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Southlands Campaign Setting
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2018 16:22:50

Southlands is massive. It's "face" is made out of two well-known tropes, both in a unique "Midgard" version - Arabian Nights and Pharaonic Egypt. These are the places an explorer from the north are likely to encounter first, and they are reasonably familiar to most gamers - except that these takes are special, not just the standard rehashed. Further south are even more exotic places, likely less well known to most gamers - jungle and desert lands. Each country is detailed as a homeland, there are rules for Traits and sometimes whole races typical to the origin. The feel of these places is more sword-and-sorcery than medieval romance. Few places are good or bad, it is very much a patchwork of greys.

On one hand, this is the GM's secret world book detailing new and exotic places. On the other hand, it is the player's handbook for a new continent, with loads and loads of new character opportunities. And perhaps this is the problem with the book; it doesn't quite know who it is for.

This review is based on the PDF from the kickstarter; I've not seen the physical book yer, but it looks like it will be gorgeous. Layout is open with the right amount of space, art is gorgeous, and the maps look wonderful. It feels like the PDF format doesn't quite do them justice.

Edit: I now have the physical book and... the PDF was actually more impressive. In the PDF I can zoom in on the art and maps to see detail that gets lost in the print version. Still, the print book is gorgeous, and a good piece to casually put on your table to impress guests with - even non-gamer friends.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/04/2018 04:01:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The PFRPG-version of the massive Demon Cults & Secret Societies book clocks in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2/3rds of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 209 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so I’ll actually start the review of this book by covering the final chapter first – in it, we discuss the antipaladin class in a way that is actually helpful – we begin with a brief summary of how to handle the fall from being a paladin to becoming an anitpaladin – as the book astutely observes, the personality structure of the paladin is, paradoxically, closer to its evil mirror than e.g. a regular or more moderate foot soldier would be to becoming a champion of darkness. This goes two ways, though, and similarly, an antipaladin’s road to redemption, though significantly less often depicted in gaming (in fact, I couldn’t name one example at the top of my hat), is definitely one that deserves consideration. We also discuss perhaps one of the most underutilized class features EVER, namely plague bringer. While theoretically interesting and wide open, the lack of clarification of how disease vectors spread has left this ability somewhat hamstrung in the eyes of many players and GMs, also courtesy of the general design and rules-paradigms of PFRPG. As such, this section provides some clarification for spreading pestilence without slowing the game unduly. The pdf also provides an array of new antipaladin cruelties. These include scaling bleed damage, dropping anything carried in the hands or spellcasting hampering…and, e.g., forgetting the last round. At higher levels, we get halted fast healing/regeneration, temporarily phasing out of existence or losing ALL energy resistance and DR, all SR, being temporarily petrified…or, at 18th level, dying if the target has less than 100 hp. There are some problems here, namely the clear codification of offense-options. The spellcasting hampering option, for example, is flavor-wise clearly a pain effect, but is not classified as such. The kill-if-below-100-hp cruelty should definitely be a death effect and as such, preventable. Petrification should be classified as a transmutation effect…you get the idea. It’s not that the cruelties are bad, it’s just that their interactions with defensive tricks RAW bypass immunities and defenses they should not bypass.

The pdf also contains a total of 8 different antipaladin archetypes: The Bloodwarg replaces spellcasting and the derived ability to use spell-trigger and spell-completion items, with wild shape. Fury knights follow the same design-paradigm, but get rage at -3 class levels instead. The Deathbolt Master replaces touch of corruption with a 30 ft.-range ranged touch attack that may deal damage or heal undead, but pays for this flexibility with decreased damage – only 1 per class level. The goremaster does not add Cha-mod to atk when smiting, but instead inflicts + Cha-mod as bleed damage when smiting. They are locked into the new bleed damage-causing cruelty, and their channel energy is based on d4s instead, but also inflicts minor bleed damage. When casting a spell classified as Blood Magic, as per the Deep Magic book, they increase their CL by 2 and the DC by 1. At 8th level, targets within 10 ft. take +50% bleed damage; this excess bleed damage is gained as temporary hit points, replacing aura of despair.

Knights of hellfire are LE and replace fiendish boon with scaling, modified summon monster SPs, usable Cha-mod times per day. Thankfully, only one such effect may be in effect at any given time, preventing annoying battle-field flooding. Aura of despair is replaced with darkvision and poison immunity and 9th level’s cruelty is replaced with acid and cold resistance 5, fire resistance 10. 11th level yields perfect sight in any darkness and telepathy with a range of 100 ft., replacing aura of vengeance. 15th level provides immunity to fire as well as acid and cold resistance 10 and his attacks count as lawful and evil instead of the usual cruelty. 20th level provides a devil apotheosis. The knight of many eyes, in contrast, would be an antipaladin devoted to the squirming things from the dark tapestry. Instead of fiendish boon, we get a tentacle attack (alas, not codified re primary/secondary, requiring defaulting) and eyes that prevent flaking, darkvision as well as a scaling chance of ignoring critical hits and precision damage from sneak attacks. Minor complaint regarding formatting: Reference to armor special abilities have not been properly italicized in the abilities. Higher levels add grab to the tentacles and add more tentacles gained. The capstone, unsurprisingly, would be an aberration apotheosis. The third knight-based archetype is basically a palette-swapped knight of hellfire: The knight of the abyss is, design-paradigm-wise, akin to its infernal brethren, just replaces the minor, defensive abilities gained with ones that are more in line with a demonic leitmotif.

Finally, the plaguebearer gets Heal as a class skill, is locked into the plague cruelty at 3rd level and at 5th level, replaces fiendish boon with an upgrade to the disease DC as well as immediate onset, making it more immediately useful in combat. Instead of aura of despair, the archetype gains the new Corrupting Smite feat, which adds a free cruelty to the first attack that hits and is executed against a target of your smite, with a Fort-save DC based on class level and Cha to negate. 11th level replaces aura of vengeance with another new feat, namely Channeled Cruelty. This feat nets you the ability to channel at half damage, but add a cruelty to the effect, with successful saves negating the channel altogether. 14th level replaces aura of sin with a +2 insight bonus to atk and damage versus diseased targets and 17th level nets DR 5/good as well as a penalty to saves versus diseases for nearby targets. The capstone yields further DR-increase as well as the option to afflict targets of smite with all plagues; same goes for channel, but at no damage instead. I like the theme of this fellow, but considering the amount of creatures immune to disease, it would have made sense to have some option to at least temporarily negate that.

The chapter also contains 7 spells, which include asking a spirit questions by delaying its departure from this plane, a charm person variant that only works against those affected by a fear-condition (including a mass version) and there is a death knell variant that also conjures forth a cockroach swarm. One spell sickens a target that is wounded sans save (and, as a litany spell, it can’t be combo’d with other litanies). There is a spell that temporarily lets a target detect as evil for the purposes of spell interactions sans forcing alignment changes and there is a better coup-de-grace type of spell that nets temporary access to 1 spell or SP with a casting time of 1 standard action or less of the deceased target. Personally, I think the spell should have a cap on the HD of the creature it can affect.

The pdf also provides an array of feats for antipaladins beyond those I already covered above. One nets the option to make a touch of corruption-based short-range aura, one imposes a -4 penalty to saves versus the antipaladin’s spells and SPs to targets of smite. Interesting: Use two uses of smite good to smite an evil target as though good – makes sense to me. High level double-cruelty inflicting also makes sense, And there is an option to expand auras as well as a +2 DC increase for cruelties. Now, Fast Corruption is a feat I would not allow in all my games, as it allows the antipaladin to execute touch of corruption as a regular attack, which makes the class feature behave rather nova-like. I liked the Misleading Aura, which fortifies against detection. Two feats allow for the combination of touch of corruption and cruelties with unarmed attacks. Finally, there would be Personal Sacrifice, which is pretty potent, as it allows you to accept 2 points of burn to use smite good/evil sans expending a daily use. Similarly, touch of corruption or lay on hands may be sued for 1 point of burn sans expending a use. The feat does have a problem regarding its rules-interactions: The kineticist’s burn is governed by CHARACTER level, whereas the feat erroneously references CLASS level. That should definitely be character level, otherwise the whole burn engine becomes wonky.

The chapter closes with a CR 7 and CR 14 sample antipaladin.

Okay, so this concludes the antipaladin appendix of sorts, so let’s dive into the respective cults, shall we? Now, organization-wise, each of the cults comes with detailed write-up of its basics regarding organization and goals and the respective leaders are depicted as fully realized NPCs, often with gorgeous artworks. Beyond the named NPC movers and shakers, each of the cult-write ups also features stats for rank and file members of the cult, monsters, if applicable, as well as supplemental material, which depends on the respective cult, but generally represents crunchy bits. Now, as these rules-relevant supplemental materials are clearly intended for use by the antagonists of the PCs, I will judge them as such. Now, if I were to just list each individual statblock herein, we’d bloat this review beyond any immediate usefulness, so I’m taking the broad view here. It should also be mentioned that each of the cults comes with a suggested campaign/adventure-sequence outline of sorts, allowing you to plan the involvement of the cult as appropriate to the APL of your party. These outlines deserve special mention, as they’re often rather creative and interesting – and they make the GM’s job easier, so kudos there. It should be noted, though, that these are OUTLINES, not fully realized encounters or campaign plots – they are a suggested skeleton of a plot that you can weave into your game.

It should be noted that none of the cults make use of the fame/reputation-mechanics, as they are intended as antagonistic organizations and not as cults for the PCs to join. Fans of Midgard will appreciate the tie-ins of lore for the respective cult entries to the lore of the evocative setting, and, indeed, while the cults can be used in pretty much every setting, they benefit greatly from the tie-ins with Kobold Press’ cult fantasy setting. That being said, some of the cults with deeper ties to Midgard instead come with notes to use them in other settings, which will be appreciated by quite a few readers.

All right, got that? As the following pertains some SPOILERS regarding the nature of the cults in question and their themes and arsenals, I strongly suggest that players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The first cult would be a classic of sorts for many gamers – the Black Goat’s Flock is classic Cthulhiana, depicting a cult of good ole’ Shub-Niggurath, as seen through the lens of Midgard’s brand of dark fantasy: the cult attempts to reassemble the Veridian Codex, an attempt codified, rules-wise, the fully statted spellbook of one of the movers and shakers of the cult. The cult comes with 3 spells, the first of which would be the curse of formless shape, which makes you amorphous and socially not acceptable, hampers movement and prevents holding items etc.; Morphic flux is a high-level buff that fortifies against crits etc., grants all-around vision and nets you a slam. Selfish wish is basically an 8th level, evil wish variant that is twisted – something that many a campaign does with regular wishes, but oh well. The cult also gets two decent, if unspectacular items – a defensive cloak and a gore-granting mask. The new monster would be the CR 12 flame-scourged scion, basically a fire-scorched dark young. The most interesting component here would be two leaders, an androgynous fey from beyond the stars and a super-potent goblin cleric.

The next cult would be the first of an array of cults that depict a heresy of an established religion, which may require a bit more fiddling when using non-Midgardian campaigns, here a heresy of the god Baal-Hotep, deity of dragons and fire. The burning rune cult is led by one Ust-Ziyad, a potent CR 13 oracle and makes use of Midgard’s rune magic. The most interesting components here would be the Altar Flame Golem at CR 12, the new brenna-Þurfa rune and the ability to create timed scorch-bombs, which allows the GM to create some nasty death traps and evoke, through a fantasy lens, some modern anxieties pertaining our own safety in an age of globalized threats and urban guerilla warfare.

While we’re on the topic of heresies, let’s talk about the other cults that can be roughly summarized under this moniker. The first of these would be the Night Cauldron of Chernobog, which, when summed up, can be thought of as radical adherents to darkness, with the ultimate goal of bringing the eternal night. With winter hags and a potent alchemist at the top of their food chain, their methodology does differ significantly from e.g. the burning rune – something that also holds true for the third heresy in the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The rank and file members also deserve special mention here, making interesting use of the vast array of NPC-races. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we get a poison that causes both blindness and Wisdom damage and a spell that “…if it gained the phantasmal creature template (Midgard Bestiary) at 50% real.” Yeah, that’s not how this is usually worded; flipping up my Midgard Bestiary, the reason becomes pretty apparent: The template distinguished between different degrees of reality. Still, the spell proceeds to talk about “effectiveness” and non-rules-language entities, instead of concisely summing up the benefits of the template. RAW, this is not functional and really wonky to implement. The new items include a darkness-causing lamp (Seen those before. Often.) and an interesting dirk that renders the target incorporeal as well as potentially staggered, which can be rather intriguing. The write-up also includes a minor artifact, the bituminous orb, which fortifies against positive energy, and which may cause enervation as well as a 1/day Str-draining buff to CMB and CMD. Once more, the rules-language here isn’t perfect. On the plus-side, we do get a cool occult ritual that represents the followers undergoing a transformation into beings more aligned with shadow. I really liked that one. The CR 6 contaminant shade is a more devious take on the shadow, which I found myself enjoying.

The third heresy of sorts would be one that should be familiar to fans of Midgard in PFRPG – Selket’s Sting. Now, the thing that sets this heresy apart from the previous ones would be pretty obvious – the cult is presented in a manner, where the PCs may actually be servants of the cult. It adheres to a quasi-Egyptian leitmotif and represents basically a religious secret police that executes those that violate Selket’s divine mandate. Now, I have already covered this cult in my review of the Demon Cults-series installment, originally released as stand-alone pdfs to supplement the massive Southlands book.

In fact, this book, apart from its new content, acts as a compilation of sorts for the previously-released PFRPG-Demon Cults-series. This means that the Sword & Sorcery-themed cabal dubbed the Emerald Order of Thoth-Hermes, the somewhat generic order of antipaladins called Doomspeakers and the cool, highly uncommon crime-syndicate Hand of Nakresh can be found herein. Similarly, the Servants of the White Ape under the command of their potent summoner overlord can be found within the pages of this tome. Since I have already covered all of these in excruciating detail, I’ll just point you towards these reviews instead for the details – just click on the “Demon Cults”-tag on my homepage, and you’ll have them all conveniently listed.

There are quite a few new cults beyond these, those – for example, the Chosen of the Demon Bat, who represent, at least at first glance, the servants of Camazotz. Led by a derro alchemist and a masked oracle, with an advanced fungal cave giant, the cult’s elite is interesting and we even get a unique CR 18 demon bat, Vespertillo – once a high-ranking servant of Camazotz, the mighty demon has been exiled to the material plane and an unholy alliance with the mi-go! This makes the overall feeling of the cult rather distinct. The cult gets a decent, if somewhat unremarkable feat that nets a bonus to concentration when injured while casting. We also get a new hazard with fungal pods and a variant form of strange spellbook with the ebon shards. The cult also gets a thematically-fitting staff as well as magical lenses and there is a new swarm, a poison that renders you unconscious and a spell that calls forth bats or birds to act as spies. Two vehicles are included, the fungal flyer and skittering skiff. I liked this bait and switch approach to a cult that starts as straightforward and adds a complicating twist.

The Creed of All Flesh is tied to the concept of the intelligent darakhul ghouls in Midgard and their subterranean empire…and those mrtals that crave the flesh of their brethren. Considering how cool the notion of darakhul is in the first place, it should come as no surprise that I consider the darakhul-themed cult as depicted here and interesting. On a mechanical perspective, I liked the notion of a DR that can either be bypassed by magic or while in daylight, and the options previously presented in Midgard supplements that are copiously used in the NPC builds help to set them apart. The execution of the respective campaign-sketch is also pretty damn creepy, so yeah, theme-wise, a resounding success as far as cannibal cults are concerned. With magical broths and jerky, a mace-like rod that can attempt to swallow and bite creatures and a nasty tome, these are nice. I am particularly partial to the lavishly-illustrated Greater Festrog mount-undead. One of my favorites herein.

Speaking of the living dead: As you all probably know by now, the Red Goddess Marena would be one of my favorite deities in Midgard; in the vampire-rules principalities of Morgau and Doresh, her worship is open and serves to justify the vampiric rulers; in essence, they are a sort of anti-Catholic-church, one based on a doctrine of tainted life and suffering as a promise for an elevated existence beyond the shroud of death, though here, it is not in some afterlife, but as a reborn vampire. Combine that with elitism and the notion that the deity has elevated the worthy and we arrive at a nice blend of the, by today’s standards, concept of divine providence for rulers and vampiric themes. Marena also has covert agents, the blood sisters, who act beyond the confines of the vampire-ruled home-bases of the cult. (As an aside: Evil blood-magic nuns are just badass…and with the stats herein, you can use Kobold Press’ “Blood Vaults of Sister Alkava” with minimal fuss – the stats of the sister are included herein, alongside a potent vampire mesmerist, the stats for the church’s Grand Inquisitor…and yes, before you ask: Marena is also a goddess of lust. Her servants thus control brothels…The cult also includes two new blood magic spells to add to the arsenal presented by Deep Magic, the sanguine spear, a spear of frozen blood drawn from the dead, and the stigmata of the red goddess, which causes bleed to the caster, but also buffs. The incantation bloodline strike is amazing: Capture a target of a bloodline and make it thus a conduit to target other members of it. Classic and well executed. An dagger to exsanguinate and a magic scourge complement the supplemental section. The monsters associated with the cult include the blood familiar and blood zombie templates as well as the blood pudding creature.

Whereas the blood sisters are basically an organized orthodoxy that is, theme-wise, in line with organized religions, the sanguine path, the second blood-themed cult within, takes a wholly different route: While the connotations of sexuality and hedonism as well as blood consumption remain, that is mostly due to our cultural associations with blood and sexuality, which are inextricably linked. Anyways, the cult is focused more on a theme of hedonism and oracular power, with sacred prostitutes generating a mythological resonance with e.g. the cult of Ishtar, though such associations, ultimately, should not be taken as an indication that the cult is benevolent. It’s not. Leaders that contain vampires, red hags and blood hags should make that clear. There are two feats to supplement the cult, which are both highly specific and focused on enhancing blood-based divinations, which makes them less useful for PCs. The bloodwhisper cauldron is an artifact that provides some spells and which can 1/year generate a wish (not italicized in the book). Blood strike allows for the transfer of a spell or affliction to another member of the bloodline. The creatures include the Blood-bound template, which grants power, but at the price of withdrawal from the elixir that bestows these powers…

The final cult within this tome would be the weavers of truth, which may be the last cult herein, but certainly not the least: The cult is devoted to Pazuzu and basically acts as a magical think-tank of firebrands and misinformation, with deception-focused clerics, charlatans and the batlike echo demons making them a formidable cabal of adversaries that probably will need to be fought less with blades and more with roleplaying. This is in particular represented by the absolutely glorious Incantation of Lies Made Truth, which can make for an absolutely mind-boggling twist as an occult ritual. I also absolutely adore the carriage of whispers, a hybrid magic item/vehicle that allows a passenger to influence those it passes – which can make for an amazing showdown, in which the PCs turn from celebrated heroes to outcasts, as a whole city suddenly becomes ever more hostile, but this has VAST potential in my book.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal and rules-language level are very good, if not perfect: I noticed a couple of formal glitches, missed italicizations etc. as well as a few components where the rules-language could have been tighter. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf contains a ton of really amazing full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with some, but by far not all of the pieces. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

Jeff Lee, with additional design by Jeff Gomez and Mike Welham, delivers one massive book of interesting cults. While I do not consider all of the cults herein winners, particularly the doomspeakers and the Shub-Niggurath cult being somewhat less interesting than they should be, I found myself enjoying this book overall. In particular the Red Sisters and the Weavers of Truth make for some truly evocative and formidable adversaries, with the unique blend of the chosen of the demon bat coming in close behind them. I also found myself inspired by the cultists of the burning rune and my take on the old cults and new ones should by now be pretty apparent. In short: This is per se a very good book regarding its ideas and the plentiful statblocks for NPCs and monsters add further value for the GM. That being said, the rules-components beyond these left me less impressed. The antipaladin chapter, while okay, did not exactly wow me and the supplemental material stood out most when it focused on the story, rather than combat utility – the rituals and incantations are infinitely more interesting than the regular spells and items. In the mechanical aspect beyond NPCs/monsters, I’d consider this to be a 3.5 – 4-file, at best.

However, the book, as a whole, makes for a compelling reading experience, with a ton of truly cool storylines to scavenge and modify and something for pretty much all tastes inside. While not perfect, my final verdict will acknowledge the book’s intended focus and cool ideas and thus clock in at 4.5 stars, though I can’t round up from that verdict.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for PFRPG
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New Paths Compendium - Expanded Edition (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2018 04:29:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive, crunchy hardcover clocks in at 170 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 161 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue due to me receiving the limited edition print version of this book. My review is mainly based on this version, though I have also contacted the pdf to ascertain the functionality of that version. It was also requested as a priority review.

Now, first of all: This review is a HUGE monster, intended to help you ascertain for yourself the content.

Wait, didn’t I already review the New Paths Compendium? Well yeah, I did. I also covered all previously released installments of the New Paths-series released since then and analyzed them in depth. However, this book not only represents a sort of final version for them, it also contains new content. Plus, Pathfinder has changed, often quite significantly, since the release of the initial releases, so revisiting the material and analyzing how it holds up will be one of the goals here. Now, I cannot go into the really deep level of detail for a book of this size sans bloating the review beyond any usefulness – I will focus more on the big components, i.e. on the classes and supplemental material that make up the majority of the book.

All right, so we begin with no less than 12 different new base classes. The first of these that I’d like to cover would be an oldie-but-goldie, the spell-less ranger. The spell-less ranger gets full BAB, d10 HD, 6+Int skills per level, good Fort- and Ref-saves, up to 5 favored enemies, up to 4 favored terrains and additionally stealth attack which is a terrain/favored enemy-based, weaker variant of sneak attack that is gained at 2nd level and scales up to +5d6, increasing by +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter. Hunter’s bond with allies or companion (from a limited list) is chosen at 4th level. Staples like track and wild empathy at 1st, combat style at 2nd level and endurance at 3rd level are provided. 5th level and 12th increase base movement rate in favored terrain by +10 ft. each and 7th level nets woodland stride, 8th swift tracker and 9th evasion. Quarry is gained at 11th level, camouflage at 12th, improved evasion at 16th, hide in plain sight at 17th and improved quarry at 19th level. The capstone nets full-speed following tracks as well as a standard action attack versus favored enemies that prompts a save-or-die. The death strike ability component may be used 1/day versus each favored enemy, but not more than once per target – this is important, since there may be overlaps. The class gets some unique tricks as well, with 3rd level providing the means to use Heal for expanded, medicinal purposes, and the class gets further customization tricks in the guise of ranger talents at 4th, 7th, 9th,11th,13th, 16th and 19th level. These include low-light vision, combat feats, treating difficult terrain in favored terrain as normal, +4 to confirmation rolls to confirm critical hits, ignoring concealment with a standard action ranged attack or gaining an additional animal companion. These are potent, but they have to be to make up for the loss of spellcasting.

The spell-less ranger features 3 archetypes: Companion-bound rangers do not suffer from the restrictions regarding companion choices of the regular spell-less ranger. However, to make up for this, the spell-less ranger only gets a single favored terrain, which limits the usefulness of some of the more potent talents and stealth attack. To avoid cheesing the better companion selection, the talent that nets an additional companion is expressively prohibited for the archetype. Instead of woodland stride, we get feat-based companion-enhancement and quarry and its improved version is modified to apply to the companion as well. Empathic link is gained at 12th level, The dual-style ranger only gets a single favored enemy, but gains, surprise, two styles. The shadow stalker replaces favored enemy with studied target and may combine it with stealth attack as an immediate action. Instead of wild empathy, we get poison use. 7th level replaces woodland stride with the option to study a target as a full-round action and then follow the studying with a potentially deadly attack, assassin style. This is very potent and may not be for all campaigns, as it makes the game a bit grittier and works well in a more savage/brutal type of fantasy. The reason why I’m not up in arms regarding this ability is that is it kept in check by only being able to target a given character 1/day – after that, it’s 24 hours immune to the attack. As an aside: This archetype makes for a really good solo-play class.

One of the other classes presented herein is very much akin to the spell-less ranger, to the point where it can be considered to be a variant class of it. This would be the skin-changer. The skin-changer begins play with minor animal shape, which duplicates beast shape I, usable as a standard action and lasting 10 minutes per class level. This upgrades at 4th level and unlocks new size categories at 6th and 8th level, with 6th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding an additional daily use. 10th level unlocks healing whenever forms are changed, which similarly scales, and 12th level nets DR in animal form. Changing action economy also improves. 3rd level nets speak with animals at-will in favored terrain, and 2nd level nets animal combat, which translates to bonuses for natural attacks and damage, as well as initiative in animal form. These improve, and over the levels, the natural attacks also count as progressively better for bypassing DR, with 8th level yielding Critical Focus, 11th Bleeding Critical and 14th Improved Natural Attack. The class gets 4 favored terrains and stealth attack is gained at 6th level at +2d6, improving by +1d6 for every 4 levels thereafter. No hunter’s bond is gained and 15th level nets +3 natural armor in animal form, which increases by +2 at 17th and 19th level. It should also be noted that the capstone’s death attack is not tied to creature type, but is contingent on favored terrain and comes with a hard cap of 3/day. This is perhaps the easiest to use shifter-style class I know – it has merit in that regard. However, at the same time, I think that Interjection Games’ Animist and Everyman Gaming’s Shapechanger (from Paranormal Adventures) are the more interesting classes, though both require a higher degree of system mastery. If you’re looking for a no-frills shapechanger, though, then this fellow still holds up.

The spell-less ranger was a resounding success when it was first released, and it remains so to this date – the class is fun, straightforward and easy to grasp, and the archetypes and their exchanges are meaningful engine-tweaks. The class is fun and well-made and remains a true classic.

While we’re on the subject of nature-themed classes, let us talk about the shaman, now renamed spirit shaman following the release of Paizo’s ACG-class. The shaman is basically the oracle-like spontaneous caster variant to the prepared druid. The spirit shaman offers d8 HD, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves, proficiency in light and medium armor and shields, but only non-metal ones and full spontaneous spellcasting from the druid's spell-list, governed by Charisma. The usual alignment-opposite restrictions apply and the class begins play with wild empathy as well as +2 to Knowledge (nature) and Heal. 2nd level nets woodland stride and 4th level provides wild shape, with elemental and plant shapes added at higher levels.

Important and more fun that one gets first: 3rd level nets shaman’s touch, which may be used Cha-mod times per day and duplicates scaling healing spells/dealing damage to the undead. 9th level provides spirit dance, which is basically a 3-round means to ritualistically modify spellcasting to improve the spellcasting for higher DCs and later, free metamagic addition (with a cap to prevent abuse) and better penetration of SR. 13th level nets class level rounds in spirit form, as per ethereal jaunt, with 17th level astral projection may be undertaken, with the added benefit of potentially providing legend lore benefits, representing a vision quest of sorts. The spirit shaman also gets totem spells depending on totem chosen. The spirit shaman also chooses a totem secret at 1st level, 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the class to e.g. spend time doing haruspex to see into the future,, become invisible, conjure forth protective spirits, etc. Nice: These scale and improve and include a super-potent trance that nets a massive +20 bonus to an Intelligence-based skill check. Seeing the incorporeal, better damage versus the incorporeal, etc. – these are nice. Now I am not a big fan of ability score substitution, so using Charisma instead or Dexterity for AC, Reflex-saves, etc. isn’t something I’m too keen on. Then again, that is my own bias and not something I’d penalize the pdf for. The capstone, however, is slightly problematic, as it renders the character functionally immortal in a way: After 7 days, the character returns from life as per true resurrection. The spirit shaman also gets infinite spirit dance uses.

Now, the class also gets a spirit guide, which is basically a modified form of animal companion that can deliver touch spells, act to deliver touch spells and become incorporeal at higher levels. The pdf contains 17 different sample companion stats, all with totem spells noted. Archetype-wise, we get 3 archetypes, the first of which would be the elemental shaman, who gets an elemental companion, which is clearly intended to replace the regular spirit guide, but doesn’t say so in a little oversight. Instead of woodland step, we get Elemental Spell as a bonus feat as well as a +2 increase to the DC of spells with element-related descriptors. Wild shape is relegated to 6th level and focus on elemental body improvement. The archetype sports companion stats, complete with totem spells, for the 4 classic elements. The second archetype is the primal shifter, who gets diminished spellcasting, but heals a bit of damage whenever the primal shifter changes form via his wild shape. The dance-mechanic is similarly changed, instead focusing on enhancement of physical and combat capacities. The third archetype is the witch doctor, who gets healing-themed bonus spells. These fellows replace wild empathy with spirit sense and replace woodland stride with Brew Potion. The archetype can use shaman’s touch class level + Cha-mod times per day, but at the cost of diminished wild shape capacity.

The spirit shaman is another class that holds up really well to this date – the spontaneous, very druid-y spirit guide/spirit shaman-trope is well-executed here and has seen quite a lot of use in my games. The class is easy to grasp, tight and neat. As a nitpick, I noticed one instance where the original “shaman”, sans the “spirit” remained, but this is an utter non-entity of an oversight here, as the context is readily evident.

While we’re on the subject of spirits and related mysticism, let’s talk a bit about a relatively recent addition to the product-line, let’s talk about the White Necromancer. White Necromancers get d6 HD, must be non-evil, get 2 + Int skills per level, as well as proficiency with simple weapons (no armors and shields - arcane spell failure), 1/2 BAB-progression and good Will-saves as well as full spellcasting of up to 9th level. Spellcasting is handled via Charisma and thus is spontaneous. The class gets Eschew Materials at first level and surprisingly, is not banned from casting evil necromancy spells, but the respective spells use two slots when being cast - interesting balancing there! This restriction is btw. removed at 4th level.

They also add their Wisdom-modifier to all Knowledge (religion)-checks pertaining death and the undead, burial rites etc. and receive +1/2 class level (minimum +1) to Heal skill checks. As low-level signature ability at 1st level, they also get the option to Rebuke Death as a standard action, which translates to healing living creatures by touching them for 1d4+1 per two class levels, usable 3+Cha-mod times per day. Nice...at least at low levels. At higher levels, a more rapid scaling of healing would very much be in order to make the class retain viability as a healer.

At 3rd level, the class may also Turn Undead 1 + Charisma-modifier times per day and the class is treated as having channel energy, but ONLY for the purpose of turning the undead. Adding on further channeling feats is also mentioned and covered regarding ability-interactions. The 4th level provides the ability that lends the class its name – white necromancy. Undead creation-spells cast by the White Necromancer no longer count as evil and the resulting undead are free-willed, if intelligent, and of the same alignment as the White Necromancer - and as a crucial difference to regular undead: They are not slaves. To make them perform a task (even mindless ones), requires a Diplomacy-check on behalf of the White Necromancer - and while I can hear some groans, I do think that's valid - interrupting someone's eternal rest should be no laughing matter and require some finesse. Intelligent undead have a friendly disposition towards the white necromancer, and as such checks to request tasks receive a +2 bonus.

At 5th level, the class gets perhaps one of its most iconic abilities with Life Bond, a supernatural ability. As a standard action, the White Necromancer may create a bond between her and one living creature within 90 ft. Each round at the White Necromancer's turn, each bonded creature (of which the White Necromancer may have up to her class level active at once) is healed by 5 hp if they've been damaged for more than 5 hp below their maximum hp, while the white necromancer siphons her life into them. Now this ability seems weaker on paper than in play - the tactical options it offers are significant and beyond that, the ability mirrors well the duality between life and death as well as lending itself to great potential for heroic sacrifice: We've all been there, the villain is almost vanquished, but it becomes readily apparent that she/he/it will take on PC down with it - with a solemn smile, the white necromancer can now make the conscious decision to give his/her life to give the PCs just that edge to survive. Any number of bonds may be ended as an immediate action, btw. This component of the engine is further enhanced at 7th level, with necrotic transfer, when the white necromancer may sacrifice up to 10+Constitution-score (NOT modifier!!)+class level hit points and transfer them via touch to an ally.

7th level nets speak with the dead for class level rounds, with 9th level and every 2 levels thereafter yielding a cumulative -2 penalty to resist the ability. 9th level also provides lifesight 10 ft., which increases by 10 ft. at 13th level and every 4 levels thereafter. At 11th level, damage-dealing skeletal arms erupting from the ground make for a more macabre form of attack in a 20 ft.-burst, with scaling, properly codified damage and a Ref-save to halve. An additional daily use is gained every 4 levels after 11th. 13th level provides the option to turn incorporeal for a limited number of rounds each day, and at 15th level, the class adds +1/2 class level as a morale bonus to all saves vs. death effects and gets a save, even when such an effect would usually not provide for one. It would be nice to know the DC for non-spell-based death effects, though. Starting at 17th level, the white necromancer can temporarily emit an aura that nets immunity to death effects, energy drain, negative levels, etc. The capstone, unsurprisingly, offers immunity to death effects. The character can also be no longer reduced below 1 by ability score damage/drain and may 1/day cast power word kill, affecting up to 150 hp worth of targets. The white necromancer may also nice per round cast bleed/stabilize as a free action. It should be noted that, RAW, the white necromancer has a unique spell-list, though expanding it should prove o be relatively simple.

As before, we get three archetypes: The grave warden replaces the low level healing touch with 3 + Charisma modifier sanctify corpse, with 10th level allowing the archetype to make it permanent 1/day. Instead of the Turn Undead-angle, the grave warden gets channel energy, but only to damage undead. At 20th level, this ignores channel resistance, if any. Life bond is replaces with detect evil, detect undead, hide from undead, which may be cast a total of 3 + Charisma modifier times per day as a SP. The other transference ability nets a scaling skill boost versus the undead. At 17th level, we get a potent defense-buff aura that can also be empowered by channel energy uses to destroy undead that dare enter it, thankfully with a caveat that makes undead with twice as many HD as the grave warden immune. In essence, this one loses the healer angle and instead focuses on undead destruction. The second one would be the grave bound, who loses the high level protective aura in favor of cold resistance 10, DR 5/- and +4 t saves vs. spells and SPs cast by undead. Unintelligent undead also no longer notice the grave bound unless attacked by him. Life bond, a pretty important ability, is exchanged for an undead companion. These companions share the same basic advancement table and increase in power at 8th, 12th, 16th and 20th level, gaining new abilities depending on their type. There is a complaint here regarding their base stats, though: The zombie, for example, has AC 16, with only +2 natural noted in the brackets. The ghost’s starting AC is 17, but ability-score-wise, should be 15. Some of the ACs note the constituent bonuses, some don’t. This is an inconsistency that could have been caught here. 6 different companions are provided.

Finally, the necrotic healer get better healing touch and a couple of bonus spells and may take negative conditions of others, taken from a fixed list, to suffer for them – RAW, the condition must be suffered for 1d3 rounds or its original duration, whichever is lower. I have an issue with this, as it can be applied to permanent conditions. Instead of communion with the dead, we get enhanced healing (as if Empower Spell’d). 9th level allows for the absorption of wounds/effects that allies suffer from as an immediate action (limited daily uses) and the high-level protective aura is enhanced by lasting + Charisma modifier rounds.

I really like the white necromancer. I still do. At the same time, I like it less than I should. I don’t know, I find myself wishing it had a couple more unique tricks up its sleeve, a bloodline-like component or something like that with different paths for final death, retribution, etc. With the focus on life/self-sacrifice/etc., a kind of buffer/shield-engine would have made sense as well – if you roll HD and roll badly, you’ll be in pain – I definitely suggest contemplating Constitution as highest or second highest ability score. Still, it’s a good class and I stand by my original verdict of 4.5 stars for it, even though grave-bound clearly is the strongest archetype, losing not enough for the power the companion grants. Flavor-wise, the martyr-style scholar of death is nice and easy to grasp and play.

While we’re on the subject of full casters and the like, let’s move on to the priest-class. The priest class receives d6 HD, 4 + Int skills per level and gets 1/2 BAB-progression, good Will-saves and proficiency in only simple weapons. The class begins play with an aura as per the cleric's default and bonus languages include the respective languages of the alignment-related outer planes. Similarly, the restrictions we know regarding opposed alignment spells still apply. A priest draws her spells from the cleric spell list and must prepare them in advance; however, they are not expended upon being cast, instead consuming a spell slot available. The governing spellcasting attribute for the priest would be Wisdom and the priest begins with 1 + 1 spells of first level prepared, +4 orisons. Obviously, as a full caster, she progresses to learn up to 9th level spells and the maximum spells per day per spell level clock in at unmodified 4, with prepared spells capping at 4 + 2 per spell level.

The plusses in the spells known list refer obviously to the domain spells; a priest selects a total of 3 domains from her deity and she gains all of the domain powers and bonus spells of the chosen domains. The priest's spellcasting is also tied to her holy symbol, with which she shares a sacred bond - much like an arcane bond, casting without it becomes problematic, but here's the kicker: The priest may use the holy (or unholy) symbol to cast single-target (excluding mass/communal versions) cure or inflict spells as though they had a range of close instead of touch - which is a huge boon. Back in 3.X literally EVERY cleric in my games had the feat to do just that.

The priest also receives access to channel energy at 2nd level, improving every 3 levels after 2nd by +1d6, though the ability is governed by Wisdom for the class, making it less multiple-attribute-dependent (MAD). 7th level optionally decreases activation action to a move action, at 14th level it may even be executed as a swift action. Since the ability has no per-round cap, that makes channel pretty nova-like and can allow the priest to channel thrice in a round. Yeah, that is problematic and was one of the aspects of the class that should have been addressed for the compilation. 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter net a bonus feat from a nice selection of mostly channel-themed feats, and, as a capstone, the class becomes immune to death attacks and negative levels and may never be reduced below 1 in any ability score. Additionally, the priest remains alive until twice negative Constitution score in hit points is exceeded.

The customization options of the class include so-called divine gifts, which can be used 1/day as a swift action. 10 such gifts are provided and all are available - you don't have to choose. The priest may use the ability, as mentioned, 1/day, but may use it +1/day for every 3 levels beyond first. If a gift enhances a spell, it may only enhance cleric spells and only one gift may enhance each spell. The gifts include CL and DC-increases of the next spell cast, invisibility (that scales up to greater invisibility at 7th level), metamagic enhancements, immediate action rerolls, wings at 5th level, Ac and save bonuses with DR and SR or bursts of raw, damaging divine power...or, well, spell-swapping.

The book provides two archetypes for the priest, the first of which would be the chosen of nature, who gets a modified class skill list and draws spells from the druid spell list. Instead of channel energy, we get nature shape, a variant of wild shape at 2nd level. The ability counts as wild shape for ability interactions and comes with Natural Spell baked into it, but only duplicates increasingly more potent beast shape spells, capping at VI, and unlocks plant shapes at half the value of the beast shapes –i.e. upon unlocking beast shape IV, plant shape II is unlocked. Daily uses increase on a total basis. 6th level’s bonus feat is replaced with constant speak with animals/plants, and the bonus feat of 12th level instead allows the archetype to optionally activate nature shape as a move action. The bonus feat at 18th level is replaced with 1/day foresight, only usable in a natural environment. The second archetype would be the guarded priest, who gets a slightly modified spell list to account for the fact that divine gift is replaced with an unchained summoner’s eidolon that must take the agathion, angel, archon, azata, daemon, demon or devil base evolution. The eidolon may also choose a new 3-point evolution, namely smite evil or good, depending on alignment, using its own Charisma and HD to calculate effects. The evolution may be taken more often to grant additional daily uses.

The priest was and still is a class I always wanted – a full, divine caster that is not a front-line combatant. The issue here is that the cleric already is a full caster, which means that the priest needed something to excel beyond the capabilities of the cleric. The divine gift angle of a deed-like engine is a good idea, though I did wish the class had employed a slightly more rewarding engine here. With the advent of influence mechanics, it would have been nice to add such an angle. The nova-issue hasn’t been addressed, which may necessitate some sort of gentlemen’s agreement. Ultimately, I like the class, but I want to like the concept more than I actually enjoy the execution.

While we’re on the subject of full casters and executions that I don’t like as much as I want to: The theurge is back. The class gets d6 HD, 2 +Intelligence modifier skills per level, 1/2 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, good Will-saves and prepared spellcasting -arcane spellcasting governed via Intelligence and divine spellcasting governed via Wisdom - both from first level on. A Theurge gets a spellbook and a prayerbook and the latter requires the divine spells to be learned similarly to how arcane spells behave - from scrolls or levels. The superior spell selection of the original iteration has been reigned in somewhat. The class gets Scribe Scroll as a 2nd level bonus feat and 3rd level allows the class to reroll any concentration check, taking the better result.

While first, slots are distinct from another, starting at fourth level, arcane spells may be prepared via divine slots and vice versa, but at a penalty level-wise to the spell prepared, i.e. second level spells need to be prepared as third level spells etc. This may not be done if a spell exists on both spell lists, preventing cheesing, and the ability clarifies the maximum spell level that may be thus prepared via the other casting tradition’s slots. The capstone gets rid of this limitation regarding the spell slot higher (but not the maximum level!) and allows the theurge to add a metamagic feat for free to a spell cast, up to either Wisdom or Intelligence modifier times per day, whichever is higher.

The capstone gets rid of this minor penalty, though. At 5th level, theurges may cast two spells with the same casting time at once - one arcane, one divine, with targets affected by both suffering from a -4 penalty to saves, with the theurge getting +4 to CL-checks to overcome SR with them. This may be used 1/day, +1/day per 6 levels after that.

They also learn to cast a select limited array of spells as SPs, starting at 6th level, where one 1st level spell may be chosen. 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yield another such SP, with the maximum spell level that may be chosen increasing by +1 as well each time. 8th and 14th level net a bonus feat chosen from a limited list and 9th level nets the wand adept ability, using his own ability scores (Intelligence and Wisdom) to calculate save DCs when using wands containing spells from his spell lists. At 14th level, the higher caster level of theurge or wand is used. To nitpick here, the save-DC-increase should only apply to spells known. The theurge gets no archetypes.

I still don’t like the theurge, even though it has gotten rid of one of its worst offenders regarding spell-list poaching or non-full-casters. A full caster that can cast both divine and arcane spells is a cool concept, and yes, the amount of spells cast (which never increases above 2 arcane + 2 divine per level (+ bonus spells via Intelligence + Wisdom) is severely restricted. This means every spell needs to count. I get that the general restriction on spells-slots is there for balance. I'm not sold, though, that it'll make for a particularly fun playing experience.

Sure, once you hit out your crême de la crême spells, you'll own the game...but what about the other time? Unlike most other classes, the theurge has nothing but spellcasting and will thus resort to wands and staves and scrolls. You’ll be carrying a buttload of spells-in-a-can around since you don't have enough spells for proper utility tricks, proper buffing, proper debuffing - essentially the class is geared very much toward being flashy super-spell nova-heavy. Which you may like, but personally, I think the class would have been more rewarding with more casts per day and a more restricted balancing via spells known. So, while the class has gotten rid of its rules-wise problematic aspects, its basic design premise remains: It's a glass pumpgun (also re buffs/debuffs) - two devastating shots and empty. Personally, I'd be not keen as a DM to structure my adventures to "empty" the super spell-arsenal of the theurge or to play one, trying to keep my super-ammo for the big bad boss.

Now all of this sounds negative, but the class per se is not a bad design, it does have its niche in which it will excel, and I’m pretty sure that some folks out there will like how this one plays. While I'm not sold on the place in a regular adventuring group, I do think the theurge will work superbly in 1 on 1-adventures and small groups - especially if the DM modifies adventures accordingly, groups starved for players get essentially divine and arcane in one class without resorting to gestalting - so yeah, the theurge has its niche, though I maintain it could have been more versatile in its use. With the advent of Occult Adventures, an elegant way to balance the two spell lists would have, for example, been a kind of Burn-like engine that activates when switching from divine to arcane and back…or as a general resource to account for more spell slots. So yeah, over all, an improvement over the previous iteration of the class, but still not a class I enjoy or would allow in my game.

Since we’re already neck-deep in casting classes, let’s take a look at one niche that the book devotes two whole classes to: The blaster. The blaster is a popular concept, as evidenced by the gazillion of different options in that regard. One of the earlier incarnations of blasting classes in PFRPG was the Battle Scion, only predated, I believe, by the Archon and Vanguard classes released by Rogue Genius Games (back then Super Genius Games). Much like the vanguard, who was also penned by Marc Radle, the Battle Scion replaces a form of arcane gish, an arcane paladin, if you will.

The Battle Scion gets d10 HD, full BAB-progression, good Fort-and Will-saves, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency in light, medium and heavy armor, shields and simple and martial weapons AND may cast spells while in armor from the very first level onwards without arcane spell-failure chance - thankfully still specifying regular spell failure chances for spells granted by other classes. Starting at 4th level, Battle Scions get access to arcane spells from the sorcerer/wizard-list of up to 4th level, which they cast as a prepared caster via Intelligence as governing attribute, with a caster level equal to their battle scion level-3. Furthermore, starting at 4th level, they also count as fighter of battle scion level -3 for the purpose of qualifying for fighter-only feats. At 2nd level, the battle scion gets a +1 deflection bonus to AC as well as a +1 insight bonus to hit with force blasts, both of which improve by +1 for every 4 levels beyond 2nd. 3rd level nets Combat Casting as a bonus feat.

What are force blasts? They are basically 60 ft.-range touch attacks that inflict 2d4 damage, +1d4 for every 3 levels beyond 1st. SR applies and they are SPs, but battle scions treat their CL for the purpose of overcoming SR as their class level. The battle scion may emit one such blast 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day as a standard action, making sure that e.g. ranged weapons are not invalidated. That being said, the damage is untyped and a force effect, which is odd – I expected force damage here, but RAW, this would even bypass the very few force resistances out there. Considering the limitations imposed on the ability, I can see it work, though. Starting at 5th level, the class gets the dweomer weapon ability, which allows the battle scion, as a standard action, to focus energy into a weapon, which proceeds to shed light as a torch. The weapon gains a +1 enhancement bonus, which increases by +1 at every 3 levels beyond 5th, capping at +6 at 20th level, but only to the regular maximum of +5. You guessed it: The plusses can be exchanged in favor of special weapon properties and are added to pre-existing properties of the enhanced weapon. The ability lasts for 1 minute and may be used 1/day, +1/day for every 4 class levels beyond 5th. 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter nets a metamagic or combat bonus feat. 7th level increases the Combat Casting bonus to +6, with 11th level improving that to +8. Starting at 11th level, the battle scion may cast a prepared arcane spell (should specify from its own spell list, but oh well) as a swift action, but the spell must have a casting time of 1 standard action or less and the ability may only be used 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. Starting at 8th level, armor check penalty is reduced by 1, and maximum Dexterity bonus allowed by armor is increased by 1. This bonus further improves at every 4 levels thereafter, and the ability also provides unimpeded movement in medium and heavy armor. The capstone turns the CL and fighter level to full class level and allows for the immediate action casting of a spell when confirming a critical hit.

The class comes with 3 archetypes: First, there would be the bonded scion, who loses the deflection aura and makes his weapon an arcane bonded item and may enhance his bonded weapon. 8th level’s armored maneuvers instead nets a Improved Bonded Object at 5th level. Instead of 6th level’s bonus feat, we get +2 to critical hit confirmation with the bonded weapon, which increases by +1 for every four levels thereafter. Instead of 10th level’s feat, we get the option to use a force blast to temporarily enhance the weapon, making it ghost touch and adding class level to damage versus incorporeal foes. 11th level’s spell tactician benefit is replaced with the option to make the bonded weapon bane, but at a higher damage output. 14th level’s bonus feat is replaced with Awaken Bonded Object. Mostly a numbers game regarding a special weapon. The second archetype is the force blaster, who may use his force blasts as a move action at 2nd level. At 11th level, instead of spell tactician, he may use force blast 3/day as a swift action. 5th level increases the damage of these as if empowered, and the force blasts come with a ranged combat maneuver that may push targets and knock them prone, all at once. This replaces the dweomer weapon. At 6th level, the archetype is locked into a blast-enhancing feat and 10th level’s bonus feat is replaced with the option to fire two blasts per use of force blasts, which upgrades to 3 at 17th level. The third archetype would be the wild scion, who gets Eschew Materials instead of fighter training and has spontaneous spellcasting governed by Charisma. This is a really sucky proposition, considering that none of the other class features are adjusted – suddenly, you also need Charisma, for an archetype that is much too MAD. This one feels like a bad filler-afterthought that hasn’t been contemplated properly.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the battle scion when it was released, and that hasn’t changed…but even if you liked it, it hasn’t aged well. At all. In a world, where Interjection Games’ ethermagic makes for highly customizable, balanced blasters, and where the big dog Paizo has introduced the versatile, unique kineticist, the battle scion feels a bit off. The fact that the class uses more than full BAB (bonuses granted by class features) for the blasts feels like unnecessary overkill nowadays; touch attacks don’t need a full BAB-class. When taking a look at e.g. vigilante as a relatively recent, versatile and pretty amazing class, the battle scion feels a bit rudimentary. The godblade-weapon-enhancer is a concept that a lot of classes have done in more interesting ways as well. The class isn’t bad per se, mind you – but unlike e.g. spell-less ranger, it hasn’t aged well.

There is a second blaster class herein, one that makes its first appearance in this book. The name should make clear what it’s all about from the get-go: I’m talking about the warlock. Yep, we get a classic blaster-class within this book, so what does the warlock do? The warlock class gets d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor and the warlock’s bond weapon, ¾ BAB-progression and good Fort- and Will-saves, as well as Intelligence-governed prepared spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawing upon the witch’s spell list. This spellcasting behaves analogue to the arcanist, though. The class has essentially two central angles: The warlock’s bond is a variant bonded weapon and gained at first level. It also acts as the familiar/spellbook substitute for the spell preparation of the class. The means of gaining new spells from e.g. other bond weapons and the like is concisely codified, and learning from scrolls is possible. The general weapon category of the bonded weapon determines a static bonus: The book distinguishes between 4 categories, with axes providing +2 to confirm crits, blades netting +2 to initiative, hammer and flails provide +2 to Fort saves and polearm bonded weapons allow the warlock to shorten his grip as an immediate action and attack adjacent targets at -2 to atk; if a polearm is not a reach weapon, the warlock gains a +1 insight bonus to attack rolls with it. Guess which one I liked best? Yeah, the polearm bonus is neat.

While wielding the bond weapon, the warlock adds Charisma modifier to CMD to resist disarm and sunder and this bonus applies to spells et al. that target the weapon and seek to change it. At 4th level, the warlock may deliver touch spells with it, and at 7th, 12th and 16th level, one of classic magic weapon properties is chosen from a brief list. At 10th level, the weapon awakens, becoming intelligent. Senses and attributes are defined and so are the skills available to the bonded weapon. Also at this level, we gain telepathy with the weapon. 14th level unlocks dark defenses, an ability that provides immunity for the shaken and frightened conditions as well as a +2 morale bonus to Will-saves. As a standard action, you can grant yourself SR equal to 6 + class level for class level rounds. This SR may not be suppressed. At 18th level, the morale bonus granted by dark defenses scales to +4 and the panicked condition is added to the immunity-list. The SR upgrades to 10 + class level. At 20th level, finally, the bonded weapon gets one of the most potent special weapon abilities, once more chosen from a brief list. It should be noted that aforementioned immunities only apply while wielding the bond weapon.

The second defining feature here should not surprise anyone – we get the dread bolt, which may be executed as a standard action. It’s a ranged, single-target blast that targets touch AC and has a range of 60 ft. It inflicts 1d6 force damage and increases that by +1d6 for every two warlock level beyond 1st. 5th level increases the range to 80 ft., and every 5 levels thereafter, the range further increases by +20 ft. Now, I’m not a fan of this being force damage, as the warlock gets infinite dread bolts per day, and force is the most valuable damage type in PFRPG, short of untyped, which is most of the time an oversight anyways. My issue lies within another construct here: Dread bolts “are treated as a weapon for purposes of making multiple attacks at higher levels.” This directly contradicts the activation action, which is a standard action. It also opens up a rather puzzling conundrum: If the activation action is correct and the dread bolt can indeed be executed as a standard action, does that allow for full attacks with dread bolts as a standard action? I assume no, but this aspect really needs polishing. Why do I assume that this is not the case? Beginning at 8th level, a warlock may attack with bond weapon and dread bolts in any combination or order when executing full attacks. This sentence implies that this was not the case before, but depending on how you read the standard action/iterative attack interaction, you get wildly different abilities here. This needs some cleaning up.

2nd level yields +1/2 class level to Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (arcana). Beginning at 4th level, the warlock gets a +1 deflection bonus to AC and a +1 insight bonus to hit with dread bolts, which both increase every 4 levels thereafter. This ability is not required and feels like needless escalation of numbers, as ¾ BAB-progression mathematically suffices to hit pretty much any CR-relevant touch attack; it’s, in essence the gunslinger/battle scion BAB-overkill for blasting. At 10th level, warlocks btw. add Intelligence modifier to dread bolt damage. At 18th level, the warlock may 1/week contact other plane in a more reliable manner.

At 14th level, the warlock may roll for normal damage when adding a dread bolt transmutation to a dread bolt. What’s that? Well it represents, apart from spellcasting, the customization of the warlock. Beginning at 6th level, you get the first such dread bolt transmutation. As a swift action when hitting a target with a dread bolt, the warlock may activate one such transmutation instead of rolling for damage. Only a single transmutation may be used per round (that is already handled by action economy, so a bit weird), and save DCs are governed by Intelligence, with class level doubling as CL for SP-purposes. Transmutations don’t stack with themselves. This ability may be used 3/day, + 1/day for every 3 levels beyond 6th. So, why is there this caveat regarding per round cap? The capstone lets you execute a transmutation whenever you hit with a dread bolt. I assume that this does not get rid of the daily cap of uses, but explicitly stating something to that extent would have helped here.

So, what do these transmutations do? Well, basically, we have hard debuffing here, with bleed, phantasmal killer, negative conditions – you get the idea. There are 20 such transmutations and they are all available, provided that the warlock meets the minimum prerequisites regarding levels. Some of these employ condition scaling (fatigue upgrades to exhausted at 9th level, for example) and there are a couple that will not fit with all games: The agonizing transmutation, for example, causes the target to be staggered for a whopping class level rounds, with a successful save only reducing that to ½ class level. Yep, you heard me. This is a reliable stagger lock that can be taken as soon as 6th level. So yeah, I’m afraid that this fellow won’t get near my game. The class gets a single archetype, the dimensional traveler, who replaces the boost to AC and damage with blasts with 3 + Intelligence modifier swift action dimension doors that are restricted to the warlock. At 4th level, range is 20 ft. and this distance increases by +5 ft. every two class levels after that. Instead of dread bolt transmutations, 6th level yields Dimensional Agility and the bonus granted by the feat scales for the archetype.

So, all in all, as a person, I don’t like this class. It is rather linear and the transmutations are very strong, and pay for that strength with being limited in use. Which means you get a few potent debuffs and then run out – by decreasing the transmutation potency and making them generally available, the class would imho gain appeal. Compared to kineticist and ethermancer etc., the class boils down to the same blasts, with a few spells added. The lack of restrictions on force blasts also bugs me. Compared to what you can do with kineticist (and e.g. N. Jolly’s phenomenal Dimensional Ripper archetype, see Kineticists of Porphyra III), the warlock, to me as a person, is boring and too nova-y regarding the transmutations. Apart from spells, there is also no customization apart from minor bonded weapon tweaks, making the class pretty linear, which annoys me – when all members of a class have pretty much the same capabilities, it tends to bore me fast. This is a personal preference, though, and will not influence the verdict, for what is a huge no-go for me may actually be a feature for a lot of folks out there. Don’t like the kineticist’s burn-engine? Don’t like a ton of moving parts in your class? Just want a foolproof, uncomplicated take on the blaster sans a ton of choices or build options? Well, then you’ll like this class. Just make sure that the GM is aware of the potent debuff-locks and makes a ruling regarding the objectively flawed base bolt engine.

While we’re on the subject of ranged combat specialists, let’s talk about the mystic archer, who gets d8 HD, 2 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light armor and buckler. Spells gained by the class don’t suffer from arcane spell failure when wearing light armor or using a buckler. The class gets full BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves. They begin play with access to prepared arcane spellcasting, governed by Intelligence, but it only scales up to 4th level spells. The class gets +1 to Perception checks and increases the range increment for any bow by +5 ft., with both increasing by a further +1/+5ft at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. The class also begin with Weapon Focus for a bow as a bonus feat. Starting at 2nd level, all arrows fired by the class are considered to be magic and silver, and starting at 10th level, they are treated as the alignment of the character for the purpose of bypassing DR. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter yields a bonus feat chosen from a specific list. Upon reaching 4th level, the mystic archer may use a standard action to enhance the respective bow with special weapon properties, in a variant of similar enhancements of e.g. the battle scion.

Starting at 5th level, we choose the first archer trick, with another unlocked every 4 levels thereafter. These include dispelling arrows, close combat shots, arrow-based disarming etc. The class only gets 7 to choose from, though – a few more would have been nice. At 7th level, the class gets the imbue arrow class feature, allowing the class to place touch evocation spells upon arrows, with 12th level adding area of effect (emanation and spread only) spells. It should be noted that these still retain some restrictions that prevent cheesing of long casting time spells. This is one of the best ways to handle the concept that I’ve seen so far, but it lacks a crucial piece of information – how do the imbued spells behave regarding critical hits? No idea. 8th level lets you 1/day execute a hail of arrow, targeting 1 character per 3 mystic archer levels in a 60 ft. radius, executing an attack at full BAB against them. Additional daily uses are gained every 4 levels thereafter. 10th level increases critical range, but does not stack with Improved Critical or similar threat range increases, thankfully. Additionally, once per day as an immediate action upon confirming a critical hit with the bow, the mystic archer may increase threat multiplier by 1. At 11th level, we get deliberate aim, which translates to a single full-round action attack, adding ½ class level to atk. At 16th level, this may ignore armor and shield bonuses. At 14th level, we get 1/day phase arrow, which bypasses nonmagical barriers, cover, concealment, armor and shield bonuses as a standard action. An additional daily use is gained every 3 levels thereafter. 16th level nets the option to, as an immediate action, sacrifice a prepared spell to grant herself an insight bonus to atk until the end of her turn. At 19th level, we get penetrating shot, the archer may make a -4 atk versus a creature behind a target successfully crited. Okay, do the special shots à la imbued, any spells laced into the shot etc. apply to the second target as well? No idea. The capstone auto-confirms critical hits and, once per day, as a full-round action, she can fire an arrow that may cause exactly 100 hp damage if it hits and the target fails the DC 23 + Intelligence modifier Fort-save. The class gets no archetypes.

The mystic archer does a lot right, executing the notoriously difficult arcane archer concept rather well. At the same time, the rules-integrity could be a bit better.

The rather notorious savant class introduced in the first New Paths Compendium has received a general overhaul. The new version of the class gets d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skill points per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, but not shields, as well as ¾ BAB-progression and good Will-saves. The savant chooses an area of interest at 1st level, and does so again at 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter – this means that all savants will pick up all areas of interest by 16th level. Each area is associated with a number of knacks – knacks from the area of interest may be retained longer. What’s a knack in the context of the class? Well, it’s basically a borrowed ability, but requires first that the character scrutinizes a target. As a standard action, the savant can attempt a Perception check to identify a target, with the DC being 5 + the creature’s CR. On a success, the savant gets to know about aspects of the target’s statistics, with an additional aspect known for every 5 by which he exceeds the DC. The savant, upon scrutinizing the target, may gain a number of knacks equal to his maximum number of active knacks, which increases from 3 at 1st level up to 8. Gaining or changing a knack is a free action when scrutinizing, a standard action when consulting the notebook.

Wait, what? Yep, at 2nd level, the savant gets a notebooks, which means that after losing a knack, the savant has 1 hour to pen it down in the book, with the number of knacks that can be maintained in it capping at Intelligence modifier. Some knacks may be gained multiple times at once, allowing for the use of knacks as mini-feat-trees and the like. Fyi regarding feats: The savant has to meet the prerequisites and uses his own level to calculate level-based variables. Some of the knacks, like scrutinizing BAB, refer to a knack bonus, which begins at +1 and increases by +1 every 3 levels thereafter. While the class specifies a maximum spell level for the class, which caps at 5th, there is a potentially HUGE problem with the engine here: The savant can duplicate scrutinized divine and arcane spells. This means that, for as long as your allies have the spell, you can cast it an infinite number of times. Yes, this pretty much is infinite healing/spell-blasting at 1st level. This is a gamebreaker of an issue that immediately should disqualify the class as written RAW for many tables, and one that could have easily been prevented by implementing a simple 1 scrutiny per day per target cap. At 3rd level, advanced knacks are unlocked, providing access to whole spell lists of targets, yielding attribute enhancers, etc. – these only last for Intelligence modifier rounds, minimum 1, though. Some of these advanced knacks do not count towards the limit of active knacks. At 8th level, the savant adds his knack bonus to aid another with a skill from a knack associated with an area of interest. 14th level nets the option to gain a basic knack sans scrutinizing or notebook 1/day. The capstone nets doubled knack bonus when gaining a knack associated with an area of interest…which is needlessly wordy, considering that the savant will have all 4 areas of interest covered at this level. Additionally, knacks associated with the area of interest no longer count towards the maximum. RAW, this translates to infinite knacks. Something, somewhere, in the development of this class went horribly wrong. The area of interest is supposed to increase the duration of knacks, but fails to specify how. The capstone similarly implies that there should have been more areas of interest at one point – unless infinite active knacks are what the goal was.

The book contains the raconteur archetype for the savant, who creates an avatar corresponding to the area of interest,, with Perform (oratory) acting as the skill whose result determines knacks gained via epic storytelling. Yep, this archetype represents something akin to the old savant, but suffers, like the base class, from having a key ability based on a skill, which are notoriously easy to cheese with spells and items. Making that a level-based check would have been more balanced and elegant. The savant was the class I was most stoked for – its revision is really cool, in that it manages to get really, really close to making a really nice Blue mage type of class that bases its powers on foes encountered. System-immanently, this means that class does require a bit of metagaming, but per se, I would not object to that here. However, the rules-chassis has some unfortunate holes in it that seriously need fixing to work properly.

The trickster class presented herein receives d8 HD, 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons plus rapier, longsword, sap, short sword, shortbow, whip light armor and shields (excluding tower shields) and may freely cast spells while only wearing light armor and/or using a shield. The class receives 3/4 BAB-progression as well as good Ref- and Will-saves and gains spellcasting.

Spellcasting of the trickster is slightly more tricky (I'll punch myself later for that one) than you'd expect: The trickster's spellcasting is governed by Intelligence and thus is prepared according to convention. However, spells prepared are not expended upon being cast - instead, the spell slot of the appropriate level is expended. Metamagic is handled as for sorcerers and similar spontaneous casting classes. High Intelligence influences the number of spells a trickster can cast, but not the amount of spell-slots he has - this is pretty important for balance, so bear that in mind. In short, the trickster has somewhat arcanist-y casting.

Tricksters begin play with 4 cantrips known and 2 1st level spells and increase that up to 6 for each spell level, barring 5th and 6th, which cap at 5. 5 is also the maximum spells per day limit. Akin to the alchemist and similar classes, spellcasting caps at spell level 6.

The trickster also receives access to sneak attack and begins play with +1d6, increasing this by +1d6 at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter. Similarly, at first level, the trickster gains trapfinding. Starting at 3rd level the trickster adds +1 competence bonus to Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand or Stealth, increasing the bonus by +1 every third level, though the new bonuses gained may be freely distributed among aforementioned skills. 3rd level also nets evasion and 6th, 12th and 18th level provides bonus feats from a limited list. 8th level provides uncanny dodge, 11th level improved uncanny dodge.

At the 5th level, as a standard action, the trickster can cast a spell with a range of touch and deliver it as part of a melee attack, with the restriction of only working in conjunction with spells that have a casting time of 1 standard action or less. If the trickster hits, he also deals sneak attack damage in conjunction with the touch spell. Problematic here: The sneakspell’s damage is doubled on a critical hit, which can result in ridiculous numbers. At least metamagic can’t be applied. Starting at 17th level, a sneakspell that misses is no longer lost.

9th level provides ranged legerdemain, though the ability is thankfully MORE precise than that of the arcane trickster PrC, specifying how far you can propel stolen objects and increasing the required skill ranks to 5. At 14th level, the trickster receives Filch Spell, which allows the trickster to hijack ongoing spells requiring direction (flaming spheres etc.) as a move action 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. 15th level provides Surprise spells - but unlike the imprecise original take on the ability, this one clarifies from the get-go how it works with magic missiles or AoE-spells. As the capstone, the trickster treats all 1s and 2s of sneak attack as 3s and auto-confirms crits executed with sneak attacks. Additionally, now metamagic feats may be added to sneakspells sans increasing the casting time.

The class has some customizations, in the guise of so-called fortes, which is gained at 2nd level and yields new abilities at 5th and 9th level. The first would be Acrobat, which not only provides skill-bonuses to movement-related skills and eliminates the need for running starts to get the associated bonus. Additional movement while not carrying heavy load or the like and no armor check penalty for Dex-based skills can also be found here. At 5th level, the trickster gains a scaling bonus to AC and CMD and may also act as though under freedom of movement for trickster level round per day, but only for movement purposes. Provided the trickster has at least 10 ft. at 9th level, he can dimension door as part of the move action expended, but, in a unique twist, the total distance he can thus travel is limited and capped with a daily max. The second forte is arcane accomplice, which nets a familiar, though the familiar receives Disable Device and Sleight of Hand as class skills and can deal sneak attack as long as it's within 30 ft. of the trickster - and yes, this means you can basically double-team on your own, greatly increasing the validity of sneak attack, though, for balance's sake, a familiar's sneak attack uses d4s, which proved mathematically feasible in my tests. 5th level goes one step further and nets the familiar all teamwork feats of the trickster as well as AC +2, while 9th level provides basically spring attack for the familiar, but only with regards to delivering harmless touch attacks - and yes, this is more versatile than you'd think.

The third forte is Beguile and provides +1 to DCs and +1 to rolls to overcome SR, scaling by +1 at 5th and 9th level - but only when targeting creatures that would be denied their Dexterity-modifier or that are helpless. At 5th level, when successfully feinting, the target would be denied his Dex-mod to AC for the next melee attack or spell targeting by the trickster, but only when performed on or before his next turn. 9th level decreases the required action to feint to a move action, a swift action if the trickster has Improved Feint.

The fourth forte is Spell Pilfer, which is easily the most unique of the fortes: As an immediate action, the trickster can make a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + spell level) to identify the spell and, if successful, the trickster may attempt to pilfer the spell. The caster receives a Will-save versus 10 + 1/2 trickster class level + Intelligence-modifier to negate the attempt. If the caster fails, he loses access to the spell known or prepared spell, while the trickster temporarily (1/2 class levels, minimum 1) adds the spell to his list of spells known. While the spell is pilfered, the original caster may not cast it, but the trickster may, provided he has an available spell slot. Only one spell (again, VERY important for balance) can be pilfered at a given time - pilfering a second spell, the previous spell immediately reverts to the owner. This ability can be used 3 + Intelligence modifier times per day. It should be noted that tricksters can only pilfer spells they can cast, another VERY important limitation. Now you may have noted that Will-saves are pretty easy for most casters - thus, at 5th level, the trickster's Wisdom modifier is also added to the DC to resist the pilfer attempt. I am usually fiercely opposed to dual attribute-modifiers to anything, but considering that Wisdom is NOT a trickster's crucial stat in any way, in practice, this is less problematic. 9th level allows the trickster to pilfer spells above his casting capacity, but thankfully with the caveat that the trickster can't cast such spells - so no abuse possible. This is a very impressive ability in my book, since it makes spell theft work sans holes in the wording, sans abuse. Love it! I wish this level of care had been extended to some of the other classes that dabble in pilfer/duplication.

The fifth forte would be shadow, which increases CL of shadow school or darkness-descriptor-spells by +1 and it also nets low-light vision and darkvision 30 ft. (Or +30 ft., if the trickster already has darkvision.) 5th level nets something unique - the option to 3 + Intelligence modifier-mod times per day animate shadows of targets to attack them (cool). At 9th level, the trickster can basically hide in plain sight while within 10 feet of a shadow other than his own and at that level, the shadow may use the trickster's sneak attack.

There are two trickster archetypes here, the dual forte and the forte master trickster: Both have diminished spellcasting, but the dual forte trickster replaces the 6th, 12th and 18th level bonus feats with a second forte gained at 6th level, for which he is treated as -4 class levels, a limitation that ends at the capstone abilities. The forte master adds two very potent abilities to each forte, gained at 11th and 14th level, replacing the 12th and 18th level bonus feats. Acrobats can inflict sneak attack when moving more than 10 feet and maintain actions after using dimension door. Arcane accomplices increase familiar potency and may teleport them to an adjacent square 1/day as a swift action. Beguilers get enchantment tricks, shadow masters darkness-related tricks, and spell pilferers may now steal divine spells as well. Big plus: For campaigns that prefer a bit lower power-level than what the rather potent trickster-chassis offers, the pdf has some advice regarding the limitation of spell-lists. I STRONGLY recommend implementing this advice for most campaigns. The trickster is a relatively young and pretty potent class and I still like it.

The final class herein is another new one, the tinkerer. These fellows get d8 HD, 6 + Intelligence modifier skills per level, proficiency in simple weapons, plus hand and repeating crossbow as well as his grenades and light and medium armor, but not shields. Tinkerers get ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Fort- and Ref-saves. Grenades are a tweak on the bomb mechanic – the tinkerer can make up to class level + Intelligence modifier of them per day, and they can’t be stored. The tinkerer need raw materials sans cost, but grenades must be thrown immediately, or they explode for maximum damage. They are thrown splash weapons with a range of 20 ft. and they are treated as weapons for feat purposes. Direct hits inflict 1d6 + Intelligence modifier damage, half of which is bludgeoning, half piercing – nice damage-type codification there! Damage increases by +1d6 every odd level thereafter, but this damage is not multiplied by crits or Vital Strike. Splash damage is equal to minimum damage. At 4th level, the tinkerer adds Intelligence modifier to Disable Device and UMD and may select a skill from a list, gaining +2 competence bonus in the skill and +2 insight to Perception checks pertaining to it. At 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the tinkerer adds another skill and increases the bonuses of an existing one by +2. At 14th level, the tinkerer may roll twice on such a skill, taking the better result, up to Intelligence modifier times per day. 18th level nets the option to always take 10 and once per day take 20 in one of them

5th level provides trapfinding and 8th level Master Craftsman, or Gunsmith – the latter obviously only in firearm-using campaigns, though in such a case, the proficiency list should imho be extended from the get-go. Starting at 6th level, the tinkerer may modify up to 3 + Intelligence modifier grenades to have e.g. an increased splash radius, add incendiary cloud, remove squares from the detonation, etc. The capstone gets rid of the daily limit of these improved grenades and similarly gets rid of the daily limit of rolling twice in specialized skills. At 10th level, the tinkerer may suppress mechanical traps and becomes better at disarming them safely – the suppression can provide interesting scenarios. 12th level adds ½ class level to the Perception and Disable Device skill to disarm traps he made, as well to all saves against them.

Part II of my review can be found in the product discussion.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths Compendium - Expanded Edition (Pathfinder RPG)
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Deep Magic: Elemental Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2018 04:08:23

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Deep Magic-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this pdf with a discussion on the dangers of elementals existing in the material plane and elementalism in general, including a nice little section on the role of these magic traditions in Midgard. Traditions? Plural?

Yep, we get a sorcerous origin, a warlock otherworldly patron and a wizard arcane tradition on the class option side of things. We also receive two new feats: Negotiator increases Charisma by 1 to the maximum of 20 and lets you retry a failed Charisma (Persuasion) check at disadvantage. It also lets you haggle for a 10 % discount with a contest (and a 1-week cooldown per person to prevent abuse) as well as halved living expenses. The second feat, Survivor, increases Constitution by 1 and makes you require only half the food and drink. Additionally, it makes you automatically pass the save versus extreme cold or heat for Constitution or Wisdom modifier days, whichever is lower. This resets after 2 hours in a comfortable environment. Nice feats!

Let’s begin with the elemental essence sorcerous origin, shall we? We choose an elemental heritage at 1st level, which not only governs the elemental bonus language you get, it also determines the type of energy associated with your latter class features: Earth corresponds to bludgeoning and air gets to choose between lightning and thunder, just fyi. Also at first level, you can use your bonus action to manifest an elemental aura for 1 minute, which lets you use your reaction to being attacked to impose disadvantage on the attack roll before it is stated whether it hits or misses. Casting a spell while the aura is active makes your immediate vicinity laced with your chosen element’s damage type, causing minor damage to those within 5 ft. (or that enter the square). The damage increases to 2d6 at 7th level. The aura lasts for a minute and can be used twice per long rest interval.

At 6th level, whenever you damage a creature with a spell, you can spend a sorcery point to lace the spell with your elemental energy, adding a no-save debuff to it: For air, this would be an inability to take reactions, for earth partial and short-lived, restraining, for fire it’s the frightened condition and for water, the poisoned condition. Potent, but interesting array. At 14th level, the sorcerer can, as a bonus action, teleport up to 60 ft. to an unoccupied square that he can see, reappearing with elemental energies suffusing them. There are additional effects, depending on the heritage element. Here, we get cyclonic, potentially briefly blinding bursts of wind, bludgeoning damage + prone, damage + ignition or potential choking. All of them, however, require a presence of the associated element in the vicinity, adding tactical depth here. The feature may be used twice, regaining all uses on a finished rest interval. At 18th level, we get elemental scout, which nets immunity to the associated heritage element and potent moving options: Burrow, swimming, flying…you get the idea. Each of the elemental options also sports an active component powered by sorcery points, which range from buffs versus physical attacks to igniting folks in the vicinity to becoming as unsubstantial as a breeze. One of my favorite sorcerous origins. Well done!

The warlock patron mentioned before would btw. be the genie lord, whose expanded spells range from chromatic orb and thunderwave over sleet storm to creation and wall of stone. Of course, conjure minor elemental is also part of the deal. First level yields Genie Lord’s Favor, which nets Primordial – the language from which the elemental tongues developed and which can be understood by all of them, making you basically an elemental polyglot. The patron also nets a token, which doubles as an arcane focus. The gem also can absorb fire, lightning, thunder, acid or cold damage, holding up to twice your warlock level + Charisma modifier (Charisma should be capitalized in the text). This is RAW not an action, but considering the limited threshold, I’m good with that. While the gem holds energy, you can use your action to cause it to shed light and losing/replacing it is covered. Minor complaint here: The gem, RAW, does not divest itself of stored energy. Once stored, the energy’s there. I’m pretty sure that the gem should replenish its reservoir after a short or long rest.

At 6th level, energy stored in the token may be spent to add up to Charisma bonus (min 1) damage to attacks or spells, choosing the type from the elemental damage list, including thunder. This extra damage only applies to a single target, but you may spend additional points to damage targets beyond the first. The gem’s protection may now be extended to allies within 30 ft. of you as your reaction. The 10th level feature lets you reroll after making an attack roll, save or ability check or damage roll, taking the higher result. This may only be used once per rest interval. The 14th level feature lets you assume, as a bonus action, a djinn-like form that nets flying speed, advantage on saves versus magic spells and effects, immunity to one damage type and +3d6 energy damage with a spell/attack once per turn. There are 4 expanded pact boons as well. Mephit form for the pact of the chain familiar; changed damage type for the pact of the blade; immunity to the elements for the pact of the tome, and we get a new 9th level eldritch invocation that nets planar binding once per long rest interval.

The third option would be the Elementalism arcane tradition for the wizard. 2nd level nets an Elemental Focus table that lists the four classic elements, with associated languages and damage types, with earth corresponding to acid and air allowing for the choice of lightning or thunder as damage type. Spells that inflict the associated damage type may resonate with the focus – the GM remains the final arbiter. Such spells can be copies into the spellbook at ½ time or gold. One of the new spells gained on a level up can be such an elemental spell, even if you haven’t encountered them before. Additionally, 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter allow you to choose from a mastery and when you learn a mastery, you may replace one that you have with another one. DCs, if applicable, use the spell save DC. More on masteries later. 6th level allows you to change the damage type of damage dealing spells to that chosen for the elemental focus. 10th level allows you to use your reaction to take no damage when subjected to damage from the energy associated with the elemental focus, regaining hit points equal to half the damage you would have taken. It may be used Intelligence modifier times before requiring a long rest to recharge. 14th level lets you ignore immunity to the energy type associated with your elemental focus. This may be used Intelligence modifier times before requiring a long rest to recharge.

The masteries mentioned before include adaptation to other planes, a form of specialized planar binding, resistance to the associated element’s energy and advantage on Con-saves to maintain concentration regarding maintenance of such spells, a n elemental-charm, making targets temporarily vulnerable to energy....etc. We also geta few element-themed masteries, like igniting targets with fire spells, adding a temporary slab of stone that nets cover – cool! I would have actually loved to see more of these!

The spells include two cantrips, the first of which would be wind lash, which inflicts slashing damage and move the target 5 ft. away. Pummelstone deals bludgeoning damage and imposes a -1d4 debuff to the target’s next attack roll or ability check. Both cantrips are balanced and interesting.

At 1st level, we get wind tunnel, which is a cool support spell for ranged weapons and movement/debuff – it’s obviously harder to move against the wind. This spell is amazing, incredibly useful and a perfect example of a versatile and fun 1st level spells. Tidal barrier is a means to render terrain around you difficult and move creatures away from you. Nice one. The second level spells include spire of stone, which can be used to knock targets prone…or lower/raise you, which is incredibly iconic. Rolling thunder deafens targets and wraps them in thunder energy and halves the speed of the target, until they succeed a save. The 3rd level spells include riptide, which can restrain targets and generate either riptides or undertows, making it basically a two-in-one spell. Pretty cool! Frozen razors is a damage spell that causes a combo of slashing and cold damage, which also can help by reducing the speed of targets.

Flame wave causes damage in a 40 ft. cone and can push targets away. Earthskimmer makes earth move you, ignoring difficult terrain and enhancing your Dash by allowing you to basically crash into targets. Cool! At 5th spell level, frostbite is a Concentration, up to 1 minute, constant cold damage + debuff spell for one target, while acid rain generates a cylinder of…well, acid rain. Blizzard causes cold damage that also carries a disadvantage to Con-saves to maintain Concentration for those that suffer damage from it. 8th level’s caustic torrent generates a devastating line of acid, which can insta-kill foes reduced to 0 hp. Oh, and its fumes are poisonous. Finally, 9th level’s pyroclasm has a massive 500 ft.-range and causes a lava-eruption, which then will proceed to expand. Oh, and the lava sticks to targets, hardening and encasing targets. Amazing!

On the SRD-page, we also get a new magic item: The rare magma mantle requires attunement and nets resistance to cold damage. The mantle can be transformed via command word to a mantle of flowing magma that renders you immune to its own intense heat (but not other fire-sources) and foes that strike you with melee attacks while within 5 ft. take fire damage. For the duration, you take no damage from lava and may burrow through it at half your walking speed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports neat full-color artworks, some of which will be familiar to fans of Kobold Press. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Dan Dillon did not have an easy task. Most elemental magic spells released for any iteration of (A)D&D/d20, are frickin’ BORING. They are damage-dealers with different coats and shapes and that’s it. This one is different. Sure, there are plenty of damaging spells herein, but each of them has some sort of utterly unique component that adds a utility or tactical depth to them. The class options are cool as well. Dan Dillon provides an immaculately-balanced, creative supplement here, one that left me bereft of any serious complaints. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval. Here’s to hoping that maestro Dillon gets to write more such amazing pdfs!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elemental Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Blood & Doom for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/20/2018 04:22:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the first thing you need to know is that we get a new sacred oath herein – The Giving Grave. This oath, however, represents more the concept of the antipaladin, rather than the paladin. As some 5e-players are wont to claim, the paladin class is removed from its LG-shackles in 5e; while technically true, the class features and general build don’t really lend themselves well to representing the concept of the anipaladin per se, which is why we begin with two alternate class features that a paladin en route to swearing the oath to darkness receives: Unholy Smite replaces Divine Smite, changing the damage type to necrotic and the particularly hard-hit targets to celestials, good-aligned fey and dragons. Improved divine smite, at 11th level, is similarly replaced with an evil variety, inflicting necrotic damage. Cool for stories of fallen warriors – synergy is possible, but not required by the rules. Interesting: Lay on hands is retained RAW and we do get an alternate spell list for evil paladins herein.

The sacred oath of the giving grave requires that you honor the gods of death, seek to overcome mortality, serve those that can teach and brook no opposition to your ambition. The oath grants two channel divinity options: Overawe enemy can stun a target within 60 ft. for 1 minute (or until damaged) on a failed save, with good-aligned fey and celestials suffering from disadvantage on the save. Mark of the Funeral Feast lets you indicate, as a bonus action, a creature within 10 ft. that you can see. All undead the creature can see with a challenge below 1 are compelled sans save to attack it. This is slightly inelegant, as it is based on the sight of the target, when imho, one based on the paladin would make more sense, but oh well.

7th level provides an aura that prevents being turned, with a 10 ft.-radius that increases to 30 ft. at 18th level. At 15th level, whenever the (anti)paladin begins the round with less than half maximum hit points, he gains 5 hit points. Fire or radiant damage causes this feature to cease working for 1 round. Not a fan there – wouldn’t allow that for my players, but YMMV. The capstone ability nets magic resistance: Advantage on saves versus all spells and magical effects. If you die, you rise from the grave in 1d4 days as a death knight.

Now, the title of this pdf is “Blood and Doom” – we’ve taken a look at the doom component, but what about the blood? Well, blood magic is represented first by the legendary wondrous item Taergash’s Exsanguinating Tome, which requires attunement by a wizard. Wrapped in filthy, blood-weeping covers, the spellbook contains some of the dark secrets of blood magic. There are two class options to represent blood magic specialists, the first of which would be the Serophage sorcerous origin. The origin grants limited control over your own blood: When taking bludgeoning damage, you roll 1d4 and subtract it from the damage taken (note: This applies to damage TAKEN, as such, resistance is applied first – spelling that out would have made sense, but that is aesthetic nitpickery on my side and won’t influence the verdict), which increases to 1d6 at 6th level.

6th level provides the Blood Fuel feature: You can increase the save DC of the next spell you cast by +1 for inflicting 1d4 slashing damage to yourself instead of moving. Alternatively, instead of moving, you can inflict 1d4 slashing damage on yourself to regain the same amount of sorcery points. 12th level increases the DC-boost to +2 and the die of damage caused to yourself to d8. Yeah, this is utterly broken. Flexible casting lets you use sorcery points to create spell slots and vice versa - and this utterly delimits the resource. If the origin lost this feature, it’d still be borderline OP – with it, any curative option becomes basically an arcane battery. Not getting anywhere near my game. This really nets a limiting factor based on rest interval or at the very least a caveat that the damage can’t be healed for a couple of long rests. The 14th level ability, blood barrier, lets you draw blood from a creature that was killed with 30 minutes and form it into swirling rings – one ring per point of Charisma modifier. Kudos: It can’t be kitten’d – the creature must have at least an Intelligence of 5. Problem: The feature fails to specify its activation action. The rings absorb physical damage – when hit by a physical melee or ranged attack, one ring absorbs 1d10 damage and then vanishes in a splash. Note that this happens BEFORE the taking of damage, i.e. before resistance etc. is applied. Alternatively, as an action, you can form a ring into a spear of blood and launch it as a ranged spell attack: On a hit, the target takes 1d6 + Cha-mod piercing damage and must succeed a Con-save to avoid being stunned until the start of your next turn.

18th level nets exsanguinate, wherein you target a creature within 40 ft. as an action. On a failed Con-save, the creature takes 2d6 necrotic damage – the damage caused causes blood to fly towards you. For each 2 points of damage thus caused, you regain 1 hit point or one sorcery point. The effect remains until the target makes its save, continuing to replenish you. Oh boy. Here, we have no kitten-caveat: You can carry around a bag of harmless kittens and drain them to your heart’s content. This feature delimits BOTH sorcery points AND hit points – infinite healing and infinite spell slots of up to 5th level. WTF. I have no idea how this got past the developer. This really needs a rest-interval cap of uses.

The second class option dealing with blood magic would be a tradition for the wizard class. Here, we begin at 2nd level with blood savant, which halves costs and time required of blood magic spells to be integrated into the spellbook. It also nets proficiency in Medicine. Additionally, when subjected to a disease or poison that causes half damage on a successful save, you instead take none on a success, half on a failure. 6th level nets Blood Vision, which lets you ingest another creature’s blood, I assume as an action, but the ability does not specify it. You are stunned for 1 round when doing so, but gain a vision of one memory of the creature, depicting the instance that caused it to bleed. Only one ingestion per creature is allowed, though.

10th level unlocks Absorb Impurities: It allows you to touch a fresh cut or source of disease or poison and harmlessly draw it into you, dormant– I assume, this requires an action. You can then, as an action, spit a stream of blood as a ranged spell attack at a target, who then must save against the poison/disease. You can only carry a poison or disease for a certain amount of time – failing to divest yourself of it will result in seriously nasty saves against it. I like the flavor here – but what’s the range of the blood-spit? No idea. 14th level nets the option to haste or slow a creature for Intelligence modifier rounds on a failed Con-save. RAW, this does not require that you can see the creature and it can be used 1/day, which is uncommon in 5e.

Oh boy, not sure what happened with the blood magic class options – they’re uncharacteristically problematic. Let’s see whether the massive spell-selection fared better.

The pdf provides a new cantrip, Blood tide, which causes the target to bleed from facial orifices sans damage, but imposes a -2 penalty on Int-, Wis- and Cha-checks. It may be cured via Medicine and healing magic and may attract bloodsuckers. Duration increases later.

At 1st level, we have bloody smite, which is a variant of searing smite that replaces fire with necrotic damage and uses Medicine or healing magic to staunch the blood flow. Doom of the cracked shield is cast upon a weapon and held therein until expended, which will then destroy the next nonmagical shield/armor it strikes – shields are reduced to rust and sawdust, while armor reduces its effectiveness by 2 points. I assume that reduction to 0 destroys the armor, but the spell doesn’t specify that. Hobble mount causes a beast that is being ridden and touched to be disabled, taking damage upon moving, with more damage at higher levels. Only mounts may be affected. Hone blade nets the weapon +1 damage on the next successful hit. Memento mori lasts only one round, but makes all creatures that see you succeed a Charisma saving throw of be stunned for one round – ouch! Thankfully, a creature that succeeds the save can’t be affected again for 24 hours. Stanch stabilizes a dying character and prevents the use of the character for spells or effects requiring blood, justifying the 1st-level spell slot versus the spare the dying cantrip. Weapon of blood causes 1d4 damage to you that can’t be healed to make a +1 dagger from blood. The damage may not be healed until the spell ends or the blade is destroyed. Higher levels allow for the inflicting of more damage for progressively better magical daggers.

At 2nd spell level, we get the vomit tentacles spell, which is a melee spell attack with a range of 15 ft., causing 2d6 bludgeoning damage and grappling the target. The target is restrained until it escapes (DC = spell save DC) and takes 2d6 + Str-mod damage on each of your subsequent turns. Tentacles may be severed by slashing attacks and regrow on your next turn. You can’t speak while the spell is in effect. Cool one! Timely distraction has a 25 ft.-range and causes a random condition on a failed save, with saves on subsequent rounds to end them. Doom of the slippery rogue coats a 20 x 20 ft. area of a wall or floor with slicky grease, causing chances of targets to fall from climbing or fall prone. Pretty sure there is no Dexterity (walking) check, though – that should probably be (Acrobatics). As an aside – Grease, as a precedent, requires a save, not a check. Doom of consuming fire causes 3 (1d6) cold damage to you every round, while creatures within 5 ft. take 4 (1d8) while the spell is in effect – weird: Spells usually don’t list averages. Higher spell slots increase the damage caused. Wonky: The spell should probably specify that the damage it causes doesn’t trigger saves to retain concentration on the spell.

Caustic blood lets you use your reaction to taking damage to select 3 targets within 30 ft. These take acid damage on a failed save. I like the visuals here, but the spell RAW is weird: The casting time is “1 reaction”, failing to specify TO what; conversely, RAW, the spell doesn’t trigger until after the round it has been cast, which I’m pretty sure isn’t how it’s supposed to work. Bloodshot makes you take necrotic damage and a ranged spell attack with a 40 ft. range; on a hit, the target takes both fire and psychic damage. Higher levels increase the fire damage. I don’t really get where psychic damage comes from here, but oh well. Blood lure does what it says on the tin, attracting blood-feeding creatures and predators, with penalties for those that have a keen sense of smell. Nice one. Animate ghoul does what it says on the tin. As you were returns a dead creature’s appearance to how it looked in life, when healthy and hale. On a corpse, this duplicates gentle repose; on an undead, it can act as a neat disguise. Like it!

The 3rd level spells include blood armor, which you can cast as a bonus action when hitting a foe with a melee weapon; the blood flows forth and creates an AC 18 + Dex-mod armor sans Str-requirement. It doesn’t hinder spellcasting and when drawing the blood from a celestial, you also get advantage on Cha-saves while the spell persists. Conjure undead creates a shadow to do your bidding, with higher spell levels providing wights or ghosts as alternatives. Doom of blue crystal lasts 3 rounds and affects targets within 5 ft., including yourself – first, you save to avoid being restrained; then, to avoid being paralyzed and if you botch a third save against the spell, you become petrified. Crystallized creatures can be shattered for insta-death on a failed save. Doom of dancing blades creates 1d4 illusory copies of your weapon. When hit by a melee attack, but within 3 of your AC, one of the weapons intercepts the attack, destroying the weapon. If the weapon fails to parry an attack, a blade is still destroyed, and you take half damage. On a successful crit, you add +1d8 damage of a physical type of your choice per blade. Doom of disenchantment negates numerical bonuses to hit and damage, suppressing magical or spell-like abilities of the weapon, in which case, the effect is treated as affected by a Cha-based counterspell. This one is pretty strong – frankly, I’d limit it, with higher spell slots tied to spell-level and item rarity.

St. Blusen’s reaver spirit nets you and all allies within 30 ft. that can see you advantage on Str-checks, Str-saves, resistance to all 3 physical damage types from nonmagical weapons and +2 to damage with melee attacks, but when the spell ends, all characters affected by it gain 1d4 exhaustion levels. Higher levels increase the melee damage bonus - Cool one! St. Whiteskull’s borrowing allows you to touch a target, gaining one sense, movement type and speed, feat, language, immunity or extraordinary ability. You can borrow only one ability at once and may target freshly dead targets and living alike: Unwilling targets get a save. A higher level option makes the target lose the borrowed quality and increases the duration. Weird: Why can you borrow immunities, but not resistances? It would make more sense to only allow for resistance borrowing. Not a fan. Strength of the underworld nets advantage on saves versus Turn Undead or helps the chance to revive as a darakhul. Vital mark marks a magic item with a stain of your blood, preventing it from functioning as magic for anyone but you. It can be made permanent with higher level and consecutive use. Two thumbs up here!

At 4th level, we have visage of madness, which causes all foes that can see you within 30 ft. make a Wisdom save, inflicting 1d6 + the creature’s Str-mod damage to itself on a failed save, stunning it for 1 round and blinding it for 1d4 rounds. On a 6 on the damage roll, the blindness is permanent. This should probably have a caveat that it doesn’t stun fiends or servants of demon lords (as the visage of such a lord causes the effect) and that creatures immune to piercing damage can’t blind themselves. Shroud of death causes all creatures within 30 ft. to take 1 point of necrotic damage, which you gain as temporary hit points, increasing the damage by +1 on every subsequent round. This is spell can be abused in a needlessly dumb manner. Take a big bag o’ kittens. Throw it in the field. Gain buttload of temporary hit points. Sure, it doesn’t last long, but why not provide a proper caveat?? St. Parvala’s risen road is cool, as it open a path into one of the shadow roads, the dark passageways of the shadow fey. Doom of the earthen maw makes the area of a point within 60 ft. turn filthy, slippery muck in a 30 ft.-radius, creating difficult terrain. Targets in the area must make a Strength save or be restrained. Creatures that save don’t become restrained, but those that are risk sinking deeper on subsequent rounds, potentially suffocating when having sunk beneath the muck. Doom of serpent coils requires that you drink a poison, autofailing the save. The effect of the poison is then spread to all targets within 10 ft., using he spell save DC instead of the one of the poison. Instead of a poison’s usual effects, such targets instead take fixed poison damage (providing average values as well as the dice) and are poisoned. Success renders immune to the spell for 24 hours. Weird: RAW, characters immune to poison can avoid the self-poisoning component, which, I’m pretty sure, was not intended.

Blood and steel makes you cut yourself, which can’t be healed until you finish a long rest. You then touch a construct, which must succeed a Con-save or be charmed. Constructs you fight have advantage on the save and the charm-effect bypasses char-immunity. You can provide general orders with a telepathic link; or you can exert full control over it as an action, using your reaction to make it use its own reaction. Constructs already under your control become sentient for the duration and gain a bonus equal to your Int-mod to a skill they’re proficient in. Higher spell slots increase the duration. Blood spur provides a blood hound like straight vector to your quarry, even helping you to keep track of magical movement. Cool one. For 5th spell level, we get cruor of visions, which is a blood-based scrying variant, with higher spell slots duplicating progressively better crystal ball effects in conjunction with it. Exsanguinating cloud creates a blood-leeching cloud…that fails to specify its dimensions, making it non-functional as written and impossible to determine how it’s supposed to work. Sanguine horror conjures forth a blood elemental – a new creature herein: They clock in at challenge 5 and represent a nice critter, making good use of 5e’s dynamic damage types and rock-paper-scissors mentality.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good – a missing hyphen here and there is as bad as it gets. On a rules-language level, the same can’t be said. From the utterly broken sorcerous origin to several rules-issues in spells etc., the pdf could have seriously used some careful rules-editing. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with basic bookmarks for the chapter headers. The full-color artworks are nice, but fans of Kobold Press will be familiar with them.

I don’t get it. Chris Harris’ work is usually much better than this. While the pdf sports several really cool spells and angles and has some interesting design choices, there are a lot of flaws in this. Regarding rules-integrity, this is one of the weakest, if not perhaps the weakest of the Deep magic-installments I’ve reviewed so far. My final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Blood & Doom for 5th Edition
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Streets of Zobeck for 5th Edition
by jackie m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2018 14:33:22

This product seems well thought out. Just wish there was mor low level content



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Streets of Zobeck for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2018 05:48:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, without much fanfare we begin with a new arcane tradition, namely the Dragon Mage, who is defined by invoking dragon aspects. Dragon aspects are gained in a linear manner and provide a set array of abilities when invoked. You can see a dragon aspect in play on the cover – the translucent lines with draconic mien? That’s an aspect. Manifesting an aspect requires the expenditure of spell slots and further spell slots may be expended for more abilities once the aspect has been invoked. The dragon aspect is treated as a spell of the level of the spell slot used to power it for the purpose of interactions with dispelling options etc. Ending or switching from aspect to aspect is a bonus action and requires spell slot expenditure to power the new aspect, even if the previous one still has a duration left. Durations vary from aspect to aspect and usually last until the elapse or you become incapacitated or replace it with another dragon aspect. Dragon aspects do not require concentration to maintain.

Okay, got that? 2nd level nets Dragon Mask, which nets Int-bonus to AC (minimum 1) as well as advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Charisma (intimidation) skills. The aspect also nets you a 1d8 piercing damage bite attack that counts as magical. You may enhance this bite attack as a bonus action by expending a spell slot – your next attack with the bite is made at advantage and inflicts +1d8 piercing damage per level of the spell slot expended. However, while the aspect is in effect, your ranged and melee spell attacks are made at disadvantage and targets have advantage on saves versus your spells. The aspect lasts 3 times the expended spell slot’s level.

Starting at 6th level, we can invoke the dragon heart, which has the same duration as the first aspect and nets a bonus to Wisdom and Charisma saves equal to your Intelligence modifier, minimum 1. It also nets twice wizard level in temporary hit points. The active ability is a line of energy 30 ft. long, 5 ft. wide, with the 4 basic energy types available. You choose one and the ability is then always that energy type until you manifest a new dragon heart. The aspect allows for the expenditure of spell slots to boost the range of the breath weapon as well as the damage inflicted. Action-types are noted properly. Minor complaint: The pdf could be slightly clearer that the Dexterity save negates damages – it’s evident from the wording, but one could assume half as much.

10th level nets the dragon wings aspect, which lasts for twice the expended spell slot’s level rounds. These increase speed by 10 feet and net you a flying speed equal to land speed. It also nets resistance to all three physical damage types and provides advantage on melee and ranged spell attacks. You can expend spell slots to increase fly speed until the start of your next turn and determine one target, which then suffers from disadvantage against your saves when it is within 10 ft. of you. And here I was getting ready to complain about “that you can see” not being part of the wording – the range justifies omitting this caveat sans breaking balance.

14th level lets you invoke dragon’s tail, which lasts for 1 round per level of the spell slot expended and is 15th long. This aspect nets immunity to the grappled condition as well as proficiency on Strength and Dexterity saves and Strength checks. It also allows you to substitute your Intelligence modifier for saves and skill checks based on these attributes. As a reaction to a creature approaching within 15 ft., you can make a tail slap, which inflicts 3d10 + Int-mod bludgeoning damage and pushes the target 10 ft. away. I am not 100% clear of the sequence in which this is resolved: If you enter the range, the reaction can trigger the attack. It is resolved, the target is shoved away. Does that end the movement? I assume it does, but I am not 100% clear. One could make a case for either. Before you ask – yes, the attack counts as magical. The bonus action upgrade trick allows you to increase the damage output of the next tail slap you execute before your next turn and also replenishes 3 x spell slot level hit points, which is potent, but considering the contingency on spell slots, something I’m good with.

The pdf sports quite an array of feats, many of which tie into this subsystem: Careful Dragon Mask eliminates the drawbacks of the dragon mask aspect. Dual Dragon Aspect does what it says on the tin and allows for the maintenance of two – when you switch, you have 1 round where the aspects overlap and you get both benefits. Neat. Fearsome Dragon Mask adds a chance to frighten targets you hit with the bite attack. Radiant Dragon Heart unlocks, bingo, radiant damage. However, the verbiage here is weird: “In addition to the damage type done by your dragon heart’s breath attack, the damage is also considered radiant.” – that is problematic. How does that interact with resistances/immunities to one of the energy types? It would have been more prudent to make it another option available for the breath weapon.

Not related to the tradition would be Find the Titan’s Weakness, which nets +1 Wisdom and lets you spend an action to analyze a Large or bigger target you can see: The next attack against that creature is made at advantage and scores a crit on natural 18 – 20. Fortifying Healer renders targets healed by your spells becomes temporarily (spell level rounds) immune to the frightened condition. One ally gains inspiration (I assume as the bardic ability), but only once per rest-interval. Not a fan of this one. Dragonsmith lets you make items from dead dragons at 10 times the cost; weapons inflict +1d6 energy damage and armor/shields provide resistance versus the damage type of the dragon’s energy. Dragonrider allows you to enter the space of a larger creature via a contest. The creature’s attacks against you are made at disadvantage if you manage to thus climb atop it and “ride” it. Interesting, if basic one, though I maintain the subject matter deserves its own, more detailed book – you know, with unwilling creatures attempting to death roll, crash against walls, etc. Unthreatening, finally, increases Charisma by +1 (and yes, the feats maintain the 20-cap). It allows you to spend a reaction when attacked by a big foe to force it to redirect the attack. No, it can’t be cheesed, it may only be used once per rest interval – and that’s a good thing.

All right, let’s move on to the new spells! As a new cantrip, we have dragon roar, which is a bit of an overkill for a cantrip – it inflicts scaling psychic damage and makes the target frightened until the start of your next turn. I think this should be thunder damage, considering the value of psychic damage. At 1st level, we have draconic smite, which adds cold damage to the next melee attack and and also targets additional creatures within 30 ft. of the target with cold damage. Interesting. Converse with dragons nets you limited telepathy with dragons. Kobold’s fury nets advantage on the target’s melee weapon attacks and adds bonus damage to the first attack. The verbiage would be slightly better if it specified that the damage was of the weapon’s type, but that is a nitpick.

Lair sense is a wizard ritual at 2nd level that provides awareness of an area being intruded by Tiny or larger targets, rousing the caster from slumber. Nice justification for the inevitable dragon-awakening. Detect dragons does what it says on the tin. Enhance greed detects nearby precious metals and gems. Shade is a buff that fortifies against blindness and light-based penalties incurred from daylight etc. The 3rd level Phantom dragon can make an ally seem like a frightening dragon, potentially frightening targets. Catch the breath is a reaction spell to being targeted by a dragon’s breath weapon, netting you advantage on the save. If you succeed, you take no damage. Whether or not you succeed, you absorb a part of the energy, allowing you to make a ranged spell attack against a target within 60 ft., inflicting 3d10 force damage, which may be increased at higher levels. At 4th level, we have raid the lair that is interesting in that it is a potent buff versus lair actions. Cool one! Scale rot affects creatures with natural armor and provides advantage on attacks and prevents hit point regains, but thankfully has an option to shake it off on subsequent rounds.

At 5th level, we get the mandatory dragon’s breath spell (guess what it does…), with the breath recharging on 5 and 6 on a d6 while the spell remains in effect. Claws of the earth dragon is a bludgeoning ray that slams targets to the ground, particularly efficient versus flyers. At 7th level, we get one spell: Legend killer. You tap into the power of a creature capable of performing legendary actions. If the target botches the save, it loses the ability to perform legendary actions and legendary resistance cannot be used to auto-win this save. Subsequent rounds and saves allow for the slow regaining of legendary actions. Finally, there is one 8th level spell, namely deadly sting, which nets you a potent stinger that inflicts piercing damage, serious poison damage, and which can render the targets it hits vulnerable to poison damage.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level – apart from very minor nitpicks and the imho slightly OP cantrip, I did not have anything to complain. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Interior artwork is full color and really neat.

Shawn Merwin’s dragon magic is damn cool. The aspect engine is tight, concise in its presentation and evocative. Its benefits are pronounced, but paid for by spell slots and actions and as such, makes for a rewarding mode-based gameplay. The supplemental feats are nice, even though they are the weakest part of the pdf. The spells similarly are fun offerings that did not leave me with much to complain about. All in all, this is certainly worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Elemental Magic for 5th Edition
by Matt M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2018 10:27:45

Some fantastic Spells that really expand the elemental magic spell list avalible to players. Also love the Elemental Magic Item "Magma Mantle" hoping for a follow on book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elemental Magic for 5th Edition
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Creator Reply:
Happy to say that the follow-on book exists! The Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition includes the Deep Magic series and much more. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/236914/Midgard-Heroes-Handbook-for-5th-Edition
Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/31/2018 23:18:15

Have you ever had a player want to play some odd-ball wizard that works focuses on clockwork automatons or a sorceror with a mystical power over slime and ooze? Are you are a Pathfinder game master running a long-term campaign who needs to surprise his/her players with new spells or new forms of magic? Either way, this book is an invaluable resource. In fact, if you're a GM who likes to write their own aventures, this book is extremely useful for having rules baked-in for all kinds of magic that you might want to include in your game. Though Kobold Press has included rules for their Midgard campaign setting for Pathfinder, this book is really agnostic of setting, full of rules that fit into any game. You can pick and choose the rules that you want and drop them into any Pathfinder campaign with ease. As for the contents of the book, it includes roughly 100 pages of new spells, including spell lists for nearly every casting class in the game. Most spells are useful in nearly any campaign, and all are relatively well-balanced. This alone is extremely useful, however if you're looking to expand magic rules in your game beyond the standard, there is an entire section in this book of supplemental magic rules. It contains something of a hodge-podge of rules from previous publications that heavily features rules for new magic systems such as leylines, runes, and curses to name a few. It has a ton of character class options for sorceror bloodlines (vampiric, giant, and hag, for example), arcane schools (such as illumination, sound, and necrophagy), oracle myseries (snake, plague, and void to name a few). There are some new class archetypes, such as Clockworker wizards, Geomancers, and Blood Mages that add some nice options. There is a chapter with expanded rule on creating undead and homonculi, as well as new options for constructs. As well, you'll find a few new magic items and feast smattered througout the book that go with the new rules offerings. You can even find some nice rules to expand on official Pathfinder canon that Paizo has offered as optional rules, such as mythic magic and words of power. Though this book does offer options for all Pathfinder classses that existed at the time it was published, it does have the most to offer for arcane casters, namely sorcerers and wizards. Though, where it does have rules for divine casters, it does a good job of giving character options. There's way too much to cover in detail here, but if you are running a long-term Pathfinder campaign, this book is great for adding something new and surprising, or for re-writing your campaign's magic system into something players haven't seen before. At very least it can give GMs or players ideas on how to add flavor to keep your game fresh and interesting.

See our full rating at Geeks A gogo.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Worldbuilding
by Jim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2018 19:56:10

This review is a summarised version. For the full version, head over to Swords & Stationery.

When it comes to creating new things, ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has an opinion. Yet, it is easier said than done to create something that's logically coherent. Furthermore, the well of ideas tends to run dry too after a while. This is where the KOBOLD Guide to Worldbuilding comes in. While not exactly "meaty", it has plenty of advice covering a wide range of topics. Each topic takes up about 5 pages of information, but it's concise and to the point. If I had to nitpick though, it's that not all the topics are equally well-written, but that's to be expected from having so many contributors. Art in the book is also a little sparse. It would have benefited from having more accompanying visuals.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Worldbuilding
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Wrath of the River King for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2018 05:05:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module clocks in at 70 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page backer-thanks/introduction, 1 page ToC, 2/3 of a page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 64 1/3 pages, so let's take a look!

This is an adventure-review and as such, it contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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Okay, so before we begin: This is one of the modules that perfectly encapsulates what sets Midgard apart from your run-of-the-mill fantasy setting, for its begin in the small village of Riverbend is steeped in the feudal structures that should be inherent in all fantasy worlds.

Let me elaborate: The miller in ancient times doubled as a taxman of sorts and was directly put in charge by the respective lords: There was no free choice of where to go, etc. and you had to pay miler and lord when having your grain processed. It is thus that the stereotype of the greedy miller came into being. An edge of the sinister had always stuck to the profession in a fairy tale-context, one perfectly exemplified by Ottfried Preußler's "Krabat", building on the classic Wendish legend. Not only does the book perfectly highlight the horrors of love and war and poverty, its use of mystical numbers and general plotline have influenced magical traditions in my own games for ages. It is, in short, glorious and if your German is serviceable, I'd strongly recommend the folk-rock cd "Zaubererbruder" by ASP, a poetic and really catchy version of the tale that has some really smashing tunes like "Denn ich bin Dein Meister" ("For I am your master") or a brilliant portrayal of a duel of polymorphing cat and mouse - literally! For more electronically-minded folks out there – Stillste Stund’ – Mühle mahlt.

I digress, back to Riverbend: The miller here, as often, was the target of not an undue amount of jealousy...and worse, he actually had an elven wife! (Note: In Midgard, elves are VERY rare and considered to be closer to fey than regular mortals, making them feel more mythological.) The elven wife of miller Froderick has vanished, alongside with his millstone and people are pretty sure he has murdered her...after all, someone who consorts with fey is prone to be suspicious, particularly if he's also the miller! The presence of the fantastic is making itself felt in town, with the omnipresent fey (exemplified as bugbears and forest imps) making the area dangerous...oh, and guess what: poor Froderick is facing the gallows if the PCs don't help him. Indeed, investigation of Riverbend may yield the PCs some interesting information: For one, a band of satyrs with a talking bear have taken refuge at the local inn, much to the panic of the local population. Getting them out will require a complex skill-check-interaction...which brings me to one of my favorite parts in the module, at least from a design perspective.

You see, this was originally released for D&D 4th edition and while I loathe that system, its skill challenge mechanic is interesting: Basically, you set a complex task in front of the party and allow the respective PCs to accumulate success and failures based on skill-use. Let me make up an example to illustrate the concept: A tree blocks a trade road. The mage may use Strength (Athletics) to use brutal force to attempt to move it; the ranger uses Wisdom (Survival) to discern the best ways to hack it apart, the druid use Animal Handling to make the horses draw the tree away. Sure, you could depict that in sequence, but the beauty of complex skill challenges lies in the variety of options and the teamwork aspect inherent in besting them. Regarding the satyrs, there are a ton of DCs for different venues of roleplaying to attempt to make them leave, often differentiating between different strategies – a smartly PLAYED character will face a lower DC than one whose players goes “whatever, I roll skill xyz” – this, organically, fosters teamwork as well as roleplaying. Success and failure are contingent on amassing successes as a group before accruing a certain amount of failures. The system is ridiculously easy to understand and I sometimes wish that particularly deadly traps used such a system more often, instead of relying on one roll. So yeah, the inclusion and proper conversion of these skill challenges is a big plus for me and I can't figure out any drawback to their inclusion – I am very happy that the conversion to 5e managed to translate them as well.

Beyond the satyrs, there is a flaxen-eyed kid in the mill - who is very nervous and claims that it belongs to him. The PCs don't yet know that...but this boy is Froderick's son. Ellesandra, his missing wife, was pregnant and raised the boy in the Summerlands, where time follows different laws....a magical place which can, just fyi, be accessed by the mill pond...which also explains the presence of a rather potent sidhe knight and his squire there, and they're not pleasant beings.

Speaking of not pleasant: The module makes an excellent display of highlighting the strange and capricious nature of fey, while staying true to the myths: If the PCs take a look at the accounts of Froderick, they may well find out that there is something missing. Confronted with this discrepancy, the strange coincidences may make suddenly sense, as Froderick confesses to having had an enchanted millstone that he had to grind each day in order to keep his wife's love. Oh, and his wife was gifted to him by a fairy lord, to whom he was sending the missing tribute. But he vehemently denies being the shape that was seen attempting to drown his wife. (On an aside: Morally compromised, but well-meaning man, young and gorgeous wife that is only kept entranced with him, courtesy of his toil...you can see some nice social commentary here...yep, the like has even existed back in the times quoted by fairy tales...)

It seems that the PCs will have to dive deeper into the matter at hand and brave the mill pond if they want to get to the bottom of this mystery...literally here, for the tithe collector of the fairy, one nasty hag (who also, coincidentally, knew about the miller skimping on the due amount and who is the culprit of the attempted drowning) has sunk the mill stone in the mill pond...so the PCs will have to dive down...and there, finally, brave a kind of mini-game, if you will, as you're diving into the river - getting to shore in the lands of the fey will be not an easy task and may cost them some items, at least temporarily – once more, something I applaud. I am actually one of the GMs who likes destroying PC items and the like...but I digress. Once the PCs have managed to reach shore, things turn very much wondrous, as the Summerlands feel, without a doubt, like a realm both wondrous and magickal, as PCs get a chance to encounter eel hounds, witness the dance of moths, deal with frog-riding goblins...and save Elessandra from a fey bandit. The elven lady is willing to fill the PCs in on her marriage being arranged, and consequently, that the woman has no intention of ever returning to the realms of mortals. Her wedding ring makes for a somber way of hopefully getting the miller off the gallows, but while the GM may elect for this encounter to just happen, it is very much at this point that the linearity you'd expect from a module like this...completely vanishes.

Sure, there are aspects that can be presented in a certain sequence, but, at this point, any remotely capable GM and group can either go in sequence through the specific dressings and NPC/monster-encounters, sure - but the goal itself and how they achieve it will depend in a very nice emphasis of player-choice highly upon the interaction with the mythologically-resonant cast of character: You see, with the miller not delivering the proper tribute, Riverbent is actually bound to become part of the Summerlands unless the deal with the fey lord can be renegotiated and the River King's wrath quelled. Oh, and even if the PCs just want to run...well, they may have access to a means to escape, unreliable though it may be.

Thing is: Fey are elitist. And cold. And alien. And they seem to have taken a liking to some of the feudal structures seen among the mortals - thus, the PCs will definitely need to make some allies with powerful entities...and the entities being fey, well, let's just say that strings will be attached, new roleplaying potential generated as the PCs make their impact known among the noble fey. In fact, the PCs may even claim a title, encounter the dragon Tatzel and there would be the Birch Queen's magnificent and unearthly fair to visit. An evil lord of verminous butterflies, scorched treants and similarly wild beings allow for plenty of deadly encounters...or corresponding opportunities for roleplaying opportunities with some of the most interesting creatures to interact with in a while.

In order to save Riverbent, the PCs not only have to reach the source of the river and gain access to the court of the river king, they will also need to make a case for the claim of Lord Flax on the lands being spurious...and negotiating with a personified force of nature is not an undertaking to be taken lightly or disrespectfully. Fey are capricious, though, and the hag may well demand for a duel...oh, and in order to return to the mortal world, the PCs will have to defend the fairy-realm version of the mill from the forces of Flax in a furious siege...and, much like real-world fairy tales, this ends with a melancholy and bittersweet note, for Flax is truly Froderick's son, the humble kid the PCs saw before, grown quickly and prematurely, providing a somber tone to contrast with the wondrous and impressive nature of the summerlands. When mortals tangle with the fey, sorrow will be the toll for the wonders witnessed.

We conclude the adventure with stats for the courtiers of the river king.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I have noticed a couple of minor hiccups, but nothing grievous. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard. The pdf sports several unique and beautiful full-color artworks and the pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is glorious full color, and the maps for the encounters are really nice, but very small. It is a pity that, much like the PFRPG-version, we get no full-page versions of the maps. Furthermore, we get no player-friendly versions of the maps sans keys, which sucks. So no, if you’re planning on doing this with VTT or with printed-out maps, you’ll have some serious work on your hand. At this point, several publishers provide layered and even multiple player-friendly versions of the maps. I don’t get this needlessly annoying inconvenience.

Wolfgang Baur's Wrath of the River King, back in the day, was a blind spot in my Midgard collection – since it originally was only made for 4th edition, it took several years until the PFRPG-conversion allowed me to complete my collection. When I finally got my hands on this book, I was surprised to see its relative brevity... but don't be fooled: There is a metric TON of gaming to be had from this module. I'd be seriously surprised if any group can finish this book in anything below 6 full-day sessions unless they skip everything: This book not only manages to create an ambiance wondrous and miraculous, it also, much like the excellent "Courts of the Shadow Fey", truly GETS fey. (As an aside – here’s to hoping for a 5e-version of that fantastic masterpiece as well!)

This module is very much is all about the wondrous fey that are in tune with nature; this pdf pits the PCs against an alien and intriguing incarnation of the capricious forces of nature, in all their wonder and destructive, alien, uncaring splendor. From the small dressing bits to the NPCs and environments, the module oozes flavor from every single word and manages to be extremely concise while doing so. There is much more gaming in this module than in several modules of twice that size.

Better yet: The 5e-conversion by Robert Fairbanks and Thomas M. Reid manages to retain all the aspects I loved about the PFRPG-version, managing to expertly translate them to 5e. This adventure belongs in the hall of fame of the precious few modules that truly manage the feat to tap into the wonder and feeling of fairy tales and translate it to the medium of roleplaying games, only being paralleled by the amazing Courts of the Shadow Fey and AAW Games' superb Snow White for PFRPG. (Both of which have decent chances of showing up for 5e at some point, so keep your fingers crossed!)

This is a true gem that basically demands a place of honor on your shelf next to these classics. The adventure manages to cram an insane amount of crunchy bits in its page-count, it also manages to perfectly evoke the sense of the fantastic. This should be considered to be one of the modules that need to be experienced by anyone who even halfway enjoys the world of Midgard, a module that I'd consider core-canon and brilliant.

Particularly the beauty of the ending and its resonance of classic tropes is genius and an emotional note only few modules manage to hit. Now, the PFRPG-version of this module managed to score a honorable mention on my Top Ten of 2016, missing a spot only due to the lack of player-friendly maps. I have a policy of different iterations of a supplement only qualifying once for a Top Ten entry, so instead of being a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018, this should be considered to share the Honorable Mention spot of its PFRPG-version. This is an outstanding adventure and well worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wrath of the River King for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2018 05:01:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Kobold Press‘ Deep Magic-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, as the name implies, this school of magic is only available for elves and shadow fey – mainly due to both secrecy and a requirement of hundreds of years of study – as such, it is intended to be rare, which is something that GMs should bear in mind, We begin with a new magic tradition to represent it, which grants the ritual savant feature at 2nd level, which halves the time and gold requires to copy a high magic spell into the spellbook. Also at 2nd level, the tradition grants Ritual Focus. You can spend up to 10 minutes to create a ritual focus, which may be used for one of 3 different effects: 1) You can cast a ritual version of a spell sans the casting time increase. 2) You can expend a spell slot one or more levels higher to cast the ritual version, if any, of the spell. The ritual thus takes effect at the expended spell slot’s level instead of the minimum. 3) Some spells of high magic have an additional effect assigned to the ritual focus. The limitation here would be that the ritual focus can’t be used again until you have completed a short or long rest.

Now, as a nitpick here, this slightly confused me at first, since the ability stated that it “creates a ritual focus” – if we argue in favor of a creation of some sort of physical entity, then we could create, in theory, a ton of ritual foci, each of which can only be used once per rest interval – now that would obviously be way OP, but it is not the intent of the feature. As far as I could glean, this behaves very much like e.g. a psionic focus in 3.5/PFRPG, i.e. it represents not a physical focus, but an internal one – and as such, you’re limited to one in total, as opposed to one per use or unlimited ones. While this represents no big issue per se, the rules-language could have been a bit tighter here.

At 6th level, we get the Bound Magic feature, which lets you select a ritual that targets an area. You cast the ritual using the ritual focus as well and expend herbs worth 200 gp per spell level. As a consequence, the ritual’s duration becomes a year and a day. You can also make the effect permanent by casting the ritual for 30 days. The feature also increases your number of ritual focus expenditures per rest-interval to 2. Okay, we have a few snafus here: The expenditure of the ritual focus here, does it provide the benefits of the base ritual focus feature as well, or does the feature’s use of the ritual focus count as consuming it on its own? If it does not grant the benefits of the base ritual focus feature, can you expend two ritual foci to combine the effects of the ritual focus feature with bound magic and make an improved version of the ritual spell last that long? Regarding the option to make the spell permanent, do the subsequent casts of the spell required to make it permanent once more require the expenditure of ritual focus and/or the herbs? I really like where this is going and what it attempts, but the precise functionality of the rules here require some serious clarification.

10th level yields Ritual Master: This allows you to copy any spell with the ritual tag, regardless of class spell list, into your spell book, but their spell level may not exceed ½ your wizard level. These spells may only be cast as rituals, unless learned by other means – nice catch there! 14th level unlocks High Magic, which makes ritual spells you cast behave as one spell level higher than the slot actually used. Kudos here: This allows for combination with Ritual Focus’ spell-level increase. Good catch! The feature also expands your number of ritual foci per rest interval to 3.

The pdf proceeds to provide a total of 17 new spells associated with the high elven magic, all of which sport an additional benefit for ritual focus expenditure. Minor aesthetic complaint: The “Ritual Focus” and At Higher Levels”-lines at the bottom of each spell description should be italicized in addition to being bolded. At 1st level, we get two new spells, both of which are available for bard and wizard, with extract foyson also available for warlock and druid. This spell is really cool, as it lets you extract, permanently, the nutritional value from food into a flour-like powder – by expending the ritual focus, you instead make delicious, elven bread. Now, this spell actually has some seriously cool tricks included, once you stop and think about it: Why are people starving, even though they’re eating? You can tell a seriously nefarious tale here. The spell for bards and wizards only would be guest of honor, which nets a +1d4 bonus to Charisma (Persuasion) checks for the duration; the ritual focus lets you expand the duration of the spell to a day. If you’re playing with Midgard’s status rules, you also increase that value by +2. (Nice!)

Among the 2nd level-spells, we find 5 spells: Sorcerers, warlocks and wizards can learn the black swan strike, which generates a 5-ft.-cube of swirling black feathers. The swirling feathers decrease the illumination levels by one step within 20 ft. The cube inflicts 2d8 force damage, Dexterity to halve, +1d8 per spell level when cast at higher levels. Now here’s the deal: By expending the ritual focus, you can actually move the cube, up to 15 ft. per round as a bonus action, but must remain near you. This is a good example of a well-balanced spell: While its damage type is better than e.g. flaming sphere, and its damage dice are bigger (2d8 vs. 2d6), it also has half the range of the sphere, doesn’t ignite stuff and requires a class feature expenditure to gain movement, and then requires you remaining in the vicinity. I’d allow this spell in my game. Now, the three arcane classes as well as the bard may also learn the new heartache spell, which has a range of 30 feet and forces a target to suffer the agonies of heartache – which translates to 5d6 psychic damage, Charisma save halves. Using a higher spell slot allows you to target additional targets, and using the ritual focus makes the target suffer the incapacitated condition for 1 round on a failed save. Considering the low range and using dissonant whispers as a base-line, this makes sense – no complaints.

Shadows brought to light is available for bards, clerics, paladins, warlocks and wizards and causes the target’s shadow to come to life and reveal one scandalous secret of the target – you get to choose whether the shadow whispers to you only or speaks in a twisted voice of the target aloud. The target gets -2 to Charisma-based checks versus anyone hearing that secret for the remainder of the day. The ritual focus expenditure upgrades that to disadvantage as well as a status decrease for the remainder of the day; furthermore, at the day’s end, the target saves again – on a failure, the status loss is permanent. Love this one! There are two spells available for druid, ranger and wizard, one of which would be vine trestle, which lets you go all Jack and the Beanstalk, allowing you to grow a vine that can carry 600 pounds of weight, with a range of 30 ft., which, I assume, also is the length of the vine, which is not otherwise specified in the spell. Damage threshold and AC as well as climbing the vine are covered though. Higher levels make it carry more and tougher, while ritual focus expenditure makes it permanent.

The second spell would be clearing the field and is damn cool: You eliminate all obscuring plant life that would hamper movement or obscure targets within 40 ft. Plant creatures are not affected and the plant life returns after the spell ends. If you expend the ritual focus, plant creatures must succeed a Con-save or be reduced. Higher level spell slots increase the duration. There is one 3rd level spell, once more available to druid, ranger and wizard – that would be song of the forest. This spell attunes you to the natural world, allowing you to picture clearly the sounds and origins thereof of e.g. rustling leaves etc. in the vicinity, granting you tremorsense 10 ft. as well as advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sound. It generally only works in natural terrain and the ritual focus may be used to upgrade the sense gained to blindsight 30 ft.

The pdf has 1 4th-level spell, namely shadowy retribution, which is available for cleric, warlock, sorcerer and wizard. This one requires filling a cup with your blood, pronouncing an oath of vengeance. Once reduced to 0 hit points, blood pours from your mouth, forming a shadow that attacks the target that reduced you to 0 hit points. Higher spell slots allow for more shadows to manifest and if you expend ritual focus while casting this, you get to call a frickin’ banshee instead. (Cool!) Additional undead from the at-higher level feature remain shadows, though. The 5th level spell would be tongue tied, available for bard, cleric, wizard and warlock: With a range of 30 ft., you can cause a target who fails his Wisdom-save to suffer from disadvantage on Cha-based checks requiring speech. Additionally, casting spells requires a Con-check versus your spell-save DC; on a failure, the action, but not the spell slot of the attempted spell casting is lost. If you expend the ritual focus, the target also takes 2d6 psychic damage whenever it tries to speak. I am pretty sure that the spell should require a Constitution saving throw, not a Constitution check, to cast a spell, analogue to the base concentration rules.

At 6th level, we get encroaching shadows, which is a potent area-control spell – 150 ft. range, it affects an area of 200 ft. on a side and 50 ft. high, dropping illumination by one step. Nonmagical spells can’t increase the illumination and magic that causes light automatically fails if its level is below the spells. Spells that have “shadow” in their name or create darkness/shadow effects have their effect in the area increased as though they were cast at one level higher. At higher levels and via ritual focus expenditure both provide means to increase the duration, with the latter preventing dispelling. Okay, I like this one, but it has a few rough edges: The spell enhances shadow-spells in the area, but only in the area – when they move out of the area, does the spell effect revert to its actual spell level? If so, then the interaction with spell effects can become somewhat weird. It would be more elegant to have the spell simply behave at +1 spell level when it’s cast in the area, regardless of whether its effects move out of it or not. The second gripe I have here pertains the area of effect – I am pretty sure that the spell should specify that it is a cylinder….or should it be a cube or sphere? Not 100% sure.

7th level provides celebration for bard and the three arcane classes, which creates a 30-ft. radius party zone – intelligent targets that enter it have a compulsion to party, procrastinate and miss appointments, etc., partying instead. A Wis-save negates and those that succeed may freely enter or leave the fête. At higher levels, we get increased duration, while ritual focus expenditure requires saves on subsequent rounds from those that resist it.

At 8th level, we get 3 spells, the first of which would be bloom, available for cleric, druid and wizard: You plant a silver acorn and change the land within one mile to the fertile terrain that you wanted – resting in this area also maximizes the hit points for HD expended in short rests. The mighty spell also has its counterpart, desolation, which instead strips the land of fertility and life, halving hit points regained from short rests. Both can be made permanent with ritual focus expenditure. Harsh light of summer’s glare is a really cool spell: Creatures that can see you within 90 ft. are affected, regardless o whether they avert their gaze or wear a blindfold – on a failed Con-save, the targets are blinded; if they have darkvision, they are also stunned. For ritual focus expenditure, you charm them instead of blinding them. Really cool!

We close the pdf with 2 9th-level spells, the first of which would be afflict line, available for clerics, warlocks and wizards. You do not need a clear path to your target or see it, just have it in the 1-mile range of the spell. On a failed Wisdom save, the target is cursed with disadvantage on ability checks and saves with a chosen ability score. Additionally, the firstborn offspring inherits the curse; if the firstborn is dead, the next in line inherits it. Offspring get a save to resist the curse as well. For ritual focus expenditure, you make the curse truly hereditary. Nasty! The second spell would be only for wizards, cosmic alignment. You choose a Comprehension of the Starry Sky (see Illumination magic) and cast spells as if under its effects for 24 hours. Instead of insight expenditure, you expend ritual focus instead. The spell must be cast outside AND is immediately obvious to anyone WITHIN 100 MILES.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good – apart from the minor formatting hiccup of missed italicizations, I only noticed a bracket not properly closed. As far as rules-language goes, we have a bit of another situation here: While the pdf, as a whole, is precise regarding many components, the base engine of the ritual focus, the very foundation of what makes this pdf cool, could use some elaboration regarding its intricacies. A couple of spell effects also could be slightly tighter. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf contains amazing, full-color artwork. The pdf comes with based bookmarks for chapter-headers.

I really like where Greg marks’ elven high magic is going. It is potent and flavorful and has a strong thematic tie with both elves and the beloved shadow fey. The ritual focus is an elegant mechanic that almost works perfectly…but just almost. It is a sad truth that the base engine, as presented here, requires some GM-interpretation. That being said, if you’re willing to do that, you’ll get a really cool supplement. The spells per se are really cool as well, though I did find myself wishing that we’d bet some fodder for sorcerers and warlocks as well – RAW, only wizards get the ritual focus engine, which makes the spells less interesting for other classes. Still, as a whole, I considered this to be an interesting pdf. I’d love to recommend it more highly, but with the flaws in the central component of the engine I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
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Zobeck City Map
by Albert R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2018 15:33:37

The thumbnail image misleadingly shows a full map image, but the actual map you get is divided into four sections. This makes it useless for Roll20.

I want the whole map in one image or my money back.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck City Map
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Prepared 2: A Dozen One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by Ian D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2018 03:11:56

Worth buying for the maps alone! Admittedly bought at $3.99 (£2.15).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared 2: A Dozen One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Grimalkin for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2018 03:48:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

So, the first thing you should know is that this module is set in the amazing, evocative city of Per-Bastet, within Midgard’s Southlands. If you haven’t checked out the amazing setting, you should do so. Secondly, this can be run as a sequel to “Cat & Mouse” or as a stand-alone adventure. Now, this module works best when used in conjunction with Tome of Beasts; there are several creatures like the Anubian or the Temple Cat that refer to the Southlands Bestiary. This book, to my knowledge, is exclusively available as a PFRPG-supplement – but before you boo and hiss: All creatures mentioned by the pdf can be found in Tome of Beasts – only the reference is incorrect. Still, I strongly suggest getting the excellent Tome of Beasts prior to running this; the adventure loses some of its appeal without the unique critters.

Regarding formal criteria, the pdf sports detailed read-aloud text for you; organization-wise, important NPC names tend to be bolded and, for the most part, the more important skills etc. are highlighted, though here and there, the regular text does note skill uses and DCs. As such, I strongly suggest reading the module in its entirety before attempting to run it. The adventure sports several really nice full-color maps, but alas, we don’t get any player-friendly versions sans secret doors and keys, and not all of them take up a whole page. The maps may require a bit of tinkering if you attempt to run this via VTTs etc. and honestly, I don’t get why we can’t get keyless versions.

All right, so that’s what this is about, structure-wise…but we know that this is a module…and in order to properly discuss it, I will now go into serious SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, remember that weird Grimalkin Eye from Cat & Mouse? How its ability to control cats made it a rather potent and dangerous object in Per-Bastet? Well, where there’s an eye…there usually is a body, right? She may be a gnoll, but that does not mean that “Princess” Karima Gamilla is dumb…and thus, she sent out her feelers. The gnoll princess turns out to be a rather sophisticated individual, and she sports two different entry vectors to secure the services of the PCs – she really wants to talk to the body of a deceased man to help her ascertain the truth of the current, shadowy situation. While she has no lack of lovesick cronies at her disposal, she does have a preference for less foolish individuals, for professionals – in short, for the PCs. Kudos here: Beyond the two angles to convince the PCs, the module does sport a nice sidebar for troubleshooting particularly suspicious or undiplomatic PCs.

Anyhow, the PCs will have to venture to the local charnel house that holds the body, preferably before it…vanishes. What? Well, you see, the house may be mapped, yes, but turns out to be the home turf of Sultan Shuk’re Nill Mo Chatoor…and he and his gnolls are known for a rather dark hunger. Perceptive PCs may well spot vegetables and spices in the place…these fellows plan on actually consuming the body, and the gnoll very much attempts to make the PCs scamper off on an errand to get a verification of their status as relations, etc. – all in order so he and his allies can have a nice, uninterrupted feast. And yes, he does have an Anbuian and a manabane swarm as well…and his name-dropping is not all bluster…and things are bound to become more complicated, when a “mourner” arrives, Sweet Hasna, with pallbearers…agent of none other than Abdul-Haqq, who also wants the body. There is a solid chance that the whole situation escalates into a massive, free-for-all brawl…

In the aftermath, the PCs will have to navigate the field of tensions between these factions…for it turns out that the deceased scholar had the first part of a rhyming key in ancient Nurian. Things become more complicated still, as undead creatures are tracking a particular feline statue – the calling cat Smart PCs may use this beacon of sorts as a weapon, for Abdul-Haqq does have the second part of the rhyme that the PCs will want. And yes, he is not a pushover. Turns out that he is actually a were-crocodile…and, well…and unpleasant being. His HQ is once more fully mapped, though I did wish we actually got a player-friendly version of the full-color map.

This free-form chapter obviously also means that it can go a lot of different ways, depending on the behavior of the PCs and whom they trust or don’t trust. Huge plus: The rhyming key’s translation has actually been included in the pdf and makes for a cool piece that the PCs can recite…and the key actually also holds the truth of the location of the growling sanctuary…which also is sanctified to a rather grisly heresy of Bastet’s teachings. And yes, PCs with only one part of the riddle/rhyme will well find a false entrance… Anyway, the finale has the PCs explore a unique locale dungeon, with the river of sand growling and unique individuals and creatures attempting to defend the sanctuary…which also contains the mighty Grimalkin idol – if the PCs can secure it, they may have the tools to ingratiate themselves to the authorities…or all manner of unsavory beings looking for a means to grab for power. It should be noted that the dungeon makes good use of global effects – undead are bolstered, the raging river of sand is loud – all in all, a great little dungeon….and the aftermath of the adventure sports a TON of different options for the GM to further develop. As a final, nice bonus, the module suggests an alternate final boss battle for particularly potent PCs. Kudos!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting as a whole, are very good –apart from the erroneous references, I noticed no undue accumulation of hiccups. Layout is gorgeous, full-color, and adheres to a 2-column standard. The full-color artworks are great and really high-quality, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with a few of them. The cartography is full-color and gorgeous, though I wished we actually got player-friendly versions of the maps; having keyless version to print out and use as handouts or for VTT-uses would have added further to the adventure. The module comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Richard Pett and Greg Marks provide an impressive sequel to the atmospheric and fun “Cat & Mouse” – the module breathes the spirit of 1001 nights, with the unique atmosphere of Midgard’s evocative Southlands spliced in. In short: This adventure is extremely atmospheric and further develops the inspiring metropolis of Per-Bastet; I honestly would love to see a further sequel to this series, and I wholeheartedly believe that this city could carry a whole campaign worthy of adventures. Grimalkin, in short, is a nice adventure full of quirky and intriguing characters and adversaries; the focus on intrigue and player-agenda make it versatile and interesting – also for the GM. There are quite a few aspects that can run in rather different ways, making this a well-crafted scenario with above average replay-value – all due to the emphasis of player-choice and roleplaying throughout the majority of the adventure.

Grimalkin, in a nutshell, is a well-crafted, really fun adventure. The minor hiccups regarding creature-references and the lack of player-friendly maps are the only blemishes on a fun module. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Grimalkin for 5th Edition
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