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Asian Archetypes: Magical
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/19/2018 04:08:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second book of archetypes for Asian settings clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 31 pages of content, chock-full with new material – remember, Legendary Games books have a LOT of words per page, so we have a lot of ground to cover!

It should be noted that this pdf features some spells from Legendary Games’ massive Asian Spell Compendium – but you do not need to purchase it to use this book – all spells referenced have been reproduced herein for your convenience. Big kudos for that!

The first archetype herein would be the Bodhisattva paladin, who must be of good alignment and loses proficiency with heavy armor. Instead of aura of good, we get a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and to Intimidate with good creatures, a minus 2 penalty to Diplomacy with evil creatures. Paladin spells with the [good] descriptor and conjuration (healing) spells at full CL. Additionally, detect disease, detect good, detect poison, guidance, purify food and drink, resistance, virtue may be used as a SP, with the total uses equal to paladin class level, at full CL. The lay on hands abilities of this archetype gets an upgrade as well, extending damaging capabilities to include evil outsiders, half fiends and fiendish creatures. The bodhisattva also learns at 2nd level to sense the taint of evil creatures and objects as with scent, which also acts as uncanny dodge for evil targets, attacks with evil objects and regarding spells with the [evil] descriptor – interesting! This ability also allows for the tracking of evil via Sense Motive, rather than via Survival – and yes, a brief table of sample DCs is provided. Heck, mind-shielding spells can make the DC higher, as a proper table also mentions and clarifies. This one replaces divine grace and is really cool. Like it.

The archetype also expands player agenda, as 4th level’s channel energy based on lay on hands is expanded, allowing for a choice of 1 celestial channeling option chosen from an array of 6, with an additional one gained every 4 levels thereafter. These include an auto-dazzling nimbus of light, banishing outsiders (with a max-cap to prevent abuse) and a 1-round daze on a failed save for evil creatures, for example. Nice ones – I wish we could have gotten slightly longer list, though. This replaces aura of resolve/justice. 5th level nets summon satva, which may be used 1/day +1/day for every 4 levels after 5th. Satvas may shed lights and manifest in an unoccupied square up to 30 ft. away. They don’t block line of sight/effect. Each satva may be only called once per day. Each of these basically provides a persistent magic effect that can provide a passive buff or even healing/DR/fast healing, with the activation action, if any, clearly codified. All in all, a rewarding, potent and fun archetype!

The Censor inquisitor gets Wis-mod to Diplomacy and ½ class level to Perception to note forgery or Sleight of Hand, replacing monster lore. Instead of solo tactics and 3rd level’s teamwork feat, we reduce the miss chance granted by illusions by 5% per 2 class levels. Instead of 6th level’s teamwork feat, we add erase/memory lapse as 1st level spells to the spells known. When successfully targeting a creature with them, the censor may expend a 1st-level spell slot to ask the creature a question that may be answered with a single word or short sentence, with the save DC equal to the original spell’s to resist. On a failure, the target answers truthfully AND forgets about this immediately. Cool! 9th level’s teamwork feat is replaced with the option to expend a 2nd level spell slot as a swift action upon scoring a crit, causing the target to take 2 Cha-damage and affect the target with caster croak spellblight, with a proper, Wis-based scaling DC. 12th level’s teamwork feat is replaced with the option to swift action true seeing against a target of judgments – nice blend of the abilities. 15th level nets immediate awareness of shapechanging/altering effects as well as having the option to expend 4th-level spell slots to force such an effect to end. 18th level nets you the option to expend a 5th-level spellslot to make a circle of light, which not only gets rid of lies and forces Stealth to cease, it also eliminates magical Stealth-enhancers. And yes, the latter two abilities replace the teamwork feats. Another nice one.

The jade fist bloodrager are up next, and receive the bloodrage’s Will-save bonus to fear and necromancy effects as well as those generated by undead. The archetype adds blessed jade strike as a 3rd level spell to spells known (spell provided for you). Instead of 1st and 12th level’s bloodrager powers, these guys get +2 natural AC, but -2 to Dex when entering a bloodrage, as the skin turns to jade. This also provides a +2 bonus to saves vs. death effects, disease, energy drain, paralysis, poison, sleep, stunning and necromantic effects. 12th level increases the bonuses and penalties incurred by 2. These guys get aImproved Unarmed Strike, at 1d6 for Medium bloodragers, replacing fast movement. 2nd level nets DR 1/Adamantine, which increases by 1 for every 2 levels thereafter, replacing uncanny dodge and the regular DR. At 4th, the jade fist may expend spell slots as a swift action to add lifesurge to unarmed strikes, considering it as +1 regarding enhancement bonus, +1 for every 4 levels thereafter, though this only applies vs. undead. Duration is governed by the level of the spell slot expended. At 8th level, this may be extended to weapons wielded, though the weapon needs to be partially made of jade. This replaces 4th level’s bloodline power. At 5th level, he gets basically 25% fortification, which increases to 15th level, replacing improved uncanny dodge and bloodline feat gained at 15th level. Kudos: This covers interaction with proper fortification right. Instead of 14th level’s indomitable will, we can expend 4th level spell slots to cast a spell as a swift action, sans AoO, treating it as 4th level.

The jinshi wizard must not be chaotic and automatically gains the average living expenses benefits, but he is also required to spend some days of the month serving the people, a duration that may btw. be paid off each month. These guys add Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive to class skills and learns two languages for every 2 ranks of Linguistics invested. They also add comprehend/share languages as well as tongues as spells known at 1st level. These fellows may not gain a familiar, instead gaining a bonded object. They may draw 1 spell from this object into an unoccupied spell slot, needing to fulfill all other requirements. This spell is available only fleetingly, and only ½ CL such spells may be retrieved from the object per day. This does not allow for the cheesing of prohibited schools. There is also the requirement of thereafter adding to the repository of spells, illustrating nicely the idea of a magic repository that transcends the ages. Instead of Scribe Scroll and the 1st level school power, these folks get Allied Spellcaster, gaining the benefits even if the nearby ally doesn’t have the feat. When readying actions and casting the same spells, DCs are increased and the higher CL is used. The feat may also be loaned for a limited number of rounds to allies, using school power uses as a resource. Clever. 5th level nets lore master and 10th level lets 1/day jinshi Empower or Extend Spells retrieved from the repository, +1/day use at 15th level and every 5 levels thereafter., where Maximize and Widen Spell are added to theoptions. The Allied Spellcaster ability also allows for use with this one. 15th level relives the character of the duties and also allows for at-range sharing of Allied Spellcasters, with allies sans spellcasting instead gaining Shielded Caster. Nice.

The unchained summoner kaiju caller loses proficiency with medium and heavy armor. When they use summon monster SP. You may expend 2 uses instead to summon a version at +1 size category, gaining the benefits of enlarge person. These guys only get the eidolon at 5th level, and it is brutish – ¼ skill points, Intelligence 1. However, it is immune to Intelligence drain/damage. The eidolon does gain a ferocity variant and the ability to 1/day immediate action delay the onset of a condition by one round. The summoner can grant his eidolon also a reroll as an alternative…and gets the complex ruler-interactions done right. Instead of transposition, we get chant of doom, which nets a doom chant that employs summon monster uses as resource and no-save shakens targets, but does not exacerbate previous fear effects. Nice one. At 10th level, the chant can grant allies a lesser form of rage (+2 Str/Con, +1 to Will-saves; -1 AC + restrictions to Cha/Dex/Int-based skill checks, excluding Acrobatics, Fly, Intimidate and Ride). These benefits scale at higher levels and targets are not fatigued when the benefit elapses. This replaces aspect and greater aspect. The capstone lets the character generate natural disasters…or call Kaiju. OUCH. Damn cool.

The Kannushi druid adds Diplomacy/Knowledge (local + planes)) as class skills and loses medium and shield proficiency. Wild empathy is replaced with a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Knowledge (local, planes, religion). The archetype gets an expanded spell list, courtesy of kami tutelage and can call them with summon nature’s ally and entice fey, replacing spontaneous spells. Nature’s bond is delayed to 4th level, at 3 levels lower, gaining one spirit domain from an elder fey/jinushigami if worshiping such a target. Venom immunity is replaced by a shrine that can protect everything stored there. Interesting one.

The kenja cleric may not be evil and begins play with a potent vow of peace as a restriction that enforces fighting defensively or in total defense for the first two rounds, or cast defensive/healing spells. When given the chance, he must attempt to deal nonlethal damage to living targets. The archetype also loses proficiency with armor and shields, and only proficient in bolas, club, light mace, quarterstaff, sap, sling and sling staff. They get a monk-like unarmored AC bonus and may, as a move action, commune with ancestors to add a +2 insight bonus to the next d20-roll before the end of the next turn, usable Wis-mod + ½ cleric levels times per day. 1/day, the kenja may expend 3 uses to enter a trance that duplicates scaling divination effects. This replaces one 1st-level domain power. He also gets basically a lay on hands ability that substitutes for channel energy, including mercies gained throughout character progression. When used offensively, it may duplicate Touch of Serenity and the ability may also Merciful Spell spontaneously spells. This may not be used to damage undead. The archetype can spontaneously convert spells to peacebond or calm emotions (no cheesing possible) and 4th level nets sanctuary with buffs added – only one may be maintained, but the ability fails to specify the activation action – I assume the default standard action for SUs, but one could make a case for less. The ability improves at 8th and 16th level and may be used offensively to prevent creatures from attacking. This replaces the second domain power of a domain. I like this one’s “balanced Book of Exalted Deeds”-vibe, in spite of my nitpicks.

The mantis Madonna is a magus who loses armor proficiency, but uses Wisdom as governing spellcasting attribute, treating spells as psychic spells. Huge kudos: Component substitution mentioned and covered! Spells are limited, but may be spontaneously cast and chosen from magus and psychic spell lists. The arcane pool is governed by Wisdom as well and applies to unarmed strikes – and yes, these folks get Improved Unarmed Strike and a monk’s progression for it as well as Stunning Fist, applying arcane pool benefits to these attacks and gaining a defense AC-granting buff to arcane pool-uses. Spellstrike applies to unarmed attacks and the archetype receives a modified magus arcana list, which include arcane eye/ lesser astral projection. I liked how the archetype handles the concept of combat precognition as an arcana, plus, we get defensive tricks like evasion and its improved brethren, further emphasizing the magus/monk-crossover idea. Instead of spell recall and its improved version, the archetype can expend arcane pool points to replenish spell slots, and the bonus feat array encompasses Style feats…and, actually gets the wording for feats that build on style feats right. Picture me celebrating hard in front of the screen! This is something almost everyone gets wrong! Kudos!! The archetype can also expend arcane pool points when preparing spells for a wildcard-ish psychic spell selection. At high levels, we also get Style/Stance-blending, which is something I always loved. While we lose the spell combat upgrades, we do get cool cosmic awareness-themed SPs as well as acting in a surprise round. I love this archetype. It’s a great representation of a hybrid-y archetype that feels distinct.

The miko shaman adds Appraise to the skill list and all their spells employ ofudas as an inexpensive material component, replacing divine focus. Here’s the cool thing: They can’t be dispelled. Instead, the ofuda must be taken off the target and targets don’t see ofudas attached to themselves. Now, this spellcasting tweak is really, really cool and includes grappling and stealing ofudas, as well as hp-levels. The archetype also gets ½ class level to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate as well as Sense Motive when interacting with fey and kami, and the ability to talk to dormant and nascent kami translates to speak with animals, plants or object reading, with 10th level unlocking stone tell, though these are limited by a hex-caveat – appropriate, since the ability replaces 2nd level’s hex. 8th level nets a shikigami kami as a spirit animal and may morph into animal form at beast shape III. The archetype also expands the summon nature’s ally-list with kamis. This replaces 8th level’s hex. 12th level is per se amazing: A potent option to bless a group to either grant bonuses or net cool benefits in conjunction with the downtime system – but, alas, the ability does not specify how long it takes to perform.

The Numerologist wizard must be lawful and adds Disable Device as a class skill. Scribing a spell requires twice the time, but they only take up half the space and other wizards have a hard time deciphering spells from their cipher. They also forfeit one spell per day of the highest spell level, with later levels losing similarly spell slots. Scribe Scrolls are harder to decipher for other casters and to make up for some of the drawbacks, these guys gain factors, which may be used ½ class levels, minimum 1, + Int-mod times per day as a move action These factors can provide a variety of numerical bonuses or reduce concealment, for example Minor nitpick: The factor unlocking is a move action, and thereafter, the numerologist can store multiple ones, up to Int-mod factors. This could have been phrased slightly more elegantly, but oh well. This replaces arcane bond. The archetype may break down higher level spell slots into lower level spell slots and gets some non-magic divination-effects at 4th level. They can prepare hexagrams as Silent Spell substitutions of verbal components (but you need somatic ones to brandish the hexagram) – this replaced 5th level’s bonus feat. At 10th level, the hexagram becomes more potent, adding +1 CL and Enlarge/Sculpt Spells brandished thus. The archetype receives symbolic magic, which nets glyph spells added as wella s the option to really competently deal with such trap-magics. Higher levels yield a bonus to saves vs. compulsion and insanity/confusion-immunity. 12th level lets the character 1/day replace a roll of his (or another being) with the average. Random rolls by items like the rod of wonder may be rolled multiple times for factor uses and fortune/misfortune hexes can also be sued. Damn cool archetype.

The origamist arcanist replaces the 1st level exploit with a construct origami familiar and may substitute origamis for material components that cost less than 1 gp. 5th level locks the character in a variant of the consume magic items exploit that only applies to magic items made of paper. Scrolls on the sorc/wiz list may be folded into origamis and cast sans writing them into the spellbook. He may also fold scrolls into costly material components. 9th level’s exploit is replaced with an origami-based shadow conjuration variant and unfortunate origami and paper vessel are added to spells known (these are reproduced for your convenience) at 10th and 12th level, respectively. 13th level provides a really cool, alternate 2D-paper-form that includes benefits for turning sideways, including furling into an impossibly thin line. Really cool replacement for that level’s exploit.

Ehem. MORTAL KOMBAT!!!! Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun. insert amazing beat The next archetype is Raiden. A shaman archetype and the guy you see on the cover. Proficiency-wise, we get long- and shortbows, whips and simple weapons and light armor. Wind is the prescribed spirit choice and may infuse shocking touch in arrows. We get lightning/storm-themed spirit magic spontaneous casting options and the ability to use shocking touch to fire a low-range electricity ray. This replaces wandering spirit. Instead of wandering he, we get the ability to make a super fast lightning ladder, which is REALLY useful. More so than you’d think. Instead of greater wandering spirit,w e get thundering or shock added to weaponry, as well as free thundering added on crits made with shocking touch. Really cool: Combo resistance-grant/line of damage instead of wandering hex (greater). Mechanically not the most interesting archetype herein, but I love MK, and I love playing Raiden…so yeah. Ehem.

The skyflower savant alchemist gets snapdragon fireworks as a first level extract and proceeds to get limited access to [fire]-descriptor (erroneously called fire subtype) evocation spells from the sorc/wiz list, with a limited set of discoveries as an alternate choice. These choices are made at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. The bombs of the alchemist dazzle targets on failed saves and may even blind the unlucky (nat 1 on save or confirmed crit), replacing Brew Potion. Poison resistance and immunity are traded in for a scaling bonus to saves versus fire effects and the blinded, dazzled and deafened conditions, as well as scaling fire resistance. Swift alchemy is traded in for quicker firework and black powder creation. Finally, there would be the Wushen wizard, who gets +1 toC L when preparing at least 3 spells of the same element. The class needs to adhere to a taboo, +1 at 3rd level and every three levels thereafter, with violations penalizing CL and spell save DC. They begin play with a ki pool of 1 point and add Int-mod points at 5th level, +1 for every 5 levels after 5th. These can be used for minor bonuses as well as to increase CL by 1d4, for 2 points, starting at 10th level. This replaces bonus feats. Instead of arcane bond, they can craft a fetish at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. These act as a spellbook substitute, allowing for preparation sans the spellbook, as if with both Spell Mastery and Eschew Materials. The fetish spell can also add a +1 spell level adjustment metamagic feat, which is free for the spell as long as the fetish is worn. The wushen does not need to know the feat, fyi. Cool take on the concept!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are excellent on both a formal and rules-language level – considering the density and high complexity of the rules-operations herein, the precision is marvelous indeed. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ nice 2 –column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will know most. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson and David N. Ross deliver an all-killer pdf of archetypes. These options ooze flavor galore, cover unique and fun concepts…and they can stand up to even the high levels of coolness that e.g. Interjection Games’ Onmyoji reached, providing meaningful and unique changes to the game. I am particularly enamored with the superbly-elegant ofuda-casting herein: Easy to implement, making it the dominant (or only) casting tradition can have phenomenal and interesting repercussions for the world. I am definitely experimenting with this in the days to come! The book, in short, is a winner. Well worth checking out, full of cool ideas, I was left with minor nitpicks here and there, but not enough to steal the crown of 5 stars + seal of approval from this excellent book.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asian Archetypes: Magical
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Asian Bloodlines
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2018 05:28:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of bloodrager and sorcerer bloodlines intended for Asian settings clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 2/3 pages of SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 1/3 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so structure-wise, a few of the bloodlines herein make use of spells from the Asian Spell Compendium – these have been reprinted here for your convenience. (Kudos!) The pdf first proceeds to present bloodrager bloodlines, then sorcerer bloodlines. The respective ones have been properly tailored to the two classes, while retaining concise leitmotifs.

Let me demonstrate with the first bloodline, the imperial dragons, who choose a lineage corresponding to the 5 imperial dragon types. This influenced the shape of the breath weapon as well of the associated energy type. The imperial dragon bloodlines presented are based on the core draconic bloodlines, with 12th level adding an increased threat range to them. The dragon resistances at 4th level represents a natural AC bonus and DR 5/bludgeoning or slashing, with the AC scaling at higher levels. Breath weapons of imperial sea dragons can alternatively be executed as a 60 ft.-line and the draconic movement is adjusted for each of the lineages chosen and tweaked in unique ways – for example, forest dragon scions get the abilities trackless step and woodland stride in forests as well as freedom of movement as well as the high-level option to see through natural obstacles in forests: Vines etc. offer no concealment. That is damn cool and allows for some really nasty tactical options. You can see how the respective draconic options here work well for the bloodrager. The sorcerer version of the bloodline gets enhanced piercing damage spells as bloodline arcana as well as a focus on better damage output for e.g. animated objects chiefly made of earth, stone, mud, etc. The sorcerer option has less direct adjustments than the bloodrager option, but it still is distinct from it.

Now the imperious bloodline so far had no bloodrager equivalent, a fact that hereby changes, as the imperious bloodrager provides a decrease of length required to use Bluff, Diplomacy, Knowledge versus humans to one round while bloodraging, as well as a bonus to Intimidate versus those affected by your spells. Really cool: Executing good hope/suggestion as part of entering bloodrage! Even cooler, there is actually a caveat that prevents abuse by bloodrage-cycling. At higher levels, we have the option for immediate action demoralizing of targets as a response to being targeted by spells, SUs, etc. 12th level nets inspired rage raging song via spell slot expenditure, with spell levels denoting the duration. The higher level options provide 1/day adding geas/quest or vengeful outrage to Intimidate, while the capstone nets immunity to death effects and energy drain and cease to age or require drink/sleep. The bloodline is really cool, as it focuses on a leader bloodrager, a trope we only rarely see catered to. Nice!

Both bloodrager and sorcerer get the kami bloodline. For the bloodrager, this begins with a VERY potent skirmishing trick – ignoring difficult terrain while bloodraging. I’d complain here, were it not for the limitation by bloodrage. This would only be the first ability, though, and the bloodline frankly moves on to provide a thoroughly awesome rendition of the concept underlying the notion of kami: The bloodline allows for the use of bloodrage rounds to animate objects with kamis, with progressively better animations. Similarly, melding into the ground, spirit sight and designating a ward make this one a truly cool and unique bloodline that allows for meaningful changes of the playing experience. I love it! The sorcerer version of the bloodline is similar, but instead of the unbound chaos of animated objects, we get the options to make origami shikigami! Yeah, amazing, right? Spells and bloodline arcana also represent rather well a different take on the concept that feels much more sorcerer-y while retaining its familiar ties with the bloodrager bloodline.

The kappa bloodline provided for both classes nets defensive options, including no arcane spell failure in heavy armor and when using tower shields for the bloodrager, as well as sight through mists and kappa-transformation when entering bloodrage. The bloodrager can also short-range teleport in mists etc. with spell-slot expenditure, with higher levels providing grabbing claws as well as dragon turtle bloodrage and an antimagic shell that nets SR. Once more, a rules-relevant and interesting modification of the bloodrager-experience that I applaud. The sorcerer bloodline, alas, is less interesting – we get scaling defenses, resistances and the like, but nothing that really screams “unique”, though the option to change fire-damage spells to ones that cause cold damage at +1 damage per die rolled is a nice bloodline arcana.

The next bloodline would be the kitsune bloodline – the sorcerer bloodline makes the saves versus interacting with your illusions tougher if the targets are friendly or better and you can generate fox fire, which are dancing lights that add an option to be fired as fiery globes. Cool! Unsurprisingly, we get a focus on shapechanging that scales, as well as more persistent illusions that persist after your concentration breaks. Really cool: Polymorphing into targets you have magic jar’d and the capstone swift action illusion maintenance. At this level, we can also expend spell slots to enhance the shapechanging tricks. The passion and design is evident – Alexander Augunas has obviously designed this one. It has his style written all over it. The bloodrager version of the bloodline is damn cool as well and goes a thoroughly different route: We get Kumiho transformation when bloodraging as well as 4th level full spellcasting while in kumiho form, which btw. also makes your spells harder to identify. The bloodline then proceeds to provide further upgrades for this fearsome form, including the option to execute heart strikes, which, at higher levels, can become instantly fatal, but require set-up. I love how different a route this one takes, yet how it remains distinctly kitsune. There is also a cool kyubi mutated bloodline that gets a ki pool governed by Charisma, which comes with some unique enhancers to spellcasting. It also makes for really cool synergies with different ki-tricks of other classes and options from e.g. The Way of Ki or the numerous WuXia-themed options out there. This one replaces potent illusions.

Next up would be the naga bloodline: For the bloodrager, this one nets a properly codified bite attack that scales with levels and later nets you poison with it. Scaling AC-bonuses and naga shape III, a capstone immunity to mind-reading and permanent see invisibility as well as at-will detect thoughts and a +2 bonus to saves versus mind-influencing effects. The naga bloodline for sorcerers nets limited invisibility, better enchantment DCs and saves vs. mind-influencing effects and poisons, casting sans hands and a capstone, at-will naga shape III plus immunity to charm, mind-reading and poison. We also get two mutated bloodlines, with the guardian naga adding an AC-buff when fortifying yourself with transmutations. There is a somewhat hilarious cut-copy-paste glitch here that mentions them deriving their power from the kyubi, but it does not influence rules-integrity. Instead of vanishing, guardian nagas can spit poison a limited number of times, ensnaring eyes are replaced with bonuses to mind-influencing effects and the bloodline nets a few cleric spells added to the spell-list. The second mutated bloodline would be the spirit naga, who can squeeze through tighter spaces and gets +2 to Escape Artist as well as to escape from grapples and to saves versus entangling/restricting conditions. This replaces naga resistances and 9th level nets a fascinating gaze that replaces ensnaring eyes.

The oni bloodline nets a touch that inflicts scaling nonlethal damage (cool!) a limited amount of times, with altered self gained at 3rd level and 17th level unlimiting the ability. We also get gaseous form and 15th level nets you oni regeneration, which kicks in once you’re reduced below 0 hit points. A limit prevents the cheesing of the ability via Hp-transfer tricks – kudos! A lesser designer would have stumbled over this one. The capstone nets a giant shape I-based alternate form as well as SR and +2 to DCs for charm and compulsion. There is a mutated bloodline for the oni, the nogitsune, which lets you see past sight-obscuring spells (cool!!) and replaces the gaseous form ability with additional target/increased area of effects for charm and compulsion spells. The bloodrager iteration of the bloodline, which nets you a gore attack, whose damage is properly codified. (Type must be defaulted, but it’s gore, so yeah, no big issue.) The alter self/gaseous form options are retained, though oni regeneration is tweaked and instead uses a maximum daily cap, but may be activated as a swift or immediate action, which makes sense for the class. The high-level options, we get the giant form I-based trick, with a further enlarge person as part of bloodrage and SR added as well; if already in giant form I, it upgrades to II. Neat one.

The rakshasa bloodline is another nice bloodrager option that makes sense for faces – +5 to Bluff to lie and characters attempting to force the truth out of the fellow require a CL-check. We also get a well-made claw attack in bloodrage (properly codified) and limited, instant detect thoughts sans the 3-round concentration requirement, which is cool. Nondetection/misdirection becomes available at 12th level, and 16th level nets a save versus divine spells and channel energy/domain powers as well as DR 5/good and piercing , which increases at 20th level. The capstone nets you an unlimited, alternate raksaha form. The sorcerer version comes with the same cool silver tongue ability at first level, the same detect thoughts…but makes nondetection permanent and also yields unlimited alter self into any humanoid. The capstone nets outsider apotheosis as well as DR 10/piercing, though it should be noted that it explicitly does not come with the usual outsider-apotheosis returning-from-death-restrictions.

The final bloodline provided herein would be the tengu. The Sorcerer version nets +1 to attack with spells that create slashing weapons as well as +1 to the DC of language-dependent effects. The bloodline powers begin limited gliding/feather fall via gliding wings – really cool! 3rd level nets swordtraining and thus, a massively-enhanced proficiency-list, as well as sorcerer level as BAB for the purpose of feat-qualification. This also nets Weapon Focus and qualifies for Weapon Specialization later. 9th level nets scent, which is particularly efficient versus undead. The higher level options include being able to avoid the limitations of language-dependent spells and effects a limited amount of times per day, as well as full spellcasting functionality in bird form. The capstone nets you a tengu shape as well as the option to negate an attack by becoming a cloud of feathers that also makes you effectively benefit from gaseous form, nets you concealment and allows for the follow-up beast shape II assuming of a crow shape. Neat one! The bloodrager variant of the bloodline nets you a beak, which acts a s a secondary natural weapon (damage type not codified); attacks with it are enhanced when wielding a sword and 4th level provides bonded blade, which may be quickly drawn…and comes with a parry mechanic based on opposed attack rolls. Here’s the thing: Action, rounds of bloodrage and AoOs as resources to fuel it make it actually tactical. While I’ll never be a fan of them, this is pretty much one of the best iterations of a parry mechanic I know. Even cooler: You can expend spell slots to temporarily render the bonded even more potent, adding bonuses or special qualities. Minor complaint: The bloodline nets Style feats, and while the base Style feat is available all the time, the 12th and 16th levels net +1 such feat, with the wording implying that these could be follow-up feats from a Style’s feat-chain. Here’s the issue: Only the FIRST feat in a Style-feat chain is a Style-feat. Style feats are limited and those that build on them usually are combat feats. So yeah, this one is a tad bit more wonky than I’m accustomed to see from LG. 12th level nets your flight in bloodrage; 16th provides Deflect Arrows while in bloodrage and the capstone nets auto-confirms for crits and an increased multiplier as well as immunity to being disarmed.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level, with only one, harmless, formal typo and very minor hiccups in the rules. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Jason Nelson, Alexander Augunas and David N. Ross are all veteran designers that deliver a ton of first-class products. Their names are almost always a really good indicator that the book will be at least good, quite probably amazing. Now, let me be frank: I’m rather burned out on the concept of bloodlines. I have analyzed and read so many of them, that this review took me longer than it should have. That being said, this book frankly clocks in as one of the best books for sorcerers and bloodragers that you can possibly get for PFRPG, with only Interjection games’ Big Book of Bloodlines sporting bloodlines this distinct. While I wasn’t utterly blown away by all bloodlines herein, there are quite a bunch that rather radically change the playing experience of the respective base class, and that is an amazing thing to achieve. This is a really compelling, well-written supplement that provides a LOT of information and quality rules in its pages. Well worth a final verdict of 5 stars!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asian Bloodlines
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Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
by andrew e. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2018 16:49:40

Practice your evil laugh, warm up the sacrificial altars and pull the lever, because the Book of Exalted Darkness does the corrupted and dark justice that a proper evil campaign deserves.

Our playgroup has twirled their mustaches, laughed maniacally and sent many a do-gooder to their doom. Throughout my years as a GM I’ve had several evil campaigns pop up both on purpose and on accident, but they rarely went well for long. Evil campaigns have inherent problems that are hard to shake, problems that inevitably degrade and undo the notion of a coherent adventuring party.

The Book of Exalted Darkness addresses all the problems with an evil campaign and wraps it up with a neat little bow for you.

I had given up on evil campaigns but with the Book of Exalted Darkness I feel like it’s time to tie some more maidens to the railroad tracks. Every problem that I’d encountered in our evil endeavors of the past have been smoothed out by this book.

The first problem was usually a matter of setting and threat. Your average campaign can often be boiled down to an essentially neutral world threatened by some oncoming threat either on a small scale, or up to a world ending one. In many evil campaigns this is still somehow true, your party still needs to save the world, just for evil reasons. Just how am I supposed to eat my orphans in peace while all this end of the world nonsense is going on? The setting presented in the Book of Exalted Darkness takes care of this swimmingly. The world in the Book of Exalted Darkness is painfully and oppressively good and presents many prominent magical restraints and enforcements of “goodness” that the party can seek to overturn. The status quo is the goodness in the world and is riddled with tinges of hypocrisy and tyranny (such as the secretly undead paladins and a virus that turns rapists into werewolves), that just gives you that wonderful manic fulfilment when demolished. This allows the party’s resistance to the status quo to be the conflict that can drive a plot forward.

The second problem with an evil campaign is usually motivation. In 5th edition as in most editions, there really isn’t an incentive for most evil acts. Yes, you can go burn down the orphanage and slowly pull out the hero’s spleen, but what’s the point? Beyond the roleplaying experience there wasn’t much to gain. In the Book of Exalted Darkness you can literally make a kickass magic item out of those useless orphans, and a whole section of horrific medical experiments to perform on those unfortunate enough to be on your operating table. Heck, there’s a whole section about painfully dissecting and eating what are clearly legally distinct smurfs™. This book lets you become mad scientists, twisted mutant abominations and cannibalistic casters, not just as roleplaying but as detailed class options that entice you to play them and revel in their evil deeds. On that note I should warn you, this book is dark. It can be played off as mustache twirling Saturday morning villain fun, but a lot of it goes into very bloody detail for the more deranged among us, we know who we are.
Fundamentally, the Book of Exalted Darkness is full of classes, archetypes, spells and features that make you want to play an evil character. After reading it I already had a dozen ideas for characters I wanted to play and that’s the highest praise I can possibly give.

The third problem was party cohesion. My mad scientist really doesn’t have an inherent reason to get along with Gromak the baby eater. The Book of Exalted Darkness gives you plenty of plot reasons to stick together. Such as the oppressive goody-two-shoes authority breathing down your necks, the anarchic goals of their destruction and mysterious evil benefactors and agents that can bind you to one another. But it also gives you mechanical reasons to help each other’s actual evil plots, an element that always seemed missing from our previous evil campaigns. Helping your cultist friend catch the innocents needed to perform a ritual to benefit you all, helping the mad scientist get the fleshy components needed to graft you a new tentacle arm. The wealth of actual mechanical reasons to pursue these evil schemes and cooperate for mutual fiendish benefits helps your dastardly team stick together.

Being critical for a moment, some of the art feels very stock but that’s understandable as the book is massive, weighing in at over 400 pages. My strongest issue with the book was just a formatting issue, it does a white with black text when describing the good in the world and black with white text covering the evil. It’s neat but the black with white text hurt my eyes after a while and I found myself closing it up just to rest my eyes.

Even if you aren’t planning on running an evil campaign you should still give the Book of Exalted Darkness a read. It’s full of concepts and sections that I’ve already stolen and started implementing in my existing campaigns. The vehicle section was a welcome surprise with a detailed and comprehensive system to use everything including motorcycles and jetpacks. The madness system is wonderfully twisted, and the plethora of poisons perked my interest and have already sizzled their way into the veins of some of my players. Great monsters and NPCs, evil spells and feats, even two full short campaigns at the end. There’s a lot here to work with. Have fun with this book, I know my playgroup will be cackling maniacally for quite some time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
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Asian Spell Compendium
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/04/2018 05:49:36

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive collection of spells clocks in at 38 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages introduction/how to use, 1 + 2/3 of a page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 1/3 pages of content – as always in LG-books, we get a ton of content per page, so the pdf actually contains more material than you’d assume from the page-count.

Now, we begin with functionality – to be more precise, we begin with a means of making the book much more user-friendly: We not only get a list of alphabetical spell names, we also get a list of spells by class, organized by ascending levels in the respective class entry. Even cooler: We get a third spell list that depicts spells by school and descriptor. Need a language-dependent spell? Just look it up. That is a HUGE plus as far as I’m concerned. It significantly increases the chances of spells herein actually seeing use.

Ahem, now, theme-wise, this book is part of the series of pdfs intended for use with Jade Regent or similarly-themed settings and as such follows an aesthetic that is in line with WuXia movies and mediums, though a couple of the options herein should work as well in more low-key environments like Rite Publishing’s Kaidan setting. There are a total of 110 spells herein.

All right, so let’s take a look at these spells, shall? Ancestral wrath would be a 2nd level necromancy that calls an ancestral spirit that streaks towards a target in close range, hitting automatically and dealing untyped damage (boo!) that scales up to 5d6 for living beings, up to 10d6 for undead. It deals full damage versus incorporeal targets and an undead target damaged that fails its save is shaken for 1 round. Okay, so Fortitude partial – does that mean that only undead need to save and that the save negates only the condition? I assume so, but the spell could be slightly clearer there. Does this spell sound familiar to you by any means? Well, there is a reason for that! If you’re like me and really adored the Rokugan setting and Oriental Adventures in its various iterations, you’ll meet some old favorites here, updated and for the most part, streamlined. Considering e.g. Rokugan’s mechanics regarding jade, etc., the spells are more than just cut-copy paste with new classes thrown in – to use this example spell, we have it available for classes where it makes sense – spiritualist, medium, shaman, witch, cleric and occultist. It may be a small thing, but I’m a big fan of keeping the themes of classes consistent, so that aspect is a definite plus for me. (As an aside: The 3.X books never properly covered all the different, cool katas in d20-games…would love to see those. But I digress.)

Since this book contains a staggering amount of spells, I will not go into the details of each and every spell within, instead focusing on the greater picture and attempting to give you an overview, all right? Right! While we’re on the subject of death, often less permanent in the mythology than we’d assume, awakened from death represents narrative gold: The target awakens from death temporarily, feebleminded and with hazy memories. An undead was walking down the road, not knowing why…and yes, this would fit it pitch-perfectly with Kaidan.

A low-level means of generating an enemy-only targeting shaken effect via an illusory mask, an army of unseen servants to cater to your every need – I can see the spells herein work formidably in settings like Jade Oath and beyond. Interesting: There is a spell that makes partially wooden weapons turn around to attack their wielders. Fully metal weapons are not affected. Why? Well, think about the modified elements assumed in such settings and it makes sense. It’s a small component, but it adds to my immersion here. A blackblade katana bestows temporary negative levels and yields the wielder temporary hit points; the dark nature of blood magic as a form of spellcasting can also be found in e.g. the bleeding fire spell, which nets a magic missile like fire-based effect with higher damage output, chance to set targets ablaze, etc. – and yes, it makes sense at the level of the spell.

The classic blessed jade strike makes a return. There also are mechanically really interesting spells here – take focusing/centering form: These two spells can be cast as a swift action and interact with another spell being cast, enhancing concentration as it is cast or wholly allowing the caster to make the unconscious mind take care of the concentration required to maintain the spell in question. There is a high-level spell to conjure forth a cloud barge or a resplendent cloud of fog of light that dazzles targets and really hampers any creature not used to its light.

Now, some may remember cobra spit – it’s a 10-ft. cone that causes 1d3 Con-damage on a failed Fort-save, additionally dazzling targets and blinding them on a natural 1. I took this relatively simple spell to highlight how it makes sense: The ability score damage is sensible for the 2nd-level spell; the classes that get it are druid, alchemist and witch and it has the proper descriptors, classifying it as poison. In short, it gets all those small details right that you’re liable to miss when doing conversions yourself. Did I mention the 9th-level Colossus that grows you to a MINIMUM of Colossal size? Yes, you can attempt to fist-fight that kaiju….but oddly, the end of the spell mentions you “shrink”ing – that should be “grow.” I assume that’ s due to the wording being partially copied from the reverse version, greater diminution. (As an aside: Everyman Gaming’s Microsized Adventures really helps with dealing with massive size-changes.)

Speaking of high-levels: Clerics with access to 8th level spells can force permanent alignment changes on targets that fail their save versus compulsory conversion. There is also an interesting fire-based high-level spell that uses a save and a HD-cap, but can yield what otherwise only death effects can provide: Save or die. It’s 9th level and takes a full round to cast, though, making sure that its use remains limited to a degree.

The pdf also includes variations of spiritual weapon with a stacking, capped misfortune-curse added, dancing weaponry and a rather helpful spell that allows you to analyze the nature of a curse currently affecting a target. I am not the biggest fan of doubled range increments for ranged weaponry, but how could I not like a cloud of fireflies that renders targets drowsy? An old favorite of mine has also been recovered and converted – fault line causes bludgeoning damage (properly codified) and also acts as a light terrain control spell with its difficult terrain creation. Cool: Ghostly glow represents an eerie variant of dancing lights that interacts with Horror Adventures’ spooked condition. (And yes, once more, perfect fit for Kaidan…)

Glory of the Chrysanthemum Throne may be one of the coolest high-level spells within: It creates innumerable, daylight-shedding ghostly flowers that detonate upon contact with evil creatures, while also providing a miss chance. Oh, and you can designate a rightful person to sit on the thronw who gains a really brutal buff. Amazing 9th-level spell.

Inscribed enemy is interesting: You designate a target and enchant a weapon (NOT ammo!) – the weapon’s first hit versus the target is treated as though executed by a +1 bane weapon. I also loved the visuals of jade prison, which slowly encases evil in a jade statue. I also enjoyed how a couple of the spells herein have been designated as koans, which adds a bit of flavor to their effects. The codification of magnetic ray was also something I rather enjoyed seeing here. Ridiculously funny: Marvelous chopsticks. Think of them as a Bigby/Hand-spell variant that deposits targets in extradimensional spaces, where they are chewed. On the low-level end of the spectrum, I loved meltwater or the nonlethal enforcing merciful mandate. What about making a ladder from smoke?

Fans of rokugan’s shugenja will certainly appreciate the return of phoenix wings. Punji pits make for nice terrain control and a mist that can clean up harmful vapors is a long overdue spell-based counter method for the vile miasmas. Remove fatigue is a spell I see with a degree of skepticism, since it explicitly suppresses further instances of fatigue incurred, which allows for rage cycling etc., banning the spell at my table. Seize the Heart, on the other hand, looks OP at first, but isn’t: The spell can instantly kill a target on a failed save, which, at spell level 3 or 4, is nasty – however, a HD-cap helps keep it in line and instead makes it a great mook-sweeper. What about making scarves lethal…and potentially decapitating targets with them? Yeah, thought you’d enjoy that! And yes, there is a tengu fighting fan that not only nets you an item – you can decrease the remaining duration for special combat tricks. I love this type of versatile design.

Snake arrows do pretty much what they say on the tin, and I probably will not need to explain either Terra Cotta Legion or Lions, right? Quite a few of the spells within interact with spirits and the spirit world, which is nice to see, as it better reflects the realities of most Asian settings. Sublime detachment is a great form of almost-enlightenment high-level means of fortifying against emotions, but also prevents morale bonuses. What about transforming items into origami? Yeah, players will really like that happening to their blades…MUAHAHA. Sorry. Had a bit of a moment there.

It should be noted that the pdf provides an optional rule to make identification of these spells harder when encountered outside of their usual cultural context.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level herein, though not as perfect as in many LG-books. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard that the Jade Regent plug-ins employ. The pdf comes with bookmarks for the chapters, but not for the individual spells or at least beginning letters – it could be slightly more comfortable here.

Jason Nelson delivers a love-letter to oriental Adventures here, with a massive selection of unique and colorful spells that breathe the spirit of WuXia. Their mechanical representations are rather nice, and I’d allow the vast majority of them in my game. While I don’t get how a glaring oversight like remove fatigue could happen, the vast majority of the book is precise, concise and interesting. The book provides a rather impressive array of complex spells, many of which sport neat visuals, mechanic, or both. In short, this is a good collection of spells, one well worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, and though I do feel that this one is closer to the 4 and 5 stars due to the heavy quoting of Oriental Adventures, as a reviewer, I do have an in dubio pro reo policy and hence will round up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asian Spell Compendium
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Mythic Magic: Horror Spells
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2018 15:31:56

Having bought the printed version of ‘Mythic Magic: Horror Spells’, I personally attribute this installment with the maximum 5 stars. Comparing the price of this product with the amount of actual pages of content (18 pages out of 26 pages) one gets, the usefulness of the content (both toward players as well toward GM’s), the editing and formatting quality, the beautiful colored artwork, the quality of the paper on which this installment is printed, the nice table of contents overview, …, it is definitely worth its maximum stars.

This particular installment contains 69 mythic spells with crystal clear spell descriptions, a must have for any horror campaign lover.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Magic: Horror Spells
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Mythic Monsters #46: Japan
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/02/2018 06:14:05

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Legendary Games‘ Mythic Monsters-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of advertisement, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, as always, we begin this supplement with new supplemental content – and this time around, that content comes in the guide of 5 new magic items, the first of which would be the mighty crane kimono, which nets the wearer Crane Style while unencumbered and in light armor and also bestows good fortune, which particularly shows when rolling an advantage-like roll, i.e. twice and taking the better result. Really cool: The kimono also protects from the ravages of time, rendering mythic wearers even immortal! Cool: We can use mythic power to render spells merciful or apply Touch of Serenity to attacks. I can see the kimono’s cranes being released. Evocative one. The second item would be a representation of the classic oni mask, here envisioned as allowing wearers to grow in size and gain oni-like defensive traits, which may be further enhanced via mythic power expenditure. Additionally, the mask can be thrown into the air to grow, pummeling a designated foe as forceful hand, representing a classic visual. Wearers can also fire rays and mythic wearers get passive bonuses. Cool take on the trope!

Less costly would be the princess peony, which can create a spectral bodyguard of sorts. The rokurokubi whip can have its tail transform into the head of the dreaded creature, which can also transmit caster croak! Mythic wearers can also wield it as a scarf, granting sustenance, the option to become a pseudo-rokurokubi etc. – amazing weapon! The tombo fan, finally, enhances bardic performance while acting as a magical fighting fan, while mythic wielders can begin to fly while maintaining performances with the fan. Nice one!

Now, what about the monsters? Well, at Cr 3/MR 1, we have the Pipefox, whose mythic incarnation is a true font of knowledge and who may, 1/day stun targets with a revelation. Fun one.! At the same CR/MR, kappa can thankfully now turtle up in their significantly stronger shells. I was also happy to see the water gourd represented in a proper ability here. Well done. At 1 CR higher, the Kawa Akago can break of their fangs in targets now, and they also get a luring, mournful cry – which is delightfully twisted.

From here, we move to the classic tanuki, here as CR 5/MR 2. The Tanuki gets its choice of a limited array of feats each round, to represent drunken master-style unpredictability, and yes, the classic flame breath as well as pilfering hand 3/day while in raccoon form. The Kirin’s mythic version clocks in at CR 8/MR 3 and is unfettered by boundaries – freedom of movement. They can use mythic power for quickened cure spells and get smite evil. They can also add a mythic power-based detonation to their new signature ability, which is a corona of purifying flames that harm neutral and evil creatures. (Kudos: Half fire/half untyped properly codified.)

At CR 10/MR 4, we have two creatures, the first of which would be the ogre mage, who gains a disease to afflict targets with as well as more natural weaponry to represent the maneater aspect. Oh, and they may use mythic power to increase spell DCs and enter a specialized rage. The second creature herein at this power-level would be the ice-maiden, the Yuki-onna can now bull rush in spite of being incorporeal and gets the trick to send magic flying back to casters. Nice! While we’re on the subject of deathly pale beauties: The Harionago clocks in at CR 13/MR 5 and does finally justice to the myth: DR-penetrating barbs in the hair, a nasty shriek (did I hear banshee?)…really cool. My favorite ability, though, would be a representation of her not handling rejection well: When someone resists her tricks, she takes Wisdom damage, but also gains a buff. This rewards smart players and has the plot-angle practically baked in. Kudos! Japanese legends sport some of my favorite woman-monsters, and the spider-hybrid Jorogumo, at CR 15/MR 6 is also included, and of boy is she cool: Webs laced with intoxicants and aphrodisiacs; enhancing spiders with breath weapons, implanting eggs, quick wrapping of targets – pure amazing!

At 1 CR more, the mythic Gashadokuro can fire skulls that latch onto victims and gnaw them to bits; they are nigh-unstoppable when faced by those suffering from starvation and they get a demoralizing roar and enhance the starvation aura to apply feast of ashes via successful attacks. At CR 21/MR 8, we have the Bakekujira, who can unleash mythic contagion, can Awesome Blow via tail slaps and gets fast healing 10 – but only in water…or, well. It can get half fast healing for a limited time for mythic power. Mythic power may also be used to attempt to affect creatures that saved via levathan’s call. They have bane versus ANY creature that killed an aquatic animal and those killed by their smashing breach rise as savage draugr! Have I mentioned the undead parasites? Oh yes. At the same lofty CR/MR, we get the mythic shinigami. These can crush soul gems quicker and gain cumulative bonuses when focusing on a target – death, alas, is inevitable, as they say. Similarly, escaping from one may see the mortal cursed with an escalating, devastating curse and their presence makes death effects bypass SR automatically. OUCH. And yes, their scythe can’t be disarmed…oh, and you DON’T want to be critted by them. If the damage doesn’t kill them, DC 37 save or die should make even mythic characters gulp for a second when facing these legends.

What’s the new creature, you asked? Well, none other than perhaps the most famous, legendary beast from Japanese myth. We’ve fought it in Nioh, in okami, we’ve read about it in Catherynne M. Valente’s Grass-Cutting Sword – represented in a ton of different media, we get the epic, eight-headed Yamata-No-Orochi, at CR 30/MR 10. Full attacks with charges. Beheading bites. 8 different breath weapons. Oh, it can INFLICT BURN. It has independent minds and control of which one is affected. It can intercept attacks by foregoing attacks or breath weapons. Oh, and it can, obviously, regenerate heads. Its jumps generate tsunamis/earthquakes…and it is a relentless sake-addict. Which may well be the only reliable way to survive seeing this glorious legend. Seriously, do the DPR-calculations for a smartly-played Yamato-No-Orochi. No matter how amazing the mythic high-level PCs are, they will fear this beast!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artists Tim Kings-Lynne, Mike Lowe and Tanyaporn Sangsnit did a glorious job with the artworks – the cover artwork in particular is PHENOMENAL. As in, one of my all-time favorite cover-artworks.

Jason Nelson, Loren Sieg and Mike Welham provide a homerun here – every single iteration of these mythic upgrades is suffused in mythology, sports amazing abilities, and blows its regular version out of the water – not only in power, but in how they try to represent the associated concepts. This is one of the best installments in the whole series, at least for me. It oozes flair and panache in every critter and the depiction of the legendary 8-headed snake as a new campaign-endboss-level super-beast adds icing on a cake made of awesome. 5 stars +seal of approval, given sans hesitation.

(As an aside, if you’re playing in Kaidan and are looking for some really tough bosses…there you go!)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Monsters #46: Japan
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Ultimate Factions
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/26/2018 04:33:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction/how to use, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content. It should be noted, though, that much like in every LG-book, these pages are chock-full with text and information – we get a ton of content in these pages.

So, what did I complain about regarding kingdom building? What did people really want to see there? What’s a big weakness of the base kingdom building system, even after LG’s massive and glorious expansions like Ultimate Rulership? Well, it represents kingdoms as cohesive entities, when both in fiction and reality, they never behaved as such. The vizier wants to be caliph instead of the caliph, religious cults and mage guild vie for control, and the noble families are plotting.

Now, I am perfectly capable of plotting complex machinations of a ton of factions in the background of the campaign, seeing the information in tiny nuggets. My players like piecing together complex happenings – but what happens when a large group of NPCs in a kingdom-building game exerts its influence, either under the control of PCs or in opposition to them? In the more abstract kingdom-building, seeding hooks and the like becomes tougher. Enter this supplement.

As an aside, this also acts as a bridge of sorts between regular and kingdom-building gameplay: The PCs could e.g. begin using the rules for large organizations in kingdom building as well as Ultimate Intrigue’s organization influence rules to influence organizations, via them kingdoms…and perhaps actually become caliphs instead of the caliph. (Kudos if you got that reference, btw.) This allows for a more organic playstyle – from rags to leaders, to kings, this book allows for a linear progression and acts as a synthesis between Ultimate Intrigue and Campaign.

Okay, so how do factions behave? First thing you’ll notice is that factions actually get tangible benefits from their alignment: Lawful factions get +2 resources, chaotic ones +2 power, good ones get +2 reputation and evil factions +2 to power. Neutral factions get +1 to reputation and power, while true neutral factions get this bonus, obviously, twice. If the combined size of a kingdom’s factions exceeds 10 times the kingdom’s size, it’ll get +1 unrest during upkeep’s Step 4. Goals designate the faction’s endgame; operation denotes the means by which the organization seeks to achieve its goal.

Power, Reputation and Resources are pretty self-explanatory and constitute the attributes of the organization. A point of size roughly represents 25 members, and in a cool twist, we get Ultimate Rulership-synergy here. If the members are dissatisfied with the faction’s leadership, then this leads to tension, which translates to a scaling penalty to faction checks. Factions may have types and measure their wealth in Wealth Points (WP), each of which is worth approximately 400 gp, or 1 BP in kingdom building. WP may be purchased during the income phase.

In order to create a faction, you first calculate its size. They begin with a size of 0, and buildings in the kingdom increase the maximum initial size. A MASSIVE table of a detailed building-list provides an easy 1-page-stop-reference for the sizes, and, once more also covers Ultimate Rulership’s buildings. Factions may start as a smaller size than maximum, should they choose to do so. This table also the 9 types of factions – for example, an academic faction obviously benefits from an academy, while a military or religious one does not. These 9 types, just fyi, each convey a total of +2 to the faction’s attributes, though obviously, some of them split the +2 bonus between two attributes.

As an aside: The engine allows, as presented here, for pretty easy changes of faction type: Wanted to subvert those religious fanatics via wit? Change the type of the faction. Looking for a representation of growing fanaticism and radical thinkers, or an increasing enlightenment? Type-changes can provide an easy means to write a new chapter of your faction’s history. After the type, you determine the secrecy of the faction –a faction may be open, covert or disguised. After codifying different basic types of possible goals, we take a look at the scale of the goal, which obviously may range from local to encompassing the whole kingdom. Note that public and covert goals may be different from another! Goals have a basic DC 15 to achieve, with aims, scale and privacy determining the DC-modifier to achieve a goal.

So that’s the base engine for the faction. From here, we proceed to take a look at the faction turn. A faction turn takes place during the kingdom turn sequence, after the Edict phase. Results of the faction turn should take place before the start of the Income phase. All factions perform each faction phase before moving on to the next phase. Power acts as an initiative of sorts for factions, and on a tie, the smaller faction goes first.

First, we have the upkeep phase – here, we check tension. If tensions become particularly bad, we may well see a splintering of factions here! After that, we pay upkeep costs.

After that, we move on to the operations phase: Here, factions may act, with their sizes governing how many operations can be initiated. Operations happen in a contiguous sequence, not parallel: First OP #1, then OP #2, etc. The sequence may be freely chosen. Here, gp can be converted to WP and income is determined. Operations are classified in two categories – active and maintenance. These include advancing a goal, abandoning one, aiding factions, earning wealth, pursuing alliances, engaging in faction conflict, recruitment…you get the idea. These interact in meaningful ways with the kingdom building rules.

Now, I mentioned splintering factions before, and this indeed is a part where the intrigue component comes into play – you see, the pdf provides the tool to treat factions as organizations and vice versa, allowing you to switch between them with relative ease. This makes it very much possible for individual characters to matter and provides an uninterrupted line of player agenda from the personal to the kingdom level, which, to me, represents a HUGE selling point. This is also relevant, obviously, for the easy to grasp splintering rules. If you already have a kingdom in play, fret not – the book contains rules for creating actions for existing kingdoms.

Now, if we assume factions and PCs as a constant line of sorts, it should become obvious that PCs will sooner or later want to use skills in the context of factions, right? Well, the pdf provides concise rules there as well.

Does that all sound too complex for you? Fret not! Simple faction rules included. Now, the pdf is not content in just providing an unbroken line from intrigue to Campaign – it actually ALSO provides the means to use the downtime rules in context with factions! Yes, this is purely optional, but oh boy did I smile here. Of course, kingdoms may attempt to support or suppress a faction and, as noted, the faction/intrigue rules, are presented in a concise manner: The process covers approximately a page and is tight and was understandable on my first read-through. Considering the systems in question, that is quite an achievement.

Now, the book is content with just providing you with tools – it proceeds to elaborate on why factions matter and how you can use them in play – and, if you’re a lazy fellow like yours truly, you’ll certainly appreciate the 6 generic sample factions that allow you to throw factions into play without much hassle. The pdf concludes with a handy table-index.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting re top-notch, I noticed no glitches on a forma or rules-language level. Layout adheres to legendary Games’ nice two-column full-color standard. The artworks are in full-color and nice, though fans of Legendary Games will be familiar with all but one of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

WTF has just happened here? This is, to my knowledge, Ben Walklate’s FIRST RPG-supplement. As in: Freshman offering. At least I couldn’t find any previous rulebook. This pdf has no business being so darn impressive! I expected that this book would be good; after all, Legendary Games would not jeopardize the reputation of their phenomenal kingdom-building supplements.

Still, I did not expect this little book to actually succeed in such an impressive manner in a task that can well be deemed a squaring of the circle of sorts: We have a seamless progression from character to faction/organization to kingdom-building level, providing not only perfect synergy between Ultimate Intrigue and Campaign, but also with the must-own Ultimate Rulership. This is baffling. I mean it. The systems presented are organic, precise and, best of all, remain easy and painless to sue and integrate. Indeed, the rules presented herein sport an almost effortless elegance that, from a design-perspective, is a true achievement.

This book is a missing link of sorts; whether you take the analogue of Conan (Solitary PC -> faction -> king) or just kingdom-spanning intrigues that oscillate between the different levels, this book delivers; with transparency and much-needed interactions between the different levels, this represents an absolute masterpiece that allows you to tell a whole cosmos of new stories. There are very few book that attain this level of game-enhancing characteristics, much less in such a tight manner. Ultimate factions is a masterstroke and the single most impressive freshman offering I have read in a long, long while. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, and this qualifies as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. This is a must-have offering and should be considered to be an EZG-Essential for any games that want to blend intrigue and kingdom-building. This is a true masterpiece. Get it.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Factions
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Legendary Hybrids: Yakuza
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/19/2018 04:57:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This Hybrid Class clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, which, as always for Legendary Games, are chock-full with text – so yeah, there’s more content herein that the page-count might lead you to believe,

All right, so the yakuza is a hybrid of the unchained monk…Wait. It’s NOT? WTF? So yeah, the yakuza’s parent classes are actually something completely different: Cavalier and ninja. I know, right?

So, the yakuza gets ¾ BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves and d8 HD as well as 6 + Int skills per level. Proficiency-wise, we get proficiency with simple weapons, kama, katana, kusarigama (HECK YEAH!), kyoketsu shoge, nunchaku, sai, shortbow, short sword, shuriken, siangham and wakizashi as well as light armor, but not shields. The class begins play with a teamwork feat, for which he must meet the prerequisites. As a standard action, the yakuza can grant this feat to all allies within 30 ft that can see and hear the yakuza. This feat is retained for 3 rounds + 1 round for every 2 class levels the yakuza possesses. These allies don’t have to meet the prerequisites. This ability may be used 1/day, + an additional time per day at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter and is treated as the tactician class feature for the purpose of prerequisites and archetypes, etc. Additionally, all members of the yakuza gang are treated as having the teamwork feat for the purpose of determining bonuses granted by the yakuza’s teamwork feats. 9th level and 18th level provide more choices here regarding feats and improve action economy and allow for the sharing, in the latter case, of more teamwork feats at once.

Now, pretty cool: The Yakuza begins play with a contact and gains an additional one at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter. They also get +2 to Diplomacy to procure services from contacts. If the contact is part of the same yakuza gang, the Trust level will be increased by 1. However, violating the tenets of the gang will result in a general reduction of Trust level by 1, by 2 for members of the respective gang. Gang? Yep, the equivalent of the cavalier’s orders is chosen at 1st level. Adherence to a gang’s ideals and what constitutes a violation thereof is within the realms of GM interpretation and changing gangs first strips you of the former gang’s abilities and requires a process of re-dedication.

The pdf provides a total of 5 such sample gangs. Each gang modifies the character by granting a boost to sneak attack and skills at first level; the skill boosts provide their benefit to one use of a given skill, like e.g. influencing a creature’s attitude. Formula-wise, the bonuses granted are +1/3 class level, minimum +1. Beyond those, 2nd, 8th and 15th level provide gang abilities. What do the gangs do? The black rain gang grants a +2 bonus to atk versus foes that are unaware of the presence of the character (or consider him an ally) when sneak attacking; 2nd level is treated as having concealment versus such targets and 8th level allows for a Cha-governed, supernatural, ki-powered suggestion. 15th level allows for the maximizing of sneak attack damage when attacking unaware or friendly targets.

The blood tong gains a +2 bonus versus foes that damaged him; skill-boost is applied to brokering a deal. The 2nd level ability nets a bonus versus targets that broke an oath with the yakuza or the blood tong. 8th level nets the option to use ki to make a deal a blood pact, which bestows a curse upon those that dare break it. The 15th level option allows the yakuza to shift obligations of blood oaths to other characters and treats the blood oath as geas/quest. The dragon lords chooses a ranger’s favored enemy and applies a +2 atk to sneak attacks versus that type. Skill-boost-wise, we get the bonus to Bluff non-dragon lord yakuza. 2nd level allows for aid another as a swift action and 8th level has something cool: 1/day when using aid another, the aided character also gets a move action. This may be used an additional time at 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter, 15th level allows for the expenditure of two uses of this ability to grant a standard action.

The Jade Triad gets the sneak boost versus demoralized foes, the skill boost to demoralize targets. 2nd level allows for swift action demoralizing when hitting a target with a sneak attack. 8th level upgrades demoralization to cause the target to be frightened 1/day. For ki expenditure, he may even bypass fear immunity. 12th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield another daily use. The 15th level ability allows for sneak attack damage dice rerolls versus demoralized targets: All that come up as 1 may be rerolled once. For 1 ki expenditure, the dice that come up as 1s and 2s may be rerolled, and they may be rerolled until they all come up as 3+. Finally, the white tigers gain their sneak boost versus targets threatened by more allies and apply their skill boost to shift attitudes of friends and foes via Diplomacy. 2nd level provides a 5-ft.-speed reduction (I assume, all movement rates are affected) accompanying sneak attack, for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. 8th and 16th level increase that speed reduction by 5 ft., respectively. 8th level provides the ability to expend a point of ki when successfully sneak attacking a target; if the yakuza does, the target may not use withdraw or 5-ft-steps for Cha-mod rounds, min 1. The 15th level ability allows for the expenditure of ki when damaging a foe with sneak attack, setting their speed to 0 and inflicting the staggered condition on a failed Ref-save. Minor complaint here – no save DC is given. While it is pretty obvious that the DC should be 10 + ½ class level + Cha-mod, analogue to other gang abilities, that can be a bit confusing at first.

2nd level nets a ki pool equal to ½ class level + Cha-mod. This nets them two hadou techniques: By spending 1 ki point, the yakuza can grant himself a +1d6 bonus on a skill check or save, or to atk versus a target who is denied Dex-mod to AC or flanked. Additionally, for spending one ki, the yakuza can grant himself an additional 5-foot-step of a +20 ft. speed enhancement for 1 round. Finally, 1 ki may be spent to grant the yakuza the option to open/close a door or draw/sheathe a weapon when using Sleight of Hand to conceal. These are activated as a swift action. Minor complaint: The save boost probably should have been activated as an immediate action instead; otherwise, it’s pretty useless. Cool: The ability covers interaction with other ki-based classes. 2nd level also yields sneak attack, which increases in die-pool-size by +1d6 every 3 levels after 2nd.

At 3rd level, the yakuza gains no trace who not only provide a bonus to Disguise and opposed Stealth checks, it also makes tracking them, particularly if they lay low, increasingly harder. This level also nets home turf, , which means that he treats all urban terrain as favored terrain, gaining Knowledge (local) instead of Knowledge (geography), boost-wise. The bonus begins at +2 and improved by +2 every 5 levels thereafter. Cool: The yakuza is not automatically familiar with a new city – it takes a bit of studying, represented rather well in the engine. He may only have one home turf, though. Even cooler: The bonus actually is not simply passive: The yakuza actually may use ki in such familiar terrains to increase his AC and is not impeded by crowds! REALLY cool representation of the concept.

4th level yields uncanny dodge and 7th level, improved uncanny dodge. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter yield a ninja trick, with 12th level unlocking master tricks. At 5th level, the yakuza gains the right to wear the elaborate tattoos that we associate with the concept. These provide a +1 moral bonus to saves versus fear effects for all allies within 30 ft., which increases to +2 for gang members and further scales up by +1 every 5 levels thereafter. Additionally, the yakuza gains Dazzling Display, with a +2 to Intimidate versus targets that can see his tattoos. This bonus similarly scales. 6th level nets Black marketer, which nets Black Market Dealings as a bonus feat. Any team lead by the yakuza gets +2 to all Cha-based social skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate) related to black markets. 10th level yields uncanny flanker, treating class level as 4 higher for the purpose of determining flanking capabilities regarding improved uncanny dodge. Additionally, the yakuza may spend 1 point of ki as a swift action to determine any adjacent square as her position for setting up flanking positions. COOL!

At 11th level, we get druglord, basically providing poison use and gets +1/2 class level to Craft checks to make drugs and poisons as well as +4 to saves to resist poison, drugs and alcohol, including recovery from intoxication or addiction. Knowingly ingesting a poison, the yakuza can delay the onset of its effects via ki expenditure. “Sure, this wine is totally not laced with black lotus. See, I’ll take the first sip…” Damn cool. Additionally, via ki, the yakuza can combine poisons and drugs, though such combined materials are short-lived, preventing the creation of ridiculous mega-drugs/poisons. Well done.

At 13th level, gambler nets the option to spend ki to roll twice when gambling (or guessing riddles). Also, whenever the yakuza rolls a natural 1, he can expend 1 ki for a reroll with +1d6 luck bonus – but if the reroll is still a failure, he takes -1 to all d20-rolls and can’t use the ability for 1 minute. Nice one. 19th level eliminates the autofail of atk, saves and some skill checks on a natural 1 and the capstone prevents dying from old age as well as providing immunity to death effects, diseases and poisons. Any accrued age-related penalties may be suppressed via ki expenditure. Cool one!

Now, I already mentioned one of the new feats herein, Black Market Dealings: This one nets +4 to Diplomacy to access it and eliminates the gp-cost to do so as well as the consequences for failing to the check by 10 or more. Additionally, and that is pretty damn cool, you can attempt to find merchants with deeper pockets by increasing the access DC, with a settlement’s crime modifier as a bonus. I really liked this and its concise rules. Mind Trick lets you select one Dex-based class skill, which may then be used as governed by Cha, ignoring armor check penalty for it. Additionally, when using aid another with the skill, you add Cha-mod to the boost granted, which can be brutal, but fits. Overflowing Ki makes you count as always having at least 1 ki for the purpose of abilities that require that you have at least 1 point. Additionally, you can meditate for 1 hour to regain 1 point of ki. The class also comes with favored class options for the core races as well as aasimar, catfolk, dhampir, drow, fetchling, goblin, hobgoblin, ifrit, kobold, orc, oread, ratfolk, sylph, tengu, tuefling and undine. In an uncharacteristic glitch, three favored class options lack their numerical values: Orc and half-orc deal “+ damage on sneak attacks”, which probably should be +1; goblins and humans get “+ of a ninja trick”, which probably should be 1/6, analogue to the rogue FCO.

A total of 8 different archetypes are included in the pdf: The Absent bansho replaces the teamwork sharing and contacts features with the vigilante’s dual identity and seamless guise; the teamwork sharing abilities are delayed to 5th and 13th level and yakuza-levels are treated as 4 lower for the purpose of these benefits. To make up for this, the gang abilities are replaces with a vigilante talent at 2nd, 8th and 15th level, assuming the stalker specialization. The flying tiger does not gain light armor proficiency and replaces the teamwork sharing with Improved Unarmed Strike and monk-like damage scaling. They also begin play with Tiger Style and get Tiger Claws at 4th, Tiger Pounce at 8th level, replacing the ninja tricks at these levels. Contacts are delayed to 6th level and are treated as -5 levels. Instead of 2nd level’s sneak attack, the character gains rain of star, +1 attack in a full-attack, +2 attacks at 11th level; for +1 ki, another attack may be added, though all such attacks must be executed with shuriken. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and gained at -2 yakuza levels and 3rd level yields slow fall and 6th level, high jump. Starting at 12th level, the character may choose style feats or monk bonus feats instead of ninja tricks. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get evasion at 4th level and 7th level nets swoop, which is really cool: As a sift or immediate action, you can spend 1 ki during a jump or fall to turn up to 90 degrees and move ½ slow fall distance in any direction, including up. Yes, it’s double-jumping/swooshing as seen in Wuxia-media, games like Devil May Cry, etc. Love it. Also: This movement has a dodge bonus to AC based on Cha associated with it...or you may forfeit the bonus, to end the changed movement with an unarmed strike.

At 10th level, this ability can be further enhanced and allows you to drag foes –love this part of the engine. 11th level nets improved evasion and 13th level nets flight for class level minutes per day, with the option to increase duration via ki-expenditure. And yes, sports proper interaction with the swooping ricks. A real winner here. Love this archetype.

The gun runner is proficient with all firearms, excluding siege engines and replaces contracts with Gunsmithing. 2nd level nets Amateur Gunslinger as a bonus feat, using ki as a grit-substitute. While he has at least 1 ki, he gains + Dex-mod to damage with firearms, capping, thankfully, at yakuza level, though. 2nd level increases reload speed by one step, stacking with Rapid Reload (note here – it would have been convenient to get the actions listed, but that is only the slightest comfort detriment); 8th level lets you spend a ki point to double the first range increment of a firearm wielded for Cha-mod rounds. I assume the action to be swift here, in line with other swift action ability uses, though the Su may point otherwise. Clarification would be neat here. 15th level upgrades this to also adding +Cha-mod damage, but only until the next round.

The junk pirate loses light armor proficiency and delays contacts gained to 6th level, treating his class level as 5 lower for it. However, they gain +2 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects, as well as to Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Linguistics and Profession checks to come off as a regular businessman. At 3rd level, they can spend 1 ki to force targets to roll at basically disadvantage (taking the worse result) when opposing these skills with Perception or Sense Motive, with a Cha-governed Will-save to negate. No trace is replaces with scaling skill boosts to Swim as well as Climb and Acrobatics atop a ship and in aquatic terrain. Home turf is replaced with favored terrain (aquatic) and the ninja tricks are replaced with deep sea pirate tricks. 4th level nets a familiar at ½ level, which also helps prevent being flanked while in the vicinity. 7th level nets the option to cut sneak attack damage in half for a free reposition as well as the option to move to a square thus freed as a swift action, sans AoO and in addition to other movement, mind you. Instead of gambling, we get ki-based curses, which improve at 15th level.

The pack rat is only proficient with simple weapons and light armor and gets either Catch off-Guard or Throw Anything at first weapon. He replaces the gang-based ability with a scaling crazy-prepared ability – 100 gp per class level. While the ability has a maximum item value and weight caveat, it does not have a no-specific-items caveat, which is a somewhat annoying oversight. The archetype also is treated as +4 Str for the purpose of carrying capacity if he properly packs his stuff and gains +4 to Sleight of Hand to conceal small objects. 3rd level allows the character to attempt Profession untrained, as well as getting +1 to trained Craft and Profession checks. Also at 3rd level, we get the option to use ki to feint as a response to being attacked by a higher CR foe; on a success, the foe must save or deem the pack rat harmless, focusing on other targets. A target thus bluffed can be attacked by the packrat as though flat-footed for one round. Nice: The ability has a caveat to avoid spamming it or use the trick on those that witness it, with a hex-like cooldown. 4th level nets a pack animal animal companion or familiar. No trace is delayed to 6th level and 7th level nets the gang war teamwork sharing ability, but only pertaining the companion. 11th level lets the archetype use dirty tricks in conjunction with improvised weaponry or unarmed strikes versus targets that are denied Dex mod.

The serpent chemist loses proficiency with light armor and delays contacts to 6th level, but gains druglord at 1st level. 3rd level nets swift poisoner. The archetype gets poison-related tricks to choose from, including some SPs in conjunction with drugs/poison or select some alchemical extracts. 9th level has an Int-governed option to create more doses, with Master Alchemist synergy provided as well. 10th level nets DC increases based on sneak attack damage dice foregoing as well as ki-based swift action poisoning. 11th level nets the option to use ki to reroll saves versus alcohol, poison or drugs immediately, taking the better result, which may also, as a full-round action, be extended to an ally. Minor complaint: The ability has no range and it probably should – 30 ft. or adjacent. The ability also allows the chemist to mitigate ability score drain and damage an ally has suffered from such toxins. 13th level allows for super-fast toxin creation.

The tattooed one replaces contacts with better Intimidate versus non-yakuza, better Diplomacy for yakuza. Additionally, fear effect DCs are increased by 1- 2nd level allows the yakuza to use prestidigitation at-will via his magical tattoos and higher levels net ki-based illusions, with 10th level and higher unlocking shadow illusions. These are btw. considered to be parts of the gang. Sneak attack is delayed to 4th level and 3rd level allows the tattoos to dance to fascinate targets, with ki to power the ability and 8th and 13th level improving the action economy of the ability. 8th level allows for the use of ki to double the range. Instead of uncanny dodge, we get the option to shake off nauseated, sickened, fatigued and exhausted conditions on subsequent rounds or halve the duration of save-less conditions. The conditions to which this applies are expanded by dazed, frightened, shaken and stunned at 7th level. Instead of black marketeer, the archetype can mark targets with tattoos, duplicate some cantrips and use ki for tattoo-based unseen servants. 9th level provides more ki-powered SP-like tattoo-animation.

Finally, the triad enforcer gets Enforcer at 1st level and replaces home turf and no trace with a samurai’s resolve. Cool: They can use their own resolve or ki to break that of other creatures! They can also cause Wis-damage (save to negate) with demoralizations, but for a cost of ki. Gang war is delayed to 5th level and 6th level nets a bonus to Bluff and Intimidate. Cool: This one has honor point system synergy, taking only half the penalty for dishonorable actions. 7th level nets dirty fighting, which helps with improvised weapons and CMB-checks as well as allowing the character to forego critical bonus damage for debuff effects. 11th level lets you add, as a swift action, another attack when reducing a target to 0 hp, at +character level damage. 13th level nets fear immunity as wellas the option to spend ki to affect creatures usually immune to fear, but only if they are no more than one size larger than the enforcer.

Finally, the pdf sports a detailed and lavishly-illustrated sample NPC, Shinsuke Tatsu a CR 7 tattooed one yakuza, whose story ties in with the deadly NPC from Legendary Villains: Vigilantes. It should be noted that the name of the character’s lost lover is Yoshi, which usually denotes a male in Japanese. Personally, I applaud the integration of a well-rounded, gay badass here. It should be noted that the NPC comes with a full boon-write-up as well, ending the pdf on a high note.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good for the main class; the supplemental material sports a few more glitches in the details than usual for Legendary games, though – none of them are grievous, but they slightly tarnish this otherwise inspired book. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard. Weird: The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. The full-color artworks are a blend of artworks LG has used before and the new, cool class piece.

Okay, so first things first: I frickin’ LOVE Jason Nelson and N. Jolly’s Yakuza. This is a hybrid class done right. It plays differently from both of its parent classes; the abilities do an AMAZING job of reflecting the flavor of the yakuza and the tropes associated with them. The archetypes, even the engine-tweaks, are all meaningful modifications of the chassis and the abilities of the class manage to marry fluff and crunch in precise and flavorful ways. If only all hybrid classes were this good…

Now, the base class is great and expertly balanced – it should not provide issues in even low-powered, gritty games and I adore the vast majority of this pdf…but unfortunately, the minor hiccups here and there do need to be represented in some way in the final verdict. Hence, I will rate this as 5 stars, but omit my seal of approval. If the minor gripes I noted don’t faze you, then get this hybrid asap!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Hybrids: Yakuza
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Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
by Greg H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2018 03:42:39

A truly twisted book including new ability mechanics to reflect the corruption of those who delve deeper into its pages. The Book of Exalted Darkness is presented as a detailed campaign setting, crossing multiple boundaries to create the world of Askis, a world that you can really immerse yourself in. The book also contains new classes, skills, creatures, items, and hooks that can be applied to your own campaign without having to significantly tweak them.

Mike has clearly spent a lot of time on this book, I've only managed to play a few aspects so far, incorporating them into my home game, but the Diabolist class is a favourite, it's well balanced and provides its own interesting hooks beyond that of a Warlock's patron. All in all, a great addition to the ever growing list of third party materials for D&D 5e.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Exalted Darkness (5E)
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Islands of Plunder: Tarin's Crown (5E)
by Thomas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2018 13:03:12

This is a great little adventure that's easy to slot into a nautical-themed campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Islands of Plunder: Tarin's Crown (5E)
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Aetheric Heroes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/13/2018 06:03:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for the Aethera Campaign Setting clocks in at 48 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 42 pages of content, devoted to 10 pregens for the setting, so let’s take a look.

Now, in a nice touch, we have something cool on the inside of the front cover: The glorious drawing of the Aethera system is reproduced here and sports icons of the respective pregens, contextualizing them within the system itself.

Now, let us take a look at the pregens, shall we? The first thing you must be aware of, would, alas, be the fact that, unlike other pregen books by Legendary Games, this one does not sport scaling notes for 15- and 25-pt.-buy campaigns, which may constitute a slight detriment for some groups. The heroes contained herein all are made with 20-pt.-buy as a baseline. On the plus-side, you’ll notice how the increased page-count means that we get rather detailed notes on each of the characters, and indeed, the book goes into details regarding all of the characters, more so than in most comparable pregen books.

The first character herein would be Aleta, an infused spell sage wizard, who encapsulates the inherent tragedy of the infused race very much: The loss of former identity, the second loss of purpose after the end of the Century War…and now, a man in his apparent 60s, prematurely aged by the aetherite coursing through his veins, his Survivor’s Guilt gnaws at him. We get a massive and detailed write-up of his experiences during the Century War as well as a new 1st level spell, searing sight, which is a variant of darkvision that is contingent on concentration, but allows the spell to be discharged for an offense option that may set a target ablaze.

The okanta cavalier Arakhu, lion-faced and potent, hails from a long line of shamanas, hoping to hear the song of the stars…but alas, it was not to be and thus, bitterness turned constructive, as the okanta forged a name, he also gained a speeder…and thus, his path as an aethership pilot was set, his deeds and the rush of battle finally igniting within his heart the song he so long had wished to hear…and thus, a new purpose was forged, a new hope kindled.

The Arcline club in Complex Four started off as a dive in one area of an asteroid most known for its organized crime. Tapping into noir aesthetics and the classic concepts, it is here that you can listen to the self-proclaimed shaman of sound, the phalanx cantor known as Chapter, his melody speaking of the dreams of joy and sorrow, his flute-longspear both instrument of creation and destruction. The build, mechanically, is supplemented by the Combat Balladeer feat, which nets a combined instrument weapon as a military identifier at 1st level, while also providing some clout with the Protectorate. We learn about the journey of self-actualization undertaken by Chapter, and how he became known by his name, instead of Twelve-Nineteen. Soulful and in tune with the universe itself, the music of chapter encompasses the notions of dream, which may make for a strange choice for the phalanx race, but the overall depiction of this fellow is inspiring in the best of ways.

Chernardra, the okanta shaman, is a bear-faced speaker for the past; born as a fiercely independent woman, she considered the new arrivals on her harsh world, the alliances of more open tribes, to be nothing short of betrayal – and thus, she struggled, fought and raged against the giants, against those that dared cross her fierce tribe…but, alas, progress may not be halted and the rage that consumed her was only quelled after many a grievous loss of time, of energy – hers is a tale of prejudice and the evil it may cause, of an ideology overturned in the face of absolute disaster, a tale of an epiphany to a more enlightened state of sorts, but one in which she remains rather conflicted, as the Song of the Stars guides her course.

Erryn the hunter is tech-bonded – and, as the pdf notes, if he were to meet one of the hacks writing romanticized notions of life in the Wastelands, he’d punch him in the face. Born to an unregistered sorcerer-for-hire, he had to grow up without him, as the father was either caught or killed, never to return. Living a hard-knock life, Erryn tried to bring home money, to help as best as he could, but ultimately, the threat of capture made him look for a way out, towards respectability…and indeed, the construct, shaped like a fox and broken – and it was only when some aspect of the Progenitor Code awakened in him and his machine, that he managed to shake off the yoke of his childhood follies…but he’d need to leave. His connections from way back still looked for him, and the near-death experience of awakening has obviously pointed towards a destiny greater than he could have fathomed…

Haüyne, a first-generation phalanx, was activated on an assembly-line, designated Six-Thirteen; only slowly awakening to realities beyond the grim battlefields of the Century War, Haüyne was forced into a life that must be considered to be highly traumatic for any sentient being, and the awakening of sorts, the breaking point did come and the order she carried out, was brutal indeed. In the aftermath, the voices of dissent that haunted the airwaves…and before the tragedy of revolution, of martyrdom, came, the baffled phalanx were granted citizenship, as te powers that be washed their hands of them. Thus, Six-Thirteen put as much space between herself and military, adopting a peace-name, and indeed, her path led her to become an inspector, stemming the tide of smuggling and drug trafficking. She is a snoop unchained rogue, btw., and she comes with a repair kit as part of her starting stats.

Kasara would be another human, a fighter and aether soldier (archetype reprinted for your convenience, fyi) – interesting here would be that her arc is one of the redemption of her disgraced noble name, but this redemption, in itself, is problematic, as it ties into the experiences of Haüyne – but the full-extent and overlaps between characters is something I can’t, or rather, won’t, discuss in this review. To an extent, the extensive prose of the detailed character backgrounds touches a plethora of amazing concepts and ideas…and, indeed, I’d frankly consider this book worth getting for the stories alone.

Now, if you’ve been wondering, fret not, for the Erahthi also come with a sample NPC – the alchemist Oemathra-Koth, who found, and lost what may have been a unique proof of ancient civilizations, handing it over to the Tritarch. Forced into developing biological weapons and bearing witness to the horrors of the Century War firsthand, Oemathra saw the Taur theft of one of Kir-Sharaat’s moons that signaled the end of the Century War, as not a defeat, but as a chance for both Erahthi and Humans to unite against a common foe, for a chance of coexistence – for hope.

The second infused within the book would be Surestra, a brawler with the titan archetype, who has lost much of her erstwhile identity and knowledge, in the racial trauma of the infused; at the same time, she and her team, with whom she shared dreams and thought, saw slowly the dissent growing…but then, the war ended. Abruptly. Mercilessly. Worse off than even the phalanx, the infused were considered to be abominations; menial, degrading work awaited and the post-war era broke apart her new family, while her old one considered her an abomination. Only after hitting rock-bottom did she formulate one more plan, one chance to burn bright before her existence would inexorably be ended by the aetherite coursing through her body. The build also includes a feat that allows for a combination of unarmed fighting and gunslinging, Unholstering Strike.

The final pregen herein would once more be an Erahthi, namely the hydrokineticist Tillannieh; a result of experiments and bioengineering, she seemed destined to become one of the child-soldiers to serve in the horrid Century War, but as a sensitive child with ostensibly limited potential to access her latent powers, she was forced into a life-and-death combat by her handlers in an attempt to awaken her magical might. Cruel and traumatizing, it nonetheless worked, making her a potent, magical killer, but in one particularly grueling mission, she turned her back on her indoctrination, on her people, and in a realization of the importance of agency, she chose her gender and individuality and bided her time in exile. Now, fully grown, she has a couple of scores to settle, some lives to actually save…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to the gorgeous 2-column full-color standard or Aethera supplements. The artworks for the pregens are fantastic full-color pieces, though they will be familiar to owners of the campaign setting book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ryan Billow, Siobhan Bjorknas, Robert Brookes, Jeff Dahl, BJ Hensley and Julia Nardin deliver my personal favorite pregen book so far. Now, on a formal level, one can complain to a degree about the lack of notes for other point-buy-.standards and for the fact that the characters don’t come with leveling suggestions for higher levels.

Honestly, this time around, I couldn’t care less. Why? Because the characters in this book are multifaceted individuals that may share specific story-threads, but who can exist, easily, on their own; because their extensive, evocative backgroundstories are so embedded in the rich lore of the setting that I frankly didn’t want to put down the book. Their promises of mystic destinies, their arcs and supremely-captivating prose made me want to play them all. Power-wise, they all are approximately on the same level as well, mirroring their respective ordeals in intriguing ways. In short, they are efficient characters, without feeling like soulless minmaxing exercises OR without being a character with a cool story, hamstrung by dubious choices regarding mechanics. In short, this is a really inspired little book, well worth getting for the glorious prose alone.

How many pregen books can claim that? Exactly. This is seriously worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aetheric Heroes
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Aethera Campaign Setting
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/12/2018 06:03:06

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This colossal tome of a campaign setting clocks in at a HUGE 583 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages KS-backer thanks, 2 pages of introduction, 3 pages of ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 1 page table/sidebar-index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 568 pages of content.

568 pages. Yeah, I won’t be able to dive into the details and nit and grit of every component of this colossal book, at least not without bloating this pdf beyond any form of usefulness. Got that? All right, so, first things first: This book is BEAUTIFUL. I mean it. You’ll flip open the book and see a layout, crafted by Robert Brookes, Liz Courts and Loren Sieg, and see borders that evoke at once science-fiction and art deco aesthetics, providing a rather unique visual identity for the book.

The next thing you’ll note after the introduction, is that the chapters actually sport thematically-fitting comic-strips as lead-ins – 1 -2 pages each. Now, unlike many a campaign setting, Aethera spans obviously multiple worlds, and as such, comments on variant races and can carry pretty much an infinite amount of supplemental races. That being said, the book contains a total of 4 fully-depicted racial write-ups for new races, all of which come with age, height and weight-tables. It is in these write-ups that your jaw will likely hit the floor, as the artworks throughout this book are absolute premium-level quality. Absolutely gorgeous. The first of the races depicted herein are Erahthi, who hail from ancient forests. Born from massive fruit, they are creatures that blend the aesthetics of plants and elemental powers, and before you ask, they do have a skeletal structure. Indeed, the pdf presents relatively detailed notes for the respective societies and relations of the respective races presented. Erahthi get +2 to Con and +2 to one other ability score of their choice, are native outsiders, Medium, have darkvision and camouflage in forest terrain as well as +1 natural armor. They are treated as both plants and native outsiders for purposes of bane et al., get +4 to saves vs. mind-affecting effects, paralysis, poison and stun effects and they are immune to sleep. Non-magical undergrowth does not affect the erahthi and since they breathe through their skin, they have some cool tricks: One hand above water can keep them from drowning! However, this also imposes a -2 penalty to saves versus inhaled fumes, poisons, smoke and the like. Erahthi with Cha 11+ also get 1/day speak with plants. We get balanced FCOs for the druid, monk, shaman and slayer classes. Unique, flavorful, balanced – and before you ask, the bonus types are concisely presented throughout all races.

Now, it should be noted that humans get a really nice, fully detailed write-up, obviously sans stats, but yeah – nice! The next new race would be the infused, basically an attempt to create a super-soldier Übermensch via the infusion of aether, these beings had suffered horrid losses in both numbers and previous identities, with the transition being often rather traumatic, with infertility and a shortened lifespan being most notable. The project that gave life to them has seen its day, and thus, to a degree, these are the twilight years for this race. Favored class option-wise, we get notes for brawler, fighter, cavalier, sorcerer, psychic and kineticist. The infused get +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are humanoids with aether and human subtypes. While in zero gravity or affected by levitate, the infused gain a fly speed equal to ½ their land speed. Minor complaint: No maneuverability is given. I assume average as a default. Infused with a Charisma greater than 11 gain at-will mage hand and open/close as well as 1/day shield as SPs. They also begin play with Arcane Strike as a bonus feat and immunity to aetheric radiation. They can create a psychic bond with another creature with the aether subtype, which requires skin contact for 1 minute. Unwilling targets can attempt a Will-save to avoid the bond, with the DC scaling with the infused’s HD and Cha-mod. After a successful bond, both creatures get a +4 racial bonus to Sense each other’s Motives and to Bluff checks to pass secret messages. 1/day, an infused may share thoughts with one or more bonded creatures as per mindlink and an infused may maintain a psychic bond with up to 3 + Cha-mod creatures. Okay, one question: Can the infused end such a bond willingly? The lack of duration makes me think that it’s permanent and an inability to end such a bond by ways other than death would mean a rather large difference in how the race behaves.

The third new race herein would be the animal-look-alike race of the Okanta, who look basically like anthropomorphized animals with massive horns – the artworks depict a bear- and a lion-based okanta, both of which manage to look actually badass. Their favored class options cover fighter, cavalier, paladin, shaman and spiritualist, as befitting of their culture. Racial traits wise, they may freely choose to assign +2 to one of the ability scores other than Strength: The +2 bonus to Strength is ficed. They are Medium humanoids with the okanta subtype and low-light vision as well as a +2 bonus to saves versus fear effects. Their horns grant them a 1d6 gore attack (would have been convenient to have the natural attack type classified here – as provided, you need to resort to the default). 1/day, an okanta can observe a creature that has a skill the okanta doesn’t have. After the 1 hour studying period, the okanta treats the skill as a class skill with ranks equal to the okanta’s level, but does not qualify the okanta for skill unlocks. Still, cool one! They also get powerful build, but suffer from light sensitivity.

The Century War that gave rise to the creation of the infused also influenced the creation of the phalanx: Unearthed and reverse-engineered bio-mechanical constructs that actually gained sentience and soul. Suffice to say, many are war veterans today, and while gender-neutral, some phalanx have chosen to adopt gendered identities. The race comes with favored class options for monk, ranger, sorcerer, wizard and rogue. Phalanx gain +2 Con and Cha, -2 Wis, and are constructs with the phalanx subtye. They have a Con-score and don’t get bonus HP depending on size. They are Medium, with darkvision and Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat. They get +4 to Diplomacy to gather information and +1 natural armor. They can also tap into the lingering memories of their souls: 1/day as a move action, they may grant themselves a feat for which they meet the prerequisites. A phalanx’ body is powered by aetherite: They must consume at least 1 au per day to avoid starvation. A phalanx remains functional for 3 + Con-mod days sans aetherite – after that, they fall unconscious and remain so indefinitely, until fed aetherite. Notice something? Yeah, robot-detectives. The artworks btw. enhance this angle and the somewhat noiresque sleuthing. Aethera predates it, but in light of Altered Carbon et al., that made me smile. As an aside: The massive construct immunities make these fellows pretty strong – but usually when a construct race gets its immunities, those are explicitly noted once more in the racial presentation. Their absence here means that you can kinda have your cake and eat it, too: Conservative GMs can make them behave less like constructs and ignore immunities, while those who enjoy more potent playstyles can run with them. Not ideal, mind you, but yeah. On another side, the setting assumes a level of discrimination aginst both infused and phalanx, so that should help even things out.

The racial chapter, as a whole, provides a rather interesting array of options. Much to my joy, the races feel fresh and interesting and, more importantly, refrain from the annoying “XYZ….IN SPAAAACE”-pitfall, instead opting for unique tricks. I also like the notes for classic PFRPG-races, acknowledging what’s here without just rehashing everything.

All right, the massive racial chapter done, we now move on to the discussion on classes in the campaign setting, which begins with a new base class, the cantor. Cantors get d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, ¾ BAB-progression as well as good Will-saves. They are proficient with light and medium armor as well as shields, excluding tower shields. The cantor is basically a divine bard and as such gets divine spellcasting of up to 6th level, with Wisdom as governing spellcasting attribute and the instrument as a spellcasting focus – which may mean that a cantor’s body can qualify as such. Contrary to paradigm, the cantor is a spontaneous caster and draws his spells from his own unique spell-list, which is provided with full hyperlinks for your convenience. The bardic performance equivalent, divine performance, follows the design paradigm of the bard’s performance, but does not qualify as such for the purposes of bardic masterpieces. 4 + Wisdom modifier rounds are provided at first level, with each subsequent level yielding another +2 rounds. Starting a divine performance is a standard action, until 7th level, where it may be started as a move action instead. Unlike bardic performance, the divine performance is more limited, with base uses covering countersong and fascinate, and the third use providing a reroll for an attack or save before results are made known, though this potent option has a 1 hour-cool-down. 7th level extends that ability to allies and 13th level to nearby foes, with the interactions with the cooldown noted precisely, though both such upgraded uses are immediate actions, something that changes at 19th level, where it becomes a free action, though one that can still only be taken 1/round.

Now, you can probably glean from this reduced flexibility that this is not where the class ends. Instead, the cantor chooses a hymn at 1st level – these behave very much like e.g. bloodlines. The respective hymns are associated with planets and planes and they bestow a class skill as well as bonus skills and spells. Each of the hymns nets a new divine performance and at 3rd level, we get a so-called hymn verse, with 8th and 14th level providing the greater and superior verse for the hymn instead.

Now, there is an interconnection between the hymn chosen and the verse class feature: At 2nd level and 6th level as well as at 8th, 12th, 14th, 18th and 20th level, the character gains an additional verse, which may be used even when maintaining a performance. Using a verse is a standard action and Wisdom governs the save DC, if any. 7 verses are provided, which, as a whole, made me wish we’d get a few more. They are per se interesting and solid. Then again, there is an important reason for the relative lack of choice here: At 3rd level, the cantor may replace the hymn verse with another verse when regaining spell slots, which also grants the selected hymn’s divine performance. At 9th level, 2 such repertoire hymns may be chosen. At 4th level, the class gains the basic verse granted by each hymn currently chosen as a repertoire hymn, with 10th and 16th level adding the greater and superior hymns of the respective repertoire hymns. Starting at 5th level, the cantor can cast a spell from a rehearsed hymn by spending a spell slot of the proper level 1/day; at 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the class feature may be used an additional time per day.

8th level unlocks 5 general greater verses and 14th level yields 4 different superior verses, which are not assigned to a hymn. The 11th level ability allows the cantor to start a second divine performance while maintaining one, at the cost of twice the rounds for the second performance, for a total of 3 rounds cost. This cost is reduced to only one round of cost per performance at 17th level. 15th level allows the character to 1/day change a repertoire hymn with 10 minutes of meditation. The capstone provides divine performance maintenance without round expenditure, delimiting the performance. It should be noted that a total of 11 hymns are provided for your convenience. So yeah, the class provides player agenda and choices and its variable hymn-engine is interesting. All in all, one of the better hybrid-y classes out there and I’d probably be singing higher praises here, were it not for my love of Jason Linker’s Ultimate Composition class of the same name. We get favored class options for the new aethera races as well as the human race. Archetype-wise, the cantor gets 4 modifications: Divine dancers represent basically an engine tweak; orthodoxists get clouded vision, but also fate-themed abilities. The song councilor is a healer-specialist, capable of transferring damage. The song seeker, finally, is the repertoire specialist. All in all, decent archetypes and tweaks, but not exactly super exciting. Still, as a whole – the cantor presented herein ranks as one of the more compelling classes I’ve seen within the context of a campaign setting.

From there, we move on to the class option array, which contains a vast plethora of different new archetypes and tricks: Bioengineer alchemists are specialists of summoning animals with the aetherwarped template, with higher level providing detonating critters. The combat medic alchemist is a pretty cool idea, using stims to mitigate negative conditions while boosting allies. Cool one! The Wastelander is a pretty typical scavenger etc. and is pretty bland; there are also two discoveries – one for plasma bombs and one for negative energy bombs. Arcanists may elect to become rift breakers, who generate elemental rifts and further modify these, with surges and upgrades etc. – the archetype is pretty complex and unique, spanning multiple pages, but as a whole, I felt like it would have been better represented as an alternate class. Bards may elect to become aether weavers, who get to create eidolons, with the Perform skill used to create them infusing their stats. Warsingers are bard/kineticist crossovers and vox riders are the political firebrands and demagogues. Theme-wise, I loved the last of these most, as it is the most unique one. The blue-shifted bloodrager has aetherite-infused bloodlines and as such gets some telekinetic skills, including the simple blast. The colossus brawler is focused on forming an aetherite shield, while the titan archetype gets a grit-based engine.

We also have a new cavalier option based on a bonded aethership, which I very much liked, in spite of my well-documented disdain for the linearity of the base class. The aether-touched druid has aether-warped summons, shapes and a bonus spell array. The erahthi cultivator once more represents an aethership specialist. The okanta occult druid gets a unique summoning list and the symbiont master gets one of 3 different symbiont companions. The aether soldier fighter specializes on aether bonds and Arcane Strikes, while the gravitic is about using inertia and movement, disappointingly represented as pretty boring numerical boosts. The resonant guard can help boost performances. The artillerist gunslinger is good with automatic guns and aethership artillery. Jump troopers are cool – they get integrated jump thrusters, which later can be weaponized. Siege walkers are heavy infantry with stabilized weaponry and thornslingers are erahthi with symbiotic firearms, which is all kinds of cool. The tech-bonded hunter gets a construct companion. The correspondent investigator gets a few performances and the mindspy casts psychic magic and gains limited mesmerist tricks. Mystic detectives get Disruptive and a slightly modified inspiration, and the prehistorian is a kind of specialist for old lore. Stellar prospectors are space pioneers. The investigator options represent, for the most part, basic engine tweaks – the cool concepts imho deserved more detailed and unique forms of execution. The aetheric scion kineticist is, bingo, an aether specialist who can accept burn to power aether-tech, which makes for an interesting synergy of engines. I am not a fan of all components of the significant amount of unique options for the archetype, but as a whole, I consider it to be interesting.

Mediums can become deathless guides, specializing on mitigating the issues of time: etheric dreamers are in tune with the astral plane and focus on incorporeal interactions – not a fan. Modded mediums are interested, though: The phalanx medium can mod itself to act as better conduits for spirits. Okanta speakers of the ancestors share a bond with allies and shadow visionaries are, binfo shadow specialists. War memorists get two unique spirits with thematic connections to the Century War - cool. The aromachologist mesmerist is an erahthi who develops a hypnotic scent, which is really cool. Hypnotherapists can fortify allies against mental assaults. Monks may become gravitic masters, who can reposition targets and is particularly adept at zero-G acrobatics. Oracles get the new song mystery, the brief (and not exactly interesting) listener archetype and two new curses – aether-corrupted and choir-voiced. I loved both curses. Paladins that become aetheric knights with an okay attack roll-based parade. As you all know, I consider these parades to be a bad idea due to their swingyness, but yeah – if you don’t mind that, then you’ll probably like this fellow. Psychic thoughtdrinkers actually get some occultist-engine crossover, which is pretty cool in my book. Exostentialist rangers have easily one of the coolest names for an archetype, ever, with aberrant companions etc. also a nice take on the concept hinted at by the name. Salvagers are rogues with a pool-based and they can jury-rigged devices. Liked this one. We get a new aether shaman spirit. The firstnew skald archetype focuses on hampering aethertech, while space pirate skalds represent an engine tweak (raging song enhances Dex and Con), with a bit of space-themed abilities added.

The slayer bullet dancer is basically a gunslinging slayer. Sorcerers get the aetheric bloodline, while summoners can become aetehric callers, adding an aetherite dependency to the eidolon and summoning interaction, which can actually make the summoner work in a slightly more balanced manner. Kudos. Star corsair swashbuckler, finally, gain a ton of different deeds.

Okay, notice something? Yes. There is a curious absence here, right? In a daring move that should probably be made by much more settings, Aethera gets rid of both cleric and warpriest. While the book mentions ways in which they could be used, per default, they don’t exist – courtesy of there being no deities. This changes dramatically the vibe of the setting, and for the better. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Regarding the massive class option chapter, I found quite a few of the options herein interesting and flavorful, but honestly, I caught myself thinking that less had been more. There are quite a few cool concepts only represented by pretty bland basic engine-tweaks, unbefitting of the cool roles they represent. There are a couple of cool ones herein, but, as a whole, the chapter feels surprisingly conservative and “safe” in its designs – when the archetypes stand it, it’s mostly due to how they interact with the unique concepts of the setting in a rewarding manner that makes them worth contemplating. In short: Don’t expect classes and options of the complexity of e.g. Thunderscape. To get slightly ahead of myself: The chapter, to me, represents the weakest part of the book, following the inverse paradigm as the racial chapter: Where, race-wise, we emphasize quality over quantity, the archetype and class option chapter feels like the opposite: Less would have been more here, with the real estate better devoted to truly unique game-changers. The chapter is not bad, mind you – I’d probably consider it to be in the 4-star-range vicinity, but contrasted to the impressive race chapter, it feels like it falls short of what it could have been.

Lets skip ahead for a second, into the skills and feats chapter, which provided a good kind of surprise for me: While there are a ton of different feats to enhance class features, tie in with symbionts and aetherships, it was the skill chapter with its unlocks and serious array of new skill uses that made me rather excited: Heal is more relevant, for example, and the advanced medicine skill unlock further increases that tendency. This is a component I am going to use in pretty much all of my games, as the prevalence of exclusively wand-based/divine healing has always irked me, particularly in grittier games. There are options to muffle firearms with feats, occult skill unlocks noted, etc. This chapter, while not 100% perfect (there are a couple of feats I’d consider to be a bit limited), here we once ore have a return to form as far as design-prowess is concerned. I am particularly happy to note that the chapter does not contribute to lame numerical escalation bloat, instead focusing on setting peculiarities and subsystems.

Now, the third chapter deals with the cosmology of the aethera system, which consists of two suns and 4 worlds, each of which shares an intrinsic tie to one of the inner planes. The cosmology and campaign setting per se have so far been not really explained by yours truly, and indeed, there is a reason for that – you see, on a superficial glance, Aethera sports a couple of the classic narrative tropes: There is a mysterious progenitor race, there is the big war – classic tropes of scifi. It is in the details and in the rather impressive deep structure embedded in Aethera that the setting begins to really stand out. The seeds of these tendencies are sown as early as in the racial chapter: You see, to a degree, the races all pose intriguing questions to develop: How to deal with non-binary gender identities, the politics of otherness both within ones social groups and beyond that; the treatment of veterans and societal changes after wars, the book generates a unique identity by the combination of its themes. With a technology reminiscent of Dieselpunk-ish aesthetics with a science-fiction leaning, the races and concepts of the setting touch the issues of colonialism and the consequences, imperialist claims and the effects of cultural hegemony, the conflicts of nature vs. civilization and, of course, the eternal struggle of authoritarianism vs. individualism. If you enjoy space-noir à la the detective sub-story in The Expanse, you can do that with this setting, but similarly, you can go full-blown space opera.

Which brings me to a crucial component of this CAMPAIGN SETTING. I have, at this point, read quite a few scifi toolkits for d20-based games, most recently, of course, Starfinder. Aethera does not compete with them. You see, the majority of these books attempt, in varying degrees of success, to present a rules-based toolkit to represent the totality of the fantasy-gaming based rules of PFRPG in a scifi/space opera context, and while rules, due to what they allow and what they don’t, generate implicit setting assumptions, the focus, usually, lies upon exactly this component. Aethera is a proper campaign setting, in that the rules act as subservient components to the needs of the setting. It should be noted that we not only get a compelling reading experience with the detailed history, but we also get detailed write-ups for the planets and beyond, sporting a vast amount of hooks that make it nigh impossible to not be inspired by the captivating prose and world-building. Interestingly, the concise and intelligent writing actually manages to create a squaring of the circle of sorts. In spite of being widely, if not universally, permissive regarding PFRPG’s vast amount of options, Aethera excels because the setting it creates feels distinctly like a science-fiction game, in spite of the existence of magic, which usually catapults most games firmly towards the space opera genre. Now, you can play Star Wars-y games in Aethera, but the system stands out to me, as a world-building success, due to its embracing of the relevant themes of science fiction.

What do I mean by this? As a whole, science-fiction and space opera, as genres, as often used interchangeably, or are associated with different timeframes and cultures or creation aesthetics, much to my chagrin; if distinctions are made, they often are based exclusively on time frames and aesthetics, while missing the, in my opinion, central point. Whether you like hard scifi like Primer or soft scifi doesn’t matter – there always is a component of possible negotiation of very serious topics intrinsic in the genre. While it is very much possible to read, for example, “Martian Time Quake” or “The Three Stigmata of Eldritch Palmer” for the reading pleasure alone, it is very much nigh impossible to just consume them without taking something of them; same goes with e.g. the Foundation trilogy…and the list goes on. Space opera’s popularity, as exemplified most famously by Star Wars, would probably lie in the fact that it represents a form of entertainment with the trappings of scifi, but none of its thought-provoking components. Again, Star Wars, with its, to me, nonsensical, hyper-conservative, sexless good/evil ideologies and dichotomies presents an easy way to process comfortable escapist fiction routed in nostalgia, one that does not challenge our societal norms or exert our mental faculties. Think about the backlash regarding the senate scenes. They were per se not bad, but they interrupted the fiction of what was expected. Now, while my hatred for the Star Wars franchise is pretty well-documented, I am not judging the vast amount of fans the universe has – there is value and skill in the world-building, aesthetics, etc.. Similarly, we all have different tastes and, indeed, our tastes change to one degree or another, on a daily basis. I am no exception. While Star Wars never did anything for me, I am very much a huge fan of the space opera genre (just not its most prominent example) – I also like to put my brain off to one degree or another and just consume a great space-fiction. It is somewhat puzzling for me to see how ardent fans of space opera and scifi franchises, books and other forms of media can heap so much disdain upon one another, just for not adhering to the “right” form of make belief in a hypothetical future.

And this is where the tangent comes full circle and returns to the world-building of Aethera. You see, the campaign setting provides the tools to tell stories that must be construed to be deeply embedded in the canon and problems that we associate with the scifi genre; at the same time, Aethera manages to allow for space opera style playing experiences and campaign as well – the book is not prohibitive, but inclusive in how it tackles the impactful concepts it touches upon – it can gravitate to anything from “Guardians of the Galaxy”-style gameplay to experiences that are more deeply routed in aesthetics à la Traveller. This is in so far remarkable, as the setting has the burden of having to accommodate magic to the degree of the prominence in which it is featured in PFRPG, which ties in with the final aspect pertaining the player-facing rules, namely the equipment and gear section.

We get notes on restrictions of items by legal status, a brief and painless currency conversion guideline and mundane items like lifelines, instrument weapons, and a ton of different, mechanically relevant and interesting drugs. From radiation suits to trooper armors, we also get new armor. Interesting here: The ballistic quality nets DR versus physical projectiles firing firearms. Now, the firearm rules are based heavily on PFRPG’s firearms everywhere baseline, with optional rules for recoil, firing modes etc. all covered. Now, personally, I think it would have made more sense to make the firearms behave like regular ranged weapons here, mainly due to the fact that the default firearm rules don’t really play well with higher level math. On the plus-side, the chapter provides something I adored, namely a ton of customization options via e.g. different types of ammunition. The ammunition array on its own is really cool (and yes, clips etc. matter), and represents a component I’d love to see expanded.

Now, aethertech is the catch-all term for the truly advanced tech, which may sport hybrid magic properties – the interaction and rules provided here are concise. These items are powered by aetheric energy, though, which makes them behave more in line with technology items. The transparency of this super tech also means that a GM who envisions a magic-less world can easily restrict item options to aethertech-based items without compromising the vast amount of options available for PFRPG. Cybertech is, somewhat unfortunately in my book, called “Automata” in the setting, but once more is featured. Power armor and associated accessories and crafting stations complement this sections in a good way. The engines presented can easily carry a whole book and while there is a ton of customizing possible, I found myself wishing we got more here.

Now, as far as the aetherships noted are concerned: The system presumes crew roles: Pilot, Copilot, engineer, tactical and weapons. The system presented for aethership combat is concise and better than the default vehicle combat, but I found that e.g. the copilot and tactical roles provide less fun for PCs and are better suited for NPCs – RAW, they don’t have much to do but grant meaningful, but ultimately bland tactical bonuses. From lowly speedsters to full-blown dreadnoughts, we get a nice array of sample ships from CR 3 to 20. A big plus as far as customization is concerned would be the fact that the creation process of ships is pretty painless and based on modular structures. Why would you care? Can’t you just teleport? No…but I’ll leave the discovery of that complex to you. We also have special materials here, which, while solid and thematically fitting, didn’t exactly blow me away. The sub-chapter on symbionts was one I celebrated, though, and an aspect of the book I’d love to see expanded. The really high importance of music for the aesthetics of the settinga re amazing and we also get a variety of solid spells and artifacts.

The final chapter of the book is devoted to the bestiary, noting suitable, suggested creatures by bestiary, providing the aforementioned, pretty dominant aetherwarped creature template as well as colossal plant-serpents, various types of azaka, corrupted elementals and NPCs, codex style. My favorite entries, easily, were the kickass kytons introduces herein – they are absolutely amazing and add more than just a bit of Hellraiser-aesthetics to the darker recesses of the Aethera system. I also loved the symbiont write-ups here. Gorgeous and cool, alien and fun.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language and formal level: Considering the huge size of this tome, the fact that it is a freshman offering, as well as the huge density of the book, it is even more interesting: There are a few hiccups here and there, but they mostly are minor: A mention of plasma damage sans the explanatory half fire/half electricity here, a typo there – but these are few and far in between. Now, I already mentioned aesthetics: This book is FRICKIN’ GORGEOUS. As in: This could be a Paizo/WotC-book levels of beautiful. The layout in two-column full-color is absolutely phenomenal. The book is CHOCK-FULL with absolutely visionary artworks that breathe life into everything, from races to classes to everything else, this book is absolutely phenomenal in the visual department. Cartography is similarly amazing. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks. Unfortunately, I do not own the physical book, so I can’t comment on binding quality or lack thereof or on whether the book’s vibrant colors come out on paper.

Lead designer Robert Brookes, with additional design by Jesse Brenner, John Bennett, Duan Byrd, Jeff Dahl, Andrew Fields, Kaelyn Harding, Thurston “Goddamn” Hillman, Nicholas Hite, Sarah Hood, Andrew Marlowe, Monica Marlowe, Daniel Hunt, Andre James, Patrick N.R. Julius, Mike Kimmel, Isabelle Lee, Jessica Powell, Joshua Rivera, David N. Ross, Todd Stewart, Jeffrey Swank, Jacob Thomas, Chris Wasko, and Scott Young, has created perhaps the single most impressive freshman offering I have ever seen. This is the first book by Encounter Table Publishing. It’s almost ridiculous, once you think about it. Sure, it made its ambitious KS-goal, but I did not, not for a second, expect the setting to be this damn compelling, this cool.

As noted before, aethera really allows you to play Pathfinder in space, but that goal is fulfilled by other toolkits and settings as well; where the book excels is the ability to cater to both scifi and space opera, as well as science-fantasy aesthetics, all without compromising the setting’s aesthetics and themes.

Now, on a rules-level, the book is a bit too conservative for its own good and I wished it focused a bit more on some of its aspects, but we can potentially hope for expansions for these aspects; as a crunch-only book, I’d rate this somewhere in the vicinity of 4 or 4.5 stars.

However, this would be an utter disservice to the entirety of this ginormous book. The value of this book lies in its surprisingly holistic, concise and sensible world-building, in its phenomenal concepts – whether as a campaign setting or as a grab-bag of ideas, Aethera is a truly remarkable achievement that makes for a surprisingly captivating reading experience, that has a very strong identity in spite of its inclusive stance. In short: It achieves its goal as a campaign setting in a fantastic manner, with panache aplomb. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, as well as status as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Aethera Campaign Setting
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Legendary Kineticists II
by Siobhan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2018 14:37:59

I was provided a review copy of this product.

--The Content--

N. Jolly and Onyx Tanuki hit it out of the park again with Legendary Kineticists II, delivering the quality you'd come to expect from the authors' other works and the first Legendary Kineticists.

The first section is full of new archetypes which not only expand the kineticist with a slew of new thematic options, but also provides other classes like cavaliers, druids, oracles, and even animal companions(!) with a taste of kinetic powers. I'm a huge fan of the Bestial Kineticist animal companion archetype in particular, as it blows the door open for thematic character builds. Now, anyone with access to an animal companion can evoke the long-standing image of an animal charged with elemental or psychic powers. In particular, it's great for obtaining a unique and flavourful sidekick who can stand their own in combat, unlike most familiars. It also isn't as involved as an eidolon, and simplicity is golden in my books. This is one I'd like to personally use in a game, and that's a high bar to jump for something that builds on first-party content.

Talents comprise a short section, providing support for ice and electricity-themed kineticists, undead specialists, and a good number of quality-of-life and miscellaneous talents to enable countermagic, shillelagh-style fighting, and more. Kinetic Lich catches my interest as a capstone ability which turns you into a special kinetic lich, complete with phylactery. It's rather simple for what it does and doesn't really involve applying a template to your character, so it's far cleaner than more traditional options in that regard.

Feats on offer provide options for kineticists in general, support for specific kineticist archetypes, and multiclass support. I'm always a fan of feats that facilitate multiclassing in Pathfinder, and Legendary Kineticists encourages you to experiment with kineticist/monk, kineticist/magus, and kineticist/arcanist hybrids. Of course, with the slew of kinetic content that the authors have previously published, there's room for even more creativity within the scope of those feats.

There are a few kineticist-themed spells provided, though most of them either work better against kineticists or otherwise apply burn to enemies. Delayed Burn is the exception here, which does what it says on the tin. As a 2nd/3rd-level spell, it's another incentive to multiclass kineticist with a caster class rather than strictly being there for a caster ally to support a kineticist. It can also be used thematically to great effect if a character is willing to sacrifice long-term health for short-term power, like a punishing limit break or heroic sacrifice.

Kinetic Mystic is a prestige class on offer which acts as a dual-progression class for kineticist/arcane casters or kineticist/psychic casters, further cementing the multiclassing theme present in this book. It features 6/10 casting progression, synergistic abilities for blending the two parent classes, as well as exclusive kineticist talents. This prestige class stands out as one that is incentivized through multiple different types of content in the book, which I appreciate from both a design and a play standpoint. Most prestige classes are poorly thought out and suboptimal at best, but Kinetic Mystic has enough support within Legendary Kineticists II that it manages to become an appealing option for creative character builders. I'm impressed to say the least.

The Legendary Kineticist is the main attraction of this book, and why most kineticist fans will want to pick this book up. For those unfamiliar with Legendary Games, their legendary class series often introduces alternate classes which are more or less a strict upgrade from Paizo's offerings to account for poor balancing. The Legendary Kineticist is no exception, making the class far more user-friendly and less punishing to use. While it is chock-full of tweaks and additions, the meat of the class's changes is how it handles burn. Burn is changed to a penalty to Strength and Dexterity-based ability and skill checks, meaning that you can use your class features without dying to a stiff breeze! It's an innovative way to offer a penalty to the character while keeping them happy, and creative GMs will find new ways to challenge the players as burn's new penalties open up more ways to challenge kineticists without simply removing their hit points.

Finally, variant multiclassing support is offered for the kineticist, and we're given a sample Legendary Kineticist. The VMC kineticist works with both the regular and legendary versions of the class, as does all the other content in the book. GMs who want to allow the content in the book but are wary of the radical change to how burn works should take comfort in this fact, even though it is the opinion of this reviewer that the change to burn should be embraced. The sample character is a great way to introduce the book's content into the game as always. Trueno, Herald of the White Sky comes with beautiful artwork, detailed backstory, advice for how GMs can use her in their games, and even an optional mechanical benefit should the players befriend her!

--The Aftermath--

Legendary Kineticist II is an impressive work on all levels, from clean game design to creative content to much-needed boosting of the traditionally weak Kineticist's power level. Any fan of the class will want to pick this up, as will game balance afficionados and game designers who want to research quality material in the industry. As a game designer myself, I've benefited from studying this book, regardless of if I get the chance to use it in actual play or not.N Jolly and Onyx Tanuki should be proud of this accomplishment, and publishers should take notes as to the capabilities of the authours. I whole-heartedly recommend the book to anyone interested.

-Siobhan Bjorknas



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Kineticists II
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Legendary Shifters
by Eric H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/28/2018 20:35:54

The latest entry in Legendary Games 'Legendary Heroes' line, Legendary Shifters is 32 pages long, of which things like the table of contents, back and front covers, and OGL leave twenty-five pages for the actual content. But they are twenty-five well-used pages.

Recently Paizo released their Ultimate Wilderness book. A major selling point to many was the promise of a martial class based around shapeshifting called the shifter. Many people had their own expectations of what the class would be and not quite all were met. In this PDF Legendary Games, which has already created and re-created some amazing classes like the swashbuckler, gunslinger, and kineticist, gives us their re-imagining of the shifter. And a very amazing and delightful re-imagining it is.

The class itself is still a martial class, but things are different from the start. It can wild shape starting at first level, and they are not limited to forms derived from their aspects. It lasts slightly longer than a druid's, as they add their wisdom bonus to hours-per-level duration. They can also shapeshift from one form directly to another wild shape at the cost of some of their per-day duration. The legendary shifter gets faster at shapeshifting as they rise in level, eventually doing it as an immediate action. They are normally limited to animal and magical beast forms with a size range of diminutive to huge, but some archetypes and feats give ways around that.

They still get aspects, and as they rise in level can combine two or even three of them. They can also combine their aspects with their wild shape forms or any polymorph effects, and they get a few more aspects as they level up.

Instead of just claws they can use fangs as well with all these natural weapons being primary attacks that ignore magical DR. If they use weapons, however, their natural attacks become secondary. They get more powerful over time in terms of both what types of DR they can penetrate and how much damage they do, topping out at 2d10 at level 20. Size has no effect on the damage they do: a shifter can become a dire bear or a mouse and they'll still do the same damage. The shifter can apply their natural weapon level benefits to whatever natural weapons they may possess in their wild shaped forms. I like that as it encourages the shifter to wild shape while permitting them to keep the improved natural weapons the class grants. It is unclear, however, if the Improved Natural Attack feat can be applied to the shifter's claws and fangs.

The legendary shifter still gets wild empathy and track, and defensive instinct. It provides an untyped bonus to AC and CMD, full Wisdom bonus if unarmored and without a shield, half the bonus if armored. The bonus increases every fourth level and applies against touch attacks and when the legendary shifter is flat-footed. They get woodland stride and trackless step at later levels.

The legendary shifter now gets bonus combat or wild shape feats starting at fourth level. And unsurprisingly, their keystone ability is the ability to shapeshift at will. They also gain the shapeshifter subtype and are only affected by transmutation affects when they allow it.

The basic class information is followed by an expanded list of aspects. The old ones are all here and the new aspects of Chameleon, Narwhal, Porcupine, and Shark are listed with their full benefits. Chameleon makes you stealthier, Narwhal provides a gore attack, Porcupine inflicts damage on anyone striking you in melee combat, and Shark increases the damage you inflict on wounded opponents.

Then comes the new archetypes, and here we get some truly glorious ones. The Bound Beastmaster gains an animal companion. She increases its natural weaponry damage rather than hers, though she still gets the base claw and fang damage, and over time can share both her aspects and her wild shape with her companion. Dragon Touched get a breath weapon in place of claws, improved senses and wings as they level up. They can also wild shape into a small dragon at first level. Their form is limited in several ways at first – not as many attacks and no flight speed. However it improves over time until they can finally become a huge dragon. They start out with one type of dragon they can become but eventually become capable of turning into three different dragons, gaining their breath weapons as well.

The Elemental Kineticist gains some of the kineticist class abilities including kinetic blast, though only when done as a kinetic fist. They can transform into elementals and gain a few wild talents as they grow in power. The Fairy Shifter can wild shape into fey. They can also cast druid and ranger spells up to 6th level at the cost of a reduced hit die and lowered BAB.

The Giant Shifter turns, well, into a giant. Very simple and straightforward but if you have the room and want to crush your enemies underfoot it works wonderfully.

The Lycanthropic Warrior gets fewer aspects and a smaller pool to choose new ones from. They also lose defensive instinct and gain DR/silver equal to half their character level as well as immunity to lycanthropy. They can also use a hybrid form of their base and alternate forms, with legs to walk on, hands to hold with, and they are able to talk. They also keep their gear. I think this archetype is going to be popular.

The Metamorphic Genius has a reduced BAB and hit die, and uses intelligence rather then wisdom for defensive instinct. In exchange they get alchemy and extracts as the alchemist class, together with a reduced level requirement for any transmutation extract the alchemist can normally use and extended duration on them all. And a limited number of times per day they can change the form granted by one extract either to another one permitted by it or to one granted by another extract of equal or lower level. I recall some people wanting a shapeshifting-focused warrior-like alchemist, here they get one.

The Mimickin turns you into a Mimic. No, really. You can secrete glue, turn into objects, and eventually swallow people whole. Plus you get improved Disguise and Stealth skills. The somewhat similar Oozeling turns you into an Ooze, allowing you to resume your normal form whenever you like. You can't become a magical beast but you eventually turn into a Huge ooze. You get other oozy abilities as you level up as well. These two are so bizarre people are going to love them.

Probably the simplest and shortest Pathfinder archetype I've ever seen is the Mystically Trained one. You lose your bonus feats and trackless step in exchange for ranger spells.

The Necromorph is as the name suggests undead-related. You lose your aspects in exchange for getting the ability to cast a few spells to create and control undead. You gain 'undead empathy' that can be used with mindless undead and can transform into vaguely humanoid shaped undead. You can eventually turn into incorporeal undead, though your duration takes a serious and game-balancing bite if you do. Creepily, instead of woodland stride you learn how to preserve the body of anyone you kill with a natural attack for later reanimation. You also can hide in plain sight and eventually become a lich.

Protean Mutants lose aspects but gain evolutions like a summoner's eidolon. He gains a small pool he can use even on his base form and a larger one he can use on his alternate form. The former points can be changed every 24 hours and the latter whenever he changes his form. A bizarre archetype that will be a big hit with everyone who ever loved the summoner.

Last comes the Polymorph Savant prestige class. If the legendary shifter can become animals and magical beasts, this can become just about anything. Vermin, monstrous humanoids, ooze, fey, plant, dragon, you name it. If you truly want to become anything and everything this is for you.

There are some new feats. Animal Spirit allows you to use Charisma rather then Wisdom to determine any shifter class effects. You can also add your Charisma bonus to your Will save instead of Wisdom, up to a limit equal to your shifter level. Basic Alteration allows you to become a Small or Medium humanoid with shifter shape, and to speak in all your forms. I love those two. Bestial Roots permits many of the archetypes to transform into animals like the base legendary shifter. Miniature Reach allows you to treat your natural reach as 5 feet even when size Tiny or smaller. The last three feats – Morphic Berserker, Morphic Lyricist, and Morphic Stalker – all allow you to combine levels in barbarian, bard (and I assume skald), or stalker with your legendary shifter levels to determine things like your defensive instinct bonus and how long you can rage, use bardic performance, or the bonus studied combat provides. Berserker also allows you to use Intimidate to demoralize as a free action when you active both rage and your shifter shape in the same round. Lyricist permits you to speak, spellcast, and use bardic performances while under a polymorph effect. And Stalker lets you use shifter shape as an immediate action whenever a studied target makes an attack roll against you.

There are also three new polymorph spells, object form I-III. They do what you think and turn you into an object. Sadly they don't let you become a golem or construct but statues count as objects too. The PDF ends with a sample character, Ines, who has a backstory and a fey-like love of mischief that can make her both a useful if fickle ally and a maddening antagonist as required.

In conclusion? I love this one. Good as the original shifter may be this is a wonderful improvement while still keeping with the simplicity of the original class design. Everything that needs to be explained is, and clearly. And it is just plain fun. Want to become an animal, a dragon, an undead, an ooze, a statue? There are options here for all of them and more besides. Legendary Shifter is an amazing improvement on the original class and leaves me hoping we may get a few more archetypes for the class from Legendary Games or someone else. A new Fiendflesh or Verdant shifter, perhaps? Maybe a Hagskin or something else monstrous humanoid focused?

Seriously though this one has you covered if you want martial or arcane or improved druidic/natural shapeshifting. It's like getting half a dozen new classes with the same central theme but all-new angles on it.

If you want shapeshifting action for your character or campaign, if you're just curious, maybe even if you don't think you'd ever need it, GET THIS ONE. Five stars and one of the heartiest recommendations I've ever given.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Shifters
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Legendary Monks
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/21/2018 04:26:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Legendary Heroes-series clocks in at 39 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As always, we begin with new archetypes, the first of which would be the Chakra Champion, who utilizes the Occult Adventures system, which, while interesting, ultimately falls short of what one can do with the premise…but that as an aside. What does the archetype do with it? The archetype replaces the 1st level bonus feat, providing Chakra Initiate, adding +1/2 monk level (minimum +1) to character level for the purpose of opening chakras. Later, the character may choose Chakra Adept and Master instead of bonus feats, ignoring prerequisites. This is a pretty big bumble in rules-integrity – the ability should specify that the archetype still has to select Chakra Adept before Chakra Master, ignoring all other prerequisites. RAW, you can choose Chakra Master before Chakra Adept. The archetype also gains disharmonious flux. After a damage-less touch attack or an unarmed strike, the character may trigger a disharmonious flux once per round as a free action. The target must succeed a Will-save (DC is governed by Wisdom) or take a -2 penalty (minus missing) on one of the saving throws, as chosen by the chakra champion. This penalty increases further at 8th and 16th level and lasts for Wisdom modifier rounds. Additionally, at 4th level and every 8 levels thereafter, an additional effect is added to targets that fail their save against disharmonious flux. A surprising 14 choices are presented, ranging from the expected extension of the penalties to e.g. attack rolls to some more creative ones: Being shaken while in total darkness, treating foes beyond 30 ft. as having concealment, basically disadvantage on saves versus Will-saves or an ability that allows the flux to affect mindless targets…which has a remnant from the original ability, referencing mesmerists instead of the chakra champion. Wait. What?? RAW, the ability has no indicator that it’s only supposed to affect creatures that have a mind – it is not codified as a mind-affecting ability! RAW, this is weird. The ability replaces stunning fist.

At 4th level, we get +1 point to the serpent-fire ki-pool, plus an additional one for every 4 levels thereafter. When awakening chakras, the archetype gets +1/2 monk level as a luck bonus to avoid the detrimental effects of serpent-fire. This replaces slow fall and the option to spend ki for additional attacks with flurry of blows. Starting at 7th level, the DC of disharmonious flux increases while a chakra is awakened or maintained, with the choice to alternatively gaining a buff to AC, atk, skills or saves. This bonus increases by +1 for every 3 levels thereafter. Minor complaint: The DC increase is per se not a bonus and while it is clear what the intention here is, RAW only the bonus scales. At 9th level, we get 1/minute maintaining an open chakra sans action expenditure. When opening a chakra, the archetype gets to roll both Fort- and Will-save and choose the better result and any chakra opened that has effects depending on number of open chakras increases that number by 50%. Chakras close at a rate of the highest in the first round, then 1d3. At 11th level, the chakra champion can start by awakening the heart chakra sans awakening the previous ones. Additionally, healing may be split between chakra champion and adjacent ally, if any, and conditions negated affect both. Finally, for ki expenditure, we can heal more conditions. This replaces diamond body.12th level nets a damage-less melee touch attack that can disrupt ki use and stagger the target for a number of rounds on a failed save, replacing abundant step. 15th level allows the chakra champion who has at least 2 chakras open, to expend ki or serpent-fire ki equal to ½ the open chakras, firing negative level causing rays at targets within 30 ft. I like what this archetype does with the chakra-engine, but I still maintain that redesigning the chakra-engine would have probably been smarter.

Anyways, next up would be the Crystallion, who uses crystals, enhancing defenses: Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, we get DR/Adamantine equal to ½ class level. Instead of fast movement, we het +1 natural armor, which increases by +1 for every 5 levels beyond 5th. The archetype also qualifies for Improved Natural Armor. This replaces fast movement. Manuever training is replaced with the option to inflict piercing or slashing damage with unarmed strikes and may use class level as BAB to qualify for critical feats. 4th level yields light while the character has at least 1 ki, and may use ki to duplicate daylight…but may not expend ki to grant herself a dodge bonus to AC. The archetype may generate scintillating light as a distraction bardic performance and use fascinate at -3 monk levels, as the bardic effect, with ki as governing attribute and ki as resource employed. This replaces slow fall. 5th level yields the option to dazzle nearby creatures while in proper light, with lesser illumination levels requiring ki expenditure. Alternatively, the archetype may temporarily blind nearby foes. At 7th level, we gain resistance 5 versus electricity and fire, which improves at later levels. Additionally, successful saves versus these effects can provide evasion-like benefits, with immediate action ki-expenditure providing improved evasion’s equivalent for such effects. However, the character becomes vulnerable to sonic damage. 13th level provides ray-deflection via ki expenditure; 15th level nets 1/day prismatic spray and the capstone nets a crystalline apotheosis to a construct-status, with ki-based prismatic spell use. I really liked this one – it feels like a natural fit for someone turning into a member of AAW Games’ amazing colliatur-race.

The Imperial guard archetype replaces Knowledge (religion) and Perform with Diplomacy and Knowledge (local) and gets the ability to designate a sworn charge, which may be re-designated pretty quickly, but the guard can’t have more than one at a given time. The archetype gets additional conditions to stunning fist, but blind/deafen is not permanent. 2nd level allows for the sharing of evasion between charge and guard as well as +2 to Reflex saves, with 9th level providing the option to get evasion’s benefits when either makes the save. 3rd level nets Bodyguard, which is more efficient for the monk’s charge and the bonus granted gets a duration based off Wisdom modifier; 6th level nets In Harm’s Way for such contexts. 4th level yields a bonus to a maneuver or a skill, gaining a +2 bonus here, with 10th level allowing the adding of Wisdom modifier to the chosen roll, with ki-cost associated. This replaces slow fall. Quivering palm is replaced; the archetype nets a retributive strike when defending targets, which explicitly increases critical multiplier and has synergy with other increases. 1/day, the character can designate a critical threat.

The psychic cenobite replaces evasion versus the equivalent for mind-affecting or psychic magic effects; at 9th level the character can absorb a number of spell levels of such effects, which must be designated prior to attempting a save. Cool, though the ability erroneously added a paragraph from the lesser version of the ability – it should replace improved evasion. 3rd level replaces maneuver training with +2 to saves versus psychic magic; 4th level replaces slow fall, wholeness of body and high jump with the ability to spend 1 point of ki to study a threatened target in melee as a swift action, immediately before making an attack. On a hit, the target saves and on a failure, the attack is a critical threat. This doesn’t work versus mindless targets. 11th level replaces diamond body with swift action, short-term true seeing or invisibility purge. The 15th level replacement for quivering palm is the seeding of a dominate monster effect with unarmed strikes or touches, including the option to set trigger conditions.

Singhala monks are Tiger Style specialists that are locked into the three feats of the style at 1st 6th and 10th level; 3rd level yields Diehard, with the threshold to remain conscious extended by Wisdom modifier and the option to use ki to ignore the staggered condition for one round, provided it is incurred due to negative hit points. Purity of body is replaced with immunity to fear, while 7th level replaces wholeness of body with Wisdom modifier minutes of speak with animals; cats and felines can be affected with a variety of themed spell effects for ki expenditure when talking to them, including simultaneous activation for more ki costs. 4th level lets the character use ki to enter a controlled rage; this is basically a barbarian rage, which scales and is powered by ki. It replaces evasion and diamond body. 9th level loses improved evasion and diamond soul in favor of AoE-fear-causing roars that can be used as a standard action or as a swift action after a full attack (cool!); higher levels allow for the causing of panic. 12th level replaces abundant step with the ki-activation-based benefits of haste, though the additional attack must be unarmed; alternatively, the character can effectively pounce for ki-expenditure; 15th level provides 1/day ki shout (instead of quivering palm) and 17th level removes the fatigue after controlled rages, replacing tongue of sun and moon.

The yogi monk replaces flurry of blows with yogic body: Meditate 1/day for 1 hour to gain an exceptional ability for 24 hours; starting at 8th and 15th level, the character gets to choose an additional ability per use of the class feature. A total of 9 such benefits are provided, and they all fit the flavor perfectly: We get the trick to move through smaller spaces and openings, better Escape Artist, delay toxins, Endurance, low-range blindsense, natural reach extension due to disjointed limbs (at the cost of a penalty of -2 to atk), slowed respiration, suppression of bleeding and boosts versus fatigue, sleep etc. – really cool. Yogis are locked into Psychic Sensitivity at 1st level and may use feats building on it as monk bonus feats, Instead of evasion and its improved brethren, the monk gets ½ class level uses of the samurai’s resolve, but does not regain resolve based on defeated opponents. Fast movement and maneuver training re replaced with the ability to use Wisdom instead of Str/Dex to calculate atk and CMB. 5th level nets the ability to use meditative drones, which behave as bardic fascinate and Wisdom as governing attribute, with ki as resource. This replaces high jump. Instead of slow fall and the ability to expend ki for additional flurry attacks, the 4th level yields yogic levitation, ki-based, better form of levitate or, well, alternatively, feather fall.

Okay, that covers the archetypes for the regular monk – let’s take a look at those for the unchained monk now, shall we? The first of these would be the flagellant, who gets Heal as a class skill. 2nd level lets the character use Wisdom for Intimidate instead of Charisma, as well as getting +1/2 class level to such checks, replacing the bonus feat. Instead of evasion, the flagellant gets pain tolerance, gaining a repeated save vs. pain effects in following rounds. 3rd level yields scarification – bleed damage is decreased, with higher levels providing further decreases. Additionally, we get immediate action and ki-based ignoring of ability damage/drain instead of fast movement. 4th level flagellants add +1d6 nonlethal damage to stunning fist uses, increasing by +1d6 every 4 levels thereafter; 8th level flagellants can render targets fatigued by stunning fist sickened. This replaces the AC bonus gained at 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, but the archetype retains the Wisdom bonus to AC and CMD. 5th level nets the faith healing skill unlock, as well as phrenology occult skill unlock, using Knowledge (religion) as an alternate basis. The latter may be used with damaging, sharp needles etc., allowing for the implantation of permanently penalizing needles…nasty and really cool! This replaces purity of body. At 4th level, the flagellant can use cilices or similar pain-inducing armor to steel himself versus emotion, fear, etc. and 9th level yields Stalwart. The flagellant gets a total of 5 unique ki powers: Critical hit DR-ignoring and regeneration-suppression, expansion of pain tolerance; an intimidating glare; what about using ki to ignore up to twice the class level damage and gain temporary hit points of an equal amount (4x instead for nonlethal damage…) Really cool: When using pain tolerance and succeeding the second save, the character can choose to take the pain, activating a judgment or gain a ki point/stunning fist use – yes, it only lasts for a brief while and can’t be cheesed. This may also be activated after a critical hit was confirmed. Really cool archetype!

The leikung unchained monk replaces ki strike at 3rd level with a standard action sonic-damage-causing sonic damage that allows for stunning fist synergy, adding the deafened condition temporarily, with stacking durations. Alternatively, a weapon attack may be made, channeling the sonic damage through weaponry, with stunning fist synergy contingent on using a ki focus weapon. Thunderstrike may be held as a charge and it may also be fired as a ranged touch attack, though synergy with stunning fist costs an additional point of ki in that case. 5th level yields +4 to saves versus sonic effects, with 10th level providing resistance, which upgrades to 20 at 15th level and immunity to sonic effects and damage, replacing purity of body and the ki powers gained at 10th and 20th level. 7th level, leikungs can use move actions and ki to create a warhammer of half bludgeoning/sonic damage, which may be thrown. Creatures vulnerable to sonic treat the full damage as sonic. The weapon is wielded with Wisdom instead of Str/Dex and has a duration – if hurled during the duration, it may be decreased to re-manifest it sans cost, with higher levels unlocking +1 thundering and the weapon being treated as an adamantine weapon. It works as a monk weapon and the leikung is proficient. 9th level yields ki-based echolocation, replacing 9th level’s style strike. Also at this level, we get the ability to expend two points of ki for a ranged touch sonic wave, which may also be used as a cone-shaped burst. This replaces improved evasion.

The Shinsei has a heavy Rokugan-vibe, but that may be the Oriental Adventures fan in me; these fellows are a bit paladin-y: They must be lawful good and must accept at least one vow, for which they don’t get bonus ki. They get the paladin’s detect evil and smite, though the latter is governed by Wisdom. These replace flurry. 3rd level provides awakened recovery, which is basically rerolls versus fatigue or sleep-effects and at 7th level, rerolls versus exhaustion or being staggered; the shinsei can also spend ki to negate effects that cause sleep or being fatigued at 7th level. 10th and 16th level increase the ability to including stunning and death effects, respectively, with the progression allowing for the negation of previous effects. Minor nitpick: As written, it is not 100% clear if the upgraded 10th and 16th level negation effects require the expenditure of 2 ki as well, but from context, it is pretty evident how that’s supposed to work. 5th level nets the Sense Motive skill unlocks as well as those for the Intimidate skill, but the latter only versus targets of her smite. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 6th level replaces the ki power usually gained with a selection of oracle revelations from the ancestor mystery, at -3 levels, with Wisdom as governing attribute, and activation based on ki expenditure. An additional such ability is gained every 4 levels thereafter. 9th level provides Henshin Perfection instead of style strike: For 1 ki, the shinsei can shed light and gain 10 resistance or +4 to an ability score. 13th level provides stern silence, a ki-based short-range option to render targets mute or even, for more ki, inflict the caster croak spellblight. Cool! 17th level is pretty epic: It suppresses all magic on shinsei and target (as if affected by antimagic field), for a cool sudden-death-y climax trip.

The tempest gets a completely modified bonus feat list and replaces flurry of blows with skirmisher: If the tempest moves at least 10 feet before attacking with an unarmed attack or monk weapon, including ranged weapons used within 30 ft. of the target, any successful attacks deal +1d6 damage, +1d6 ever 4 levels after that; this may be foregone for AoO-less reposition. At 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the tempest also gains +1 dodge bonus to AC when the target has moved thus, though the ability requires not carrying medium/heavy load or being fatigued/staggered. 3rd level lets the character use ki to enhance speed temporarily for +30 ft., replacing the option to spend ki to add an attack to flurries; 4th level provides twice the natural healing, but the tempest must eqat twice as much as well and has a harder time to stave off starvation due to the increased metabolism. At 4th level, the tempest doesn’t lose Dex-mod when running and no increased DC when using full-speed Acrobatics, Climb, Stealth, Survival – this replaces still mind. 5th level provides he option to spend ki to reduce exhaustion to fatigue or negate fatigue, but not those caused by hunger- Style strikes work in conjunction with skirmishing instead of flurry of blows. 15th level nets the option to run to gain various glimpses of the future – really cool. 18th level provides basically advantage on Reflex saves/Acrobatics instead of flawless mind.

Now here is the thing: The archetype replaces ki powers with speed stunts; first gained at 4th level, an additional one is gained every 2 levels thereafter. This list is HUGE: We get more than 3 pages (!!) of individualized stunts, which include zig-zagging run, wind jumps, wall-running, acting in surprise rounds, dragging allies along with them, making attacks during a full-round twice-movement full-round action; quick opening/closing doors or similar actions as part of move actions, plane shift…notice something? This archetype makes the monk a great skirmisher AND quotes a lot of our favorite speedster tropes (including high-level speed phantoms or sonic shattering), clothing them is a subdued guise. Amazing class-hack!

The voidmind, finally, is another uncommon concept: The archetype adds all Knowledge skills as class skills and replaces ki strike with the ability to use ki to duplicate a variety of divination SPs that increase over the levels. 7th level provides the option to use ki to grant allies temporarily bonus feats or skill ranks; feats for which the voidmind does not qualify are more costly, unless touching a character who has it. The creature thus granted the feat must still qualify for the bonus feat granted. This replaces style strike at 5th level. 9th level nets fold fate, which nets ki-based bonuses equal to class level; Wis-mod if used after results being known. 13th level nets the ability to touch an ally and let him use Wisdom modifier instead of a touched target’s ability score modifier for a chosen ability score. 17th level nets the option to cause temporary negative levels or penalize physical ability scores, based on Wisdom modifier, with ki-use required. This should probably have a daily cap beyond ki; Con can be pretty deadly pretty fast and a properly min-maxed voidmind can probably kill most targets in two rounds...

Okay, after this massive chapter of archetypes, we take a look at the chapter honor and vows, which provides a total of 10 new vows – thankfully sans the annoying still mind-prerequisite; prerequisite-wise, we only require a ki pool, which means that, in conjunction with e.g. Legendary Games cool archetypes or similar WuXia-supplements, we can greatly expand the usefulness of these vows beyond the confines of the monk class. Speaking of which: The Ki Meditation feat to grant ki to characters, first depicted in LG’s The Way of Ki, is reprinted for your convenience here. Kudos! The first vow wowed me – extremely materialistic, the vow of hard gold makes a perfect fit for Karzoug’s minions: The monk may not give gifts etc. and becomes extremely materialistic. Vow of knowledge ties you to the protection of academic texts, while vow of the ki-weapon represents an obsession to the exclusive use of a weapon. Vow of obedience is self-explanatory and ties you to a master; vow of self-sacrifice adds to that, tying the monk to a ward. (Cool: Trouble-shooting advice included!) Vow of secrecy makes you sworn to secrecy and vow of sightlessness is a willful blindness, while the vow of simplicity prevents manipulation of emotions and flourished speeches; vow of superiority is really cool as well, while the vow of total freedom prevents marriage or being burdened by any physical or metaphysical bond.

A huge plus: We get a massive list of psychic spells codified for the qinggong monk. Extremely useful and the ki-to-power-ratios is sound. The pdf then proceeds to depict ki tattoos – basically a universal archetype-y option for monks, replacing their bonus feats. At 1st level and every 3 levels thereafter, the monk gets a magical tattoo, which may be activated as a move action or as a swift action as part of a move action 1/day; further activation costs ki and saves, if any, are governed by Wisdom. The list includes rerolls, SPs, bonus feats, brief boosts to ability scores, the stalwart defender’s defensive stance, self-haste. Solid.

Then, we get to my favorite component of the whole book: Ki tomes! These are basically unique grimoires that contain special techniques and powerful tricks, akin to the nice books contained in Meditations of the Imperial Mystics. This contextualizes the abilities in an easy to integrate manner in the game, adding unique flavor to the options presented. Meditating upon these books can allow the character to learn specific tricks, either permanently when leveling up or temporarily. The first of these would be the Text of Burning Wind and Iron Rain, is unique: Crane Reversal is e.g. a potent upgrade of the Crane Style and pretty cool (though it should NOT have the style descriptor – as a character can usually only be in one style, and as this feat builds on Crane Style, that descriptor is wrong here.); Empty Hand Weapon lets you deflect missiles while holding a monk weapon (cool!) and Flow of the Firearm provides actual monk/gunslinging synergy – and guess what – those are just the first 3 feats! Making the flying blade a monk weapon is nice and a whole series of feats deals with monk weapon improvements, which is pretty damn cool! Further gunslinging tricks follow alongside Reflect Arrows…and have I mentioned ranged attacks with light weapons or increased shuriken range? Yeah pretty cool – though the subsequent taking of the shuriken upgrade multiple times should have minimum level requirements to prevent abuse.

The second tome herein would be To Serve Stone’s Stern Will, a poetic recount of a servitor-cult of shaitan requires adherence to vows, but upon mastering the basics, earth affinity may be gained, with further ki powers unlocking SPs…and the feats include Earth Gliding and the Sevenfold Stone Curse, which is a glorious blend of ki, earth affinity…and has the option to push targets into frickin’ stone! Glorious! Can we please have more? (And yes, they have amazing artworks!)

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a rules-language level are tight, if not perfect, in spite of the complexity of the material; on a formal level, we have more glitches than usual for Legendary Games, making the book only good in that category. Layout adheres to Legendary Games’ two-column full-color standard and the book sports quite a few nice full-color artworks, though fans of LG will be familiar with most of them. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Jason Nelson, Clinton Boomer and Jesse Brenner deliver a really cool supplement of monk options here. The complex archetypes presented within run the gamut from inspired to nice and the supplemental material is well worth checking out. The tempest, vows and ki tomes in particular really made me smile from ear to ear, in spite of the vast amount of monk material I’ve read. That being said, there are slightly more small components that could be a bit more streamlined than what I’d like to see – chakra champion or the damage-increase of shuriken sans scaling minimum levels, for example, are two such examples. The latter can be rationalized away by the context of the tome, but still – there are a few such instances that feel like they could have used a bit more scrutiny. That being said, I am complaining at a high level here. As a whole, I consider this very much worth getting, though I can’t round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Monks
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