Bards and Sages RPG Resource
DriveThruComics
DriveThruFiction
Powered by DriveThruRPG


Home » Legendary Games » Reviews
Browse Categories













Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
You must be logged in to rate this
Sentence of the Sinlord
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/24/2020 08:39:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive module clocks in at 95 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 2 pages introduction/ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 84 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

So, this module is intended for level 20 characters, and mythic ones at that…mostly, that is. You see, the introduction of the adventure actually lists difficulties by mythic tiers, and these assessments are VALID. And yes, the module can be tackled without mythic powers, but that makes it one of the hardest modules ever, and means that pretty much every single battle risks TPKs. Still, if you’re like me and want a combat-puzzle par excellence, this might be worth contemplating. I generally recommend it for mythic tiers 1-5 for the best results; sans mythic tiers, it is ULTRA-brutal. The module also makes use of a TON of books and assumes serious PF1-familiarity. Then again, it’s a capstone – and not just for an AP. In a way, it’s a loveletter to the system and to what only PFRPG delivers with its intricate, strategic combats.

And to Golarion.

Much more than any other Legendary Games supplement, this makes a TON of use of the setting; from Castle Korvosa’s cellars to obscure metaplot references, the module features A LOT of little tidbits that the savvy fan will notice and appreciate. But how? Well, here’s the thing: While Legendary Games can’t well use Paizo’s IP, the renamed components are VERY CLEAR, and in the beginning, a handy list of terms/names is provided. With these, the module is one name-exchange away from being pretty much a module steeped in obscure Golarion lore. I love that, particularly considering that it’s an alternate post-finale-ish module for Return of the Runelords.

At this point in time, PF2 and the AP are old enough that the existence of New Thassilon is not a SPOILER anymore – but this module poses a question: What if? What if the final runelord Sorshen (here genderswapped as Kazsethil, the fellow on the cover) had a bid for global dominance like the others and stuck to evil guns? That one phenomenal bid for all or nothing, that bookend to the age of rising runelords? This module follows this train of thought, and I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that the module’s structure and challenges, to a degree, remind my of ole’ Karzoug and Xin-Shalast, and similar high-fantasy scenes from various APs. In fact, it almost feels a tad bit more audacious, more willing to embrace ultra-high fantasy – and that’s a good thing, for structurally, this is a kind of dungeon with a planar theme. In a relatively clever bid, it does not try to limit the capabilities of the characters, which is a good thing. Indeed, the module walks a good tightrope when it comes to making the party actually explore the dungeon instead of bypassing it – so kudos for that. While I personally prefer event-driven/grand scale operations in high-level gameplay, this does an admirable job when it comes to making an ultra-high-level group actually crawl through a dungeon, so kudos there.

While we’re on the topic of structures and formal criteria: The module has hyperlinks for less commonly used spells, etc., we have read-aloud text, etc., and while I haven’t reverse-engineered all statblocks herein, I did the math for a couple, and was actually duly impressed. While there are glitches here and there, these tend to be in sections that matter less, like a ranged weapon for a melee-focused combatant, etc. Unless you’re diving into the nit and grit of the numbers, you won’t run into issues on the rules-front GMing this.

I own both the pdf and the PoD-softcover; the latter has no name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer. And which brings me to something I usually don’t mention in my reviews. Ever wondered why there aren’t more high-level modules? I mean, okay, they are hard to run, and harder to design…but that’s not all, right? Right. You see, high level adventures tend to sell not particularly well. They’re a small subsection of a subsection of the market, and this module, in many ways, feels like fan fiction that managed to get published. WAIT.

I do NOT mean that in a disparaging way! Not in the slightest! Some of the best Ravenloft material ever written was penned by fans! And in many ways, this module reminded me of the good ole’ Kargatane and Fraternity of Shadows, save that its content, well, is for Golarion. What do I mean by that? Well, for a Legendary Games book in particular, the shoestring budget is somewhat evident. The maps are not impressive, at best okay and certainly are not as strong as many Michael Tumey has made in the past, and no properly-sized keyless player-facing versions are included, and the maps have 10-ft.-grids, which is a HUGE pain in a game where pretty much all abilities are based on 5-ft. grids. So yeah, you’ll have to redraw all maps. That SUCKS. I hate it.

The majority the full-color art will be familiar for many GMs; particularly the layout irked me a bit: The lower border is reminiscent of the Horror-plug-ins in style (which is nice), but out of some strange glitch, the lower page border and the red seven-pointed star are very pixilated, which makes the lower border look messy. As a consequence of the pixilated lower border and the less than appealing maps, this is not an aesthetically-pleasing module. These rough edges also extend to the editing part; while the module can be run in a clean manner, there are quite a few hiccups, including rules-relevant (but minor) ones that do accumulate throughout the module.

And yet, it does have something that many, many published adventures lack. An audacious love of the subject matter that oozes from every damn page of the module. The tactics and builds themselves help running the complex encounters, and from creature choice to scenes, the module pulls no punches.

Heck, if you want to hear this module’s whole appeal made awesome-cheesy metal track, listen to “Beast in Black – Unlimited Sin” – the back cover’s tagline is by no accident an indirect variation of that song’s chorus. Picture the bombastic melodies and synth blasts of that track made module. That’s this adventure. And I mean this as someone who adores this track. This pumped up, hyper sense of epic conflict? Yeah, that’s the tone of this module down to a “T”.

Okay, this is pretty much as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first combat pitches the party, as they try to stop Kazsethil, against two elite guardian troops (CR 18), a draconal agathion (CR 20) and a CR 20 paladin. Yep, you heard right – Kazsethil, as the runelord of lust, has a surprising variety of devoted minions in the highest echelons of power, including characters that can be made to see the error of their ways; the module also spends quite some time explaining the individual character’s reasonings and how they may or may not remain loyal – for example the CR 21 nosferatu sorcerer, who may well be aghast when he realizes that he’s nothing more than a disposable guard dog…

From here, the trail leads to the Crimson Ziggurat (including notes on how teleportation’s a bad idea through a pillar – and we then turn to the paradisiacal gardens of the runelor…äh, pardon, “sinlord” – essentially the “high-level plant/beast”-level, where the party has a chance to face off with a giant swarm-blooded 18-headed mythic hydra. CR 23/MR 8. This build…made me cackle with GLEE. Glee, I tell you!! It’s such an EVIL build. Love it. Of course, the PCs may also run afoul of an ancient paradise dragon and 4 planetars. You know. As you do. Just one further encounter. Oh, and yes, mythic dimensional lock and mythic guards and wards in place.

To make that abundantly clear: I am smiling a very wicked smile as I’m typing these words. And that’s the start. From here on, we venture into Kazsethil’s proper dungeon, where highly volatile damaged portal tables: What about a massive miniature city that acts as a kind of imprisonment focus? Or a stone colossus that is the prison of a frickin’ INFERNAL DUKE? Heck, his concubines are CR 18 succubus mesmerists (yes, PLURAL), izfiitar proteans. Oh, and super high-level vampires, infernal champions and more await en route to the catacombs, where familiarity with Thassilonian magic and its themes is truly rewarded. Here, the eldest lamia, hemodynamic clockwork fiends and psychic lich arcanists await alongside soulbound warmongers. No, that’s not the level’s boss encounter.

See what I meant with “this module does what only PFRPG delivers” – in many ways, each combat herein, to some degree, is a brutal test of strategy, power, and genuine system mastery skill. The trompe l’oeil magus kensai that wields the sword of lust being one particularly noteworthy monster of a battle. The sepulchers of the other runelords, represented by runeplated akaruzugs, even have a whole page-table of infused attacks/custom SPs. And then, below, there is the Shining Elder, the creator of rune magic (CR 26/MR 10; and if that looks too puny for you, guidelines to ramp the fellow up to CR 30 are included…) – defeating this ally of Kazsethil may well restructure the order of magic (a perfect explanation for changed rules if you’re planning on transitioning to PF2, introduce Spheres of Power, akasha or Grimoire of Lost Souls or something along those lines in your next campaign!).

Oh, and all of that? That’s but a prelude in comparison to the true finale. You see, Kazsethil seeks to merge with the very fabric of nature, becoming essentially a cosmic law – and he’s not dumb enough to face the PCs alone. Colossus. Advanced elohim. Runeslave Runegiants. Sinspawn champions. A full-blown, fully statted ultra-high level adventuring group. Oh, and Kazsethil. Good luck. Your players will need it. All those tricks, all that experience? The party will need it. Desperately. (As an aside: If you wanted to use Spheres of Power in your next campaign, the book has you covered, and the whole “creator of magic/paradigm change" has help for adjusting the boss there…)

The module concludes with an alternate 8th sin (doubt) and items/artifacts as well as a feat and aforementioned hemodynamic construct template – and the rune of transgression spell.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules language level; on one hand, the highly complex high-level builds are better and more inspired than I expected to see, but there also are quite a few minor hiccups, though none that truly impede the module. Layout, as noted before, is weird – the pixilated lower border really irked me. In combination with the lack of player-friendly maps sucks; the maps aren’t particularly impressive, and use a 10-ft.-grid, which makes running tactical combat in PFRPG a huge PAIN. You’ll need to redraw all of them for 5-foot-squares, as the module really requires that level of tactical precision in combat. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover, as noted, doesn’t have the name on the spine, which is a bit of a bummer.

Oh boy. Matt Daley’s “Sentence of the Sinlord” is a really tough cookie for me to review. Because it is, in many ways, a pretty flawed adventure; the requirement to redraw maps alone, and the lack of player-friendly maps, is a pretty big downside, particularly considering how tactical this module is. How finely-calibrated the combat encounters are to push the PCs to the limits and beyond. This, all on its lonesome, would usually sink the module on a personal level for me.

The shoestring budget is very much apparent, and in some ways that are not only not as aesthetically-pleasing, but frankly inconsiderate. The map-redraw situation alone is a big no-go. I should punish this module for it and rate it down to the vicinity of the 3-star region. And yet…

…to say it with aforementioned song: “Unlimited Sin, Unlimited Power – that’s the price you must pay” – that was my credo when I prep’d this. But why would you bother dealing with that, when there are so many other modules out there?

Well. There are almost no adventures out there that deliver what this one does – this level of challenge, this level of audacity and full-blown embracing of apex-level combat action. In many ways, Sentence of the Sinlord is a resounding success that OOZES passion from every page, testament to the love that the author professes for the game and setting in the introduction.

If you are like me and value substance over style, value ambition and creativity over perfection, then this may well rank among your favorite modules for the system. Heck, with the sheer number of ultra-deadly high-level builds herein, this module could be scavenged for super-enemies and campaign endbosses for years.

In a way, this reminded me in some ways of Coliseum Morpheuon, save that it was built with PF’s by now increased power-level in mind. And that is a high, very high compliment. Since Rite Publishing has gone semi-dormant right now, feeling this vibe once more made me smile from ear to ear. I know that Steven D. Russell (R.I.P., my friend) would have approved of this module.

As a reviewer, this leaves me in a precarious position: As a person, I’m saying “screw the flaws, I’ll fix the downsides, this is too cool”, but as a reviewer, I genuinely should trash this module. I don’t want to.

So, once more: This is a flawed module. This might be a 3-star module, perhaps even a 2-star module, for you; if you just want pretty original art and maps, this is not the module for that. If you want an audacious, deadly, tactical love-letter to Golarian and the age of runelords, then this will make you smile from ear to ear. As such, I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. And since I, as a person, really loved this, it does get my seal of approval. I want to see the author write more modules. I’d love to see if he can maintain this level of energy throughout a whole campaign. There is a joy here that is impossible to fake, and if you want to see more, more high-level modules, more adventures that dare to be this deadly, this difficult, this joyously high fantasy in the best of ways, then please get this adventure. This deserves a spot in your collection, in spite of its flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sentence of the Sinlord
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Star Classes: Solarian
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/23/2020 13:17:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Star Classes-series clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

So, this supplement begins with a discussion of components that the supplement defines as problematic at the table – these are, for one, MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependency) of Charisma, Constitution (though to a lesser degree due to how SFRPG operates), and Dexterity/Strength, depending on the build; this is a factor that could ostensibly be deemed to be intentional, though I do agree that the solarian suffers from needing to split their focus thus. The second factor is a BIG one, and one that is impossible to dispute – the solarian has dead levels: On level 5, we have a resistance increase for solar armor, on level 15, we have the same + 1d6 for solar weapon. That kinda sucks and is really not fun. One of the things that PFRPG improved over 3.X was to make most levels fun and unique. So yeah, filling these? Great! All for it!

This supplement operates under the central premise of making the solarian more powerful, so that’s something to bear in mind here.

As such, the supplement begins with abilities suggested to even the playing field a bit for the solarian – these include number-tweaks like expanded proficiencies (heavy armor, longarms, grenades – oddly all capitalized, as though they were feats; indeed, quite a few abilities are presented thus, deviating from formatting conventions), making Strength or Dexterity key ability modifier, use Charisma instead of Dexterity to determine AC, use Charisma instead of Constitution to determine Stamina gained, or using Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity to calculate attack rolls with solar weapons or blasts.

Regarding flexibility, upgrades suggested are making them learn a harmonic revelation or both of a photon and graviton revelation. The suggestion to provide an additional manifestation or strengthened manifestation at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter (highly recommended – it kills the dead levels), or an ability that lets them retrain a stellar revelation when using sidereal influence. (Also an ability I’d recommend – makes the playing experience more versatile, and sidereal influence’s level and time-requirements prevent abuse) Good call here: The supplement doesn’t simply leave the GM alone with the new material, and advises caution regarding use of too many “substitute Charisma for X” type of abilities. The suggested tweaks, as presented, provide some customization options, but leaves the control firmly where it belongs - in the GM’s hands. While slightly more guidance would have been appreciated, but what we do get here is already something I very much appreciate.

Speaking of things I appreciate: Easily one of my least favorite things about SFRPG in the beginning was, that it simply didn’t offer that much regarding compelling lore pertaining to the respective classes; I still think that the Pact Worlds book could have done more there. Anyhow, the supplement provides quite a few cool lore justifications for the existence of solarians, which include cosmic radiation (cool for a somewhat comic-book-like feel), being an agent of fate…and one I’m particularly fond of, where notions of absolute moralities are dissolved. As someone who has always been vocal about hating alignment systems, particularly within the complex realities of more advanced civilizations, that one struck a chord with me. 6 of these complex explanations are provided, and I genuinely liked all of them.

The pdf then proceeds to provide the stellar beacon archetype, which grants alternate class features at 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 18th level: At 2nd level, we have a means to gain stellar mode – and if you already are a solarian, you gain 2 points of attunement per round, rather than 1. This is a potentially very strong change, as it decreases the speed to become fully attuned by 1 round, unlocking zenith revelations sooner. Considering that the payoff is a single stellar revelation, this is a very powerful option, particularly when combined with the basic notion of getting more flexible revelations, as suggested before. 6th, 12th and 18th level provide a stellar revelation – so no change for solarians? Well, not quite: If you are a solarian, you can choose zenith revelations at 12th and 18th level instead. At 9th level, we have the Inverted Being ability, which lets you choose one revelation of equal level and opposite attunement for each one you possess. By meditating 10 minutes and spending 1 Resolve Point (not capitalized properly), you can exchange any of these revelations for their opposite.

This archetype is interesting in a couple of ways: For one, it allows for valid dabbling in the solarian engine for non-solarians. For solarians, it provides pretty much a straight power upgrade, in that it allows for quicker zenith manifestation access and an increased emphasis of the duality-concept at 9th level. It also puts me as a reviewer in a very weird position: On one hand, it is, pretty much by design, a VERY strong option, and one you’d be a fool to pass over, if it is allowed in your game. As such, it would be easy to complain about it being overpowered in the context of the solarian class as presented….and indeed, the quicker access to the solarian’s “finishers” is something that requires careful observation, as ALL future zenith revelations or those from other sources are balanced against requiring the set-up time being required. Getting rid of it can become problematic rather fast.

On the other hand, this archetype’s intention is to let you get sooner to that “cool” stuff. The question on whether you’d consider this archetype broken or amazing is ultimately wholly contingent on whether you think that the solarian’s modes play as they should. Do you want the set-up period and play a grittier game? If so, then you should not allow this archetype – for your game, it might tip the balance in an unpleasant manner. You should also be very much careful with zenith revelations and how they operate when using it. If, however, your group is gunning for a higher-powered playing style, and if the set-up of zenith revelations struck you as bothersome, then this archetype will be a godsend, and operate consistently at its intended powerlevel. While zenith revelations still require some oversight, the archetype may well drastically increase your enjoyment of the solarian class in your game. So yeah, for certain games, this is awesome. I just wished that the book clearly spelled the intended design goals to allow GMs to make an informed choice there. An explanation there would have certainly made this more newbie-friendly.

The supplement then proceeds to present two new solar manifestations: Solar amplification increases the DC of both stellar and zenith revelations by 1, +1 at 9th and 18th level, and the ability also nets you ½ solarian level as a bonus to maneuvers executed with stellar revelations. RAW, zenith revelations are excluded from this bonus; not sure that this was intentional, but I assume it was. Solar form nets +1 to all saving throws, which increases to +2 at 10th level (providing a bit of alleviation for the common save-complaint), and nets you twice solarian temporary hit points, with fast healing equal to your solarian level. The latter aspect is highly ambiguous regarding its verbiage – does the fast healing apply universally, or just to the temporary hit points? This needs clarification. Much to my chagrin, the pdf also fails to specify whether and how these interact with the solarian class graft.

Unless I miscounted, we have 24 new stellar revelations. This book introduces a new category of those, so-called harmonic revelations, which count as neither photon, nor graviton, and are active in both attunements. While I get the design goal behind that, I also do think that these somewhat dilute the duality leitmotif of the solarian class on a rules level. I am not a fan of this.

The vast majority of new revelations are harmonic ones, so I’ll just explicitly call out those that aren’t. Among the 2nd level stellar revelations, we have the means to get an additional solar manifestation, which, well, is kinda understandable, but once more, is future-proofing-wise perhaps not the smartest choice, considering that the class ability provides a scaling, constant benefit for the class. Amplified attunement nets you an insight bonus to EAC and KAC while graviton-attuned, while photon-mode nets you a scaling bonus to movement speed while photon-attuned. Both grow in potency at 9th and 18th level. Attunement Pool changes the attunement engine in an interesting manner: It lets your attunement grow to 4 + Charisma (should be capitalized) modifier attunement; when you use a solarian ability that would render you unattuned, you instead reduce this pool by 3. I really love this one. It’s a great investment for epic battles and unlocks some neat combos. Minor nitpick, though: Ideally, the ability should specify that you still can only use abilities that’d cause you to become unattuned if you have at least the 3 attunement required. It is very obvious from context, though. There is also a revelation that makes your solar weapon optionally a 60-ft.-range blast, which can’t be modified by crystals.

There are 8 6th level revelations, the first of which nets you 1 attunement whenever you damage an enemy with an attack. … WTF??? Okay, so this completely delimits attunement. With AoE attacks of any kind, this’ll allow you to scale up to the maximum of even the expanded attunement scale very easily, very swiftly. Compare that broken piece of WTF-ery with +1d6 damage output increase for solar weapon or blast. Or the pretty nifty option to get a solar weapon for each hand, which also gets weapon crystal interaction right. A revelation that nets you plus Charisma modifier uses of limited use revelations, or additional means to target specific targets, excluding targets from AoE revelations – the majority of these options tends to fill a plausible and per se well-wrought idea. Not having sidereal influence end in combat is also an interesting take, and there are means to upgrade the solar manifestations. Higher level revelations include “spending 2 resolve points, you may cast Plane Shift” ([sic!] as an example of formatting hiccups), with the added benefit of working for space ships as well, increasing drift. The latter part here? That’s REALLY cool. Not so cool: SFRPG does not have “full-round actions”; one of 16th level harmonic revelations includes the option to spend 1 Resolve Point to maximize all damage a target takes (NO SAVE); for another point, you also apply critical effects automatically, and any hit is a critical hit. While this ability may only affect a single target once before you need a 10-minute Stamina-replenishing rest, remember that there’s a revelation that lets you affect a target + Charisma modifier times with this! Oh, and guess what? There is also one ability that renders the target utterly invulnerable until the end of your next round. It has the same caveat, but…again…can be prolonged with a revelation herein. No DR, no resistance – flat-out immortality! Fall into a black hole (a proper one), be subject to a god’s smite or a planet destroyer supergun. You can take it. Unscathed. Yes, it requires a full action (erroneously referred to as full-round action) and is high level, but seriously? When compared to the regular 16th-level revelations, these latter two provide ridiculous damage boosts or defensive boosts. And know what? Solarian is DPR-wise already pretty damn good. That wasn’t the main issue of the class.

The book also provides 3 capstone revelations (one for each mode) – 1/week rebirth, a devastating proper mini black hole, and a mini supernova (that actually deals proper damage). I liked all of these, its glitches regarding action names and formatting notwithstanding.

On the photon side, we have means to replenish charges, which can be problematic – if you’re playing a resource-heavy game, this eliminates any energy-shortage you can construct, provided the solarian has enough time on their hands. (It also would allow for evil empires to construct solarian batteries, etc.); for 10th level revelations, we have a nice Glow of Life for allies (with a limit) that I really loved, and a means to increase a ship’s speed – I LOVE this one and wished there had been more options here that focus on ship combat and general utility; as many solarian players will be able to attest, ship combat as a solarian can use a couple of unique tricks and meaningful things to do.

The graviton revelations include a massive 10-hex extension of an aura that tanks ship speed (awesome), and a boost for defy gravity or gravity boost. See, these provide breadth, and that’s something the solarian can really use!

The pdf also features 10 new zenith revelations, which includes moving struck targets around while graviton-attuned, Stamina replenishing while fully attuned (not a fan), or what about a light doppelgänger who can act as an alternate origin for your revelations and who can switch places with you? That is AWESOME and incredibly cool. Rapid manifestation is hard to stomach: While fully attuned to one thing, you decrease the action your revelation activation might take from “full-round action to a standard action”, standard action to move action, move action to swift action.” This doesn’t work with ones that let you execute attacks. Now, combine this passive ability with the ones for max damage or invulnerability. Or the others. Or what about the zenith revelation that all but eliminates the duality notion, which makes you no longer lose attunement in photon/graviton if you attune to the other, adding +1 attunement in both modes automatically at 17th level? These are presented right next to a zenith revelation that makes a creature striking you in melee take 1d6 fire damage per 2 solarian levels, Reflex save halves.

The supplement also provides a full page-table of new weapon crystals – I genuinely liked these. No problems there. Beyond that, the pdf provides weapon mods – essentially modifications for weapon crystals that make the weapon count as cold iron, adamantine, change damage types, etc. At item level 8, targeting EAC seems pretty brutal, particularly for just 2,100 credits…and the level 18 true strike infusion bypasses all hardness, damage reduction and energy resistances – that should be scaling, numerical values, not a flat-out “I ignore everything.”

The pdf concludes with 5 solarian creatures, which aren’t always perfect: The CR 13 hemeros aeon, the CR 2 reptoid, a CR 8 dwarf, the CR 18 void prophet, and the CR 11 corona dragon. The aeon has darkvision listed twice, and its resistances are both off by 3, though the latter is probably intended – resistance 13 as per aeon is less elegant than the value of 10 it has. Apart from minor hiccups like these, the statblocks tend to be usable, though.

Conclusion: Editing is per se good on a formal and rules language level, though the same can’t be claimed for formatting, which is consistently off, and inconsistent in how it’s off. It kinda irritated me. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, with neat full-color artworks that fans of LG will be familiar with. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley’s Star Class book on solarians is frustrating for me, because the majority of its issues can be boiled down to presentation, fine-tuning, and context.

On the one hand, we have a smattering of content designed to expand the options available for the solarian, within the context assumed by the class.

On the other hand, we have a significant number of pieces of content designed to delimit the class and increase its power-level.

These two categories of content are neither clearly divided, nor does the book really explain the vast impact the collective of the options herein can have on the solarian.

Where a single revelation might make for an engine tweak that, in conjunction with the modifications to the core chassis, can fix the disadvantage regarding sheer numbers the class suffers from, the combination of all these tweaks escalates the power-level of the class significantly beyond its brethren.

In many ways, this book feels like it was once two documents: “Solarian Expansion.docx” and “Solarian Power Increases.docx” – and both were just thrown together.

Moreover, the hypothetical second document, “Solarian Power Increases.docx” suffers from losing its individual contextual frameworks: So, we have the core engine tweaks, got it. We have a power-boost archetype, got it. Then we have revelations designed to provide a power-boost beyond the power-boosts already established, and not all of these have been designed with the care they needed.

All address these, to some extent, similar issues.

Once you start combining all these options to enhance the power of the class, you’ll get a pretty darn brutal beast. And I get it. I can see the intent behind the individual tweaks.

Functionally, the solarian is not a hybrid class in PF1’s style – instead, it is a frontline fighter with a bit of utility thrown in, perhaps 1/5th of its role in the party. But that utility is what people gravitate (haha) to – it’s what makes the solarian special. And it is the thing that this book obviously tries to bring to the prominence and put front and center. And I LIKE that per se, but wouldn’t that have suited an alternate class better? This feels like a desperate attempt to hammer a core chassis into a shape it’s not made for.

I can also get behind the notion of broader applicability of solarian abilities that seems to have been the design goal with quite a few of the materials herein. Heck, I ADORE, and I mean ADORE the fact that this book sports quite a few tricks that allow solarians to be more useful in star ship combat. Same goes for the sidereal expansion (which helps re skills and breadth of options), or the notion (if not the implementation) of getting both solar weapon and armor – there is a lot herein I absolutely LOVE, particularly in the instances where the pdf expands the breadth of options, rather than the solarian’s already pretty impressive DPR.

But on the other hand, this book’s fix-type options to increase perceived flaws in the solarian are not existing in a vacuum; rather than that, they offer for the means to combo them, and when you combo serious power upgrades, the effect quickly can become exponential. There are things that are a matter of taste (dual attunement) that should have some balancing caveat, sure. I wouldn’t call an individual revelation herein broken (with the notable exception of the max damage and flat-out immunity ones), but their combinations are frickin’ savage and OP in the context of any SFRPG game I’ve seen or run. Even if you use them without the further power-upgrade by class fixes and archetype. Combine all of them, and the result will be PAINFUL, not only equalizing with e.g. soldier math-wise, but transcending it.

And it doesn’t have to be that way. In many ways, this feels like this, at one point, wanted to operate a bit like Legendary Rogues or Legendary Fighters: Explain a problem, present different ways to address the problem, and provide the means for the GM to reach an informed decision.

This book has all the potential of such a stand-out supplement, one that provides means to customize the solarian in an informed manner, according to the requirements of your individual game. Think about it as such: Let’s say, you see a power-level issue. In your opinion, the solarian is -2 power levels behind a comparable class. Okay, so Fix A provides a +1, Fix B another +1. A series of stellar revelations provide anything form a power level increase of +0 to +2. Even with a simplified numerical sequence, the issue becomes apparent, when in fact, some of these would rather behave as escalating multipliers. The problem is that none of the individual increases are bad per se; you can see their intent, their tweaks, etc. – but when you combine them? Ouch. This needed context.

Only, instead of providing context, warning the GM from the implications and power-level increases that individual pieces or combinations of the content herein can offer, everything’s lumped together, implying a parity of power and attempted synergy with brutal results that I refuse to believe is intentional.

And that is a huge, damn shame. You see, even though the formatting here is a long shot from Legendary Games’ usual precision, this book contains GEMS. Components that had me smile from ear to ear. And yes, I’ll be using content from this book in my games.

But as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can’t recommend this book as presented. Even with the significant amount of formal glitches present, this could have been a 4.5-star offering, and certainly something that could have warranted a seal of approval. But the book requires that the GM not only carefully reads the entire book, they also have to carefully, meticulously vet the content and decide which of the perceived issues of the solarian class in game may or may not have sprung up in their game. And then understand the implications of allowing the content herein. And most importantly, the combos this content allows for.

In short: You need a deep understanding of the game’s balance to prevent this book from catapulting the power-levels of the solarian off the deep end. If you do, then this book might well be one of your favorite solarian supplements out there. If not, then, well…you have been warned.

Ultimately, I can only recommend this book in a very limited capacity; for most tables, this will not be worth the hassle of balancing its entire content versus the core solarian – and while I love many of its components in a vacuum, in conjunction with each other, they quickly become broken. Hence, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Star Classes: Solarian
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (5E)
by William M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2020 16:26:21

This was a great, well prepared introduction into the Legendary Planet adventure path. My players are still exploring the galaxy over a year later with no signs of stopping. The gradual introduction into the different aspects of the AP allowed us to not get bogged down right at the start just running up with a few characters they had interest in trying.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet: The Assimilation Strain (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
by Jacob M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2020 20:31:39

The best PF2e class I've seen so far when it comes to design. Balanced while following through on the spirit of the original, while giving you a lot of cool and fun options to pick from at every level. This class has convinced me to run a PF2e campaign when the official classes could not.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2020 05:46:33

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, so this review will diverge from my usual format, as I’ve already covered the entirety of the AP. As befitting of a review of the campaign as a whole, I’ll focus on the overarching entity, the AP as a whole, if you will. I’ll also provide some brief commentary on the individual modules in relation to the campaign.

It should be noted that I’ve been a backer of this campaign, and that I backed for PF1e – not because I liked 5e or SFRPG less, but because the pitch of the sword and planet AP using mythic rules really tickled my fancy. As such, the following is based on the PF1e-version of the AP.

If you take a look at my ratings of the AP-installments, you’ll notice that I LIKE this series. Very much. That being said, this doesn’t mean that the AP doesn’t have some issues, so what follows should be taken in context – the AP does many things that Paizo APs suffer from as well, and the dissection of some components to follow stem from a position of someone enjoying the campaign’s individual installments. Still, I can very much picture that some people would have issues with some aspects of the series. This review should be understood as me vocalizing my issues with the entirety of the AP as a cohesive whole.

As such, the following will contain SERIOUS SPOILERS for the entirety of the AP. I won’t go into details per se (that’s what the individual reviews are for), but you get the gist. If you want to play in this AP, please stop reading NOW.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, the first thing you need to know about the AP, is that, while there are two ways to start this, only one of them is actually viable on a narrative level.

One of these was the notion of beginning with “To Worlds Unknown”, with the module starting essentially in medias res. This is per se a solid IDEA, but that’s all it is, as the AP’s main motivation for the VAST majority of the AP is easily the weakest aspects of it – the primary assumed motivation for the PCs is that they “do the E.T.”: They want to go home. I’m so not kidding. If I’d be in the PC’s shoes, I’d be happy. They are thrust into this wondrous, fantastic series of planets, and still, they are assumed to want home as a driving force – only that, at one point towards the end of the campaign, they suddenly are supposed to want to end the threat of the evil civilization to save, bingo, their home. Even if, by manner of outgame party consensus you can get your party to go that route, this very tenuous thread of connective tissue makes no sense when starting with “To Worlds Unknown.” This weak core motivation also invalidates pretty much all the options in the Player’s Guide, which you btw. also should not hand out to the players if you choose the introduction that actually does work:

“The Assimilation Strain” was billed as an optional prologue, when it’s anything but “optional” – it’s mandatory. It establishes the PCs in their own world, ideally with the players thinking that we’re going for a regular fantasy campaign. Then, the Ultari Hegemony and their allied races happen to the world – though that is not evident at first. The Assimilation Strain transitions from cookie-cutter fantasy opening to horror via a bait and switch, and then switches things up once more, as the PCs find the Sword & Planet source and enter the genre properly, if you will. This mirrors the classic trope of the genre, establishes the PC’s home, and also the danger that can befall their home if the Hegemony is not stopped. This prologue thus establishes the tenuous thread that will have to hold for the vast majority of the campaign. Do not skip it.

Ideally, you know your players well enough so you can judge whether they’d like the AP, and pull off this bait and switch – if it works, it works REALLY, REALLY well. Again, do not skip it.

“To Worlds Unknown” begins with the same relatively dark theme and goes for a prison break, while then establishing the largest strength of the AP for the majority of its run:

Its, for the most part, pitch-perfect grasp of the whole Sword & Planet genre. The planets evoke wonder, are marvelous, and add stunning set-piece to stunning set-piece. The sense of wonder is excellent. If exploration of wondrous vistas is what you’re looking for in the AP, then rest assured that this’ll deliver in spades.

Indeed, the first 3 adventures focus on this sense of wonder: “To Worlds Unknown” is the establishing shot; “The Scavenged Codex” is a huge scavenger hunt for an important item, and “Dead Vault Descent’s” tide-locked planet is FANTASTIC in the best ways.

This first third of the AP has few issues – “The Scavenged Codex” forces the PCs to work with a truly despicable NPC early on, and this might rub some people the wrong way; that being said, this railroad can be managed to an extent by a capable GM. “Dead Vault Descent” is a fantastic adventure, but it actually does not progress the story. It’s a clear “You princess…äh…way home is in another castle…äh, on another planet”-scenario. Other than that, I consider the start to be super promising. However, one of the weaknesses of the AP would be that it, like MANY, MANY Paizo APs, lacks unifying tissue and consequence. “The Scavenged Codex” and “Dead Vault Descent” both set up significant consequences for the worlds they take place on – consequences that are of no real concern thereafter. Similarly, like many Paizo APs, one can’t help but get a sense of an episodic structure – the modules aren’t particularly well-linked, nor do consequences between modules carry over particularly well.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Player’s Guide feels oddly tacked on to the AP. It doesn’t do a good job at providing alternate motivations for alien PCs that did not go through the prologue. The alien PC races are pretty darn strong, and as replacement characters, well, that’d work in a way. It’d have been nice to get some suggestions from where such characters derive the unique mythic power that allows for instant adaptation to other worlds, though. Introducing new PCs could have been handled better. Speaking of adaption: I may well be alone with this, but I like survival aspects, so a hard mode where the PCs don’t get this ability to instantly adapt to new planets would have been an awesome addition for groups that enjoy dealing with minutiae, hazards and the like, who want planning matter more. Oh well.

Making the new bodies the consequence of experimentation between Prologue and “To Worlds Unknown”, perhaps with some negative consequences as well, could have rendered the whole “Bring down the Hegemony”-angle more personal. But yeah, if you hand out this guide alongside the prologue, you’re spoiling things, and a player’s guide should NEVER spoil the AP.

These first three installments are what I’d call the “Wonder-Arc” – it’s all about the wonder of these realms, high pulp, high danger, all awesome, all with different themes. “Dead Vault Descent” in particular stands out, its tidelocked planet and challenges eliciting a sense of melancholy, foreshadowing the night to come.

Oh boy. “Confederates of the Shattered Zone” – in hindsight, I should have rated this one lower. It’s a full-blown thematic whiplash. Suddenly, we travel into a quasi-space-Victorian setting that can be best likened to the videogame “Sunless Skies”, save with quasi-Nazis thrown in; it’s oppressive, grimy, and takes some cues from the Pathologic franchise (which I LOVE) in its strangely, yet compellingly-dissonant and anachronistic elements. It’s an industrial age nightmare in space. I should love it to bits, but I really, really don’t. Richard Pett is a fantastic author, and his dark visions are haunting – but here, it simply doesn’t fit the tone of any other part of the AP. At least not in how it’s implemented. The massive module establishes a baseline of factions and implies a long-term game here, but can’t develop it properly; in many ways, this feels like a mega-adventure in its own right, cut down to module size…which really hurts the module and its overall place in the AP. If you run the AP as written, I’d STRONGLY suggest expanding the entire section, so it can actually start to shine; or, well, if you cut any module from the AP, it probably should be this one. Also, because it then adds this weird kyton-fueled Hellraiser-ish angle towards the end, including what should be a cataclysmic event for the PCs, something that should be a huge climax, but which is ultimately relegated to a few paragraphs of text, when it should be a whole sequence of its own, with rules, challenges, etc. – I really don’t get why the finale here is a cut-scene, prefaced with a pretty vanilla dungeon. Cut the dungeon, make the cut-scene-ish finale rules-relevant.

I love this setting, this module’s potential, but its implementation left me less enthused. I really, really dislike it in the context of this AP. It doesn’t fit in either with the first half of the AP (including the horror-ish prologue!), nor with the second half of the AP. It’s this odd middle part of the AP that feels excessive and suddenly dark just for the sake of being dark. Its end also implies consequences that, bingo, aren’t ever properly touched upon again.

Again, I’d love to see an AP in this setting, but as part of the Legendary Planet AP? Well, here, I genuinely think that it suffers from obvious cuts, and/or from ambition exceeding the scope of what the formula can provide. It also reads like it was supposed to have more pronounced consequences on the overall plot, which I don’t really see happening.

Thankfully, the second arc of the AP, which I’d dub “The War against the Hegemony” once more takes up the themes that fit the saga per se better. The war beneath the waves depicted in “The Depths of Desperation” is epic once more in the heroic, wondrous sense; supported by mass combat rules and conflicts with ginormous foes, this is a great turning point in the dynamics; “Mind-Tyrants of the Merciless Moons” further builds on this: Tim Hitchcock delivers pretty much Sword & Planet themes in a nigh-perfect manner; he gets it. The original pdf release was pretty flawed in formal aspects, felt rushed regarding several rules-components, but these glitches have been dealt with, rendering this a high point of the saga. (Even though I still maintain that getting high-level PCs to engage in a regular dungeon crawl isn’t that smart.) Still, kudos to Legendary Games for making this one shine. I just wished that the last pass had been executed before I had my backer copy of the massive hardcover sent to me…hope this’ll be handled differently for Aegis of Empires.

And then, there is “To Kill a Star” – a milestone of an epic high-level adventure, this finale of the AP very much justifies running the campaign. It’s epic in all the right ways. I’m super happy with this finale in pretty much all ways. It’s a mega-adventure in its own right, and an excellent one that doesn’t try to limit the party, instead working with its vast capabilities. My one complaint with the second arc of the AP is its sequence, not in plot, but in narrative escalation: In “Mind-Tyrants of the Merciless Moon”, we have the high-level translation of themes and playstyle from the first arc: It’s about the wonder of the strange places, brutal combats, and splices in some more epic scales. I love that. The problem is that it follows a module featuring a full-blown war against the Hegemony. We have a war in” Depths of Desperation”, with the PCs taking on armies and huge threats, and the move back towards the wondrous explorer/resistance angle, striking at a key asset of the Hegemony. In some ways, this sequence feels like a scaling back; having the escalation move and build organically from the mostly personal level in Mind Tyrants to the global in Depths to the interplanetary in “To Kill a Star” would have kept the sense of escalation intact.

So, whenever someone asks me whether I’d recommend this AP, I ask two questions: 1) Do you want a strong story, or are wondrous locales more important to you? Because Legendary Planet excels at presenting the sense of wide-eyed wonder that I want out of the genre. The plots WITHIN the modules all work well enough. But its overarching story, particularly considering what connects the modules and consequences that carry over? In that regard, the AP is pretty damn weak. For comparison, I reread a couple of Paizo APs, and saw many similar issues in a lot of them, which, I think, may stem from the fact that the direction of the individual authors needs to be stricter, or more focused, or both. Or, well, someone to actually rewrite the completed AP to tie things all together and make it, you know, a narrative where story-threads matter. While certainly not perfect, particularly in the mechanical aspects (which SUCK!), the Zeitgeist AP, for example, does this a lot better – keeping NPCs and how the party acted relevant. Implementing consequence. Legendary Planet is not good at that. I wouldn’t recommend this AP to someone looking for a captivating story. Villain-wise, the Hegemony is no more or less plausible than comparable villain-civilizations like Star Trek’s borg or Star Wars’ empire; I had no problem suspending my disbelief in how they work, and particularly when they actually become proactive, i.e. in “Mind Tyrants of the Merciless Moons” and “To Kill a Star”, they really came off as supremely dangerous. It’s this looming presence throughout, but, like in many Paizo APs, there isn’t much chance to establish direct opposition early on – however, I didn’t care as much here, because the enemy, well, is the Hegemony. An empire. Not a single enemy, and as such, you’re not expected to create a personal rapport. That’s a smart angle. But back to the second question: 2) How good are your players at PFRPG? Legendary Planet excels, with no doubt in my mind, and beyond what many comparable series offer, in the mechanics department. This AP makes perfect use of potential that only the uneven, wide-open math of PFRPG offers, of all those plentiful options, to provide truly challenging and evocative combat. I can’t reference a single campaign that consistently manages to hit this precarious level of being truly challenging for veteran players without becoming unfair or simply an assortment of save-or-sucks. While the story may not be true impressive, the overall DESIGN of the challenges herein tends to end up in the highest tiers. This is particularly impressive, considering the escalation that mythic gameplay adds to these aspects. You might need to do some fixing on a narrative level; but unlike the Zeitgeist AP, you won’t have to redesign a whole atrociously-bad subengine or fix combats and stat highest-tier, huge monsters. Legendary Planet’s combats are meticulously-crafted for strategy, tactics, etc., and supremely-rewarding in that manner.

If your players tend to curmbstomp through Paizo-APs, then this’ll get that excitement back to the table’s combats. Unlike in most published modules, I only very rarely had to optimize enemies, slap templates on them, etc. – this is, design-wise, one of the best campaigns I’ve seen.

To summarize: While the individual stories told in the modules work well enough, the overarching story of the AP is easily its weakest component. It’s weak regarding consequences that transcend modules, and doesn’t have proper decision-based branching on a micro-or macro-level going on. On the plus-side, the creativity of the wondrous expanses is top-tier, the pacing within individual adventures is great, and the variety of challenges posed is evocative and great. This handles the wonder, the sense of being thrust into unknown worlds, exceedingly well; it hits its genre aesthetics and tropes really well, and in a concise manner. For the most part. (cough Confederates /cough)

If you’re looking for a challenge and can take the AP for what it is, it offers a truly fun campaign. I you want an intricately-woven, intelligent storyline beyond the narrative shortcomings many comparable APs offer, I’d recommend choosing another campaign to run. I can see this AP clock in as anything, ranging from 3 stars to 5 stars for an individual group. Personally, the excellence regarding design components helps me forgive the issues in the narrative. On a plus-side, the flaws in the overall story being not that intricate do mean that AP is super easy to dismantle, expand, and scavenge from – it’s very easy to replace components of the saga, exchange them with your own material or other modules, or elaborate upon an individual chapter.

How, then, am I supposed to rate this AP, as a whole, as opposed to my ratings for the individual chapters? In the end, I think that the weaknesses in the overarching narrative fabric of the AP needs to be represented in some way in the final verdict. To state this once more – for me, as a person, this works well; I can deal with the narrative, expand upon regions, add consequences, etc. If you enjoy the like, then this may well be a 5 star + seal level AP for you.

But I can’t write my reviews based solely with this perspective in mind. As such, my final verdict of the entire saga as a whole, as opposed to individual installments, would usually not exceed 4 stars, but there is another factor to this: Pricing. Considering the amount of content, this AP is a steal. We get art and map folios, and the equivalent 0f 8 (!!) modules, with the finale being a mega-adventure in its own right, for $50 in pdf; $109.99 pdf + print. This is a STEAL. This has more than 700 pages of top-tier content. (Not counting the art and map folios that are super helpful in the age of COVID…) For that price. You don’t have to be a math savant to realize how good this bang-for-buck ratio is. Hence, I feel justified in adding at least half a star, and round up. Oh, and the AP gets my seal of approval. It’s not perfect, but I still love it to bits.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Arcforge: Psibertech
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/10/2020 05:02:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first expansion of Arcforge (actually the second half of the original document, to my knowledge) clocks in at 76 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 64 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

This book requires the first Arcforge book, and for full use, you should also be using Ultimate Psionics and Akashic Mysteries.

Okay, while the book doesn’t start that way, let us begin as always, by taking a look at the class options presented within this book – these include two new archetypes, the first of which would be the biomech speaker druid, who adds Knowledge (engineering) to the class skills and gains a mech, as well as “biomech pilot” (should be capitalized) as a bonus feat, replacing wild empathy and nature bond.

This feat requires a bit of explanation: It nets you a partially biological mech, which unlocks a whole array of unique mech enhancements, which includes share spells, 25% to negate critical and precision damage that can be taken multiple times to upgrade to full-blown immunity, or treating integrated weapons as natural weapons. These benefits are potent, but considering the dual tax, and the per se plausibly minimum level requirements, they are valid. But back to the archetype: 4th level lets the druid 1/day as a standard action exchange one of the mech enhancements for another; 6th level and every 2 levels thereafter increases that by another daily use, and 8th and 12th level improve the action economy. The capstone delimits this daily-uses wise and replaces wild shape. Instead of resist nature’s lure, we have an untyped +4 bonus to saves versus Ex/Su, Sp and Psi-like abilities of biomechs, robots, and bio-engineered critters.

Before we go to the second archetype, we have to talk about the robot engine featured in this book, the modular robot engine: In addition to the robot subtype’s properties, the book champions them having Upgrade Points (UP) equal to twice the robot’s CR, minimum 1. Additional upgrades may be slotted on to a robot, granting +1 CR for every 2 UP beyond the normal amount, and if possible, these abilities have a saving throw DC of 10 + ½ the robot’s HD + the robot’s Intelligence modifier. For creators of robots, Improved Robotics nets +2 UP for any robot made (does that increase the robot’s CR for cap-purposes or not?). Most upgrades cost between 1 and 2 UP, with a few also offering a cost of 3 UP. These include additional modes of movement equal to base speed (including clumsy fly or burrow), an additional attack (both 1 UP), Dex to damage, all-around vision…there are a ton of cool ideas here, but the individual value of the upgrades oscillates rather drastically. Let’s take aforementioned movement mode upgrade: It places the same numeric value on climb or swim speed as on burrow speed, which is valid for a monster-customization engine. There is also one upgrade that is called “Autodestruct core”, which deals 1d10 times HD damage in a 30 ft.-radius as a full-round action, with half damage being fire, the other slashing, Ref halves. At higher levels, this also irradiates the area. Cool, but destroys the robot. Compare that to threat range +1 for all the robot’s attacks (which RAW even stacks with keen et al., which it really shouldn’t) or a threat multiplier increase by 1, which has no maximum cap. Both of these cost 1 UP. Notice something? Formatting is sometimes weird: “The robot gains burn (1d6) with attacks of a certain type.” – look no further than this to realize how important formatting is…making a melee attack work as energy-based is valued the same way as causing 1 Constitution damage on an established or maintained pin.

To make that abundantly clear: I like the robot customization engine! And heck, as a quick and painless GM-customization tool to make robots more potent and versatile it is absolute GOLD. The problem here is akin to others in the first Arcforge supplement– the almost obsessive system transparency between subsystems that are not, or no longer, balanced for parity. In many ways, the core issue of the robot upgrade system lies that it is not as finely balanced as a class option among its own options due to originally being a GM-facing tool. Okay, that’s something one can deal with. However, the system is opened to players, and to other subsystems, and that’s a really bad call. The mech engine, for example, has obviously not even cursorily been balanced against the robot upgrade system. You don’t have to be an experienced crunch wizard to see the disparities here at a glance.

One of the mech enhancements introduced herein, for example, nets you 1 Upgrade Point – this upgrade point can be spent on bonafide fly speeds, boosters, etc. – compare that to hover stabilizers or the feather fall-based modified aerodynamics enhancements in the first book. Need more? In the core engine, only mechs with the quadruped/threaded body type could gain a climb speed – well, now that limit’s been thoroughly squashed. In many ways, this small mech enhancement that allows for robot upgrades to be used for mechs is SUPER-broken and needs to die; it compromises the per se solid core engine for Arcforge mechs established in the first book. Thoroughly.

Unfortunately, this annoying lack of concern with system parity can be seen in some other instances. There’s e.g. the new feat chain that upgrades your astral constructs with upgrade points (because we all know that astral constructs really need a power upgrade /sarcasm) or the option to add the aggregate template (more on that below) by adding AIs stored into the thus created astral robot. The idea here is AMAZING. Let me make that abundantly clear. I also love the world-building implications this has. Execution? Not so much. This book introduced the Biomech Construct psionic feat, which applies the biomech template to any astral constructs you create, and you can choose options from an enhancement menu or the metamorphosis powers of the same line, which is pretty potent as a whole. At one point, I am pretty sure that parity between power points and BP/corresponding abilities was considered, and the feat would be potent in that context; however, the final iteration of the Arcforge-systems has gone another way, which also destroys this assumption of parity.

The integrator aegis is a more complex archetype – this one gets rid of astral suit, but instead modifies their own body, which means they can wear armor. They get access to a limited array of aberrant customizations, and begins play with two robotic enhancements (see above) twice at 1st level, once at 2nd, and once at 12th level. Reconfigure is replaced with the inorganic property that provides a pretty darn impressive list of growing immunities. This theme is also emphasized by cannibalize suit being replaced with an option to ignore a whole array of negative conditions with limited daily uses. And yes, that’s flat-out “ignore” – not suspend or delay onset, ignore. And the character even gets hardness that scales, with all implications of hardness, and as a capstone, has a construct apotheosis. The aegis also features generally available customizations to gain weapon emulation, the ability to mimic psibertech, gain robotic upgrade points, or apply the astral suit’s bonus to touch AC. These general customizations should be taken with a grain of salt – I do not recommend any but the weapon emulation and the psibertech mimicry to be introduced – bingo, once more we have system-crossovers that pretty much go beyond what’s feasible. Robotics enhancement would, for example, net you an UP as a 2-point customization, which can be…well…overkill.

So yeah, the robot upgrade engine and how it pertains to robots on their own? Valid, fun and cool. How it interacts with other sub-systems? Broken. These crossover options need to die in a horrible nuclear fire, or the material needs desperately to be rebalanced to the power-levels and assumptions of the respective systems that they connect to.

The pdf then proceeds to provide specialties for technological daevics, the metahumans – essentially akin to passions, opening the flavor of the class and expanding it, which is a cool angle. Two are provided, the cannoneer (fixation) and espionage (vigilance) specializations. The cannoneer gets Perception, Stealth and Knowledge (geography) as skills, and the passion veil list includes the new tech-themed veils from Arcforge: Technology Expanded (with micro-missile gauntlet and nanite cloud delivering two veils usually exclusive to vizier and helmsman), as well as gorget of the wyrm, armory of the conqueror, courtesan’s cloak, sentinel’s helm, and lashing spinnerets, the latter usually being a guru/vizier-exclusive. The pdf also introduces a new veil, namely daevic aspect, which the specializations/passions both get – but interestingly, the effects differ by specialization. The core benefit for fixation would be a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls and AC, for vigilance, it’s be +1 (untyped, should probably be insight) to saving throws and skill checks against creatures you have identified. This differentiation also pertains to the chakra bind to blood. The cannoneer (fixation) gets a 20% constant miss chance, as per blur (spell reference not in italics), as well as a threat-range expansion of 1 with all ranged weapons used, explicitly applying after the Improved Critical feat or keen. Not a fan of threat range stacking per se, but not necessarily broken at 12th level; it should be noted that weapon and weapon property lack formatting in the pdf. Espionage (vigilance)’s blood chakra bind instead nets 30 ft. blindsight, +10 ft. per essence invested, as well as improved uncanny dodge as a rogue of the daevic’s level. Notice what I didn’t talk about? Yep, essence invested. The veil lacks its essence invested section, and e.g. Fixation provides no reason to actually invest essence in it beyond the base benefits outlined above. Pretty sure that’s a glitch.

Anyhow, back to cannoneers: 3rd level nets Precise Shot, 5th Deadly Aim, 8th level Improved Precise Shot or Pinpoint Targeting sans prerequisites. 6th level nets one of two aspects: Sharpshooter lets the character use a full-round action to make one shot, making a number of attacks they normally could execute, even with weapons that can shoot only a limited amount of times per round; for each hit, they deal damage and add it together, and if even a single attack was a critical threat, one confirmation roll at the highest BAB suffices. I am EXTREMELY torn on this one; on one hand, it is a good example of representing the one-shot-kill style of snipers; the damage this can accumulate, particularly on crits, is insane. Then again, that’s exactly what the ability is supposed to do. So yeah, it might not be for every game, but I actually like it, with reservations. If you need a nerf suggestion for a grittier game, make the 2nd iterative attack the only one that is consulted for critical confirmation; with a good build, this still will yield a reliable amount of critical hits, but not as much as the “one confirmation suffices”-angle.

Cannoneer requires the use of the armor penetration rules already previously mentioned in Arcforge: Technology Expanded (as an aside – they are one reason why I believe that this book and the first one were, at one point, one massive tome that was split); however, the rules actually are here, and the benefit increases armor penetration by 2, and all creatures adjacent to the projectile’s impact point or line of fire for automatic weapons are treated as if caught in a splash weapon (save based on class level and daevic’s Charisma modifier), with 12th level and 18th level increasing the radius of the splash by 5 ft., and the armor penetration by 2.

Let us briefly talk about armor penetration. That would be a kind of variant rule that is applied to weapons, with a proper table added: To explain the scale: A light crossbow or light pick has AP 1, an atom gun AP 14; muskets and revolvers, for comparison, clock in at AP 4. AP does pretty much what it says on the tin – it bypasses the respective value of armor. This value is enhanced by the enhancement bonus, if any – a +2 revolver, for example, would have an AP 6, value, the revolver’s base 4, plus 2 for the enhancement bonus. I like the idea behind AP per se – weak weapons like crossbows etc. definitely can use a power upgrade, and AP does deliver that, and the excessive-looking AP-values at higher level start making sense courtesy of a simple rule: It gets rid of that “attack touch AC”-caveat of firearms. Now, I do think that some of the higher AP values are a bit excessive, but having tested playing with the AP rules, I actually found myself liking them quite a bit. While my pretty conservative tastes would reduce the higher AP values and increase the lower ones for a more even playing field (that would also make tanking more viable and interesting), the notion behind this system is one I can definitely get behind. The Piercing Attack feat introduced herein increases any AP value of your weapons by 2 if you maintain your psionic focus, and by expending the focus, you can also apply the AP value to deflection, sacred or profane bonuses to AC.

The second specialization/passion for the daevic gets Perception and any two Knowledge skills, as well as HU.D. from Arcforge: Technology Expanded, as well as sentinel’s helm, courtesan’s cloak, dreamcatcher, collar of skilled instruction, essence of the succubus, cuirass of confidence and bloody shroud, as well as aforementioned, slightly problematic daevic aspect. 3rd level nets an untyped +2 to Knowledge skill checks and the ability to make them untrained, as well as the option to, as a swift action, make Perception and Knowledge checks. Rules syntax here is a bit ambiguous: Is that a swift action for both? Or a swift action for either? Additionally, we have a +1 DC-increase for veils used against identified creatures, which increases by a further +1 at 8th level and every 5 levels beyond. 6th level allows for the choice between optimizer and saboteur; Optimizers get the tactician’s strategy and one strategy, with an additional one unlocked every 6 levels thereafter; these use Charisma as governing ability score. Unfortunately, quite a few strategies don’t work for the daevic, as they are contingent on being a member of a tactician’s collective, which is a class feature the daevic does not have. No alternate means to determine eligible allies is provided either. Yep, another point for my assertion that Arcforge struggles when attempting to blend systems. Saboteurs gets 1d6 sneak attack and the unchained rogue’s “debilitating strike”, with 12th level and 18th level increasing the damage dice by +1d6 and the option to apply an additional debilitating strike effect whenever the ability is used. Why did I use quotation marks above? The class feature of the rogue is not called “debilitating strike” – it’s called “debilitating injury.”

The pdf also provides the psiborg racial variant for the noral race: +2 Constitution and Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, starts with a psibertech piece’s basic augmentation and treats their level as +1 for its purposes, and an increased implantation value of +1/2 character level (min 1) as well as a decrease of the Heal check to install cybertech by 10; the variant loses symbiotic resistance and surge for these. Androids can choose three new alternate racial traits for a similar start play with a basic augmentation, Small androids, and a bonus feat in place of nanite surge. Forgeborn can replace fearless with a piece of psibertech and its basic augmentation. There is more interacting with the eponymous psibertech: The Crystal Psiborg feat transforms a psicrystal into a piece of psibertech, granting you its base augmentation, but eliminates its autonomous ability to move; I don’t think doubling the personality based benefits in this context was the best call, though. Feat-wise, an Android or construct can choose the True Machine feat, which nets you full construct apotheosis, the robot subtype and 1 UP, or the clockwork subtype sans winding requirement. This feat may be taken at 1st level. Seriously, this feat is not a good idea – I’d rather recommend basing the like on a player race properly designed to account of the copious immunities of constructs. It’s not like we don’t have enough of those. Alternatively, if you wish to salvage the feat, I’d strongly recommend implementing a scaling mechanism that lets the player choose new immunities from the construct’s lists as the levels progress. Otherwise: Kill this with fire. It should also be noted that soulknives and zealots can use blade skills/convictions to tap into the psibertech engine so prominently featured above.

Which is also what we should talk about next, for 15.5 pages are devoted to psibertech. Cybertech is interesting, in that it blurs the line between item and class feature: A psibertech implant may be chosen in lieu of a power known, feat or selectable bonus feat; if the character does not have a manifester level, they use class levels in a class granting Wild Talent to determine manifester level-based benefits. A character must first choose the respective basic augmentation before choosing an advanced augmentation; if the character has 3 advanced augmentations, they get the ultimate augmentation at 20th level. HOWEVER, psibertech does occupy a slot and has an implantation value, and they have a weight. Unlike regular cybertech implants, these psibertech pieces can, as you can glean, not simply be bought…or can they? After all the information on individual psibertech benefits, there is a note that provides global pricing for psibertech crafting: 5K for the basic augmentation, +20K per advanced augmentation, and +50K for the ultimate augmentation; twice that price for being bought and installed. This latter section is one I’d be careful with, but do appreciate as a whole: Adding these costs to the class feature angle might be a way to keep the psibertech power in check for less high-powered campaigns. It should be noted, though, that in comparison to regular cybertech, psibertech is VERY low-priced. 1/day full-round action to replenish all power points is certainly worth more than 100K gold.

There is one aspect about psibertech that I consider extremely problematic and broken, regardless of campaign power level. You guessed it. Mechs can get psibertech if they have the proper body parts. Thing is, the pdf doesn’t really explain whether the pilot has to pay for in class features, whether the crafting is the only thing, or any limits – is psibertech a mech enhancement? Not that it’d matter. Psibertech as a sub-system has no semblance of power-parity with regular mech enhancements, and it’s very much obvious that this section was pretty much a very ill-conceived afterthought, as psibertech’s rules language never intersects properly with that of mechs, making cross-interaction very wonky at best. You guessed it: Kill it with fire. Scratch that, make it “Kill it with untyped damage.”

To give you an idea of what to expect: At the same implantation value of comparable cybertech, the arm of the augmented blade acts as a mind blade or call weaponry, which replaces your hand as though affected by graft weapon. Rules syntax isn’t 100% clear here in whether this means that only that hand is lost while the weapon is drawn, or whether the benefits of graft weapon also are assumed to apply. It could be read either way. The advanced Augmentations (header not properly bolded) include threat range increases of +1 (which do stack with keen, but NOT with static threat range increases, retain usefulness in areas where psionics don’t work, a critical multiplier increase of up to x6, or making it count as a DR-bypassing material chosen from adamantine, cold iron or silver. I think adamantine should have a minimum level here. The capstone ability nets auto-confirmations of critical threats. (Yes, there’s a lot of missing formatting here, unfortunately.)

The collectivist’s mental uplink requires a collective to do anything (and should probably specify this as a prerequisite), and allows you to add willing creatures as a move action, and expend psionic focus to add a willing creature as a free action. This is potentially very strong, but the “willing” caveat does prevent abuse via Unwilling participant etc. and a breaking of the offensive capabilities of the collective engine. The advanced augmentations here include making all collective members count as having your teamwork feats for the purpose of the psibertech augmented creature gaining their benefits, a shared awareness of creatures regarding concealment, and a very powerful one: manifesting powers through collective members – but that last one is actually properly kept behind 15th level and another augmentation as a prerequisite. Remote viewing through members is included, and the capstone doubles collective members.

A psionic tattoo-based one can be found, and there’s one that provides the ability to morph and infiltrate, including options to fortify their mind, deliver false readings, etc. There also is an athanatism-themed enhancement that could be thought of as somewhat themed in line with Death Stranding (which I btw. grew to absolutely love after hating it for the first 10 hours…) There also would be one that allows for psychometabolism powers to double duration (doesn’t stack with Extend Power); nomads gain mobility-enhancers (which include altering teleportation destination by up to half base speed – very cool!) – and yep, the nomad still has to have “line of site[sic!]” to the destination, but that’s at least just a typo. With mech pilot’s bond, you can teleport your bonded mech to you (again, this should have a prerequisite that, you know, it requires an actual bonded mech to do anything…), and a vocal enhancer can improve the mind-affecting abilities of the target. Interesting, btw.: There is a piece of psibertech that has construct-apotheosis as an advanced augmentation – only here, it’s locked behind a proper minimum-level-requirement. On a minor meta-level complaint, some bonuses here probably should be circumstance bonuses, as that’s usually the bonus type associated with regular cybertech. Some of these augmentations, just by the way, are pretty much game-changers. If you have plating of the psion-killer, you get the ability to choose an advanced augmentation to fire off a 30-ft. radius dispel psionics with ML equal class level (should be character level), usable every 5 rounds. This is very potent, but also pretty darn cool, and at 16 lbs. weight and implantation 3, it does have a cost. Flat-out power immunity for any power to which PR applies is locked behind 12th level, as another example for the augmentations provided here. I am not a fan of the one that nets you slowly replenishing technological charges and charges of psionic items, and replenishing the entire power point pool in 2 hours? Ouch.

An incorporeal phantom lite also ranks among the more potent pieces here. Fans of Path of War also can psibertech that interacts with Path of War Expanded’s sleeping goddess, which does, among other things, allow for the substitution of expending 2 readied maneuvers instead of psionic focus. This one is very powerful, but that’s what fans of Path of War know and expect. There also is an interesting piece of psibertech that eliminates the limitations of cybertech – only up to implantation value works at once, the rest becoming latent, and with an advanced augmentation, they can have two pieces of cybertech that take up the same slot, active at the same time. MOST of these are pretty well-balanced. Most. Not all. Temporal schemer’s interface, for example, has a cool base power – automatically notice delayed powers or those set up triggered. Cool! An advanced augmentation nets you, however, the option to make a move action to get as second swift action. That can be EXTREMELY powerful. Don’t do it. Seriously. Swift actions are extremely valuable. This should have, at LEAST, a 15th level minimum prerequisite. Readying a full round worth of actions is also insanely strong, and it introduces a whole can of worms. As a whole, I love a lot of the psibertech ideas – pretty much all of them. But their internal balancing, even without the subsystem-spanning issues, imho would have warranted further finetuning to ensure that the material is on a singular level.

The magic/tech item section includes a means to fire ranged touch, rays, cones and lines through weapons to add their enhancement bonus to the attack roll or save DC, doubled charges and ammo capacity for just the equivalent of +1 (x5 for +3 in the greater version), injecting weaponry, etc. – the armor penetration rules also are featured here, with AP-ignoring armor, laser-weapons increasing AP, etc. – some interesting ones here. Combined weaponry is interesting (but should specify that components lose e.g. finesse if not both of them have that property…); an modification that decreases charge uses, means to withstand psionics/tech-negating fields and 3 regular cybertech types are also included: One is essentially a template-based slavecollar, one decreases psychic enervation chance (with a limit). Realignment chips are interesting, if very low-priced– at 36,400 GP, they allow for the swift action regaining of psionic focus, though each subsequent use renders you first fatigued, then exhausted – and this DOES have a caveat that prevents abuse, bypassing immunity. Kudos for that! It’s in instances like this that the series shows how good it can be. A couple of neat items (balanced against the Armor Penetration-rules) are provided alongside two new artifacts, including the mighty mech/robot-crafting Arcforge.

Apart from the 4.5 pages of aforementioned robot customization engine, the last 30 pages of this module deal with creatures – first, with a whole array of new templates. These include sample statblocks, and feature the biomech template, data phantoms, a variant mindborn template, a template for modular constructs, one for the aforementioned slave-angle (shell), synthetic creatures, the anti-magic spellspurned and one for radioactive creatures. I did not reverse-engineer all of the sample creatures, but at a glance, the builds and templates generally are neat and interesting. The robot section ranges in CRs from 2 to 16 and includes terraformer bots (looking like birds with drill-beaks), and seriously ends the boot on a useful and versatile note.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are, like in the core book, very much uneven – psibertech sometimes gets high-complexity stuff right, only to botch in the easy parts. Formatting is often very inconsistent, but less so than in the first book. This pertains to rules-language as well, which oscillates between “I’d allow that in a heartbeat” and “what were they thinking” – the latter applying primarily to anything regarding attempts to crossover between subsystems. The pdf sports a nice array of old and new full-color artwork. Bookmarks are annoying – the first part of the pdf is bookmarked with a few lines, but after the daevics, the entire template and robot and item section has no bookmarks, making navigation of these parts a pain.

Matt Daley & Michael Sayre’s Arcforge: Psibertech shows many of the same issue of the core book, but also does many things better: Within the individual frames of reference of the individual subsystems, the content tends to be cleaner than in Arcforge: Technology Expanded. While internal balancing isn’t often as tight as it should be, if you do exert some caution, you can get some seriously neat mileage out of this book. There’s this part of me that loves this book.

And then there is the part of me that is infuriated by the plethora of formal glitches and uneven balancing, and more so, by the absolutely broken links between subsystems. These aggravating afterthought-like crossovers that compromise the systems they intersect with; both psibertech and the robot upgrade system have no business intersecting with the regular cybertech (pricing all off in comparison) or mech engines (balancing of UPs vs. mech enhancements all off); considering that the core book already had its issues in the core engines and how the engines of classes and sub-systems interacted with the mech-engine, adding these on top is asking for a colossal cluster-f - and not in the fun way, but in the “how the f does this line up” kind of way.

In short, when seen from solely a design/balance perspective, this is broken as all hell.

Dear lord, this is a rough beast of a book, and one that clearly shows that it desperately needed some serious playtesting, development, etc. – this, like its first book, could have been a milestone. It oozes cool ideas. But, and there’s not questioning that, it does fall short of its lofty ambitions.

And yet, while I consider this book DEEPLY flawed, I also can see it having its appeal: If you take care, eliminate the broken bits, and want to flex your design muscles a bit, it’s actually a book that’s surprisingly easy to redeem (provided you can handle the complexity of the subsystems): Rebalance a few components, limit psibertech and nerf a few parts, kill off the system-crossovers, and there you go – psibertech is a book you’ll get a TON of mileage out of. For me, as a private person, I can get a ton of fun out of this!

As a reviewer, however, I can only rate what’s here, not what I wish this was, or what I can make the book into for my table. I have to rate this book for what it is.

And it is a flawed book that shows glimpses of true greatness time and again, but still falters. Worse for the system-inherent context, this book compromises the mech-engine, which already was struggling under the none-too-great class option components in the first book, even further, at least if you are not careful and realize how broken those system-crossovers actually are. Considering that aspect, I should rate this lower than the first book; probably around the 2-star vicinity.

However, idea-wise, and within the systems presented, the book also does a lot right. Moreover, the extensive bestiary section is super useful for the GM, and, it covers almost half of the book, it needs to be weighed accordingly. As such, I actually do consider this book slightly better than the first one, but it’s still an incredibly uneven book, one that makes the first Arcforge book more uneven as well; hence, my verdict will be 3 stars. If you are a very crunch-savvy GM (or simply not concerned about balance) then consider this to be a full-blown recommendation; if balance matters to you, do yourself a favor and bear my warnings in mind. I thought long and hard, and while I really wanted to rate this higher, round up, etc., but I just can’t justify doing so. The book has too many serious and pronounced issues to warrant doing so. For me, as a person, it’s a good book that inspired me to flex my design muscles, but as a reviewer? As a reviewer, I can only recommend this with reservations and very pronounced caveats.

As an aside: One of the authors has expressed a desire to revisit this series at one point. I’d LOVE to see that. Arcforge is one of those frustratingly-rough books that really shows potential, and this holds true for this second part here as well. Now, the first book and this one were probably part of an original document, split in production; the following installments were not, so I’m looking forward to seeing how/if they improved upon the lessons learned here and engines crafted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arcforge: Psibertech
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/31/2020 03:35:01

This is a pretty well thought out and balanced book with enough options to make pretty much any kind of kineticist you want. The risk reward of accepting burn in this book is much MUCH better, it's still punishing but doesn't make your character useless. Which this is the biggest issue the kineticist had in 1e. Before going too deep this is definetly worth double the price they are asking. There are just a few issues.

As with many releases this does have a number of typos, and the electricity kineticist is absent from the elemental defense feature at level 17, I assumed that following the pattern set by the other elements it is an upgrade from the 5th level elemental defense bringing reflex to legendary. Otherwise the typos aren't too distracting, and are easy to understand what was meant.

There are two main balancing issues that I can see, the extended range (1st level), and extreme range(4th level) feel a bit too low level, extended range changes your blasts from a range of 30ft to a range of 120ft or 300ft with air blast, extreme gives you 500ft or 1000ft with air blast. Those are very big jumps for such a low level requirement. I would add one more range feat to set it at 60ft, start the feat tree at 4th level, 8th level, 12th level.

The other balancing issue I can see, which is both a small and big one, is Kinetic Revivification (14th level), when you heal a creature with kinetic healing you remove their wounded value. This is very powerful, though you need to go down the specific choices to get there, and you can only cast kinetic healing so many times as a focus spell. Having it lower the wounded value by 1 or 2 would be fine or having the target be bolstered to the effect for 24 hours would balance it out, but completely removing it messes with the threat of death in your game. I know this won't be seen as an issue in everyone's gaming group, but I'm just putting it out there.

My last and final issue is that all but one of the highest tier of infusions are for fire and force, the only other one being aether, air, water. There isn't one for all of the types, and there are 4 or 5 elements that just don't get one at the highest tier. Now there are still a huge selection of infusions, but I am just a bit disappointed that the last set you get which only has 4 options is pretty much just for fire and force. I understand that most people will play a pyro, but I like making electrokineticists and cryokineticists. This is just a minor gripe though.

As for what I loved, the options really play into the feel of the elements, with a class feat for each element a few general class feats and some mixed element feats for every level. There are multiple ways to do the same thing with different elements so you almost never feel locked out of a certain kind of build based on your element. The capstones feel like capstones, with things like using your lightning to teleport to anywhere you can see by transforming yourself into a lightning bolt, or creating a tidal wave hitting all creatures near a shoreline 5 miles wide and 1 mile inland with your water blast damage or you can just flood the area over 10 minutes and deal no damage if you want.

This is an excellent product, and I am very excited to incorporate it into my gaming group, I know I didn't gush over it as much as it deserves, but it's a big book and I complained about maybe one page worth of things.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticist: Second Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Vast Kaviya
by Justin H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2020 15:45:31

I love this product. The quality and work that went into is superb. If you like low magic gritty and serious campaigns, this product is for you. They do a great job of helping reinforce the primitive setting with weapons made out of bones and antlers. The races and classes are flavorful and well thought out. Highly recommend.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vast Kaviya
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
by Matthew C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2020 21:47:51
The Book of Exalted Darkness and The Book of Celestial Heroes are two books by Legendary Games set in a setting called Askis. I’ll be reviewing the core setting, and the two books seperately. I played two campaigns side-by side for both books from levels 1-20: an evil party and a good party, with both campaigns being linked and in competition with each other. To be more precise, I’m 98% done-I’m about two sessions short of finishing it as of this writing.

I will warn that I used a lot of homebrew and I modified the setting of Askis to be a planet in my own spelljammer-esque setting (the campaigns took place entirely on Askis, but interstellar politics did affect the storyline). Note that this is also a full-spoiler review intended for DMs, so beware. -Matthew Campbell

The Setting of Askis: To my understanding, the train of thought that led to the publication of Askis is attempting to create a setting that’d be great for an evil campaign. The premise they went with was a world run by the forces of good, in essence an inversion of the premise of settings like Tyranny’s Territus. This is a “post-campaign” world of sorts: imagine a world where your typical good-aligned party has had a campaign all the way to level 20 and succeeded in their goals masterfully. In essence, Askis is a divine magic version of Ebberon. Whereas Ebberon has undergone and industrial revolution due to arcane magitech, Askis has undergone an industrial revolution due to divinely-powered magitech. They’ve discovered a resource called “Inaequa” which is a sort of holy-fuel. Machines powered by it only work in the hands of good-aligned creatures. This has caused the planet to become a sort of utopia where the forces of evil have been pushed back. The world is now run by demigod-like, level 20 adventurers. The utopian government is dependent upon 9 “spheres” (holy gifts of sorts, virtually none of which are sphere-shaped). BoED asks the party to destroy these spheres, and the BoCH asks them to save them. Personally, I feel they should have capitalized on a sort of magic-versus-science war. The mechanics presented even sort of represent this: They introduce the good-specific Inaequa technology, while also introducing an evil-specific magic school. Unfortunately, they instead have the primary forces of evil be mad scientists, and don’t have many technology themed heroes. This is a rather sad missed opportunity. It also creates a little bit of a headscratcher: if technology is powered by Inaequa...just what are the mad scientists using? Admittedly this question is easy to headcanon around (likely arcane artifice or mundane technology like batteries). If I had it to do over again, I’d probably have reflavored the mad scientists as wizards. One of the evil players-a druid-did play the sort of character I had in mind: A fanatical luddite trying to bring down the industrial system. The concept of Inaequa is very cool, to the point that I wish it was in more settings. I’d encourage-even beg-DMs to include Inaequa engineering as a sort of divine counterpart to Artifice if they have artificers in their setting, even if they’re not planning on playing in Askis. It’s the real killer app of this setting. It’s also perhaps a shame-if one completely outside of its creator’s control-that both books were released long before Ebberon: Rising from The Last War, as there’s a lot it could have benefited from (well, if not for copyright reasons anyways). I’d suggest reading ERTLW and including stuff like The Warforged and The Artificer class. Indeed, it’s also a shame there isn’t an Artificer subclass for Inaequa, though admittedly the Battlesmith works pretty well for this (just replace force damage with radiant), as does Jonoman3000’s Lightslinger. The Greasemonkey’s Handbook is also a great companion to this setting, as Inaequa-powered ATUMs would be epic.

The Book of Exalted Darkness: The Book of Exalted Darkness is a spiritual successor to The Book of Vile Darkness, both a guide to running an evil campaign in general, and a guide to playing evil campaigns in general. As a setting for an evil campaign, Askis works pretty well. It’s a setting run by a monolithic force of good, which makes the villains underdogs. You might not root for them per se, but you can at least admire their valor. Similarly, it creates a setting where evil can plausibly be a happy family-they need to work together, because their enemies are very strong. Evil is a cause the villains intend to fight for. Keep in mind, though, while The BoED doesn’t “force” anything per se, and staunchly condemns virtually everything it depicts (it is an evil handbook, after all), it seems to anticipate the PCs being very evil, which can be a bit of an issue if people would rather play more Bowser or Doofenshmirtz-esque villains (though admittedly, less gratuitous forms of evil are pretty easy to play with the stuff you find in the PHB). My evil party got pretty odd, as some players wanted to play cartoony-villains while others wanted to play more realistic terrorists. The party ended up being a bit like what would happen if Jessie and James teamed up with Pol Pot. For example, the sample starting adventure it gives, Killing The Golden Twins, essentially depicts the players committing a school shooting (more specifically, they’re sent to assassinate two specific teenagers while they’re at school). The book does remind the DM that it depicts some rather uncomfortable topics, and the book in general does a good job warning them to make damn well sure the players know what they’re getting into when running an evil campaign. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer an alternative adventure or suggestions for alterations, so you’re stuck either with this one or making up your own. For what it’s worth, my players did give me permission to run this adventure (which I told them involved going to a high school to kill two teenagers), though they didn’t quite seem to realize what they were emulating. They ran into the school literally guns blazing, killing security staff, then were a bit taken aback (not angry or anything, mind you) when it dawned on them they were, well, shooting up a school. Everyone agreed to not kill any students except the twins. For an alternative starting adventure, I’d probably suggest something along the lines of kidnapping a princess. It’s cliche, sure, but I’d argue that’s often a good trait for a starting adventure to have. Plus, I’d argue starting adventures should be a bit more light-hearted, and then bring down the heavier stuff later (especially for ‘wham episodes’, if you will). This is true even for evil parties, have them start out more ‘harmless villains’ then get them to commit increasingly darker acts.

The other big elephant in the room to consider is The Divine Biologis, or “The Divine Virus'' as I tended to call it. This is one of the spherse of Askis, a disease that remains dormant in a person for a period of time and activates if the person commits sexual assault or rape, in which case it turns them into a sort of good lycanthrope called a Divirulent Hound. It’s an interesting quandry to be sure, and there’s even some non-evil reasons to want to destroy it (the government sponsoring the existence of a bioweapon is rather creepy). Having said that, the most obvious reason, especially for card-carrying villains, is being pro-rape in some manner. Obviously, not everyone would be overly comfortable with playing that sort of character, even in context. I’d also argue a card-carrying, mustache-twirling villain who drew the line at rape would actually love the divine virus: It not only deals with a form of evil even they reject, it does so in one of the most mustache-twirling ways possible. There’s no strict obligation to actually destroy it, mind you, but it does feel odd to not destroy one of the spheres if they’re going for a completionist run of sorts. Personally, here’s my recommendation: don’t have the virus be a latent disease or connected to sexual assault directly. Instead, have it be a sort of good counterpart to traditional lycanthropy: the Divirulent Hounds are pseudo-werewolves that exclusively hunt down and infect evil humanoids. While Askis is a great setting for an evil campaign, they do cheat a bit in two ways: some of The Celestial Heroes are secretly evil, and Inaequa itself is actually secretly damaging Askis and needs to be destroyed in order to save it. I’m not overly fond of either twist, personally. I consider it bad form when using a villain protagonist (or villain protagonists, as it were) to make their antagonist a hero who is secretly evil or a "Designated Hero" as TV Tropes would call it. It undermines the point of an evil-perspective story by turning it essentially into another form of good-perspective story. In truth, I’d actually encourage the DM to give the enemies they fight moral victories of sorts-the enemies might die off in droves, but let them die heroically. My players, at least, liked it when that sort of thing happened.

Plus, a lot of villains are portrayed as believing the forces of good are secretly just as bad as they are, and they’re more moral for admitting it. I could see Quickfoot and the like confirming this worldview. Personally, I think this is a stupid worldview and I don’t think giving it any sort of confirmation is wise, even here. Even if its premises are true (they aren’t), shamelessly admitting that you’re evil does not make you better, it makes you worse. With Inaequa specifically, one of the more interesting things about it is that it-and the effects it has on society-can be pretty unnerving in a way, but it’s not actually evil per se, even when you think about it. For example, one could argue it harms free will, but does it? It’s not like it’s a mind control device. It simply stacks the deck in favor of good. It’s enough of a quandary that giving it a dark secret makes it less interesting. This is true of Askis’s society in general: In many ways, it’s a rather creepy and dystopian society if you’re an evil person, but that doesn’t mean the society is evil.

The real meat of the book is the new mechanics and subclasses added. It adds two new ability scores: Sin and Sanctity. Sin represents how evil you are in a sense, while sanctity represents how good you are at pretending to be good to magic items and the like. For example, sin lets you corrupt Inaequa devices, while sanctity lets you use them despite being evil.

Personally, I did not use these scores (roll20 doesn’t support them), but I do like them. If you decide to not use them, however, the trick I found was to use wisdom in place of sanctity and charisma in place of sin whenever the rules call for a sin or sanctity check. Wisdom here represents “the ability to suppress evil thoughts in order to trick alignment-detecting magic” and Charisma represents “your overwhelming hatred and will”. One class it introduces is The Mad Scientist. Mechanically, it’s very similar to a Warlock, though I think it’s a bit better. Not a bad angle to take it, since the Warlock is all about ‘blasting’, but I will recommend The Artificer class over it. There are also some prestige classes, but I never did look at them.

Regarding the subclasses, I’ll express my opinions on some of them in order:

The Abyssal/Infernal Domain: Fiend-worshipping clerics are practically something that should have been in the base game. So uh, good job. Circle of Necrobotony: A logical place to take an evil druid, though it does overlap quite a bit with The Circle of Spores. Gruesome Salvager: Basically it’s a ranger that cuts off other creature’s body-parts and grafts them onto itself. That’s awesome. Gray Knight Warlock Patron: Basically, if Mordenkainen was a Warlock rather than a Wizard, this guy would be his patron. Has a lot of anti-magic powers, which fits the flavor pretty well. Gray Druid: Older edition druids who like to maintain the balance of good and evil. A small issue with it and the Gray Knight is that this setting doesn’t really give a ton of room for neutral characters. Masquerading Heretic: Basically if you want to pretend to be good, this is the class for you. It gives mechanics to fool magic and the like that detects alignment. Warrior of Darkness: Making an evil-flavored fighter must not have been easy. This one mostly works, for the record, though it is a little complicated. Essentially, it scars itself. The Meat Patron: The Warlock’s flavor is the one that best lends itself to evil and general spookiness. The Meat Patron has a lot of competition, but it manages to rise above and beyond by being an inner voice of the warlock that drives them to eat human flesh. Uh, yeah, that’s pretty creepy. Even the description is creepy. Vile Magic Wizard: To be perfectly clear, if nothing else, this is the reason why you should buy this book. Or, more specifically, the Vile Magic School. Initially, I assumed that necromancy covered evil wizards, but this manages to be distinct while being at least as evil. My favorites are blood bullet, blood spear, and savage break. Savage break lets you rip a bone out of somebody and then toss it at someone else, and Blood Bullet lets you use your blood as a projectile. Plus, every spellcasting class can learn Vile Magic, which is amazing. Sadly, my players seldom used it, but it’s something you can throw at good-aligned PCs to great effect.

The Book of Celestial Heroes The Book of Exalted Darkness created a setting that’s pretty cool, and as such, it made sense to make a book for more conventional heroes in it. As a setting for a good party, it mostly works. However, I would make a couple changes. For example, the book says that there is little unexplored wilderness. Personally, I would change this: have it so there are a lot of ruins of the world from before the Utopian Dawn, and many regions of wilderness, especially in the Samovi continent. Samovi, incidentally, is also a great place to put dinosaurs (something every campaign setting should have). The reason being to give them something to fight despite the utopian world. Not every danger is necessarily ‘evil’ as we know it. It might also be utopian in the cities, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t small amounts of evil or danger beyond. The book implements new subclasses, but sadly no druid or warlock (aside from the ‘grey’ ones that are also in the BoED). This is especially a shame for The Warlock, as The Warlock is the class that most needs a ‘holy’ subclass. The good news is: if you happen to own Xanathar’s Guide, you can use The Celestial Warlock Patron and The Circle of Dreams. As for other subclasses:

Holy Spirit Primal Path: Basically, you get possessed by angels while raging. I had overlooked this one while playing, but now that I’m re-reading it, I kind of love the flavor of that. College of The Celestial Song: Basically, it’s a worship leader. I’m very glad this exists, as the angel playing a harp sort of deal is a great way to take a bard. Oath of The Angelic Warrior: Y’know, when I heard they were making a Paladin subclass, I was worried. A ‘holy’ or ‘good’ themed Paladin is incredibly redundant. Luckily, they pulled it off in the form of the Angelic Warrior. Basically, you Paladin so hard, you actually gain angelic organs. Inquisitor Ranger: A ranger that hunts down evil creatures. If you’re expecting to fight evil, then this is a great class to have. It is a bit overpowered, though, so I might suggest make its Champion Against Evil feature a once-per-day deal. Samaritan Rogue: I once was in a campaign where this guy played a rogue who was a good natured, pacifistic kid guile-hero. This is the subclass I wish the DM had let him play. Holy Arcane Tradition: The Holy Magic School has a few issues. The first one is the name. “Holy” magic implies divine magic, which isn’t necessarily how it works. I’d suggest changing the name to ‘Exalted’ magic or something. The other thing is simply that there aren’t as many cool new spells here, and not every class can learn every Holy spell. There are two stand-out spells, however: Lance of Light, and Holy Hand Grenade. That last one’s spell text is the best thing ever.

Of course, the coolest thing in Askis is the Inaequa. As with Vile Magic for the BoED, This is the main reason, in my opinion, to buy this book. Again, I recommend DMs consider putting Inaequa as a sort of variation of Artifice in their games even if they’re not in Askis and make Inaequa weapons special magic items. Still, not every DM is liable to follow that advice, which is a shame. In any event, here are the Inaequa subclasses:

Inaequa Inventor: A good counterpart to the Mad Scientist using Inaequa goodies. I’m mildly disappointed it focuses on healing-I’d rather it had focused on radiant blasting, but it can do that too. Besides, most classes need a healer subclass. Apparently, playing with Inaequa devices requires one to follow a lot of bureaucratic rules and dodge a lot of red tape, but Inaequa Inventors are so intelligent-and perhaps crazy-that they can actually read, understand, and follow EULA agreements. College of Inaequa Tinkering: Essentially, these are people who would be Inaequa Inventors, but bend the rules of their EULA too much. Their more dangerous methods of experimenting cause them to be sent to a special college instead. I will say it’s a little odd to have a charisma-based technologist class in this context, but it works I suppose as something between an Inaequa Inventor and the Deviant Technologist below. The Deviant Technologist: These folk tinker with Inaequa so much that they’re basically shunned from all academic institutions. Apparently, Askis takes EULA agreements very seriously. I’m not 100% sure why Askis doesn’t want people playing with Inaequa. I mean, I suppose corrupted Inaequa devices can blow up in your face, though that’s solvable with the proper training. Tucker Quickfoot might be the answer. Inaequateer Ranger: I accidentally named this one when I proposed the name ‘Inaequateer’ at some point while looking over playtest material to its creators. And I didn’t even get my name in the credits, tsk tsk (just kidding). I was actually proposing it as the name of what would become the Inaequa Inventor, if I recall, but it works well for the Inaequa Ranger too. Anyways, The Inaequateer is a warrior who specializes in Inaequa weaponry. Personally, I would have went for a fighter subclass for this, but Ranger works quite well too, especially since you’ll mostly be using guns in all likelihood.

Probably my biggest issue with Inaequa weapons is that virtually none of them can kill, or even bring an opponent down to zero hit points, unless you take a certain feat. This might not sound like too big a deal, but it is enough that a lot of my players stayed away from Inaequa weapons until the the late-game.

The book also has two classes, The Exemplar and The Feywalker. Regarding Exemplar: At first glance, I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of The Exemplar is. It appears to be a cross between a fighter and a paladin. I suspect it could work if you wanted a superhero class, which is admittedly something I’ve wanted. That isn’t to say it’s bad, I just am not sure why it exists. Feywalker: You get a fairy godparent, essentially. While I’m having a little trouble nailing down its precise identity, it does do much better than the Exemplar in that regard. They’re a martial class that gains a bond with either Fey, Beasts, or Plants and gets a companion in the process. Apparently, it’s supposed to be somewhere between a druid and a Warlock.

Oh, one quick sidenote: Having some of the celestial heroes be secretly evil actually works for The Book of Celestial Heroes. I still am not overly fond of Inaequa destroying the world (since it means you have to destroy it, getting rid of something that makes the setting very unique), but it does fit the themes here much better. Having it turn out that some of The Celestial Heroes are evil also works great and can be a nice conspiracy to uncover, especially since they’re the people they work for. This could be something almost Deus Ex-like. I attempted to subvert this, personally: I decided early on Inaequa and the Celestial Heroes were actually quite good, but I did have Mordenkainen show up to the Good Party to try to persuade them that The Celestial Heroes had a great evil within them and that Inaequa was destroying the world (these claims were untrue in my version of the setting, though Mordenkainen believed them). However, the more good-leaning characters saw through it and the more mercenary characters simply didn’t care. A bounty hunter PC attacked Mordenkainem mid-sentence and a difficult fight ensued, which (impressively) they won.

Overall: The two main features of either books are Vile Magic and Inaequa, both are things I do love.Having said that, there are a few things that are superfluous (like the Exemplar class), better done elsewhere (like the Mad Scientist class), and some stuff that’s just rough around the edges mechanically. Personally, I would recommend it pretty strongly, but do be prepared to put in some work to smooth things out. If you like Ebberon, you’ll like the Askis setting. The Vile Magic from Exalted Darkness is useful even if you aren’t running an evil campaign (you can hand it to your NPC villains). Honestly, I wish the setting had more people talking about it. I could see it really taking off, especially if people tried making their own homebrew and stuff for it. I’m expecting to miss this world, too, and almost wish to run this campaign again. Admittedly, though, that’s in large part because I grew quite a bit as a DM and now have a more solid idea of what I want to do with the setting and my own. If I had a new group of players, I’d probably give another swing at it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2020 17:19:45

The Legendary Planet Adventure Path is out for everyone now, and let me tell you, $50 for the PDF is a steal. That's less than $10 per-adventure for a completely realized adventure path, not even counting the additional supplementary materials. Even more than that, this book is thick. We're talking Frog God Games thick. I backed this product on Kickstarter and got a physical copy, and while it took longer than expected to finish up, this is a PF1E adventure unlike any other. If you're interested in traveling to different worlds and seeing all sorts of new and exotic creatures, all backed by a future-fantasy feel, this is the AP for you. Solid 5/5, great art, incredible value for the content even if you get the physical version, and highly recommended overall.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Planet Adventure Path (Pathfinder)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Creator Reply:
Thanks for taking time to write up a review and glad you love the book! We are very proud of it, and it definitely is a terrific value! I'm running two campaigns of it right now, one right in the middle and one midway through the final adventure, and we've been having a blast. Hope your gaming crew does as well!
Arcforge: Technology Expanded
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2020 07:40:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive supplement clocks in at 84 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of introduction (including a ToC for tables), 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by my patreon supporters.

So, the first thing you need to know here, is that the material within makes use of Dreamscarred Press’ subsystems, most prominently akasha and psionics; beyond that, e.g. the new class that kicks off the supplement, the helmsman, does reference Path of War’s Knowledge (martial) skill. This poses an interesting question: For which tables and power-levels is this book intended? As you all know, Pathfinder’s first edition at one point somewhat split its demographic: On one hand, we have people that just want to play the game; on the other, there are people that derive a lot of satisfaction from pushing the system; builds and system mastery are important, as are the challenges posed. The latter demographic has split further, with particularly Path of War providing a convenient reference point, as it eliminated several limiters and balancing concerns of the system, with the explicit goal of providing a power-fantasy that other adherents of system mastery considered to be contrary to their own preferences. These issues were not inherent in Path of War’s system, but something chosen deliberately, and this paradigm did influence many of Dreamscarred Press’ latter offerings, which often sport innovative, genuinely awesome designs, but also a disregard for the power-levels featured by pretty much anything Paizo etc. released; this tendency can be seen in many post-Ultimate Psionics psionics releases, but the core framework of akasha is remarkably bereft of the like, oriented pretty much mathematically in line with Paizo’s offerings. So, where does this book fall in the spectrum?

Well, let us start by examining the helmsman baseclass, which is a veilweaver with d8 HD, 4 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and proficiency with simple weapons and one martial weapon, as well as with light and medium armor and shields. Of note: The shield proficiency does not exclude tower shields, as customary, which I assume to be intentional here. The governing ability score of the helmsman’s veilweaving is Intelligence, and the class begins with 1 veil and essence, and improves that to 9 and 20, respectively, over the course of its 20-level progression. This puts the class one veil above the guru base class in that regard. Reallocation of essence invested is a swift action, rest is required to unshape and shape veils – you get the idea. The core defining feature of the class would be the companion vehicle or mech (collectively referred to as vessel) gained at 1st level; the effective pilot level is equal to the class level, and the helmsman’s bonded vessel gains all benefits of feats, veils and chakra binds that the helmsman is USING, even if it doesn’t have the corresponding components. Important here, and perhaps something that should have been spelled out more explicitly: USING. This means that benefits that are not based on, well, use, do not necessarily apply. It may sound like a picky differentiation, but it’s an important one imho. Anyways, for example, a Panzer would gain the benefits of an effect contingent on the presence of the feet slot, even though it, well, lacks feet. If a veil generates a weapon, it manifests on the vessel, but uses the helmsman’s size to determine damage dice, and may be used in addition to the vessel’s weaponry. Weapons explicitly wielded in hands do take up a weapon slot for each such weapon created. Size-increases beyond Medium (size reference not capitalized) can take up multiple slots, and the helmsman can reassign what the bonded vessel is relatively painlessly (good) in an 8-hour period.

At this point, you probably realized that this class is basically the anime/mecha pilot in the vein of Gundam, Code Geass, etc., so in order to discuss it, we should take a look at the mecha rules so crucial for the experience of the class before further diving into it. At first level, the character chooses a body type for the mech(a) – agile, bipedal or quadruped/treaded, and the mech must be of the pilot’s size or larger. All damage caused to the pilot is evenly split between pilot and mech, with excess damage from uneven values applied to the mech. If the mech is reduced to 0 HP, it enters a state of critical failure, ejecting the pilot. Repairing a mech takes a DC 10 Craft (Mechanical) check and takes a whole day, replenishing 5 HP; climbing into a mech and activating it is a full-round action, while exiting it can be done as a move action. I like this action economy dispersal here, as it mirrors what we get to see in anime. At 3rd level, the pilot can change the mech’s body type by spending ½ the mech’s HD in hours +1/2 the number of enhancements, rounded down, rebuilding it. During this time, the mech is NOT operational, but existing enhancements may also be changed. A destroyed mech can be replaced within 24 hours, which may not be realistic, but for the purpose of the game, it's a wise decision. Well, and the media this is based on pretty much also follows this paradigm. Mechs grants a bonus to their pilot’s physical ability scores and use the pilot’s mental ability scores; unpiloted or remotely-steered mechs have Strength and Dexterity scores of 10 + the listed bonus. Mechs use the pilot’s BAB, saves, proficiencies and skill modifiers, and do not gain skills or feats of their own. Mechs have a hardness score and take half damage from most energy-based attacks. While piloting, a character can’t wear armor or bulky clothing, and items that provide an AC-increase to the pilot, INCLUDING natural armor bonuses do NOT apply while piloting a mech. Mechs are treated as metal armor, but generally do not per default impose an arcane spell failure.

Mechs are designed for certain types of weapons in mind; this is known as Weapon Affinity; you can picture that as a kind of proficiency, as it influences the type of weapon a mech can wield. Standard weapons can be converted for mech use, though they have to be made for a size that the mech can make use of via weapon slots. There are three types of affinity: Ranged, melee and heavy. The first two are self-explanatory, while the third encompasses a list of weapons ranging from grenade launchers to rail guns and rocket launchers. Basically, if you could picture a weapon being the key-feature of a Gundam mecha that sets it apart, it’s probably heavy. The pilot of a mech with this affinity is considered to have Exotic Weapon Proficiency (heavy weaponry) as long as they are piloting the mech. Now, as for those weapon slots we’ve been talking about: A single weapon slot can accommodate a single Medium or smaller weapon, and in order to weild a weapon, a mech must have it slotted and the pilot must be able to wield it, unless otherwise noted. A crucial difference to regular weaponry: Multiple slots can be combined to fit larger weapons; two weapon slots can be sued to fit a Large weapon; three fit a Huge weapon, 4 a Gargantuan, and 5 a Colossal weapon, and such slotted weapons are thankfully not subject to the clusterf*** that are the rules for inappropriately-sized weaponry. That’s a good thing. If the linear progression instead of an exponential or similar curve struck you as odd: Attacks with a slotted weapon are made at the pilot’s full BAB, but no iterative attacks may be executed. Attacks with natural attacks or unslotted weapons executed by mechs are penalized with -5 to the attack roll.

Okay, so how does the mech companion operate? Well, they have a ¾ HD-progression, which means they start of at 1 HD and improve that 15 HD at 19th level; The mech has a ½ AC bonus progression, and a Hardness that begins play at 1 and improved up to 19; at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the aforementioned Strength and Dexterity bonuses granted by the mech increase by +2, for a total of +8 at 17th level. At 11th and 20th level, we have size increases (you can stay your usual size and instead get +2 Dexterity and 10 additional hit points), and the mech gets a BP (battery point)-contingent. When a mech uses a technological item or weapon, they may have charges drawn from this pool instead, and the battery recharges at the rate of 2 per hour. It is important to note for GMs that this should probably not allow for use of nanite hypoguns; the BP is clearly supposed to be electricity, whereas the hypogun’s charges represent nanites, as made very clear by their capacity, which, unlike most technological items, explicitly reads “1 nanite canister”, not the simple numerical value usually presented for charges sourced from batteries. This is important, because we’d otherwise have a pretty overkill healing angle here. Explicitly stating this caveat in the rules here would have been more convenient for the reader.

At 1st level, the BP-contingent is still 0, but every level thereafter, it improves by 2. At 1st level, 5th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, the mech also gets a mech enhancement. Depending on which basic shape you choose from the three available, you also get a unique 5th-level advancement; these frame-based enhancements generally improve every 5 levels after 5th.

Okay, so, what do the base frames provide? The agile frame is Small (as such only available for Small characters at low levels), and nets +20 ft. speed, +1 armor, two secondary wing attacks à 1d4, Dexterity +4 and 5 bonus hit points; Weapon Affinity is ranged, and we have 1 weapon slot. At fifth level, the frame nets a fly speed that improves regarding speed and maneuverability at higher levels. The mech can hover sans check. Bipeds are Medium, get +2 to armor, a primary slam at 1d6, +2 Dexterity and Strength, 10 bonus hit points, Weapon Affinity for melee and ranged weapons, and 2 weapon slots. Bipeds start play with the arms enhancement, and at 5th level, their arms net a +2 shield bonus to AC, which improves at higher levels. This bonus btw. explicitly increases a shield bonus of a regular shield, if present. Quadruped/treaded mechs start play as Large (size modifiers listed), get +10 ft. movement, +4 AC, a primary slam à 1d8, +4 Strength, 15 bonus hit points, the stability trait, Weapon Affinity for heavy weapons, and 2 weapon slots. The 5th-level advancement nets an additional weapon slot at no cost (ditto for higher levels).

Unless I have miscounted, there are 23 mech enhancements provided. These include gaining an additional weapon affinity, a new weapon slot, and at 7th level, you can get e.g. +2 AC; the equivalents of Weapon Focus and Weapon Specializations and their Greater versions can also be gained; 9th level allows for the taking of +5 hardness. Quicker reload for firearms and heavy weaponry, arms, slow fall hovering for quadrupeds, swim speed and air filters, +15 for Acrobatics and Ride checks made to jump (should imho be typed bonuses), size increases (may first be taken at 7th level, then again at 17th level), climb speed for quadrupeds/treaded ones. I did notice an issue: Superior Arcforged Armor provides a hardness increase of 5 and requires Advanced Armor Plating as a prerequisite, with which it notes that it stacks; said enhancement, however, does grant an AC bonus, not hardness. The enhancement should not refer to Advanced Armor Plating, but Arcforged Armor, which does indeed grant hardness 5. Thrusters are also included, and there is an option to increase the damage dice of weapons you have Weapon Affinity for. Shielded cockpit and cerebral reinforcement are perhaps the most potent enhancements, available at 13th and 15th level, respectively; both net you an assortment of the construct immunities of the mech. Since these are locked behind high level prerequisites, I can get behind them.

Interesting as far as this enhancement engine is concerned: The mech’s arms can wield weapons “appropriately sized” (should reference the mech) and make iterative attacks with them; when doing so, the mech is treated as having two fewer weapon slots (min 0); this aspect of the engine, while not necessarily hard to understand, at first seems to be weird in conjunction with the base rules, until you realize that the mech’s default slotted weapons essentially operate like natural attacks as a default.

Okay, so, before we return to the helmsman, let’s briefly talk about the mech as a whole: The system is kinda clever in that is presents mechs as a non-autonomous construct, somewhat akin to how e.g. vehicles operate; they also behave in many ways like an armor, like an extension of the character. Mechanically, the closest approximation I could come up with, is probably the synthesis; in many ways, the base mech-engine generates what you’d expect: A serious increase in durability for all piloting characters, with math-escalation built straight into the core engine. At the same time, we have a serious Achilles’ heel built into the whole thing. The cap regarding armor stacking is very much required, and the hardness means that the mechs can withstand punishment they actually take better; at the same time, much like in the respective anime series, they can’t be quickly healed back up, and damage takes longer to heal/repair, unless supplemented by copious amounts of magic. In short: You’ll be hit rather often, and the hits won’t be easily or quickly cured.

This is intended, and indeed imho works rather well, particularly considering that the characters, when ejected, won’t necessarily be properly armored and armed, though it’s not hard to get a dress-as-swift-action armor. The core engine presented operates pretty well. Where I can see serious issues that you need to be aware of, though, is within the interaction with the other components of engines, such as psionics and the like. Mechs allow you to enhance your character significantly regarding their staying power, and as such, powers and spells intended to shield fragile casters, which apply their personal benefits to both mech and pilot, can become problematic, as they’re not intended to bestow their benefits upon tanky, potent things with hardness. Depending on the type of game you run, this may be a significant problem – or not. If you prefer a system that presents less avenues for exploits, I’d strongly recommend making each mech their own target for the purpose of multi-target effects, and to disallow the application of personal-only power and spell-buffing effects to mechs. From a rules-perspective, AoE attacks can be a bit weird in play, and explaining the sequence explicitly would have made sense and made the system a bit easier to grasp: When hit by an AoE attack, you roll the saving throw first, then apply the effects; i.e., if you failed the save, your pilot character takes half damage, and the mech takes the other half; since most AoE-attacks are energy attacks, however, the mech further halves the damage incurred.

After some tinkering and testing, I do think that the engine presented works pretty well for what it tries to do; it presents an engine for mechs that duplicates many of the tropes we expect from the genre well, operating in many ways like a gestalt-lite second mode for the character. The base system operates well and is really enjoyable, but the combination with other systems leaves it wide open, which can become a rather pronounced issue.

Personally, I think that focusing more on breadth of options rather than a deepening of numerical boosts would have been a more rewarding route – more customization for the mech, less static boosts – or, you know, make the static boosts for Strength etc. cost BP. Instead of the nigh impossible to control and balance wide open transparency the system offers, a more controlled system with select exceptions would have probably been the more elegant and robust solution that also retains the uniqueness of classes and class options that do focus on mechs.

Speaking of which, the helmsman did also have an option for vehicles, right? Well, the book presents rules for technological companions, (combat transport vehicle, infiltration transport vehicle, motorcycle, sportscar, and ship); these come with their own base shapes and use the mech’s table and ability gains instead of the default companion stats, following the mech frames with their benefits and enhancements granted. These do warrant some scrutiny as well; ships, in aquatic campaigns, would e.g. be an escalation over the “horse is more deadly than cavalier” low-level issue, as the ship begins play with a Strength score of 24. My observations regarding the potential issues of the mech engine obviously also apply here as a consequence. Since these vehicles also behave as though the driver was mounted, there are some seriously devastating attacks that can be pulled off with them. That being said, if you wanted to play e.g. Knightrider? Here you go.

But let us return to the helmsman class: At 1st level, we get the supernatural hypercharge ability: At 1st level and every odd level thereafter, we get one hypercharge from a list of 13; these are activated as a swift or immediate action, and sport a cost – this is a cost in essence burn, which recovers at the rate of 1 per minute of meditation. 7th, 13th and 17th level unlock previously level-locked hypercharges. Hypercharges last Intelligence modifier rounds (ability score reference not properly capitalized) unless otherwise noted – e.g. one that nets you an additional attack with the same weapon is instantaneous. These hypercharges can be VERY strong. For one point of essence burn, we have an attack roll or saving throw reroll for the bonded vessel as soon as 1st level, and the ability does not specify whether the decision must be made before results are made known. For 2 points of essence burn, we have an instantaneous repair for the bonded vessel equal to twice the helmsman’s level. (Infinite healing exploit is only an issue if you combine it with an option that allows hit points to be shared between constructs and living things.) You can also choose an akashic armament or veil that “the bonded vessel has essence invested in” (which is an odd phrasing that should probably read “´of the bonded vessel that the helmsman has invested essence in” or something like that, increasing that by 3, even beyond the usual cap. Later we have the means to get a combat feat for which the helmsman meets the prerequisites. Which brings me to a question of hypercharges like this: Could you use this hypercharge to gain consecutive feats/mini-feat trees for a limited duration? RAW, that’d be possible. On the plus-side, the high-level options include AoE ranged and melee attacks. Really weird: This is probably the first time that I’ve seen a base class refer to the ability suite of an archetype: The helmsman can also get a hypercharge that lets them learn one of the overdrive abilities of the reactor knight psychic warrior, using Intelligence instead of Wisdom as governing ability score.

Also at 1st level, we have the akashic armaments ability, which lets the helmsman imbue essence in the bonded vessel as though it were a veil; the limit based on veilshaper level applies to each of the armaments separately, not to the overall armaments. Well, scratch that: The armaments are unlocked at 2nd level, and a glimpse at the class table confirms that the text claiming that this is gained at first level, is wrong here – the ability is gained at 2nd level. The benefits are all unlocked, with 9th and 16th level providing new sets of options. The akashic armaments are in line with the existing options: Artillery, for example, nets you a +1 insight bonus to atk and damage with all weapons, and +1 to the save DC, if any, of weapons. This is pretty much a variant of the daevic’s armbands of the irked elephant, minus base damage and bull rush, but plus the DC-angle. Bonus type prevents stacking exploits. That being said, I’m not a big fan of the high-level initiative boost. On a formal level, we have some deviations from the standards here: Threat range is e.g. noted as “15:20”, and we have instances of feats not capitalized and weapon special properties referenced not in italics.

2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter nets a chakra bind in the progression head, feet, wrist, shoulders, headband, neck, body. Balance-wise, the head-chakra is usually gained only at 6th level, at the very soonest for full-caster type akashic characters; for others, the customary level-range is 8+. This does undercut some of the balance options of the system; take djinni’s turban from City of 7 Seraphs: Akashic Trinity, for example: binding this veil to the head slot nets you unassisted personal flight with perfect maneuverability if bound to the head slot as well as a 20% concealment against ranged attacks if you move at least 20 ft. in a single round. Usually, that’s perfectly fine, as you can do it at 6th level, at the soonest, if you’re a nexus or vizier. The helmsman, though? This fellow can pull that off at first level, which violates PFRPG’s balance-assumption of no unassisted flight below 5th level – and it also kinda undercuts the coolness of having an aerial mech. Alternatively, sparkling alicorn nets you a half-celestial unicorn at first level. Via the chakra bind for head; stare of the ghaele’s head chakra bind nets you 1d6+1 rounds of staggering, which is hardcore at the usual 6th level; at first level, it’s overkill. This, more than anything else, would disqualify the class hardcore for me – but guess what? This seems to be yet another error, for the class table does instead provide the hands chakra at 2nd level, which is very much a feasible choice! This is perhaps the most egregious issue in a class’s rules I’ve seen in a while, as it means the difference between “fundamentally broken” and “works well within the confines of the system.” Not cool.

4th, 10th and 19th level net enhanced capacity; 4th level also allows the helmsman to prevent the destruction of their vessel by sacrificing their own hit points. I get and like the intent here, but with a regenerating pilot, this can be somewhat problematic; with a 1/round caveat or a Burn-like mechanic, this’d retain the spirit of the ability, without resulting in the wondrous almost trash-indestructible mech. As written, this ability rewards you for keeping your mech nearly trashed, as the pilot can be healed up quicker than the mech. At 6th level, the helmsman may 1/day (+1/day at 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter) reallocate essence as a free action. 10th level nets the exclusive interface chakra; 12th level nets turboboost. This nets the vessel the ability to gain the benefits of one additional chakra to which any kind of veil can be shaped, but the helmsman takes essence burn equal to the number of essence invested in the chakra each round this is maintained. At 18th level, this is delimited, reducing essence burn to 1 if the vessel has “1 or more points of essence invested in the hypercharge chakra.” Wait. WHAT? Hypercharge is no chakra! That’s a series of abilities that requires essence burn to use, but you don’t invest anything in it? Turboboost is also not a chakra, so is this supposed to reference interface? I genuinely have no idea how the hell this ability is supposed to work. The capstone lets the character shift their essence as an immediate action an unlimited number of times per day, and hypercharge requires one less point of essence burn, minimum 0. The first part of this ability is phrased imprecisely: The core veilweaving feature provides the means to reallocate essence an unlimited amount of time as a swift action; adaptive response improves that to a free action a limited amount of times per day. So…does the capstone mean to imply that it allows for unshaping and constructing of new veils? It seems to refer to previous limitations and is phrased as a delimited, but the ambiguous verbiage makes this very hard to grasp.

The class is supplemented by a variety of favored class options, as well as 3 archetypes. The first would be the experimental engineer is an engine-tweak that is a straight power upgrade: At 3rd, 7th, 11th, 15th and 19th level, you get to choose a mech enhancement, an item creation feat, or a hypercharge. Instead of choosing one hypercharge, you get to choose from more. Pretty sure that, at one point, hypercharges were all unlocked at once, and this archetype was not updated properly. As written, it is a straight power-increase sans drawbacks or tradeoffs. The ability name is not bolded properly. The fleet commander can spread his pilot levels among bonded vessels – a 6th level commander could e.g. have 2 3rd level vessels, 6 1st level vessels…you get the idea; each level, the pilot levels must be allocated, and once chosen, these cannot be redistributed. The fleet shares a bond within 100 ft., +10 ft./level, which includes seeing and hearing through them, which can be ridiculously powerful. The fleet commander can also expend actions to command his fleet; “for example, a fleet commander can spend a move action to command the mechs to move, and a standard action to command them to make a ranged attack.”  At 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the fleet commander can issue commands to an additional one of his bonded vessels as the same action, though doing so causes the vessels to take a -1 penalty to atk and skill check “per mech commanded this way.”

The vessels have to take the same action, but may target different targets. Okay, so RAW, only mechs feature in the penalty, which is clearly an error, but at least only one of the vessels gets the very strong vessel shape sharing. Second error: The class feature references the eclipse base class instead of the helmsman. The archetype loses adaptive response. Hypercharges may affect additional vessels for 1 point of essence burn. I spoke too soon, btw.: At 8th level, investing essence into a single bonded vessel for akashic armaments and veils shares that with the entire armada. This replaces enhanced capacity. WAIT. There is no enhanced capacity at 8th level! So what is this supposed to replace? Is the level incorrect? 12th level replaces turboboost with the ability to bond with any vessel as a standard action, treating it as a bonded vessel for all purposes. “The fleet commander may have any number of vessels affected by this ability at a time, but a single vessel may only be considered he bonded vessel of one helmsman at a time.” WTF. Remember: He can see through all. Instead of improved turboboost, we have the ability to command +1 vessel for a point of essence burn How does this interact with the base ability to command more at once at the cost of penalty? Freely? Full choice? Do we need to pay only in excess beyond the basics? The capstone eliminates btw. the base penalties for multi-vessel commands, and allows the vessels to take different actions from each other, which is damn cool – and something the archetype imho should have, at a HIGH cost, gained  earlier.

The themistoclien helmsman replaces the hypercharges with Path of War maneuvers, starting off with 3 maneuvers known, 1 readied, and increasing that to 7 and 5, respectively. The disciplines available are the golden lion, piercing thunder, solar wind, and the atrociously overpowered rajah class’s radiant dawn. Maneuver recovery works via standard action, or he may gain temporary essence equal to half Intelligence modifier (minimum 1) that may be used for essence burn….and guess what? We have the ability to execute maneuvers through the bonded vessel, so essentially rajah lite, minus the rajah’s atrociously OP titles, but with a better chassis, and it has the same enhanced capacity glitch as above. Since it, like the fleet commander, suffers from a progression/ability exchange glitch, and since the core class already has one, I’ll stop trying to judge whether this fares on the power scale. Dual-system options are already hard enough to check when all components are in working order.

Beyond the veil list (which is another indicator that the class SHOULD in fact get the hands chakra…), we also get a couple new veils. Ablation field is for the chest slot and increases your DR or hardness, but RAW doesn’t grant you either, energy adaptation while bound; captain’s guided hand  is cool, as it provides skill boosts and, when bound to hands, lets your vessel ignore mundane difficult terrain and high winds. Dogfighter’s third eye is exclusive to the helmsman’s mid-level interface chakra, and nets you dodge bonus to AC; interesting: you get to move whenever you’re missed, and while bound, you get blindsense. Also for the interface chakra: expansive uplink, which nets long-range telepathy and sensory sharing; general’s beacon which lets you track allies (and enemies, if bound); ironclad bastion is a more straightforward buff with a movement enhancer when bound; navigator’s boon does what it says on the tin, including find the path (not in italics) while bound. Steel ward’s bond lets you interface with constructs and mind probe them. For non-exclusive chakras, we have the technological items disrupting interface bangles for slots wrist, body, which can also disrupt magic when bound, and warlord’s fist, which nets AoE Intimidate.

Okay, since the helmsman class requires knowing the reactor knight archetype, let us cover that fellow next. The reactor knight gets Fly and Knowledge (engineering) and diminished manifesting, and loses warrior’s path, expanded path, secondary path (powers, trance, maneuvers) and pathweaving in favor of a bonded mech and the overdrive ability referenced by the helmsman. The ability lets the archetype expend their psionic focus in favor of Wisdom bonus + ½ class level (minimum 1) boost points, which last for class level rounds and may be used to activate any overdrive known. At 1st level and every 2 levels thereafter, the archetype gets to choose from one overdrive of a list of 12. These include making Fly checks to negate attacks (broken; skills are super-easy to cheese beyond attack rolls), but that one is at least an immediate action, so only once per round. There is also a physical attack at a 60 ft. range that is extraordinary – which is cool. But how is the very possible scenario of preventing the return of the e.g. detached fist handled? How is this explained with weapons? This is missing the usual clarifications of extraordinary melee attacks executed at range. We also have AoE fire damage, or what about adding Wisdom mod to all attack, saving throws and Acrobatics checks for 3 rounds (no, this has no minimum level), for a lousy 2 boost points that are replenished whenever you want? Compare that with the one that lets you spend 1 boost point and a swift action to exit the mech and land on the floor safely with a DC 5 Acrobatics check. Yeah, let me take the latter over a boost that makes palas cry over their grace being sucky. We also have some formatting inconsistencies here, but this review is already very long. The archetype also provides some skill bonuses, mech enhancements and the capstone has a maximum overdrive that lets them use overdrives sans boost point cost. Don’t get me wrong: This is an archetype I per se LIKE, but it is one that desperately needed some limits, some minimum level requirements and internal balancing.

While we’re on the subject of psionic archetypes, let us cover the remainder of them: The Circuitbreaker cryptic loses the altered defense class feature in favor of Technologist and tech-related crafting feats at higher levels. Instead of evasion, they get Psicrystal Affinity and Psi-Core Upgrade; the latter is a rather cool psionics/tech crossover feat that lets your psicrystal bond with weapons, tools, etc. – which is per se neat. I do have one concern with the feat, though: It lets you convert power points into charges on a 5:1 ratio, which, while not exactly game-breaking, can be a pretty strong delimiter in games, considering how batteries, per the default rules, have a serious chance of going kaput. Lacing traps into targets? Nice. As a whole, I consider this archetype to be solid. The Eclipse archetype for the dread class is, unfortunately, not as well-considered. We have a fleet-scenario that sports much of the same issues of the fleet commander, but add to that the ability to execute ranged untyped damage causing touch attacks; that wasn’t good design for the dread, and it’s still not good design when it can be executed at range and via proxies, particularly since it can also channel terrors at range. At this point, the archetype is already disqualified for me. The mecha sentinel aegis is interesting: Instead of the astral suit, we get an astral mecha, including 3-point customizations for mech enhancements and 4-point customization for size increases, with cannibalize suit replaced with the ability to shake off some negative conditions at higher levels. The medimechanic vitalist can add objects and constructs to their collective, and get a modified powers-list instead of medic powers…oh, and they can exchange repair and healing through their collective. And here we have the HP-with-construct-exchange issue I warned of above.

The overcharger wilder gets a variant surge and three exclusive surge bonds to choose from: Armsmaster, Malfunction and Pilot. No surprise: The pilot surge, which nets you a bonded mech or companion vehicle at full CL is by far the best one. The latter should cost the archetype more. The squad leader tactician has a slightly better ratio there, losing coordinated strike and lesser strategies. As a nitpick, his collective erroneously refers to him as mech pilot, but on the plus-side, the feature is modified to lose the range upgrades, but allow for temporary teamwork feat sharing. Using the collective engine to remotely steer unpiloted mecha is also a neat angle, though I am very weary of the fact that this action tree actually is reduced at higher levels, particularly since there is RAW no limit to the number of collectives you can theoretically be a part of at the same time, which could result in some ridiculous scenes regarding the action economy of the faithful mech servants of a ton of tacticians. There are also two non-psionic archetypes: The cyborg engineer vizier may invest essence in technological items, which allows them to consume fewer charges -1 fewer per essence invested. And with the aforementioned hypoguns, that’d mean infinite healing…and the archetype’s out. (As an aside, combine that with the vitalist, and we have infinite mech healing…) The road warrior fighter is straight-forward, a vehicle companion fighter. No complaints here.

The pdf also features class templates and features, which include blade skills for the soulknife that allow for the emulation of technological melee and ranged weapons. The psionic formulist is a class template that removes the extracts mechanic in favor of psionic extracts; these do tend to be more powerful than regular extracts, but the per se solid implementation, comprehensive lists and considering the theme, I’d very much let those guys into my game. The powerful cerebremancer also gets an archetype, the metaforge is essentially a tweak that is based on the variant rule that treats psionics as advanced tech according to the old adage.

The supplement contains a 10-level PrC, the psiborg adept, who gets ¾ BAB-progfression, d8 HD, ½ Fort-and Will-save progression 8/10ths manifesting progression, and 4 + Int skills per level. Bonded mecha, astral suit, mindblade etc. are also advanced; the archetype suspends the draining of charges of technological items while psionic focus is maintained, and they have a higher implantation threshold, gaining progressively more construct-like abilities. The 8th level ability of the PrC is super strong, auto-regaining psionic focus when manifesting a power, provided you didn’t expend it while manifesting that power. The character may also use charges as power points at higher levels – you get the idea.

Rather cool: The book contains a couple of psicrystal archetypes: The Informant, the OS, and the targeting array – and I genuinely love these. The targeting array gets Int-based aid another, including follow-up feats; the OS gets holographic projections and can hijack robots – and we also get a synthetic animal companion archetype. Kudos for this entire section – apart from a few formal hiccups (ability score reference or size not capitalized, etc.), this section really knocks it out of the park! It’s evocative, balanced and creative and shows what the authors can do.

We also get racial variants, 2 for androids, 2 for forgeborn, 1 for the noral (essentially an akashic variant); Skills are not properly capitalized, bonuses are untyped when they should be racial, and they are lopsided, including ability scores on one side of the mental/physical divide, and one of them nets +4 to Intelligence. . Apart from the champion forgeborn, against whom I can field no nitpicks or gripes, I wouldn’t use them. The book also contains 7+ pages of feats, reprinting the required ones like the Craft feats and Technologist, etc. These also include Craft Companion Vehicle and Craft Mech. As a note: The rules for non-companion vehicles to which they refer point to “pieces” instead of gp. We have feats for having the mech integrated into a set of body armor, the usual class feature enhancers for extra hypercharge, enhancements, etc., replace animal companions with a mech, metapsionic means to cause irradiation with powers based on power points expended. Oh yeah, and then there is that feat that lets you always ignore temporary hit points. Always on. Prerequisite: Psionic Weapon or Fist. That’s it. WTF. Kill it with fire.

The book also has an array of over 20 new psionic powers, and the list includes the voyager class and the gambler among the lists provided. These psionic powers need to be vetted VERY CAREFULLY. Assimilate function, for example, is a costly level 8 power that targets an AI: The AI gets one save, and if failing that, it is instantly destroyed and you get all of its knowledge and special abilities. No duration, mind you. You literally get all of it permanently. Do I even need to explain that this can be an issue? Okay, what if I told you that there are powers that make targets resurrect or incarnate as AIs? Ton of narrative potential, but also a high potential for some logic bugs on why bad guys aren’t nigh-unstoppable.On the plus side, we have astral swarms with the robot subtype and cool augmentation options that include instead making gray goo. Weird, beyond the rather prevalent formatting issues: Even if a power has only one augment option, it lists its augmentation as “1.”, which makes quite a few powers look as though something was cut, when cut copy paste was a more likely culprit. We have rather powerful and flexible terraforming-themed powers, including wide-range weather control, but also changes of gravity, fauna, etc.; while I don’t agree with the cost of all of them, I found myself genuinely appreciating these powers, the formatting snafus here and there notwithstanding; for a scifi or science-fantasy campaign, these certainly are cool and appreciated. Quite a few of these are modeled after comparable spells, expanding the range of psionics while retaining a distinct flavor. I also rather appreciated the complex holographic projections, the power-based piloting, interplanetary movement via psionics, etc. – this kind of stuff. High-level tech-wrecking is cool. Not so cool: One augmentation of a power that lets you recharge tech via psionics lets you multiply the charges by recharging multiple items at once. Still, as a whole, one of the strongest chapters of the book.

The final section includes notes to reflavor both akasha and psionics as cybertech; in the case of the former, we get 4 veils: hover boots, H.U.D., micro-missile gauntlet and nanite cloud. The former being e.g. a variant of lavawalker’s boots that instead of resistances grants you an enhanced speed; H.U.D. is a reflavored sentinel’s helmet – you get the gist. The take on akasha is clever, in that it focuses on flavor; the one on psionics goes a different route, and recommends making them no longer susceptible to dispel magic etc. – essentially, it’s a re-establishing of the psionics-are-different paradigm, with the caveat that effects that affect technology now also affect psionics. Provided your campaign sports enough tech-related materials and effects/spells, this works – if not, be very careful, as psionics already are pretty potent. The section also presents three variants of psionic item creation feats for this context, and adds spells as powers to some class lists.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not even close up to the standards of Legendary Games; beyond the rather copious deviations in formatting I noticed, the supplement unfortunately also suffers from several issues on the rules-language level, which include ones that wreck the functionality of otherwise cool concepts. Beyond that, the balancing of quite a few options, internal and external, is dubious. This feels like an excellent first draft; not like a finished book. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard that LG-fans may also know from Starfinder supplements. The supplement sports quite a bunch of full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Matt Daley and Michael Sayre are both talented designers, but the long and painful genesis of this book is readily apparent. The core engine presented is an interesting one that succeeds at its intended goal of depicting rules for a game alike e.g. Gundam SEED, but it is also one that would have benefited from not trying to fuse all those sub-systems – in many ways, one of the things that undo parts of this book, is that it loses track of all the moving parts of the systems it taps into, misses balancing caveats that were clearly intended to be there, misses internal level prerequisites for some ability arrays, etc.

This is particularly evident, as the book does e.g. show a cognizance of balancing caveats regarding e.g. threat range limitations and similar fine details that often are overlooked. The intent is here, the execution falls a bit short. As a consequence, the power-levels fluctuate starkly between OP and “I’d use and allow that without missing a heartbeat!” regarding quite a few pieces of content, and the issues are never there out of necessity for a vision, they are there because of what feels like refinement missing.

Again: The core of Arcforge’s engine does its job in a solid manner, though expansion of it instead of the inclusion of the archetypes might have been the more prudent strategy. In many ways, this feels like one of the most rushed books I’ve seen by Legendary Games so far.

After I had perused the mecha-engine, I was excited to see whether the classes and class features would offset some of its potential rough spots, but instead, they went the other way, exacerbating some flaws with numerous exploits, a ton of glitches, problems in functionality, etc. In many instances, supplemental materials with the proper focus could have rendered the engine a Top Ten-level masterstroke – the potential is here. Still, this does leave me hopeful for future installments!

And yet, while this book is deeply flawed, and while I’d advise extreme caution when implementing it in your campaign, it is also a book that is genuinely inspiring, that has its moments of brilliance, and that, if you can get your players to agree to refraining from gaming the system in its plentiful available ways, can make it a compelling cornerstone for entire campaigns. I just wished this had received the control, clean-up and refinement it needed. As provided, I can only recommend this with some serious reservations, and can’t go higher than 3 stars, consisting of a median of some components in the lower rating echelons, and some in the higher ones.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arcforge: Technology Expanded
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Faerie Bargains (5E)
by C M W B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2020 16:48:56

This is a really neat and unique concept, and one I've used to great effect in my own Tales of the Old Magreve game. Introducing treacherous and unpredictable fey bargains and fey mysteries, it is a really fun and flavourful way to maek your forest adventures have a bit more menace to them.

It adds a fun element of player choice in which they need to weigh the risk vs. the reward, with the long-term penalties for making the wrong choice offering up some fun roleplay opportunities.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faerie Bargains (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Treasury of the Macabre (5E)
by C M W B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2020 16:47:47

This is a fun addition to any DM's toolkit, with some terrific horror-inspired magic items to spring on your players.

I've used this when populating the hoards of evildoers and it has allowed for much more flavourful loot than your run of the mill scrolls, potions, and +1 items. While I used this in my homebrew setting, I can see it making a good addition to a Curse of Strahd game too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Treasury of the Macabre (5E)
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Terrors from the Id: The Book of Psionic Horror
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2020 08:41:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 40 pages,1  page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this book with new class options for psionic classes, which include new tricks for the Path of War class Zealot (from path of War Expanded) as well, so let’s start here: Zealots get 4 new convictions. One  lets the zealot, as a free action, take sanity damage of up to his Charisma modifier, regaining an expended maneuver for every point of sanity damage taken. Sans sanity system,, the zealot may instead take 2 ability score damage to one of the three mental ability scores of their choice. Mad echoes lets the zealot cause 1 sanity damage to all creatures affected by echoes of steel; if he does this, the target of echoes of steel gets to use the loaned maneuver an additional time. I assume that the bonus use of the maneuver still is voided if the zealot chooses to recover the maneuver, but explicitly pointing that out would have been nice. The final conviction nets the “shattered mind” oracle curse, using zealot level as oracle levels. Unless I am sorely mistaken, there is no such thing. After combing through my pdfs and books, I finally realized what this should have been, or at least, I think I do: In PF #88, a shattered psyche oracle curse was introduced. This was the closest I got to discerning the intent of this one.

Zealots also get a new mission, corruption. This one nets all creatures in your collective the benefits of your corruption manifestation and stains while you maintain psionic focus. You can expend your psionic focus to allow all creatures in the collective to ignore their stains for 1 round. This ability is missing the action to activate it. The second ability, warping majesty, lets the zealot spend “3 power points on a martial strike, affecting the target with Malefic Metamorphosis[sic!]” If the target failed a saving throw against the maneuver that activated this power, it is affected automatically. For 4 power points added to a martial strike, the target can be forcibly included in the collective. As a swift action, the zealot may command the target to perform a move or standard action, with a “DC 10 + the zealot’s charisma modifier + half the zealot’s level” “will” save to stop performing the action. Leaving the collective requires a move action and a will save. Why all those quotes? Well, if you’re even remotely familiar with PFRPG, you’ll notice that there’s a lot wrong with formatting here – the sequence of the DCs is nonstandard, ability scores are persistently lower-caps, and, to get that out of the way, powers referenced and archetypes are both provided in caps – so the “Malefic Metamorphosis” does not reference a feat, it actually points towards a power – and should be malefic metamorphosis. Skills are btw. written in lower caps.

The issues this book has with formatting are VERY pronounced, and particularly in high-complexity contexts, they do impact the material.

On a formal level, it should be noted that the verbiage here also made me stumble a few times, but yeah. The mission is conceptually great, but before we can properly judge it, we have to make a brief excursion to new psionic powers, namely the aforementioned malefic metamorphosis. The power is one of the new powers introduced herein, and is a third-level power for psions/wilders and vitalists. It can be manifested as a standard action, has a range of touch, and PR applies; A fortitude save negates, and the power clocks in at 5 power points cost. The power allows you to impose a -6 penalty to an ability score, decrease the target’s size by 2 categories, make the target lose a limb, render the target blind or deaf, decrease natural armor by 3, decrease DR by 5, reduce fast healing or regeneration by 5 (nice: Has a caveat that prevents cheesing immortal enemies here!), decrease maneuverability by 2 “steps”, impose -4 on attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks and saving throws, impose a 50% chance to waste any given turn; this increases to only a 25% chance to act normally. For every 4 power points spent, you get to add another effect; for 2 power points, range increases to close; for 4, you can affect a creature with additional manifestations of the power, and for 2, the save DC increases by 1.  Sounds familiar? Yep, this is essentially a psionic, more versatile version of bestow curse. I like most of the flexibility it offers, though loss of a limb is pretty nasty, and should probably have been a costly augment. The power is, like bestow curse, permanent, but unlike the spell, it notes this: “any effect that would remove ability damage is capable of removing the effects of this power.“ Okay, I assume that means that any effect curing ability damage also ends this power. In short: It is more flexible, but also easier to remove than the spell. Per se not too big a problem. Oh wait, we were talking about the zealot, right? That means full BAB, and this potent power added for 3 power points to strikes? Now that is damn brutal – compared to destruction, we have the disabling of a limb equated with 3d8 active energy damage and +1 DC. And yes, this is the better comparison than destruction’s AoE-attack, as the new mission’s power point cost does not scale. I really love this conceptually – the infectious mutation/madness-angle reminded me of ole’ Sutter Cain, but as written, this is a very potent added debuff to strikes, one that exceeds in power the options granted by the other zealot missions. RAW, the ability also does not clarify the interaction with targets and affected area – as written, one could argue that 3 power points add this to all affected targets, when a single target was almost assuredly intended. This is a super-cool concept, but it needed some finetuning and polish.

While we’re on the subject of class abilities, we also get a new surge for the wilder, the horrific surge. This one lets the wilder make an “intimidate” check versus a creature within close range, gaining a untyped bonus to the check equal to the wild surge’s “value” – I assume that to refer to the manifester level increase granted by the wild surge class feature. If suffering enervation, the wilder is shaken for a number of rounds “equal to the level of wild surge used” and loses power points equal to the unmodified manifester level. This is, verbiage-wise, not really functional – does it refer to the manifester level as modified by wild surge? To the increase to manifester level? A wild surge in itself has no level. The surge bond increases the fear of targets already affected by shaken, frightened, etc., and the improved surge bond nets +1 creature affected by the wilder’s wild surge Intimidate checks, + another creature affected for every 4 levels beyond 5th.

Archetype-wise, the deranged min psion loses the bonus feats in favor of getting an oracle curse (adapted properly to psionics), and at 5th level, we have the tap the madness ability to accept temporary penalties to saves to enhance DCs, with the ability improving at 15th level. Interesting: At 10th level, this ability’s penalty becomes an aura. Formatting is inconsistent here: Class abilities are formatted as though they were feats for the most part (confusing), but not always. At 15th level, when using the save DC-enhancer, the archetype gets to completely ignore PR. Very strong. This should probably be a scaling decrease instead, particularly since they also ignore ANY immunities of creatures, which is OP even at 15th level. – granted, mind-affecting immunity instead nets a +5 bonus, but still. The capstone increases the radius vastly and provides a limited added psionic focus ready to be expended whenever the tap the madness ability is used.

The fearsome overlord dread replaces devastating touch with a collective governed by Wisdom, which is interesting (or a hiccup), considering that the dread otherwise is governed by Charisma – the archetype gets Unwilling Participant at 1st level, using Charisma instead of Wisdom, and adds the [Network] descriptor to all [Fear] powers and a list. The latter makes me think that the collective probably was intended to be Charisma-based as well. 2nd level’s terror is replaced with spirit of many. Terrors can be channeled as a standard action via the collective, and targets in it are treated as though affected by devastating touch for the purpose of being affected by a terror, or the target can be affected by an Intimidate check. The ability is correctly codified regarding descriptor and spirit of many’s augment, which is the big thing here – you can essentially use terrors on multiple targets for power point expenditure, which makes for pretty potent low-cost debuffs.

Aura of fear is replaced with a penalty applied to collective members regarding fear-based effects, including the loss of fear immunity. Channel terror is lost in favor of the ability to induct targets into the collective on a failed save by expending a use of terrors. I assume that the save DC here is based on the terrors, but the ability doesn’t state this. Twin fear is replaced with knowing/remote viewing  the location of creatures in the collective. The archetype also comes with a sanity damaging terror. This is an interesting engine-tweak – I rather liked it, minor rough patches notwithstanding.

The martinet tactician does not suffer drawbacks for collective members reduced to 0 hit points, and replaces coordinated strike with 3+ Intelligence modifier uses of press onward. This ability can be used as a swift action, and lets all members of their collective ignore a pretty massive array of negative conditions for 1 round, , +1 round at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. When the effect wears off, the suppressed effects have their duration extended by an equal number of rounds to which they were suppressed….and here, we have an unintentional exploit: Per default, the suppression of effects in PFRPG has their duration continue to elapse, so if the negative condition elapses while the ability is activated, there is no more duration to extend. This is, admittedly, a nitpick, but the exploit is completely avoidable via a suspension of duration elapsing clause. Oh, and there is this other sentence. While under the effect of the ability, creatures ignore ALL DAMAGE SUFFERED. Granted, they take twice as much when the duration elapses, but this is still broken as all hell. Deity blasts your level 1 farmer? Death delayed, you’ve got this level 1 martinet standing around…and again, it didn’t have to be this way. I love the idea. Add a simple scaling mechanism per round for damage ignored, and there you go. 6th level nets Diehard and collective members benefiting from coordinate gain it as a teamwork feat. 14th level replaces pooled knowledge with the ability to redistribute damage taken among collective members. Good here: The ability has a caveat that prevents damage negation – via DR. Since the base ability regarding delayed damage does not comment on energy types, this should be more broadly phrased.

The psyche preserver vitalist replaces medic powers with an expanded powers list and the respective powers being treated as though they had the network descriptor. Transfer wounds is replaced and delayed until 4th level, and the replacement instead transfers sanity damage. Collective healing is similarly modified to instead apply to sanity damage, health sense is replaced with sanity sense, and at 6th level, we have a pulse that lets the collective members ignore madness or mind.affecting effects for one round. 7th level allows for the negation of sanity damage taken via the modified transfer wounds replacement, and the 19th level ability allows for regular healing to also be able to deal with sanity damage.

Next up are two prestige classes: The 5-level psijacker, who needs 2 skills at 7 ranks, Inducting Power, Shared Power and Unwilling Participant, as well as the ability to manifest 3rd-level powers, which must include two telepathy powers. The PrC has d6 HD, 3/5 manifesting progression, and BAB, Fort- and Ref-saves improve by up to +2, Will saves by up to +3 during the 5 levels of progression. If the psijacker had a collective before, it advances as if the character had gained a level in the collective-granting class. The PrC is missing its class skills, and information on its skills per level and proficiencies.

1st level adds the attune target augment to all mind-affecting powers: for 2 power points, a creature that fails its save against the power becomes attuned to you, and can be affected regardless of range or line of effect. 4th level allows for the expenditure of an additional power point to add attune another creature that failed the Will save against the power.

The interesting thing comes at 2nd level: When attuned to a target, the psijacker shares an attuned target’s collective abilities, and can’t be forcibly removed. Additionally, the psijacker can redirect ANY power or effect that affects another creature in the collective to himself. No save, no limits here. This ability is AWESOME, but it needs some checks and balances. Particularly since all creatures in mental contact with an attuned target are ALSO treated as attuned, save that they can’t act in this same relay-like manner. 3rd level nets spirit of many, and creatures thus affected can be targets via collective effects and powers, effectively bypassing saves and limits that keep the already potent collective ability in check. Remember: Creatures affected by the relay of the attuned target do not get a save to avoid this! Really cool: The psijacker can change what a creature says in mental communication by expending their psionic focus. 4th level eliminates the most pronounced restriction to the psijacker’s attunement, making it last for 24 hours, which is strange, as RAW, the attunement lasts as long as the triggering power, which can be longer than 24 hours. Attuned creatures also take a -2 penalty versus the psijacker’s mind-affecting powers. The 5th level nets another global augment – for 4 power points, mind-affecting powers can become contagious, and only for powers that allow for a Will save. I love the concept of this PrC, but it could have used a few whacks with the nerf-bat. Still, this is definitely a cool concept! Still, I think many of these options either didn’t realize, or didn’t care about all the very potent benefits that collectives have already hardcoded into their rules. There is a reason why Unwilling Participant requires a standard action to use, has a save, and still is very powerful. So yeah, I wouldn’t allow these options in most of my games.

The paragon lunatic covers 10 levels, and requires 5 ranks in Autohypnosis, Iron Will, and at least one greater or two lesser madnesses. The class is immune to all mind-influencing effects save for madnesses already possessed, which can’t be healed or removed. The class also sports mad insight, which is essentially advantage on a d20 roll 1/day, +1/day for every odd class-level thereafter.

We have d8 HD, and ¾ BAB-progression, ½ Will-save progression, and 8/10ths enhanced development (not bolded properly), progressing regarding class features etc. in a class they belonged to before gaining the PrC. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter net a bonus feat, and 2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a madman’s boon from a list of 12. These are not properly classified as extraordinary, supernatural, etc. – this is relevant in e.g. the ability that allows the paragon lunatic to extend a madness they suffer from to another creature. Most of the abilities are passives, like increasing one ability score by +2, and decreasing another by 4, but yeah…taking e.g. sanity damage when affecting the character with a mind-affecting effect would be another example where ability type is very much relevant. The level 10 ability lets them become super-flexible, and retrain all feats every day, exchange powers for spells (power/spell lists used?? I assume same list…), or exchange class talents etc.

The book also contains quite a bunch of new powers. To give you an idea: Armageddon is a 9th-level power that deals 10d6 force damage…to everything in a 1-mile radius, centered on manifester, including the manifester. Oh, and you take 4d6 ability BURN to the manifesting ability score. Brutal. Assign imperative is permanent (should be “Permanent, see text”, since an inability means it “only” lasts for several days, and essentially lets you implant Code Geass-like compulsions in targets – which is also the interesting angle here: This 6th-level power is akin to geas/quest, and per default takes 10 minutes to manifest, but otherwise has more flexibility due to its augments, which include the option to manifest it as a standard action instead. However, in such a case, the target gets a Will save. Confusing: The augment-section erroneously refers to this power as “Mind Control”, instead of its proper name; it’s not the only power with this particular glitch. That being said, with lantent programming and this one, you can do some seriously nasty stuff.

There is also a 60-foot shockwave spread that renders targets helpless on a failed save, a cool signaling beckon to call low-HD creatures to you (but doesn’t compel obedience…) Deathless Form begs to be abused. A 4th level power, the power has a duration of 1 round/level, and prevents death by hit points. ENTIRELY. It also ahs this confusing piece of verbiage “However, the creature does not heal nor regain consciousness; further healing is required in order to bring the creature back to positive hit points.“ Either the first sentence only applies to natural healing (if so, what about fast healing/regeneration), or it’s self-contradictory. It’s not that hard to remain operational with 0 or less HP. Either way, that’s the pre-augmented power. This sort of stuff is also usually a frickin’ CAPSTONE with limited uses, not a puny 4th-level power. WTF. Compare it to delay death. I mean, seriously. WTF.

On the plus-side, a 6th level power that is essentially a tweak on multi-target ectoplasmic form, a psionic tongues variant…cool. Speaking of cool: One of my favorite psi-powers, false sensory input, gets a complex level 5 variant that I’ll most definitely use. The level 8 feed to oblivion power is a better destruction that is most assuredly missing its [death] descriptor, an important balancing aspect for such powers/spells, particularly since it also imposes negative levels and even ignores immunity to the like. Halt has really cool visuals: It is a 30-foot radius, and saps kinetic energy. It makes projectiles fall to the ground, and creatures in the area must succeed on a Fortitude save or be paralyzed, which EXPLICITLY ignores immunity to paralysis, but not immunity to cold. Since duration is concentration-based, I can see this work rather neatly. However, it also notes that psionic effects are shut down as if affected by dispel psionics – so we have AoE save or suck aura that moves, is a dispelling aura, and eliminates projectiles. I think power-level 5 is too low here.

Insurrection has a chance to force the affected to attack allies. That should have the (compulsion) descriptor. I like the interference field’s massive penalties to concentration. Sharing real and false memories is cool. Personally, I think that the 9th-level power lore of the deceased, which permanently nets you a known power of a deceased creature, should have a limit regarding power lists to choose from, or some maximum of powers from other lists you can thus attain. I welcomed the powers that allow for the use of mindscapes with psionics. Relapse  also needs a limit, and obviously was based on a more limited class ability. The power lets you choose a spell or effect that affected the target within 24 hours that has been ended or dispelled. The effect begins anew. This lets you basically duplicate very strong attack spells/buffs/debuffs, as you with, and bypass 1/day ability limitations. On the plus-side, switching 2 20-foot cubes of terrain and people with spatial displacement? Awesome.

Okay, this should give you an idea regarding the powers. The pdf also includes 2 pages of new feats. These include making mind-affecting powers cause sanity damage, or render certain powers contagious (the latter being just what you think – at a flat cost of only 2 power points, this one is underpriced and very strong); there also is a Metapsionic feat building on Unwilling Participant – conceptually, many feats here are variants of class abilities I discussed above. Slaying creatures reduced to 0 sanity, enhancers for psychic duels are also here. The section also features the Dream Sovereign feat, which enhances both dream message and induce nightmare with custom augments, a per se cool design paradigm I can see work well on a more global scale. As an aside: The latter power lets you move targets to nightmare dreamscapes…just sayin’…Freddy’s be proud!

The book also provides 3 new corruptions: Overlord interacts with psychic enervation, and focuses its Manifestations’s Gifts on added effects when manifesting powers. The compelled is the other direction – instead of gaining the corruption because of excessive use of power/imposing of power, this one is about having been subjected to it. Bolding of the manifestation sub-headers here is consistently off, which is puzzling, since the previous corruption didn’t suffer from this issue. The ravager corruption is, no surprise for veterans there, a nod towards Dark Sun’s ravager tradition – your powers generate wastelands, sapping the life from the world. This also ties in with the artifact(s)

herein – torcs of the legendary ravagers exist in 4 variants, and, well, are artifacts that can vastly enhance the ravage radius.

The book then provides some notes on sanity damage, psionic (psychic) dueling, and generating MP from power points. The latter requires care in a mixed game: Psionic characters will mop the floor with psychic ones of these rules are implemented. A table of fleshwarping psionic creatures, including ingredients and costs, and 3 fleshgrafts, were pretty nice! Sealed mind is interesting – it makes you immune to mind-affecting effects, but also makes you have a trigger that can be sued for mind control.

Conclusion:

Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, and the original b/w-artworks herein are AWESOME. I love them.

Unfortunately that is all of the positive things I can say about the formal criteria of this pdf. Editing on a formal level is okay, but on a rules-language level, there are quite a lot of vagaries, glitches, etc. – several of which influence the integrity of the rules.

Formatting, though? Oh boy.

You know, I often feel petty when complaining about formatting. And I’m sure plenty of authors out there at one point wanted to beat me up for my nitpicking.

If you need a good example why formatting for a game of PFRPG’s complexity is so darn important, look no further than this.

I mean, I’ll complain about a bolding missing, sure, but that’s aesthetic. This book, though? It’s the first book I read in AGES, where the formatting is so bad that it makes it harder to grasp how some stuff is supposed to work. There are no italics in this book. Instead, everything, from archetype names to powers to class abilities is formatted like feats. Powers suddenly are called ability. References regarding “levels” don’t specify which levels are meant.

Combine that with some hiccups, nonstandard verbiage and the complexity of the engines this operates with, and we have a seriously hard to decipher book.

Oh, and this nonstandard formatting? It’s not even consistent! Heck, one of the PrCs is missing its entire skill section.

Oh, and guess what? NO BOOKMARKS! Not even F** bookmarks.

This book? It reads like a pre-development/editing Beta, like nobody took a swing at checking the stuff for balance, like nobody bothered clearing up the immediately apparent issues this has. This book looks like a freshman offering, like a book with a troubled development history, or both – my money’s on the latter.

I haven’t seen a blunder of these proportions in all of Legendary Games’ catalog. And it’s heart-wrenching, for Matt Daley is a talented author, and there are gems to be unearthed here. There are some genuinely cool ideas here, and while the implementations often are exceedingly rough, one can see the gem this could have been. Heck, the author has done so much better in other publications, this must have been some seriously old work…right?

…I wanted to love this book so badly. I actually had kept it on the back-burner, because I love psionics, I love horror, and I was confident it’d be a fun, well-wrought book. Instead, I got a heart-wrenching mess. In spite of the good ideas contained herein, I can’t rate this higher than 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Terrors from the Id: The Book of Psionic Horror
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Legendary Rangers
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/08/2020 12:01:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the series dealing with class-redesigns clocks in at 62 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

The supplement begins with something I enjoyed seeing, namely truths and lessons learned. These include knowing that nature is not your friend, that one should rely on oneself, that all tools and weapons should be used, that enemies should be wisely considered – you get the idea.

The legendary ranger base class doesn’t per se change the chassis, but addresses something interesting: You see, rangers are a super-popular class in my game – but none of them ever actually go the route of the classic ranger. I’ve had blood magic-using changelings, insane pirates and more…and these end up with class features they don’t really require. The legendary ranger gets full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, d10 HD, and the 6+Int skills per level that makes the class so attractive to my players. The legendary ranger is proficient in simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor, as well as shields, with the exception of tower shields. That being said, the class does do a lot of things different: At first level, we get adaptive learning, which absolves the legendary ranger of the need to meet ability score requirements for feats, and treats their level as fighter level, stacking them if applicable. I am ambivalent here. I do think that some prerequisites like Expertise and Power Attack? Yeah, there, the ability to bypass them makes sense. On the downside, this’d allow e.g. Large characters to gain Awesome Blow rather easily, which is not something I am fond of, or think of as intended. I’d strongly suggest limiting the ability to apply only to ability score requirements ranging from 10 to 18, or to limit it to combat feats.

The ranger also begins play with a natural gift – this may be an animal companion, animal summoning, shapeshifting (1/2 class level + Wisdom modifier times, up to 1 minute duration per use), which nets one form from a list of available choices, +1 form for every 4 levels after 1st. The forms improve at 11th level, sizeshifting (9th and 17th level unlock sizes beyond Tiny/Large), or a shaman’s spirit companion. There also is an option to make healing extracts, which is rather cool; while defaulting to the standard is easy here, I’d still have appreciated it if the ability stated the action required to imbibe an extract. There is also one important caveat missing from them, namely that they become inert when leaving the ranger’s possession, or at least briefly thereafter. I assume that choice was made because the word “extract” points towards the alchemist, but these extracts do no not behave as “pseudo-spells”, so having that explicitly stated would imho have been prudent. All of these options also have exclusive talents included, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Back to the main class, which gets a retooled quarry ability at first level. The ranger must be able to clearly visualize and describe the target to render them a quarry; 1/round as a free action, he can make any target they observed for at least 10 minutes within the last 24 hours their quarry; if they have interacted with a being for at least 2 hours, that countdown extends to a whole year. This decision to declare someone as quarry does not require the target to be present. If a legendary ranger meets a person, they can spend a move action to make the target the quarry immediately, provided they have some way to perceive them. Finally, evidence gathered can allow the legendary ranger to designate a target as their quarry, but a failed check prevents them from trying that target again for 24 hours. The class gets half their class level, minimum 1, to attempts to track them and may move at full speed while doing so, sans the usual penalty, and halves the penalty for moving at twice the normal speed. Perception checks to locate the quarry also get this bonus, and the ranger may use Knowledge to identify a quarry based on tracks. The ranger can also make a Perception check opposed by the target’s Bluff or Disguise to gain information about its condition, and the information gleaned makes sense and is codified properly.

Quarry also interacts with the Predation class feature, which is a scaling insight bonus to attack rolls against it, as well as +1d6 precision damage; these bonuses increase by +1/+1d6 every 4 levels beyond the first. Baffling oversight: Predation lacks that caveat that it isn’t multiplied in critical hits. EDIT: I've had a discussion with two friends on Facebook about this, so let me state this clearly: Analogue abilities like bombs, sneak attack, etc. do explicitly state that the bonus damage is not multiplied on critical hits. This lacks this caveat. /EDIT Since quarry is super-easy to apply and has no limits, one can’t argue that this is intentional, either. While the number of bonus damage dice is less than that of sneak attack, predation does not have sneak attack’s flanking OR ranged restrictions, which allows for a damage escalation of the already VERY potent ranged builds out there. I like predation, but it’s RAW too wide open for my tastes. I do like that you can apply this at range, but I think it should AT LEAST be a ranger talent, with some prerequisites or scaling, preferably.

Finally, the class gets wildspeak, which allows for communication with animals and magical beasts, as well as +1/2 class level to Diplomacy with them. 5th, 9th and 13th level unlock new creature types, and at 17th level, the ranger may talk to the earth itself. At 3rd level, the ranger gets improved quarry, which first allows him do designate a quarry and move as the same move action. 7th level allows for the use of quarry as a swift action; 11th allows the ranger to thus quarry a creature they can’t see (opposed skill roll required); 15th level may the action optionally immediate, and 19th level, a free action.

3rd level nets relentless stride, which allows for full Climb movement sans penalty, or ½ speed when using a shield on a successful Climb check; he may also move at full speed when swimming, is immune to tripping by slick and icy surfaces (including magical ones!), and move at full speed through undergrowth without damage/impairment, etc. At 7th level, the ranger can walk on walls and ceilings, provided he starts his turn on solid ground, and he falls if his movement ends; additionally, he can walk across water. While I like the intent of this ability, making the ranger essentially a terminator-bloodhound, I think it’s overkill. It includes stuff you’d usually associate with ninjas, assassins and rogues, and does not account for encumbrance, armor, etc. This should probably be at least something that needs to be chosen, considering how much it trivializes the most common forms of terrain hazards. 4th level nets the Wisdom-based spellcasting you’d expect.

5th level nets Hunter’s Edge: At this level and every 5 levels thereafter, he chooses a class skill and gains the skill unlock powers as appropriate for the ranks in the skill. Important note: I am not sure if the ranger continues to get the higher rank skill unlocks if they progress in a skill once chosen, or if they’d require taking the same skill again. 7th level nets covert nature, which means the ranger leaves no track, and can use Stealth while observed; 11th level allows the ranger also to negate detection by scent, as well as blindsense and blindsight – much appreciated, and appropriate for the level. 11th level nets evasion, which is upgraded to improved evasion at 15th level. Also at this level, we get blindsight that only allows the ranger to see objects and creatures that moved within the past round, the range doubling from 30 ft. to 60 ft. at 19th level. 19th level nets immunity to nonlethal damage as well as all diseases and poisons. He may also spend a swift action to gain temporary hit points, 20 to be precise, which last for 24 hours. These don’t stack with themselves or others, but any ability to redistribute hit points from the ranger to other beings makes this an infinite healing exploit. Booo! The capstone ability makes the ranger hit and deal half damage when rolling a natural 1 on an attack roll against the quarry.

At 2nd level, and every even level thereafter, the legendary ranger gets a ranger talent. These denote whether they are extraordinary or supernatural; talents with (Predation) as a descriptor obviously modify said class feature, and analogues are provided for Wildspeak etc. – the first of these predation talents maxes your predation damage dice when targeting flat-footed beings or those denied their Dexterity bonus. Some of these have scaling benefits: Ancient ways, for example, lets you always act in a surprise round, and at 6th level nets you uncanny dodge, at 12th level improved uncanny dodge. That’s usually 3 class features, all rolled in one. On the plus-side, at 4th level, we have gaining a wild-card combat feat up ¼ class level (minimum 1) per day that can’t be stacked with itself. We have a talent that nets you at-will detect magic as a move action, gaining instantly all information, and the legendary ranger learns the highest spell slot the quarried target can prepare, no save or skill check to counter. That is one that I seriously wouldn’t want to GM: Detect magic at will can already be super annoying; the secondary effect has no countermeasure as written, and wrecks plenty of plots of published adventures, where powerful casters masquerade as non-casters or weaker individuals. It also instantly unravels each plot where an individual masquerades as a caster, regardless of Bluff, Disguise or items. Not cool.

On the plus-side: Claim Dominion is an interesting high-level ability, though one that won’t work for every setting: It requires level 16, and lets the ranger call forth a region’s champion, which is a frickin’ CR 20 creature of the GM’s choice, to fight it in a duel, with only animal companions allowed. Once that creature is bested, the ranger gets powers in that dominion and instinctive fealty. This can be cool, but won’t fit every game – it implies that there’s a CR 20 creature for every 25 mile domain, so it’s something that some GMs might want to be on the lookout for. Fist of Resolve is also an interesting one: 2d6 damage to self as a swift action that cannot be reduced in any way to cease the effects of confused, fascinated, frightened, nauseated, panicked, shaken, sickened; conditions that build on those still apply – see, this is design-skill-wise a really cool one that fits the “grit my teeth”-trope perfectly. Its minimum level of 6th is a bit low for my tastes as written, though. I think it’d have been more elegant to have the talent scale and lack the minimum level: Start off with shaken, fascinated and sickened, then unlock frightened, nauseated at 6th, then panicked and confused at 8th, perhaps with scaling damage costs as well. Just my 2 cents. 10th level nets an additional attack at full BAB when directed against the quarry until it is reduced to 0 HP – it’s an always-on haste, which is pretty brutal, but at least it does not stack with haste or other attacks that grant an additional attack, so no monk-dip exploit. Ritualized dabbling in druid spells as a ceremony, better shield AC, improvising Crafting materials, hideouts that can avoid magic…and what about the ability that lets you ignore concealment bonuses and miss chances by focusing your gaze as a swift action on your quarry? Marauder’s step is brutal and makes pounce weep: At 8th level, you can move half your movement as a free action before a full attack. cough Dual wield with speed boost /cough This one should imho be higher level than it is. On the plus-side, there is Dexterity to damage, and threat-range increases have proper caveats. Variants of solo tactics and pack tactic are here; there is a high level option to get a fey shadowmate (built uses PC rules, so essentially a better cohort), who can also once return the legendary ranger to life; there is a 12th level option to use immediate actions to disrupt spellcaster quarries (nice!)…you probably got the idea by now.

As for the talents exclusive to a natural gift, well, here we have some really cool ones: Like raise animal companion, which does what it says on the tin, and really, really helps keeping the emotional bond. +4 Strength and Constitution for summoned creatures (nope, can’t be stacked with Augment Summoning – kudos for getting that!), mutagens lite, poisons that cripple, but don’t kill…pretty cool ones. Personal peeve of mine: The rather powerful poisonous extracts mentioned are pretty save or sucky: The penalty caused is 1d6 + ½ class level, half that on a successful save, which’ll reliably reduce targets to an ability score of 1 between mid and high levels; making that effect get the one save and then deliver the total damage over time, such as in increments of 2 or 4, would have been more interesting imho. Why am I not screaming at this ability? Well, while it’s too much for my tastes, it’s neither ability score damage, nor drain, but a penalty, and does not stack with itself – see what I mean when I say that the design does get complex rules-interactions done right? Even more interesting, the penalty gradually vanishes, which makes for a good reason why a villain might retreat for now… So yeah, I’m very ambivalent about this one, but I appreciate its design. Size shifters can take a talent to increase the size of one limb when using the attack action, which is kinda funny, kinda cool, and makes me think of Everybody Games’ excellent Microsized Adventures…

The book comes with 8 favored class options, available for any race.

The archetypes provided are the chasseur, a mounted ranger; the chrysanth caller is a ¾ BAB-archetype with fey-theme, Charisma as governing ability score, modified spell list (based on bard, with a selection of sorc/wiz spells added), and the ability to establish a telepathic bond with their quarry;  a complex class hack that radically changes how the class operates. Earthshakers are the barbarian crossover archetype; feral scavengers are the crossover with the unchained monk and some survivalism thrown in for good measure; the hand of nature’s might is a Spheres of Might crossover tweak, and hand of nature’s power, you guessed it, does cover that aspect for Spheres of Power. Harrier Scouts made me smile, big time: They get a unique natural gift that focuses on thrown weapons, and a combo-engine consisting of primers, follow-ups, and executions – somewhat akin to how the Swordmaster of old and some Interjection games classes, or the awesome Prodigy behave, just in a more limited version, as the abilities unlocked are fixed.  In a change of pace, only one primer, follow-up, or execution may be enacted per round, so it’s less of a linear build-up, and more of a mix and match. Still, I enjoyed this archetype’s 2.5 pages andgenuinely think that this type of design, applied to each o the traditional combat styles, would have made for an interesting angle to peruse. The head hunter gets macabre trophies and is particularly adept at hunting down escaped prey. The pack leader is BRUTAL: He essentially establishes a collective-like bond with allies, whoa re assigned certain roles, gaining potent benefits. These include never being surprised (at first level!), and also features bonus damage (not properly typed), but at the cost of moving down on the initiative order. Guardian role extends the reach of a character by 5 ft. Always, At first level. As part of the ability array of this fellow. Compare that to what you need to usually do to get an increased reach. This is a super-cool engine, but even PARTS of its base benefits are overkill for the levels; considering that they’re always on and last for days and are Ex, this is ridiculously strong. Dipping for even one level into this archetype makes the whole group much more deadly, and comparable commander archetypes and classes pale, big time. This is cool, but as written very much over the top.

Planar explorers get a frickin’ eidolon AND an expanded spell list, as well as a portal opening ability, but lose evasion. They still weirdly seem to get improved evasion, though. Skirmishers are spell-less rangers who receive a secondary, massive list of tricks, which includes adding no-save halving of movement, no save shaken, no-save entangled etc. to targets hit….but since they  can be used 10 + Wisdom modifier times per day only, that kinda works. Kinda. No save conditions that can be caused via ranged attacks are problematic. The wild-plains drifter is, bingo, the gunslinger crossover – it uses an interesting variant of the quarry engine that builds focus while the target is in sight, which can then be used for better shots and damage – I really like this base engine, as it represents rather well what you, well, do. You aim, observe, fire. Two thumbs up to whoever designed this one.

The feat array allows for the playing of Intelligence- or Charisma-based rangers. Mass Trap Spell makes you generate more traps – important if you’re like me and use lots of obscure books: This Is NOT meant to be based off of Rogue Genius Games’ Trap Spell ability to make spelltraps! Instead, the feat refers to one of three new spell types herein. Trap spells are placed in squares and pretty much d what they say on the tin; you can’t place them where they’d be immediately triggered. Primeval spells enchant a single piece of ammunition; herbal spells require either foraging or can be paid for. The spells provided are pretty cool, with terrain that heals allies and harms enemies, traps, ammo inflicting a negative level, a herbal variant of lesser restoration...I generally like a couple of them, but +1d6 times CL electricity damage (max 5d6 at 9th level) and +3 to attack rolls (UNTYPED!) vs. metal wearing foes for a swift action level 1 spell? Pretty darn brutal. Some spells here imho should make them specify that they can’t be made wands or potions, otherwise, you’ve just broken the already lax pricing. Take Life from the Land, for example, is a 4th-level spell, and cures blinded, confused, dazed, dazzled, deafened, diseased, exhausted, fatigued, insanity, poisoned and sickened. (Oddly not nauseated). It also cures all ability score damage, and 1d6 HP per CL, and it has a 50% chance to send you back home on another plane. It’s only personal, but in a world where you can make wands of this fellow, not taking UMD would be rather dumb. This guffaw is in as far puzzling, as the other variant healing spells, like treat critical wounds, seem to be line: Said spell affects the creature touched and heals 4d12 hit points, plus 1 per CL. However, if the creature has been affected by it in the last 8 hours, that is halved. This is an interesting angle, and checks out well regarding spell-levels, etc. There is also a spell that heals you whenever the wielder of the enchanted weapon hits an attack - but the healing is low enough to make a kitten-exploit monetarily unfeasible, which I considered to be a nice touch.

The pdf closes with the sample character Raqir (CR 4), complete with a  compelling background story and boon benefits for befriending him. There is a superfluous + in his HD, but otherwise, he is a solid build.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level; I only noticed e.g. italics missing and similar cosmetic hiccups. I think. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports nice full-color artwork. Much to my annoyance, the pdf lacks bookmarks, which is a big comfort detriment for a crunch book of this size.

Andrew J. Gibson, Wren Rosario and Jeff Gomez have written a class rebuild that leaves me deeply torn; more so than any of the Legendary class rebuilds before. On one hand, we have a plethora of abilities I genuinely LOVE. The quarry rebuild is great and actually makes you feel like the sharp-eyed hunter/tracker; the class, as a whole, very much feels distinct and FUN. It has a wide selection of abilities that do allow you to roleplay, while never forgetting the mechanics. Which brings me to my primary concern: I’m not sure if the authors realized how strong their combined designs made the legendary ranger when compared to e.g. the legendary rogue or fighter. Just saying, since the sample NPC-build is relatively tame.

The lack of limits on predation makes every legendary rogue grit their teeth: Not only does the legendary ranger get the ability to walk on walls and ceiling and ignore the deadly terrain as a hard-coded class feature, they also have their full BAB for more consistent hits, and bonus damage that makes them much deadlier ranged combatants.

Know what did not need a damage boost of all things, at least not when played by a remotely capable player? Ranged ranger combatants.

In many ways, the legendary ranger is better at many rogue/assassin-y things than the legendary rogue. The different authors also show in the power-levels of the archetypes, which range from “solid” to “inspired”, to “conceptually great design, but broken as hell.”

To cut a long ramble short: I would not allow this class as written in my game. Not because of a personal pet-peeve of mine regarding mechanics, but because the overall package of the legendary ranger being better than that of the regular ranger, or talented ranger, or comparable classes by Legendary Games. I had peeves with the samurai and barbarian, with hiccups, some design decisions. But this one?

This is the first class in the series that I would not allow in my game due to balance concerns.

And it doesn’t look like the power level was anything but intended. The class is per se very finely-tuned, but omission of the usual balancing caveats in some key aspects taint it for me. I also have a legendary rogue player in my game, and where the legendary rogue or legendary gunslinger needs to invest and choose, the ranger just…gets stuff, and stuff that’s leagues better. This pdf has me rather concerned, to be honest.

How to rate this, then? Well, are you looking for a high-end class regarding power-level? Did you always think that your debuff full BAB-attacks should have no save? Tired of having to deal with the tactical ramifications of problematic terrain? Want to be a bloodhound? Or a witcher-like character? Then this’ll be pure awesome for you.

Are your PCs already fearsome enough with regular rangers? Oh boy, do you need to beg them not to power-game this beast.

For me, as a person, this is a 3-star file; its power-level is beyond what I consider appropriate for the games I run, and there are several components herein that I consider to be broken, too dippable, etc. – which breaks my heart, for the ideas and general chassis on display here are the finest I’ve seen for the concept.

As a reviewer, I have to account for the part of my demographic who is looking for such high-powered classes, though – for you, this should be a 5-stars file, though even you should beware of some options herein, while others may elicit less excitement from you.

Which leaves me with the formal criteria, and here, the lack of bookmarks hurts this book.

I thought long and hard, and compared this to my ratings of other comparable books, including the other installments in the series…and in the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Rangers
Click to show product description

Add to Bards and Sages RPG Resource Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 504 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
Powered by DriveThruRPG