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Spheres of Power
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2019 10:11:29

Vancian magic. A magic system modeled after a series of novels called Thy Dying Earth, by Jack Vance. Gary Gygax was a fan of Vance’s writing, and when Gary designed Dungeons & Dragons, he used Vance’s depiction of magic as his default magic system. Spells are grouped by level, from weakest (1st level) to most powerful (9th level). You can study only so many spells per level per day. And you forget them once you cast them, so you have to study them again day after day after day. This magic system became such a sacred cow of D&D that it persists into the most modern versions of the game, including Pathfinder.

Players throughout the years have commented that, despite being a genetic marker for D&D and its descendants, it’s an odd design choice. The Vancian magic system is rather restrictive in how it depicts spell casters, and doesn’t give much room for players to create magic-users from other literary traditions. Elric didn’t use Vancian magic. Gandalf didn’t either. Neither did Merlin, or Harry Potter, or any other wizard other than those in The Dying Earth series. Why are mages forced into such a narrow paradigm for magic?

Spheres of Power by Drop Dead Studios is an attempt to answer that question. This 229-page book offers GMs and players a completely alternate magic system, replacing Vancian magic with a very versatile toolkit that allows you to create virtually any kind of magic-using character. The book begins by explaining the core concepts of Spheres of Power, and how magic works in the system. The next chapter details 20 of the eponymous spheres. Chapter 3 presents us with 11 new base classes that utilize the SoP system. Also included in this chapter are archetypes for converting core Pathfinder spellcasting classes to the Spheres of Power system, and a prestige class.

It then moves on to discuss four advanced magic systems, listed as optional by the publisher, all of which gives ways for potent magic to be expressed in-game. Next up are Player Options, which include spellcasting traditions, casting drawbacks and boons. An entire chapter is dedicated to using magic items with Spheres of Power, and how magic items are affected by the system. We conclude the publication with a chapter on how to use the book, and discusses using concepts built around the use of magic to create thematic, evocative campaigns with magic that helps to define the campaign world in specific ways.

What are the main differences that Spheres of Power offers us? First, it eliminates the schools of magic from Dungeons & Dragons and its iterations (abjuration, necromancy, evocation, etc.) and re-groups magic effects into twenty thematic ‘spheres’: Alteration, conjuration, creation, dark, death, destruction, divination, enchantment, fate, illusion, life, light, mind, nature, protection, telekinesis, time, war, warp and weather. Each sphere delivers what it promises on the label: Wanna call lightning from the sky? Weather sphere. Get answers to unknowable truths? Divination sphere. Dominate people’s actions? Mind sphere. Almost any spell in D&D or Pathfinder can be expressed through the use of spheres.

Casters are classified into three groups. High casters are primary magic-users. Folks like wizards, sorcerers, clerics and druids would be considered high casters in Spheres of Power. Mid-casters are your hybrid types, who have a strong magical ability combined with other non-magic class abilities. The bard and magus would be good examples. Finally, low casters are classes that get minor magical powers, but it really just isn’t their main shtick. Folks like paladins and rangers would be examples of low casters.

Magic is accessed by selecting a sphere. Each sphere has a basic ability or two. For example, the Time sphere grants the caster the ability the ability to use a limited version of either the haste or slow spell. Once a sphere is chosen, you may choose additional talents within that sphere as you increase in level, or you can choose another sphere, granting you the base power of that sphere as well. All casters begin with a minimum of 2 talents. Talents are used to gain access to a sphere, and then to learn talents within that sphere. Additional talents are gained at a fixed rate based upon your class’s classification of high, mid- or low caster.

Here’s where Spheres of Power really differentiates itself as a magic system: A talent can be used as many times as you want. Until the cows come home. Ad infinitum. No more ‘fire and forget’ spells a la Vancian magic. If you want to use a Destructive Blast (base ability from the Destruction sphere) all day long, you can! Now, you may be thinking that this is unbalanced and makes magic-users far too powerful, but the system is very well designed to make base talents useful, but not overly powerful. If you want to add some oomph to your talents, Spheres of Power gives us a spell point pool. Most talents require the caster to concentrate on the effect in order to keep it persistent. But if you don’t want to concentrate on a talent, you can spend a spell point to give it a fixed duration, allowing the caster to use another talent without the first one expiring.

Each sphere features an average of about 20 talents, each one allowing the caster to perform an additional magical effect in the sphere. This provides a very wide array of abilities for the caster to choose. The caster can choose to sample from as many spheres as they desire. You can hyper-specialize in a single sphere or two, or you can sample from a dozen different spheres, it’s all up to your concept of the character.

The classes presented in Spheres of Power do a nice job of demonstrating the effectiveness of the system. From the Armorist, who uses Spheres to summon magical weapons and armor to amplify his combat prowess, to the Incanter, a ‘build-your-own-caster’ who receives a metric crap-ton of talents, the classes are diverse, well-balanced and thematic. 11 such classes are presented, each with its own unique use of the Spheres system.

The Advanced Magic section is interesting in that it implies through its inclusion that the core Spheres talents really reflect the power of spells in core Pathfinder to around 5th level spells. Advanced magic offers us ways to extend the power of Spherecasting up to the traditional power of 9th level spells. This is good to know as a GM; if you want to run a low-magic game, the core Spheres of Power system would be perfect. Advanced talents simply extend the SoP system (with a minimum 10th level requirement) to include talents that emulate high-level spells in Pathfinder. Rituals give Spherecasters a way to access spells from the core game, but at a greater casting time, typically not usable in combat. Spellcrafting is a way to create new talents through the combination of different spheres and talents. Incantations are similar to rituals, but serve more as a plot device, as a way to fill gaps in the character’s abilities and as a means of flavoring the campaign world.

The second main way that Spheres of Power differentiates itself and adds a great amount of customization for both players and GMs is the section on Casting Traditions. These are like templates that you add to the Spheres of Power system, which alters the ways that the character accesses and wields magical power. Each tradition brings a set of drawbacks and boons that constrain the application of spherecasting, giving it a particular theme. For example, the Runist tradition makes casting take longer, requires hand gestures to use a talent, and requires a successful skill check to use a talent. Thematically, think of a type of runic magic that requires the caster to inscribe a rune on a surface in order to draw forth a magical effect. I see this as a really great fit for dwarven magic users! There are 14 different traditions offered, with advice on how to create your own traditions.

I have used Spheres of Power in my current Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign. The group has an Armorist, an Incanter focused on the Fate and Life spheres and another Incanter focused on the Dark and Fate spheres, so the system is getting a good test-run. From what I’ve seen so far through 6 levels of play, the Spheres of Power magic system is working very well. Overall, it is less powerful than the core magic system of Pathfinder, but in my mind, this is a feature, not a bug. Casters still fill an important role during combat, but don’t become so powerful that they eclipse other non-magical classes at mid- to high levels. My players seem to enjoy the openness of the system; they can realize their character’s concept more easily, and the system gives them more versatility to customize their characters to their exact specifications.

An added bonus (a huge benefit for me) is that Hero Lab files are available for purchase for Spheres of Power. I have purchased and used these files, and they are great! I can build characters quickly, and the files comply totally to the source document. All classes, spheres, archetypes, prestige classes, feats, advanced magic rules and traditions are included in the files. Furthermore, I have received great support from the Hero Lab community when developing content that uses the SoP system. For example, I was able to successfully create an archetype for the Dragonrider class (Super Genius Games) that uses SoP; with some help from the HL community, it works great. Well done, Hero Lab editors!

Conclusion: If I created a d20 fantasy RPG, Spheres of Power is the system I would choose as my core magic engine. The beating heart of the system is 20 spheres, each with a base power. Additional powers in each sphere can be added through talents. It’s simple, it’s elegant, it’s balanced with respect to other classes in the game, and it’s thoroughly functional. You can customize the power level of the system through advanced magic, sculpt the thematic feel of magic in your campaign world through traditions, and you can use the 11 new classes as a delivery vehicle for Sphere magic in your game.

With Spheres of Power, I can shape magic into whatever form fits my concept of the game world. It gives me a simple set of tools and a robust engine with which to create my perfect concept of magic, whatever that might be, and effectively execute the concept in my game. This is a great book, one that changes the way that playing Pathfinder feels, in a positive way. Adam Meyers, Owen K.C. Stephens, Thomas Keene and Ryan Ricks have produced a fantastic magic system which better allows GMs to create the magic that they want in their world. The simplicity of the system, coupled with the vast customization options, make Spheres of Power a highly recommended replacement for the confining Vancian box offered by the Pathfinder RPG. My rating: 10 out of 10!



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Mythic Spheres of Power
by Dana M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/09/2019 21:31:50

Mythic Traditions alone are worth the price, since they offer great benefits to even characters that aren't Spheres-based. Not that I didn't love the rest of the book too, but that deserves prominent mention. I enjoyed everything about it, and hope to get to use it in an actual game at some point.



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The Worldwalker's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2019 08:03:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The final Spheres of Power expansion-book clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because all the other Spheres of Power expansions were requested, and I’m somewhat OCD and can’t stand not having covered the last one. Please don’t use that against me. ;P

We begin this supplement with 4 new archetypes, the first of which would be the Broadcast Blade for the mageknight class, who is locked into the Warp sphere as the 1st level magic talent, unless they already have it. Pretty big deal: The mystic combat at 2nd level is replaced alongside 4th and 8th level’s bonus feats in favor of the broadcast ability. This ability lets the character use a standard action to twist space and make a single melee attack against an AoE, with variables of the attack applying to all targets in the area; at 11th level, this ability allows for the execution of two such strikes as a full-round action. This ability has a synergy with the Pouncing teleport basic talent – so let’s examine that one, shall we?

Pouncing Teleport lets you spend a spell point to increase the casting time of teleport by one step in order to make a single melee attack after successfully teleporting. Additionally, you can spend an additional spell point to make a full attack or take an attack action instead of an attack – this is particularly important in conjunction with Spheres of Might, where attack action are much more valuable than attacks. This talent would be super brutal, were it not for it’s a) cost and b) the fact that it explicitly states that it may not be used in conjunction with contingencies or other effects that reduce the casting time of teleport. As a nitpick: Having the step-increases spelled out would have been nice, but with sufficient system mastery, this is a non-issue. But back to the archetype!

Broadcast’s shapes available for attacks are unlocked over the levels – at 2nd level, the character can attack in a “lance shape – i.e. a line of up to 10 ft., +5 ft. at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter; 4th level unlocks the scythe shape, which is represented by 5 contiguous squares within reach, with an additional square unlocked at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 8th level unlocks the axe shape, which is a 10-ft. cone, +5 ft. at 20th level and every 10 levels thereafter. I really like this engine! The action economy limitations and angle is really neat! 3rd level nets the ability to use teleport as a swift action when only teleporting short-range and only herself, but at the cost of a spell point. The range increases every 4 levels thereafter by +5 ft., with the ability replacing stalwart. The capstone eliminates the spell point cost, and allows for two strikes against targets as a standard action with broadcast. 6 mystic combats are included, which feature getting Pouncing Teleport as a bonus magic talent and the option to take +2 to atk, -2 to AC; sharing shield bonuses scaling dodge bonus after teleport, excluding squares from broadcast – some nice ones here. At 11th level, the mystic combat that allows for the use of different broadcast shapes when attacking twice with it, is well-situated. Finally, the mystic combat may grant Spatial Reach, using character level as caster level – this is a new basic magic talent with the (Space) tag that increases movement speed by +10 ft, and also enhances natural reach by +10 ft., though this increased reach is not taken into account for the purpose of threatening targets. These two benefits increase by +5 ft. every 5 caster levels attained, and the effect lasts as long as concentration is maintained, or 1 minute per caster level for 1 spell point. The author suggests for the archetype the Personal Warp drawback – an assessment with which I concur. Impressive beast – I like how it plays!

The Dimension shifter archetype for the, big surprise there, shifter class (the SoP one) replaces Handle Animal with knowledge (planes) and gains Blink as a bonus magic talent, using shifter level for caster level if it is higher. This replaces wild empathy. Blink is a new (space) basic magic talent, and its effects may be applied ina beneficial or detrimental manner. As a benefit, the talent nets an effect similar to concealment (20% miss chance, +5% per 3 caster levels, maximum 50%); as a detrimental effect, this affects the target’s attacks as though they were all executed against the selfsame miss chance, with a Will save to negate. Force effects ignore this miss chance. Since the tag makes this require a standard action and touch, and since the miss chances don’t stack, I’m good with this.

In lieu of quick transformation, we have the synergy of shapeshifting with personal-only Blink (not properly capitalized), which may both be maintained with the same concentration check; this extends to the option to spend 1 spell point to maintain the effect sans concentrating on it. Instead of endurance, we have the means to see and hear ethereal creatures within 30-ft., which is a pretty cool angle. Lingering transformation is replaced with Dive at 4th level – for a spell point, the dimension shifter may take a special move action called “dive” – 30 ft., and the dive can move through solid objects and floors, but not force effects or those that would block ethereal or incorporeal movement; being trapped inside such an object, as always, causes damage. 17th level allows for longer movement as a full-round action, and provides synergy with a follow-up ability of dive, see below. Steal language is lost in favor of ghostly touch, which lets the character interact with incorporeal and ethereal targets as though they were solid, making natural attacks count as magical. She also gets natural armor to AC vs. the touch attacks of incorporeal creatures. Extended transformation is replaced at 9th level with the submerge ability, which allows the dimension shifter to remain in solid objects when diving for a limited amount of time. This is a surprisingly complex and fun tool that I genuinely haven’t seen so far – it’s potent in the hands of a clever player in just the right ways. Kudos!

Instead of boundless communication, we have ghost claws, which lets the dimension shifter 1/turn resolve a natural attack as a touch attack while blinking; for one spell point, the character may resolve all of them as touch attacks until the start of her next turn. This is very strong, but limited and, at 11th level, properly placed. 15th level provides the ghostly presence ability, which lets the deimsnion shifter spend a spell point as an immediate action while blinking to halve all damage, save that sourced from incorporeal targets, ghost touch weapons (formatting missing) and force effects. Cool: She can also become weightless as a free or immediate action (kudos for catching that!); 20th level delimits dive and eliminates the spell point cost, as well as the limitation on time spent in objects etc. – this archetype is another winner as far as I’m concerned. The dive ability requires an experienced GM to avoid breaking dungeons etc., but personally? Love this! It’s an archetype engineered to reward clever players.

The drifting lotus would be an unchained monk archetype, who replaces Knowledge (history) and Ride with knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (planes), and the class is proficient with simple weapons and light armor and begins play with a martial tradition, if this is the first level. The archetype is a Low-Caster using Wisdom as governing ability modifier (erroneously called “casting stat modifier” here), and replaces stunning fist with this. The archetype has a spell pool of class level + casting ability modifier. Additionally, the archetype may spend spell points as ki points for the purpose of ki powers, and as long as she has a spell point, she may execute ki strikes – i.e. treat her unarmed attacks as progressively better substances to bypass DR – these have been btw. listed again for your convenience. ´Before you become worried – this replaces ki pool, so no, the archetype has not just blown a limited resource out of proportions. Instead of a monk’s regular unarmed strike, we have access to the Open Hand sphere and a bonus combat talent, and flurry of blows is replaced with the Warp sphere and Pouncing Teleport, as well as the Personal Warp drawback. Minor nitpick – the chassis does not specify the type of practitioner the drifting lotus counts as. Why is this minor? Well, for one, Spheres of Might defaults to Wisdom as practitioner modifier if not stated otherwise, where relevant; secondly, the archetype has no combat talent progression. This means that it behaves as a kind of archetype that is simulating aspects of the Spheres of Might system without being fully part of it. I can get behind that, but for purposes of future-proofing, I’d have preferred this to be more explicitly integrated in the system.

Oh well, in lieu of style strike, we have the lotus style ability – 1/turn after successfully using teleport, the archetype gains the effects of a single lotus style. 9th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield an additional one, and starting at 15th level, two benefits may be gained from a single one, or two parallel ones from two teleports – kudos for catching the latter! 8 such lotus styles to choose from have been included, and feature, among other things, the ability to be in two places at once (with all the risks and rewards that may entail), add a second, ultra-short range teleport (no enhanced with any Warp talents), controlled falling/gliding/hovering, immediate action pursuit, manipulating the target’s momentum to bull rush them or a defensive ability that may render targets sickened. Interesting!

We also receive the dreamwalker hedgewitch tradition, which nets Dreamspace as a tradition benefit. – this is a (Dual Sphere) feat for Mind and Warp introduced herein, and we need to talk about it for the tradition to make any sense. The feat grants you the ability to project your mind into a quasi-real space while asleep – the dreamspace. This is just a 10-ft. cube (+10 feet every 4 character levels, with arrangement determined upon gaining the level), and you get to determine ambient light, temperature and cosmetics anew when entering this dreamspace, or as a standard action. Since unconscious thought plays a role, the character has no perfect control over the dreamspace per se; the area may hold up to heavy load unattended objects, which vanish from reality while held in your dreamspace. Here’s the issue – what happens to the items stored if you die? You can leave them RAW in the dreamspace, and they don’t necessarily return to real life, since this lacks the death caveat that e.g. Extradimensional Storage has. So gather round all those pesky artifacts and cursed items and have them die with the dreamers. Pretty sure that this was not intended, as the primary function of the feat is freeing time for crafting, research, training, etc.

Anyhow, back to the tradition. The tradition power allows you to spend a spell point to merge your dreamspace with another creature’s dreams, which requires the target being asleep and some sort of sympathetic connection; the target gets a save to resist, and you can freely disconnect. If the target can be touched, the ability does not have the cost. 5th level lets you do this merger, causing the target to fall asleep, on a failed save 8and they may repeat the save on subsequent rounds) – furthermore, this is balanced by a hex-caveat. 13th level allows for the creation of a mass dreamspace of a connected group. We have 5 tradition secrets that allow for the dabbling in dreamwalking, a more efficient sleep-substitute, larger dreamspaces, affecting more targets at one time and full control over dreamspace locale cosmetics. The tradition features two grand secrets – one allows you to teleport to the target, and one nets you limited control over subjective time in dreamspace – both are pretty potent and as such bear their classification as analogues to advanced talents, explicitly spelled out, rather well. The tradition mastery eliminates the spell point cost for merging dreamspaces with other creature’s dreams. Beyond this tradition, we have two hedgewitch secrets – one for dabbling in dreamwalking, and one that allows you to create a poppet as a sympathetic link to a creature, regardless of distance, with casting ability modifier limiting the amount of poppets you can have at a given time. The grand secret presented allows you to gain an untyped magic item slot.

Armorists update Extradimensional Storage, which may now be taken twice. 4 mageknight mystic combats are included. (Their header-formatting differs slightly from how these are usually presented, but here, this actually enhances the ease with which this can be read, so I’m good with the choice.) – Collapse armor lets you treat any armor as collapsible (nor properly formatted), save that you can collapse or recall it as a swift action – as a free action for a spell point. Collapsible is btw. a new +1,000 GP special property that lets you collapse armor down to a single piece, such as a gauntlet or the like, with negligible weight, which is pretty cool! Ritual tracker lets you track by mystic signs instead of tracks – Spellcraft instead of Survival, and you may do so to track swimming and flying creatures and even those using trackless step, and yes, even teleports. Nice! Veil piercer lets you freely touch incorporeal and ethereal targets and have your attacks count as magical for this purpose – and this does not halve damage. Basically, this one is an improved version of ghost touch that really lets you destroy such targets. Finally, there would be hunter’s mark, which requires the marked ability gained at 7th level, and lets you sense the direction and distance of marked targets, and you may teleport to them for one spell point – formatting missing.

5 different rogue talents complement this section – here, we have Hidden Space, which is a tweak on Extradimensional Storage as an SP; it also may be taken twice. What? Yep. The magic talent it is based on has been updated; it may now be taken twice, and taking it a second time increases the weight limit, and allows you to retrieve objects as a move action, which also may be used to remove or don an item. A similar update has btw. been applied to Extradimensional Room, which allows you to now bar the room. The rogue talent Hidden Space may be taken twice to reflect the changes made to Extradimensional Storage. Now you see it, the follow-up rogue talent, allows for even quicker object retrieval, and allows you to use this in conjunction with Sleight of Hands. Speaking of which – the skill, steal maneuvers and manipulating objects can benefit from a reach-increase, which scales with class levels attained. Better slipping through creases and the like may also be found. Finally, there’s another Hidden Space follow-up, which allows you to dump loose items to generate difficult terrain and spill liquids etc., provided you have them stored inside the Extradimensional Space. Nice potential here!

The pdf contains 18 basic magic talents, not counting aforementioned updates, and we’ve covered a few of them already, so let’s see what the rest does! Let’s start with the untagged talents, shall we? Here, we have Imbue Teleport, which is a gamechanger – instead of instantly having the effects of teleport when touching a target, the target gets the ability to teleport themselves once, using the caster’s stats to determine variables – the target may only teleport themselves, and an imbued teleport only works for 1 hour per caster level, or until used. A single caster may only have one such imbued teleport in effect at a given time, plus another one at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. This is a great talent in every way – for specific campaigns. It allows for basically low-level contingency, and makes heists, security, kidnappings and the like all more complex and pretty hardcore, courtesy of the lack of minimum levels required. It is not broken per se, but it does radically alter some assumptions on how a given fantasy world operates, ones that are usually restricted to high-level wizard options, so implementing this talent should be carefully considered by the GM. Isoport lets you manipulate orientation and velocity of targets affected by teleport, allowing you to turn charges or running beings, cancel falling, etc. – this typically requires, obviously, a readied action; as swift action, you may alter targets thus without using teleport, and you may spend a spell point to use this talent as an immediate action; with Unwilling Teleport, you can affect unwilling targets as well.

Ranged Bend extends the range in which targets may be affected by (space) talents from touch to close range, with each additional taking of the talent increasing range by 1 step. Recall lets you increase casting time of teleport by one step before applying it to have the target, sans action, decide to return to the recall point, provided it is within medium range. This lasts for 1 round per caster level or until used. This RAW can be used with imbue Teleport, which is very potent; I’d strongly advise in favor of requiring at least some action (immediate or swift) to enable the recall. Segmented Warp lets you split a teleport in two for a spell point, with only one action between them, and the second teleport may not require an action to cast, but does provoke an AoO. The split teleports share the original’s maximum distance, which may be freely distributed between the two. See, this one? This is cool. Warping Strike lets you make a single weapon attack as a standard action, and if the target is damaged, you may apply a (space) talent or teleport as part of the same action. This may be used in conjunction with Spell Attack and, if available, with Unwilling teleport to affect unwilling targets. The talent should specify that it can only apply teleport or (space) talents that did not have their casting increased beyond a standard action to avoid obvious loopholes.

Beyond those we’ve already mentioned, we also have a selection of (space) talents here: Avert makes attackers require to have to make a Will-save or miss, requiring usually a readied action, or it can be used as an immediate action for 1 spell point; very cool angle: When using total defense, you can do that sans paying a spell point. Nice! Create Gap lets you create temporary holes in structures and accounts for targets potentially falling through, Again, awesome. Dimension Pierce lets you designate targets as capable of interacting with incorporeal and ethereal targets, and Distort Size allows you to modify the space occupied by a creature, which is an incredibly cool rules operation that I haven’t seen before. Flex Space allows you to create special difficult terrain, which even allows you to further enhance the costs of difficult terrain, which once more, is a genuinely exciting trick! Kudos! Fluctuate lets you keep teleporting the target short distances for a spell point, and may make this a duration effect. Looped Space manages to actually depict the notion of targets in a looped space moving according to the paradigms your whims have set for the space, as if trapping them in a möbius strip. Warp Link lets you establish a link to a target, knowing distance and the like. Since this doesn’t teleport, Unwilling Teleport is not required. Mostly interesting for hunter-style characters and those using Teleport Beacons. Wormhole, finally, creates basically a portal.

The book contains 5 advanced talents – these include Enduring Portal (self-explanatory); Mass Teleport also does pretty much what it says on the tin, and the same goes for Teleport Structure, though the latter btw. also works for vehicles. Store Structure nets you basically the amped up version of Extradimensional Storage, allowing you to ignore weight etc. for spell points. Warp Manipulator lets you create a dimensional anchor as a failsafe for teleportation effects as an immediate action, and also redirect it. Classic! These are all well-situated in the advanced talent chapter. The pdf also features two incantations – the 6th level The River Returns lets rivers be linked – and the concept is actually glorious. I can picture a whole, unique campaign setting inspired by this incantation! The Motion Archival is a 4th level incantation puts an object or creature in th Ancestral Repository, to be looked after by the place’s guardians – basically a cool take on exile/dealing with villains-. Once more, awesome!

The pdf also features 12 feats. Companion Teleport lets you teleport familiars, companions, etc. along, and no, it can’t be cheesed with ranged Teleport. Cosmologist lets you add traits to the Create Demiplane, even if you don’t meet the sphere-prerequisites. Dimensional Archer and Dimensional Athlete would be two (Champion) feats – the former lets you fire shots that have a chance of preventing teleport, an effect to combine reload and teleport, and a means to have your ammunition bypass cover, but not concealment, by bending space – the two special shots cost a spell point. Like it! The second feats lets you apply (motion) talents to teleports – and thankfully, it does get right that teleportation should be treated as its own mode of movement. It’s already potent enough. Divining Beacon (Dual Sphere) makes your Teleport Beacons also grant you some idea and act as potential scrying sensors for divine. Flash Warp (Dual Sphere) provides glow and teleport synergy, and Stasis Storage, the final (Dual Sphere) feat lets you send your Extradimensional Storage beyond time – this can save creatures, maintain the existence of things falling apart, etc. World In Miniature is another feat building on the Extradimensional… talents, with 6 different types of possible world, based on geomancing. Pretty sure that this should be (Dual Sphere) as well, and the “Benefit”-line’s header isn’t bolded. Speaking of which – also pretty sure that Extradimensional Shadow should be a (Dual Sphere) feat – it blends Dark and Warp, fusing Shadow Stash and Extradimensional Storage, which can result in some seriously cool tricks. Jump Scare lets you Intimidate after teleports. Skillful Disappearance is pretty cool and has a couple of additional benefits if you have sufficient ranks in various skills, allowing you to synergize Disguise, Stealth and Intimidate etc. with your teleports. Like it.

The book also contains 5 nice magic traits, and 4 sphere-specific drawbacks – liked them all. 5 alternate racial traits are provided (aasimar, changeling, dwarf, fetchling, tiefling). Beyond the previously mentioned one, we have another new magic weapon property, phasic, priced at +2, which allows your weapon to bypass a single object’s cover, with parameters and sight-interaction duly notes. Well-priced. 8 specific magic items are provided. Bottomless Flasks can hold up to 20 gallons; dashing cloaks have charges that allow you to teleport – the cost for using it is contingent on the activation action. Keyhome can be used to lock up an extradimensional space. Patch Hole is basically a portable Create gap. Pockets of holding can hold small amounts of objects. Storage spheres come in 7 categories – they can hold vehicles or structures, and the larger the target is, the better/more expensive the sphere must be. Like it! Twin caskets are great for smugglers, allowing for contents to be switched. Finally, waystones act pretty much as what you’d think – Warp-users can invest spell points in them to return there.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level, are good, but not perfect – I noticed a couple of hiccups particularly among the formatting components. On a rules-language level, the pdf generally manages to reach pretty impressive heights, but also, alas, has a few of components that need either a whack with the nerf-bat and a few instances where minor clarifications would be in order. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, with interior artwork featuring mostly stock art with a few pieces I hadn’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood has managed to write a furious finale for the Spheres of Power-Expansion Handbooks. The Warp sphere isn’t easy to write for, and probably only rivaled by Time and Illusion in complexity, and what has come out of the design here? It is AWESOME. This is easily my favorite crunch-book penned by Amber Underwood so far, featuring a wide array of options that genuinely manage to be NOVEL. I know, after all this time? It’s one huge feat! Moreover, the supplement has succeeded in providing several compelling options that open up whole new vistas of storytelling, that could inspire whole civilizations and settings! While full implementation of the content herein requires an experienced GM (or prior vetting of content), I can’t help but be utterly enamored by this one. Were it not for the glitches (which don’t break the content), this’d be one of the best Spheres-handbooks released so far. Even with the minor hiccups within, this should be considered to be a must-own for all fans of Spheres of Power. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars,, rounded down – but this still does receive my seal of approval for its amazing design paradigms and daring to go beyond the usual.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Worldwalker's Handbook
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Spheres Apocrypha: Apex Shifter
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/18/2019 03:42:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because I had been tasked to cover the other Spheres of power-supplements, and I’m kind of OCD and can’t stand having something not covered yet when the rest’s done.

Okay, so this contains, obviously, the apex shifter, an archetype for the sphere shifter. A minor nitpick from the get-go – the rules verbiage tends to state “At level XYZ”, when PFRPG usually phrases that “At 3rd level…” – it’s a minor thing and won’t influence the verdict, but it bugs me as a person. Instead of endurance, we get a talent from the Alteration sphere, which may be chosen anew after resting for 8 hours. This should specify that such a talent cannot be sued for the purposes of prerequisites. It also establishes the notion that this archetype doesn’t attempt to balance its content with either the original shifter, or internally.

Extended transformation is moved to 4th level, which is a good call, since the spheres druid getting that before the shifter was a bit grating; 5th level allows for the use of shapeshift (not properly formatted) to the apex shifter as a swift action, with concentration-maintenance as a swift action. 9th level yields greater transformation – which is oddly listed before the 8th level ability, which upgrades the use of shapeshift (again, not formatted properly) as an immediate action. These abilities btw. replace the communication abilities and immunity to diseases and poisons. The capstone eliminates the need t make concentration checks for shapeshifts (bingo, not formatted - ever), and the need to pay for spell points. Additionally, 1/turn free action shapeshift.

5 bestial forms are provided: Accommodating form chooses one Alteration sphere talent (including Blank Form) granting traits; When using shapeshift, for +1 spell point one trait from the chosen form may be applied, and this does not count towards trait maximum. The bestial trait may be taken once per 4 class levels. Resistant Shift nets Stalwart (urgh) when increasing size, evasion when decreasing size. For a limited amount of rounds. This is very potent and should have a minimum level and be relegated to the mid-to high-level tiers of gameplay. Defensive shift lets you combine personal shapeshift and total defense, but makes the character staggered on the next turn. How is that in the same category as the option to gaining both stalwart or evasion? Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but it almost looks like it’s been written by someone else. Feint as part of shapeshift? Okay, can get behind that. Shifting Style requires Spheres of Might and requires one talent from Alchemy, Equipment, Tech or Trap sphere as well as Knowledge of Many Shapes (the apex shifter’s wildcard talent ability gained at 3rd level), and nets a freely chosen combat talent from a sphere that is NOT among the 4 listed in the prerequisites, getting that for 1 minute or until a new shapeshift applies. Why would you ever not take this one??

The second page contains an alternate version of the “Elementalt[sic!] Transformation” talent – Dedicated Elemental Transformation. Okay, should this one be treated as Elemental transformation for the purpose of ability interactions and prerequisites? No idea. That being said, the presentation of this one is nice: It has mutable limbs, allows for speech 30 ft. speed, 2 slams (properly codified as primary), scaling AC bonus and darkvision 60 ft. Also features scaling chances to ignore critical hits and precision damage (25% to start with, scales every 5 levels by +25%) , and the talent nets you one package corresponding to the 4 primary elements – the cool thing here would be that knowledge of an element (the talent may be taken multiple times) unlocks elemental corresponding traits for use with other forms. Minor nitpick: “Burn” in the context of the fire elemental ability should be capitalized, as lower-case “burn” does not denote the extraordinary ability, and instead evokes ideas of kineticists..That notwithstanding, I liked this one.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not good –on a formal level, the content failure to put shapeshift properly in italics makes the rules-language harder to grasp; syntax sometimes deviates in a weird way from the standard, etc. – more hiccups here than I’d expect to see in two pages. Rules language is generally functional, but internal balance of the archetype’s options are weird, and the wild-card talent stacking? Not a fan.

David Spektorov’s apex shifter is an expansion I wanted to see – I wanted to see a shifter who gets to shift as soon as the druid. The internal balancing of the bestial traits isn’t ideal and oscillates quite a bit, and as a whole, the apex shifter is a stronger option than the regular shifter, and not always ina good way. That being said, the notion of dedicated elemental transformations is neat, and the pdf has something to offer – it’s just rough in a couple of instances, probably won’t bow you away, and with stricter editing/development, could have been amazing. My final verdict, alas, can’t exceed 3 stars, in spite of the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Apex Shifter
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Spheres of Power
by Perry T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/21/2019 10:27:01

Amazing set of options expanding on the Pathfinder system. I use them extensivly and it's so much easier to build fun thematic characters than using the standard casting mechanisms.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Power
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The Wraith
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/13/2019 08:15:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The Wraith clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s check out this fellow!

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

The wraith-class is proficient with simple weapons, scythes and light armor, has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, d8 HD, and is a Mid-Caster using Charisma as governing spellcasting ability modifier, with a spell pool of class level + Charisma modifier spell points per day. The class has a ¾ BAB-progression, as well as good Reflex- and Will-saves. On a cosmetic note: Rows 1-7 and all save columns of the class table lack the plusses before BAB and save values, respectively. This should really have been caught. It’s evident at one glance. Magic talents are gained whenever the wraith gains a caster level increase.

1st level provides a haunt path, which acts akin to bloodlines and similar abilities with a linear progression array: At 1st level, these paths grant the listed path sphere or talent from the sphere if you already have it, and for these class level is treated as CL. 2nd level nets the path possession ability of the path, with 8th and 14th level providing the improved and greater path possession abilities, respectively; at 4th level, we add ½ class level as insight bonus to a listed skill. Unless I have miscounted, there are a total of 9 paths provided (as an aside – the excellent Sanguinist’s Handbook does have a path as well!).

In all brevity: The Path of the ancestor is aligned with the Protection sphere, and allows the character to act as a buff/beneficial entity, including (aegis) talents at higher levels. Anima is associated with Nature or Weather, and allows the character to possess natural material, creating elemental-style and use talents associated with the elements; higher levels also unlock plants. Associated with Death, the Path of the Corruptor lets you possess dead bodies (as though reanimate-d) and later undead. The Path of the Despoiler, also for the Death sphere, lets you possess vermin and attract/generate swarms to possess – nice!

Path of the Cryptid is associated with animal possession and Alteration, providing shapeshift (not properly formatted) synergy; the path of the poltergeist lets you possess unattended objects, and as such, is obviously (for veteran sphere-users) associated with Telekinesis, though it s limitations are based on Enhancement’s Animate Objects. Higher levels allow for construct possession and possessing multiple objects at once, generating a construct swarm! OUCH! The Path of the Phantasm is associated with Illusion, and becomes more potent versus targets in illusions – with higher levels providing means to bypass immunities and safeguards. The Path of the Spook is basically a terror-inducing option, with the Mind-sphere as associated path sphere, and penalties to saves versus Mind sphere effects.

At 1st level, we have wraith form, which lets you, as a move action (ending it is free) for class level + casting ability modifier rounds, gain the incorporeal subtype with some modifications, including a slowly descending, but perfectly maneuverable gliding speed – and yep, if you’re going the high-fantasy route, there are optional rules for you here. In case you need a bullet point summary of the modified incorporeal state, a handy sidebar lists it all. The capstone btw. delimits wraith form and refunds previously spent class talents (so-called “wraith haunts”; more on those below) that modified the ability.

But we’ve been talking a lot about possession in the brief list of paths, so how does it work? At 2nd level, you may possess a creature in natural reach as a standard action as a mind-affecting possession effect. The challenge rating of the creature governs the possession duration, with guidelines for companions and the like provided. The target may resist this attempt with a Will save based on DC 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier. There are two types of possession: Passive and active. Passive possession grants no control over the target, and an attempt to passively possess a target costs a spell point. The wraith maintains his mental ability score modifiers, BAB, alignment, mental abilities, extraordinary abilities not derived from his physical form, combat talents, supernatural abilities and magical abilities including spells, sphere abilities and SPs. If the host is dazed, stunned or unconscious, the wraith can control the body as though via active possession. Passive possession MAY go unnoticed if the wraith is sneaky!

Active possession entails the full hijacking of the target, retaining the boy’s physical ability score, natural and automatic abilities. Extra limbs don’t allow the wraith to make more attacks, and 6th level needs to be attained to trigger extraordinary abilities, 12th for supernatural ones. Active possession also imposes stringent level caps on when the respective combat talents, sphere abilities etc. may be accessed. Any time the wraith would force the actively possessed target to do something against their nature, they may make a saving throw attempt to end the possession. Self-harm or suicidal actions are not possible via wraith possession. This type of possession also btw. costs a spell point. A target that ends or resists a possession increases the spell point cost for further such attempts by 1, stacking with itself, thus discouraging wraiths from trying to spam-possess the same target. Here’s the cool thing: As a move action, the wraith may change an active possession into a passive one and vice versa – unwilling targets get a save to resist this change. Beyond the different details, there is another reason to switch possession types – time. The duration of different types of possession differs between active and passive possession, even differentiating between willing and unwilling targets! (And yes, the rules-language gets this right.) And before you ask: Yes, the rules do cover the possession of unconscious targets. Wraiths may end possessions as a free or immediate action, appearing adjacent to the possessed target, and the wraith may expend a round of wraith form to manifest in his incorporeal (and less squishy) form. Careful: Mind-affecting effects targeting the possessed body don’t just end for the wraith jumping ship, and immunities, if any, are not shared!

At 6th, 12th, 16th and 18th level, progressively more knowledge of the host body’s capabilities are unearthed to the wraith – oh, and guess what? We have Dreamscarred Press-psionics synergy. If possession seems complex, the because it system-immanently is, but a handy table does help you keep track of active possession effects. 10th level provides Greater Possession, which allows the wraith to retain control over a possessed target while jumping to another, and the wraith may divide actions between possessed targets! This is kickass and really, really cool! The wraith can “only” possess up to casting ability modifier, minimum 2, creatures at one time.

At 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, we have wraith haunts – basically the talent array of the class, which, if requiring a save, employ 10 + ½ class level + casting ability modifier to calculate DCs. As mentioned before, there are talents that enhance wraith form, allowing for e.g. immediate action concealment, for rounds per day and the like. We have Technology Guide synergy (cool!) as well as a properly gated always on flight. There is an option for willing possessions to grant Silent and Still spellcasting for serious Stealth/infiltration synergy, and options to phase through objects and walls (awesome!). Possession is something folks remember, so if you’d rather have them forget that, well, there’s a haunt for that as well! Wraith form may be shared and even, with a follow-up haunt, be forcefully applied to adversaries AoE Intimidate (with Spheres of Might synergy) and enhancement-sharing – these talents surprised me in how creative they apply a wide variety of benefits!

Favored class options are provided alongside two feats – one nets you an additional wraith haunt, while the other enhances your possession for multiclass characters. There are three casting traditions and a martial tradition included.

The pdf also includes 4 archetypes: The Draugr loses wraith form and replaces it with basically being a blended training Spheres of Might-crossover archetype with rage and the Berserker sphere, with rage sharing and a properly-themed ability array replacing the usual haunt path. The Mistshade is interesting, in that it replaces wraith form with becoming mist – this form prohibits certain actions, but allows for the creation of mist beyond the wraith’s form, better flight, squeezing through holes, etc. – it’s an interesting change of the class paradigm. The Swarmheart, you guessed it, replaces wraith form with the means to discorporate into swarms in a variation of e.g. Swarm transformation, which is btw. also accounted for regarding prerequisites. The archetype gets a couple of solid, exclusive haunts. The Unbodied, finally, is a means to let a perished character contribute – they are locked in wraith form, taking damage while not possessing a target, and no, this damage can’t be healed! If slain, the character becomes a mindless haunt; as such, the archetype also accounts for limited possession at 1st level, with higher levels allowing for the limited assumption of corporeal form, and the capstone providing the means to reassume proper form.

Ninja, (unchained) rogue and slayer may elect to become ghost steppers, losing sneak attack and3 talents/tricks in favor of wraith form, with options to gain a spell pool via talents and the ability to take wraith haunts. The pdf also contains the spirit blade armorist archetype, which is massive: A blended training archetype that “has the Fortitude and Will saving throw progression of the Incanter” (read: Bad Fortitude saving throws, good Will saving throws) and the shapechanger subtype at 1st level. Instead of summon equipment, we have the ability to assume the form of a weapon, counting always as attended, becoming a weapon that may then possess the wielder, using their actions to direct the wielder’s body! This basically allows you to play one part of a kinda-gestalt-y character, which is a truly unique experience! Particularly since higher levels allow for BAB-sharing, directed AoOs, teamwork feat sharing and the like – while very powerful and not for every campaign or group, I adore this archetype. It’s complex, deadly and utterly unique in its premise. It also spans multiple pages, coming with its own massive array of haunts. Yes, this class hack could have carried a base class of its own. Really like it. And it seems like the author agreed, for we not only get a sample NPC for the wraith class, but also for this cool archetype! (Both at CR 5, fyi.)

The book closes with an appendix containing the rules for incorporeity and swarms for your convenience.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not perfect, but can be considered to be good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, the class juggles impressive high-complexity tricks I genuinely enjoyed seeing. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The full-color artwork provided is neat.

Andrew Stoeckle is a force to be reckoned with as a designer – slowly but steadily, he has garnered, at least with me, a reputation for never shying away from mechanically-creative and compelling, complex top-tier difficulty designs that few designers can pull off reliably. The wraith is another example where he flexes his design muscles in a way that, in spite of the system’s age, manages to be fresh and novel – there literally is no other class that does what the wraith does, let alone this precise. That being said, playtest has shown that the wraith can be pretty potent, depending on the skill of the players and overall party composition, but this is not an issue or fault of the class, and instead can be construed to be rooted in the system-immanent nature of the concepts presented. In short: Not the fault of the class. In an interesting change of pace, this power does not stem from an escalation of numbers, but from creativity – the wraith is a class that thrives in the hands of players thinking in terms of breadth and creativity, rather than just a min-maxing of numbers, and as such, presents a power level (and means to control it, if required) that I genuinely enjoy seeing. While the formal criteria of the file could be a bit tighter (CAB not bolded in one statblock and other minor snafus), this nonetheless is a genuinely cool and worthwhile addition to the roster of spheres-options, and as such, will receive a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up, with my seal of approval added for good measure. Well done indeed!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Wraith
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The Fey Binder's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/06/2019 13:26:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my readers and patreons.

All right, we begin this supplement, as always, with a nice piece of in-character prose, before diving into the nit and grit. As with the Blood sphere, we have a new sphere introduced in this book, though this one previously did have its debut in Skybourne. The sphere as presented within is no longer restricted regarding who can access it, and has been rewired, so let’s see how it holds up – as with the Blood sphere, it makes most sense to start off the discussion of the subject matter at hand by taking a look at the base sphere first before getting into the details of archetypes etc.

The Fallen Fey Sphere’s base ability would be the fey-link: As a swift action, this allows the caster to change creature type to fey for 1 minute per caster level; this transformation only applies to your base type, not your subtypes, so bane and similar effects possibly contingent on subtypes still apply. While in this fey-link form, you may spend 1 spell point as a free action to gain the benefits of a fey-blessing until the end of the fey-link. There is no maximum cap to the number of fey-blessings you may have active at a given time, but they all end with the fey-link. Renewing the fey-link does not renew the durations of currently active fey-blessings and, indeed, ends all currently active ones.

Upon gaining the Fallen Fey sphere, you gain the nature connection fey-blessing, which potentially could have the (fey-blessing)-tag, as certain magic talents also have this tag when they grant additional fey-blessings, though the various fey-blessings themselves don’t have this tag. Personally, I think making the individual fey-blessings provided by (fey-blessing) talents have a kind of descriptor would make sense from a rules-syntax perspective; it may be more feasible to call the talents “Fey Gift” or some such, since the rules are based on individual fey-blessings. Then again, this is purely aesthetic and will not influence the final verdict. The pdf does cover the interaction of activating fey-blessings when already of the fey type. It should be noted that both fey-link and fey-blessings are tracked individually regarding their caster levels.

Anyhow, the nature connection fey-blessing nets you an untyped +1 bonus to initiative, Knowledge (geography), Survival, Stealth, and Perception check in a terrain of your choice that you choose when the fey-blessing is cast. The bonus increases by +1 for every 5 caster levels you possess. Weird: Something has gone seriously wrong in verbiage here, as the blessing states that it may be gained multiple times, choosing a new terrain every time. Okay, how? As a magic talent? I assume so. But then, it still contradicts itself, implying once that you have to choose one terrain, while a few sentences before that, it allows for full flexibility whenever you cast it. Which is it?

On the plus-side, this book does account for the obvious thematic overlaps between the Fallen fey sphere and the Alteration sphere, specifying that fey-blessings maintained during shapeshift reduce the traits that may be assigned by 1 per fey-blessing applied. Additionally, Unthreatening Form functions as an analogue of the blank form. This would btw. be a talent that allows you to shapeshift into a Diminutive or Tiny animal, though attacking, using a supernatural or spell-like ability or sphere-effect immediately ends this. While in unthreatening form, you get movement modes of the form as well as abilities it may have, with a concise list presented. The talent includes modifications of the physical ability scores noted in a table, and powerful abilities are locked behind a minimum level that makes sense.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s go back to the base sphere: If you also have the Divination sphere, you may Detect Faetouched. The sphere comes with two general talents: Share Link allows you to designate a creature within close range as beneficiary of your fey-link, with a Will-save to resist for unwilling targets, and such targets cost you a spell point; such targets may also share in your fey-blessings while the target is in close range, and spell point-contingent talents use your spell points, not that of your ally. Minor nitpick: I assume those decisions to be free actions, but the talent doesn’t really specify an action economy for e.g. fey-blessing sharing. Second issue: RAW, the target only has to remain in your vicinity for the purpose of sharing the fey-blessing, nor for its maintenance, which makes this aspect of the ability very strong, particularly in conjunction with the second general talent.

The second talent, Greater Link, increases the duration of the fey-link to 10 minutes per caster level, with the option of spending 1 spell point to instead increase the duration to 1 hour per caster level. Overall, we have more the 40 (fey-blessing) talents included in this book. The latter imho should have been relegated, at least in its hour-duration version, to the realm of advanced talents. While fey-blessings do cost spell points as a hard limiting cap, the increased duration of a couple of these options can make them, well, very, very potent group buffs.

Take, for example, Aelfwine, which conjures forth a type of faerie drink, which you can drink as a move action, with allies capable of drinking it as a standard action on their turns. This has 4 applications, all but one of which last for 1 minute: The first nets you temporary hit points equal to CL; the second nets you the Barroom sphere or a (drunk) talent; the third lets you suppress [emotion] effects for 1 round per CL on a successful magic skill check, and the last one nets you a scaling bonus to fear saves. The balance of this talent is contingent on the fact that you can only consume 1 + 2 times the Constitution modifier alcohol (minimum 1 missing) before being sickened for 1 hour per number of drinks beyond this. Okay. Know how easy you can get rid of the detrimental effects of alcohol in PFRPG? While the talent thankfully notes how it can’t affect creatures immune to alcohol, it could still be easily deprived of its limitations by getting rid of the sickened condition time and again. This should have some further, hard capping implemented to prevent abuse-strategies. Also, since this blessing has a physical representation, I am also not 100% sure how it interacts with Share Link’s ability to share fey-blessings. While the talent notes that the flask can be called back to the caster’s hand, RAW, the Share Link talent’s baseline would suggest that allies receive their own flask? I am genuinely not sure.

The second talent presented, Animate Hair, makes your adjacent squares harder to move away from for enemies, requiring a Reflex save and a Strength/Escape Artist check to move away from you on a failed save. You may also use hair to execute properly codified (NICE!) slam attacks and hold items, load weaponry, etc. as a swift action. Neat execution there! Beastward has multiple applications, which allow you to benefit from better default dispositions of animals or vermin, or repel animals or vermin. Nice: This does take the Beastmastery sphere into account. Problem here: The repelling effect for vermin specifies that they are shaken if forced in ranged, which contradicts the fact that mindless creatures (like most vermin) are immune to mind-affecting effects, of which fear is one. This should note that the shaken condition here specifically overrides the immunity to fear they thus usually have. There is also a talent that lets you go Disney princess and beckon animals to you, fascinating them with your beckoning call. We also can find a talent that lets you temporarily don a crown of a court of the fey, making associated beings incapable of attacking you, which is per se nice. Once more, the talent here is tied to a physical manifestation, which makes the interaction with the fey-blessing sharing aspect of Share Link somewhat opaque – a problem that also extends to e.g. the music-related Enchanting Music talent and similar options within.

On the plus side, the music talent offers multiple, neat effects that, while offering e.g. the means to stagger targets on a failed save, does not allow for stagger-locking exploits. Gaining concealment via the signature fading tricks of fey and another talent nets you a variety of different fairy dusts (this one comes with 9 types of dust!!!) – which is per se awesome, but oddly lists its last dust type below the global rules that govern the application of fairy dust. (And yes, for reference, this is also one that has a physical manifestation, which means that interaction can be weird – and frankly, at this point, I think that such fey-blessings were probably intended to be cut out of the sharing, as this would generate a ton of pouches of dust, which becomes problematic considering that a couple of the more potent fey-blessings have a hex-like limiting caveat, which would necessitate specifying that a shared fey-blessing still is treated as one instance of the same fey-blessing. On the plus-side, we have a properly balanced flight, and an option to generate enchanting lights, which, while cool, could have used some synergy with the Light-sphere’s glow-engine, but that may be me. We also have the options to spoil or unspoil food or target enemies with a sickening spew of vomit (nauseated for spell point expenditure). Some numerical boons may also be found.

Fey Secrets once more becomes an issue: Once before the end of your fey-link, you may add a 1d4, +1 per 5 caster levels, insight bonus to an ability check, skill check, attack roll, CMB check or initiative. While you can’t use it for the same roll multiple times, you can take the talent multiple times, increasing the uses per link by 1 each time. RAW, this may be shared, but is there still only one roll when used with Share Link? Or does every target get one? On the nitpicky-side, the tag of this one lacks the hyphen. Grace of the Sidhe, on the other hand, is nice – it nets you either evasion, or a 20% miss chance when moving far enough each round – like it. Indeed, while the above may have come off as harsh, and while I do maintain that there are some kinks to be worked out in the core engine of the sphere here, the book does offer quite a few of really cool talents – there are, for example, talents associated with the seasonal courts, short-range teleport and the like. On the downside, Listen to the Wind lets you just find North, and makes you privy to the natural weather within 48 hours – some Weather synergy would have been neat here. Dominion over components of the natural world, being a friend to plants (including the option to have primarily wood-based weaponry be less efficient against you), sabotage of civilization (yep, Gremlin-themed talent included) and the iconic means to steal shadows all may be found here. The latter is particularly nice if you’re playing in conjunction with one of the numerous options of spells and class features that use a target’s shadow as a kind of resource. Entangling fungal bombs and anxiety causing spores, glances that may stun targets etc. can be found within as well. Did I mention the options to clothe yourself in cinders and see through smoke or sense objects with Zolavoi’s Mantle? Yeah, some cool stuff here!

A total of 8 advanced talents may be found within: These include the option to banish targets to the realms of Faerie, traveling faerie rings (and determine their locations – just fyi, there are rituals provided for both functions as well! Additionally, there’s a proper incantation to create them yourself – nice!!), and there is one that makes you a fey – and allows you to turn others into fey! Minor issue: Fey Invisibility, while based on Fade, lacks the (fey-blessing) tag that its prerequisite talent has, and with the lack of an activation action or cost noted explicitly, I’m pretty sure it should have the tag. There is also a means to reincarnate (spell-formatting incorrect), a version of a nymph’s blinding beauty, a nereid’s drowning kiss and the ability to steal skins constitute notable fey-blessings that are situated properly as advanced talents.

The pdf comes with 5 feats, with Enchanted Performance building upon aforementioned Enchanting Music/Disney princess-style talents, providing synergy with bardic performance or raging song. Fairy Dust and Alchemy sphere synergy is neat, and we also have Trap sphere synergy. Adding forbidden lore bonus to CL for the purpose of summoned fey limits and a water geomancing is another interesting one, though feat-descriptors could have been a bit more stringent – pretty sure that quite a few of them should have the (Champion) descriptor…

Anyhow, this out of the way, let us take a look at the class options, shall we? We have 3 archetypes: For the shifter, we have the fey incarnate, who loses Climb and replaces it with Bluff, and who has Charisma as casting ability modifier. Instead of shapeshifter, we have Alteration and Fallen fey as bonus sphere, with Beast Soul and Lycanthropic drawbacks granting Fey Transformation (from the Shapeshifter’s Handbook); Fallen Fey sphere effects applied on herself and Fey Transformation talent both use class level as CL. Instead of enhanced physicality, we have the means to combo Fey Transformation and fey-link, and the option to take (fey-blessing) talents instead of bestial traits, as well as 7th level enhancing Charisma by +2, which increases by a further +2 every 6 levels thereafter. The capstone nets a fey apotheosis, with fey-blessings applied to herself being now free of charge and extraordinary.

The second archetype would be the feylord for the commander class, who gets a BAB of an incanter – which is a needlessly convoluted way of stating that the archetype has ½ BAB-progression. We also have d6 HD, but the feylord is a Low-Caster using Charisma as governing ability score., with level + Charisma modifier spell points. Every level nets one combat or magic talent, and first level changes type to fey, including low-light vision (or increasing pre-existing low-light vision’s effectiveness). Instead of battlefield specialist, we have the option to treat class level as CL for fey-link and fey-blessings cast upon self. Where this becomes awesome is 7th level: Instead of call in a specialist and its options, we get fey subjects, which provides not only a cool array of abilities – these abilities also come with applications for use in conjunction with kingdom-building! Awesome!

The third archetype would be the Sidhe invoker fey adept, who gets fae points equal to ½ class level + Charisma modifier instead of shadow points et al., trading in shadowstuff and shadowmark. Interesting here: The archetype can basically generate a sort of illusion/transposition of fey logic/reality with a so-called ringfort: Basically an area where the laws of nature bow to the will of the fey adept, allowing for control over terrain, magic, time, etc. – this includes Wild Magic-synergy and features some genuinely cool tricks – I wished there was a bit more for this one, but considering its synergy with [surreal] feats, it does have ample options for creative players. Create reality is modified to account for the new engine, and we have , instead of HiPS (hide in plain sight) full reality for Illusions within the created reality…which can be awesome in the hands of a creative roleplayer!

Beyond this, we have a fey domain (with Seelie/Unseelie subdomains) and 2 incanter specializations – for 2 points, fey servants, and for 3 points a sphere-specialization. Warpriests and (unchained) rogues also get a bit of material. There are alternate racial traits for more fey-ish races included, as well as two properly codified traits, which both are mechanically relevant and not boring. Two different traditions, the ley-line tapper and elf-shot hunter can be found alongside two general drawbacks. Some sphere-specific drawbacks would have been nice to see.

The magic item section includes a compass that points to the closest fairy ring while in the land of the fey; we also have an item-based version of aforementioned stagger-inducing music trick, thankfully retaining the anti-abuse caveat. We also have bells that notify you of gremlins and rules for the sphere in conjunction with the crafting rules. A neat CR 1 and CR ½ gremlin, as well as concise and well-presented rules for fairy rings, travelling through the lands of the fey etc. may be found within as well, and the book closes with some solid advice for applying fey-themes in your campaign – helpful thoughts to consider, basically.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are not as well-executed as usual for Drop Dead Studios; while the material as a whole remains functional and often admirably precise in the details, there are a few aspects that have a somewhat compromising effect on the overall integrity of the material within. A bit of refinement and a careful pass has the potential to make this a true gem, though. (Indeed, capable GMs can benefit from this book in its entirety right now, though some minor judgment calls may be required.) The pdf adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports a couple of solid full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I really appreciate what Andrew Stoeckle did here – the base-engine of the sphere is interesting, in that is super-lenient regarding its action economy, but punishing regarding its costs. This is a smart way of handling the design here, and it makes the sphere feel very DIFFERENT from the other spheres – and I certainly enjoy that! The respective abilities often ooze flavor and made me smile time and again. I’m not sure whether the issues I noticed are due to version-conflicts or simple oversights, but particularly considering the unique action economy situation, there needs to be some serious clarification regarding the interaction of sharing fey-blessings. That being said, if you take this one crucial component away, the remainder of the book provides often evocative and interesting benefits. As a whole, I feel justified (though, admittedly, barely) in rounding up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, with the express hope that the sphere will receive the fine-tuning it deserves to shine as it should.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Fey Binder's Handbook
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Spheres Apocrypha: Apex Shifter
by Garrick W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/25/2019 10:06:21

A must-buy for any fan of the Spheres of Power shifter or a fan of the Alteration sphere.

With only 2 pages, the Apex Shifter manages to fix the biggest longstanding issues with the Spheres of Power shifter. One of the issues plaguing the shifter lie with the fact that the Spheres Druid can extend the duration of their shapeshifts starting at level 4 whereas the shifter cannot do so until level 9. The apex shifter fixes this so now the shifter can extend their shapeshifts to 10 minutes per level at 4th level and 1 hour per level at 9th level. That alone is a game changer, but this volume goes further. The apex shifter also gains a few abilities to help them stand out from the druid, including a bonus talent that can be changed each day. This volume also introduces new bestial traits that give you evasion or stalwart when you change your size and a bestial trait that lets you gain a combat talent when you shapeshift. There's also a much needed rework of the historically underwhelming Elemental Transformation talent.

Overall, it's a small but much needed volume definitely worth the $1 price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Apex Shifter
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Spheres Apocrypha: Apex Shifter
by Jeremy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2019 08:44:29

Replaces some of the non-shapeshifting class features of the Sphere Shifter (endurance, gaining languages, immunities) for even faster application of shapeshifts to themselves. Also gains the "you shapeshifts last longer" features sooner. Capstone makes shapeshifts essentially free.

Also includes 5 more Bestial Traits for increased shapeshift trait limit, gaining Stalwart or Evasion by changing size, free Total Defense or Feint when shifting, a Spheres of Might combat talents for spell points.

Ends with an alternate version of Elemental Transformation which only gives you 1 element per time taken, but gives you different grantable traits based on which element you select (though for three out of the four one of those is Air/Earth/Water Mastery, and only Fire gives Resistance). Also it seems to be written in a different format from how Tranformation talents have previously been; signs of a rewrite for Ultimate Spheres?

Overall a good product for $0.99: it did something that needed doing and has some extra bits.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Sanguinist's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/14/2019 07:33:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

The revised edition of this expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look! This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because it provides a serious revision, and I want to reward publishers for caring. The correct file to download is btw. the one with” 1.2” at the end.

After a brief flavor-introduction, we start with the archetype section, but this time around, it is more prudent to skip ahead and return to these later, for this supplement, unlike previous Spheres-expansions, presents a wholly new sphere, the Blood Sphere.

The base ability of this sphere would be Blood Control: As a standard action, you establish a link to the blood of a target creature within close range. Unwilling targets receive a Fortitude save to prevent the establishing of the link, and targets at less than half maximum hit points or currently suffering from bleed damage suffer a -4 penalty to this saving throw. Creatures immune to bleed damage due to type, subtype or template are immune to blood control, but sources that otherwise bestow immunity do NOT prevent the use of blood control – an important distinguishing component that retains the sphere’s viability. A creature affected by blood control may use a mental-only standard action to repeat the Fortitude saving throw, which may even be used when dazed or nauseated. A second creature attempting to establish blood control over a target already controlled must succeed on a magic skill check.

As part of establishing blood control, you may also apply one (quicken) or (still) ability, and once established, a standard action may be used to apply additional of these effects, unless otherwise noted, as a standard action. This doubles as counting as concentration on ongoing blood control. If you can concentrate as a move action, this may work in conjunction with such sped up effects as well.

As you could glean from that, the tags to look out for among the effects are (quicken) and (still) – and you probably have deduced that these cancel each other out, not unlike the modes of certain antipodean casters or solarians: A (still) talent ends a (quicken) talent and vice versa (typo there – it’s “vice”, not “vise”, but that’s cosmetic only) – a target can’t be affected by both a (quicken) and (still) talent at the same time, with the new effect superseding the old one. Notice something? If you’re reading my review on my homepage, you’ll have noticed that blood control is now properly rendered in italics – this greatly enhances the readability of the at times complex rules presented within.

The blood sphere nets Bleed (quicken, which causes caster level damage that may not be stilled until blood control ends; Coagulate (still) is the inverse, and reduces bleed damage by 1 + 1 per 3 caster levels, and creatures using abilities that would cause bleed effects must succeed a magic skill check to avoid having the damage negated. Non-magic means substitute the BAB instead – yep, this is Spheres of Might compatible with e.g. blooded strike.

There are, unless I have miscounted, 24 blood sphere basic talents included, so let’s take a look at some of them – and let us begin with the untagged ones. Self Control allows yourself to be treated as always under the effects of your own blood control, and allows you to use (quicken) or (still) abilities on yourself as a swift action. You also don’t count towards the limit of Mass Control. This talent allows you to spend an additional spell point to target 1 additional creature per 2 caster levels (minimum 1) within range, with all needing to be affected by the same ability. This additional cost only applies once when used in conjunction with blood control. (Nice catch!) Slick penalizes targets under the effect of your blood control regarding CMD versus maneuver like disarm, trip, etc., and the effect may be started and ended as a free action. Interesting to note: While this is an untagged talent, it has a second use that is designated as (quicken), namely the means to make the blood potentially having the target fall prone; for spell point expenditure, this can render the blood a slick patch that may make others that enter it fall as well.

Red Mist lets you evaporate blood streaming forth from blood control’d victims, generating concealment, with the option of spell point expenditure to increase the area of effect. Kudos: This does get interaction with winds, sight, etc. – and it has a cool angle: You can choose to take Constitution damage to make all creatures in the mist treated as though they were bleeding for the purpose of blood control saves. There is a talent called Lengthened Control that allows you to make blood control last longer – useful for buffing, as you can still, obviously, save; Lingering Control lets your blood control remain in effect for a number of rounds after you cease concentrating on it Hemorrhage increases the damage output of bleed (quicken); Improved Range extends range, and Improved Bleed increases the DC to stop the bleed (quicken) ability. Really cool: Mana Bleed allows you to drain away spell points or spell slots, with equivalents provided and the loss increasing based on caster levels. This can be combined with Absorb Blood to grant temporary spell points, though thankfully it does have an anti-abuse caveat. Absorb Blood allows you to grant temporary hit points and cause Constitution damage to heal damage, and much to my pleasant surprise, the latter has a spell point cost that prevents the ability from being cheesed – and yes, Mass Control synergy does exist, and yes, this combination still retains its rules-integrity.

Blood Tracking may be taken twice, rendering you always aware of blood control’d and bleeding targets, and even blindsight for such targets upon taking it a second time. Crimson Vortex allows you to create a kind of blood sphere trap that may be maintained and moved, with spell point expenditure as a means to increase the radius. Exsanguinating Strike allows for use of blood control in conjunction with attacks, including Spell Attack. Inject lets you increase casting duration of blood control and take Constitution damage and make a ranged or melee touch attack (ranges tightly defined!), and if you have Hemokinesis, you may hold this charge. If successful, the target is treated as though bleeding for the purposes of blood control save penalty, and you get to ignore SR for the purpose of Blood sphere effects for some time. Cool: Immersion in water etc. may end the effect. More importantly: This talent does allow you to bypass type/subtype/template-based Blood sphere immunity. And yes, Mass Control synergy is provided.

What is Hemokinesis? Well, it is a kind of blood-themed telekinesis with multiple options, including synergy with Slick, the option to make Blood Constructs (yep, you can make them with the right talent!) fly, generate arcs of blood that may blind targets or even transmit alchemical effects or diseases. (Yep, Spheres of Might fans – Alchemy-synergy!) With Greater Blood Control, you can spend an addition spell point or increase casting time by one step to apply two effects of a (quicken) or (still) talent. (This gets action economy discrepancy verbiage right – good catch.)

Since I already mentioned the option to make blood construct, let us take a look at the tagged talents – which btw. sometimes tend to have (quicken/still) noted – yep, there are quite a few that offer more than one option. Manipulate Health acts as a kind of variant status, with means to make diseases nasty or get rid of them added. Manipulate Alchemy is a pretty genius one, as it allows you to exert your control over blood to affect the circulation and potency of formulae, potions and poisons, including the means to force such effects from a target. Control Oxygen provides a variant haste that thankfully can’t be stacked atop similar effects, and also comes with options for fatigue-based condition manipulation. And yep, it has a cooldown to prevent abuse of e.g. constant rage-cycling exploits. Note: In a VERY limited manner, this still allows for very limited rage-cycling, but not to an extent that would exceed options already available.

The Blood Puppet (quicken) talent does what you think it does – it lets you control targets over their blood! AWESOME. Migraine is a sickening pain effect, while the (still) talent Numb acts as a nasty deduff. Big plus: Interaction with other spheres like Duelist, Divination, etc. is provided.

Among the advanced talents, we have 3: Puppet Master lets you make all puppets perform the same sequence; Sanguine Minion enhances your blood constructs, Overclock is an upgrade of the oxygen-controlling haste effect, though at the cost of burn – still, awesome! Drain Lifeblood lets you cause Constitution bleed, and Arrest Flow (still) is restricted to high levels and can render the target unconscious. These are well-placed as advanced talents – potent, yet tight. Like them!

Okay, now that we know how the Blood Sphere operates, let’s take a look at the 3 archetypes included: the Bloodscarred symbiat replaces Linguistics with Bluff and uses Charisma as governing class ability and spellcasting ability score. Mental powers are replaced with the Blood sphere, and, since they have a strong vampire angle, the bloodscarred gets the option to check the presence of undead, a scaling bite attack (including high-level minor temporary hit points that will not unbalance the game), wall clinging, darkvision (or darkvision range increase), mist form and a Mind Control variant. Psionics are replaced with the ability to ignore the negative effects of negative levels and a capstone that enhances their vampiric domination. Nice one.

Hemophage bloodragers are only proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers and is a Low-Caster using Charisma, with class level + Charisma modifier spell points. Fast movement and bloodline feats, if the proficiency list was not enough indicator, are lost in favor of blended training. Instead of a bloodline, these folks can access bloodlines by drinking the blood of creatures with the appropriate bloodline or associated creatures, gaining use of the bloodline powers. Big plus: No, you can’t cheese the ability to gain infinite use bloodline powers by cycling bloodlines. Blood must be harvested fresh, but a limited amount of special draughts may be prepared, with creature-sizes and draughts they can provided noted. Nice: This, probably by design, arrives at similar caps as my own blood-based designs and those of similar supplements. A handy list is provided for suggested types and bloodlines, and per se, only the bloodrager’s core bloodlines may be taken thus, though your home-game may allow for more. The bloodrage enhancement abilities are modified to work in conjunction with the sphere-system instead.

The Hemetic philosopher alchemist gains all knowledge skills as class skills and is an Intelligence-based Mid-Caster with class level + Intelligence modifier spell points and a magic talent gain with every caster level attained. Throw anything and bombs are replaced with the Blood sphere, using class level as CL. Swift alchemy and poison use/resistance/immunity are replaced at 3rd level with crimson vials. The character can spend one minute to create a temporary potion, which may be done as a full-round action for one spell point. This does provoke an AoO, and the potion only lasts for 1 hour per class level and its complexity may not exceed 1 per 3 class levels. The archetype can have up to Intelligence modifier such potions, and the character can create potions at a lower caster level. Since the potion is made from his blood, this doesn’t cost gold, but requires a scaling save that causes damage – and this damage MAY NOT BE HEALED save via resting. Higher levels allows you to ignore sphere prerequisites, but at the cost of an increased DC.

The pdf also offers means for alchemists to take the Blood Potion feat, and a rage power that provides minor healing to barbarians (can’t be cheesed, based on limited resource); beyond that, we do get a nice incanter sphere specialization, a prodigy imbue sequence (HOORAY!!!) that lets you extract blood constructs as finishers (awesome) the Monster troubadour trope that lets you smell fear, climb, healed by negative energy – very Hyde-like. There also would be the Path of the Moroi for the Wraith class (review forthcoming).

The book contains 14 new feats, with aforementioned Blood Potion allowing you to create potions that may only ever affect you, but you can activate multiple ones, or do so as a swift action. Gaining blood drain, acidic or burning blood (good ole’ Geralt’s Black Blood, anyone?) – cool. The latter burning/acidic blood can be weaponized via Hemokinesis. Want a humor familiar? You can have that. You can wrap extracted blood constructs as a kind of blood-based power-armor around willing allies (OUCH!), and e.g. feats to negate AoOs, adding (form) talents to constructs, combining death and blood – nice. Champion feats, though, are, with the options for Blood-using Duelists can attain their weaponry to blood spilled, for example: Bloodmonger and Spell Attack are reproduced here. Of course, an (Admixture) feat for Destruction-users may be found. Reservoir nets you blood points that you may, for example, store in a new item – crimson flasks. The points can be used to mitigate the Constitution damage/bleed costs of Blood sphere abilities, fyi. Two really cool unified traditions, 3 sphere-specific drawbacks, a boon and two properly codified traits are provided. The pdf also sports 3 alternate racial traits, two of which are for Skybourne races.

The book contains two rituals: Water from blood is level 0 and does what it says on the tin (love it), and lifeblood sacrifice lets you kill a willing or helpless creature to restore life to a dead target. There also is a neat level 5 incantation, steal lifeblood, which allows you to go Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed and become younger via blood. Speaking of which – yep there is a blood bath artifact. Oh yeah. At +1, the thirsty weapon special ability also ties in with the aforementioned Reservoir engine as basically a storage extension. Rules for crafting Blood sphere items in conjunction with the sphere-crafting rules can be found.

Absolutely awesome: There are optional rules provided that propose blood as spell component and focus, or as a substitute for alchemical components. Oread blood as acid flasks, for example. This may just be a page, and just a start, but I LOVE it. It makes adventuring matter. Aforementioned blood constructs: 7 stats, from CR 1/3 to 11, with familiar notes where applicable, are provided. We also get stats for the CR 1/3 humoral ooze and CR 3 mosquito swarms. The book closes on one final, triumphant inclusion that I got ready to complain about when opening it for the first time: Yes, it does come with its own, custom 100-entry strong Wild Magic-table! AWESOME.

Conclusion: YES! The Drop Dead Studios crew listened! Now, not only is the editing really good on a rules-language and formal level, the formatting is also up to par, making the book easier to read and it gets rid of almost all glitches; I noticed e.g. a remainder of a non-capitalized skill-reference in the Wild Magic-table, but as a whole, the full array of formatting and some modifications have really helped this book; its formal criteria now mirror the awesome nature of the engine. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf provides a blend of well-chosen stock art and some pieces I hadn’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I freely admit to having a soft spot for blood magic. Something about its visceral nature appeals to me. However, most iterations of the concept I’ve seen, suck, and as my fervor for the subject matter means that I tend to look at material VERY closely.

Andrew Stoeckle’s “The Sanguinist’s Handbook” is awesome. It is, now in its revised iteration, even better. I love the subdued scale/mode-component, the combos, the precision in complex interactions. Beyond the mechanical precision, this book offers the cool visuals – Red Mist, for example, not only is useful, it’s plain cool. And there are A LOT of those inside. Add to that the Spheres of Might and Champions of the Spheres synergy, and we arrive at a sphere, which, while poaching liberally in the other sphere’s playgrounds, still feels distinct in both mechanics and execution. The book also feels like a work of passion. There is nothing in this book that feels phoned in; it shows passion and commitment alongside a deep mastery of the intricacies of the spheres rules that allows for the avoidance of the pitfalls of the system.

I love this book. I really do. The only other supplements in the whole series that managed to excite me to the same degree would be the Telekinesis-expansion and, obviously, the (almost entirely) brilliant Chronomancer’s Handbook.

If anything, the sanguinist’s handbook has me clamoring for more – the Blood sphere deserves more love, and I’d really love to see an expansion to the sphere.

And here we are – the revised edition takes away the one serious gripe I had with the book, making it perhaps the best incarnation of blood magic divorced from classes or archetypes I have ever read for a d20-based game. If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of visceral bloodletting in your game, then get this ASAP. The revised version receives the full 5 stars and my seal of approval, and is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sanguinist's Handbook
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Spheres Apocrypha: Light Talents
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/29/2019 04:23:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres Apocrypha-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The pdf kicks off with 7 basic talents, one of which, Solar Strike, is untagged: When you hit a creature with an attack, you can make it glow as a swift action, or glow brightly at the cost of 1 spell point. It should be noted that the pdf does miss the proper glow formatting, which can makes the rules-language somewhat obtuse. The pdf also includes a (lens) talent, the Halo Effect, which nets a scaling bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy (and optionally to Performance as well. The skills are not properly capitalized.

The remaining 5 talents all have the (light) tag. Fenestrate lets you create a bright light that makes everything and everyone in the area translucent enough to see through. Objects that grant cover still grant concealment, but Stealth is seriously impeded. Interesting one, though I’d be interested to know whether this means that you can have line of sight through creatures or not – a pretty crucial aspect, as the talent seems to imply so, but the change this would bring for magic would be pretty vast, so I’m not sure. Inner Sun lets you grant a creature you made glow brightly a weapon of light that may be any melee weapon you’re proficient with, with its damage being scaling fire damage. The blade of light can’t hurt translucent targets and may have interesting interactions with reflective creatures. Precious lets you make an item glow – all that see it will then try to get it and admire it, basically turning Gollum on a failed Will-save. This will not make them suicidal or stupid, but it does affect allies. The effect is properly codified and allows for shaking off, but ONLY initially and when admiring it. Shouldn’t this have Hypnotic Pattern as a prerequisite?

Revelation allows you to bestow a light of a text, allowing for the full lecture of the material, including erased text. This can also reveal hidden text and meaning, and even bypass magical protections if you succeed at your Magic Skill Check. Shining Arsenal makes your weapons inflict full damage on incorporeal targets, and fortifies armor and shields aglow to provide full defense against such targets, and you choose a single metal or material – the light mimics this material for the purposes of vulnerabilities, making e.g. cold iron or silver valid choices. Since the glowing items don’t actually get the property, adamantine wouldn’t help.

The pdf also contains 3 new feats: Afterglow lets you add a glow to positive energy ability applicants; Crimson Flash lets you, as a swift action, spend a spell point to expel a blast that only one ally sees who hasn’t yet acted. The ally may act on your initiative count instead of their own. Lightshow, finally, combos inspiring song with glow, including glow effects, but excluding ones that require targets to glow brightly.

Conclusion: Editing is good on a formal and rules-language level, but suffers from the lack of quality control regarding formatting – the pdf has a surprising amount of formatting oversights for its brevity, and does not consistently apply the formatting conventions established for the Light sphere, which hurts the integrity of the rules somewhat. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard. I’ll never be a fan of yellow headers for the Light sphere; they are strenuous to read. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Adam Meyers knows what he’s doing, and the Light material herein is, for the most part, interesting. There is, though, as a whole, a sense of this one being rushed, with a ton of formatting hiccups for such a short file, more than necessary. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price-point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Light Talents
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The Necromancers Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/15/2019 08:45:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a brief 2-page introduction and guidance on how to use this book, we begin with the new archetype-section, which, this time around, covers 8 new archetypes. The first of these would be the bonewright armorist, who gets Death as a bonus sphere and modifies summon equipment; instead of calling forth materials, these fellows sculpt or form weapons and armor from bodies – their own or the dead. Summoning equipment from undead reanimated within the last hour does not cost a spell point; (as an aside: 20th level makes calling equipment from bodies or the character free) without a corpse on hand, the archetype has to “spend” 1d4 hit points, +1d4 per point of enhancement bonus, the damage representing the realignment of bones et al. This damage may not be reduced or redirected, but it may be healed, so it doesn’t behave as burn. The archetype also offers an array of 8 exclusive arsenal tricks, and a few of these do modify the Attack action. The tricks allow for bone weapons to be particularly effective against the same species as the donor, the full use of equipment, even while grappled due to grafted weaponry, making targets battered, etc. Battered? Well, yeah, like in Spheres of Might – and if you don’t have the book, fret not – while you’ll be missing out on one of the best books for PFRPG out there, this book does offer the relevant rules for your convenience. Healing by absorbing bone (thankfully associated with a spell point cost), debuffs added to attacks, etc. – all in all, a flavorful archetype, though there are a few purely cosmetic typos to be found here.

Soul adept elementalists replace Escape Artist with Knowledge (religion) and get the Death sphere instead of 2nd level’s bonus feat. Favored element is replaced with Ghostly Admixture (Reprinted ehre, but for convenience’s sake: It’s the ghost strike blast option), and may use the feat to use Admixtures even without the (btw. reprinted) talent. 9th level and 15th level add half and full level, respectively, to damage dealt with Ghostly Admixture blasts. Elemental defense is replaced with a scaling bonus to saves vs. stuff you’d associate with necromancy like death effects, disease, etc. Elemental movement is replaced with wraith form, which may be activated as a move action and renders the archetype incorporeal, for up to class level + casting ability modifier rounds. Being trapped in a corporeal object when the duration elapses is properly covered. The archetype also has a custom capstone, which nets immunity to death effects, sneak attacks and critical hits as well as DR 10/magic. Sneak is an odd one to list here, as it is a specific ability, in contrast to e.g. studied strike etc..

Cursed stranger gunslingers alter grit and lose gunsmith in favor of cursed hands, which autobreaks any gun the slinger touches, but as long as she has at least 1 grit, she doesn’t automatically miss, nor does it explode. Misfiring thus also replenishes a point of grit. Kudos: The ability has a caveat that prevents abuse via kittens, helpless targets etc. The archetype can choose Death sphere talents based on reanimate as bonus feats, and the archetype has 3 custom deeds: Cursed bullets, at 3rd level the option to reanimate a target shot as per the ability, using full class level, and 11th level increases the debuff of the cursed bullets. The dread crusader mageknight begins play with the Death sphere and Necromantic Limit drawback, as well as Cryptic Strike, using class level as CL for the latter. The archetype’s three mystic combats increase Cryptic Strike damage, and has two mystic combats that allow the character to build upon to spend spell point to attack more targets in reach.

Jinkininki rangers lose favored enemy with the pretty grisly requirement to consume the dead to gain the benefits against the targets, which is pretty cool. Favored terrain, camouflage and hide in plain sight are replaced with +2 to initiative and Stealth in dim light or darkness, with higher levels providing darkvision and a spell point based frightful presence . Stealth and initiative benefits are assigned to lighting conditions, and the archetype is a Low-Caster governed by Wisdom, with class level -3 + Wisdom modifier points, and a magic talent gained at 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter. The archetype may also choose Necrosis feats as combat style feats.

Necrosis feats are a new category of feats herein, in that they have effects on the character: Necrosis feats taint you, and make it progressively harder to return the character back from the dead, but they also increase in power based on the number of Necrosis feats you have, with 4 necrosis feats being a common threshold. Necrosis feats that require being activated as an immediate action may be activated with the same immediate action, and a character gets spell points equal to the number of necrosis feats they have. I assume this is gained ONCE, not per necrosis feat – this could be more clearly stated. These feats allow for the reversal of reacting towards positive and negative energy, we can find cold and electricity resistance, natural armor bonus and DR, blindsense to notice bleeding targets (and directly affect them via ghost strikes), and even a phylactery-lite-version may be found – per se a solid and nice concept, somewhat akin to Akashic feats, lite-version. The 4-feat-plus benefits often btw. make the benefits last longer or enhance them in similar manners; another hazard against which you get a save-boost, etc.

But for now, let’s return to the archetypes: The spectral infiltrator is suitable for rogue/unchained rogue, and loses trap/danger senses as well as the talents gained at 2nd, 6th and 14th level. For those, the archetype gets ghostwalk, the option to use a move action to ignore difficult terrain and move alongside surfaces, gaining class level to Stealth, with the total duration per day 3 + class level. At higher levels, this allows for flight and quicker activation. Nitpick: ghost touch reference not italicized properly. The four exclusive talents include a chance to cause Wisdom damage to targets seeking to mind-control, trigger-change for magical traps and an untyped damage (not a fan) via incorporeal touch attacks, while the other upgrades ghostwalking. The archetype also comes with 3 advanced talents and a custom capstone. Surprisingly nice engine-tweak!

The spheres of power shifter-class gets the famine spirit archetype, who gets Alteration and Death instead of shapeshifter, and a variety of animal empathy that works only with pretty dumb undead and that improves at higher levels, replacing the communication abilities. Endurance is replaced with the bite bestial trait. Higher levels make those slain by the bite harder to return to life, and the swallow whole ability, including acid. This includes being capable of swallowing targets larger than the character, and bite attack/Vital Strike’d bites. Fun fact: I had a character like this in my very first Ravenloft campaign back in the 3.0 days, and while my rules back then were obviously less refined, this did make me smile, concept-wise.

The gravecrawler symbiat replaces mental powers with Mind and Death, and instead of psionics, implants drones in creatures, creating a rather icky (and awesome, flavorwise!) collective that allows for the surveillance of targets implanted. The trap sense is replaced with swarm powers – you see, the archetype carries a unique insect-colony inside, and begins play with 2 swarm abilities chosen from a massive list; another is gained at 3rd level and every 3rd level thereafter, and 7th and 13th level allow for the quicker use of these abilities. If applicable, Intelligence is the governing ability score modifier, and from debuff droning to burrow speed and to cocooning targets, discorporation (tightly codified within the spheres system), etc., the options here are delightful. While there are a few italicizations missing, this one is AWESOME. 9th level, for example, allows you to affect your drones with Mind and Death sphere effects, regardless of line of effect, and yes, undead reanimated do have drones and the whole Mind/Death-synergy thing actually comes together really well with awesome visuals! This one is a winner of a class hack and ends the engine-tweak-centric archetype chapter on a high note!

The basic magic chapter offers a couple of options that plenty of folks have been asking for: These include going Diablo 2 necromancer with corpse bombs, instilling cannibalistic urges via your (ghost strike)s, manipulate corpses to e.g. regrow skin or change the appearance (awesome for investigative scenarios)…and yes, there is a powerful option to sacrifice undead to take the hit for you. No, it can’t be cheesed. Undead may also be used to deliver ghost strikes, we can find an option that allows you to grant undead combat feats, talents or teamwork feats and the means to hamper and even negate healing of ghost strike’d targets. Teaching tricks to undead, and absorbing targets into your negative energy-infused flesh…some cool ones here.

The advanced magic section contains 4 new talents – one for combining undead, one for a sphere-based haunt-creation, and there is a means to painlessly kill allies – which then may be called back from the beyond easier. For complex infiltrations/intrigue/etc., this is pretty neat. There also is an option to bypass death effect immunity, which should be handled with care – obviously. Now, I’ve already talked about some of the new feats, namely the new Necrosis feat category, but we do have more: A feat that prevents bleed effects from being stilled by magic, for example, is pretty cool – and yes, Sanguinist’s Handbook’s review is coming very soon! There also are (Dual Sphere) feats, including for example and impressive one with the Weather sphere, which allows you to animate a ton of undead, provided it ours enough. It’s a small thing, but I love how this explains in-game why undead come out of their graves in hordes preferably when it storms. Cooperative undead commanding may also be found, and Destruction fans will probably enjoy the option to apply (blast shape) talents to ghost strikes. Note, though: Considering some of the combos with AoE attacks via ghost strike, this bears keeping a close eye on. While it does thankfully provide a Will-save to negate, it can become deadly rather fast. Ghost strike in melee, and we have an Improved enhancer for Cryptic Strike. Death and Telekinesis may be used in conjunction, which blends neatly the Poltergeist component with the other sphere. There is also a nice charmed life tweak that allows you one of three rather neat defensive tricks due to being a Skeletal Contortionist, and there are feats to specialize on variant necromancy, and the option to get an undead animal companion. The pdf includes a new trait (Benefits:-header missing) that nets you a 1 HD necrotic marionette, and we get 4 nice sphere-specific drawbacks. What’s that marionette? It’s basically a puppet that counts as a corpse, and is featured in the new equipment section. NICE. The section also introduces splinter orbs (also known as bone balls) – basically skeletons in a ball, easy to carry around. The book concludes with salient advice for GMing necromancy, an errata of Greater Undead for use with the material, and a recap of haunt rules and being incorporeal – handy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are pretty strong, and on a formal level, the book is also more precise than a few others in the series. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has a mixture of new and stock full color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

“Yawn, yet another Necromancer book.” Nope, actually, this has quite a few often neglected tricks. Back when Spheres of Power first hit stores, I found myself enjoying the take on necromancy, and this book provided some genuinely positive surprises. The archetype section was off to a slow start, but kept its biggest and most impressive components for last – both famine spirit and gravecrawler are impressive beasts indeed, with the former being a cooler take on the wendigo/famine-trope than many I’ve seen before. The Necrosis feats as a means to reward specialization are a nice angle, though I do believe that offering a broader range when the additional benefits kick in may be prudent, if only to avoid all of them kicking off with taking the fourth feat. That being said, at the same time, the combination of more precise formatting and some genuinely creative and fun options means that Luke Williams and Adam Meyers have created one really nice sphere-expansion. While there are a few components where a slight bit of polish may be prudent, these are few and far in-between. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform – this is simply closer to the 5 than to the 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Necromancers Handbook
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Items of Power
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2019 13:47:01

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion book for Spheres of Power clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by one of my readers.

So, while the default pathfinder magic item creation rules work without a big snag in conjunction with Spheres of Power, this pdf does endeavor to provide a more sphere-centric approach to the subject matter. Thus, we begin with the basic assumptions: To create a magic item, a caster must possess the appropriate item creation feat, the base spheres associated with the item, and a caster level with that sphere equal to or greater than the item’s CL. Charms, implements and magical arms and armor instead use the crafter’s MSB. Temporary increases to CL do not qualify, and item creation requires half the price in base materials. The crafter also requires a fairly comfortable, quiet place to work and a day’s work is classified as the standard 8 hours, which gets 1K gp worth of price done. At the very least, crafting must be done in 4-hour increments. Scrolls, potions, etc. only take 2 hours to make if their base price is below 250 gp. After the crafting period, an appropriate skill-check (usually Spellcraft) must be made to determine whether the item has been made correctly. Cooperative crafting is also noted.

The pdf then proceeds to present talent-based item crafting. Such items have a base cost determined by multiplying caster level times complexity times base cost. The complexity rating is determined by the number of benefits the item has, with range, unique changes, etc. accounted for. After this, we have a breakdown of the individual spheres, with blood and fallen fey included alongside the original sphere-array. Mixed and multiple effects, permanency and the like may also be found, and items that don’t need to be worn or held obviously are more expensive. The pdf then presents an array of new crafting feats for use with spheres of power, thankfully including a table that lists the approximation of the core crafting feats for a relatively painless implementation of other materials. Kudos: This does account for the peculiarities of automatic bonus progression, should you be using them in conjunction with implements. The presentation structure of e.g. charms and the like and general pricing make this section a surprisingly helpful and concise one. I know that I did not have to engage in page-flipping or the like, and the general baseline formulae struck me as sound, with bonus types and maximum bonuses noted properly. While I do not yet have the long-term experience of tinkering with these, a few cursory tests with the baselines provided made the system’s results come out within the parameters I consider to be desirable. The book also does cover a ton of special weapon, armor, etc. properties by bonuses and provides corresponding spheres.

The book also presents an assortment of new magic item special abilities that include making shields apply their bonus versus ranged touch attacks (at +1, a welcome boost for shields), and armor that, at +4, can maintain concentration for you or implements that help you aim your sphere effects. Implements capable of absorbing e.g. wands are interesting, though they should probably note what happens if the implement is destroyed while the wand’s absorbed – does it rematerialize, or is it gone for good? Weapons that may be attuned to those they damage, a siege weapon enhancement that makes them more potent versus rigging et al….some nice ones here.

The book presents an assortment of 7 new feats that allows for the application of armorist special abilities via arcane pool, divine bond, etc., better splash weaponry save DCs, adding casting ability modifier to the item save DC (thankfully locked behind 10th level), and limited wand recharging is also presented. As far as items are concerned, we get bracers and bucklers capable of holding wands and an assortment of cool poisons, including one item that comes with an alternate alchemist’s recipe. Ammunition to deliver vials and poisons and a selection of ritual books can also be found within.

From enchanted dancing scarves to acorns that generate the Nature sphere’s branch-pummeling, the pdf includes several specific items, including crystal grenades that encase the target in, bingo, crystal, and an elixir that allows for a VERY limited renewal of spell points. Thankfully, this one is subject to serious limitations. Elixirs for removing enchantments and oils to store sphere abilities are included. There are quite a few interesting shields and staves to be found, and from a herald’s blade to bonded notebooks, there are a ton of items in this book, which range from combat-centric to being focused on utility. Divine symbols (with a Skybourne focus) may also be found here. Really cool: There is, for example, a seal that grows in power with the TPA a character has with a given cult. This may be a small thing, but it’s something I’d like to see expanded further, considering how it makes organization membership more enticing and is a field that hasn’t really been covered. As a minor nitpick – this section misses a few italicizations.

If you’ve been following my reviews for a while, you’ll know that I’ve always adored Purple Duck Games’ legendary items and similar takes on scaling magic items: This book also provides a couple of these, like the Nature sphere-associated Aegis of Sakura, made from greenwood leaf, the swordcane pistol horror’s ruin for the discerning, monster-hunting gentleman, or bandoliers of grenades or medic satchels for more militaristic characters. The latter is btw. great in that it gets rid of some of the detailed tracking required. Intelligent item powers are also noted, and the book closes strongly with 2 minor, and two major artifacts – the latter including a divine notebook for the powers of (flawed) creation and the blade Finis, which is basically the evil-destroying sudden-death godmode blade that can and will annihilate evil. Okay, it also burns through wielders fast, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, and pretty good on a formal one; I noticed primarily formal snafus. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf comes with a blend of original and stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Meyers, Andrew Stoeckle, Andrew J. Gibson, Derfael Oliveira, John Little and Johannes Luber have delivered a pretty impressive item book for the Spheres of Power-system. The crafting tools presented are solid, the items more often than not interesting, and the baselines provided most assuredly should make this worthwhile for anyone using the system. All in all, this is a well-wrought addition to the Spheres of Power framework, and as such, receives a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Items of Power
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Archetypes of Power
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2019 13:39:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Spheres of Power-expansion clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The archetypes within this book are obviously created for use with the Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might systems, and as such, we begin with a few standards for use of archetypes with those systems: Archetypes with diminished spellcasting lose the magical talents gained at 2nd level and every 6 levels thereafter. Addition or alteration of spell lists is lost, and spells known added instead yield an additional magical talent at the first level the spells become known, but only one talent per group of spells. Proficiency gains for martial weapons can instead yield a martial tradition. Expenditure of spell slots can be substituted for spell point expenditure; equivalent spell level of spell points expended is ½ caster level, rounded up, maximum 9. Arcane bond instead uses the cosmic sage’s variant of the ability of the same name, and being a spherecaster qualifies for a specific type of spellcasting.

So, what kind of archetypes do we get? The first would be the Apex Predator ranger, who only has light armor, simple weapon and buckler proficiency, but gains a martial tradition if it’s the character’s first level. Apex predators are Low-Casters with Wisdom and as key ability modifier and class level + Wisdom modifier spell points. The archetype gets a magic talent every time she gets a caster level. The archetype also is considered to be a Proficient practitioner, using Wisdom as practitioner modifier, which replaces combat styles. Instead of tracking and swift tracking, the archetype gets the Scout sphere as a bonus sphere, and may substitute Survival for Knowledge checks at -5 when using the scout ability. This penalty is lost at 8th level. Basically, an adaptation of the ranger to the Spheres-systems.

The bastion of conviction employs a similar engine-tweak design paradigm, sans Scout sphere, but uses casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier and uses class level as BAB for combat feats and also counts them as fighter levels. The archetype is a proficient practitioner and loses the bonus feats at 3rd, 6th, 8th, 15th and 18th level, and 11th level’s feat is replaced with regaining martial focus when using a positive or negative energy-based ability. The soldier of the gods inquisitor replaces solo tactics and the teamwork feats at 3rd, 6th, 9th, 15th and 18th level with being an Adept practitioner using Wisdom as practitioner modifier.

Grand purifier (pala or antipaladins) are Charisma-based Low-Casters with class level + casting ability modifier spell points, and a magic talent every time a CL’s gained. Every odd level nets a combat talent, which replaces lay on hands/touch of corruption. When the archetype uses an attack action to attack the target of smite good, the paladin gains an additional circumstance bonus equal to class level to attack rolls. This, obviously, is intended to reward not going full attack, which is generally a sensible goal, though it does offer some serious power upgrade. I think this could have been solved more elegantly. When the archetype reduces an intelligent enemy with HD equal to or less than class level to below 1 hit point, they can attempt to purify them. This necessitates a Will save, with Charisma as modifier governing the DC. This entails a permanent alignment change, which is pretty brutal (and cool) regarding wars fought with ideologies. (As a nitpick: atonement reference not italicized properly.) Channel energy is replaced with regaining martial focus when using smite to reduce a target to 0 hit points or less. Condemnation (Save DC also governed by Charisma). As an attack action, the character can spend a spell point or expend martial focus to make an attack that has an additional effect on the target. These can include preventing aid another, adding a glow (not italicized properly), temporary preventing hit point replenishment etc. 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter unlock new arrays of condemnation options. These replace mercies/cruelties, and they are pretty neat.

Arcane weaponeer magi are Intelligence-using High-Caster that gain level + Intelligence modifier spell points. 4th level allows the archetype to enhance armor and shields via arcane pool, with 5th level providing an improperly-formatted list of special weapon properties that may be substituted. The plus values in brackets would help render this easier to use, and the special armor/shield qualities should be italicized. This replaces spell recall. Spell combat is tweaked, allowing for a full-round action with melee weapons to also allow for the use of a sphere-casting ability with a casting time of 1 standard action or less. The spell combat may also be used to maintain concentration effects, and using spell combat imposes a -2 penalty to attack rolls. Additionally, the arcane weaponeer learned to use magic and doesn’t need to make concentration checks because of damage taken from melee attacks from enemies he’s aware of. This section has something missing: I’m pretty sure it should only apply while in spell combat, or it should not apply universally, and only for the sphere abilities of the archetype; otherwise, this is too dippable. Spellstrike is modified to work in conjunction with spheres. 7th level nets expanded knowledge, which allows the archetype to gain a magic talent he meets the prerequisites for, as a move action, gaining it for 1 minute. The ability may be used ½ class level times per day – verbiage is a bit confusing here, and could be taken to mean that the talent gained can be used this often. The ability may not be stacked atop itself, and 13th and 19th level allows for the use of the ability optionally as a swift and free action, respectively. This replaces the medium and heavy armor proficiency as well as greater spell access. Bonus feats are modified, and improved spell combat is replaced with the option to forego iterative attacks in favor of moving before or after spell combat. Knowledge pool is replaced with stalwart at 11th level, and also at this level, improved spell recall is replaced with the option to enhance weaponry and armor/shields as a swift action. 14th level replaces greater spell combat with ANY number of metamagic sans casting time increase in conjunction with spell combat. I’d have made the number of metamagic feats that may freely apply scale here – as written, this begs to be abused. The capstone allows for the casting of a second sphere ability in conjunction with spell combat, requiring that you forego the iterative attacks and codifying this all properly. The pdf also includes a pretty massive array of sphere-themed magus arcana, including low-range sift action teleport for Warp-sphere users.

Cosmic sage wizards are Intelligence-based High-Casters, and gain a magic talent at every even level, 2 at every odd level. Arcane bond is modified: When choosing an object, the wizard may use a standard action to gain a talent he doesn’t have for 1 minute. Prerequisites must still be fuldilled, if any. This may be used 1/day, plus 1/day for every 4 levels, and the ability can’t be stacked. Scribe Scroll (improperly formatted) is gained at 1st level, and arcane school is replaced at 2nd level with sagacious secrets, a book that may be consulted to enhance CL at the cost of an increase in casting duration to at least a full-round action. The bonus increases at higher levels. The dual-blooded sorcerer is a Charisma-based High-Caster, and gains a bonus spell point for every even-numbered class level attained, and a magical talent every level. The archetype gains a second bloodline, and bloodline arcana may be replaced with bonus magical talents or spell points, and the archetype gets the complex interaction array done right. Limited number of rounds of use per day bloodline abilities may be recharged by spell point expenditure and meditation, and another ability fuses the sorcerer 1st level bloodline ability. Interesting upgrade/take on the sphere-sorcerer; like it!

The mystic scion bloodrager is a Charisma-using Low-Caster, who gets a magic talent at 4th level and every 2 levels thereafter. Bloodrage is replaced with the unchained barbarian’s rage, and uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge, the archetype gains Destruction sphere with Energy Focus drawback (and the bonus blast talent), and the archetype gets to choose a damage type, and when a Destruction sphere ability causes damage of that type, he may use class level as CL. 4th level modifies bloodraging to allow for sphere-use, and replaces bloodcasting. The higher level abilities modify the greater/tireless/mighty rages according to what you’d expect, though the greater ability allows for the use of self-targeting sphere abilities in conjunction with entering rage, getting concentration right. As a complaint: The eligible sphere abilities for this combo should be limited by the action required to activate them to avoid for long casting cheesing.

The withering witch is an Intelligence-governed High-Caster with a magic talent each level and patron spells replaced with corrupted magic: When the archetype uses a sphere ability or hex, it may be corrupted as a free action, a number of times per day equal to class level + casting ability modifier. Only one such effect may be added per hex or sphere ability, with 10 abilities provided. Most, but not all of them has an improvement gained at 11th level. These include instlling a sense of mania, contagion, venom, bleeding, etc. Nice, though the scaling mutation buff should have a typed bonus that prevents the physical ability scores from being buffed too high in conjunction with other options. The archetype also includes a total of 8 exclusive hexes, which are pretty nice, including channel energy, the option to meditate and spend spell points to regain corrupt magic uses and the like.

The soul with many faces shaman is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster, with one talent per CL gained, and a sphere associated with the spirit chosen, which is thus designated the spirit sphere. At 4th level, we get another sphere associated with a wandering spirit. Instead of spirit magic, we have a magic talent that may be redistributed when resting, taken from the spirit sphere, with 4th level allowing for the choice from the wandering spirit as well. 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter add another such talent. 9th level nets the spirit animal ability and that of the wandering spirit, as well as any appearance changes. Shamans and witches also get 4 hexes for use of e.g. Death-sphere-based undead as sphere ability deliverers, fast healing in the dark (with, thankfully, a cap), an illusion-based AoE demoralize, or an eliciter emotion.

While we’re on the subject of roughly nature-themed archetypes, the greenrunner hunter is a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster with magic talent gains that correspond to CL-increases, and the archetype is an Adept practitioner using his casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. Animal companion is modified, with the archetype gaining the Beastmastery sphere, locked into the (handle animal) Beastmastery package, using class level as BAB to determine sphere effects. The archetype also gains animal companion, using full BAB as druid class level for the companion, and the archetype may teach the companion the skirmisher ranger archetype’s hunter’s tricks. Instead of wild empathy, we get the Beastmastery sphere’s Animal Empathy, and precise companion is replaced with shared magic, making the companion count as in range for sphere abilities targeting single creatures, and allowing for the expenditure of an additional spell point to also affect the companion. Rather cool and well-wrought translation of the hunter-engine.

Skalds can choose to become growling marauders, Charisma-based Mid-Casters with magic talents gained with CLs, and the option to choose a bardic masterpiece or skald saga instead of a magic talent. Okay, but how does this interact with the costs of bardic masterpieces? This fellow is an Adept practitioner using Charisma as practitioner modifier, and these replace scribe scroll, uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge and damage resistance. Well-versed is replaced with choosing a magic or combat talent, using class level as BAB or CL for that talent. This may be re-designated upon resting anew. Rage powers are replaced with heavy chord, which allows for the sharing of a chosen combat talent or sphere with allies affected by inspired rage, with every 3 levels thereafter allowing for the choice of an additional talent or combat feat to share. Non-practitioners may use their highest mental attribute. Spell kenning is modified to 1/day allow for the use of a magic talent added or a new base sphere for a casting increase by one step. This may be used an additional time per day every 6 levels thereafter.

Nightblazer investigators are Intelligence-based Mid-Casters, with CL increases governing magical talents, and 1st level makes the archetype choose a vice – this vic must be indulged to regain inspiration. Studied strike and combat are gained at 2nd level, with 1d6 base damage, +1d6 every 2 levels thereafter. The poison-related abilities are replaced with choosing a Dex-, Wis- or Cha-based skill, and use Intelligence instead as the governing ability modifier, with 5th, 8th and 11th level providing another one. The archetype gets danger sense, and keen recollection is replaced with the option to increase studied strike’s damage via spell point expenditure. Swift alchemy is replaced with the ability to deliver sphere abilities via studied strike, with DC increasing. The pdf also sports 5 investigator talents, including, for example, studied strike-telekinesis-synergy and divination/inspiration combos.

The masked adept vigilante gets a modified skill list and only 4 + Intelligence skills per level. They are Mid-Casters using Charisma as casting ability modifier, magic talents tied to CL-increase. At 1st level, the masked adept chooses a magic sphere to be the hidden sphere. This is gained as a bonus sphere, plus bonus talent, and uses class level as CL. The hidden sphere is integrated into the costome, using vigilante identity as a staff of power (formatting incorrect) that scales; this replaces vigilante specialization. The vigilante may not take hidden strike modifications, but may choose stalker-exclusive talents. Sphere-casting vigilantes also may choose a familiar, hidden magic, and Alteration users have a nice synergy talent. There also is an Illusion-sphere option to create a hologram. Nice.

Knave bards work pretty analogous regarding the base chassis, and as such, also have the interaction-clarification requirement missing for the bardic masterpiece component. Countersong is replaced with a pretty potent self-buff and the option to taunt struck opponents, which also negates morale bonuses temporarily. Stealthy use of performances replaces distraction, and well-versed is replaced with the ability to designate a sphere upon resting, using class level as CL for the sphere. Soothing song is replaced with the option to affect ALL additional allies within 60 ft. with sphere abilities. More elegant here: Making the number of affected allies stack. Inspire heroics is replaced with a performance that hampers magic.

While we’re on the subject of core classes: The runesinger fighter is proficient with simple weapons, light armor and bucklers, and gains a martial tradition if it’s the first level of the character. The archetype is an Expert practitioner and gains spheres and talents accordingly, using their choice of mental ability score modifier as practitioner modifier. This replaces armor training and armor mastery. At 1st level, the runesinger gets 2 runes, and each rune may be chosen only once. Each rune has two benefits, and if applicable, they do scale. A run has an attack and movement ability, and using one expends the rune for that level. The engine comes with 11 supplemental feats for more runes, and apart from some formatting hiccups (like lower-case skills) I was positively surprised by this take on the tattooed/rune-scarred fighter. Nice one!

The book also includes new occult archetypes, with the ascendant mind psychic first: This fellow is a High-Caster using Intelligence as the casting modifier, and a magic talent every level. The archetype also gets a bonus magical talent every even-numbered level, chosen from Divination, Mind, telekinesis, replacing detect thoughts and the discipline spells. Psychic discipline loses discipline spells, and phrenic amplifications are replaced with an array of phrenic techniques; the first array is gained at 1st level, with 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter unlocking new abilities. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the level 19 stagger/daze-lock option, but at that level, it’s something I can stomach. Telepathic bond is replaced with a variant of a kind of collective, and the archetype gets a capstone that makes the archetype really good at using this – evocative and cool. Conniving bastard mesmerists are Charisma-based Mid-Casters that gain talents on CL-increases, and painful stare is modified, touch treatment replaced: The ability gained for that would be painful strike, allowing for the application of painful stare in conjunction with attacks versus targets denied their Dexterity modifier. Mental potency is replaced with the ability to deny enemies their Dexterity modifier to AC versus the attacks executed by the archetype in the aftermath of failing a Will-save versus a sphere ability, allowing for some surprisingly deep, nice combo-tricks.

The final archetype to discuss would be the psychomancer spiritualist, a Wisdom-based Mid-Caster with talent gains on CL-increases. Instead of calm spirit, we have Death, Life or Mind designated as spirit sphere and gaining that one plus a bonus magical talent, using class level as caster level for that sphere. Detect undead is replaced with spirit sight, scaling blindsight that detects the living and undead. 9th level replaces see invisibility with Project Spirit, using class level as caster level, though this requires phantom proximity. Call spirits is replaced with the ability to assume ectoplasmic or incorporeal form akin to the phantom when spirit walking as per Project Spirit. The pdf also features 6 alchemist discoveries that allow for e.g. the Alteration sphere to tie in with mutagens, and a very potent spell bomb, with damage dice equal to class level. While I’d usually not be a fan here, this one does account for the release of kineticist, and provides a valid alternative to burst-y fast bombing, so I’m fine with it.

The pdf closes with an array of 12 feats, including the option to expend 5 stamina instead of martial focus, stamina/Life-sphere synergy, rally allies to make them regain martial focus, and the like, as well as the maintenance of multiple performances at once, but at increased costs.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf offers a blend of full-color artworks, some of which I’ve seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J. Gibson has my utmost respect for this book – this is what I’d consider pretty brutal grunt-work, design-wise. Making classes work with systems, offering archetypes and options for use in conjunction with them – that’s surprisingly hard in many cases. Much to my positive surprise, plenty of options herein managed to, in spite of the limited room available and narrow focus, offer some interesting combos and even manages to evoke flavorful and distinct tricks! This is a book I’d buy in a heartbeat to not have to do all the design-adjustment myself. The one thing that holds this back from the 5-stars this definitely would deserve, would be a) formatting, which offers quite a bunch of hiccups, and b), a very few instances where some (minor) snafus have crept into the complex material herein. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Archetypes of Power
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The Abjurer's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/11/2019 05:24:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion of the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Framed by a nice piece of introductory prose and some advice for players to render abjurer-themes interesting, the book starts off with 5 different archetypes, the first of which would be the faithful shepherd, who is a Mid-Caster based on Wisdom, with a spell pool of class level + Wisdom modifier and 1 talent per caster level. The archetype gets the Life and Protection spheres and uses class level as caster level for them. The archetype is locked into positive energy channeling. Instead of spontaneous casting, the archetype gets a massive talent array – the so-called divine works. The archetype gets one of these at first level, and an additional one every odd level thereafter. These include healing buffs for ward-based healing (with an anti cheese-caveat), using channel energy uses to create signs that duplicate exorcist hedgewitch sanctions, using casting ability modifier with the deity’s favored weapon, use a ward as a 30 ft. aura (no, protective barrier is not eligible) etc. – really cool take on a sphere healer/protector cleric-y character.

The impossible warrior fighter replaces the 2nd level bonus feat with the ability to parry spells, SPs and sphere abilities; the parry works as an immediate action that uses class level instead of MSB, and rules for creatures with SPs are provided. An interesting angle: This only negates the effect on the fighter, and the fighter must expend a standard or move action on his next turn to disperse the parried energy, or be affected at the end of the turn! This is a cool caveat, as it rewards players while imposing a tax on the potent ability. The 6th level bonus feat replacement lets this fellow dispel or suppress effects on creatures or objects; 10th level’s bonus feat further improves this ability, and 14th level allows for the dispelling of multiple effects. The 18th level ability’s verbiage allows for striking back the effect to the originator.

The living weapon armorist gets good Fort and Ref saves and proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, but not with armor or shields. The archetype gets, no surprise there, protection as a bonus sphere, with the Limited Protection drawback, which may be bought off. The archetype gets Armored Magic as a bonus talent, and uses class level as caster level for summon aegis, which replaces summon equipment. This one allows you to treat summoned equipment as basically armor and shield stand-ins, which is an interesting angle to pursue, though one that requires, obviously, a pretty expert player. The bound equipment thus is modified to apply to such armor and shield stand-ins. Instead of armor training, we get the fighter’s weapon training at 5th level, and the class gets an array of arsenal tricks that allow for the sacrifice of spell points instead of aegis when using a (succor) talent. Minor nitpick: In the unarmored base damage increase talent, size categories aren’t correctly capitalized. It also refers to the bound weapon ability, which the archetype doesn’t have. There are a few of these minor snafus, and while not gamebreakers per se, they do hamper the pretty complex archetype a bit. Quick summons and infinite arsenal are modified, but we have another nomenclature snafu here, with a reference to armored aegis that should refer to defensive aegis instead.

The marshal controller mageknight is proficient with simple weapons and light armor + shields, and if the class level is the first, he gets a martial tradition. When the archetype gets a magic talent (excluding the 2 ones when first gaining casting), they can instead get a combat talent, using casting ability modifier as practitioner modifier. The archetype blends the Protection sphere (with limited Protection, cannot use aegis) and the Guardian sphere, locked into patrol as guardian package. These replace 1st level’s magic talent and resist magic. The wards the character places make foes that violate them trigger AoOs, and this has synergy with patrol. The terms of violations for wards are concisely defined. The archetype also gets an array of 7 exclusive mystic combats, which enhance what should be clear by the name – this is basically a controller, and an interesting one.

The shield of the gods inquisitor is a Wisdom-using Mid-Caster with class level + Wisdom modifier spell points, and track is replaced with a bonus talent chosen from Enhancement, Fate and Protection. Instead of judgment and the follow ups, we get the means to use (aegis), (consecration) and (enhance) talents as a swift action, even ones they don’t have, provided they meet the prerequisites. This has a limited array of daily uses, obviously, and uses scale. Higher levels allows for the activation of multiple such abilities at once. The pdf also has two armorist tricks, though formatting here misses some italicizations. Eliciters get the aversion emotion, hedgewitches may qualify as having the exorcism tradition benefit as a secret, and said tradition is actually really flavorful, focusing on the 13 sanctions, defensive signs that are pretty potent and flavorful.7 tradition secrets, a tradition mastery and 6 grand secrets complement easily one of my favorite pieces of content for the hedgewitch so far. Incanters also get stuff – two complex specializations; one (2 specialization points) nets an attunement over the environment, which makes them walking, scaling countermagic zones; the other, Lattice Weaver is a Protection sub-specialization at 3 points and nets you a crystalline lattice that can basically generate barriers that may be moved around, becoming more potent and later, it may also form an aegis, etc. – really cool! 5 mystic combats and 3 magus arcana and just as many rogue talents complement this section.

The basic talent section sports an errata that specifies that different aegises can be stacked on a target, that barriers don’t block teleportation, and that the Healing Aegis doesn’t require a spell point to use – which makes sense, as the base ability already has a spell point cost. Speaking of which – this one, as well as the Luck option of the Protection sphere have retroactively been designated (succor) talents – i.e. effects that kick in when you dismiss an aegis. This would be as well a place as any to note that there is something annoying about formatting – there are abilities that are called “Xyz aegis”, and they are harder to distinguish from aegis talents, as the book isn’t particularly good at italicizing it properly. It’s a minor thing, but it kinda annoyed me. The new talents include scaling miss chances (that decrease when negating hits) and the means to place cubes instead of barriers – weird there: They don’t have to be contiguous. Providing DR for dismissing an aegis, repairing barriers, anti-illusion wards, longer durations for wards sans concentration – the pdf covers quite a breadth of options.

Glyphs and quicker ward use, help versus emotion (erroneously referred to as “emotional”) and mind-affecting effects, ward/aegis options to make targets behave as though they had no alignment, bonuses versus Life sphere effects, wards versus specific spheres, a (succor) talent that allows for immediate action counterspelling of spells or sphere abilities, with the chance to return them to sender…all in all, a neat section.

The advanced magic chapter includes more complex glyphs, permanent wards or e.g. an aegis that prevents being directly targeted make for powerful tricks that are well-situated in this chapter. The two incantations are true winners: One for an impenetrable dome around a vast area (iconic!) and one to seal planar rifts. Amazing! We also get a new ritual, basically a variant of the old explosive runes trick.

Of course, there is also a pretty massive feat-section, for ward-favored enemy or aegis-pala synergy, Counterspelling Strikes, the usual (Dual Feat) fun, a feat that interacts with the Combat Stamina engine – some nice ones here. The pdf offers three neat traits and a couple of nice and flavorful protection sphere drawbacks. The equipment section provides a couple of solid consumables, but really cool would be the two armor properties: Anti-ballistic and ant-spell are really cool: The former helps versus potent projectile weaponry, while the later helps fortify the wearer versus effects where SR applies. Interesting angle! There is a banishment-style property priced at +2, which is imho too low. Preventative nets you a circumstance bonus to AC equal to weapon enhancement bonus for 1 minute or until you hit another target. The pdf also offers two staff properties, a new ring and, really neat, a scaling amulet, the amulet of primal protection. The pdf closes with salient advice for the players.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally good at tackling the complexities herein, but particularly the latter is significantly weaker than usual for the series, sometimes to the point where it impacted rules integrity and how easily the material can be understood. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf offers a blend of new and stock artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Gibson has penned a rather cool supplement here, and he has managed to do several neat things with the class options and tricks within. That being said, the formatting and minor inconsistencies do crop up over the course of the book, to the point where I genuinely believe that this could have used another editing take. That being said, this should still be considered to be a must have option for many groups, as it offers potent options for defense in a game that is geared too much towards offense. The material herein allows you to create some neat combos and realize complex that are hard to pull off. All in all, a good expansion for Spheres of Power – not as mind-blowing and precise as the chronomancer’s book, for example, but well worth 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Abjurer's Handbook
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