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Wizard's Academy
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:48:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

All right, this massive module & bestiary clock in at 214 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a whopping219 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Wait, before we dive into the module: If you are only interested in the bestiary section, which takes up 124 pages of the pdf, you should know that it is available as a stand-alone file, as "Fantastical Creatures and How to Survive Them - A Student's Guide for Adventure & Study." If you want to know about these creatures and what I think about them, please consult my review of that tome - the combined reviews should provide the information you need for an informed decision.

The next thing you need to know before we get into the nit and grit of this module would be that this is very much a highly modular book: This is reflected in the villain choice, who is randomly determined for massive replay value. Adding further to that would be the tiers: The book features color-coded boxes for 5 tiers and different objectives for players, depending on the raw power-level:

Tier encompasses levels 1-4; tier 2covers levels 5 - 8; tier 3 levels 9 - 12, tier 4 levels 12 - 16 and tier 5 levels 17 - 20. So yeah, you may run this module in a wildly different way, multiple times, if you're so inclined. It should also be noted, in case you're not aware of that, that this module makes ample use of the Spheres of Power system.

All right, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

...

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! Windfell Academy is situated on the world of Skybourne and can relatively easily be used in any world that has a sufficiently prominent and organized magic tradition - as such, it fits best with high fantasy worlds. But the academy is different from regular schools: One look at the stats for the professors should make clear that this is quite probably THE wizard's academy of the world. They pretty much almost all clock in at epic CR 20s, with the headmaster transcending even their mighty powers. The academy circles the planet atop a massive, floating island...and it specializes in secondary education, which, yes, means that this place is for the pros. As such student disappearances are not really uncommon - but lately, they have been happening more often...and a month ago, none other than the headmaster has vanished!!

The deputy headmaster, the tiny gnome archmage Tocs has vowed to keep the school open...but the headmaster needs to be found...and it is quite likely that the PCs, enrolled as students, will have all of their hands full with the rigorous studying required - here, the module is somewhat reminiscent of Persona, in that tiredness, end of the week tests, classes and adventuring have to be managed by the party. A teacher will be designated ally, one villain, and this constellation influences directly the read-aloud text and respective interaction that the various events that are interspersed throughout the module's day-to-day-routine. These events also include tests of various types of prowess and may yield information, magical items, etc.

The module also allows for the gathering of rumors, provided your time-management skills are up to par, and a small cadre of supporting cast characters, no less colorful than the amazing Profs, makes for a nice help. Speaking of them: Beyond the stat-information provided in the bestiary section, the respective professor entries sport the villain clues...and in e.g. the tier 5 scenarios, they have the Great Ally - a vastly powerful wildcard that makes their threat even more potent. Better yet, the colorful and intriguing Professors, amazing characters one and all, feature valid justifications for being both allies, villains or neutral parties - the module manages to retain its internal logic in all of the characters. Impressive indeed!

The academy, just fyi, covers no less than 4 floors and 2 dungeon levels (all featured on player-friendly maps denoting the respective areas - for they ARE the regular spaces of the academy) - and now that the basic set-up of the plotline has been customized, the adventuring can begin...though it should be noted that the surrounding landscape is also properly mapped...and that is not even the primary adventuring locale, for there are levels of secret dungeons under the academy - abandoned, at least seemingly, and teeming with dangerous threats, powerful foes and highly modular challenges. the dungeon-levels are massive, their effects are creative and diverse...and with rooms like vampire kitchens, abomination fighting arenas and the like, are certain to remain with the players long after the module is done.

Now here is the truly amazing aspect of the respective modularity: Each of the professors has his/her own lair - a final mini-dungeon, if you will - and these are fully mapped in gorgeous full-color as well - and yes, they are befitting of the respective personality! From caverns with underground rivers to floating castles, mighty workshops and the like, the respective boss lair-mini-dungeons are highly hackable and easy to use as stand-alone, smaller dungeons.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious accumulation of hiccups. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports solid, sketchbook-like artworks, which in particular make the bestiary section really feel like a field guide - it is an acquired taste, though, and will not sit 100% well with everyone. The cartography in full-color is excellent, though I do wish we got key-less versions to hand out to players slowly and in pieces...or VTT-maps, something like that - particularly since quite a bunch of the maps are really, really nice. This constitutes my own serious complaint against this pdf.

Adam Meyers, with Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a massive, extremely modular adventure/ supplement that really surprised me.

Why? Because I really, really hate Harry Potter. I am not the biggest fan of the magic school trope. But this one is amazing - it is bonkers, creative and the unique professors and personalities are thoroughly captivating. The schedule and time management issues, the modularity - all of these potentially enhance the value of this book...oh, and as a bonus, it manages to feel a bit like playing a Persona game. Heck, I bet I could easily craft a whole campaign against the backdrop of this module and its evocative academy - add characters, students, etc. and there you go! Additional dungeons and materials are similarly easily sprinkled in, blending to a degree the boundaries between module and campaign setting. Particularly as a high-level module, when you get to use the cool NPCs and high-level threats, this really shines.

In short: This is well worth getting! The colorful NPCs and creative monsters and the modular set-up make this a really interesting offering that has plenty to offer beyond the plotline it features. In short: I really love this. If you're using Spheres of Power, then this is pretty much a no-brainer-purchase...and even if you don't, this may be worth it for scavenging-purposes. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, with only the lack of player-friendly maps costing this my seal of approval. Well worth checking out!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
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Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:45:44

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive bestiary clocks in at 130 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with no less than 124 pages of content, so let's take a look!

We begin this supplement, true to its premise, with an in-character introduction - this book is very much crafted as a kind of field notebook of creatures, with prose featured as a framing device and Winterlynn Graysun, graduate of Windfell Academy, as the narrative voice framing the content herein.

Which brings me to something to bear in mind: This bestiary is actually included in the massive "Wizard's Academy"-adventure, also released by Drop Dead Studios. If you want to get the adventure, skip this book - its contents are included in the module! This stand-alone file is provided, properly designated, for all those of you who are interested in these critters, but not the adventure.

If I have not dropped the ball big time, you should see this and the adventure-review hit sites at the same time, so make sure to check out the adventure-review as well to make an informed decision!

Now the next thing you need to know is that this bestiary makes ample use of the Spheres of Power-rules. While usable without them in a somewhat restricted manner, to get all out of this, you need that book. D'unh. I know. It's like saying "Beware, the psionics bestiary requires psionics!" - Still, if I don't say such things in the preface, someone is bound to complain.

All right, that out of the way, the creatures herein range, CR-wise, from a lowly CR 1/4 all the way up to an impressive CR 25, with particularly the higher levels sporting quite a few nasty adversaries - due to the adventure being highly modular and the bosses...well being plentiful.

But let us get back to the matter at hand, namely the framing device of the narrator, which does a rather nice job at rendering this book a better read than you'd honestly expect it to be - it does not read like simple a massive collection of stats, which, to me, is a big plus. The first array of creatures herein deals with the wonderfully twisted abominations, failed, dangerous experiments of the academy's experiments: In this section, we find the mighty, alteration-sphere using dragon horror, which can use it to grant itself lethal enhancements to its already potent physical attacks.

Abominations are indeed interesting creatures - horror #9, for example, is significantly more tactical than you'd expect - it can eat foes, sure - but it is immune to two of the physical damage types: Damage from one of these types causes it to split! And yes, we actually do get stats for the smaller, split versions. I really like this callback to old-school gaming and splitting foes. Horror #17, a plant-like golem-thing with access to both plant and dark spheres makes for another dangerous foe...but it pales before...Mr. Mouth!

Perfect example of "wizards doing horrible things", it is a mindless, ever-hungry thing of mouths, an aberrant, lunging, roughly humanoid mouth-thing. In spite of the sketch-like artwork...this thing is seriously creepy! On the celestial side, we are introduced to the avenger archon in various statblock iterations as well as the choir and herald angel variant with their potent sound-abilities. The virtuous, caring counterpart to the succubae, the caring primary also makes for an angel that seriously should probably have been made much sooner - and the wife of Gideon makes for a cool high-level variant of said being. Speaking of angels - yep, there is a version of the solar here. Yes, he will END you.

While we're at the subject of "end" - the book does cover a nice version of the psychopomp and adds some seriously nice lore via the meta-narrative here. Did you know that it makes a difference if they come with hoods raised or lowered? From here, we move towards the construct chapter, where we are introduced to the colossus subtype, which is defined, among others, by being REALLY BIG...and by having an elemental soul. No less than three variants of Mark I are provided (CR 7, 10 and 15), while the smaller, spider-like Mark II can alter its physical composition...and then there is Mark V. CR 24, dubbed "God-killer" it has cannon-fingers, is very, very strong...and outside of combat it brews a mean cup of tea and is fond of riddles...yeah. Did not see that coming, did you? I told you the pdf's creatures gain a lot by the well-written prose!

There also are cyborgs, though these do not use the Technology Guide rules, instead using the spheres system to represent their abilities. The book also contains a selection of synthetic lifeforms. Experimental golems made of shadow, telekinetic force or raw magic can also be found...but weirder would be time toys. Which self-replicate, ostensibly by stealing time!

The book also covers fey, providing takes on leprechauns (in 3 variants), nymphs (in 5 variants - including star nymphs!!), 6 satyr variants (including the NASTY demi-god satyr-king)...and the book does feature an array of different infernals as well, ranging from the nightmare-themed alp to variant cambions to corrupters, dealmakers, imps, the mighty Cr 19 merchants of hell, CR 23 Charon...and succubae - including some interesting notes on the nature of incubi.

In the section on magical beasts, we learn about echo bats, the GIM (Giant Invisible Mantis), unicorns and the planar-fabric manipulating warp spiders. Among the monstrous humanoids, we can find embodiments of the ID and the merps (heads with arms sticking out and nasty magical might), which are presented in a wide variety of power-levels.

At CR 20, the mighty bodhisattva comes with unique talents and a magic item associated with these semi-divine native outsiders, and two oni, 2 rakshasa, 2 yaksha and 2 yaoguai complement the exotic array of these folks.

Among the plants, things get weird - with clockwork vines that work not unlike machinery...and something that made me laugh incredibly hard. The Gazebo. (If you're not familiar with why this is hilarious, google it - it's a classic in-joke of roleplaying games...) The book also contains variants of guardian plants, the disturbing venus fisher (talking about nightmare-fuel there...)...that plant is NASTY. And it's smart.

On the undead-side, we get death knights and 3 variants of draugr...oh, and there is Janus, god of portals. CR 25. Don't mess with him. We also get variants of skeletal students...and from there, we move on to the mighty teachers of Windfell Academy.

They are worthy of being big bosses, one and all, and come with detailed notes. These guys include a lich in charge of healing and necromancy (who also tried to take over the world once, but that's long past...). Professor Clik, a clockwork automaton, claims she built herself...and she is no less powerful than the mighty lich. Oh, and yes, these guys and gals have unique artifacts and tricks galore up their sleeves.. There also would be a mighty black unicorn professor...and Fexmet. Professor fexmet is a ferret and was once a wizard's pet. It's a frickin' CR 20 ferret. The caretaker of the academy would btw. be Geemet, the goblin unchained rogue (including a living, intelligent dagger). The headmaster was once the hierophant druid...of the whole world. Professor Meeda would be the teacher of shapeshifting and battlemagic, and hence, her artwork depicts her as a winged, 4-armed reptilian. She also is LG. Oh, and there would be Savesha - a reformed succubus, who has managed to actually change her own TYPE. Yeah, she is one amazing character - and the presentation of her as a strong female character, all sans resorting to the seduction-trope, is pretty nice to see! There also would be a Tiny, venerable gnome Toc (don't ask about either height or age...) and professor windjina. A weremantis - and perhaps a former queen...and she is pretty much dangerous...the inverse of the reformed succubus, if you will.

The book closes with a list of universal monster rules and a handy appendix that groups the statblocks by CR.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue hiccups or issues. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a blend of sketch-like pencil-style drawings that actually first felt a bit jarring, but grew on me fast - the illusion of a field guide is enhanced by teh style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with detailed, nested bookmarks.

Adam Meyers, with contributions from Andrew Stoeckle, Derfael Oliveira, Michael Uhland, Douglas Schaub, John Little and Casey Hayes, has created a bestiary that is much, much better than I hoped it would be. I expected this to be basically: "Let's convert critters to Spheres of power-the bestiary". It is so much more than that.

While there are conversions in this book that cover the basics, this stands out due to two things: 1) The unique creatures are absolutely amazing and evocative. 2) The book is a joy to read due to the framing device employed. I really had fun dissecting this tome of critters and more than once, I was inspired by the commentary. Oh, and the staff of the wizard's academy is inspired indeed. High-powered, mighty and creative, they are amazing, cool NPCs that ooze creativity and flavor. What more can you ask from a book like this? It should also be noted that the dangerous, whimsical and at the same time distinctly far-out nature of a Wizard's Academy is perfectly encompassed by the mighty NPCs herein - better than in pretty much any supplement on the subject matter I've read.

This is well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and every campaign using Spheres of Power should at the very least get this bestiary, even if you don't want to run the module.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastical Creatures & How to Survive Them: A Student's Guide for Adventure and Study
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The Shapeshifter's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/08/2017 04:43:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansion handbooks clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 37 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction to the matter at hand, we begin with a new Monk archetype (compatible with unchained monks as well), the Beastsoul Monk, who gains Transformation instead of the usual level 1 bonus feat. (This would btw. be a feat that nets you access to a no-spell point cost alternate form). Starting at 2nd level, Hybrid Transformation and Improved Transformation are added to the bonus feats available. Transformation may be chosen multiple times, with each feat granting a new form. The archetype may employ natural attacks while flurrying, gaining Str-mod to damage with them while flurrying, but the monk loses the increased unarmed strike damage. The archetype may choose from a number of monk abilities and instead gain the Alteration sphere - to nitpick: The reference to the standard monk refers to these as ki powers, which is inaccurate. Unchained monks lose all ki powers in favor of the sphere. The archetype is a low caster, using ki instead of spell points and CLs don't stack with Advanced Magical Training (not properly capitalized).

The second archetype would be the experimentalist thaumaturge, who gains the ability to generate casting attribute modifier vials, so-called alchemical boosts, which may be drawn and consumed as a standard action, granting temporary boosts to sphere-based casting, with the bonus scaling over the levels., but each time the boost is used, the character has a percentile chance of being nauseated. Additionally, such a boost nets the benefits of an Alteration sphere trait known, which are increased in increments of 5 levels. This allows for synergy with shapeshift and the benefits may thankfully not be stacked. This replaces forbidden lore. 2nd level yields the option to preserve and consume the remnants of dead creatures, allowing for either the disguise as the creature or mimicking of its abilities - by choosing an appropriate sphere talent. This is pretty much wide open and would really have needed imho a table of sample correlations between critters and sphere talents - could e.g. a creature with lunge grant the thaumaturge pounce? Am I missing something? Both are options of Bestial Reflexes, after all...The maximum cap of samples that may be preserved is increased at 6th level and every 4 thereafter and a handy sidebar allows for alternate dressing for anyone not comfortable with the potentially cannibalistic implications of the option. The archetype, unsurprisingly, gets the Alteration sphere with either Lycanthropic or Fleshwarper as drawback and 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter net alchemist discoveries instead of invocations. Instead of bonus feats, they gain the option to choose sneak attack instead of an alchemist discovery.

The protean shifter gains the Alteration sphere and the Beast Soul drawback with Anarchic Transformation, which is gained as normal. This modifies shapeshifter and the archetype gains breadth of form, which lets you, as a standard action, grant yourself an Alteration sphere talent you did not have, provided you meet the prerequisites. This lasts only temporarily and thankfully has a hard daily cap of 3 + 1/2 class level uses per day. Multiple uses do not stack and 5th level yields 2 talents, or the option to select one as a move action. The action economy improves throughout the levels, at 9th and 17th level, with 13th level increasing this all to 3 talents. Instead of endurance, 3rd level nets quick transformation. This is pretty wide-open and potent - not an option I'd allow in a gritty game, but suitable for most.

The second shifter archetype herein would be the warshifter, who gains the Lycanthropic drawback in conjunction with the Alteration sphere. They add Acrobatics to their class skills gain access to 3 maneuvers from Broken Blade, Primal Fury and Thrashing Dragon and has 3 maneuvers readied at first level, 1 stance and increases that to 15 maneuvers known, 7 readied, up to 5 stances and maximum maneuver-level of 6th. This replaces the transformation-tree of abilities and bestial traits. Yes, you read right - this is a Path of War/Spheres of Power-crossover archetype. Personally, I think the systems don't blend too well and the archetype uses two of my least favorite disciplines, but your mileage may vary.

The Resizer mageknight archetype loses medium armor proficiency (which is not bolded properly) and gains Size Change of the Alteration sphere, treating class level as CL, lasting for 2 rounds + 1 per level - and the resizer may choose to reduce the number of traits gained from shapeshift to retain use of the ability while subjected to it. This replaces 1st level's magic talent. At 11th level, this may be used as a swift action sans paying spell points and may be used at the cost of one spell point as an immediate action, replacing mystic defense.

2nd level lets the character ignore size penalties when changing sizes and is treated as mystic combat, but replaces it. 7th level nets permanent size changes. 15th level nets further size increases, allowing the character, with the right talent, to become gargantuan, with the right advanced talent even Fine or Colossal, replacing draw power. The mystic combat options net you grab and allow you to beat foes to pulp with their buddies, which is pretty cool and generally concisely-presented. I am not sold on this one: Size increases can be incredibly potent and the lack of costs at high levels and ridiculous sizes can be pretty problematic in some games, particularly sans the penalties. Not in all games, mind you, and I can see this work well for some campaigns, but it is an archetype that requires some serious GM-oversight and player mastery.

We do gain 3 arsenal tricks that tie in with the new wild fang property, summon morphic weapons as Grafted ones, and add wild (see SoP) to summoned armor and shields. 8 bestial traits cover temperature adaption, better spider climbing, grab, grafted weapons, better jumping...and Leaping Attack,. which is OP: Jump as part of a charge - if you clear the target's height (which is NO issue, considering how far you can boost such checks...), you treat it as flat-footed and increase threat range - worse, the threat-range increase stacks, which is a violation of how such things usually happen. I'd strongly suggest banning this. Shaping limbs into weapons and growing spines are neat tricks.

Graft Weapon is also available as a Mystic Combat option and we get better grappling, silvered weapons (and spell point auto-crit confirming versus polymorphed creatures, which BEGS to be abused to smithereens...) as well as the option to cancel out shapechanging via spell point empowered attacks.

The third chapter is massive and includes a ton of really versatile Alteration sphere talents - Aberrant Body, for example, unlocks acid spit, flanking immunity, an aboleth's mucus cloud (airborne, potentially choking foes - though thankfully, that can be offset by cleaning the mucus!) and roper strands. Aerial Agility unlocks Hovering, improved maneuverability and wingover as options. Agile Transformation nets +2 dodge bonus (Notes stacking with other dodge bonuses - which is redundant; dodge bonuses stack with each other.), Evasion (not italicized, which it should be in this context), +4 initiative (ouch) and uncanny dodge (improved if you already have it). That's, again, one talent. We can go through the whole chapter this way - we get aquatic tricks, ooze tricks, etc. and even find swarm transformations here. Now, the base SoP's Alteration sphere justifiably is considered to be one brutal array of options and this further enhances that - if you're looking to make a deadly shifting character, this one will yield enough material with the versatile traits available for each of the talents. Comparable spheres will certainly look with unmitigated envy at the potent options here and a player with sufficient system mastery can make some truly frightening builds here.

The advanced talents chapter allows these options to be further enhanced - diffused swarm forms, energy immunities and vulnerabilities, fusing two creatures into an amalgam, regeneration, the Size Mastery talent that allows for further size control or Star-spawn Transformation allow for potent tricks. All in all, a nice chapter for the more high-powered campaigns.

The pdf also sports 3 incantations - one to permanently fuse two creatures, one to make shapechangers and one to reconfigure the flesh of a target. Big plus: The Adaptation-section provides guidance for generating your own content within the confines of the Sphere, using the platypus as an example. The feat chapter sports aligned attacks as soon as 5th level (which is too soon), free counterspells when initiating a grapple (cool: Gets interaction with anti-grapple effects right), feats that help with Fusion tricks, Cursed shapeshifts, high-level grapple/swallow whole synergy, reflexive disarming transformations, Disguise shifts and retaining some tricks while under Transformation. A tree for Two-Head-enhancements can be found and we do get the option to spit venom, reflexive poison ichors...pretty extensive array here.

The pdf does sport 3 nice drawbacks as well as 4 traits and 14 alternate racial traits for a variety of races beyond the core. The equipment section contains a lycanthrope hunter's kit, oil that helps against shifters, an iteration of the transformative wolf pelt and a stabilizing vest. The 7th chapter provides advice on handling shapeshifting in game (kudos for the inclusion!) as well as handy tables that correlate creature types and form talents as well as form talents and casting abilities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good on a formal, rather impressive on a rules-language level - while I noticed a couple of formatting glitches and hiccups, more than usual for the series, the complex rules-language and operations required have been handled rather well as a whole. Layout adheres to the two-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf uses a blend of nice original pieces and stock art. The supplement comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew Stoeckle's take on shifters should put a smile on the faces of players, particularly those who enjoy tinkering and optimizing the material: The already extremely impressive array of options of the base sphere has been significantly expanded by this book, adding a serious array of versatility to the arsenal of options herein. This should be considered to be a must-buy for any fan of the Alteration-sphere, though GMs should talk with their players about some of the combos herein: The sheer versatility of options allow you to make truly fearsome shapechangers, to the point where they may be a bit overbearing for more conservative campaigns.

That being said, this pdf should most certainly be considered to be a required purchase for fans of the spherecasting engine - as such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Shapeshifter's Handbook
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The Shapeshifter's Handbook Hero Lab Files
by Timothy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/13/2017 10:33:46

The author fixed the original problems so now this package loads correctly into Hero Lab. It works well though I still cannot give a 5 star review since every time I purchase hero lab files from Drop Dead games I wonder if it will break my Hero Lab again. The author seems to believe that asking people to contact them rather than leaving them a bad review is a good replacement for a good QA process. I have to disagree. I cannot get back the six hours it took me to determine which hero lab files were causing my problem to make the initial report and without significant steps to upgrade the QA process I do not believe this author will ever get a 5 star rating from me.

As of 07/13/2017 this package works fine with my hero lab with all of the other Spheres of Power packages loaded. I also have a significant number of paizo books loaded so if you find it doesn't work, it seems that it is most likely because there is an unstated dependency. If you own all of the like material then you shouldn't have a problem.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Shapeshifter's Handbook Hero Lab Files
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The Illuminator's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/11/2017 04:40:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

This installment of the Spheres of Power-expansions-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1/2 a page blank, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief introduction and explanation on how to use this book, we move on to new class options, the first of which would be the astrology hedgewitch tradition, which nets Knowledge (Geography), Knowledge (planes) and Perception as class skills and the Light sphere as a bonus magic talent. As a tradition power, these gals may project a so-called celestial aura as a swift action, which affects all allies (including the hedgewitch) within 30 ft. and lasts until dismissed - only one such aura may be projected at a given time and it increases the lighting levels up to normal. 4 types are included, of which you must choose 2. Moon nets an untyped (should probably be typed) bonus to Fort-saves and replenishing temporary hit points. Planet nets resistance to either fire or cold, with class levels added as scaling device. Star grants an untyped Perception bonus as well as a scaling initiative bonus (ouch) and Sun adds fire damage to weapon damage rolls, 1d4, +1d4 for every 5 class levels. Personally, I think that Moon, Star and Sun are significantly stronger than the other two options. The tradition secrets, 5 of which are presented, allow for the expansion of the aura radius or the ability to gain another aura. You can also gain an oracle revelation from the heavens mystery, modify the light-level of the aura...and the final one, the grand secret, lets you project two auras at once. The tradition mastery increases your character level by 5 for determining aura potency and lets you change auras as a swift action. A new hedgewitch secret lets you dabble in the tradition.

The pdf also contains archetypes, the first of which would be the glass-eye gunmage, who replaces Knowledge (local) with Knowledge (arcana) and Sleight of Hand with Spellcraft. He must also swap out two deeds of his choice, one at 1st and one at 3rd level. Instead of the first-level deed, he gains Lens Array, which nets a Perception bonus and allows for grit-expenditure to reroll Perception. The 3rd level deed lets him ignore penalties to Perception for being distracted or asleep and may expend 1 grit at the start of battle to not be treated as flat-footed. At 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the gunmage gains (lens) talents from the Light sphere, treating class levels as casting levels and using grit as a resource. EDIT: Big kudos to Amber Underwood and Drop Dead Studios - the previous issue in the lens-talents has been fixed, which means that the archetype works properly now! :D

The radiant paragon shifter replaces Handle Animal with bluff and gains the Light sphere at 1st level at full CL, as well as the Touch of Light drawback. This replaces animal empathy. The archetype also employs the new Bioluminescent Transformation feat at 3rd level, which adds glow to shapeshift, allowing for some combo potential. 8th level provides two unique traits to add to shapeshift - +1/2 caster level bonus to Stealth checks (untyped - meh) or demoralize as a swift action via sudden color-shifts. This replaces poison immunity.

The third archetype would be the sun warrior, based on the mageknight class, who replaces Handle Animal with Intimidate, uses Cha as casting ability modifier and is locked into the Light sphere at first level. The archetype also gains the Glory talent instead of gaining resist magic, and uses her class level as caster level "on" glows benefitting from Glory - which lets your glow shed low-range bright light for combo set-ups. This may be as well a place as any to note that the rules-language has some cosmetic deviations in the finer details - mostly nothing glaring, though. When the sun warrior would gain a mystic combat ability or bonus combat feat, the archetype may choose solar radiance abilities instead. 5 of these are presented and include for increased radius for Glory, selective light talent application when affecting equipment, more Light talents, lending the glow (not italicized here) affected by Glory to allies and free action Searing Light application ties in for a cool combo. By FAR the coolest archetype herein and the only one I really liked. It also lends itself very well for Dark Souls-esque characters: "Do you even praise the Sun, brah?" I'd enjoy playing this guy!

From here, we move on to basic talents, which include a minor errata for glow: When you create a glow you may cause it to shed bright light as part of the same action, but otherwise follow the normal rules for causing a glow to shed bright light. To give you a brief summary: (Lens) talents can be placed as a standard action on targets within glow, potentially requiring melee or ranged touch attacks to hit. Spell point expenditure can increase duration to 1 hour per CL. Among the (lens) talents, we can find Aiming Scope (here, proper bonus types are thankfully reinstated...) and the lenses include an option that nets you the option to Hide in Plain Sight - which is usually unlocked at a higher level - imho, this should have a minimum level requirement. Forcing rerolls from attackers and using lenses to ignore miss chances for living creatures is pretty potent - a reduction may have been more viable there. EDIT: Dim Lights only grants immunity to one's own lights to the target, but its wording could sue improvement - "You cause a target to suffer no ill effects from light." could be read as superseding/complementing the benefits of the talent.

(Nimbus) talents modify glow, but only one may b applied per glow. You may switch these as a free action, but they thankfully affect an area only once per round. These include the ability to make light-show style beams, selectively illuminate cubes or leave trails of light. There btw. also is an option to bypass the 1-nimbus restriction.

Beyond these subtypes, we also get quite an array of other talents - bending radiance, shedding black light, generate patterns that may cause targets to fall prone and we have dual application of light talents to glows. Very interesting would be Flash, which eliminates the end of turn only restriction imposed on the application of (light) talents. Having glow linger and controlling intensity as well as gaining artistic modifications of glows make for interesting, flavorful options. Nonlethal damage via glows also makes for a nice option.

The advanced magic chapter lets you generate motes of Dancing Lights glows, which is cool...but Diffuse Body is really intriguing. When you move while under the effects of Flicker, you actually move in two places - and only upon being attacked or targeted, you decide which location you are...basically Schrödinger's caster. Permanently imbuing objects with glow is nice, I guess. With another talent, you can turn a creature affected by Flicker into a being of pure light - very potent and thankfully locked behind an appropriate prereq-array...and the form may be further upgraded with vast movement superiority via Light Speed. Making the glow turn prismatic is similarly cool and Con-draining radiation light is cool. The chapter also contains two rituals - reflection/refraction, which alters objects and beacon pillar, creating a bauble you can crush to emit a beacon of light.

The feat-chapter includes Dual Sphere feats for Auroras and propulsion via beams, +2 MSB and MSD for Light sphere effects, doubled when trying to make an opposed check versus magical darkness; Firing light-based destructive blasts that are not hindered by windows, but by light-blocking things is nice. Creations of hard light, Photosynthesis. not a fan of addition of untyped damage to Searing Light, myself. 5 solid traits also are here and we get 3 sphere-specific drawbacks and 3 alternate racial traits. No complaints there.

The equipment section defines different light sources and types - motes, strobes, etc. -handy. Cool: radiant edge weapons project deadly light, slightly increasing their reach (Can I hear Burnt Ivory King?), but sans increasing the threatening range. Staves with sunset let glows linger slightly. There are 3 specific magic items, a veil that fortifies versus the dazzled condition, the brush that generates colorful ink and a nice miniature orrery. The pdf concludes with 6 radiant tattoos, which shed light and allows for hypnotizing targets while dancing, for doubling as a divine focus, etc. - no complaints here.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good for the most part - in fact, the material is generally very good, though the class section could use some refinement - it has a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series. EDIT: The previously migraine-inducing bright, yellow headers have been dimmed down. Thank the deities! Artwork is a blend of the nice cover and some okay stock art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Amber Underwood had a relatively challenging task here - the sphere is simply not as "sexy" as some of its brethren, though this book does a valiant job enhancing the Light-options. While I disagree with some of the design decisions, as a whole, this is a well-made supplement with some minor imperfections. EDIT: With the headers and the archetype-glitch fixed, this now is a proper addition to the series, worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Illuminator's Handbook
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Vigilantes of Skybourne
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/08/2017 04:55:34

5/5 Throwing Knives (no shuriken for lack of dead turtles) but 3.5/5 Brobarangs so 4/5. Full video review here: https://youtu.be/kJakX-SYXMs?t=1m

--Cool Shredder



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Skybourne
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The Nyctomancer's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/10/2017 00:01:17

Disclaimer: I support the Patreon campaign funding Spheres of Power's handbook expansions, and as such I paid the full price for this product.

After some delays, the next book in Spheres of Power's line of expansions is here! I'm not much of a Dark user myself, but it's a nice counterpart to the Illuminator's Handbook, and not exactly an uncommon choice for characters.

Falling into the regular format these Handbooks have developed, this product opens with seven new archetypes.

The Darkshaper is an archetype for the Armorist that focuses on manipulating the user's shadow, which can be animated as an extra limb, make attacks, and generally change shape to be useful.

The Invidian is an archetype for the Symbiat, trading their psionic partner for a shadow demon. Their main feature is the Blackened Psyche, which allows for things like granting cover to allies or designating opponents as flanked against certain attacks.

The Nocturnal Predator is Batma- I mean, a shapeshifter focused on killing their foes in the dark. Most notably, they gain the Dark Sphere at full caster level progression (and don't lose progression in Alteration), which is a fairly notable benefit. To help balance this, the Nocturnal Predator also gains two Drawbacks without any extra talents for it (unless they already had the Spheres from a different class, which most won't).

The Shadow Boxer is an archetype for the Unchained Monk, and as the name implies, they can manipulate their shadow to strike their foes. It's a lot like the Darkshaper, really, but they have excellent reach (in all directions, including up), and they also gain some minor use of the Dark Sphere and can spend their Ki points to fuel its powers.

The Skulk is an archetype for the Fey Adept, trading powers of illusion for darkness and gaining the ability to steal shadows and fake the target's powers. Duplicating a foe's powers can be fairly potent, and I'd definitely recommend diving all-in on the flavor for this archetype.

The Talent Thief is an archetype for the Unchained Rogue that's a lot like the Fey Adept, covering the same general ground of stealing abilities. There is a limit on this in that you need to confirm a critical hit - which rather noticeably narrows the variety of builds this archetype will be effective for. (I can't actually dislike that too much - archetypes are usually all about playing in a particular way to begin with, but it's important to know if you want to use it.)

The Void Gazer is an archetype for the Thaumaturge that swaps their usual invocations for those with a darker theme. They also get the Clouded Vision curse of the Oracle.

After all of that, we finally get to the most important part of this book - the new basic magic talents. I was very happy to see that, once again, a Handbook contains new types of talents for a sphere. The new types introduced are Blots (flat surfaces of darkness with particular effects) and Shadows (which manipulate a shadow directly) - both of which offer definite new possibilities for casters.

The talents themselves include things like causing targets to quite literally choke on darkness, blindfolding someone with their own shadow, and extinguishing mundane sources of light (and magical sources of fire - a minor but useful utility, especially because it doesn't cost a spell point to use).

We also get a few augmented talents - new abilities that can be acquired by taking a talent multiple times. This isn't new to Spheres of Power - Fast Divinations had this - but it's still fairly rare.

To cap out the new powers, the Advanced Magic includes some new advances talents (like animating your shadow for a long period of time and creating fields that null alignments) and an Incantation to summon up a revenant shade.

The next chapter focuses on player options, starting with a variety of new feats that aid in the use of the Dark Sphere. Among them, we see things like free use of the Obfuscation talent in areas of dim (or darker) light, and Sickening targets at the same time you Fascinate them to really stack those ailments.

We also get three new traits, a handful of new drawbacks (including one for the Light sphere), and new Alternate Racial Traits for Fetchlings, Tieflings, and Wayang. Familiars aren't left out, either, as they get a nice new Archetype.

Section 6 is pretty short - just two pages - but it includes a few Wondrous Items, a Minor Artifact, and several new enchantments for weapons and armor. Three of these are GP-based, rather than magical, so they can easily be added to newly-crafted gear. The book wraps up with a new template and a sample creature.

All in all, this book nicely fits into what I've come to expect from Spheres of Power's handbooks. I was especially pleased to see the new Talent types, since those are an excellent way to add variety to a new Sphere without deviating from its central theme. If you enjoy Spheres of Power and plan on heavy use of the Dark Sphere, you're definitely going to want to pick this book up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Nyctomancer's Handbook
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The Enhancer's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/28/2017 07:51:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Drop Dead Studios' expansion-books for Spheres of Power clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, after some introductory prose and advice on navigating this book, we begin with a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the Herculean Scion for the mageknight, who replaces 1st level's magic talent with a domain power of a domain of her choice, with 2nd level increasing the CL to class level for enhancements that target the scion - in short: Full CL-self-buffs. 7th level replaces marked with immunity to all poisons and diseases, with 11th level providing DR 3/- that improves every 4 levels thereafter by 1, replacing mystic defense. As a capstone, self-targeting enhancements instead last 24 hours and nets an outsider apotheosis.

The wizard may elect to become an eclectic researcher and is considered to be a high caster, with a spell pool of class level + Int-mod points, 2 magic talents every odd level and 1 every even level, with 1st level netting the Spellcrafting and Create Spellbook feats as well as the focus casting drawback with the spellbook as the focus. This spellbook is known as a researcher's notebook and 1/day a spell cast from it may be reduced in complexity by 1, with 10th and 18th level providing further decreases in complexity. Here's the deal, though: The archetype receives so-called name-bound spells that only the archetype may properly cast, gaining the option to enhance such spells in special ways, allowing for the application of enhancement of magically duplicated weapons or armor generated via spells. This...is at once awesome and ridiculously strong in the hands of a system-savvy player. That being said, it is also a very creative and potentially very rewarding exercise for experienced players. The wide-open nature of the engine thus created can result in the requirement of GM-calls here, though that is the consequence of a system-inherent property and not necessarily the fault of the archetype.

The snake-oil salesman replaces sneak attack with being a low caster as well as class level + Cha-mod spell points, with enhancement as a bonus sphere at 1st level and magic talents at 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter. Trapfinding is replaced with bonuses to Appraise and Bluff. The enhancements of the class can be delivered via pills or oils to creatures and weapons, gaining the special delivery drawback. 4 special rogue talents allow for lingering effects, better magic and poisoning. Personally, I would have liked the concealing poisons talent to specifically state its DC without requiring the looking up of the precedence, but that is a minor and cosmetic inconvenience that stems probably from me not exclusively playing with the spheres system. 5th level replaces uncanny dodge with Brew Potion, allowing for once again, complexity modifications. It should be noted that "primarily Enhancement effects" is pretty wobbly as far as rules-verbiage is concerned. That could have been solved more elegantly. Higher levels net quick pill-swallowing and resilience versus negative side-effects, with the capstone providing some fun options to really sell prouct.

The spirit-wielder fighter replaces bravery with the option to awaken one weapon, which proceeds to gain the Enhancement sphere at 3rd level and the weapon's Cha-mod as spell pool. The weapon may select a casting tradition and receives additional magic talents at 7th, 11th and 15th level, replacing armor training. 5th, 9th and every 4 levels thereafter and 17th level enhance the weapon's resilience, with 19th level further enhancing the weapon. As a capstone, the awakened weapons are resurrected alongside the character and are part of the being for these purposes and the weapon may not be disarmed...and the character may 1/round take 10 for an atk with it. The final archetype would be the whitesmith armorist who replaces summoned equipment with the Enhancement sphere and treats the full character level as CL for object enhancement. Special qualities may also be applied from enhance equipment thus by the archetype, with +1, +1 at every 5 levels. Instead of bound equipment, the bonus further increases by +1, with 7th level and every 4 levels further enhancing the bonus. 5th level allows the whitesmith to repair broken objects and adds a further weapon affected, +1 object affected at 10th level and every 5 levels thereafter. 19th level allows for swift action concentration on enhancement, with the capstone allowing for spell point expenditure for doubling the number of additional objects affected - basically, a god-weapon-smithing one.

The pdf also contains a significant array of new basic talents that allow for the increase of the potency of poisons, optional spell point expenditure for more enhancements when using options that allow for multiple options...which can be a bit weird when interacting with class/archetype abilities that add additional benefits. A bit of clarification for such interactions would certainly be appreciated. Temporary reduction of fatigued/exhaustion conditions and there are more than a few similar...well...enhancers. From better movement to generating a magical sink as a kind of dispelling buffer to finally, an option to render items more fragile or adding bleed effects to weaponry - the array is generally solid. 4 advanced talents are also included, one of which lets you employ aegis and enhancement not suppressed by antimagic, one to go ascetic via spell points, one to grant temporary sentience via Embodiment of Magic to non-instantaneous effects - this would btw. be a pretty complex template with a CR-enhancement of 2/3 HD, +1/4 potency that allows for the creation of critters based on spells...which is VERY cool and may make this, scavenging-wise, pretty worthwhile even if you're not that interested in SoP.

Regarding somewhat problematic options: I generally like how referential enhancement makes enhancements acts as bursts for +2 spell points...the question remains, though, if such bursts can enhance options that are defined by self-only targets and enhanced thus. Would a herculean scion's enhancements of his tricks potentially be expanded? Do the class abilities or the talents take precedence here? It's these interactions where the system obviously could have used some slightly more precise notes, since it's not 100% evident which takes precedence.

A total of 3 incantations, from talking to locks to making statue servants or forming stone as clay, these are pretty amazing. Kudos! The feats are arguably the crunchy heart of this installment of the series: Two feat categories are introduced here: Drawback feats allow for taking alternate benefits from drawbacks, which is amazing, as it allows for further customization and differentiation between crafted traditions. These include interaction between addiction and enhancements, bonuses to MSD for slower and more deliberate casting, etc.

Secondly, there would be the category of proxy feats, which builds on enhanced creatures acting as Circle Casting candidates, manipulating the respective proxy enhancements build upon that feat's effects - basically, via these feats, you can gain, for example the option for a proxy expending an immediate action to get you a reroll, etc. These basically are a bit like a chopped up tactician/collective-generating archetype...interesting, though I think the engine would have perhaps worked better in the context of an archetype...but that may be me. The other feats contained herein also represent some serious gems - extended options for making weaponry aligned, multiple expansions for animated objects and shapeshifting enhanced objects is similarly cool...though this one needs some system-mastery and sports a component that could use a bit clarification: The enhancement becomes a shapeshift, I get that, but do class abilities and talents modifying enhancement apply? Those that modify shapeshift? Both? The interaction is a bit problematic here - not to the point where the material doesn't work, but to one where I can easily construct cases where the interaction becomes somewhat opaque. I also couldn't find Fate Magnet in either the book or SoP, so not sure whether this is an option that will be released to the public in the future.

Very cool: A total of 9 different sphere-specific drawbacks can be found within these pages, with 2 new boons included as well - a total of 6 traditions have been tailor-made for the book as well. The pdf concludes with the bestiary-section, which includes truly ginormous colossal items, from colossal+ to colossal+++, CR 12 to 16, 3 sample embodiments of magic and a whole section that expands the animated object section with special material, notes on animating structural features and several new abilities and flaws for the respective items.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good in both formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf has a decent blend of stock and original pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Marcus Dirr didn't have an easy task here - Enhancement is simply not as "sexy" as a concept as some other themes for Sphere-handbooks and he did a more than valiant job, focusing on some interesting rules-operations. The feats contain some seriously intriguing gems and the focus on spell customization is cool. The magical embodiments are pretty amazing as well...but in this pdf, more so than in previous handbooks, it becomes pretty evident that the SoP-system, when not handled very carefully, can easily result in some glitches in the interaction between the highly modular components. This does not make this a bad book in any way, but it makes it an installment that could have used some further streamlining. As a result, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, still rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Enhancer's Handbook
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Vigilantes of Skybourne
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2017 04:40:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive expansion-pdf for the vigilante-class clocks in at 40 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page blank, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 32 pages of content, so let's take a look!

All right, we begin this pdf with a collection of archetypes, the first of which would be the living banner. At 2nd level, the archetype is locked into the inspired vigilante talent. At 3rd level, a unique peculiarity begins - the living banner receives access to the war sphere, using inspiration points instead of spell points. The totem abilities gained are always centered on the living banner and affect only allies while he's in the vigilante identity. In social identity, an ally within 30 ft. may be affected by the rally abilities, but not the totem abilities. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net a talent from the war sphere. This replaces startling appearance and unshakeable. 11th level allows for a cool option: Whenever the banner would be reduced below 0 hit points while in vigilante identity, an ally within 30 ft may aid another for AC as an immediate action - if the AC bonus suffices to raise the vigilante's AC high enough so the attack misses, it is negated. This one replaces frightening appearance. 17th level nets the ability to allow allies to execute an attack as an immediate action against an adjacent target when the banner crits, replacing stunning appearance. All in all, a cool archetype.

The Iron Lord is basically an Iron Man archetype - instead of the default dual identity, the archetype can conjure forth a bonded armor that is of masterwork quality, +1 enchanted for every odd level beyond first, with the +5 cap maintained. Enhancements/special qualities can be switched upon reaching a new level. The armor vanishes once it loses the iron lord's possession and 7th level provides a second suit of armor for more flexibility, with changes between suits and identities following the normal dual identity rules Starting at 3rd level, the iron lord unlocks progressively better special materials to craft the suit from, with 7th and 11th level providing progressively better options. Now this is not meant as criticism and I won't penalize the pdf for it, but I would have loved to see some GM guidelines of when to unlock new materials beyond the standard Paizo stuff. Oh well.

The third archetype, the masked duelist, gains Weapon Finesse with one-handed piercing weapons and light weapons, replacing seamless guise. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with the swashbuckler's panache, including dodging panache and opportune parry and riposte, with 3rd level unlcoking precise strike and swashbuckler's initiative. 6th level replaces another vigilante talent nets Dazzling Display and treats all Weapon Finnese'd weapons as Weapon Focus weapons for the feat's purpose. A number of times per day equal to Cha-mod, the masked duelist can mark a foe as part of Dazzling Display, potentially dazing the adversary. You've no doubt discerned it - this is the Zorro-archetype. And I like it. One issue remains, though, one that is retained from the base swashbuckler - the archetype, much like the swashbuckler class, lacks a reliable skirmishing option, one that imho would have really benefited the archetype.

The next one is pretty interesting - the Possessed gains 4+ Int skills per level and instead of vigilante specialization, he gains possessed identity The possessed identity can either be construct, aligned outsider, elemental, plant, dragon or construct. The vigilante identity, before you start groaning, does not gain all immunities of the respective types (which is good), but still provides unique tricks: Construct possessed do not require air to breathe; undead are treated as both undead and living for the purpose of spells and effects and elementals provide speeds. The transformation is magical and thus faster - it can be completed in 5 rounds, but it is anything but subtle. Somewhat disappointing - no guideline regarding how loud it is was provided. The possessed is btw. treated as a low caster for the spheres system, using Charisma as governing attribute, he does not gain talents. MSB and MSD increase normally, but the spell pool only equals 1/2 + casting ability modifier points - odd: Why not use Cha here?

The secret police gains proficiency with the bow, sap and whip instead of martial weapons, shields or medium armors and replace seamless guise with Enforcer. These guys receive a scaling unarmed damage (Small and Large damage values included) and may execute these even with hands full and applies full Str-mod to damage, including off-hand attacks. Nonlethal damage does not impose penalties to atks with these. This replaces level 1's social talent. 2nd level replaces the vigilante talent with an inqui's judgment and 8th level provides a ring of protection that increases in power as more class levels are gained and this ring may conjure forth tears of death with an immediate onset, replacing that level's vigilante talent. I really liked this one - strong theme, well executed.

The sky marine adds Fly to the class skills and loses medium armor proficiency. The vigilante identity of the archetype relies on war paint, oils, piercings, etc., and as such does not gain any protection from scrying etc. usually conveyed by dual identities. That being said, the vigilante identity provides a scaling dodge bonus and improved startling/frightening appearance duration/AoE. This also kills off seamless guise, obviously. 6th level replaces the vigilante talent gained there and at 13th level as well as Vengeance Strike with the ability to enhance a ship he gains control of, with a handy table listing the quite significant benefits. Also at this level, the archetype may designate any spot on the ship as a temporary control device via cranks and pulleys - cool! 12th level either increases maneuverability (for engines) or nets the ship the ability to work sans sails. The capstone is so cool - it makes the ship return to the archetype within 1 week...and if the archetype is in contact with the ship, both marine and ship receive regeneration 5. Cool!

The next one would be the overwatch nets either a flying familiar or animal companion at full level, replacing the talent usually gained at 2nd level. 6th level nets improved empathic link, including the option to look through the companion's eyes, replacing 6th level's vigilante talent. The capstone lets the companion contribute up to 2 standard actions to vengeance strike. I consider this one somewhat problematic, taking into account the superiority of animal companions and their power at low levels; going druid-progression for them looks like a slight overkill to me. Ranger-route at -3 would have imho been smarter here, but it remains a pretty easy modification to execute, so yeah.

The uncanny archer loses medium armor proficiency and gains Precise Shot as a 1st level bonus feat. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter net a hunter's trick from the skirmisher ranger archetype, which may only be executed with ranged or thrown weapons. These may be used 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. This replaces 4th level's vigilante talent. 8th level replaces that vigilante talent with 30 ft.-range ranged maneuvers and 12th level provides a ricochet-shot. Decent, but not too interesting as far as I'm concerned. The vessel archetype is interesting - the archetype has no control between the identities - they have to start the day in the social identity and may not sue the vigilante abilities while in social identity. Starting at 1st level, when the vessel or an ally is below 50% hit points, the archetype can assume their vigilante identity as an immediate action. 5th level lets the vigilante transform 1/day as a standard action, regardless of ally conditions, 10th level lets them assume vigilante identity at will and unlocks the vigilante talents for the social identity. The form also nets class level x2 temporary hit points when assuming vigilante identity, though it should be noted that these cannot easily be cycled. Okay, so how would I play this? I'd find a fluffy little kitten. Then...yeah, you get the idea. I'd be angry and whop out my supernatural identity as well when a kitten is hurt. Anyways, at least you don't have to kill them...

Moving on, instead of vigilante specialization, the archetype receives a luck pool equal to 1/2 class level + Cha-mod, which may be spent as part of an attack or damage roll to add a surge-y +1d6 to atk, or +1d6 per 5 class levels to damage. As an immediate action, the vigilante may add this amount to saves, thus replacing vigilante specialization. Also as an immediate action, the vessel may boost an ally's save or AC by +1d6 by expending 2 luck points. I really like this mechanic, but alas, the ally option is a separate ability and does not specify when it is unlocked. Until 10th level, these cannot be used while in vigilante form.

The next chapter provides more archetypes, this time racial ones - if you remember my review of the PG and its gross power imbalances, you'll notice that this does not necessarily leave me stoked. So, for the purpose of this book, I'll just look at these on their own, distinct entities, all right? The Cecaelia deepstalker replaces Climb with Knowledge (history) and gains proficiency with heavy and light underwater crossbow, but loses medium armor and shields, excluding bucklers. 1st level nets poison use and seamless guise is replaces with a bonus to Craft (alchemy) and (traps) - how much? No idea - there is a box-like layout/formatting remnant where the bonus should be. I assume from context that it should be 1/2, though. 4th level replaces the vigilante talent gained with a ranger trap and 20th level nets a pretty hard to counter final death-y ability when reducing foes to 0 hp.

The aasimar divine avenger replaces 5th level's startling appearance with Call Truce and 11th level nets an ability in social identity that makes it hard to say no to the avenger, requiring a WIll-save to not have your attitude improved temporarily - which is cool. However, it replaces "startling appearance" - which is wrong. That ought to read frightening appearance. 17th level replaces stunning appearance with a stun versus anyone at least indifferent when the vigilante identity is revealed. Okay one, I guess, but nothing special. The fenghuang ebon phoenix can assume the eponymous ebon phoenix form in only 5 rounds (as always, talents can hasten that) - and once again, there is no guideline for Perception checks to notice the pretty stark transformation. 1st level locks the character in the Renown social talent and quickens the ability to gain renown in settlements with some fenghuang. The downside here being that it's pretty hard for these fellows to disguise themselves from their people. 2nd level nets bonuses to skills and atk and damage versus fey, which increase at 8th and 16th level. This type may be changed in a 24-hour-ritual that requires sufficient knowledge of the threat being lethal to his people. The capstone allows for a cold-based self-immolation + full-healing auto-resurrection that is particularly potent versus the chosen threat.

The cherufe archetype lava walker is only available for the amet subtype and all members of the archetype share the same vigilante identity, gaining a bonus to Intimidate. Interesting: No mundane or magical compulsion can make a cherufe give up a lava walker's identity. This replaces seamless guise. 2nd level last longer lava and +1/2 class level additional uses, allowing you to perform iterative attacks with it. The lava may also be added to wielded weapons and unarmed/natural attacks, with 5th level making it magical and 7th and 11th level increasing the damage output, the latter also increasing duration. This replaces 2nd level's vigilante talent. 12th level upgrades fire resistance to 25 (or 30 with hotblooded) instead of the vigilante talent. The Reimagined created has basically two modes - the vigilante form may have a different configuration of creation points, though each form per se is fixed.. 3rd level lets the archetype, as a standard action, move around the ability score bonus granted by the repurposed ability, with additional daily uses gained at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter.

The technophile tatulani replaces martial weapon proficiency with firearms and begins play with a battered laser pistol and replaces seamless guise with +1/2 class level to Craft (mechanical) and Knowledge (engineering). 1st level's social talent is exchanged for Technologist and 7th level provides the pretty amazing ability to, in 8 hours, repurpose a room into a crafting laboratory, cybernetics lab, medical lab or military lab, with the Craft-check made determining the charges available. The character also receives Craft Technological Arms and Armor and thus replaces the social talent gained at 7th level. I love this lab-improvising-mechanic...really cool, though I wished the archetype went one step further with it.

The cuazaj winged terror replaces 1st level's social talent with +1/2 class level to Craft (alchemy) and gains alchemist bombs instead of a vigilante talent at 2nd level, though he does not add Int-mod to damage.5th level's startling appearance is replaced with a 30 ft. average fly speed (40 ft. and good with Real Flight) and 17th level's stunning appearance is replaces with even better flight. Weird: While two of the appearance abilities are exchanged, level 11's frightening appearance still is here. Aesthetics-wise, I consider that choice a bit odd.

The pdf does feature archetypes for classes beyond the vigilante, the first of which would be the Beast Tamer for the damn cool Luchador-class. The beast tamer replaces skilled combatant with a full-progression animal companion (alongside a bonus on wild empathy and Handle Animal checks. Thing is...he does not get wild empathy, RAW. Oversight? I don't know. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide a teamwork feat, with class level acting as BAB for prerequisite purposes - all animal companions he has are treated as though they also had these feats. Basically a pet-luchador.

The cloaked killer ranger archetype replaces wild empathy with dual identity and replaces spells with the stalker's hidden strike ability at -3 levels and damage increasing by +1d8 per 2 levels thereafter. 7th level lets the killer move unimpeded through crowds and nets concealment as well as an Intimidate bonus to influence crowds instead of woodland stride. The mutator alchemist replaces the default mutagen with a so-called evolutionary catalyst, which, instead of a mutagen's usual benefits, provides a pool of 1/2 class level 8min 1) spell points as well as a single mutation vigilante talent. Brew Potion is replaced with dual identity and two discoveries and one grand discovery can be used to further enhance the evolutionary catalyst. More on those mutation talents below, just fyi.

The swordsmith fighter loses heavy armor and tower shield proficiency, but gains 4 + Int mod skills per level (thank you!), +1 per level that must be used for Craft (weapons). 5th level nets Master Craftsman for Craft (weapons). Starting at 3rd level, the swordsmith designates one weapon he made the blade of legend, which receives a +1 bonus when wielded by him, +1 at every odd level, with the usual +5 cap in place. The assigned abilities may be changed via a ritual and drawing said blade adds the bonus of the blade to Ref- and Will-saves as well as Cha-checks when drawn: The swordsmith basically transforms into an alternate identity, which may even be of a different alignment. However, the character may still be recognized by keen-eyed individuals. This replaces armor training ad qualifies as dual identity for prerequisite purposes. 19th level nets DR 5/- while wielding the sword instead of armor mastery and 20th level allows for on the fly reassignment of blade abilities. Love this one. It's basically He-man. Damn cool!

The pdf also features two 10-level-PrCs, the first of which would be the hellsworn, who receives d8 HD, 4 + skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Fort- and Will-save progression and prereq-wise, 5th level access. Oh, and you have to pledge your soul to hell, obviously, which makes resurrection unreliable - the interesting aspect here is that dual identity, if present, means that only one identity is condemned to hell. 1st level nets the option to add hellfire damage (untyped) as a swift action to attacks with mutations, bombs, attacks, etc. The ability also improves at 3rd level and every odd level thereafter, which extends to the skill bonuses it conveys. 2nd level provides class level DR/good and allows for quicker identity change. 4th level nets poison use as well as the option to conjure forth imp poison 1/2 class level + Cha-mod times per day. 6th level nets 15 + class level SR and 8th level lets him inflict devil chills Cha-mod times per day. The capstone nets an aura of fear.

The second PrC would be the shrouded captain, who receives d8 HD, 6 + Int-mod skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, 1/2 Ref- and Will-save progression and can be taken prereq-wise as soon as 4th level. The character does need a ship, though - and losing it is nasty. They begin at 1st level with a shrouded crew, which means that the captain can cloak their identity, crafting basically dual identity's lite version for up to 10 x class level beings...which is an AMAZING rpg-catalyst! 3rd level and every three levels thereafter provide a social talent, which may be then included in the generated identities for crew members, though they can't get Renown and the ship will always be the Safe House, if applicable. 2nd level nets jolly roger, which doubles as dual identity for the captain, but extends its benefits to the ship - it also allows for ship intimidation and provides a scaling bonus to crew members' damage rolls and saves versus fear. 5th level and 7th level net a teamwork feat, which may then be shared with all crew members within 60 ft., for a daily total of 5 x class level rounds. 10th level is amazing: If the captain dies and is not returned to life within 24 hours, a member of the crew may take up his mantle, becoming for all intents and purposes the fallen captain, including personality and identity. And yes, this interacts properly with captains later returned to life. Amazing PrC full of flavor, one of the best Pirate-y ones I've seen.

The pdf also features a significant array of new class options for the vigilante: The enigma specialization makes the vigilante a Mid-caster using Cha, with class level + Cha-mod spell points, but does not gain magic talents. Two magical talents may be foregone in favor of a mutation vigilante talent. Mutation vigilante talents are supernatural abilities that do not provoke AoOs and, unless otherwise noted, require a standard action to activate. Many double as sphere effects and may thus be enhanced by magical talents, but may not be enhanced by staves. MSB is based on class level. The massive collection of talents include discoveries for alchemist bombs, Alteration sphere traits (Bestial Form, the talent, is not properly italicized), a combined teleport/darkness, [meld]-scavenging or several SPs. (Once again, one is not italicized correctly) that scale with levels. generating light daggers which can later be used to 30.-ft-whirlwind also are amazing...and yes, dear reader, if you're like me and loved the "Cloak and Dagger"-comics (Mantel und Degen, for my German readers) - the light and darkness-related tricks here are an amazing homage to these characters. Fire-breathing, laced energy, preventing lying, firing ocular blasts and radically improved speed all make sure that the ample inspiration from the superhero genre was well integrated with both spherecasting and the vigilante's engine. Speaking of which: You get two nerd-cred-points if you can reliably state the inspiration for "There is only the Night", which "kills" off a social identity and allows you to build a new one. So. Cool.

Social talent-wise, we get a bit less - only 5. One nets you a copycat, which you can use to retain your identity's secret, one that lets him buy at military discount in an area of renown, one that lets him request the help of fighters, one to make a ship the safe house and one that is the opposite of the aforementioned one that lets the vigilante have his vigilante identity "die" - only to construct a new one. The pdf also features favored class options for the skybourne races and closes with 6 feats: Clangorous Crash deafens foes temporarily when you roll maximum damage with a bludgeoning weapon (finally a reason to use hammers...). Dazzling Blow is smart: Single attack dazzling foes that also renders them flatfooted against you...but only until the start of your next turn, making this a great AoO/tactics set-up that can't be cheesed. Kidney Cutter allows your potshots to deal continuous nonlethal damage (neat!); Mutation nets you, bingo, a mutation. Sealed Mind proofs you versus divination/Mind Sphere abilities and Tertiary Identity nets you another social identity - cool!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-level - the pdf juggles complex concepts rather well. At the same time, there are some oversights and formatting hiccups here and there. Layout adheres to a really nice full-color two-column standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art and several amazing full-color pieces I haven't seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Michael Sayre's vigilantes of Skybourne are pretty amazing as a whole; while not all archetypes wowed me, there are indeed some gems herein. In particular in the talent-selection, I kept grinning from ear to ear. As a longtime fan of Cloak And Dagger and as someone who grew up with He-man, there is a lot of heart's string-pulling involved here. The talents, if you're playing with Spheres of Power, are pretty much a reason of its own to get this. If you're not playing with the system, then this has less to offer, so let that stand as a warning.

To make that clear - SoP-using groups that feature vigilantes should consider this a must-have, though not all options reach the level of awesomeness as the ones I mentioned: The Zorro-archetype inherits the issues of the swashbuckler and the hellsworn, while obviously a homage to Spawn lacks symbiotic costume and the unique timer, ending up being basically just another hell-themed PrC...one that, theoretically and RAW, could be cheesed via the new talents that let an identity "die". So yeah, this is not perfect, but it represents a book worth getting. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vigilantes of Skybourne
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Ships of Skybourne
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/11/2017 08:08:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 105 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 101 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, know how I smashed the player's guide for the ship-rules feeling incomplete, obtuse and hard to grasp? Yeah, well, that's mainly due to this book being the total guide to that subject matter. But is its presentation didactically better?

Well..yeah. It does. We begin with establishing a terminology pertaining the various iterations of the Craft skill before establishing the nomenclature for the roles on the vessel and the basics. Vehicles behave very much like creatures and have a Pilot, who has to spend a move action per turn steering the vessel; contested steering is covered here; Head engineers oversee the propulsion device of the vessel and makes engineering checks to do various things with the vessel in question - these can run a gamut of different skills, depending on propulsion. Crew is pretty much self-explanatory and was one of the few aspects the Player's Guide got right. To recap, they're pretty much treated as a kind of troop by another name. Vessels have 30 ft.-movement squares and a facing; hardpoints are 10-ft-cubes and constitute the building blocks of a vessel; 9 hardpoints can be organized in a deck and vessels with more than 5 decks also have locations; when one part is destroyed, the other is not necessarily wrecked - another aspect I liked. Vessel AC, CMB/CMD, etc. are easily depicted along the similar basics.

Then, the system pretty much becomes more concise than the PG's mess ever was by going straight to propulsion devices; from muscle to engines and wind, the propulsion devices covered are concisely presented, with the latter featuring a handy table by wind strengths. And this is where the presentation becomes a bit opaque; at this point, we have learned the basics and instead of actually making the ship, we go on to first learn the basics of vehicle combat using this system. We covered the vehicular movement in the PG's review, but to recap, vehicles move at the end of the round, in sequence of the pilot's skill, during a so-called vehicle combat phase. While the pdf still champions group initiative, this is thankfully where the book starts deviating from what we got in the Player's Guide. Ships of Skybourne must account for 3-dimensional combat and as such, it introduces altitude bands, each of which covers about 50 ft. - think of these as height zones and a GM determines which altitude band is 1, which is 20 to codify them numerically. Riding the shadow's mentioned and while the pdf takes basically the information already featured in the PG here, the sequence makes more sense. Both pilot and engineer may perform a significant series of diverse maneuvers, with other crew members being relegated to emergency repairs as a relevant maneuver.

The presentations keeps this increased level of cohesion with the next section, where we establish siege weapon terminology, categories (direct vs. indirect fire), use, etc. and both fire-control methods and water pumping notes supplement this section. As before, we do get notes on vehicle conditions, though "sinking" as a term could have used an expansion, considering skybourne's focus on air ships.

Next up, we...still don't cover actual airship construction; nope, we dive into mediums of travel and the rules presented here are concise. Air travel requires a vessel featuring enough power to overcome its weight and the section notes an interesting twist, namely that altitude bands and the influence of gravity on weapon range, which makes for an elegant, fun modification. Subterranean and underwater travel are also covered here with interesting considerations, and we even touch upon space/planar travel - so yes, fellow Spacejammer-aficionados, the book does not forget you.

A total of 6 vehicle templates are provided next and their rules are generally concise...however, I really don't get why they are introduced before we actually have a vehicle to apply them to; this just causes undue frustration and confusion....which is a pity, for the template rules generally are nice.

All right, we're over 20 pages in and now we finally get to design our vehicle, and it is here, I can applaud the pdf; whereas the PG's presentation of the process was horribly opaque, the section does a significantly better job of using the engine. Engine? Yep, for the pdf does something very, very smart - it uses the single best ship-combat rules-book for Pathfinder, Frog God Games' excellent Fire as She Bears, and tweaks it. The tweaks, as such, will at the same time elicit cheers and frustration, but let me clarify: Fire as She Bears assumed nautical vessels and as such, had certain rules for governing the dispersal of hardpoints. Similarly, it featured a distinction between hardpoints employed for rigging and hull, for example. Ships of Skybourne does away with these, which allows for more flexibility and the creation of smaller vehicles, but at the same time, it loses some aspects that made FaSB so amazing; basically, you lose some distinction between ship sections in favor of a wider, more abstract construction option array. From living steel to bone, the system presents different materials and its default RAW modus operandi is to not infringe upon creativity regarding the precise alignment of hardpoints - you could make thin, serpentine vessels, flying cubes, the whole assortment. I am, ultimately, somewhat torn here.

That being said, skybourne's focus on high fantasy as opposed to a simulaionalist take on vessels and its distinctly fantastic themes does necessitate to a certain degree this amount of abstraction. Yeah, didn't figure I'd be saying that either after the PG...but the book takes a significant turn for the amazing with the engines and customization options presented: From vampiric ships powered by life-force to several engines with Spheres of Power-based drives, the amount of options included here is pretty amazing and evocative - while I personally still will retain zones in ships, depending on their design, the pdf delivers cool options in exchange for details lost in the construction-abstraction. Dirigibles, mechanical arms, automation, full-body cockpits, lights - there is a lot of amazing, fantastic modification material to be found here, and yes, we also get means for subterranean and aquatic environments like burrowers or pressure resistance.

The trade good system from the PG is reprinted here, and it retains its issues - when even I consider a system's benefits not worth the work of generating x modifiers, it does say something about it.

We're at page 53 right now...and there we get to the sample vehicles...and yes, they cover OVER 50 PAGES. From humble canoes to carts and carriages to dwarven TANKS (yes), there is a ton to see here - and many of the vehicles come with b/w-artworks that also show their hardpoints. And yep, the pdf goes all out: Dwarven digger tank-drills; a plethora of mechas and steam giants, steam-powered sleds, sandships, classic ships (and those clad in iron), merfolk underwater tradewagons, longships, steamboats, submersibles, ships of bone, the emperor, lava submarines, gyrocopters, arcane helicopter, war balloons (and their necromantic versions), dragon chariots, flying elder trees (!!!), Red baron-style propeller-machines, flying saucers, gigantic flying fortresses and warships and even air stations, flying landmasses like the elfwood or flying wizard's towers...and yes, even a mountain...and the Tardis, by another name. Yep, extradimensional rooms are supported by the system. And yes, there are hyper-deadly, awe-inspiring gigantic vessels here. The whole section is absolutely amazing, creative and well-presented.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant hiccups this time around. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with the artworks featuring a blend of full color stock, amazing new full-color artworks and, as mentioned, a ton of small b/w-artworks for the vessels. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with detailed, nested bookmarks for your convenience.

So, Adam Meyers' Ships of Skybourne's abbreviation would be SOS...and there's the one joke about "sink or swim" we all have heard in conjunction with that. I'll be honest with you: After the Player's Guide, I looked forward to this as to a root-canal. The good news first: This is not even close to the PG in terms of issues. Ships of Skybourne modifies the mightiest vessel-engine we have for Pathfinder, Frog God Games' legendary Fire as She Bears, and tweaks it in an ingenious, interesting manner to account for much, much more. While FaSB remains the best option for age of sailing-type ship-building, ships of skybourne has managed to "unlock" its mighty engine for a vast array of diverging ships and environments and provides a gazillion of amazing tweaks to the system, many of which you can translate back to FaSB. The sheer number of vessels, engines, etc. similarly makes this very much worth its asking price.

At the same time, Ships of Skybourne could have been legendary; a supplement for the ages, and falls short of attaining that honor due to one aspect: Its presentation, organization and structuring of the rules. One aspect that made FaSB so amazing was that I could hand it to relative novices and watch them immediately go to town with it; the presentation of the system is incredibly concise and easy to grasp, whereas Ships of Skybourne's sequence, in which it introduces everything is highly counter-intuitive.

We begin with details that reference aspects of a ship we have not yet constructed and frankly, I don't know if I would have had as much fun here without prior knowledge of Fire as She Bears. From a didactic point of view, the system could be presented significantly more concisely.

The second aspect that deprives Ships of Skybourne of the throne that would otherwise be its unquestionable right (and we're talking about Top Ten candidate here, just to give you a frame of reference!) is the fact that it loses one of the most amazing aspects of Fire as She Bears, the fact that every PC had meaningful options to pursue. The different roles PCs could fit, the ample skill-uses and obstacles were simply more holistic and provided more stuff to do for the PCs. It made them matter. Similarly, the whole gauge/wind mechanics have been taken away, which makes sense from an abstraction point of view, but also takes away some of the cool options available, making the combat more static. I get why this was lost - to account for smaller vessels. I still maintain that this, ultimately, makes piloting larger vessels, in the long run less interesting for groups...unless you happen to be pilot or engineer, who still have ample stuff to do. The good news here is that you can design these yourself...the bad thing is that it takes work.

Rating "Ships of Skybourne" is exceedingly hard for me; without prior knowledge of FaSB, I probably would have been significantly more confused regarding its mechanics...but I also wouldn't have expected as much from the book. Ultimately, it remains my firm belief that the book generally delivers for the abstractions to the system it provides, though it also loses some aspects that it simply shouldn't have lost. Personally, I will take much of the content presented herein and use it...but I will do so in conjunction with FaSB, creating a personal Frankenstein-hybrid.

Can I recommend this? Yeah, I kinda can...but I strongly urge you to familiarize yourself with Fire as She Bears before getting it; while the systems differ in several key aspects, Ships of Skybourne's presentation of its rules is significantly harder to grasp than FaSB's. That being said, if you do know/grasp the system, SoS can deliver a campaign's worth of awesomeness, a vast array of options of the most evocative manner...and you'll be in the same privileged position as I am, with the options of blending FaSB's involvement with the high-concept ideas and options presented herein.

For me as a person, this book delivers in spades for the asking price, even though I have to work to make use of it.

As a reviewer, though, I cannot ignore the fact that the structure is counter-intuitive; that the PC's options to influence vehicular combat are reduced in direct comparison; that you have to get that damn, subpar PG to get the crew rules that should have been in here. Frankly, I'd usually smash this further for any of these components...but that would be highly unfair to the excellence, yes excellence, that can be found within this tome. Ships of Skybourne is an exercise in brilliant highlights and darkest shadows.

While I can't unanimously recommend the book, I do suggest checking out both FaSB and this one - combined, they provide all you can ask for. But I can't rate the combo-potential...and while the flaws are annoying, they are nowhere near grating enough to totally sink this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the awesomeness exceeding the flaws.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ships of Skybourne
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Ships of Skybourne
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2016 19:13:09

THis is a must have companion to Skybourne, it lets you build Anything you cant come up with. this PDF lets you build just about any vehical from the Age of steam on down and is a must have for any DM that wants more in their game world. If you dont want Flying Ships then leve them out. but if you want steam trains, boats, and Zeppelin's ? Then this PDF is For you! Also the Hard point/ decks building system makes great Pirate Ships with Cannons and is much closer to the real Pirate ships that sailed the seven seas.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Player's Guide to Skybourne
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2016 18:57:08

I love this title, Im trying to rebuild Spelljammer some what and this is the best book that I have found to alow that. Ships with more hit points than Caracters, and dont fall apart after one combat, WHAT A CONCEPT. I highly recommend this book ships are more than just battle mats now and if you dont want Flying Ships Just build normal ones.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Player's Guide to Skybourne
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The Player's Guide to Skybourne
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/02/2016 08:56:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive book clocks in at 109 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 104 pages of content, so let's take a look!

"I have become the destroyer of worlds." With Oppenheimer's famous quote, we begin the flavor-introduction of this massive book of rules-supplemental material for the world of Skybourne. When the Walkways that joined the planes shattered, the Great Forest began growing and every civilization built in millennia was irrevocably destroyed, consumed by the growth of nature's retribution; it is beneath the waves, in the mountain tops, where the last fragments of civilization remain, where the forest cannot yet reach. The old world is gone and this is a world of a new, deadly and green frontier, one where adventurers literally are the first and last line of defense. Tone-wise, skybourne basically takes the tropes of space opera and translates them to a somewhat post-apocalyptic fantasy context, though one that inverses the classic theme of desolation and replaces it with abundance - though an abundance that is pretty hostile towards the established cultures.

The first chapter, which spans a significant portion of the pdf, does cover a ton of races that can be found in skybourne - in the case of established races, we get racial archetypes and options; in the case of new races, we get proper racial write-ups...so let's not lose any time. Aasimar may elect to become God-blessed Thaumaturges...wait, what? Yup, skybourne uses the evocative and interesting Spheres of power-rules. God-blooded thaumaturges get a domain's powers (a second domain is gained at 10th level) instead of occult knowledge and a different capstone that lets him grant cleric and divine petitioners magic alongside DR and an end of aging.

Next up would be a new race - the alraun...and they are creepy. Plants with humanoid shapes, they mimic other races and can be either Medium or Small and do not incur penalties to pass as a member of the race they're fashioned after. They get low-light vision and at-will detect poison (divine to detect poisons when using Spheres of Power) and may use scent to track foes at below 25% hp or bleeding. They may form prehensile vines that can hold objects, which may then be retrieved as a swift action. They get +2 Diplomacy and Bluff and may shift attitudes via Diplomacy by two steps. They also gain +4 Cha, -2 Con and Wis, which gears them too much towards Cha-based classes for my tastes. Another issue: They are humanoids with "the plant subtype" - which is not something PFRPG has per default; there is a plant TYPE, but not a SUBYTPE - so ultimately, I have no idea how many/if any of the immunities the race receives. That's not all, btw. - each alraun also has one of 5 subtypes; these net climb speeds and more vines, a non-save penalty aura, water breathing and swim speeds, poison eating (and poison), critical hits with bleed - the general ideas are nice, but as a whole, the race is too focused on Cha-based classes and suffers from a bit of feature creep when compared to even the powerful races like aasimar.

The racial archetype, however, is disturbing and amazing - the body snatcher rogue is better at nonlethal sneak attacking and may better impersonate others; moreover, at higher levels, the archetype has a cool 8th+ level ability that lets them make cocoons to keep creatures asleep and tap their knowledge. shudder As a minor nitpick, the ability does not specify a maximum number of cocoons the archetype can maintain and nope, no unchained rogue alternative.

The next new race is the Cecaelia, who get +2 Dex and Int, -2 Wis and Cha. 30 ft. swim speed, immunity to low-depth pressure, 120 ft. sight in darkness, but only under water, are amphibious, may 1/day as a standard action emit an ink jet (sphere underwater, touch on land) with different effects on land and under water. As half-tentacled humanoids, they get +4 CMD and may use two tentacles as hands and while these may not use weapons etc., they can hold or manipulate objects. I assume they don't provide more slots. As a swift action while not grappling or grappled, they can use their tentacles to grant them blindsight 10 ft., but may neither move or attack with the tentacles. I love this ability! The alternate racial traits include increased land speed + climb speed to replace the water-based abilities and +2 Dex and Wis for -2 Int and Cha. I love this race's concept and some abilities it has...but it imho suffers from unnecessary feature bloat that makes it stronger than the more powerful races...though said strength is predicated on environments and as such, can be offset and controlled by a GM...so they get a tentative pass. The racial archetype presented would be a monk, who may wield weapons in tentacles, but gains no additional attacks - basically, you can have more weapons drawn at a given time and instead of stunning fist, they gain more AoOs. They also gain a sequence of Tentacle-based racial feats as bonus feats on 1st, 2nd and 6th level. - these btw. are the sequence of Style-feats for the race and enhance grappling etc.

The Cherufe would be basically dinosaur-people and have two different castes: Amet gain +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Con, and Zavr receive +2 Str and Dex, -2 Int. They have 40 ft. land speed, reptilian humanoids, have low-light vision, fire resistance 5, are always treated as having a running jump. Amet can 3 + Cha-mod times as a swift action sweat lava and fling it as a ranged weapon or enhance their weapon attacks with it. The ability should imho specify ability type - is it EX? I assume it is. Zavr instead get a 1d4 primary bit, secondary when used in conjunction with manufactured weapons. They also have a tail attack at 1d8 - I assume tail standard here, but for convenience's sake, specifying primary/secondary would have been nice to see. Cool: They are xenophobic and suffer from a language-restriction. The race once again is very clearly geared towards certain classes; more so than I personally like to see. The supplemental material contains the magma sorceror bloodline, which enhances the amet's magma sweat - and generally is a nice, fun option. The primordial leaper barbarian archetype is a minor engine tweak that emphasizes better leaping and leaping charges.

The Created suffer from much like the same issue as the Alraun regarding type/subtype, being denoted as subtype construct, when there is only a type, which makes it impossible to know what kind of immunities/resistances etc. they get. They gain +2 to an attribute of their choice and begin play with a head, torso and 2 arms, but no legs. They may be Small or Medium. Unless they have other movement means, they need two free hands to get a speed of 20 ft., otherwise having only 5 ft. They may ignore crits or precision damage 15% of the cases (stacks with fortification) and get created traits - 4 creation points are gained. If the created wants to, he can get rid of arms for +1 creation point. A massive 1-page list lets them purchase abilities, with each costing 1 of these points. These include additional arms, heads, legs, senses, natural attacks, fins or even wings - for 2 points, these provide first level unassisted flight, which many a GM considers problematic. The balance of the respective abilities is pretty nice - but the race has one issue: How do the flexible limbs influence magic item slots? No idea. The race comes with the Deathmachine fighter archetype, who may install internalized weapons and gains more creation points at higher levels, allowing for a brutal natural attack-shredder, if you want to. Still, pretty creative.

The kind-of draconic-looking Cuazaj gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str and Con, gain +2 to saves versus diseases, mind-affecting effects, poison and exhaustion/fatigue-causing effects. They have gliding wings and may use the Lighten Enhancement sphere talent, but only when not wearing medium or heavy armor or heavy load and may even travel straight up in the air via jumps for not-really flight and some unique tactical options. They treat Acrobatics and Fly as class skills and may 1/day breathe a cone of electricity. They also get 5 acid and electricity resistance, +2 natural armor and vulnerability to cold and sonic damage. Instead of the lightning cones, they may learn to add +1d8 acid or electricity damage for a limited number of rounds. This is the first of the new races that feels diverse, versatile and bereft of anything I could complain about. The racial archetype is the dragon mimic sorceror, who basically gets the breath-enhancing feats, claws, flight at higher levels and resistances; standard and none-too-interesting draconic apotheosis.

Dwarves of the setting replace the Wis-bonus with one to Int and the racial archetype is a machinist alchemist gets slightly less extracts and no mutagen, but actually a mechanical companion with improving construction points, Craft feats, etc. - per se a solid pet-alchemist. Elves in Skybourne were once immortal - and like famous Joneleth Irenicus, they did not take their fall to being mortal well. They have developed a unique sphere for use with spheres of power, the fallen fey sphere. This sphere allows nets +1 to ini, Knowledge (geography), Survival, Stealth and Perception within a terrain of choice, increasing the bonus at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. It also allows you to be treated as a fey as a swift action via activation of the so-called fey-link; when thus affected, you may spend spell points to activate fey blessings, a subtype of magic talents granted by the sphere. WEIRD: Aforementioned terrain-centric ability is called fey blessing, even though it obviously is not a fey blessing, making me think of some development or cut-copy-paste snafu at work here. Oh, and no advanced talents, making this a sucky choice in most contexts.

The fenghuang (erroneously called "fenghaung" in their header, of all things) would basically be somewhat phoenix-style creatures of the fey type, who gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, get 2 languages for every rank in Linguistics, low-light vision, Knowledge (history) and (local) as class skills, +4 Diplomacy to gather info, fire resistance 5 and are fingerless and as such gain modified item slots (this races takes that into account...odd, but who am I to complain). They also begin play with 30 ft. unassisted flight, which may be somewhat problematic for some GMs. Alternate racial trait wise, social skill bonuses can be replaced with fire resistance 20 (ouch) and they may "change their resistance from fire to frost" - being an ice-themed fenghuang. There is no such thing as frost in PFRPG-rules-terminology. It's cold. The racial archetype provided would be the frenzied dancer, who replace fast movement with better AoO-AC and the 2nd level rage power with a 1/day wild card rage power. Not a fan.

Two ethnicities of gnomes are provided with minor modifications to their racial traits and a hedgewitch archetype, the forest trickster, who may sniff out the badly wounded and dead and feed on the dead for bonuses. Alas, while duration is tied to creature HD, the lack of a minimum means that you just have to bring enough kittens with you to keep munching them. Other than that, they're illusion specialists.

Goblins of Khrone are organized by clan and generally get 2 or 3 skills to which skilled is applied, with merchants and craftsmen gaining also an edge when using Diplomacy or handling one's own crafted weapons. Ability score modifications would be +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str; +2 Dex and Wis; +2 Dex and Cha; -2 Str +4 Dex, -2 Cha (too minmaxy for my tastes); +2 Dex and Int,-2 Str. The Goblin Expert rogue archetype enhances clan skills and gains bonus feats, but loses sneak attack advancement. Odd: The archetype may use free variant multiclassing from PFU and depicts it as basically optional, when it's the one thing the archetype has going for it that is remotely interesting. Haflings in the setting replace sure-footed with +4 to Ride-checks and there is a cavalier archetype called hafling dragonrider, who only gets light armor and shield proficiency and can best be summed up by being designated as a blending of the conjuration sphere's rules blended with the dragonriding rules released by Rogue Genius Games. Nice to see the shout-out here. Human fighters may elect to become sky sailors, gaining 4 + Int skills (thank you!) and replaces bravery and 2nd level's bonus feat with skill bonuses and armor training with even more bonus feats. Not very exciting.

Leshy would be more humanoids with the non-existent plant-subtype, +2 Con and Int, -2 Dex and may be affected by spells that affect only plants, but gain +2 to saves vs. types of effects and conditions plants are resilient to. They breathe, but don't need to sleep and when they used xylem healing, they don't need to eat. Xylem healing means basically planting yourself in soil - which generally would be nice, but the book fails to specify whether uprooting/rooting would take actions or not or how much soil's required. Can you carry around your own soil like a bedroll? The plant body resistances also make me wonder about the Alraun and how/what the effects of the plant subtype are supposed to be. Anyway, they have a 20 ft. land speed, gain +1 to all knowledge skills and these are class skills for them. They also gain Endurance as a bonus feat and are vulnerable to fire. Generally, a pretty balanced take on the plant race, though the subtype-hiccup galls me. There is a brawler archetype that replaces maneuver training with scaling DR and weapon mastery with woodland stride. I wouldn't take the archetype; its intentions are flavorful, its execution is bland.

Merfolk may elect to choose the soul weaver shepard [sic!] -which would be a common misspelling of shepherd...and an archetype that may "expand" the energy of one of their souls to attempt an exorcism vs. an undead with HD < the shepArd's level. The ability fails to specify activation action, is save or suck and riddled with deviations from rules language defaults...extending also to the mass version gained at 8th level. Non-functional. Orcs of Khrone come in two variants - the default race and noble orcs - the latter gain +2 Str and Wis, -2 Int and lose light sensitivity. Their archetype would be the elemental druid; the best thing I can say about it is that it maintains compatibility with the sphere druid...other than that, it's a bland domain-based option. The Sidhier, progeny of the fey, gain +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Str, low-light vision, 1/day reroll of 1s (2/day at 10th level), get +1 to all saves, always are treated as having a running start, gain two favored classes at 1st level and may turn themselves into a planar anchor with increasing range and potency - which is an amazing ability...kudos there! They also are adept at using Enthrall, which fits the theme. The race is one of my favorites herein regarding its options and while I consider it slightly too strong, it has something unique going for it. The racial archetype the skyscourge swashbuckler gets bonuses when airborne or using flying vehicles and also makes ample use of Planar Swing - which let you expend uses of the anchoring ability to swift action move. Generally a solid one.

Speaking of one of the better races: The Tatulani would basically be Thri-Kreen by another name, stranded on Khrone and only finding its place. The 4-armed race may not use the additional arms for full-blown weapon-wielding, but allows for the balanced wielding of 1-handed weapons when TWFing or even wielding oversized monster-weapons. They also begin play with claws (1d4) and +2 to Knowledge (engineering) and a Craft skill. The claws may be replaced with +2 to Disable Device. The tech-savvy may be replaced with +2 to Survival/Diplomacy. Cool: The racial archetype here is for the artisan class and provides functionality with the Technology Guide (and alternative abilities when playing without it). As a whole, the tatulani's racil entry is my favorite in the book - it's also pretty consistent and the only racial entry that managed to elicit a contemplation on whether I'd allow it or not in my non-playtesting games. Tieflings in Khrone may elect to become Dominator eliciters, who replace convincing with the Mind Control advanced talent at 9th level. Yeah, that's it. Pretty cookie-cutting. Oh, no FCOs for any of the new races.

Okay, the racial section done, next up would be magic traditions, which include two drawbacks and the bound creature boon and over 10 new traditions - the cool thing here would be that the traditions actually acknowledge both Pact Magic and Psionics; while the traditions themselves are decent, this little inclusion is well-intentioned...but how do they actually interact with traditions? I read that a couple of times...and simply didn't get it. These traditions, obviously, have also brought forth professions; notes are provided for the roles of classes within a tradition and...we get EVEN MORE ARCHETYPES! So please, bear with me, the book just offers a ton of material! The Gun Chemist alchemist replaces bombs with gunslinging and gets a slightly modified deed-list, with explosive and poisonous shots. Tranquil barbarians gain inner peace instead of rage, which provides a bonus to AC as well as Ref- and Will-saves. Generally decent modification, but I've seen the trope done more interestingly. Now, on the fluff-side, the chapter has some nice ideas for the place of the respective classes and yes, occult classes are included in the deal.

The pdf also sports a diverse selection of feats, upon some of which I have touched before: Better engine-coaxing (more on that later), speak with plants, reduced speed, but better defenses via Steel Skeletons for the created...some nice customization options can be found here. When a character multiclasses and gets two traditions of the same general type, they choose a dominant tradition which then provides drawbacks, benefits etc. of the tradition; to gain more, you need the corresponding tradition trait. These...well, are problematic. There would be, for example, one that lets you use on casting attribute for all your psychic class casting ability modifiers. Trait. Yeah....others, like affecting vermin with Expanded Charm...are pretty much significantly weaker, so not really sure where the balancing/devs looked here; it's not that the traits are bad, but they're all over the place regarding their balance. Oh, and they are utterly confusing - the verbiage implies you get them when multiclassing and never mentions it again; the interaction is messed up...in short, I'd strongly suggest pretending that this chapter does not exist.

On the plus-side, the skill-chapter is interesting, providing concise and neat rules for Craft (cartography), Profession (navigator). Gods are opposed by the "fiends", the dark gods of the setting and philosophies as well as nature gods can be found...that being said, each deity-entry is very short: No aphorisms, no obediences...and while domains are listed, the presentation of favored weapon at the end of the little write-ups deviates from how deity write-ups are usually handled. That being said, it's nice to get symbols for each deity. The ritual writing and creation rules presented next are tight, concise and one of the highlights of the book.

But...skybourne's SKYbourne, right? Well, this is where we finally get to that part, the unique selling proposition of the system, if you will: Airship sailing and combat. This system generally makes use of some optional rules, the first of which would be the overland round: An overland standard action takes 8 hours, an overland move action 4 and an overland swift action 1 hour. Simple. Reputation, as presented here, may range from 0 to 100. Reputation is equal to character level + Cha-mod + modifiers accrued and mythic tier, if applicable. Additionally, fame and infamy are tracked - from -100 to 100 on both the law-chaos and good-evil-axis. Deeds and behavior is codified in a handy table, with alignments notes, if required. Temporary increases are noted and the effects and even secret identities are accounted for. Simulationalists like yours truly may also enjoy the optional rule of reputation distances. This system basically allows the PCs to potentially recognize it if they're about to bite off more than they can chew and steer clear of trouble/gain appropriate options. Thirdly, the pdf employs the GMG's upkeep rules to potentially cap PC power.

Okay, got that? Onwards to airships: Airships are generally defined by hardpoints: One hardpoint is a 10 ft. cube and are used for hull, sails and dirigibles, etc. They determine hit points and carrying capacity. When a ship's so large hardpoints become stupid to track, you track by deck instead; each deck is a collection o 9 connected hardpoints. Airships larger than 5 decks start having locations, which track HP separately -basically, they are treated as connected, Colossal objects. With not enough crew, you get increasingly less power output. Vehicles spaces are 30 ft. Base AC is determined by ship size (Between 4 and -3) and so is ship CMB/D and saves. A handy tables collates movement in spaces per round, ft. per round, miles per hours, etc. Shipsize affects the maneuverability of the vessel, obviously, and the pdf covers siege engines and their use as well. Environmental considerations (wing speed and altitudes) are also covered...so how does airship combat work?

Well, first of all, a ship has a facing. D'uh. At the end of a round, all ships move separately from the creatures involved in the combat, in a sequence from highest to lowest rolled Profession (sailor) check by the pilots, with uncontrolled ships moving as though they had rolled an unmodified 1. Kinda lame: Instead of providing a more fluid system, the rules here just tell us to use group initiative for ship + crew combats...and I HATE group initiative. I don't need a book to tell me that I could use it. On the plus side, hiding in a vehicle's shadow, sharp turns, diving etc. are all covered regarding special maneuvers, though the 20 base DC is pretty high...and the really weird, far-out ace-pilot maneuvers...aren't covered. More space devoted to that aspect would have been really nice to see. Now where I once again start smiling from ear to ear is with the vehicle conditions: From on fire to freefall or rolling, these add a nice tactical edge to combat and are something that I most certainly will employ.

Now here is my main gripe with the system presented herein: It, much like almost every d20-based vehicular combat system, is...just not that exciting for players. The system presents a number of crew roles with special actions that bestow benefits...but with the exception of the head engineer, the roles don't have much to offer in actual combat. I sincerely hoped the aerial combat would offer more things to do for each player...but nope. So, is the whole system flawed here? Not exactly - it just fell short of providing a truly dynamic experience. That being said, the pdf does achieve a resounding success in one component featured here: The crew-rules, which basically represent a twist on the troop-subtype that is EXTREMELY modular, with scaling potency, racial benefits, levels, saves, siege attack bonuses and special perks to further customize them. Even the equipment you buy for them has direct consequences! Yeah, crew-rules here are just as cool and surprisingly rewarding for players and GMs alike and definitely constitute a big highlight here. They may, depending on what you're planning, warrant the pdf's asking price.

The need to hire officers and a ton of tables as well as loyalty checks and modifiers can similarly be found here. The pdf also features some nice mundane weapons as well as several new items tied to the respective races of the themes of the setting and the pdf also offers several magic items, ranging in price point from 42K to 750 gp. From an ersatz appendage that may act as a crawling claw to arm-prosthetics that act as a mighty 4d8 ranged attack that regrows to a conch that draws gigantic creatures closer, the selection is pretty decent, if not mind-boggling.

After that, we're back to ships (slightly odd - why splice the single-character item-info in there?) and their 6 engine-types as well as 14 room types and several direct and indirect siege engines to outfit the vessel with, including modifications of siege engines like weapon swivels and bottom mounts. Dirigibles, pumps and goods are similarly covered, as are trade goods and various fuel types. Trading of goods is a good idea, with settlements being suggested to feature modifiers for the goods, with each modifier influencing the price by 10%. The pdf concludes with 7 sample ships.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are inconsistent: There are some sections that get everything right; then, suddenly, bonus types are not properly allocated or crunch suddenly does no longer adhere to rules-language conventions. The lack of a truly experienced, nit-picky rules-developer that was NOT one of the authors to bring the disparate elements in line. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a mix of stock-art and original pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Adam Meyers, Mike Myler and David Silver's Player's Guide to Skybourne...is, as much as I'm loathe to say, a mess. The races and racial options provided are mostly cookie-cutter options and failed to grasp my interest; the takes on the races can't decide on a power-level, they have min-maxy lopsided races and worse, are inconsistent with internal rules-terminology and wording. The races, in power, oscillate between slightly over core-level to above and beyond that of aasimar and tieflings. There is no internal consistency regarding the racial power-levels whatsoever. The racial feats have some decent ideas...but ultimately, are based on flawed races and hence will not see use at my table. One final issue I have with the races: I have seen each and every twist before: Evil gnomes? Noble orcs? Yeah, not excited there, seen that done x times, often better.

As mentioned, the tradition-section similarly falls behind, is inconsistent...and then, we come to the aerial combat/airship-rules. And here the problems begin for real. Noticed something above? Yeah, I commented about the parts of the system like liking the crew system; like enjoying the conditions and the general way in which the ships can be constructed...but here's the issue: I have not talked about how everything comes together. Because...frankly, it doesn't. Beyond the organization being pretty bad (why slip character-equipment smack in the middle of the ship-rules?), I had a very hard time actually using this system as presented here; frankly, I think I would have failed, if I didn't have experience with a whole array of ship-building/customization systems for d20-games. I think I have managed to use the rules properly...but it wasn't easy. If I went be just the text here...no dice. I was also shocked to see, instead of a cool system that switches between characters, crews and vessels, this lazy group-initiative solution. It doesn't do a good job simulating aerial combat.

Similarly, the actual way in which aerial ship combat works basically has to be deduced from several disparate locations and then you still have blanks to be filled up. And it frustrates me to no end, because frankly, the system presented here, or what I can see, has the potential for being absolutely amazing, but it suffers from a fatal case of what I'd call designer blindness: When you know how something's supposed to work...and then write it down and it makes sense in your head...but to another person, to the reader not familiar with your background knowledge, it becomes opaque and puzzling. The whole presentation here is so confused, even I, with years of experience regarding systems like this, had to halt and look stuff up. Multiple times. Worse, the individual character options to influence ships...are all over the place and similarly confused.

The system looks like it tries to take some of the amazing ideas of Fire as She Bears and adapt them, but gets totally lost along the way...which is an adapt metaphor for the pdf, considering the nice Navigation-rules. The reputation-system, as far as I can see, has no immediate benefits that influence mechanics; the trading system is needlessly complicated and the modifiers suggested add a TON of numbers to a settlement; so many that even I, as a passionately simulationalist GM who loves tracking numbers, equipment, etc., throw the towel and handwave it. The fact that the pdf ignores downtime rules in favor of its own system would be no issue - if the system presented was a bit more concise.

Oh damn. This book is not all bad...but I sure as hell know almost nothing about the world after reading it; so in that aspect, it's not a good player's guide either. I don't want to play any of the races and there are plenty of better takes on each and every concept featured herein out there, both in AAW Games' Underworld Races-series and Purple Duck Games' Porphyran player-guides. Let's sum it up, shall we: The PC-level options failed to impress me; the ship-level system is flawed and obtuse. There are gems here, but ultimately, this whole book feels like it has been pushed out the door to meet a deadline or like the designers had lost interest halfway through. It tries to be many things and fails to get even one truly right. The different voices of the authors never gel, never blend and come together.

As written, there is not a single system I will use in my games in this book; I will scavenge vehicle conditions and a couple of components...and take Fire as She Bears by Frog God Games and modify that system to present aerial combat...or go get Ships of Skybourne, but skip this. FaSB's quick, easy to understand and concisely presented...so adding aerial options isn't that hard. Oh, and each PC gets a ton of cool, relevant stuff to do. Yeah, I know. Where does this leave this pdf? As a book that feels half-finished; that had desperately needed a dev who said: "These archetypes are bland, boring and cookie-cutter-designs"; as a book that needed someone to streamline rules-language and presentation. There is a spark of greatness here, but it is buried deep. I certainly hope we'll get to see a more concise presentation of these rules at some point. As a player's guide, this book sadly fails and leaves me hoping that Skybourne's evocative setting and concepts will receive better treatment in the future. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars, due to the scavenging potential; if you have some serious time on your hand and want to flex your design-muscles, this may be for you.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
TEXT_CLICK_TO_REPLY
The Luchador
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/28/2016 13:49:36

An Endzietgeist.com review

This base-class clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!

The luchador class, chassis-wise, receives d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves, proficiency with simple weapons and gains basically a monk's unarmored AC-bonus progression, but uses Charisma as governing attribute for it. Similarly unarmed damage increases to 2d10 at 20th level...and yes, Small luchador-damage-table included. First level nets the luchador the vigilante's double identity, with his masked persona being his larger than life luchador personality and thus, discovering his social identity is usually not as big a problem. He also treats his luchador levels as both vigilante and monk levels for the purpose of feat/talent/etc.-qualifications and receives Improved Grapple as a 1st level bonus feat. The luchador also uses his class level instead of his BAB to calculate his CMB and CMD and is treated as having at least Intelligence 13 for the purpose of combat feat prerequisites.

Similarly, at first level, the luchador chooses one of three stables: Freestyle luchadors gain +1 to Acrobatics and Intimidate checks made to demoralize, +1 per every 5 class levels gained, Oil Wrestlers may spend 1 minute preparing themselves to gain +1 to CMD vs. grapple, bull rush, drag, reposition, increasing similarly Disguise faster also decreases the oil application time, which is a nice addition here. Finally, the sumo stable weigh twice as much and may target adversaries of +1 size larger than they usually could with combat maneuvers, with subsequent increases in weight and size categories you can affect. Yep, you could potentially suplex dragons or even the tarrasque. Come on, that is one awesome visual!

The luchador also has a form of social/spiritual clout called Corazon, which is gained at 2nd level; for as long as they have one, they add +1/2 class levels to feint DCs and Intimidate to demoralize DCs. Corazon is lost upon being unmasked, which requires being pinned or the like. Corazon is regained by defeating an opponent of a CR greater or equal than his own sans assistance...or defeat a foe who has previously unmasked him. Starting at 2nd level, they also inflict + Charisma modifier damage whenever they inflict nonlethal damage via unarmed strikes, grapples, etc., +1d6 at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, rewarding heroic, good behavior. Like it!

Starting at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the luchador may select a social talent, with 6 new ones added to the array provided by the vigilante. Some of these have the corazon-descriptor, decreasing their efficiency when the luchador has no corazon left: Ancestral Guidance improves the Knowledge (nobility, hostory and religion)-checks. Mchaismo/Marianismo lets the luchador take 20 on a non-UMD Cha-based check once per day, +1/day at 7th and 15th level (take 15 sans corazon). Shamanic Inheritor lets him 1/week call a shaman of his class level to perform a spell for him (cool) and at 12th level, another talent even may provide a means to be raised from the dead 1/month by such an entity. Stable Master nets you a neat stable income (get it...hahaha...sorry, will put a buck in the bad pun jar later) and The People's Champion provides a chance to be warned of ambushes, plots, etc. in areas where his renown has spread.

4th level provides the aerial takedown class feature, increasing his jumping distance, further improving it by +10 ft. per 4 class levels, allowing for a combination with a charge, grapple at the end, and potentially crash flying creatures to the ground. So cheesy and awesome - I adore it! Also at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the luchador may select a stable talent, which contain the option to wear armor in conjunction with their unarmored AC, swashbuckler poaching (including the Dueling Cape Deed), short-term dazing, immediate AOE-demoralizes after knocking foes out, directing escape attempt, including teleportation, into devastating throws, ki-poaching (including short-term flight)...and so on. There also are amazing stable-exclusives like setting yourself ablaze if you're an oily wrestler, gaining nigh-inescapable sumo-grips, follow up attacks to grapples or trips...or, obviously, gaining a vigilante talent, though this one probably should have a "can be taken multiple times"-caveat.

The talents deserve special mention in particularly when combined with the 15 (unless I miscounted) new feats: Cloak throws that combine feints with grapples and throws, Dragon Style-synergy special charges, gaining a tattoo that lets you enchant your unarmed strikes, Dopkicks, Suplexes, alternate damages caused via Eagle Strikes of the Serpent that double as short-term debuff, combining elemental fists with grapples, eyegouging and nosebreaking and even Tag Team's an option. Why am I talking about the feats now, right in the class discussion? Well, because they are precise, complex, employ concepts you can't usually execute well...and because they help the class gain something you only rarely see: When you take the feats in conjunction with the talents, you can generate an absolutely amazing combo-playstyle that lets you do something different a lot of the time; I have not seen a martial class with this much combo potential often; favorites like Interjection Games' Master of Forms, Assassin or certain Akashic classes or the Swordmaster come to mind - I love this one's options.

The capstone nets DR 10/- and fast healing 1 and eliminates aging ability score penalties.

Beyond the basic set-up of the class, the pdf also features a ton of archetypes, 8 to be more precise: The Blood Breaker gets a mutagen instead of skillful combatant and may select associated discoveries...but I wish its engine had further emphasized this. The Dancing Dervish must Perform (dance) to gain an AC-bonus and instead of the 4th level talent, momentum helps him substitute his check for attacks, with 10th level's whirlwind strike providing this for all attacks, with modified math. Not a big fan of this one; it doesn't click and while the skill vs. CMD with the mods is okay, the matter of fact remains that skills can easily be cheesed. The Earthbound gains the stalwart defender's defensive stance at 4th level, gain a social skill bonus and a capstone, that increases their defensive abilities. Okay tweak of the engine, but could have gone further in my book. The Ki Striker gains Elemental Fist at 1st level, are locked into spiritual power as the 4th level stable talent and may, at higher levels, send forth surges of energy via ki and gain a deadly array of ki-powered strikes at a higher level. I like this one, though it once again could further develop the theme.

The Lichador would be one of my favorites, gaining undead resistances, additional damage versus the undead as well as several unique stable talents - from blood drain to a vargouille's paralyzing shriek (yep, with an end after one attack for balance's sake - thank you!) and high level energy drain/mummy rot or becoming shadowy, the theme of this archetype is amazing and it ALSO changes the engine to play differently LOVE this one! The Masked Beast gains the hunter's animal focus via his totem mask, with different abilities depending on the animal emulated and they also gain a proper natural weapon - codified perfectly and 4th level unlocking wild shape - another definite winner here that radically changes the playstyle! The Masked Saint would be the pala-crossover option. Finally, there would be the rudo - these guys usually are the villains, the heels, the guys you love to hate - masters of dirty tricks and sans corazon. They also gain teamwork feats and an accomplice cohort...and I kinda like the idea here, but considering the loss of power that the lack of corazon provides, I don't really consider these guys perfectly balanced - they can use an upgrade.

I am a HUGE fan of how the pdf handles favored class options: Instead of a bland one-line note of crunch, each race covered also notes the take of the race on the class - and the FCOs are neat and go beyond core: Skybourne's extensive race-catalog receives support here - kudos for going the extra mile!

The pdf also features rules for wrestling oils, two types of masks, steel-backed folding chairs and tables and 7 magic items: Laces that enhance your charging (and prevent embarrassing stumbles), powerful championship belts taht combine deflection bonuses to AC and a bonus to Strength and Con, further enhancing the item's potency when defeating worthy foes (yes, concisely defined). A vial of renewing oil and a total of 4 enchanted masks complement this section. Personally, I'd have priced the belt higher, but that may be me. Amazing: One of the masks provides a means to heal when attacking, but cannot be abused and comes with an appropriate Achilles heel. Two thumbs up!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, excellent on a rules-language level. The pdf tackles highly complex subject matter and boils it down to concise options. Layout adheres to a solid 2-column, full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original pieces of full-color artwork are internally consistent and employ Jacob Blackmon's signature style.

Michael Sayre's Luchador takes one of the most maligned, hated mechanics in Pathfinder and makes it amazing - I usually don't grapple a lot as a GM, nor do my players...the luchador may well change that. The damn cool combo potential of the class allows for some seriously cool experimentation and exceedingly rewarding "OMG, SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?"-moments - so yes, the luchador class-frame with its feats is amazing. Similarly, I loved the detail given to the racial options and the magic and mundane items also are great. So all amazing? Well, almost. On the archetype-front, this felt a bit like it followed two design philosophies: On one hand, we get a lot of minor engine-tweaks and then there are those amazing bits like the Lichador.

When seen back to back, it becomes pretty much immediately apparent, that the Blood Brother, for example, could carry SO MUCH MORE. I mean, come on, Mr. Hyde luchador? That's 10 types of awesome and deserves some cool combo-mechanics - burning mutagen duration for special tricks, blood lusts, odd mutations, acid pustules...there is so much to be done here...and the pdf settled for the base minimum. I know that this is me being a damn, spoiled brat of a reviewer, but I do feel that the excellent base class deserved more of the complex, cool archetypes.

To sum this up: The luchador is an excellent class and one that will, with a cosmetic reskin, feature for several monk orders in my games. It is a design-feat and fun to play and definitely a class for players that usually are bored by martials. It is rewarding and great...but the archetypes, as a whole, only reach the level of good to very good as a total, not the excellence of the rest of the pdf. As such, the pdf misses by seal of approval by a tiny margin, but I will still remain with a definite recommendation of a 5-star-rating.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Luchador
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Diviner's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/16/2016 10:13:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

We begin this expansion of the Spheres of Power-rules, as has become the tradition herein, with a nice piece of introductory prose before tackling new archetypes, the first of which would be the psyforensic, who gains a magic talent whenever he would gain a caster level and the divination sphere at first level; at 3rd level, the archetype may spend an hour to conduct the autopsy ritual, an absolutely amazing new ritual that was missing hardcore from the rules. A solid little archetype that is supplemental by the hallucinogen discovery/talent, which nets the chosen divine alternate divination ability -this may sound like something brief, but it is a pretty complex operation.

Nice to see: Occult Adventures get some love with the Psychic Medium with class level + Charisma modifier spell points and the divination sphere with limited divination as well as sharing divine or sense at touch (maximum number of affected targets provided) instead of shared séance as well as 3/day spirit communion, replacing channel haunts. The medium receives a nice spherecasting spirit, and it better should, since it has no access to hierophant or archmage.

The blind swordsman samurai employs the War sphere's totem of war, totem of allegiance (latter not properly italicized) and blind fighting; solid take on the trope, though I've written a more complex take on it - still, no complaints. The eldritch cultist thaumaturge does not risk losing magic via forbidden lore and instead has a chance to be subjected to confusion, with cumulative failure increasing the respective likelihood. EDIT: Mea culpa! The ability actually is exploit-proof! The archetype gains invocations at 3rd level at -2 levels in exchange for getting the divination sphere at 1st level.

The treasure hunter unchained rogue gets class level + Int-mod spell pool and is pretty much defined by the 5 new rogue talents introduced, which allow for better spherecasting, minor hedgewitch poaching, great memory and prescient dodging when unarmored and -armed. Familiars can take the Beast of Omen familiar archetype to replace share spells with sense - nice! The Hedgewitch can take the new Font of Inspiration tradition, which nets an inspiration pool akin to an investigator equal to 3 + 1/2 class level, 5th level studied combat and extra inspiration and investigator talents as well as prescient dodger, Expanded Divination and a +2 bonus to the Casting Ability Modifier being featured among the tradition secrets. The final option would be the Tactician incanter, which allows for once per round, no action required reroll of any attack or save, usable 3+ casting ability modifier times per day, replacing Forewarned. The second ability lets you share the information gleaned via the respective divine talent, replacing diviner's fortune.

Now onwards to the basic magic-section! We begin with some rules clarifications: The divine ability still allows for free action. Since divine is an emanation, it collects information on the area at the time of the casting and overwhelming auras exceeding HD/CL by 10+ stun the target. The list of alternate divinations is expanded herein: Alteration allows for the identification of shapechangers; Creation can let you find components for the things you seek to produce; Dark sphere users may divine the area even in magical darkness or the presence of creatures native to the plane of shadow. Destruction lets you determine damage type and amount taken. Enhancement provides means to detect, bingo, short-term bonuses on creatures. Fate users can divine the top 3 general things that matter to beings nearby from among a general list that thankfully lacks the annoying metagamey aspects of many a divination...as well as the general alignment, color-coded for your convenience.

Light users can enhance Perception and get free Perception checks (VERY useful!) and Nature spherecasters get unique benefits depending on the package chosen...which is neat! The Protection sphere allows you to determine lowest/highest AC. Telekinesis nets you density and weight and the presence/absence of the incorporeal. Time spherecasters can divine what has happened in the recent past (you can make AWESOME modules from such an ability!), while War lets you see through mud, fire, blood and slick as well as the presence/nature of those openly allied with the spherecaster. Finally, Warp users lets you determine portals, rifts, teleportation circles and the like.

A total of 18 basic talents are introduced here - from an adaptation of augury to detecting spellcasting capability, teleportation or thoughts...and better monster lore tricks, alternate divinations, faster divinations and those that linger can be found. Nature-savvy, object reading, scent and prescience are nice. I also really liked the option to cause nonlethal sensory overload, locking down spherecaster and affected target, slowly subduing the target. Sharing Perception, reducing ranged-based penalties, tremorsense and the like are nice and I really liked sifting through the collective impressions of a city for information.

A total of 8 advanced talents are next, with alternate divinations covering sight in darkness, lifesense, spirit sense, storm vision, thoughtsense, touchsight and nondetection spell wards. The divine identity would wreck havoc with the vigilante, but thankfully, the pdf takes that class and its peculiar requirements into account. Noticing planar origins of teleporting beings, increasing sight, penetrating stone or metal with divine and trapfinding are now all included in the arsenal of diviners, as is an option to see through solid matter.

Regarding incantations, the 5th level oracle incantation, which may cause madness on a failure, makes for a cool addition to the fray. Samsaran receive a new alternate racial trait and the pdf sports 7 feats - which include the spherecasting adaptation of Dreamscarred Press' superb Lurker in Darkness-feat, which allows characters to move undetected through special sensory tricks. Augur of Combat is also cool, netting you Int instead of the usual attribute modifier to attacks as long as you act last in the initiative order. Cool! Using MSB or CL for divination talents and precognition-based insight bonuses to AC as well as expending spell points as immediate actions to reduce crits to regular hits make sense - it's the spidey sense! There's also a save-version of the latter and there is a feat that nets you bonuses to atk and damage depending on your divination skills, including incremental miss-chance ignoring and the option to no longer be flat-footed while maintaining divine. The pdf also nets us 4 cool new traits, all properly codified by trait-subtype.

The pdf also features two drawbacks - limited penetration and shaped divination, the latter being conical rather than sphere-shaped. I like both very much! Amazing: The pdf comes with one of the underused and amazing alchemical recipes for Kuoki - kudos...can I please have more? Two potions that transcend their spell-in-a-can-nature by nice fluff and the foci of the diviner, a scaling magic item as per the Unchained rules, are neat. A total of 20 dowsing rods to detect various things are amazing as well.

The bestiary begins with a CR 3 Elusa Hound, a hunter that can track auras. Similarly declared a sibyl, there is a CR 1/2 variant samsaran. The CR 5 typhloter nadir, a non-eudclidean starfish-like critter is pretty neat and just the first of these - for a CR 10, 15 and 20 typhloter can also be found - though their progressions are pretty linear, gaining "only" more spherecasting tricks, with only the CR 20 critter gaining a new signature ability. Still, I like these regarding the concept and would have wished these had an artwork - the prose makes them sound intriguing. Absolutely amazing, though: The virulent sensor template - insane, insubstantial and naturally stealthy, I adore this one.

The appendix features the amnesia, mania/phobia, multiple personality disorder, paranoia, psychosis and schizophrenia insanities.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, though not as precise as in some other books in the series. Layout adheres to a solid two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with nice full-color stock art apart from the cover. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Derfael Oliveira's take on diviners is one of the better books on the subject matter you can find: You see, writing for divination is HARD. Most of the time, the options contain tricks to gain metagame information and thus interrupt a sense of immersion. This pdf, for the vast majority, remains firmly within the realm of the game, which is a HUGE deal for me. The character options within exhibit a WIDE sense of knowledge of what's out there: The author manages to work well within the paradigms of ACG, Occult Adventures, Incantations, etc. - in short, he's done his homework! Adapting one of the best feats DSP has ever made is a big plus for the system of Spheres of Power as a whole and there are few things to truly complain about. The autopsy ritual was long, long overdue and, as a whole, I enjoyed this book much more than I figured I would. At the same time, the archetypes and monsters lack the flashy WOW-factor that some of the other books in the series have - you know the truly unique tweak of the base mechanics that sets a given option totally apart. This is me complaining at a high level, though - as a whole, this book is well-crafted and provides a lot of important and rewarding options for Spheres of Power. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Diviner's Handbook
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