DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a free PDF provided by the author and the publisher, which in no way had an influence on the final score.
Asian Archetypes: Magical is the second archetype book in LG’s Far East product line. Like its companion book, it covers a wide range of arcane and divine magical classes (11 to be exact), including even a paladin and a bloodrager one. As always with LG, their books include awesome full color art and handy electronic features. By the way, the title for my review comes from random words spoken by a kung fu movie spellcaster LOL!
Not counting covers, ads, index etc., 21 pages of juicy, crunchy content, which include:
-14 Archetypes for 11 classes:
Bodhisattva Paladins can be of any good alignment. They are better at magic and their abilities are more heavenly in origin, an example being their lay on hands hurting fiends and their spawn instead of undead, and their channeled energy getting more righteous options. They can literally smell evil, even able to track evil creatures by their scent! Finally, instead of summoning a weapon or a steed, Bodhisattvas summon “sattvas”, disembodied celestial spirit that buff the party instead of attacking, and there 4 types, each summonable once per day. An amazing class hack that completely re-flavors one of the most Western-inspired classes.
Censor Inquisitors are like imperial detectives. They distance themselves from hunting monsters and fighting in tandem with others. Instead, they focus more on hunting criminals, especially spellcasters since they get many abilities to counter illusions, magical disguises and shapechanges. Censors feel like they belong more to city adventures, but their abilities work well in any campaign that includes tricky opponents.
Jade Fist Bloodragers remind me of a Jade version of The Thing from Marvel Comics. They get better unarmed attacks, can transform their flesh into jade while raging, and become hardier and tougher in general. They also represent jade’s purity by fighting undead better, first with their fist and later when wielding jade weapons. For bloodlines, celestial, elemental earth, kami, and maybe even kappa would really fit thematically (these last two are from Asian Bloodlines by the same author). A nice archetype that echoes both The Thing and Rokugan!
Jinshi Wizards are servants of the government, with duties to match, and get an enhanced class skill list to better represent their roles, but no extra skillpoints. The familiar arcane bond is closed to them, but instead get a badge of office that lets them fill a few empty slots with any wizard spell, but then they have to “pay” extra spell slots for their acquired magical debt. Apart from that, they get the Allied Spellcaster as bonus and can use it with other casters even if they don’t have it, and can even use some of their resources to share it for a while. Later in their careers they get promoted and have different duties, and can share Allied Spellcaster to more than one ally at a time, and even have a bonus for non-casters! Very flavorful archetype that works not only for Asian spellcasters but also for any court or guild wizard. Game masters could even potentially restrict the list of spells to better represent the government or guild!
Kaiju Caller Summoners are awesome. They can summon bigger creatures and won’t even summon an eidolon until they can make it large (5th level), and then have to make it huge at the first opportunity! Their eidolons by the way are unintelligent and brutish and get some exclusive evolutions. They get some abilities that forebode the power of kaiju, first demoralizing enemies and later inspiring allies. As a capstone they can invoke natural disasters by spending some uses of their summon ability and yes, they can even summon a true Kaiju! They can’t control it but hey, they CAN summon it and run!
Kannushi Druids are devoted to kami. As such, they get some extra class skills to deal with the nature spirits, add a couple of kami-themed spells, and get improved summon lists to include a few kami. Later they also get entrusted with a shrine that is perfect to keep important things or corpses (yes, corpses). This come at the cost of spontaneous casting, venom immunity and having a weaker nature bond. A small, nice “kami priest” but even if they don’t have an alignment restriction, don’t make a chaotic and/or evil Kannushi to get the most of it. And be aware that the “shrine” cannot be changed, so also be prepared to play in a site-based campaign or lose access to this ability (or bribe your GM with sushi rolls to let you move it).
Kenja Clerics are pacifist priest that eschew armor and most weapons, but gaining instead unarmored defenses and unarmed damage like a monk. They also lose a couple of domain abilities and channel energy for more thematically appropriate abilities, like the paladin’s mercies. A pacifist, monkish archetype for those players who want to play a different “sacred fist” but also to have more magic. Again, be prepared to be Lawful or Chaotic Good to get the most of this archetype!
Mantis Madonna Magi have weird, alien, almost illuminati fluff, but really are what I have wanted since seeing the magus for the first time: a monkish magus. They are wisdom-based, spontaneous psychic spellcasters (they even all psychic spells from the levels they can cast to their spell list!). Their arcane pool is also wisdom based (and why it is still called arcane is beyond me, except maybe to still qualify for feats and stuff), and can only enhance their fists, but can also make their flesh way harder (up to +8 natural armor). They also lose proficiency with all armor and with martial weapons, getting unarmed damage like a monk, get A LOT of exclusive arcana, better access to style feats, and get many esoteric abilities. One thing they don’t get is Wis to AC but beyond that, THIS is the archetype to get to represent the most mystical of martial artists. It would be my fave in this book since it has many builds possible with its unique magus arcana and style feat mastery, but there are a couple of things I would have changed: No Wis to AC begs for one level in monk, access to Evasion and Improved Evasion begs for a good Reflex save instead of Fortitude or Will (or maybe Stalwart instead of Evasion?), no Ki pool instead of Arcane (although there is a Arcana IIRC that does that), and the fuse style ability should have been optional making even more builds possible.
Miko Shamans get a different style of casting, akin to the Kami Medium from Occult Adventures, that makes it impossible to dispel their spells magically. Anyone can “destroy” their spells, since non-instantaneous spells create an ofuda (think mini-scroll) on the opponent that, when retired, ends the spell. Beyond this, they lose a couple of hexes to be able to better deal with kami, summon them as monsters or familiars, and get a really cool magical ability to bless a community with either safety or bounty, the latter using the downtime rules! Perfect for site-based campaigns but not dependent on them!
Numerologist Wizards feel like they were pulled straightly from the Sha’ir’s Handbook for 2nd Edition D&D, which is awesome. They have to be lawful and their spell/mathbooks and scrolls are more space-efficient, but it’s more difficult for normal wizards to understand or copy spells from a Numerologist’s spellbook or scroll. Also, since they focus on quality over quantity, they can cast one less spell per level. Instead of Arcane Bond they can use math to get insight bonuses to attack, skill, ability, caster level and even miss chance checks, to get an edge when casting spells. They get other divinatory, metamagic-like, defenses, and probability manipulation abilities. A powerful archetype that pays dearly for its powers, and demands to be used by expert players or GMs.
Origamist Arcanists lose a bit of their exploits to gain powerful, origami-based powers. They start with an origami construct familiar, can fold scrolls into origami to expand their prepared spells for the day, can cast shadow conjurations made of paper a couple of times per day, and can themselves transform into paper. A high-concept archetype that again trades flexibility for power.
Raiden Shamans are locked into the wind spirit. They are better archers and get an increased spell list with many electricity-based arcane spells. They also lose their “wandering” abilities to get more electricity and sonic powers. Take this archetype if you want a more specialized, blaster-y shaman (yelling incomprehensible things like the namesake from Mortal Kombat is optional).
Skyflower Alchemists really devote themselves into making their extracts and bombs more flashy. They lose mutagen and greater mutagen, brew potion, swift alchemy and all poison related abilities. To make up for the hefty loss, they get to add arcane evocations, or discoveries from a specific list. Their bombs always explode like fireworks, and they get progressively more resistant to fire. This one is a blockbuster version of the alchemist.
Wushen Wizards are the new Wujen from D&D. They get a small edge if they prepare spells of the same element, have a ki pool, get taboos, and can create spell-specific fetishes to better cast said spells, all in exchange for bonus feats and arcane bond. An intriguing archetype if you are using The Way of Ki from the same product line, but it’s a bit sad you lose the bonus feats.
-4 Spells: These are reprinted from the Asian Spell Compendium. Handy to have if you don’t own that book. The spells are Blessed Jade Strike (which transforms your weapon into a bane for undead and incorporeal creatures), Jade Prison (a powerful holy spell that paralyses and gradually petrifies creatures with the evil subtype and evil undead), Paper Vessel (which creates a self-moving boat made of paper), and Unfortunate Origami (which transforms an object into a weak, fragile paper origami version of itself). All in all, an awesome little collection of spells!
Of Note: It is difficult for me to choose something that is above the rest since, in all honestly, all archetypes are cool. Now, I commend the paladin, bloodrager, magus and inquisitor archetypes since they are more often than not melee-ers than casters. Also, the paladin and cleric archetypes represent a type of gaming different from the norm, which is always a challenging gaming experience for everyone involved.
Anything wrong?: There are a couple of formatting issues, under the 15th level ability of Jinshi and under the proficiencies of Kaiju Summoner, but beyond that there are some design decisions that I don’t agree with, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. Japan in particular is well represented at the cost of, again, not representing other obscure regions of Asia.
What I want: Beyond having more new games starting for trying out some of these, I would have liked the inclusion of some of the occult classes, but to be fair there are some already in the Occult Adventures book. I have wanted a fakir even since occult adventures was released, maybe either as a monk or mesmerist archetypes. Maybe for a sequel?
What cool things did this inspire?: With the Jinshi wizard, Censor Inquisitor, and Mandarin investigator (from the companion volume for martials), plus maybe a samurai or yakuza, I really want to run or play a city-based campaign. As a player, I want to take the Mantis Madonna to the lab and see what builds I can do with it!
Do I recommend it?: If you are reading this you are probably on the fence on whether to buy it. I can wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone with an interest on the Far East. There is enough material for all kind of groups and tastes out there, and I really enjoyed the interconnection within the product line. My verdict is 5 direction sacred stars without question!
[5 of 5 Stars!]