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Psionics Augmented: Kineticists
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2017 08:19:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third of the so far thoroughly mega-impressive psionics/occult-crossover-pdfs clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After the by now obligatory introduction that explains the interaction and thematic foci of both psionics and psychic magic, we begin this pdf with the Avant Guard archetype for the kineticist. The Avant Guard gains Autohypnosis and Knowledge (psionics) as class skills. Instead of the usual level 1 utility wild talent, the archetype receives magnum opus as a bonus wild talent. While the archetype still chooses a primary element, he does not receive the simple blast or basic utility wild talent, nor the defense talent at 2nd level - though in that one's case, the matter is slightly more complex. The archetype receives the psionic feat Wild Talent as a bonus feat and while it alters elemental focus, it is explicitly exempt from the rule of thus not qualifying for other elemental focus-modifying archetypes, provided the combo has still the above list of options to give up.

Instead of accepting burn as a regular kineticist would, these fellows may, in a ritual, sculpt their elemental, metacreativity-laden powers inwards, sculpting them into shape. While doing so, the archetype may accept a number of points of burn determined by class level, with higher levels also providing a burn reduction on a 3 to 1-basis for wild talents and other abilities. Now I do have an issue with the fact that the ability can even reduce the burn of wild talents that are usually exempt from having burn reduced, mainly since this is used as a balancing caveat in quite a few instances, though I do understand the reason, considering the massively-changed construct this archetype represents as well as the hard cap - only one wild talent may be kept in effect at a given time and the avant guard may otherwise not accept burn, which significantly hampers the flexibility of the archetype's options. So yes, while the option can potentially generate problems in future-proofing etc., I understand the design rationale. Additionally, the archetype may employ Con instead of Int as governing attribute for the purpose of Craft (sculpture).

Okay, at this point, it is necessary to talk about the utility wild talents of the archetype, namely magnum opus: The magnum opus is an astral construct of a level equal to the burn accepted during the aforementioned sculpting process, at which time menu choices etc. are similarly made. As a standard action that does not provoke AoOs, you can deploy said magnum opus, with a daily cap of burn accepted during the sculpting + Con-mod, min 1, with each copy coming at full hit points. Great catch: Yep, construct-enhancing feats etc. do apply. Now where things get interesting is with the stand together simple blast: Instead of being resolved as a blast, it offers two options: Assault and Battery: Assault required a ranged touch attack and basically is treated as though the magnum opus had hit the target, with additional effects added depending on elemental overflow etc.; in the aftermath of the blast, the magnum opus is created in an unoccupied space adjacent to the target. Battery can prompt the attack on an already deployed magnum opus, with burn accepted equaling the bonus it receives and substance infusions applying.

The astute reader may have noticed that this array would potentially offer the option to cheese action economy, but the pdf thankfully does prevent such exploits - and before you're asking: Only one magnum opus may be deployed at a given time - until 16th level, when a second one may be deployed. Thirdly, there would be the get back utility wild talent, which provides a scaling percentile chance of the magnum opus taking damage instead of the avant guard. The effect may btw. be dismissed and restored, takes into account choice, additional effects, etc. - very complex and very cool. Get back, in case you were wondering, replaces the elemental defense, while stand together replaces the standard simple blast of the archetype's chosen element. Similarly, the burn accepted does not convey the usual benefits and instead enhances the respective magnum opus. Starting at 6th level, the avant guard may bestow additional menu choices on the magnum opus, with 11th level providing a partial infusion of the chosen element - these range from aether's ability to add natural AC bonus to touch AC, full fly speed, earth glide, etc - the options are pretty cool, and they better be, they are replacing internal buffer, after all. As a capstone, the avant guard may replace his own bodily form with a magnum opus for brief periods of time, inhabiting basically the connection between his shunted away body and the magnum opus created.

This archetype is very, very smart - it is complex, powerful and flavorful and there is a reason the cover was chosen - with only the tiniest of flavor-disjoint (regarding personality maintenance - and that can be solved via roleplaying), the archetype allows you to make Full Metal Alchemist a viable playing option. And yes, I really like that series, its problematic subtext none withstanding - how could I not? So yeah - color me impressed.

The second archetype herein would be the gambler, who receives Autohypnosis, Bluff and Sense Motive as class skills. Instead of elemental focus, this archetype receives gambler's blast as a simple talent, which uses the active energy type as a means to govern its damage type - though earth and sonic as associated never made much sense to me. Oh well. The gambler receives access to psionic powers of up to 6th level, drawn from their own list of powers. Power points scale from 1 to 70 and powers known begin with 2 and increase to 21 at 20th level. The governing attribute for the gambler's powers would be, surprise, Constitution. True to the name, the archetype has a unique way in which burn affects the archetype: Not at all...at least at first: On a natural 1 on a saving throw or attack roll, the gambler loses power points equal to her current amount of burn times her character level, with excess points lost being applied as the usual, non-healing damage. However, each such backlash incurred resets burn to 0. A gambler can accept 1 burn per round, +1 at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, with a maximum cap of 3 + Con-mod, though external forces can catapult her above this limit.

Instead of supercharge and gather power, the gambler may, as a move action convert burn into short-lived temporary power points that vanish after class level round. Good call: The ability explicitly forbids cheesing via power point granting power manifestation. and the ability, dubbed "cash out", btw., cannot be used in the same turn as wager and vice versa. Cashing out is loud and visible and the number of power points gained in conversion increases to 3 per point of burn converted, 4 at 20th level. Yeah, you know what this means, right? It means infinite power points. Picture me pinching the ridge of my nose hard right there. Though, one should mention that there are several safeguards in place: For one, the archetype explicitly forbids the use of said power points for powers granted by other classes, preventing the worst cheese there. Secondly, the set-up and short duration and action economy restrictions ultimately mean that, in practice, you can't maintain a steady flow of infinite casting. It does mean, however, that you'll never truly run out of power - you'll sputter at one point, though. When the gambler cashes out, the benefits of elemental overflow persist for 1 round before vanishing. From a design perspective, I am pretty impressed by the engine here. In order to fully discuss this archetype, we need to look at the wagers first, though:

Now, instead of infusions, the gambler receives wagers - a total of 6 of these are provided: Ante Up can only be performed when burn is 0 and results in accepting maximum allowed burn - on a failed Will-save, which is weak for the gambler, she takes a 1-round serious penalty: High stakes are the theme of the class and this is also represented in Blistering Bluff, which is basically a gathering power-feint that can result in a blast versus an opponent that is treated as flat-footed. Minor complaint: There is no RAW way to determine the nature of this bluff; out game, you know that gathering power's not part and parcel of the gambler's tricks, but in-game...not. Anyways, on a hit, burn of subsequent wagers is reduced, while misses (unlikely though these may be) result in the gaining of 1 point of burn. Double or Nothing is an ability you love or hate - Physical blast. If you hit, you threaten a critical hit. If you lose, you suffer backlash. Elemental Roulette allows for the lacing of powers into blasts and the random change to an active energy type. Raise the stakes is pretty strong and allows the gambler to lace a psionic power manifested subsequently into her blasts, managing to get the complex rules-language done. Finally, Spell Tell is damn cool: It allows for blast AoOs and makes nearby spellcasters provoke AoOs from the gambler.

5th level and every 5 levels thereafter increase the blast range by 30 ft. At 2nd level, the archetype receives a powerful defensive trick: 1+ Con-mod times per day, the gambler may expend her psionic focus as an immediate action to short-range teleport, replacing elemental defense

Starting at 5th level, the gambler can increase or reduce the burn cost of wagers by 1 (even exceeding the per-round cap), with 8th and every 4 levels thereafter increasing the allowed increase/reduction by a further plus/minus 1, replacing infusion specialization, internal buffer and composite specialization. 5th level and every 4 thereafter net a bonus metapsionic feat instead of metakinesis, while 19th level reduces a metapsionic feat's power point cost by 2. 7th level provides live dangerously: When saving successfully versus the active energy, the gambler takes no damage and increases her burn by the maximum number allowed. I am puzzled by "At 15th level, the gambler chooses cold, electricity, fire or sonic." Whenever the ability is activated? I assume this choice is supposed to replace the active element? Or is that an always active choice in addition to the active element? I am honestly not sure. Instead of omnikinesis, the archetype receives a powerful ability that allows the gambler to ignore any maximum burn limit, blazing in raw psionic power.

The gambler is a complex game of resource management I absolutely love regarding its interaction of burn and psionic powers - the idea to make burn a resource may take a bit away from the very concept, but the execution is really interesting, engaging in a smart and deliberate play of resources and actions that takes a bit to wrap one's head around, but once one does, it is a rewarding experience.

That being said, it is still infinite casting. Yes, it is limited by action economy and once you're down to 0 power points, you're no dynamo of awesome, but a sputtering battery...but this does not change the fact that grittier campaigns should disallow this archetype by virtue of this fact alone. From a personal perspective, I will never allow this RAW anywhere near my game unless I'm playing a high-powered game with prominent infinite resources à la Path of War. It's not broken per se, but it can be, depending on the type of game you're running. If you're like me and really enjoy the framework and the game of resource management this offers, but prefer a grittier gameplay, there are basically two easy modifications you could employ: 1) Tie the maximum burn the gambler may accept to the current power points; this'll require some math-skills, obviously. The easier (though less elegant) move would be to simply put a hard cap of daily uses on cash out, 1/2 level plus Con-mod, for example. Yeah, you can tell I like this archetype's framework and design, even if the particular execution needlessly restricts the archetype's appeal to more high fantasy environments.

The pdf also provides a variety of diverse feats that include a simple blast and wild talent via a feat, though at added burn cost, it is interesting. Composite energy admixture, a skald/bard-crossover-feat can be found and there would be a dual-wielding kinetic blade talent for a single off-hand attack is pretty powerful - personally, I would have made that the focus of an archetype or PrC, but yeah. A monk/kineticist multi-class feat can also be found here. There are also some reprints here: I am no fan of Altered Life, which replaces Con with Wis or Cha as HP-governing attribute and the flicker gauntlet has been reproduced here as well. For the avant guard's convenience, the pdf also contains the relevant rules-information for the astral constructs the archetype employs.

The new simple blasts both are problematic: Sound blast and, worse, athanatic blast are basically non-resisted energy types, with the latter's energy having been introduced in "The Seventh Path" - pure positive energy. These will not go anywhere near my games. Creatures and NPCs have no means of protection there. Sound blast counting as air for infusions is also...well, not the biggest fan there. (Also is internally inconsistent - sonic energy is associated with earth in quite a few abilities herein.) The pdf also has 3 composite blasts, with the psionic exclusive half elemental/half physical physical blast of crystalline needles being okay. Overwhelming life can be gained at 5th level, which is very low for the relatively reliable Con-damage it and its associated disease offer. A substance infusion that generate hampering barriers is intriguing. Finally, there are 3 new utility talents, with telepathy being nice. Primordial Flame is insane: As a full-round action, 0 burn and psionic focus expenditure, you can force a target within 30 ft. to save or DIE. No SR and it may even affect creatures immune to fire. And it leaves precious treasure intact and still deals damage on a successful save. WTF?? No, not at required level 8. Not gonna happen. The final talent allows for close range terrain control - which is pretty cool and, at level 6, it makes for a cool choice.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues in either the formal or rules-language criteria. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard for the series and the pdf comes with great full color artworks. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and both versions come fully bookmarked.

Oh boy. Forrest Heck is a brilliant designer. I adore her two archetypes, even though the gambler will be modified in my games to adhere to a more conservative power-level. Still, they represent not only superb craftsmanship, they also exhibit a level of artistry that I absolutely adore. That being said, the supplemental material featured herein feels less refined, is less universally appealing: If you're playing in a high-powered game with Path of War options or the like, you may see no issue with the save or suck and the particular balancing of the options; you may not care about athanatic energy being basically on par with force damage, lacking valid counter-strategies for pretty much all vanilla creatures and classes. I do. I very much do care and it was the central reason Seventh Path did not receive higher accolades from yours truly. In short: The pdf builds, thankfully only in part, on a flawed fundament.

At the same time, the avant guard and gambler are profoundly unique and amazing takes on the engine that I really, really enjoy. I can't universally recommend this installment of the series, but I very much can state that the avant guard alone may be worth the asking price. This pdf has sports serious inspiration and while I do not consider it to be perfect, it is still a good purchase - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Kineticists
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Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2017 02:52:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Psioncis Augmented-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 14 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this pdf with a welcome and well-explained discussion of the basic differences between psionics and psychic magic: As noted by yours truly before, psionics are drawn from an internal power, while psychic magic channels effects and draws its potency from an external source of power - but beyond that, the pdf goes on to discuss the interaction of both and the potential that can be drawn from their interaction in both narrative and mechanical terms, discussing how class features and overlaps do work between the two. (For an example how AMAZING this blend can be, look no further than the glorious Living legend penned by Forrest Heck...)

Now, that may all be nice and all, but let's look at the archetypes contained herein, shall we? We begin with the mesmerist mindrender, who replaces consummate liar with +1/2 class level to Intimidate. He replaces towering ego with + Cha-mod to saves versus fear and emotion effects. His touch treatment allows for the progressive removal of increasing fear-based conditions (including cowering when he can treat greater conditions). Additionally, the mindrender may expend one such use starting 2nd level to inflict minor untyped damage and temporarily eliminate immunity to fear, with 7th level allowing for the addition of mindrender terrors from the custom list. Said terrors can be activated as a swift action.

Now here's the thing: The terrors can delivered via both distressing touch and hypnotic stare. Terrors are governed by Cha, can be used class level + Cha mod times per day and the archetype retains compatibility with other terror-granting classes. The most powerful terror requires 16th level to choose and may kill, though a once per 24-hours hex-like caveat retains balance there. Temporary hit points for allies, fear-inflicting. At 14th level, inciting paranoia, leeching life and the implanting of multiple tricks represent some seriously nice options. Instead of manifold tricks, the mindrender can, at 5th level, employ his gaze to "mindlock" a foe, which leaves the foe free to act, but allows the mindrender to employ terrors usually delivered via distressing touch at range. 11th level is interesting: While the mindrender is generally immune o fear and emotion effects, he can willingly suspend this immunity - the more such detrimental spells affect him, the more his power grows. This is wording-wise a pretty impressive and uncheesable one. Kudos! The capstone nets DR, SR and 1/week may reincarnate upon dying from the fears of a creature affected by his fears and terrors! Very, very cool!

The second mesmerist archetype contained within would be the ringleader, who replaces consummate liar with bonuses to Diplomacy and Intimidate and Expanded Collective as a bonus feat gained at 3rd level. Wait, what? Well, the ringleader receives a cool variant of the psionic collective called carnevale, replacing painful stare: The tricks the ringleader can employ make excellent use of this telepathic, Will-enhancing bond, allowing for mobility increase and repositioning effects added or grant significant bonuses to allies/daze foes. 2nd level provides the option to 2/day as a swift action enhance the next spell cast, with the maximum spell level the ability can affect, allowing for the proper support of allies. Starting at 3rd level, the ringleader may use his gaze to force hostile creatures to become part of his carnevale, allowing the ringleader to move certain detrimental effects to the respective character and force the poor sap to reroll checks. Starting at 11th level, this does not even require hypnotic stare. Guided meditation may target any member of his carnevale, with 7th level allowing for a bold stare improvement taht can potentially affect mindless creatures at the cost of psychic inception. Creatures removed from the carnevale may be drawn back in at a glance, sans range, with higher level options allowing for almost Joker-like mocking debufss and the capstone rendering the carnevale almost addictive, penalizing the Will-save to resist the ringleader...oh, and those nearby may be drawn in as well. Oh BOY, I love this! The creepy ringleader of quasi supernatural powers is such an AMAZING and time-honored concept. Caligari, anyone? JAck of Tears? I adore this complex, amazing archetype.

The next archetype herein would be the athanatic channeler spiritualist receives psionics of up to 6th level, drawn from the dread list, with up to 20 powers known and a power points increasing to 120 at 20th level from a humble one, using Wisdom as governing attribute. Instead of knacks the archetype receives two dread talents and a phantom adjacent to the athanatic channeler may be affected by powers manifested on herself when within 5 ft., replacing share spells. 4th level replaces the detect undead ability, instead detecting creatures immune to fear and mind-affecting effects, which is one intriguing twist, allowing the channeler to treat detected creatures as not immune for Wis-mod rounds after detecting them, making a lame detect act as a two-step-set-up for a combo. Nice psionic alternative to the spiritualist.

The second spiritualist archetype within these pages would be the crystalline binder, who harbors the phantom in her psicrystal, gaining Psicrystal Affinity (reprinted for your convenience!) as a bonus feat at first level. Being close to the crystal nets bonuses to saves versus mind-affecting effects as well as skill bonuses determined by emotional focus and 1/day, they may shunt mind-affecting effects into the crystal, at the temporary cost of these skill bonuses. AT higher levels, this works even when the phantom is manifested. Starting at 3rd level, the crystalline binder may 3 + class level rounds fuse psicrystal and phantom into a powerful gestalt entity, granting it AC and DR as well as bite attack (properly codified: THANK YOU!) and later even attribute bonuses, making this entity...AMAZING! Phantom recall draws the phantom back into the psicrystal and at 17th level, the total duration of the gestalt entity is increased to 3 + twice class level. AWESOME.

The pdf also contains archetypes for phantoms, the first of these being the unpatterned, who gain a touch attack inflicting 1d6 + Cha-mod damage that bypasses all DR and resistances, but loses the damage progression of the usual slam attack for this reliable output, which makes it actually okay as far as I'm concerned! 4th level increases this damage to 1d8 and enhances CMB when sundering, further increasing that at 10th level. Interesting: When such a phantom attacks, it rolls 2d20: If it uses the higher result, it deals normal damage; if it uses the lower result, it increases the base damage dice by one die...which is a cool gamble, though, as a nitpick, the ability should specify that the choice must be made before results are made known. At 12th level, the unpattern can generate a 10-ft.-whirlwind attack instead of delivering touch spells. Really, really cool.

The final archetype herein would be the shadow aspect, dealing not with shadow as a physical concept, but more as a Jungian concept: An emotional negation that puts into question whether wilder or shadow aspect is truly in charge. The archetype receives access to a phantom which is harbored in the wilder's psyche and dispelled upon being reduced to - Con-score hit points. Manifesting the phantom requires 1 minute. It may be affected by spells (not italicized) and does not naturally heal. Being entities of base desires, they thankfully have a caveat that prevents them from manifesting alongside other pets. This replaces surge bond and improved surge bond.

The phantom thus called is affected by the negation phantom archetype, which replaces share spells with share powers and may deliver touch powers. They do not gain Skill Focus, but gain skill ranks determined by the emotional focus. The phantom also receives access to a limited array of powers that can be manifested as psi-like abilities. This special phantom also ties in with the shadow aspect's special wild surge, which is called shared surge: Increased manifester level at the cost of more power points, with 7th, 11th and 19th level providing increases to the bonuses. Cool: The archetype may expend psionic focus to pay for the increased power point cost, but doing so increases the chances of shadow enervation to 25%. Shadow enervation? Well, instead of the normal psychic enervation, the shadow enervation (base-chance 10%) ends psionic focus when the phantom is not manifested; if it is manifested, the two swap places - and yes, the wording accounts for dimensional lock (not italicized) and similar effects and even space issues. Additionally, when the phantom woud be dispersed by an attack, the wilder may choose to pay power points on a one-to-one ratio to prevent the dispersal of his phantom. This tether, however, also links the two entities together and means that both cannot be far away from one another.

As a standard action that requires expenditure of the psionic focus, the shadow aspect may unleash a 10 ft. Aoe force damage blast around the phantom, with damage scaling depending on shared surge, replacing thus surge blast. 4th level provides a buff to phantom attack, damage and saves in the aftermath of a shared surge as well as temporary hit points, with higher levels increasing the bonus and a 1/day Will-reroll thrown in for good measure, replacing surging euphoria. As a capstone, the archetype may 1/day manifest TWO phantoms at once, but at the cost of psionic focus and an inability to regain it while they're manifested. have I mentioned the fact that this cloning operation actually manages to get item-duplication and interaction,s omething also covered by the phantom wording, right? This archetype is glorious, high-concept, strong, and OOZES roleplaying potential. Its powerful pet is paid for by several key wilder tricks, making it a damn cool addition to the game.

The pdf also contains 4 feats: One for multiclassing phantoms (usual up to +4, up to character level formula), one for 6 more crystalline bond rounds, one that makes the phantom a free part of a collective and enhances synergy between phantom-granting and collective-granting class and a phantom feat that nets far hand (not italicized)at will while contained within the spiritualist's psyche or incorporeal.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, with only a couple of missed italicizations as hiccups. On a rules-language level, the pdf is precise like a razor's edge, in spite of the highly complex subject material. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the art employed is amazing and thematically-fitting, dark art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Project lead Forrest Heck, with design by Doug Haworth, Kevin Ryan and Adam Boucher (Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher are credited as designers for this one on OBS), delivers the second psionics augmented-installment that knocks my socks off so hard, they slap back on my feet. The athanatic channeler is the one archetype herein that I expected to see: You know, a well-made psionic spiritualist. It was pretty clear that this would be in the series sooner or later. But even that one has a couple of cool operations. I already discussed in my review of the amazing Living legend-archetype the fact that Occult Adventures bakes in roleplaying potential and smart options into the very classes and this pdf excels at employing exactly this design paradigm.

Let me state this load and clearly: This pdf is one all- killer, no filler gem of pure amazing, glorious, high-difficulty, high-concept designs. Even the most complex of rules-operations is executed with bull's-eye-precision. The ringleader and shadow aspect alone are worth twice the asking price and the other archetypes are similarly inspired and have truly distinct, unique and exceedingly impressive options. No kitten-failures; no ambiguities. Even when damage is untyped, it is untyped for a reason that works perfectly in the concept of both low-powered and high-powered gaming. The archetypes feature player agenda, intricate interactions of amazing class-features at the highest difficulty and complexity level, glorious visuals and high concepts. in short: This is anathema to bad cookie cutter design; this is the antidote to lame archetype design. It is precise, balanced, and reading the ringleader and shadow aspect made me really want to be a player for once: The roleplaying potential included in them is staggering and can be harnessed in highly intelligent and evocative manners towards the funny or creepy in equal amounts. This, in short, is alongside the absolutely stellar Living Legend, the second Psionics Augmented-pdf I consider an absolute must-own.

If you do not already have this glorious gem, get it right now. Unless you have serious design chops, you won't be able to pull off designs of this beauty and precision. 5 stars + seal of approval, given sans the slightest hesitation. I so hope that this remains the direction of awesomeness the PA-series will continue to follow. This book has two archetypes that rank among my Top Ten PFRPG-archetypes. That good. Get it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Mind And Soul
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Monster Classes: Giants and Reptiles
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2017 03:31:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, a page containing only a bit of glossary, leaving us with ~10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

All right, we begin with the Hill Giant, who, base race-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, Medium size and normal speed, the giant subtype, low-light vision, +1 natural AC.

The monster class spans 10 levels and has d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and light as well as medium armor and shield as well as simple weapon proficiency. They begin play at 1st level with a slam attack that starts at 1d4 and increases to 1d6 at 4th and 1d8 at 10th level. 2nd level provides 40 ft. rock throwing, increasing the range increment at 4th level and every even level thereafter by 20 ft. 3rd level hill giants increase their natural armor by +2 and every 2 levels thereafter, a similar increase happens - oddly, though, it states a maximum of +9 instead of +10...does that mean that the final step only provides +1 or is there a glitch here? 4th level nets size increase to Large as well as +10 ft. movement rate. 8th level provides rock catching.

Attribute-bonus-wise, this one gets +12 Str, -2 Dex, +4 Con, -2 Int, -2 Cha. Once again, we have a pretty massive front-headed dispersal - +6 modifier built-in allows for some unpleasant combos and thus, makes the monster class not suitable for all types of groups...though, if your game does feature the like, I think the monster class should work for really high-powered games.

The Lizardfolk as presented here gets +2 Con, -2 Int, is a reptilian humanoid with normal speed and 15 ft. swim speed and +4 to Acrobatics. The 2-level monster class has d8 HD, 2+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, proficiency with simple weapons, javelin, morningstar and shields. The class begins play with a 1d4 bite, hold breath and +3 natural armor. At second level, that increases by a further +2 and second level also nets claws with 1d4 damage. They also get +2 Strength...at first level. Personally, I'd have moved that to 2nd, but that's just design-aesthetics. This has plusses and minuses when compared to my favorite Lizardfolk iteration (from Advanced Races Compendium) and no balance concerns - nice one!

The third race/class herein would be the troglodyte, who gains +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Int, are reptilian humanoids with a speed of 30 ft., 90 ft. darkvision, +2 to Stealth (+4 in rocky environments) and +2 natural AC. The 2-level monster-class has 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, d8 HD, 2+Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons and grants 2 claws à 1d4 as well as +2 natural AC at first level. 2nd level unlocks a primary bite at 1d4, doubles the skill bonuses the race grants and unlocks the signature stench. The spells referenced in said ability are not italicized. Troglodytes get +2 Con at 2nd level. Most groups should be okay with the power-level of these, though very conservative groups may want to go for the lizardfolk instead.

The 4th and final race/class-combo would be the troll. Racial trait-wise, these fellows get +2 Str and Con, -4 Int, -2 Wis and -4 Cha, are medium giants with normal speed, 60 ft. darkvision, low-light vision and +1 natural AC. The troll's 6-level monster class gets d8 HD, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves and proficiency with simple weapons. 1st level trolls gain 1d4 claws that increase to 1d6 at 4th level, where he also grows to Large size. Trolls are defined by their regeneration they begin play with regeneration 1, which increases to 3 and 5 at 4th and 6th level, respectively. There's a word missing in the "If the troll takes acid or fire damage, its regeneration on the round following the attack."-sentence. While the rules cover the starvation/suffocation-angle (nice), for balance concerns, I'd have expected a "no hit-point sharing"-caveat to avoid using HP-sharing with captive/allied trolls for infinite healing. Second level unlocks a 1d6 bite that improves to 1d8 at 4th level and also unlocks scent. 3rd level increases natural AC by +2 and the AC increases by a further +2 at 6th level. 5th level unlocks Rend. And no, I have no issue with this.

Attribute-dispersal-wise, trolls get +8 Str, +4 Dex, +10 Con for a total of 22 points, all among the physical scores, which renders these guys brutal shredders. In conjunction with the abilities gained, this makes the monster class too powerful for all but high-powered games.

The pdf provides the usual glossary and a massive 15 feats - some of which you'll know from other publications like Stupendous Strength, Aquatic Adaptation or Awesome Blow. Making troglodyte scent demoralizing is a nice one. having more heads or, as a troll, using your limbs to beat up foes is neat, though I'm pretty sure I've seen that done before. Cooperative rend is a nice idea for Teamwork.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is nice this time around.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes for giants and reptiles are pretty much the definition of a mixed bag - power-wise, we have the giants being pretty strong (though the troll mops the floor with the hill giant) - which feels a bit weird to me. The two takes on the lizardfolks/troglodytes are solid and, for high-powered games, so are the hill giants. In the end, I think that most groups can take something out of this little booklet, even if not all will be suitable for all groups. Thus, in the end, I consider this a solid offering, slightly on the positive side, but not close enough to tip it over to being good -3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Giants and Reptiles
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Bloodforge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/31/2017 03:33:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised version

This massive book clocks in at 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with a massive 93 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, the first race herein receives +... Wait. Wait a second. My usual in-depth analysis, piece-by-piece approach doesn't work here. This is literally a huge book of races and if I go into that level of detail, we'll be here come next Christmas-season. So, I'll paint a picture in broader strokes than usual, all right? First, if you're not 100% sure what this book is - this is essentially PFRPG's update of 3.0's Bastards and Bloodlines - a book much lauded for its creative race, but also somewhat notorious as one of the many, many ones in the 3.X era that had no idea whatsoever what this "Bahlenz"-thing is.

Speaking of this dreaded concept - the pdf does one thing right from the get-go: It ignores the flawed RP-guidelines established in the ARG in favor of an individual balancing, which I applaud. Each race comes with a short guideline as per name, appearance, demeanor, background and their relations to adventurers, with a handy table explaining the crossbreed-relationships. A massive age table and its corresponding height & weight-table also can be found herein, satisfying that pet-peeve of mine. The pdf begins by establishing the respective crossbreed subtypes featured within its pages, which is similarly helpful.

Another component of the racial design I generally can applaud would be the equilibrium of racial bonuses/penalties - most, though, alas, not all races herein receive a bonus to a physical and a mental attribute and one penalty, resulting in races that are not by their design geared towards specific career paths. It should also be noted that the pd thankfully avoids attribute-bonuses of more than +2 per the base racial traits. Another pet-peeve of mine (and many a DM out there), races that can fly at first level, also are thankfully absent here - instead, a two feat-chain that begins with slow-falling via vestigial wings and ends with proper flight, tied to HD when applicable and thus circumvents this issue. Excellent work there. I do have something I'd like to mention - the pdf always uses the phrase "X can see in the dark out to 60 feet." for Darkvision. Something in me cringes when I read this sentence. It's usually "up to" as a wording convention. Personal nitpick, though, and will not influence the final verdict.

Bastards and Bloodlines also did not have to deal with favored class options - which this massive book thankfully provides for quite a few of the classes, notably often also for Psionic classes, Akashic classes or Path of War classes. The minor hiccups in formatting previously present have been dealt with.

The races generally sport a couple of alternate racial traits for further customization (with e.g. the elf/unicorn-hybrid alicorn also coming with alternate racial traits for evil brethren...)and each race comes with full-color art - which represents one of the most poignant and immediate changes the revised edition featured: The previously at times needlessly cheese-cake artwork (and the couple of truly horror-inducing ones) have been replaced. While not all artworks adhere to the level of awesomeness featured on the cover, the majority of them actually now are amazing, high-quality pieces.

Movement rate-wise, we run the gamut from slow land speed 20 ft. to 45 ft. The respective races now all have their respective speed values for their movement rates properly codified and presented.

Before I go into the races: Please, read the whole review, don't just abort after a few lines. Why? Because I went very nitpicky on this one, showcasing some of the issues the races sport and you might construe that as problematic - however, there are concepts herein that warrant close scrutiny beyond the races and the flaws I'm about to point out. So, please - at least read the conclusion. Thank you.

So let's take a look at the races, shall we? These would be the elitist and proud hybrids of elves and giant eagles, the winged aellar - here, an interesting choice can be observed: Instead of providing Fly as a class skill via a racial trait, the race can opt into it via favored class options, many of which add the skill to the list alongside a bonus - though one that does feel a slight bit odd in the wording: "Gain Fly as a class skill and a +1/2 bonus." is okay wording-wise, but could have been slightly more elegant. On the plus-side, skill-starved fighters instead receive a full +1 bonus per FCO - I applaud that!

Where I get grumpy is with the option to use the fly-skill in lieu of their Reflex save when flying. Skills can easily be buffed through the roof. On the less nitpicky side, I do love how the previously slightly opaque ability to deal additional damage when charging while airborne has been made more precise. Similarly, the cool option to decrease miss-chances due to sight-based obstacles etc. now is as crisp and precise as it should be - kudos for improving it.

Instead of vestigial wings, some aellar receive claws, which, I assume, follow the default damage values for the type and scale up to d6 later - why "assume"? Because the ability does not specify the base damage value, nor whether they are treated as primary or secondary natural weapons - yes, one can assume the default, but from a customer's point of view the information still ought to be here, at one glance. This issue with natural weapons can be extended throughout the pdf, btw. The short fluffy write-up is inspiring and the revised edition, while still not perfect, is significantly improved.

So let's move on to the aforementioned alicorn, the first of quite a lot of fey-themed crossbreed races herein - the signature ability here being that the alicorn can transfer damage, diseases and poisons and ability damage to herself. The ability was a horrific clusterf*** before and has been significantly improved. However, it still has no daily cap, just begging an alicorn player to come up with a way to cheese it. I do believe that this may be an oversight, though, for the similarly fixed evil variant that can instead push these upon others now does have a daily cap.

Blinklings, the blink dog/halfling hybrids, on the other hand, are awesome all-around- 3/day reactive concealment as an immediate action? Yes, please! Extending their sight to the ethereal? Utterly unique and cool - and has some neat narrative potential. Seriously, I love this race and its write-up!

The ability that nets a blurring effect while moving has been reigned in and now is balanced versus the core ability - as a nitpick, its referred spell is not italicized, but oh well.

Decataurs, Elf/Centaur-hybrids sport a base speed of 45 ft., which seemed odd to me and they ignore movement and skill-check penalties caused by difficult terrain - which seems excessive to me - why not provide a scaling mechanic here instead of downright immunity? though, to be fair, the provided caveat versus damage-causing terrain helps. On the plus-side, the rest of the race is pretty much the best centaur-like race I've seen in quite a while. I feel obliged to mention that as per the writing of this review, the errata has not been incorporated into this book. Yup, this unfortunately means that the revised edition of this book does not contain the errata's information on hooves vs. feet. Oh, and as pretty much always (with ONE exception) when I review a centaur-ish race, I found myself shaking my head at the lack of notes regarding the handling of ladders and similar obstacles. On the plus-side, going for the 2-legged satyrkin alternate racial traits does alleviate this, so this kinda gets a pass.

The freedom-loving Dreigi, half-giants with an ancient grudge (against fey and chaotic outsiders) are flavor-wise one awesome piece of work, with an inspiring artwork etc. - but their massive scaling bonuses versus aforementioned creatures (+2 to saves, damage and atk, +1 more for every 4 levels), is too much in my book - though that one is easily scaled down, and it should be. Why? Because these guys get two damn awesome signature abilities: For one, their attacks count as cold iron; they may also create 1/day difficult cold-iron caltrop-y terrain. Secondly, they ignore the hardness of magical barriers and add their character level to damage versus them. Yes, this means they have a fighting chance versus walls of force and the like. I love this race and really would enjoy it more, had it not this one critical flaw that otherwise mars a superb example of race design - it's also unnecessary, mind you, since the theme of pro-freedom/anti-enslavement also is reflected in quite a few other racial abilities.

You may have noticed something - no Tanis-syndrome race so far. And indeed, you will not find mopey, angsty half-breeds herein. Take the Grendle, combining the best of parent race and troll, these guys are hardy and charismatic - and heal as if they had rested every hour. Apart from an unnecessary and imho rather OP ability to demoralize foes at +2 as an immediate action after being hit (or first level AoE-demoralize), the grendle is stylish and works very well. Strange, considering the revisions made to the book: The alternate racial traits still feel confused: One mentions "increasing a morale bonus to Str to +4" - a morale bonus thankfully cut in this iteration of the book, thus leading me to believe that we have a remnant of a previous iteration here. The ability the trait references simply does not exist. On the plus-side, gaining swim speed, but requiring 1 hour submersion in water to benefit from their healing each day is a pretty cool alternate racial trait, as is gaining a climb speed, but also fire vulnerability.

Half-Gnolls are glorious - powerful, but lacking any issues (apart from once being called "It", to which some gnoll-aficionados will vehemently object) - scent and claws plus pack hunting - exactly what you'd want and expect! Hunting down fleeing foes is also neat, though an ability that automatically deals bonus damage versus foes suffering from "a condition" should a) be more limited and restricted to the half-gnoll and b) once again, specify the damage type as belonging to the weapon used to execute the attack. Finally, since ranged builds already are pretty adept at the whole damage-dealing, I'd restrict the ability to melee - it's called Born Predator, not "I shoot you from behind my allies." ;) Still, all in all, a great race, though the alternate traits can use some finetuning.

Speaking of finetuning - the half-goblinoids, while melee-centric, all can generally considered pretty cool - though again, the alternate racial traits and what they replace does not always match power-wise: What would you take: A +2 bonus to Perception and taking 20 for 30 ft x 30 ft as a full-round action or +8 (!!!) to Stealth and +4 (!!!) to Escape Artist plus the option to squeeze through tiny-sized areas? Yeah, the fast search is awesome - I like it. But I don't see these two line up - the bonuses of the latter are too pronounced in my book; I'd cut them in half AT LEAST.

Half-hobgoblins still see better in the dark than their parent race (90 feet that pretty sure should be 60 instead...), but apart from that, both they and the half bugbears are pretty damn glorious! Also on the strong, but cool side, half-sahuagin may be slightly too well off on the winner's end-side regarding bonuses, at least for my tastes, but in groups that sport powerful races, the will fit in perfectly. Thankfully, the previously rather ill-conceived 4-arjm option has been purged.

The Hexbreather, heirs to the dreaded hags, have some nice hex-related abilities in the base form and yep, the revised book does fix some minor hiccups, making me generally more than okay with the result. One alternate racial trait also refers to the cursed condition, now properly defined (reference to Path of War Expanded, fyi).

The half-nymph Houri are a gorgeous example (literally) of this book's tricks - no issues, functional, versatile and unique signature abilities (debuff-beauty 1/day or friend to all animals...) -oh, and the new artwork rocks. The same can be said about the Kestrel - good, positive halfling/harpy-hybrids that use their powers for good- generally speaking, at least. The Kijin are the elf/oni crossbreeds and hit two rough spots for me - one, they have a per-encounter ability. You all know how much I love those. Secondly, they essentially cover the same niche as Rite Publishing's wyrd - and the wyrd benefit from a much more detailed and for me, compelling, cultural background courtesy of the expanded room within they can operate - full pdf versus couple of pages. I don't consider them perfect either, but in direct comparison, the wyrd are superior by a long shot. The same applies for the direct comparison of Rite's take on the lurker versus the one herein, though again, I consider both to fall slightly short of what they could be.

Nevertheless, this pdf does manage an utterly admirable job at rendering the respective halfbreeds distinct and culturally unique - to the point where some of the brief fluff-write-ups actually captivated me enough to make me consider playing the half-breeds - and that coming from a guy who went out of 3.X with a distinct oversaturation regarding fiendish/celestial creatures and half-dragons as well as a distinct dislike for mopey halfbreeds. So yeah, this pdf can be considered inspired in that regard - from the roper/dwarf bio-weapons created by the phrenic hegemony to the love-conquers-all children of merfolk and men to the inspired and monstrous ornibus, suffused with the essences of howlers, the halfbreeds manage to avoid thematic redundancy.

And, if the above exercises in racial nitpickery were not ample clue for you - over all, they tend to be almost awesome - during my analysis, I regularly found myself enjoying myself and getting ready to write a recommendation for a race, only to have some ability overextend what I consider viable. It should be noted, however, that the revised version does eliminate a couple of the big issues.

Generally, about 1 ability among the racial traits, more often among the alternate racial traits, can be considered too strong and in need of nerfing - or its balancing versus its replacement feels like it is wonky, but there are similarly races that work well. To give you an example - both the ornibus and the half-satyr pipers can be considered generally well-crafted. Similarly, the ophidian halfbreeds rana now have a scaling trick that lets them expend their psionic focus for better disarming...and they increase their AC in each round where they manifested something, providing a nice, built-in flux. And yes, if that and the examples above were not clue enough for you - there is yet another thing I need to address regarding the races - and it's a HUGE plus!

Know how the ARG-races tend to feel somewhat sameish? How many races are just a recombination of the same tools, again and again? Not so here - every race herein has at least one unique trick that sets it apart - a racial signature ability, if you wish. I love this general idea, if not always the execution of them. - the half-gargoyles may e.g. use their wings to take 1/2 damage of an adjacent ally - think of it as a limited, immediate action-based shield other and yes, the wording has been improved in the revised edition. It is an ability like this that really sets the race apart and makes it feel distinct - also in a mechanical way.

I have mentioned the tentacle-faced obvious heir to the half-illithids, haven't I? Yeah. The woodborn, which are just the race for anyone who ever wanted to tackle playing Pinocchio? Yeah, awesome. Even better - an alternate racial trait that nets you an assassin vine symbiote that deals more damage on a grapple just oozes style and its wording has been similarly improved.

Winterwolf/Hellhound/Worg/humanoid half-breeds also deserve two thumbs up regarding their ability-suites.

Now this pdf does have more to offer than just a metric ton of half-breed races - namely templates - for bi/quadruped creatures, half-doppelgängers/medusas, half-elementals (!!!), half-rakshasas and also so-called titanblooded creatures - the templates are pretty solid all-around, with ample cool ideas and tools for mad scientists/transmuters to play with - nothing grievous to complain about here.

The book furthermore offers a distinct array of feats, most of which have the [heritage]-descriptor. The feats run a wide gamut: We have for example one that substitutes a mental attribute (Wis or Cha) for Con - which would make me yell - however, it is restricted to bonus hp, not all the saves - which does, surprisingly, work for me. The presence of the Feral Fighter-feat feels a bit odd - it nets you claws or a bite as appropriate for your creature type. Why don't some of these races use this instead of the at times redundant or unnecessary-seeming amounts of natural weapons some receive? That would also put players agenda higher on the list. Bloodsong adept has thankfulyl been nerfed to now feature a cap -the feat allows you to use bardic performance only affecting your type/subtype, basically providing+1/2 your bardic performances additional performances as bloodsong performances that only affect your race. On the okay-side, there are multiple SP-granting feats and some that e.g. net grab to add to bites and tentacle attacks - not a fan of the latter, but that is personal taste.

Now on the other side, there is Mixed Blood, previously a feat, now a trait, which covers almost two pages and presents a wide variety of odd bloodlines/unlocked types. The re-evaluation here was well-made indeed, considering the ease by which it now can work in conjunction with various builds.

There also are 4 racially-themed PrCs - the brief run-down of them would be as follows:

The Bloodsong Heritor is the herald of his people - a solid, good bardic PrC with neat mechanics and not much to complain about - previously, its main issue did lie in the broken feat upon which it was built - now, it works and represents a nice PrC with unique performances that also include the expenditure of multiple rounds for interrupt-style effects while still maintaining the performance. Think of it as a less complex, much more limited and racially-themed take on what Interjection Games' Composition magic does.

The Kith Hunter is an okay slayer-type 5-level PrC. Seen better, seen worse. The Kithlord can be considered a solid racial champion PrC with commander-style tricks/auras and even teleports at higher levels - okay, though I'd be wary of this PrC in a uni-race group - mostly great for NPC-adversaries. Also has per-encounter tricks, if that bugs you. The 5-level mongrel has the most choices among the PrCs, offering quite an ability-array to choose from and some rather unique bonuses - including ways of getting rid of ability damage by leeching off magic - nice one.

The book also sports a small selection of new spells, which can generally be considered among the more powerful examples available - they are not bad, mind you, but the option to e.g. have earthskin and stoneskin overlap may not fit well with some groups. That being said, spells that provide minor bonuses versus e.g. kobolds and goblins will not break anyone's game. The spells are solid.

Finally, the book provides new magical items, including 4 new special abilities, one of which nets you a standard action in a surprise round for just the equivalent of +1...though you remain flat-footed. A +1 enhancement that bypasses the DRs of elementals and constructs essentially renders golems utterly useless at +1 enchantment - ridiculously OP and should be torn to smithereens. On the plus-side, conjuring forth a red blade of flame via bracers is pretty cool and the traveler's backpack will be a favorite for most wilderness adventures. So, all in all, solid section with some winners and some that obviously require significant nerfing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting in the revised iteration of this book have improved and taken care of the most glaring of issues. There are some minor deviations still here, but nothing too glaring. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has copious full-color artworks - the revised edition's artworks are pretty amazing for the most part and render this a beautiful book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the file comes witha second, more printer-friendly iteration.

You may have gotten a wrong impression from this review - I actually like this book.

No, really. I was honestly positively surprised by this pdf.

The signature abilities provided for the races, the unique, non-redundant fluff and the overall balancing of the races is great. No, really, I mean it. Alas, even in the revised iteration, this book is also the very definition of flawed - almost every race had either a wording hiccup or one ability that just went beyond what would be considered balanced in all but high-powered tables. Essentially, I could play "look for the bit that's too strong" with a huge array of races I otherwise loved - races that feel more organic and viable than they have any right to, provided the limited room they each have. So let me state this again:

This is a good book; in the revised version, it is a good to very good book.

The thing is, it could have easily been an OMG-HOW-AWESOME-IS-THAT-book. Perhaps I expected too much from the revised version of this tome. Matt Medeiros, Jade Ripley and Andreas Rönnqvist have ultimately crafted a massive racial book that has been streamlined and improved SIGNIFICATLY since its previous iteration. It is, as a whole, vastly superior to the previous version of bloodforge (still available as per the writing of this review as a .zip included among the downloads).

I can see people hating and loving this book. The rules-language of the revised version has significantly improved, and similarly the big, really bad hiccups are all cleared up; the issues that remain are the small ones. I'd still only recommend it unsupervised for high-powered games, but the chance that a GM can say "yes" to this book as a whole has increased by approximately +40%, at least as far as I'm concerned. The races do feel iconic, they can be cleaned of the problematic bits and a capable DM can adjust them with relative ease to a lower power-level, if such is required. Oh, and they, and that cannot be under-emphasized, do not suffer from the sucky bloat of skill-enhancer racial traits (Get +2 to Skill A and B) that hound so many races since the ARG, instead providing something unique.

How to rate this, then? See, this is where I was frankly disappointed on a high level: When I saw the new cover, heard about the changes made, I was stoked and downright excited to see the final book, hoping I'd be able to praise it to the high heavens. I hereby do praise it - it represents a SIGNIFICANT improvement in both balance and aesthetic quality as well as rules-language precision. This does net the book +1 star, rating-wise. There still are some hiccups in the details here, though - and some aspects still need nerfing as far as I'm concerned. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars for the revised edition. Whether you round up or down is contingent on how picky you are regarding wording and, more importantly, the power-level of your game: High-powered groups will want to definitely round up, while gritty groups may want to round down. As a person, I will round down, but as a reviewer, I do have my in dubio pro reo policy, which means my official verdict will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodforge
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Monster Classes: Savage Races II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:07:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

The pdf begins with the centaur, who gets +2 Str and Con, is a monstrous humanoid with a base speed of 30 ft., darkvision 60 ft and quadruped. Their 4-level monster class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, simple weapon proficiency as well as proficiency with the longsword, spear and longbow and all armor and shields expect tower shields. They gain full BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. At 1st level, they gain primary hoof attacks (1d4) and at 2nd level, they get +1 natural AC. 3rd level provides +10 ft. movement and 4th level increases their size to Large, but retains the Medium, undersized weapons. As one complaint, the table notes damage increase for the hooves to 1d6 at 4th level, which the ability does not note...so which is it?

Attribute-bonus-wise, centaurs gain +2 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Con, +4 Wis, +2 Cha, which is imho too much for the precious few levels. The centaur write up fails to address magic item slots (barding vs. armor?) and the old ladder conundrum.

The second race/class would be the Minotaur -racial trait-wise, these get +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, are Medium monstrous humanoids with 60 ft. darkvision, +2 to Perception and Survival and +1 natural AC. The 6-level racial class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, greataxe and full BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves. The minotaur class nets gore at 1d4 damage at 1st level, increasing damage to 1d6 at 4th level. Minotaurs, even at 1st level, never become lost and 6th level renders immune to maze spells (not italicized) and makes them never flat-footed, which is insanely powerful and should die. 2nd level provides scent and at the same level, natural armor increases by +2 and by a further +2 at 5th level. 3rd level also increases the racial skill bonuses to +4. AT 4th level, the minotaur grows to Large size and deals +1d6 damage when charging with his gore attack.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the minotaur gets +6 Str, +2 Con and as always in the series, no FCOs or age, height or weight tables are included.

On the same page as the glossary, we get 6 feats, which include gaining hoof attacks, rerolling saves, maze as an SP (minotaur only and lacking italicization for the spell quoted) as well as Mobile Archery (better centaur shooting), using lances as centaur (OUCH) and Running Trample.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is nice this time around.

Jeffrey Swank's second array of savage humanoids suffer from different issues than the other more problematic installments of the series. The centaur suffers from the same friggin' slots-issue and lack of notes regarding world interaction as every single iteration of the race I've seen. The minotaur suffers from a broken 6th level ability...and there is one more issue.

I've seen both centaurs and minotaurs done much better.

Rite Publishing's In the Company of Minotaurs blows this out of the water. And Kobold Press' Advanced Races Compendium sports both centaurs AND minotaurs as relatively strong, but fitting player races that don't have the whole class/attribute-array-requirement. Additionally, all of these options provide a vast amount of cultural information and flavor.

Unlike the dragon installment, this does have some merit, though - you can potentially consider using some of the content herein to tweak your own iteration of the races if you're not happy with Rite Publishing's and Kobold Press' interpretations.

Let me reiterate - this is not bad per se...but it has the unpleasant position of having to compete with some awesome products that are, alas, superior. Hence, my final verdict can't go higher than 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races II
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives III
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/19/2016 09:22:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third expansion-pdf for the soulknife class clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1/2 page blank, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9.5 pages, though these pages are chock-full with text - and this time around, we look at a ton of PrCs...so what do we get?

After the obligatory introduction page, including the high-power-advice sidebar we know from the predecessors, we are introduced to the first of the PrCs, the Marvel. All PrCs herein cover the full 10 standard levels of PrCs.

The marvel, chassis-wise, receives d12 HD and receives 4 + Int skills per level as well as 9/10th manifester level progression, full BAB and 1/2 Fort-save progression. To qualify, you need to have the enhanced mind blade class feature as well as telekinetic athleticism, 2 psionic feats, one of which must be Psionic Body, the other an offense enhancer and the PrC also needs 5 ranks in two skills, 4 in a third, so qualification-wise, it is not too easy, nor too default to get into this one. The marvel, from level 1 out, continues to improve blade skills et al. as well as psychic warrior path abilities and trances. The PrC also adds Wisdom Modifier to Strength for the purpose of determining carrying capacity etc. and may throw rocks and objects that exceed the size limitations of the character. At 2nd level, while focused, the marvel receives a scaling bonus to natural AC and 3rd and 9th level provide psychic strike progression. 4th level nets fly speed 60 ft. with good maneuverability while psionically focused, up to class level + Wis-mod minutes per day. This limit is eliminated at 8th level, just fyi. 5th level nets DR 5/adamantine and 6th level a new blade skill. 7th level lets the character automatically overcome ANY DR while psionically focused (not a fan here). Tenth level increases DR to 10/-. and outsider apotheosis...and the marvel doesn't need to maintain psionic focus any more.

I like the marvel - it is a cool rendition of the psionic/telekinetic superhero-type of character and while the DR-ignoring is something I'll tweak, I have no complaints pertaining the balance of this one. Kudos!

The second PrC herein would be the primarch, who needs to be able to generate a +3 mind blade enhancement, must be capable of throwing the mind blade and has a few skill, skill skill and feat prereqs - like the marvel, not to easy and not too hard to qualify for. The PrC gets d10 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort-save progression and psychic strike progression at both 3rd and 8th level. The PrC treats its level as soulknife levels for the purpose of blade skills etc. and the PrC and gifted blade support is included, if you're going for the high-psionics route. Interesting: The defining first level psychic epiphany class feature is defined by the blade skill used to qualify for the PrC: When qualifying via e.g. Ice Blade, your soulknife receives the frost weapon enhancement. The PrC may also, once per encounter as an immediate action, trade a blade skill for another one, a total of 3 + Wis-mod times. 4th level lets him trade out 2, 7th 3 and at 10th level, he gets a wildcard slot to be filled at the start of any given encounter. The trade lasts for 1 minute. One question: 4th and 7th level's additional trades: Are they included in the immediate action activation or not? As written, the ability sports no caveat that precludes you from using the ability multiple times in consecutive rounds, which makes the whole sequence a bit ambiguous.

2nd and 6th level provide new blade skills and 4th level further upgrades the power of the soulknife, following up on the 1st level ability; if you e.g. got the aforementioned frost improvement, you now increase damage and also get a related psi-like ability. Starting at 5th level, the primarch receives energy resistance or DR, depending on the element chosen, while retaining psionic focus and 10th level, further upgrades the sequence of blade-abilities with a cool capstone: For expenditure of both psychic strike and psionic focus, you can unleash some devastating psi-like abilities...or cause nasty Whirlwind bleeds. Neat!

The third PrC herein would be the Strategos, whose qualifying criteria require manifester level 5th as well as telepathy; it similarly is pretty easy to qualify for. The PrC gets d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Will-save progression, 9/10 manifester level progression. The PrC receives uncanny dodge at 4th level, improved uncanny dodge at 8th level and begin at 1st level with a collective. When using the metapsionic knife feat (which was one of the feats from PA: Soulknives II imho, power-level-wise, would be closer to a class feature than a feat...), the PrC may expend psychic strike in lieu psionic focus to deliver power effects through the mindblade. The PrC retains mind blade and blade skill efficiency progression of the soul knife and manifesting progression draws power from the tactician power list when choosing powers. 2nd level nets an insight bonus equal to the primary manifesting attribute modifier, capping at class level, versus foes in range of telepathy, but only versus foes whose surface thoughts he can read. Unique: The PrC may lend mind blades to allies (reducing the enhancement bonus of the blade) and he may also treat an ally's position as his own, using blade skills to attack through allies, which makes for a very interesting playing experience.

Starting at 3rd level, the PrC gains a collective skill, with every odd level thereafter granting an additional collective skill. These allow for the lending of mind armors or shields, swapping places with allies and charge the collective with his psychic strike, allowing allies to use the psychic strike charge as part of a free action. Interesting: Allies with psychic strike may also recharge a collective they're part of...which may be a bit strong if your players are wont to feature cohorts and the like. The maximum of 1 charge per collective, however, does retain balance for the ability. Beyond offensive and defensive buffs, the ability to add your own AoO to that of an ally can be pretty nasty, but also tactical. While it lets you combo hard, it can be considered to be still in line. The improved blade collective ability has some sort of ccp hiccup: "He is may now grant his mind blade to an ally without reducing his mind blade’s enhancement bonus. Mind blades gifted to allies have reduce their enhancement bonus reduced by 1, but do not reduce the bonuses of any other mind blades." I am pretty sure that something went wrong here. Sharing balde skills with allies is cool and 6th level increases telepathy save DCs by +2 as well as saves against the discipline by +2. The capstone is amazing: You vanish and make one attack per ally contained in the collective!

The strategos is strong, but the relatively fragile framework makes for a nice balance for the concepts...and rules- and playing-experience-wise, these guys are frickin' glorious!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as good as usual for Dreamscarred Press - there are a few hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard and the book has the neat full-color artwork of the cover. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version and is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Chris Bennett's third expansion for the soulknife class provides 3 concise, fun PrCs. The Marvel and in particular, the strategos, are absolutely amazing. The primarch, while nice, didn't capture my imagination to the same extent, but that is a personal issue and not something I'd fault the pdf for. Where the second installment sported some options that I considered to be problematic, the ones herein work in the context of both relatively gritty and high-powered gameplay. While the PrCs are pretty strong, it is only in conjunction with previous installments that issues can show up for grittier games, so as long as you take care regarding the combo potential, you're fine with these. The strategos' playing experience as a center at the storm unleashed by his collective is intriguing and fun. How to rate this, then? Well, this may not be perfect, but it is a fun supplement that sports some design-wise intriguing options - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up fo the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives III
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Monster Classes: True Dragon
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2016 08:43:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

All right, the monster class for dragons covers 20 levels and features d12 HD, 6 + Int skills, proficiency with simple weapons, full BAB-progression, all good saves and +1 natural AC, +1 at every class level gained. Dragons get a TON of natural attacks that increase in power for sizes and thus, a handy presentation with table etc. helps codify these. At 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon increases in age category. Dragons begin play with gliding wings and may use them to fly (50 ft., average maneuverability) at 5th level and increase that speed every 3 levels thereafter by 50 ft, though larger-sized dragons decrease their maneuverability to poor and clumsy, respectively 2nd level and 6th/10th net +10 ft. land speed. 2nd level unlocks the breath weapon (infinite uses, d8s as damage die, 1d4 cooldown) and 7th level has the secondary breath weapon unlock.

3rd level unlocks DR 3/magic, which is upgraded to 5/magic at 7th and 10/magic at 13th level, additionally treating the natural attacks of the dragon as magic. 4th level unlocks spellcasting of a 1st level sorceror, 5th level 120 ft. darkvision, 11th blindsense and if the dragon has a burrow speed, also tremorsense. 6th, 10th and 16th level provide size increases, 9th level SR 11 + HD and 17th frightful presence, though that one has not been properly bolded.

Attribute bonus-wise, the dragon gets +10 Str, +6 Con, +4 Int, +2 Wis,+6 Cha for a total of 28 points gained, which isn't as bad as some installments in the series, but considering...why did I bother listing these again?

The pdf provides individual race traits for all base chromatic and metallic dragons...and they influence the base class. Black Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get swim speed equal to land speed, have the water subtype, are immune to acid and can breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon entangles foes, they get the SP to use darkness, which is not italicized, though speak with animals (reptiles only) does have that - it's gained at level 9, just fyi. The dragon also gets swamp stride at 6th level and the water befouling at 19th.

Blue Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get immunity to paralysis and petrification, have the earth subtype, are immune to electricity and have slow speed, but also burrow speed and tremorsense 5 ft. while burrowing. Their secondary breath weapon knocks foes prone, they get the SP to use ventriloquism, minor image and ghost sound, may create water at-will and at 5th level, imitate sounds. 19th level unlocks a powerful electricity aura.

Green Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get swim speed equal to land speed, have the air subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and acid. Their secondary breath weapon entangles foes, they get the SP to use entangle, charm person and suggestion, just fyi. The dragon can breathe water and gains slow speed, but also swim speed equal to base speed. The secondary breath weapon generates plant growth that makes terrain difficult the dragon may ignore. 6th level nets woodland stride and 15th trackless step.

Red Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get slow speed, have the fire subtype and cold vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. Their secondary breath weapon duplicates obscuring mist (not italicized) and may see through smoke at 6th level. They also get the SP to use detect magic, pyrotechnics and suggestion, just fyi.

White Dragons get +2 Dex and Wis, -2 Int, start off as Tiny, get normal speed and burrow speed at 1/2 base speed (with 5 ft. tremorsense while digging), have the cold subtype and fire vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and cold. Their secondary breath weapon duplicates grease and 1st level provides icewalking. 6th level nets Snow Vision, 9th level ice shaping at-will and 19th level cold aura.

Brass Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get normal speed and burrow speed at 1/2 base speed (with 5 ft. tremorsense while digging), have the fire subtype and cold vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. Their secondary breath weapon is the sleep gas and 9th level nets at-will move earth, 12th level at-will gust of wind. They also get the SP to use speak with animals, endure elements and suggestion, just fyi.

Bronze Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Small, get slow speed and swim speed equal to land speed, have the water subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and electricity. They may breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon is the repulsion gas and 9th level nets at-will polymorph, 12th level water mastery. They also get the SP to use speak with animals, create food and water and fog cloud, just fyi.

Copper Dragons get +2 Dex, start off as Tiny, get slow speed, have the earth subtype, are immune to sleep, paralysis and acid. They may spider climb at 3rd level and at 6th level age category is added to Craft (traps) and Perception checks to detect traps. The dragon may also defuse magical traps and 9th level provides uncanny dodge. Their secondary breath weapon is the slowing gas.

Gold Dragons get +2 Str, start off as Small, get slow speed and swim speed equal to land speed, have the fire subtype and vulnerability to cold and are immune to sleep, paralysis and fire. They may breathe water. Their secondary breath weapon is the weakening gas and 6th level nets polymorph, 9th level locate objects and at 10th level, the fly speed is 50 feet faster than that of another dragon, but at the cost of worse maneuverability12th level water mastery. At 19th level, these dragons can enspell gems to grant luck bonuses. They also get the SP to use detect evil, bless and daylight, just fyi.

Silver Dragons get +2 Str, start off as Small, get slow speed, have the cold subtype and fire vulnerability, are immune to sleep, paralysis and cold.. Their secondary breath weapon is the paralyzing gas and 3rd level nets polymorph, 4th level cloudwalking. 9th level improves maneuverability by one step over other dragons and 12th level nets fog vision They also get the SP to use detect evil, feather fall and fog cloud, just fyi.

The pdf provides 4 new feats for Half-dragon or Humanoid Forms, multiclass-stacking and Village Burner makes for a cool feat I'll use for my NPCs, allowing for extended strafing fire via breath weapons. The pdf, as always, features some feat-reprints for our convenience (Flyby Attack, Hold Prey and Multiattack) and a neat glossary. The pdf has no favored class options or age, height and weight tables.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups - I am pretty positive that something is missing from the red dragon's write up, since the dragon is weaker than the others. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank has managed to succeed in the task of breaking dragons down as a monster class. The dragons are generally well-balanced...among themselves. Obviously not with regular groups. The problem is that the pdf fails to address a TON of crucial issues: Why aren't dragons quadruped? What kind of magic item slots do they have? No clue.

And there is ANOTHER issue...or rather none: This pdf would have a raison d'être...were it not for Rite Publishing's brilliant "In the Company of Dragons." Said book has better player agenda, better balancing, age, height and weight, culture - EVERYTHING. There is not a single discipline where ItC: Dragons does not blow this out of the water. Get that book instead...and if you have it, you can probably use this pdf (provided you got it as part of the subscription) to scavenge alternate racial traits or something. That's literally the only use for this pdf I can come up with. Get In the Company of Dragons; it's superior in every single way.

Considering the balance-issue, the lack of information and being outclassed this hard, I'll have to settle on a final verdict of 1 star - I can't find a reason to use this, unless you have the subscription and are unwilling to get ItC: Dragons.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: True Dragon
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Psionics Augmented: Soulknives II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/15/2016 04:11:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion for the soulknife-class clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief page of intro that also contains scaling advice for high-powered campaigns (such as those using Path of War), we begin with a chapter of feats and traits - before we take a look at the particulars here, it should be noted that manifesting call weaponry is defined as doubling as an alternate prerequisite for forming a mindblade, which means that the feats herein are useful for contexts beyond that of the soulknife class in many a case. A total of 13 feats are presented, with a corresponding table for our convenience, and span a rather interesting array of concepts: There are, for example, feats herein that make multiclassing a soulknife significantly more viable - whether its synergy with the dread's devastating touch or the cryptic's pattern, these options very much are appreciated, as far as I'm concerned - have I mentioned rage blade synergy, delivering ranged touch powers via mindblades?

That being said, I am not a big fan of all of the feat options: Gaining a free psychic strike recharge on a successful critical hit, for example, is a pretty significant incision into the action-economy-balance of the soulknife class, even if it is restricted to 1/round. While I can see plenty a game where this represents no issue, I similarly can picture enough where this represents a balance-concern. (For later compilation and the publisher's convenience - there also is a typo here: "psychci".) There is also one that lets you recharge the psychic strike whenever you eliminate an adversary; while it has an Int 3-caveat, it exacerbates the issue observed with crits and extends it. Speaking of balance-concerns - there is one feat that represents this more than pretty much any other feat I have seen in a long time: After BAB 6+, you can expend psionic focus to add psychic strike to ALL attacks until the start of your next turn. Yeah...that thing is not getting anywhere near my game. Similarly, the feat that increases psychic strike's charging to a swift action pretty much is the epitome of power creep.

At the same time, though, I should definitely mention the Dancing Shadow Style, which builds on Cloak Dance to allow for psychic blade recharges as part of the Cloak Dance - which is AMAZING design; it rewards a relevant choice of the character with an added benefit and emphasizes changes in tactics; it and its follow-up feats are true gems.

Beyond these feats, we also get 6 traits -and all feature meaningful, cool bonuses - like the trick shot talent as well as a bonus to ranged mindblade attacks. These traits, while relatively potent, universally are fun options and as such, can be considered to be neat additions to the class. The next section is something I have not expected, namely a take on the PrCs featured in Ultimate Psionics, making them more suitable for interaction with the base class! The adaptive warrior, elocator, mystic archer, pyrokineticist and warmind are included in the deal and the modifications make distinctions between manifesting and non-manifesting soulknives. Kudos!

The pdf also features the Ashen Blade PrC, which receives d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, as well as 3/4 BAB-progression and 1/2 Ref-save progression. The PrC also receives access to manifesting powers, beginning with one power and learning up to 7, with manifester level scaling up to 4th and power points totaling 71 in the end. Manifestation is governed by Wisdom. At 1st level, the PrC may augment strikes by spending power points to apply augments, up to class level ones. The ability may be used 5 + Wis-mod times per day and the ability begins with one augment and allows for the addition of a second at 4th, a third at 7th level, respectively. Thus, the augments are grouped by class - 4 of them are basic (1st level), 3 are adept augments (4th level) and 2 are master augments, which are unlocked at 7th level. As a minor complaint, these unlock steps must be deduced from context - the ability itself does not designate the augments as such and when they're gained, so that aspect could be slightly more player-friendly.

The respective augments feature a slightly vampiric theme - hits that destroy psionic focus on a failed save, increased damage, attribute damage, hitting ghosts, short-term power point drain - the effects here are pretty cool. Now purists of psionics will notice that the save DC here deviates from the standard established by Ultimate Psionics - instead of using the 10 + 1/2 class level + attribute, the abilities featured here are based on a fixed value (like 17) + attribute modifier, as used by Path of War. The ashen blade helps feinting and the PrC may manifest and dismiss a mind dagger as part of a standard action attack, further enhancing Stealth and feinting options - which I generally like. 2nd level and every 3 thereafter provide psychic strike progression and at the same level, the PrC provides bonuses to Stealth and Bluff while maintaining psionic focus, which scale fyi at 5th and 9th level...unless the character already has it, in which case PrC levels are treated as class levels for scaling purposes. 3rd and 9th level provide blade skills and 10th level eliminates the daily cap of augments and regains psychic strike or psionic focus when the PrC eliminates a foe with at least 1 HD and Int 3 or higher...so non-kittenable. As a capstone, that still is strong...or weak, depending on your take. If you see no problems with aforementioned feats, this capstone only nets you an end to the 1/round regain of the OP feats. Still, as a whole, I don't have much to complain here: Strong, flavorful soulknife-assassin PrC.

The pdf continues to provide a total of 5 gifted blade powers, which makes sense, considering that it pretty much is the default go-to for the option of high-power/high-psionics games and so far bereft of unique options. These powers are pretty amazing: You can hand copies of your mind blade to allies via bestow blade; there also is a power that grants you, as a move action, a quasi-psychic strike to unleash with your attacks, allowing for blade skill combos...which can be both strong and amazing. Gaining an astral suit via a power is pretty cool...though e.g. mindscramble, to me, feels like it does not belong: You manifest it as a standard action, attack a foe and deal +2d6 nonlethal damage, stunning the foe on a failed Will-save. I'm not opposed to it, mind you...it just...kinda feels more like...well, a maneuver than a power to me. That may just be me. It will not influence the verdict. Tactile Telekinesis is amazing and brings some strength-feat utility as well as a buff to the field. Kudos for this one!

The pdf also features 5 new items: Crystal iouns enhance the exceedingly cool, if somewhat strong panoply of blade ability. Crystalline setting features a similar ability for the augmented blade. The Blade Bangles occupy the wrist slot and contain blade skills, unlocking them for soulknives capable of fulfilling the prerequisites. The greaves of Mehsim are also amazing, allowing for the expenditure of psychic strike to gain physical acceleration for psychic strike damage dice. Finally, skin of the blade is a psychoactive skin containing Psychokinetic Armor, which can be enhanced as though the soulknife had Enhanced Mind Armaments.

The pdf ends with 2 pages that render this pdf pretty much a must-have purchase for soulknife-users: The augmented enhancement list, which contains a massive, new and updated table of weapon special abilities as well as shield special abilities, all hyperlinked for your convenience.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal and rules-level, are very good - apart from typo-level minor hiccups, I noticed nothing peculiar apart from aforementioned deviation from Ultimate Psionics-standard in ability save DCs. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' 2-column full-color standard and features two amazing full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version.

Chris Bennett is a talented designer; I never doubted that and I actually like what he has crafted here. Purists may scoff at the Path of War-y save DCs, but that is an issue you can remedy relatively easily if it really does irk you. Where things get more problematic for me as a reviewer and as a GM is with the feats and the tendency I observed with the psionics augmented-series as a whole, excluding the universally appealing, amazing Living Legend. If you've been following my reviews, you'll notice that I am a HUGE fanboy of psionics. I have always been one of the guys who stepped on the barricades when someone complained about psionics being overpowered, often due to them frankly not understanding the rules. In Psionics Augmented: Soulknives I, I got swept away by the brilliance of the design, sure...but the matter of the fact remains that the series has been increasing its power-level, slowly but steadily, towards the power-level employed by Path of War. From damn cool, but too strong wilder powers to unlimited AoO-blasts that outblast full casters or alchemists in staying power, the series does have its pitfalls and makes it, slowly but surely, harder to unanimously defend psionics as a whole.

During the playtest of this one, which otherwise represents a well-crafted book, I found myself handsifting through the feats of which to allow in my main campaign and which not to. At one point, I just universally allowed anything psionics-related; while e.g. the psychic strike/focus regain mechanics work perfectly in a game that assumes Path of War's increased power level and while they bring the class on par with that, they can be pictured as pretty much...well, OP in other, grittier games like the ones I favor in my main campaign. Some options here are potent to the point where not taking them would frankly be stupid - they're that strong.

In spite of the helpful (Upwards! I'm not kidding you!) scaling advice sidebar this may have, ultimately, one always has a hard time having the cake and eating it, too: You can either make a system that caters to the standard power-level assumed by PFRPG-classes, or you can intentionally go beyond that. As soon as you do not clearly make clear which it is you're gunning for, you have a problem on your hands. GMs without the necessary experience that unanimously allow this pdf in their conservative games after having only good experiences with Ultimate Psionics, will potentially have a nasty surprise on their hands, and one that is harder to pinpoint due to potentially stemming from feats rather than rules-clusters archetypes of PrCs represent. This, as a whole, is a troubling development as far as I'm concerned and one I know that may alienate at least a part of the customer base. I'd like to propose the introduction of some sort of designator for these powerful components, some sort of identification for newer GMs to make their lives easier...or, perhaps, a clean mission statement that, from now on out, the series is gunning for the high-power games only...which imho would be a pity.

I demonstrated in PA: Soulknives I's review how easily an optional nerf could be made to Chris Bennett's amazing panoply-engine to unlock his designs for the conservative part of the customer base. It's not a hard thing to do and something that could easily exist alongside the increased power-level featured herein. I can't rate this as a file only for truly high-powered games. Such games may consider this well-worth and 5 stars. Grittier games, though, will run into trouble when employing this pdf, and understanding the power of several feats herein, their combo-potential AND requiring the GM to hand-select them, imposes a strain on that makes this a 3 star-file, in spite of its quality, for such groups. As a person, this is, unfortunately, where this pdf falls for me; I love its precision and craftsmanship, artistry even, but it also is one that needs control. As a reviewer, however, I need to take into account that there similarly are players and groups out there that crave exactly this increasing power-level, that want this exactly as written. Hence, my final verdict will fall on 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Soulknives II
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Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:21:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of Divergent paths clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this guy? The short reply would be that this is a kineticist archetype employing the Path of War rules.

As such, the roil dancer's power-level adheres to the increased power assumed by Path of War and obviously is intended for high-power gameplay. Low fantasy/power-rounds need not apply. The pdf assumes that you have Path of War Expanded and if you do like the Path of War system, there is frankly no reason you shouldn't have that one already.

Roil Dancers add Perform and Spellcraft to their class skills and, discipline-wise, may choose Elemental Flux, Mithral Current, Solar Wind and Thrashing Dragon. A roil dancer begins play with 3 maneuvers known, all of which may be readied. He learns up to 15 maneuvers and may have 7 readied at any given time. 4th level and every even level thereafter allows for the retraining of a given maneuver and roil dancers may learn maneuvers of up to 6th level. Roil dancers begin encounters with all maneuvers readied. At 1st level, he knows once stance and learns another one at 4th, 7th, 11th and 13th level, replacing thus the infusions gained at 4 level and every 4 levels thereafter.

The presence of elemental flux has pretty much made that clear, but the archetype also receives animus equal to 1 + initiation modifier (minimum 1) at the start of his first turn. Each turn after that, the archetype gets +1 animus. Roil dancers receive an additional animus in every round in which they initiated a maneuver. Animus vanishes 1 minute after hostilities have subsided. When the roil dancer initiates a maneuver with his kinetic blade, he may expend animus to reduce the number of burn he takes - 2 animus reduce burn by 1. Additionally, maneuvers that allow for the execution of multiple attacks may be enhanced by spending 3 animus, gaining 1 additional attack with his kinetic blades.

We need to talk about those: 1st level provides kinetic blade as a bonus wild talent and may use it as part of initiating martial maneuvers that use weapons and also reduces burn cost by 1 when doing so. If a given maneuver allows for multiple attacks, his kinetic blade obliges to accommodate the maneuver's requirements and additional blades may be employed, potentially with different effects. Full attack maneuvers allow for two kinetic blades. In the case of ranged maneuvers, the blade can be thrown 30 ft. and the benefits may be used in conjunction with kinetic blade.

Okay, got that? Great, for I do have a minor question: The animus expenditure that allows for extra attacks when using a maneuver: Do these additional attacks also benefit from the effects of the maneuver? Or are they vanilla kinetic blade attacks? I assume the ability to allow for the execution of multiple kinetic blade attacks to conform with multiple-attacks-granting maneuvers, but since the ability does not specify whether the number of attacks is still capped by the maneuver (or neither does it say anything about full BAB or the like), it could be read as meaning that you can exceed the number of attacks granted by the maneuver with extra, animus-powered kinetic blades. Beyond that, maneuvers that feature an animus augment can be further enhanced - by accepting 1 point of burn, he can augment the maneuver further, even beyond the usual limits...which frankly is nasty, even for Path of War's power level.

The elemental focus chosen by the kineticist component of the archetype carries over to both Solar Wind and Elemental Flux - regardless of active element, the damage is defined by the element chosen: Aether deals slashing damage, wood positive energy damage ( See Seventh Path...or a sidebar for that one...), etc. - it should be noted that physical damage types are treated as magical and subject to DR and that any resistance ignoring benefits instead reduce DR appropriately.

The roil dancer's gather power is tied into the animus ability: it costs 1 point of animus to gather power as a move action, 2 to gather it as a full-round action. In the former case, he regains one expended maneuver; in the latter, he regains his initiation modifier expended maneuvers, minimum 2. Roil Dancers with supercharge recover an additional maneuver. The significant power of the maneuvers he receives is somewhat reduced by the decreased progression of kinetic blasts -a roil dancer begins play with the default value, but only increases kinetic blast's power at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Metakinesis, thankfully, only applies to the blast itself, not any damage caused by maneuvers or stances used in conjunction with it. Roil Dancers also lose the ability to quicken kinetic blades/whips.

The pdf also provides 8 feats: Augmented Elements nets you a simple blast from any element, but at a burn cost increased by 1. It also grants you the psionic subtype, unlocking psionic feats etc. for you and may be chosen at 1st level. Inner Fire is pretty nasty and frankly, I'm not sure I'd allow it near my game: For the expenditure of your psionic focus, you reduce the action needed to alleviate burn: If you take a swift action, you count as though you had used a move action. if you take a move action, you're treated as though you had gathered power for a full-round. Sure, it's a robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of situation, but it uses an infinite resource to significantly enhance the action economy of a conservation method of a limited one. In the context of Path of War, it works, but in less high-powered games, this should receive a bit of scrutiny, considering its 1st level availability. Kinetic Duelist nets you TWF kinetic blades. AWESOME! Mind Afire is also cool: If you use a non-Con-attribute to determine hit points, you may now use it for burn, DCs, blasts, etc. Ripple in Still Water lets you stack kineticist levels with ki pool-granting class levels for purposes of ki pool-size and for kinetic blast base damage. Basically the monk/ninja/kineticist multiclass feat.

The pdf also features three feats with the Gather Power-descriptor: Number one is awesome: After gathering power, blast adjacent (or 10-ft. away if you gathered as a full-round action) foes with burn. Solar Flare adds a dazzle/blind to your power gathering and Syphon Vitality (shouldn't that be "siphon"?) offers the sickened condition - the durations/saves are feasible, balanced and cool and make gathering power more rewarding...can we have more?

Finally, the pdf also sports a magical item, the flicker gauntlet, which costs a paltry 1000 Gp and may hold an item of up to 20 pounds for up to 1 minute...oh and they match your active elements with appropriately colored swirlies! Fashionable!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level - in spite of the significant complexity of the subject matter, there is not much to complain in that regard - kudos! Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' nice 2-column full-color standard and the original piece of artwork is nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity and with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - nice to see that level of consideration.

Forrest Heck's Roil Dancer is an impressive, precisely oiled machine that manages to blend two complex subsystems almost seamlessly. Apart from the one ambiguity in the animus-options, I have found nothing worthy of complaints. Balance/power-wise, the roil dancer should fit seamlessly within the high-powered gameplay assumed by Path of War. The feats deserve special mentioning as supplemental material, for while I consider some to be problematic in more conservatively-balanced rounds, they do feature some serious gems that will see use in my games beyond the confines of Path of War. They need scrutiny when employed in less powerful games, but as a whole, even divorced from the pdf, can offer some serious fun - particularly the gather power feats are a concept worth expanding upon.

Now usually, I'd frankly round down in this case, since the one ambiguity I found is pretty crucial to judging the power of the archetype...but at the same time, I am pretty sure I have deduced the proper intention from context AND the level of crunch-density and complexity offered here makes this inexpensive pdf very much worthwhile. It is thus due to the overall difficulty and the ambition (and execution to match it!) of the designs here that I will settle on a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Divergent Paths: Roil Dancer
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Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/11/2016 08:49:09

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. While SP-gaining is presented as an option, the pdf does champion the approach of exchanging those for spontaneous spellcasting, which is drawn from the cleric list for the hound archon and based on Charisma. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The hound archon featured herein adds message as a cantrip to his list, greater teleport as a 6th level spell.

The second monster class herein would be the succubus, who also uses the cleric spell list and Charisma as governing attribute; at 2nd level, she adds detect thoughts, suggestion, tongues and vampiric touch; charm monster at 3rd, dominate person at 4th and ethereal jaunt, greater teleport at 6th level.

But I'm getting ahead of myself - the hound archon's base racial stats would be +2 Str and Cha, normal speed, they are outsiders with the good subtype and darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +2 to Stealth and Survival and +1 natural AC.

The monster class gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, full BAB-progression, good Fort-and Ref-saves and covers 6 levels. The class begins play with a 1d6 bit attach that increases to 1d8 at 4th level as well as change shape based on beast shape II, but only canine forms - first only Small canines and 3rd level unlocks Medium canines , 5th Large canines. The ability didn't italicize the spell properly. The class begins play with 9 + HD SR and 2nd level provides +10 ft. land speed. Every even level of the class provides +2 natural AC and 3rd level immunity to petrification, 6th level electricity. 3rd level also provides scent and a secondary slam attack at 1d4; 4th level nets DR 5/evil, which increases to 10/evil at 6th level. 4th level provides truespeech and 6th nets the signature aura of menace.

The three supplemental feats allow you to sniff out lawbreakers, smell evil...and the scaling bonus damage feat the astral deva installment had. Still not sold on that one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the hound archon is a bit more conservative: He gains +2 Str, +2 Con, +2 Wis and +4 Cha. As a whole, the hound archon ends up being pretty strong, but still remains within the realms of what is acceptable within most gaming groups. I wouldn't allow him in 15-pt-buy/rare/low magic-campaigns, but that's it. Nice job!

The succubus presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, are outsiders with the chaotic and evil subtypes, darkvision 60 ft., fire resistance 10, electricity resistance 5 and poison immunity as well as +1 natural AC. They also gain +2 Perception and +4 Bluff, for an overall imho slightly too strong base array of traits.

The monster class of the succubus is 8 levels long and gets d10 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and begin play with 1d4 claws that increase to 1d6 at 6th level. She also begins play with 10 + HD SR. 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter provides +2 natural armor. The Perception of the succubus increases by +2 at 2nd, 4th and 6th level. 2nd level nets gliding wings, which get upgraded to full functionality (50 ft., average maneuverability) at 6th level.

3rd level nets alter shape based change shape (italicization missing) and at 4th level, the defenses are upgraded: Cold and acid resistance 5; electricity resistance 10 and upgrade of fire resistance to 20. At 8th level, acid and cold resistance are upgraded to 10. Also at 4th level, DR 3/cold iron or good is unlocked, which is upgraded to 5/cold iron or good at 6th level, 10/cold iron or good at 8th. 5th level provides telepathy, with a range-increase at 7th level. Also at 7th level, the racial Bluff bonus increases to +8. At the final level, the succubus unlocks immunity to both electricity and fire and energy drain. The reference to suggestion in the latter ability once again lacks italicization.

The succubus' supplemental material includes Flyby Attack, Profane Gift, the nice feat for redeemed evil outsiders and Full Immersion, which lets you fully take on the personality of your disguises, even versus detect thoughts. Nice one.

Attribute-gain-wise, the succubus gets +2 Str, +6 Dex, +6 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +14 Cha...and this does not include the "+2" that fails to note the attribute it's supposed to apply to. That's 36 points. +7 to Cha-based DC. Insane. Overpowered. Not suitable for any campaign I'd run...even before taking the MASSIVE resistances/immunities into account. How this one can be in the same pdf as the hound archon...I have no idea.

The pdf ends with a nice glossary for our convenience and we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports unnecessary glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Pit and Pinnacle's title couldn't be more eponymously named - while the powerful, but well-tuned hound archon represents a pinnacle in the series, the succubus represents the very worst the monster class-series has to offer, OP in all but the most powerful/who cares about balance/minmaxy environments.

How to rate this, then? Well, in the end, I'll settle on exactly the middle -at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Pinnacle and Pit
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Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/07/2016 07:36:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

The pdf begins with an interesting set of observations and fluff pertaining the interaction of psychic magic and psionics; it may seem odd, but to me, the two always felt radically different and the pdf points this out rather well: Psionic magic stems from internal forces, whereas psychic magic is gained from an external power - so yes, establishing distinct leitmotifs here males very much sense to me and is a nice lead-in for the first Occult/Psionic-crossover book. In case you haven't thought about the two systems in that way, the introductory section certainly helps generating a holistic perspective here.

But we're here for the eponymous living legend...which, in theory could be classified as a soulknife archetype. Well, in the same way you could call the psychic a wizard archetype. The living legend is a massive tweak of the engine, basically a whole new class. Let me reiterate: The archetype gains an extended class skill list, adding Linguistics, all Knowledge and Perform skills to the class skills available. They employ Intelligence instead of Wisdom as a key ability modifier. These beings are also the protagonists of their own legends . thus, each day, they can meditate to prepare themselves for a character archetype via a 1-hour séance. At the end of the séance, the living legend chooses two legendary spirits from a cadre of 7 to inhabit him for the day; a living legend can only hold these two roles per day, so choose wisely. One of the roles is active and one passive and they can be switched as a swift action (starting at 13th level, Int-mod times as a free action per day), but regardless of whether active or passive, the living legend is subject to the spirit's influence, taboos, etc. The active role conveys benefits: A lesser power at 1st level, intermediate power at 4th, greater at 10th and supreme power at 16th level. A living legend may choose to not be beholden to one of the roles' influences, but loses the benefit of the role's narrative for the day. Breaking a taboo nets a -2 to atk, damage, ability- and skill-checks, as well as saving throws for one hour. The penalty is not cumulative, but its duration extends on subsequent violations. This eliminates psychic strike and the blade skills gained at the respective power levels 4th, 10th and 16th.

The roles thus chosen also determine the precise mind blade and both the iteration for the active and passive role are available. Each of the mind blades the archetype has may be customized in their own ways.

Changing roles can automatically reshape the mind blade. Starting at 1st level, the living legend also receives the benefits of a feat as determined by the active role - for Archmage, that would be Precise Shot, for Marshal Lookout, etc. - and yes, if he has the feat, he may choose another appropriate for the archetype. Not all blade skills are available for the living legend, but instead, they can select some unique blade skills designated as legendary stunts. While tied to a role, they can be employed regardless of role and they have a minimum level of 6th; apart from that, they act like blade skills and compatibility with blade skill-based archetypes and prerequisites is maintained.

The tricks granted are interesting: For one, laying a psionic mark on foes, penalizing attacks versus all but the living legend, expending psionic focus to generate a crashing, conical wave of piercing/slashing blade fragments, adding the brand of the heretic as a debuff, hiding in shadows, putting a kind of psionic mine on foes...the basic array here is damn cool. But what does that have to do with the active role? Well, each of these tricks has an additional benefit when you're in the appropriate active role: Archmages can e.g. generate an energy blast cone instead of one based on physical damage. At 20th level, the living legend's stories allow the character to be brought back from the dead by just knowing the stories and casting the appropriate spells (which are not italicized), without needing a body. Oh, and immunity versus soul entrapment and the like. As a minor complaint - the ability end with "He does not gain" - a part of the sentence seems to be missing here.

Now, obviously, the class chassis stands and falls with the legendary roles based on the mythic paths - so what do we get? Well, for once, the authors understand the design paradigm of Occult Adventures. Utility beyond numerical bonuses, flavorful tricks, breadth and, more importantly, hard-wired, amazing roleplaying hooks. The archmage, to give you an example, may choose as a taboo either eschewing all faith in the divine, use magical/psionic solutions over mundane ones or be driven by vast curiosity. Each of the spirits comes with a favored location, notes on influences and sports a narrative - these would be appropriate bonuses, as mentioned before: In the archmage's case, that would be insight bonuses to Int and Int-based checks equal to the maximum enhancement bonus of the mind blade, which is a significant, but feasible bonus. As a mind blade modification, the archmage employs raw mystic might, which translates to a ranged weapon! The active powers granted allow for the use of spell trigger/completion items, a bonus versus creatures analyzed, adding a burst to mind blade attacks or 1/day poach a sorc/wiz spell. Pretty amazing!

The champion's narrative supports your Strength- and Strength-based checks and provides access to any mind blade shape but technological weaponry. The active powers provide significantly enhanced defenses versus spells and save-prompting tricks, allow you to add maneuvers to regular attacks, move up to your movement as a swift action (or even free action!) or generate, at the highest levels dead magic/null psionics fields. Guardians get enhances damage soaking, with better AC, DR/resistance and the option to interpose yourself between allies and assaults...and late in the game, even ignore an attack completely! Hierophants may inflict nonlethal damage, get narrative bonuses, unsurprisingly to Wis-based checks, receive limited channeling, etc. The marshall grants the expected teamwork/tactician/buffing tricks and the overmind is interesting - not how psychic strike's lost? Well, with this role, you can still have the blade count as charged, allowing for the combo tricks inherent in that mechanic. Oh, and telekinetic throw, mental detection of nearby beings...you get the idea. the trickster does just what you'd expect.

The pdf also features a new crystalline focus item class for the living legend, the crystal bookmark, which may be used to increase the enhancement bonus of a storied sword and thus is appropriately high priced in its 3 iterations. For our convenience, the feats employed by the class have been reprinted here (thank you - seriously, love the comfort here!) and the pdf does also offer notes on particularly high magic/psionics campaigns (using e.g. the Path of War power level) and notes on how to customize the archetype to work in such a context.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, though not perfect - the missing sentence fragment in the capstone is a bit jarring. On a rules-level, this is meticulously precise and well-crafted - highest level complexity wording, waterproof and airtight. Kudos! Layout adheres to an aesthetically pleasing evolution of Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and is nice. The artworks provided, with a pastel, somewhat anime-like aesthetic by Christina Olszweski are gorgeous and fit the theme well. The pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly iteration - kudos for going the extra mile!

Psionics Augmented, as a series, has been a somewhat uneven experience for me; There are some aspects in the books that I had to nerf in my games, that point towards a higher-powered playstyle as the core target demographics of the books. It was always my contention that a good engine can carry either...but in the end, PA: Soulknives suckered me in. I should have bashed that one at least a bit, but couldn't bring myself to do it, because the playing experience was too cool. Still, I couldn't help but ramble on about suggested modifications etc. and expected, to some degree, to see that as a kind of leitmotif from now on.

I was wrong.

The Living Legend is one of the most compelling archetypes I have ever read. I completely rewires the soulknife, even beyond what PA: Soulknives offered...and goes one step further. It understands the design paradigm, the emphasis on ROLEplaying Occult Adventures championed and sacrifices nothing of Dreamscarred Press' crunch complexity or precision. The living legend, even in the hands of a novice, is a powerful, rewarding playing experience, though one that will not even break 15-pt-buy games while still working in high-powered high fantasy/psionics/point-buy environments. Beyond the system's complexity and rewarding nature, the expertly woven fluff of the archetype adds to the option immensely. I want to play this guy. In short: Excellent mastery of crunch and fluff, anathema to cookie-cutter, bland designs and wholly new concepts galore. If this is what we can expect of Dreamscarred Press taking on the Occult, consider me utterly stoked for more!

Congratulations to lead designer Forrest Heck and Kevin Ryan, Doug Haworth and Adam Boucher - this is one excellent supplement and the first Psionics Augmented-book I can unanimously recommend, sans any sense of hesitation. 5 stars + seal of approval...and just short of being a candidate for my Top Ten due to the scarce few minor hiccups.

Seriously, get this...and write the legends of your characters!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionics Augmented: Living Legend
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Monster Classes: Fey
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/04/2016 12:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array. While SP-gaining is presented as an option, the pdf does champion the approach of exchanging those for spontaneous spellcasting, which is drawn from the druid list, based on Charisma for the emancipated dryad. Testing this material, I'd add my voice to this suggestion - the experience is more versatile and rewarding. The emancipated dryad featured herein adds charm person as a 1st level spell to her list, suggestion as a 2nd level spell as well as deep slumber at 3rd level.

The second monster race/class herein, the satyr, draws arcane spells from the bard spell list, casting them spontaneously via Charisma, but add summon monster I - VI to their spell list at spell levels corresponding the number of the respective summoning spell. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The emancipated dryad, race trait-wise, are fey with normal speed, +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, the option to speak with plants at-will (not italicized properly)...oh, and they are independent of their trees, making them suitable for adventuring.

Racial class wise (which spans 6 levels, just fyi), they get d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. 2nd level and every even level thereafter provides +1 natural armor. The class nets simple weapon proficiency as well as use of spears and longbows. At 1st level, they gain a massive +6 to woodcrafting and is always treated as using masterwork tools. 2nd level nets DR 1/cold iron, which increases to 3/cold iron at 4th level and 5/cold iron at 6th level. 3rd level nets wild empathy, 5 tree meld (which does not italicize the reference to meld into stone) and 5th level also makes speak with plants constant, though it's not italicized.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the dryad receives +6 Dex, +2 Con, +4 Int, +4 Wis, +6 Cha, for a total of 22 attribute points gained, though their impact for power-gaming purposes is decreased due to their dispersal. Testing the monster class left my hesitation regarding it by the wayside. I'm good with the dryad as presented and would ue her in all but the lowest-powered of games.

The satyr-race presented here gains +2 Con and Cha, is a medium fey with low-light vision and gains +2 to Perform (wind instruments), Perception and Stealth as well as +1 natural armor.

The 8-level monster class receives d6 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Ref- and Will-saves. Satyrs begin play with DR 1/cold iron and increase that to 3/cold iron and 5/cold iron at 4th and 8th level, respectively. The class also nets a horn attack at 1d4 base damage, which increases to 1d6. Starting at 2nd level, the satyr can focus his magic in pipes, with a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 HD + Charisma modifier to negate and an "only once in 24 hours"-caveat. Playing or continuing to play requires a standard action. 2nd level, these can be used 1/day and duplicate charm person, 4th sleep , 6th suggestion, 8th fear ...but none of the spells are properly italicized and the text refers to harpy instead of satyr.

At 3rd and 7th level, the satyr's natural AC increases by +2 respectively and 3rd level increases the Stealth bonus to +4, 5th increases the bonus similarly to Perform and at 7th level Perception is thus enhanced. 5th level nets +10 ft. base land movement rate.

Attribute-bonus-wise, the satyr receives +4 Str, +4 Dex, +2 Con, +2 Int, +4 Wis +6 Cha for a total of 22 points gained. The attribute-distribution over the levels, akin to what the dryad receives, is diversified enough to maintain functionality for the purpose of power-level of the satyr - no balance-concerns on my part.

A total of 6 feats are provided: Using Wis or Cha to determine bonus hit points, gaining a hoof attack, +4 to perception in woods and Survival to avoid being lost, drinking as a move or swift action...okay, I guess. Murmur of Roots nets a limited tremorsense in wooded terrain and Pied Piper is a cool one for the satyr, allowing them to call forth rat swarms - statblock provided, just fyi. This feat's amazing!

As always, we do not get age, height or weight tables or FCOs, but we do get a nice glossary.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay -the pdf sports both unnecessary cut-copy-paste glitches and a couple of annoying formatting hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has some bookmarks. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's Monster Classes: Fey ranks as one of the most refined from a mechanical point of view: In spite of the powerful tricks, the monster classes maintain a sense of balance I very much welcome. While the pdf has a couple of formal hiccups, this still remains one of the best installments so far. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Fey
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Monster Classes: Savage Races I
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/02/2016 12:07:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

We begin with the bugbear, who, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium goblinoids with normal speed.

Racial class-wise, they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Ref-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor for each of the 3 levels of the class. At 1st and 3rd level, they get +2 Str, at 2nd level they get +2 Dex. Proficiency-wise, bugbears get simple weapons + morningstar ad javelin as well as light armor/shields. Perception and Stealth are always class skilsl for the bugbear and 2nd level nets scent. 3rd level increases the racial skill bonuses to +4.

Second up would be the gnoll, racial trait-wise, gets +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha, darkvision 60 ft., +2 to Intimidate and Stealth and are Medium (gnoll subtype) humanoid with normal speed.

Racial class-wise (2 levels long, just fyi), they get d8 HD with 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2 + Int skills per level and +1 natural armor at 1st level as well as scent. 2nd level nets +2 Str...making this a lopsided, but still excellent and balanced take on the gnoll. Proficiency-wise, the class nets simple weapons, light & medium armor and shields - since the tower shield caveat is absence, those are included, which is a nice touch.

Thirdly, we're introduced to the playable ogre - who gets +2 Str and Con, -4 Int and Cha, begin play as Medium with 30 ft. movement, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, +1 natural armor and the giant-subtype.

The racial class covers 4 levels and sports 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort-saves, 2+ Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons as well as medium and light armor and shields, except tower shields. Ogres get +1 natural armor upon taking the first ogre class level, +1 at 3rd level. 2nd level provides size increase to Large size and 3rd level nets +10 ft. base movement rate.

Attribute-array-wise, the ogre receives +8 Strength, +4 Con and -2 Str over its 4 levels - which makes them as lopsided as intended, but shouldn't mechanically break the game.

The pdf also provides an array of 12 feats reprinted and slightly altered - including Snapping Jaws, Vestigial Head and similar gems. Beyond these, the pdf provides two feats by DSP, one of which has previously been published: Lurker in Darkness, the amazing option to not auto-fail versus numerous Perception-modes is still a total gem. The second, Stupendous Strength lets you wield two-handed weapons one-handed or one-handed weapons as light weapons - nice take on the oversized weapon trope.

The pdf concludes with the handy glossary for the supplemental racial rules. As always, neither age., height or weight tables, nor FCOs or the like are provided.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The pdf comes with a second, printer-friendly version.

Jeffrey Swank's savage races are as lopsided as you'd expect them to be - they're focused on the physical aspects and aren't as well-rounded as I like my PC-races...but for what they try to be, namely proper representations of the monstrous races in a balanced context, they are awesome. Low-point-buy groups may consider the ogre to be nasty, but ultimately, none of the races/classes herein will unhinge any game they're used in...unless the other players REALLY suck at making characters that are efficient. Balanced, solid and nice, this is an inexpensive, nice little book and showcases how talented the designer is. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Savage Races I
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Monster Classes: Undead
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:30:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Monster Classes-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

This pdf contains two such classes - the first of which would be the Deathless Ghost, who, race trait-wise, gains +2 Int and Dex and is undead with 50 ft. darkvision, normal speed and here things become interesting: Deathless Ghosts aren't incorporeal per se- they have no Strength-score and use Dex instead and may only benefit from ghost touch armor and no natural armor bonus. They get +4 to Stealth and Perception.

The 3-level racial class gets d8 HD, 4+Int skills,3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and begins play with channel resistance +2, which increases to +4 at 3rd level. 1st level also may use a corrupting touch as a standard action, causing 1d6 x HD damage (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha-mod DC), save halves. Not a fan of the untyped damage here, but it's true to the original creature. The ectoplasmic form nets a 10% miss chance at 1st level, which increases by +10% per class/character level; said chance is halved for spells, magic attacks etc. They gain Cha-mod to AC and 3rd level nets immunity to flight and a 30 ft. perfect maneuverability flight. 2nd level increase the Stealth-check to +8.

Attribute bonus-wise, the racial class gets a total of +4 Cha. Undeath makes fragile and the lack of options to improve via items offsets the powerful tricks this one gains beautifully. Powerful, but not overly so. I like this one!

The second playable undead herein would be the ghoul, whose basic racial traits are +2 Str and Int, being undead and gaining darkvision 60 ft. These guys get 2 racial class levels, 3/4 BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The racial class gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, a 1d6 bite, 2 1d4 (1d6 at 2nd level) claws (properly codified) and +2 Dex at 1st level. 1st level also has +2 natural AC 2nd level also nets +2 Dex, +4 Wisdom and Charisma and provides ghoul fever and the signature paralysis.

The pdf also contains a total of 11 feats: These allow deathless ghosts to drain attributes from others, healing themselves. Someone hand me that bag of kittens, please. Urgh. A Frightful Moan, gaining the full incorporeal subtype, possessing foes telekinesis, Poltergeist-style, with a cooldown and high-level Rejuvenation complement the ghost...oh, and have I mentioned manipulating weapons?

There is a feat to use Int or Cha instead of Con for Fort-saves, a cool feat that nets you skill bonuses when you eat brains, gaining a burrow speed...or becoming Old as Dust - which means you're VERY hard to destroy - and is cool!

As always, we get a nice glossary, but no age-, height or weight table or FCOs/traits.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level - no significant complaints. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The artworks are solid and partially stock, but nothing to write home about. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this point.

Jeffrey Swank's undead are impressive - particularly the deathless ghost, which screams OP by being incorporeal AND undead actually worked better than expected when picked apart. The ghost is impressive and cool...and I do like the Old as Dust feat - it's just cool. That being said, there's the unnecessary, failed kitten-test and the ghoul falls flat on its face in comparison: Kobold Press' Darakhul are the superior take on playing a ghoul, simple as that. More flavor, more options, better balance. Where does this leave this one? As a nice installment that certainly has more universal appeal than the previous installments. While not perfect, it's certainly a step in the right direction. My final verdict will hence clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Undead
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Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2016 10:45:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of Dreamscarred Press' Monster Classes-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? In one sentence: It's Dreamscarred press providing the Savage Species type of "Play monsters"-rules for the context of the Pathfinder roleplaying game. The pdf does acknowledge that this series (or even, individual installments) may not be for everyone - the fact is that most modules are humanocentric and thus, playing monsters can wreck havoc with the assumptions of a given game...more so than players are liable to anyways.

Let's not kid ourselves here - the guidelines presented in the bestiaries aren't really doing a good job; CR = levels doesn't work out too well - the concept needs a finer balancing. The series acknowledges exactly this requirement. The solution here would be to employ basically racial paragon/monster classes; instead of progressing in a class, the respective critters advance to grow into the full power array.

The earth elemental's base racial traits are +2 Str and Con, -2 Dex and Int. Earth elementals begin play as Small and are outsiders with the earth and elemental subtypes with 20 ft. speed, 60 ft. darkvision, +3 natural armor.

The 16-level racial class gets d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons as well as good Fort-and Will-save progressions and full BAB-progression. 1st level provides a slam attack at 1d6, which increases to 2d6 at 12th and 2d8 at 10th level as well as 2d10 at 13th level. At first level, the elemental may step through 5 feet of earth or stonebased difficult terrain each round, including the option to use this ability to 5-foot-step. They also start with tremorsense 30 ft., which imho is too early. The ability doubles its reach at 9th level. 2nd level provides Improved Bull Rush as a bonus feat as well as earth mastery.

Starting at 4th level and every level thereafter, the natural armor of the earth elemental increases by +1. 6th level nets DR 1/-, which increases to 5/- at 8th and 10/- at 13th level and the attacks are treated as magical. 4th level makes the earth elemental Medium, 8th Large, 10th Huge. 7th level provides 1/2 speed as burrow speed and 11th level nets earth glide.

Attribute-dispersal-wise, the class gets +22 Str, + 8 Con for a total of +30. This is ridiculously paradox - +11 to atk and damage basically take the assumptions of AC of even max'd characters and throw them out the window...then again, the math, system-inherently, starts coming apart at higher levels anyway...and the singular focus on the physical side of things actually make the earth elemental less problematic from a balance point of view than similar entries in the series.

The pdf sports 4 feats, which include Elemental Jaunt for 1/day plane shift, adding 1 point of acid damage to weapons (stacks with corrosive, which is not italicized) and better saves versus acid attacks and spells. Finally, there would be Groundbreaker, which is a cool ability that lets you rise and emit a shockwave that can render foes prone.

The pdf concludes with the usual glossary and, as always, no age, height or weight table is included and neither do we get FCOs or the like.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good - I only noticed minor, formal hiccups. Layout adheres to Dreamscarred Press' two-column full color standard and the pdf comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The artwork is okay.

Jeffrey Swank's earth elemental is a "Hulk, Smash!"-melee-focused beast, but we expected as much from the base creature. Interesting here would be that the balancing, in spite of the melee focus, is actually much tighter than in other monster classes releases so far. I can see myself allowing these guys, depending on the context/campaign style. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Classes: Earth Elemental
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