Epic level gameplay – that is, advancing beyond twenty class levels – has long been the sticky wicket of Pathfinder. Ever since Third Edition’s attempt at epic-level gaming turned out so underwhelming, Pathfinder has been unwilling to venture beyond 20th level, and while many are fine with never going back to such heights, there are still plenty of players who want to take their game beyond this final boundary.
Now Little Red Goblin Games has answered that desire, presenting Legendary Levels as the first product for the Pathfinder RPG to allow for characters to continue advancing beyond the 20th-level barrier. Let’s crack the covers and see just how legendary this book is.
Exactly seventy pages long, Legendary Levels hits most of the technical specifications that we hold for an RPG PDF. It presents full, nested bookmarks, as well as a hyperlinked table of contents. It does lack a printer-friendly version, however, which may be an issue for your printer given that the pages are set on a grayish-tan background. I didn’t care much for the book’s interior artwork, which has both black and white and color pieces; I found it to have too much of a “rough” or “unfinished” look about it, as though more clean-up could have been done. It’s a minor point though, as there’s comparatively little art here.
It’s also worth noting that the book didn’t clearly identify its Open Game Content and Product Identity, something the OGL requires it to do (and the Section 15 was barren, too). I mention this only because this becomes a problem if anyone else wants to use what’s here in their own Pathfinder-compatible products down the road. Hopefully there’ll be an update fixing these issues.
After a brief introduction to “legendary levels” (as a note, I liked that the book’s authors decided to rename the entire concept of post-20th-level as “legendary” rather than “epic”), the book’s first section acts as an overview of some of the major game mechanics that legendary game-play utilizes. Of particular importance are divinity scores and legendary damage.
The divinity score represents the character actually manifesting a divine spark that can, if grown, transform them into an actual deity. I personally applaud this integration of legendary levels and gaining godhood, since I think that once you’ve reached such a high-level of gaming, having your characters start to become divinities is a natural progression. However, you don’t HAVE to increase your divinity score…some classes, mostly the spellcasters, have this increase incrementally as they level. However, you can also boost it with specific feats, or by gaining followers (that is, people who revere/worship you).
It should be noted that this is very different from Third Edition’s divinity rules, in that having a divinity score has little mechanical impact on your character, something I think a lot of players will appreciate. Interestingly, an accompanying chart shows how much your divinity score increases based on how many followers you have, and what sort of gods are found with what scores (e.g. a low score is like a regional deity, a higher one is like a primal force, etc.). Having said all of that, I noticed that it’s hard to get your divinity score high enough to start earning followers if you don’t have legendary levels in a spellcasting class.
Legendary damage, by contrast, is essentially damage so powerful that it can be instantly fatal. Dealing legendary damage to a creature is the same as damaging it normally, but the damage includes a Fort save which, if failed, reduces the target to 0 hp. There’s no single way to gain the ability to inflict legendary damage, but rather it’s found in the abilities of various legendary classes and prestige classes.
The book introduces a few concepts here that it goes into more detail on later (such as true dweomers), but there are a few other aspects to this first chapter that I wanted to touch on. For instance, it also reintroduces legendary uses of skills. This is, much like the old epic level rules, a table with various skills listing very high DCs for greater effects. It’s also the first part of the book that rubbed me the wrong way. I can recognize the problems with super-high skill DCs to achieve effects that magic can pull off at very low levels (e.g. a very high Acrobatics check allows you to be effectively weightless…which I suppose is okay if you can’t just fly), but I consider that to be a problem inherent to the mechanics of Pathfinder, and so can’t really be helped very much.
What I really didn’t like about these legendary skill uses was that, as with normal skill uses, a lot of these present static DCs which, once you can meet them, allow for abuse. You know how Diplomacy has the old problem of, once you’ve got a high bonus, you can make anyone your friend? Well, hit a DC of 40 plus the other guy’s Charisma modifier, and you can make him literally worship you. I can tell you that I’d never allow that in my game.
Beyond this, Legendary Levels does keep presence of mind enough to give us the necessary (but easily-overlooked) basics for leveling our characters beyond 20th level. We get XP progressions to 30th level with the fast, medium, and slow advancements, as well as a listing of GP values by level, and iterative attack values (which, interestingly, allow for more than four attacks if your bonus is high enough to gain more iterative attacks).
Note that all of these expansions stop at 30th level. The book never actually says this is as high as PCs can possibly go, but it seems to be the default assumption (it also briefly mentions gestalt play, but this seems like an extended sidebar more than anything else). Likewise, there’s nothing said about advancing existing classes. Even the basic eleven classes aren’t advanced so much as they’re given a ten-level supplementary class…
It’s on that note that we move into the second section of the book, which presents the legendary classes. These eleven classes are legendary mirrors of the eleven classes from the Core Rulebook. Somewhat oddly, as I mentioned before, these are considered separate classes from their non-legendary counterparts, but they go out of their way to make sure they function as extensions of them (e.g. levels in legendary barbarian are treated as levels in barbarian for all barbarian class features). Once again, the book breaks from Third Edition’s epic level conventions as these all present standard (for their class) progressions for BAB and saves.
The classes themselves are too many to go into detail here, but some major themes are notable. A big one is that legendary damage is a major facet of class advancement, both in terms of dealing it and being able to protect yourself against it. Some of its uses seem better than others, but not egregiously so. There’s also a very clear attempt to increase the power of martial characters versus their spellcasting counterparts; these characters seem to get more over the course of their levels, and have greater emphasis on legendary damage.
To be clear, there are no legendary classes specific to the new classes from the APG, UM, or UC (though those classes are occasionally referenced in areas like the new spells). Likewise, there’s no mention of archetypes here. The book does present legendary classes to the three new base classes given in other Little Red Goblin Games’ supplements, though, which will be of limited use to anyone not owning those books. Five new prestige classes, which seem to be for those who can’t take legendary class levels, are also given; these cover a broad enough array to be fairly generic (e.g. juggernaut or lord of war for martial characters, archmage for arcane spellcasters, etc.) in terms of what classes they’ll appeal to. I do wish there’d been something built more towards multiclass characters here, but at least those characters get a nod in the feats section.
The feats section (which was annoyingly lacking in a summary table) did present a fairly robust set of feats to round out what can be done at legendary levels. The aforementioned multiclass characters are noted in that there are feats that grant limited access to some of the class abilities from the legendary classes. The bulk of the spellcasting feats are impressive for what they offer (High Magic puts an automatic Intensify Spell effect on all spells below 5th level that you cast, for instance, to keep low-level spells relevant), but once again, the combat-focused feats get the most emphasis, though it’s more equitable. It’s a bit of an easter egg that we’re given summary charts for the bonuses and penalties given by Power Attack, Combat Expertise, and Deadly Aim at the end of the section.
True Dweomers are presented next. Most of the basic information on them is presented earlier, in the book’s first section where it goes over legendary spells; in this case, spell levels top out at 12th, and full-progression spellcasting classes automatically gain access to those slots as they level up. However, for true dweomers (which don’t have a spell level per se) you can only use one per day, and learning EACH ONE requires taking a feat! The Sacred Spells presented next are slightly more generous, not having the once-per-day restriction, nor requiring feats; moreover, they have spell levels, and so can be prepared by legendary clerics and oracles. Both types of spells only have about a half-dozen examples presented, however, which I thought was rather limited.
Legendary encounters is presented next, and this short section of the book was also disappointing for how sparse it was. Leaving aside the possibility of legendary NPCs, this section had far too little for characters that have surpassed 20th-level. There are four templates here: the legendary creature template (which, ironically, is a simple template; though for all its bonuses it doesn’t seem to live up to its +20 CR adjustment), the deity template, the godspawn template, and the colossus template (which can only be applied to constructs, and is where the rules for colossal+ creature sizes are found). Unfortunately, the authors’ diligence from before isn’t to be found here, as not only do these latter three templates not have CR adjustments, but there’s no listing of the XP values of creatures with a CR of higher than 25.
The book’s final section covers legendary magic items. Not artifacts, these are magic items (specifically armor and weapon properties, rings, rods, and wondrous items) taken to legendary levels. To its credit, the book does talk about the rules for crafting these (and even legendary mundane weapons), and does present us with bonus pricing for legendary weapons and armor. The magic items themselves aren’t bad, but I found some (though not all) of the weapon and armor properties a bit dull – a crushing weapon does double damage, and enemies take a -2 on attacks and damage for 1 round on a critical hit. Much more fun is a volcanic weapon, which is a flaming weapon that spews frickin’ lava on a critical hit!
The rings, rods, and wondrous items are where the real fun is at. Rings of Immortality, the Trident of Pressure, the Godly Vessel (trap the soul of a dead god inside, and when you wear it, you can grant spells and answer prayers as that god!) are all very fun items that are more what I think of when it comes to legendary gear. A brief section on scaling up normal magic items with varying bonuses (e.g. bracers of armor, cloaks of resistance, etc.) ends the section.
Overall, Legendary Levels is a good book, though not without its flaws. Its strength is clearly focused on the mechanics of taking the PCs above 20th level, and it does a surprisingly good job of it. From the de facto level thirty limit to the prestige classes and feats to help out multiclass and non-Core-class characters to its attempts to rein in spellcasters as it boosts martial characters, there’s a lot to admire here. However, the book does have some problems (overlooking the occasional spelling or grammar error), such as a lackluster skills section and an anemic section on legendary-level enemies.
Still, possibly notwithstanding the need for an expanded CR-to-XP table, none of its problems can’t be taken care of by an enterprising GM that knows what to exclude and what to prepare beforehand. Likewise, for players that want to extend their game beyond 20th-level, what’s here is invaluable, simply because it presents a framework that’s workable and fun. Legendary Levels gives you what you need to take your game into truly legendary territory. Just be sure to keep a close eye what needs to be tweaked, and you’ll have a lot of fun with what you find here.
[4 of 5 Stars!]