03:36:38
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf is 56 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 53 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So...what is this? Remember 3.X's Book of the 9 Swords? Yeah, it's the spiritual successor. In order to properly review this series, let me tell you where I'm coming from: I own the Bo9S and when I first read it, I loved it: Essentially, much like in fantasy martial arts movies and anime, the approach is to grant martial classes maneuvers and stances to allow them some of the versatility of the casting classes and that concept rocks. Unfortunately, the Bo9S's classes proved in game that they were not exactly well-balanced - from weird, cumbersome mechanics to determine available maneuvers to flawed balance within the disciplines (e.g. utterly op Diamond Mind, ridiculously weak Setting Sun), playtesting soon showed that I was swept away by the coolness of the concept and should have checked the system more thoroughly. Also from this experience arose my utter disdain for per-encounter abilities - while on paper, they may not seem that jarring, in game they proved to be exceedingly frustrating for both my players and me: Encounters are arbitrarily defined interruptions of the game - they can range from 1 round to multiple days in theory and basing the availability of abilities on such a random interval is just bad in my book. Take this example: PCs storm into a room, kill two goblins in the surprise round, combat over. 1 round later goblins from the adjacent room enter and combat breaks out again. In this example, per-encounetr abilities could be used twice for double the oomph. Had one goblin survived the initial assault, the new goblins would have entered combat, meaning all per-encounter abilities could be used only once. Basing any availability on anything but hard rounds, minutes, i.e. non-random time-frames is bad design in my book and one of the reasons I opted against 4th edition as my system of choice. And yes, I'm aware of the judgment-ability's duration as the ONE example of an encounter-spanning ability that has its duration thus defined, but judgment also has a daily limit. That being said, I'll be professional and mention design-philosophy like this when I see it and probably complain about it, but I won't condemn the pdf for it - I'll try my utmost to remain neutral. I do love the idea of maneuvers and giving fighters "nice things", as the pdf puts it - so whatever way this review goes, I actually do want this to succeed.



So, does Path of War succeed where its trailblazing predecessor failed? Let's take a look! The class introduced herein would be the Stalker, who gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good will-saves, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light armors, starting at 2nd level +1 dodge bonus to AC (+1 every four levels), starts with 6 maneuvers known, up to 4 readied and 1 stance and develops that to a total of 21 maneuvers known, 12 readied and 6 stances over the course of 20 levels. The Stalker has access to a total of 5 disciplines (which are maneuver-groups somewhat akin to schools of magic): Broken Blade, Solar Wind, Steel Serpent, Thrashing Dragon and Veiled Moon. Unless otherwise noted, maneuvers are extraordinary abilities that do not provoke AoOs and at 4th level and every even level after that, Stalkers may retrain one maneuver and choose another. The lack of restriction apart from not being able to surpass the level-restriction means that, while you can't freely retrain maneuvers as you could other class abilities, you may later exchange lower level maneuvers for higher level ones. The key attribute for the stalker's maneuvers would be wisdom - here designated as primary initiator attribute modifier. Now, each character may ready maneuvers - reading these requires meditating and focusing ki for 10 minutes. This means that readied maneuvers can, time permitting, be changed - which is nice. No single maneuver can be readied more than once. Now where I start cringing is with the sentence: "He begins an encounter with all readied maneuvers unexpended, regardless of how many times he may have used them..." - not because of the unlimited usability, but because it's EXACTLY the immersion-breaking problem I described earlier: Many short combats: You excel. One long, epic battle with various phases? Tough luck. Now to be fair, Path of War is MUCH smarter than Bo9S in its basic approach - as a standard action, stalkers may recover 1 expended maneuver and as a full-round action, wis-mod, min 2 expended maneuvers. When using the latter option, the Stalker gets a +4 insight bonus to AC - which makes no sense to me. The replenishing of resources should not offer a significant, non-scaling defensive boost that especially at low levels, is simply too much. Also: Why do these not provoke AoOs? The latter has the Stalker "centering his spirit completely to re-align his perceptions of the battle and his place in it." - that screams AoO to me.



Essentially, resource-management should require and reward smart tactics, not simply impose a action-tax. If a Stalker had to think whether to use his last maneuver and temporarily retreat from battle to replenish them, there'd be more strategy here. And the AC-bonus needs to DIE or at least be somewhat nerfed at low levels - why not go with a scaling bonus, perhaps +1, +1 for every 4 levels?. Seriously, +4, think about it: It's the maneuver-refreshment-tank! Constantly refresh and tank. Nah. Stances are the second resource of the stalker and changing stance is now a swift action. Stances cannot be retrained and are not expended. Also: The encounter-refreshment is simply an unnecessary design-relic from Bo9S at this point - with the option to refresh maneuvers via actions, we have clearly defined guidelines to refresh them in a set time-frame concisely defined by the rules - why overly complicate the mechanic and add a reason to metagame to the mechanic? Just get rid of the at this time thoroughly unnecessary per-encounter refreshment. And yes, sans the per-encounter humbug, I actually consider this mechanic utterly AWESOME. So the baseline WORKS! At this point, I was smiling from ear to ear.



At first level, the Stalker also gets a ki-pool of 1/2 level +wis-mod. As a swift action, stalkers may add a +4 insight bonus to perception of sense motive. At 5th level, he may use ki to enhance his deadly strikes, adding his deadly strikes to all martial strikes initiated for wis-mod rounds. What are Deadly Strikes? Whenever a stalker scores a critical hit, this ability activates for wis-mod rounds, increasing damage by 1d6 at 1st level +1d6 for every four levels after that. Weapons with higher crit-modifiers deal d8 and d10 bonus damage instead when within 30 foot of the target. I'm not 100% sold on the overall usefulness of this ability - when crit-fishing via keen-builds etc., it gets a bit powerful, but in combination with the ki-powered component, it does work - only, it does not specify whether the benefits/durations stack - what if one scores a crit with a maneuver via the ki-activation of Deadly Strike, do the durations overlap? Stack? Also "The stalker must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot." - what does that mean? Does concealment make it impossible to hit the target with deadly strikes? What about those with fortification?



At 7th level, stalkers may expend 1 point of ki as an immediate action for a +4 insight bonus to saving throws. At 9th level, stalkers may also expend ki to get a readied maneuver available as a swift action. At least that's what the pdf specifies: "The character spends one ki point and may trade a readied maneuver for a maneuver known of the same level or lower and have it immediately readied and accessible for his use as a swift action a number of times per day equal to his Wisdom modifier." So does that mean that the temporarily available maneuver can be executed as a swift action? Or does it require a swift action IN ADDITION to the action it would usually take to activate? I'm honestly not sure, though I assume the latter.



At 2nd level, the Stalker also gets combat insight, which adds wis-mod to ref-saves and initiative - not a fan of adding any two attributes to the same skill/save etc. - especially since wis already covers will-saves -it's like adding con-mod to ref or will-saves: It makes no sense in game and can easily turn unpleasant. Later, he gets uncanny dodge, may regain ki or expended maneuvers when successfully criting. This latter ability fails the "bath of kittens"-test: While I don't object to maneuvers being thus regained, ki is a non-replenishing resource. Taking a burlap sack of kittens and criting the hell out of them (if you don't hit, you can sedate them first) would allow a stalker to regain all expended ki as long as his/her kittens don't run out. And yes, the example is ridiculous and the ki-abilities of the class not that impressive. But Ki stacks usually and more than one class uses it, as do various feats. When combined with other classes and options, this infinite replenishment of ki quickly gets out of hand - and needs to die a fiery death. At 18th level, stalkers get blindsight 30 foot. Okay, I guess.



At 3rd level and every 4 levels after that, a stalker gets a stalker art, essentially the talents of this class. a total of 18 such talents are provided and cover e.g. the advanced study-feat, +10 ft. movement and +wis-mod to acrobatics-check (again: two attribute modifiers to one skill - broken in my book) and expend ki to further increase speed, but at the cost of temporary fatigue. What's problematic would be combat precognition - choose one foe as an immediate action and spend 1 point of ki to make said for roll all attacks against you twice and take the worse result for 1+wis-mod rounds. NO SAVE. Supernatural ability? Seriously? This needs a mind-influencing-caveat, a save, something to bring it in line with e.g. the misfortune hex, which lasts only up to 3 rounds but extends its effects to more rolls and can only affect one target once per 24 hours and which comes witha SAVE. The defensive bonus when regaining maneuvers can be further enhanced by a 20% miss chance and even total concealment with a 50% chance. Now does the latter also mean that line of sight is broken as usual per total concealment? Relevant for spells and potentially broken as all hell, as it would allow the stalker to slowly creep forward sans being targeted. Also: I consider an AoO in line for the base ability and both would make this impossible, so in case there's a revision/ you houserule this, keep that in mind.



We also get easier qualification for critical feats and increased crit ranges. On the worse side of things, one Stalker Art allows the Stalker to expend one point of ki as a swift action to use deadly strikes in all attacks (not just maneuvers) against the target for wis-mod rounds. When successfully criting, the duration is instead extended by one round. Now where this becomes a huge clusterf*** is with the application of deadly strikes via ki to maneuvers - do they stack? At what duration? This whole complex of abilities and their interaction needs a thorough cleaning up. Another art allows the stalker to "While recovery[sic! - should probably read "recovering"] maneuvers as a full round action, the stalker gains the use of the Combat Reflexes feat (using his Wisdom modifier in place of his Dexterity modifier) and on attacks of opportunity triggered while he is recovering maneuvers, the stalker may add his deadly strikes damage to these attacks." - so what happens if the Stalker already has combat reflexes? At 11th level, the stalker may learn to regain 1 point of ki whenever s/he reduces an opponent to 0 hit points or below with a maneuver. This once again fails the basic kitten test. Stalkers may also conceal their presence as per the cloud mind psionic power (though that should probably be Sp, not Su) - the same extends to the art that allows you to duplicate charm monster, which imho needs a reduced duration since the DC is as regular (13+wis-mod) and ki isn't a particularly scarce resource for stalkers.



Where balance takes a nosedive would be with Phantom Reach: As a swift action, the character may "[...]spend one ki point and the character may initiate a melee martial strike with a range of melee attack with a range of close (25ft + 5ft / 2 levels)." Yeah. Full attack melee at range. While strikes with a range greater than melee don't work with this, it's still VERY powerful - as is the option to spend one point of ki to move for wis-mod rounds sans provoking AoOs. Yes. 1 ki= no movement AoOs. Do I really have to explain why that is insanely broken? These two abilities need a massive whack with the nerfbat.



At higher levels, stalkers may initiate 2 strikes as a full round action 1/day, later up to 3/day. As a capstone, the stalker can spend two points of ki as an immediate reaction to being hit by an attack, spell or ability to attack the target with a readied maneuver. I'm not sure whether the readied maneuver can be expended or not for the purpose of this ability, though. Other than that - appropriately cool capstone, though one essentially crippled in its impact due to the presence of the ranged stalker art - its only point remaining would be that it's reflexive and has a potentially longer range - that's it. When a talent-like ability available at 3rd level can steal the majority of the thunder of a capstone, something's severely wrong here - and it's not the capstone alone...



So that's the base class. We also get the new Knowledge (Martial)-skill, which essentially is spellcraft for maneuvers. Would have been nice to see DCs for style-feats and similar non-maneuver tricks. Also: A list of classes that should get this as a class skill when playing with Path of War would have been more than appreciated - fighters should e.g. have it added to their list of class skills when using the Path of War-rules. We also get 17 "new" feats, though extra ki isn't new and the usual suspects à la +1 stalker art, increased DC for one discipline etc. can be found here. We also get feats to add more maneuvers, have more readied maneuvers, 1/day recover a maneuver as a free action. There also is a feat which allows you to quick draw multiple weapons (and has a minor +2 bonus to CMD vs. disarm)...wait. Quick Draw. Allows you to draw weapons as a free action. So what are the benefits of this feat? Sheathing weapons! Since they are RAW exempt from the benefits of Quick draw and since disciplines require certain weapons, the feat may be useful for all groups not handling sheathing weapons as drawing them as per the RAW. Using weapon finesse with double weapons is a nice one, as are the 6 feats that allow other classes to access the martial discipline of choice and learn maneuvers. A feat that allows you to enter a fighting style and execute a maneuver at the same time also rather rocks. However, there are issues in here as well: First of which would be a feat that allows you to add dex-mod to damage in place of str. Which would be no issue for me, since it only applies to finesse-compatible weapons. However, with the option to go weapon finesse with double weapons, the thing gets ugly. I once had a character in my home game that had exactly that ability - and believe me, the result was ugly. Not sold here. Speaking of "not sold": Greater Unarmed Strike allows you to essentially go for a poor man's monk unarmed damage increase from 1d4 to 1d10. Not complaining about the nerfed damage, mind you - but sans the option to make the attacks count I don't see the long-term benefit here. Oh well, that are minor complaints compared to some of the issues with the base-class.



Now I've already covered the basics of maneuvers: Here some additional information on how they work: They require no concentration, but disarm, grapples etc. may prevent you from executing maneuvers. When mentioning movement etc. as part of a maneuver, these components (but not the initiation of the maneuver) may incur AoOs. Now what the pdf fails to specify would be whether a successful AoO against the initiator due to e.g. a movement would suffice to interrupt/cancel the maneuver. I assume so, but I'm not sure. Variables are determined essentially by a maneuver's caster level-equivalent, dubbed initiator level - these also determine the maximum maneuver level the martial artist may choose. As a minor gripe, the explanation of how maneuvers are (ex) or (su) could use a rephrasing - "The abilities of a martial discipline work fine in an antimagic field" would be simply wrong for supernatural abilities - add in an "extraordinary" and we're game and the wording is less confusing!



Now regarding the maneuvers - veterans of Bo9S will recognize a lot of the terminology - boost, strike, stance, counter etc. - we get all the explanations of actions etc. concisely presented - including, unfortunately, at least for me, a "definition" of the encounter as a timeframe. Why not simply go x rounds/initiator level analogue to spells? Why use this convoluted, metagamey, unnecessary...I'll cut the ramble short. Why not use rules analogue to PFRPG-design standards and instead insert this worse, metagamey duration? I don't get it. What I do get and dig are the ties of respective disciplines to weapon types -broken blade maneuvers require, for example, the initiator to be unarmed - and focuses on brawny assaults, snatching weapons etc. - essentially the spiritual successor of setting sun. Steel Serpent is about using piericng/slashing damage and poison-style effects. Solar Wind would be the ranged fire-themed discipline. Thrashing dragon requires two weapons/double weapons. Veiled Moon is somewhat akin to a certain shadowy discipline from the Bo9S, but focuses more on supernatural effects, featuring some mind-affecting maneuvers and a certain reliance on the ethereal plane. It should be noted that the pdf doesn't prohibit the combination of regular combat maneuvers (or vital strikes) and strikes -some clarification on these would be appreciated, as would be whether counters count as attack actions for the purpose of the vital strike feats and similar options.



Now to keep this review from bloating even further, I'll just mention a couple of great (or not so great) maneuvers from the disciplines, which btw. come with comprehensive lists in the beginning. Let's take the first one, shall we? At 8th level, adamantine fang is close to the apex of power, dealing +12d6 damage and bypassing all DR (even DR/epic? Don't think it should...) as well as requiring a will-save against DC 18+initiator attribute modifier (why not say 10+maneuver level+ initiator modifier, as per the established standard? This formatting peculiarity extends to all maneuvers and honestly, feels like it's only making the mechanic slightly opaque...) or be PARALYZED for 3 rounds. Ouch. Thing is - is it will or fort? The text says will, the saving-throw column of the maneuver fort. Adamantine Knuckle mentions a duration of 1 turn, which is rather odd duration-wise. The thrashing dragon maneuver Alacrity on Wing is broken as written - it allows you to use an acrobatics-skill-check to negate an attack (and yes, I'm aware of Paizo's precedents - they're broken as well - skills should never be able to negate attacks - they can be boosted to easily...) - if successful, the initiator may make an unarmed or melee attack for two wielded weapons at +2d6 damage. Sooo....does that mean both at full BAB? At the TWF-penalty? Can both attacks be freely chosen? (Becomes relevant if one weapon has a superior enchantment...) - as written unusable. 10ft-teleportation via stealth-checks versus perception may sound like a good idea - but what if multiple adversaries watch the initiator? Does it still work? Also: Skills are ridiculously easy to buff through the roof - why not tie this to other abilities? A minor image is left in the wake and it DOES count as a teleportation/figment effect - so generally: Awesome maneuver, especially since AoE-effects are also covered in the description, but it needs clarification.



Turning incorporeal and acting as a foil for teleportation is damn cool, as is a stance that negates the TWF-penalty. The Steel Serpent-effects suffer from one particular issue: They are poison-themed, but don't really follow Pathfinder's take on poisons - they essentially deal attribute damage, but have no frequency, no required array of consecutive saves required to shake them off. Reducing the amount of attribute damage and instead spreading the respective damage would have been nice, as would have been a caveat that immunity versus poisons offers at least a bonus against the poisoned ki they use. Blend with the Night should probably have the appropriate (glamer)-descriptor. Steel Serpent's level 1 stance Body of the Night allows you to add skill ranks in heal (but not other bonuses) to stealth as a competence bonus - cool. Breath of the Moon allows you to cause confusion, which is neat. Ignoring all armor bonus unless coming from force effects on the other hand feels kind a weird and can create potentially disputable borderline cases. Using touch attacks etc. instead here would have made this perhaps work better, but that's a nitpick. Generally one point I have observed with counters would be that they often allow for full attacks as a reaction to being hit - which feels excessive to me. At the cost of an immediate action, that would enable a character to essentially execute two full attacks per round - especially nasty when combined with flurries, TWFs and similar attacks. Generally, I'd nerf those down to single attacks - that's still powerful enough and transports the concept without becoming ridiculously exploitable at higher levels.



The Broken Blade Stance fails to mention at what BAB the additional attack it grants as part of a full attack is. The Thrashing Dragon capstone strike can insta-kill up to two foes with one strike - while not include the massive damage or HD-based mechanic usually used by death effects in PFRPG? Also weird: Desert Serpent Mirage uses competing attacks to determine whether it works (and it's by far not the only maneuver herein) - that's not how PFRPG handles such situations. It's roll versus fixed value, analogue to CMB/CMD - less variance than via 2d20s that way. As written, that one is too heavily based on luck. Using acrobatics versus AC to render an opponent flat-footed also feels plainly WRONG to me - that ought to be CMD, am I wrong? Then again, said maneuver uses a skill instead of CMB. Which brings me to a crucial balance concern - skills are easy to buff, CMB is not. In 3.X, there was no CMB/CMD, hence we needed the broken skill vs. X rolls and all the possible exploits they entail. Now in Pathfinder, A vast majority of the moves herein should either be against CMD or utilize CMB. Instead, these inorganic relics and all the inherited problems remain, making the respective balance of the individual maneuvers herein all too often simply a very fragile thing, wholly dependent on the player in question being not interested in exploiting the obvious gaps in the system.



Conclusion:



Editing and formatting are okay - I noticed a couple of minor glitches, flawed italicizations, open brackets and the like. Layout adheres to a beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.



Oh boy. This is one of those depressing reviews for me. But due to completely different reasons than I expected. I expected to have to continuously bite my tongue due to per-encounter-mechanics and just take them for what they are. Turns out, the per-encounter refreshing is just an afterthought that could simply be eliminated from the equation without any significant impact on the usability of the class - so why is it still there? Oh well, I don't care, I was happy - this looked like the Bo9S I always wanted - after all, the basic mechanisms finally work! Yeah!



And then I started reading the class - thoroughly. Beyond the focus on fishing for critical hits and the ability to make some really nasty combos due to the availability of ki, the class feels overpowered to me - the maneuvers already are a significant power-gain over other melee classes, but that was to an extent the design-decision and thus not something I'll hold against it. What I do hold against it is the at low levels OP tanking maneuver recharge AC-bonus and failing the kitten-test. Twice. That alone is enough to disqualify the class as a 1-star failure. This class needs a thorough revision.



Then, the feats and maneuvers came. And I really loved the majority - the concepts are iconic, tactical, cool. They mop the floor with Bo9S. They are superior. And then I started analyzing and, once again, my grin slowly dropped - author Chris Bennett is a very capable designer and it shows in the maneuvers. The rules-language is mostly very precise even in complex situations, to the point and well-crafted. The thing is - all too often, one can see a relative inexperience with Pathfinder's rules. Once you apply a fine-toothed comb, you stumble across a vast array of rules solutions that deviate from how things are done and established in Pathfinder. The reliance on MANY skill-checks versus AC (which, while not without precedent, is widely considered VERY BAD design), multiple instances of roll versus roll, insta-death effects - you name the relic, it's here. Were I to rate this as a D&D 3.5-supplement, I'd rate it probably around3.5 to 3 stars, perhaps even 4 due to the issues with the class, but an overall working system, but as written it is suffused with design-relics that just have no place in the PFRPG-system, especially since there often already are precedents on how the respective crunch is handled. It's essentially introducing two competing rules for the same thing - it dilutes the system's rules-syntax and causes confusion and is traditionally something I have always penalized HARD.



Is this a bad supplement? It depends on whether you care about rules-syntax and consistency within a system - If you don't mind that these rules follow their own precedents, then this still, with its flaws, is a solid 3 stars. If you do, if you don't want competing atk-rolls, skills versus ACs and all those balance-nightmares/exploits back in your game, then STEER clear. For you, this is a 1-star throwback to some of the worst rules-decisions of 3.X. Since I really, really, really want this system to work, since I can see the obvious talent and since I love A LOT of the IDEAS behind the maneuvers, I'll settle on a final verdict of 2 stars, though mechanically, this supplement failed for me. I'm hoping for a thorough redesign/update/clearing up of this supplement - it's only easily fixable details that don't work, the basic framework is awesome and this can still be cleaned up, brought in line with existing rules and made into a legendary 5 stars + seal of approval supplement.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Path of War: The Stalker
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Ultimate Psionics
by John O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/17/2014 05:18:41
I've been a fan of psionics in FRPGs ever since the crude psionics rules were presented in the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide waaay back when. I'm playing a psion right now in a D&D 3.5 campaign, and I'm always looking for new insights into the psionic classes to help me play better.

Ultimate Psionics is an excellent compilation of old and new material seamlessly joined and upgraded to the Pathfinder system. It is evident that the authors are deeply engaged in their subject material, and the material is presented clearly. I was also impressed with the free updates that followed, correcting a host of minor issues, mostly typographical. It is pleasant to have true corrective material, rather than a simple errata page tossed out into the wild with no further follow-up.

For all of these reasons, I'm giving this product five stars. Well played, Andreas Rönnqvist, Jeremy Smith and Dreamscarred Press!

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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Psionics
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Ultimate Psionics
by Jan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/14/2014 00:27:33
Really Good job, this book is filling the mising gab when you play psionic or have psionic in your party as a gm
I have already used it a lot, and just waiting on the hard cover to come
Keep up the good work

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[5 of 5 Stars!]
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