The PF2-version of one of my favorite martial commander classes for PF1 clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.
The battle lord’s key ability boost is applied to either Strength or Dexterity, and we have 10 plus Constitution modifier hit points. The class properly features notes for the class during combat or social encounters, while exploring, etc., and initial proficiencies are as follows: Expert in Perception, Trained in Fortitude and Will, Expert in Reflex; re skills, we have Society, Heraldry Lore, Warfare Lore and one skill determined by specialty (see below), as well as 2+Intelligence modifier additional skills – all as trained. The battle lord is also trained in unarmed attacks, simple, martial and advanced weapons, as well as in light and medium armor and unarmed defense, and in its battle lord class DC. The DC increases to expert at 11th level, master at 17th level.
The enlisted training ability nets you a specialty, which then proceeds to govern the benefits of enlisted, officer (9th level) and ruler training (19th level). The specialties available are medic, overwatch, scout and soldier.
To give you two examples: Medic is trained in Medicine, and gets Tactical Healing and Battle Medicine as feats at the enlisted training; officer can use Battle Medicine to make a Medicine check to counteract a couple of conditions, with the DC formula clocking in at 15 + creature/hazard level for unlisted DCs; ruler lets you use Battle Medicine to counteract more severe conditions and expend all Battle Medicine uses for that character to return a character who died within the last 3 rounds to life at wounded 2. Now, personally, I’d have preferred conditions with variable numerical values to differentiate between them, but that may be me. In case you were wondering – there is a feat that lets you sue Battle Medicine on a target Intelligence modifier times per day (cool!) – but in a pretty nasty glitch, that feat is called “Tactical Medicine” – there is not Tactical healing feat.
The overwatch specialty nets you trained in Survival, and the feats Survey Wildlife and Marking Strike. The latter is a new level 1 feat that takes 2 actions and requires a ranged Strike with an arrow etc. If you hit, the target becomes flat-footed versus you and allies benefiting currently from drills, with Interact as a means to end this, and oozes etc. being not affected, subject to GM discretion. 9th level makes Intimidate trained, and the option to use a reaction to an ally you can see being damaged by an opponent to attempt to Demoralize the opponent. The ruler training nets all allies a +1 status bonus to AC and saves, and a +2 status bonus to initiative, both applying while you can see them.
The scout specialty makes you stealthier and lets you lead allies behind enemy lines, while the soldier specialty nets the pretty self-explanatory Striking Disarm and gets improving heavy armor proficiency at higher levels.
2nd level and every even level thereafter nets a class feat; 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter a skill feat, and 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter a general feat. 3rd level increases your proficiency rank for Will saves to expert and successes versus fear effects are treated as critical successes. Additionally, frightened reduces its value by 1. At 9th level, Fortitude increases to expert, and Reflex to master, and when you get a success on Reflex saves, it’s instead treated as a critical success.
3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter net a skill increase, with 7th and 15th level as master and legendary thresholds. 5th level and every 5 levels nets an ability boost, and 5th level and every 4 thereafter an ancestry feat. 5th level nets you expert in all proficient weapons and critical specialization effect access with all weapons of expert proficiency or above. 7th level upgrades Perception proficiency to master and nets you a +2 circumstance bonus to Perception and initiative, and if that sounds familiar, then it’s because that’s Battlefield Surveyor, and 7th level also nets weapon specialization, with 15th providing greater weapon specialization. 11th level nets an increase to expert for light and medium armor and unarmed defense, as well as armor specialization for medium armor.
As you can glean, the battle lord’s core chassis is pretty akin to that of the fighter, though it does have a couple of differences – and before you ask, drills are still here, still available from 1st level on: They are centered on a point within 60 ft. of you that you can see, and you must have walked allies through a drill 1/day as part of daily preparations. Allies no longer able to see and hear you lose drill benefits, but in a cool twist, long-term blindness and deafness is accounted for. Allies can only benefit from one drill at a time, and if they can choose between two drills, switching is an Interact action. Drills all have the Flourish trait, and only one flourish action may be executed per round. The base class feature comes with the Team Precision drill for one action: You make a Strike vs. a creature within 30 ft. or you and an ally; if you hit, the allies gain a +1 circumstance bonus to attacl the target for 3 rounds.
As far as class feats are concerned, we have 5 level 1 class feats, which include e.g. the auditory two-action Command Attack, which lets you spend to actions to make an ally benefitting from your drills a melee Strike as a free action, which is not adjusted by multiple attack penalty. The 6 2nd-levelfeats included ranged weapon Aid Another and a movement-enhancing drill, or a two action drill that lets you Stride while also buffing your allies’ Acrobatics and Reflex saves. The level 4 class feats (5 provided) include a drill that lets you prepare alchemical concoctions that add briefly +1d6 damage of one of the 4 core energy types to Strikes, or get a feat that lets you use Society to get Earn Income tasks or Gather Information/Make an Impression. This level also nets a companion with the right feat.
Level 6 feats include Attack of Opportunity and reaction based boosts to Reflex saves that interact with a drill for further benefits, and Shield Block can be sued to help adjacent allies with Vanguard’s Shield. 8th level has 5 feats to choose from, including the two-action means to Stride or Step up twice and make a melee Strike at the end, rendering allies Quickened 1 until the end of your next turn, with the caveat that this can only be used to Step, Stride or Strike. Quickened, to my knowledge, has no numerical value. A similar ability includes adding Slowed 1 temporarily to enemies. That being said, at 8th level, this is pretty damn strong, considering that it applies to all allies that can see or hear you. Compared to resistance equal to half your level to the three physical damage types, I’d certainly know which of these I’d choose. This one would have benefited from only applying to a single ally, with options to build on this, but that may be me.
There also is a feat tree of sorts (tied to aforementioned drill that adds energy damage) which lets you gain Alchemical Crafting and the option to prepare alchemical items. Reaction buffs for ally ACs, gaining success and critical success Demoralize benefits for ranged Strikes and the like can be found among the 10th level feats. In the 12th-level range, we have Combat Reflexes and a stance for drill-range increases, or a means to affect allies with up to 2 drills at once, including making the first drill per round not count as having the flourish trait. Forced Retreat is pretty clever, in that it forces a Will save or the enemies nearby retreat from you, but does sport a caveat that prevents enemies from wasting more than one action. 14th level has e.g. the option that lets you command an ally to gain two actions they can use to cast a spell from their repertoire spontaneously – only one spell may be cast per command. 16th level also includes the means to get a second specialty’s enlisted benefits, rendering enemies doomed, etc. The 18th level includes a further “alcehmical” one and a further one building on the mount options, as well as a frightening blow, and there are three level 20 feats provided, two of which are drills. These both do not have the usual flourish trait that the global rules stated that drills always have, but I’m not sure whether this is intentional due to them being capstones. Then again, quite a few of the other higher level drills are also missing the flourish trait, so not sure if the global rules are incorrect, or if that trait went missing from some of the drills at some point.
As a whole, I enjoyed these feats and what they deliver, though I would have liked to see a few more combos; the feat-trees present are interesting specialization options, but I think it’d have been nice to see either more of those, or more general ones, particularly at higher levels. This supplement certainly does feel like the battle lord has more to give. The section does come with a handy table for the feats, as well as information for using the battle lord as a multiclass archetype.
Editing and formatting are good, if not perfect – I noticed a few it’s/its glitches, and, as noted above, the feat name inconsistency and drill trait component do bother me a bit. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard with some solid full-color artworks, some of which veterans will know. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor comfort detriment at this length…however. Speaking of which: While the text can be selected, oddly, I consistently failed to find any text while searching the pdf, which is, in conjunction with the lack of bookmarks, something that renders this pdf somewhat inconvenient to use. New feat referenced? Text not found, so you start scrolling. I Genuinely recommend printing this when using it.
Michael Sayre knows PF2, and it shows; putting a class like the battle lord out there while the system is that young is gutsy, and requires some serious considerations, and while I’m not happy with the internal balance of all components, I am happy with the vast majority of them. The battle lord has a serious influence on tactics, and rewards the frontline fighter-style character for not using their action (always) to attack, which is a hard balance to strike. The class becomes more interesting when it starts to apply its benefits to a degree that changes the overall strategy of the party beyond immediate tactics, and, as a whole, can be considered to be a successful conversion of the concept to PF2. Now, I do think that the class would have benefitted from a wider array, but once more PF2 hardcovers are released, I certainly hope we’ll get expansions. Is it perfect? No, but with a few tweaks, I’ve allowed the fellow in my game, and consider it to be a welcome addition. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up.
The fifth installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
So, here we get something I really wanted to see – basically living starships and ginormous critters, for Starship-combat. The first of these would be the Hidd, which clock in at tier 15 and have created, in a cool twist, the hiddarrok – these folks are native outsiders with Con and Wis +2, -2 Cha and 5 HP. They have blindsense (vibration), a burrow speed of 20 ft and darkvision as well as +2 racial bonus on gunnery checks. Not the biggest fan of the race as presented, but they are, in essence, intended as adversaries anyway. Evil and greedy, the Hidd has a rather nasty strategy to pillage places…really cool.
Before you ask: The statblocks of the creatures herein depict them as starships, but also take their living nature into account, with appropriate critical damage tables. It should also be noted that each of the creatures within comes with surprisingly detailed methods for encounter and adventure-creation. The second creature, for example, includes a brief planet profile in the write-up.
The second such vast creature would be the tier 9 Millimaxxus, a gigantic jelly-fish like thing almost entirely composed of electricity, using its tractor tentacles and jamming capacities to hunt. With escape propulsion and a surprisingly stunning, amazing artwork, this one really rocks!
The final creature herein, or rather, creatures, would be the Queg, who come in tier ½ for regular quegs, tier 1 for pod mothers. They can emit gravitational waves…and are actually pretty happy in vacuum, with the pod-mother capable of hijacking the mind of pilots during the helm phase. Queg actually are playful and seem to enjoy collecting shinies – at their size, that unfortunately may mean ships. And yes, the artwork depicts them as ginormous space dolphins. As far as I’m concerned, that’s awesome.
Editing and formatting are pretty good. I noticed a few typo-level hiccups, but nothing serious. Rules-wise, I noticed no issues here. Layout adheres to the 2-column full-color standard of the series. The artworks deserve special mention, with 2 of the 3 pieces being really awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its brevity.
Beth and Dave Breitmaier provide something pretty amazing in this inexpensive pdf – they provide some really big threats to face down with starships, adding nice angles for the GM, while also providing unique abilities for the critters. The monsters range from darker themes to playfulness and run the general gamut of levels. In short, particularly considering the really low price point, there is nothing to really complain about here. This is a nice, unpretentious little pdf, well worth 5 stars, with my seal of approval added as well. I’d love to see a whole book of such vast threats!
The fourth installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 26 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This reviews was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
Okay, we begin this supplement with a new Starfinder race, namely the titans. The race gets 6 HP, +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, making them a bit lopsided on the physical angle. They are humanoids with the giant subtype, not the usual racial subtype of Starfinder, which may in the long run cause type-issues, but for now, there’s not true issue in this. They get low light vision and are unaffected by high gravity, gaining an untyped (should be racial) bonus of +1 in environments with regular gravity. They also are immune to radiation, hailing from an irradiated gas giant. Titans stand close to 9 ft. and we get details on their physiology as well as their home world and the usual “Playing a X”-bullet-point lists. The story tells of a war fought against horrid foes and the write-up includes an age, height and weight table – as an aside, I cringed somewhat at the word “thru” here, which is a weird colloquialism in the otherwise nice write-up. The section also provides notes on adventuring, nomenclature and language as well as a brief planetary profile.
We also get a PFRPG version of the race: Here, titans get +2 Str and Con, -2 Wis, are Medium humanoids with the giant subtype and thus gain low-light vision. They can hold their breath 4 times Con-score rounds and begin play with High Gravity Adaptation as a bonus feat and where gravity is no more than twice as strong as usual, its effects are negated. In areas with less pronounced gravity, carrying capacity is increased as though the Strength score was 4 higher – nice way of representing that concept! Radiation immunity is slightly problematic in its PFRPG-version, as, while it protects against radiation effects, it also references the radiation descriptor, which does not exist. The race gets a reach of 10 ft., which is REALLY potent.
We also get a racial feat, Ancestral Birth. In PFRPG, it makes you Large and nets you +2 to Intimidate – should be a racial bonus. In SFRPG, you get +2 to Intimidate checks made to bully or demoralize does and add +2 to the DC of such checks against you. You also become Large. Both systems thus provide reach increase, but in PFRPG, we have a Medium creature with reach, which grows further, which would yield, once more, reach. Now I assume that this does not stack, but clarification would have been nice.
Now, in a nice article, we learn about the Union next – those humans that came from the Sol system, namely Terra…fun fact: Intoxicated grey teens crashed on earth, making first contact a rather funny matter – however, when the greys attempted to damage-control, other planets intervened, and thus, the seeds of the union were sown. All in all, a nice take on the trope. Enjoyable read.
Next up would be two new archetypes for Starfinder, the first of which would be the Neo Geisha, who trades in 2nd, 4th, 9th and 12th level, ability-wise, with 6th level being optional. At 2nd level, we get tea ceremony. You get Profession (neo-geisha) as a class skill and may brew tea over 30 minutes, gaining a +1 bonus (should probably be insight) to Culture and Diplomacy roles with targets partaking, but only while you still have 1 Resolve remaining. The bonus increases by +1 at 6th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Participants become relaxed and may, for 24 hours or until taking an 8-hour rest, spend a Resolve point to reroll a failed save against “being freighted and fear effect.” 4th level provides the option to lock gazes with an opponent as a move or standard action, using Bluff as a diversion, opposed by Sense Motive. When using a standard action, you get +2 to the roll – once more, untyped. On a success, you fascinate the target, Will saves to shake off the condition when faced with threats are available, but the neo-geisha may spend a Resolve point to make the target reroll the save. Maintenance of eye contact is a swift action. The effect is broken by becoming unconscious, dead, etc.
The gather crowd ability at 6th level allows the neo-geisha to collect a crowd with a 1d10 minutes performance, generating ½ character level times the result of the check. This can be a really cool tool. The 9th level ability would be soul focus, which penalizes the save to break eye contact with -4…and it contradicts the previous ability: The soul focus suddenly talks about threats automatically breaking fascination no longer, which is not how the base ability works. Weird. A target affected by eye contact ignores the shaken condition, which is interesting and something I like here. The 12th level ability nets charm person/charm monster, command and command, greater 1/day (+1/day at 13th and 17th level) as a SP. Weird: Why would I ever use the lesser of the two SPs? Looks like some sort of scaling was lost here.
The second archetype would be the burster, who gains alternate class features at 2nd, 4th and 6th level, with 9th and 12th level as optional exchanges. 2nd level yields pyrokinesis, allowing you to determine the size and temperature of fires and may use skills to determine sources. They get key ability modifier +2 fire resistance, which increases by 1 for every two character levels, starting at 4th level. The character can also shoot fire projectiles key ability modifier times per day, with 1d6 fire damage as the damage and +1d6 burn on a critical). Starting at 4th level, the character can spend Resolve Points to add +1d6 fire damage per point, or spend Resolve to gain an additional daily use. The projectiles attack KAC. A problem: We get no range; I assume the range of flame sense, but this needs clarification. 4th level yields burst, which inflicts both 1d6 fire and 1d6 bludgeoning damage in a 10 ft- radius, with a Ref-save to halve. The cost is a Resolve point and 9th level expands the area to 15 ft., 20 ft. at 17th level. This leaves you fatigued for 1d4 rounds; bursting again in that time-frame leaves you exhausted for 1d6 rounds and when bursting while exhausted, you become unconscious. Slightly odd: No scaling of the damage here.
The 6th level ability is actually a choice between 3: Detonator lets you sense objects etc. in range of your flame sense, which you can then detonate via Resolve expenditure. A table of examples with bulk, Resolve requires and damage is provided. Nice. Extinguisher allows you to quench fire – problematic here is both the reference to a PFRPG legacy action and the lack of classification of how large of an area you can extinguish. Thirdly, flame on nets you the human torch’s flight and a defensive flame ability. 9th level lets you choose another one of these options, a damage die increase of the base bolt, or an upgrade for the damage caused by the burst…to 5d6. Which is odd, as it moves from separate dice pools for the damage types to one, which is halved to determine the damage caused by each type. Not as elegant as it should be. The 12th level option provides another 6thor 9th level choice.
Next up would be the Death Pits of Oriab, penned by Chance Phillips. Oriab is a place both wondrous and horrid, a vacation hub that basically is a LE gladiatorial tourist planet. Weird header: “Who fights Death Pits?” – There’s an “in” missing here. Veterans of these cruel gladiatorial games can represent that experience with the Veteran of the Death Pits feat. The feat, in both PFRPG and SFRPG, nets more damage versus animals with more HD, as well as a bonus to atk versus targets with cybernetic enhancements. Minor complaints: In SFRPG, the feat should probably have a typed bonus and would have been more elegant when tying in with the significant threat mechanic instead. We also get two challengers here – the CR 10 T-Borg MK II and the vesk soldier Argorivortu (CR 8).
Beyond that, we also get a massive array of cool dressing tables: 12 random street vendor offerings,. We also get a NPC-generator of 1d12 random descriptions and 12 random quirks. A massive table of 100 different events further allows you to customize the experience here.
The next article, penned, by Allan Leeson, details the Sluagh: Founded by Jonas Sluagh, they evolved from a security enterprise to the Sluagh Research Group – basically, dark mirrors of the Pathfinder Society, bodyguards for xeno-archaeologists that found a dread relic, which allowed Jonas to render creatures slack-jawed automatons, courtesy of braces controlled with the respective control gauntlet. And yes, the company has since then managed to replicate these dread devices. As such, both the brace and the horrid things it can cause and the potent control gauntlet are provided. We also get basically a template for the braced and a CR 5 sample braced drone. Nice one!
Editing and formatting are okay, but pretty weak on a formal level – I noticed a couple of issues. The rules-language is generally functional, if not always perfect. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports a nice blend of full-color artworks, with some really nice pieces.
Greg LaRose, Chance Phillips and Allan Leeson deliver a rather massive pdf for the extremely low price point – and while the rules-components sport a few rough edges here and there, the dressing and ideas herein deserve being acknowledged. Still, with the accumulation of minor hiccups, I can recommend this as unanimously as I’d like to. While absolutely worth getting for the low price point, my final verdict cannot exceed 3.5 stars, I don’t feel like I can round up here.
The third installment of the Xeno Files-series clocks in at 18 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD; leaving us with 13 pages, so let’s take a look!
This series was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreons.
The first article was penned by Joshua Hennington and depicts the Rendeian race, thralls to the Qlippoth lord Sesser’vatn. Racial stat wise, they get +2 Con and Wis, -2 Dex, 6 HP and are Medium humanoids with the shapechanger subtype, which represents a deviation from the standard Starfinder races. Rendeian subtype would have been standard here, but this aspect is pretty much cosmetic. Rendeians get darkvision 60 ft. and they gain a +2 racial bonus to atk and damage and saves versus non-qlippoths with an evil alignment, making them potentially uneasy allies. They also get +2 to Mysticism to glean information on the Outer Planes. They don’t need necessary ranks in Medicine to install augmentations and if they do, implantation time is halved, but only for implants for themselves, not other creatures. They also have a pretty strong adaptive physiology, which means they can either hand 15 ft. burrow speed, 20 ft. clumsy fly speed or 30 ft. climb or swim speed, which may be modified by taking a 10 minute rest that does not qualify as Stamina regaining. Potent? Yeah, but as engineered thralls, they also take a whopping -4 penalty to saves versus qlippoths. That would be the race in SFRPG.
If you prefer one of the scifi/space opera options for Pathfinder, there’s a conversion here: +2 Con and Wis, darkvision 60 ft. Rendeians are native outsiders with the shapechanger subtype (Minor quibble: line refers to Umvee instead). They get +2 to atk and saves versus non-qlippoth creatures with the evil subtype and always treat Knowledge (planes) as a class skill, gaining a +2 bonus to it. The adaptive movement rates are stronger in PFRPG, allowing the race to switch between movement modes as a full-round action that doesn’t even provoke AoOs. While the flight remains clumsy, the value of flight is higher in PFRPG, as is the value of burrow, which means that this aspect may not be for every campaigns and is something I’d look out for. More elegant would have been to start with gliding wings and upgrade them to flight at higher levels. Anyways, the save-penalty versus qlippoths is retained.
The race gets a supplemental feat, namely Rending Appendages, with benefits for both systems: In PFRPG, the feat nets an additional off-hand, in SFRPG the same applies. Weird in PFRPG: The additional appendage does not “Add addition attacks”, which isn’t how that usually works in PFRPG. That being said, the lack of higher level prerequisites means that I absolutely understand this limitation and consider it pretty much required. The feat may be taken 3 times, for additional arms or prehensile tails. I get what this does, but I’m not 100% happy with the implementation – the tails should offer different benefits than the arms, and perhaps a retooling in line with conventions of their effects would be in order.
Now, on the plus-side, we get a pretty detailed write-up for the race, adhering to SFRPG’s aesthetics: We get notes on playing them, physical descriptions, an age, height and weight table – nice! As engineered slaves, they lead short and volatile lives and, in an interesting twist, are sex-less, reproducing via a form of communal symbiosis of sort. We also learn about Rendei-5, their abyssally-blasted home planet and here, things become interesting: As hinted in the racial write-up, Rendeians are good at hunting down sinners: Well, it turns out that their culture prefers the sacrifice of “ripe” sinners, not the usual goody-two-shoes innocents! This makes them, in spite of their dark origins, a potentially interesting ally or PC-race without compromising their dark background. As servants of qlippoth masters, they seek to actually eradicate sin in the multiverse, which puts them in a hilarious twist on the same trajectory as religious zealots in their end-goals. Notes on nomenclature and adventuring rendeians are provided as well. Notes on language and 3 sample adventure hooks complement the write-up.
As masters of augmentations, rendeians get a total of 5 such augmentations: At level, there is the skinshedding implant, which lets you turn your skin transparent, potentially sickening onlookers (DC governed by Con). Cool: To offset this power, it renders you fatigued for one round afterwards and comes with a cooldown that you can pay off for immediate recharge with Resolve; otherwise, it replenishes with Stamina points. Outsider’s grasp is implanted into the hand, replacing it and clocks in at level 5, granting the hand the respective associated special weapon fusion. Metaplanar anchor is a brain implant at level 9 and lets you never be treated as extraplanar and renders you immune to alignment-based planar traits. At level 15, parasitic twin growth is both an arm and hand implant and nets you a 20% chance of having Will save-based effects instead affect the twin growth, sickening you for 2d3 rounds instead of the usual benefits. Additionally, it can act when you’re unconscious,. Through compulsions, etc. – 1 Resolve Point lets the growth act for 1 minute. Yes, it may even act when you’re dead (sans Resolve expenditure), using your bonuses. It can sustain 10 points of damage, uses your bonuses and AC, etc. Damn cool final “Hail Mary”-type of ability. The race also gets a new piece of level 2 tech, the sinscanner, which makes sense in the context of the race’s peculiarities.
All in all, I really liked the race – the SFRPG version is obviously the better one, with the conversion being slightly less impressive. Apart from the feat, I have no real complaints to field. Big kudos for an interesting, twisted race that makes sense as an evil PC even in a non-evil group!
After this one, we are introduced to the Accelerated Certification for Explorers, also known as ACE, as a cool pilot ace training company/corporation. Nice system neutral article!
The final article of the pdf deals with symbiotes, with the article written as a holo news story, making it a rather nice reading experience. Symbiotes range in size from Small to Tiny. A character can host as many symbiotes as the starting racial HP, which act as symbiote slots of sorts. Some symbiotes take more slots and symbiotes don’t stack with themselves, but benefits to the same statistic from different symbiotes o stack. Symbiotes have hit points, a life span and occupy a system slot as though an augmentation. They also have a bonding time. They also sport levels analogue to other SFRPG-components. The first would be the Adrenal tick: Roll 1d6: On a 6, it pops and dies; on subsequent days, roll a 1d6, with a cumulative -1 penalty, then compare that to a d6 roll: If your second roll exceeds the former value, the tick dies. The tick nets you a +1 morale bonus to saves vs. panicked and frightened conditions. Cearkifs allow for the temporary understanding of all languages, but can die after an hour of inconsistent speech with non-known languages. Gel clams are radioactive and can thus cause radiation poisoning, but can yield low-light vision and infrared and ultraviolet sight. Glitter spores can be massaged to spray glitter and be used as a ranged attack to blind foes nearby, who can mitigate this via a “full round action” – should be full action. I also assume this to target KAC, but clarification would be nice. Neurohedra can act as datajacks. Sum leeches can excrete a paste that nets you +2 to saves versus mind-affecting effects. I assume the massage to be a standard action, analogue to augmentation default, but I’m not sure there. Finally, Thaxion bark is interesting: The first time the host is knocked to 0 HP, it stabilizes automatically, the bark sacrificing itself to stabilize the character. It may be tricked into doing this when knocked unconscious due to nonlethal damage to remain in the fight. Okay, for how long?
Editing on a formal level could be a bit tighter – I noticed a few minor hiccups and /too/to-glitches and the like. On a rules-language level, the pdf is mostly well-crafted, though a few of the cool symbiotes could have been more precise. Layout adheres to the nice 2-column full-color standard of the series and the pdf comes with quite a few nice full-color artworks I haven’t seen before – kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Joshua Hennington and Greg LaRose deliver a fun, inexpensive supplement here: The race is interesting and potent, but not to the extent where I’d consider it problematic, at least in SFRPG. The PFRPG-conversion is a bit less impressive. The other articles are nice as well: While the symbiotes do suffer from a few minor hiccups in the rules, they work, are interesting, and frankly, I want more. That’s a huge untapped potential here and they, mechanically, integrate pretty easily into SFRPG’s rules. So yeah, all in all, by far the best Xeno Files pdf I have covered so far. Were it not for the hiccups and minor issues, I’d give this 5 stars. Even with them, this is well worth getting for the low and really fair asking price. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
The second installment of Amora Game’s Xeno Files-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
So, this time around, we visit the Dyson Alehouse, which is basically a Western saloon coated in chrome and steel plates, docking stations scattered around…and a single automatic door at the front of the building. Okay, yes, antennae and neon lights are added as well, but still – a really surreal and intriguing place….though the inside is truly futuristic, with every section covered with doors, apertures and portholes and a bar of silver metal, tended by an insectoid android. In order to get a drink, the PCs will have to actually talk to it – and there is only a 50-50-chance it’ll respond in a broken dialect of their language: Basically, they have to get a ticket (visually represented in the file!) from a terminal. In order to get this ticket, the PCs will have to enter gold coins. Nope, not credits, gold coins. 100 of them. For that, the machine will spit out a 10-drink coupon. Where do the PCs get gold coins?
Well, you see, while the countless doors in Dyson’s can lead pretty much anywhere – there are basically fully-functional wormholes, making this a scifi-version of the traditional extra-planar tavern-hub trope. 3 sample more or less fixed destinations are mentioned, including a Valhalla-style meadhall. The tavern does not gain a proper map or the like, but we get a serious amount of different tables: There are 20 drink descriptions and 20 effects, for example: These btw. include falling unconscious sans save, hallucinations, recalling one’s fondest memories or getting transparent skin, etc. Another table lets you determine descriptions, shapes and miscellaneous qualities of a wormhole-door with 20 entries each. Now, each of the myriad rooms that connect to the tavern also has its own, strange rules – and a huge table provides all the material you need to craft adventure-hooks based on them: No less than 100 entries for rules, punishments and clientele of a given room can be found. We also get some advice on how to use the alehouse.
As far as supplemental content is concerned, we get two different articles: the first would be Daji, living goddess of the umvee (including a basic, subdomain-less PFRPG deity-write-up). The second article would be a conversion of the Umvee to PFRPG: +2 Constitution, +2 “Intelligaince”[sic!], -2 Charisma. The race is Medium, kemonomimi subtype. They get +2 to Survival and Handle Animals, limited telepathy…and the caste conversion has some glitches. Alphas mention e.g. Stamina increases per level, which MAY tie in with PFU’s rules, but I’m not sure. Betas get to choose two skills from Bluff, Diplomacy, intimidate and Sense Motive and get +1 to the skills chosen. Omegas get +1 to Knowledge (religion) and (arcana) and +2 to CL-checks and Zeats get +2 to saves versus disease, poison, becoming nauseated and sickened as well as mind-affecting effects. Not a bad conversion per se, but neither an inspired one.
Editing and formatting are okay; while I noticed a couple minor and avoidable hiccups in the pretty thin crunch, they did not overly detract from my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard (with 3 pages using 1-column instead); the pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t exactly need them at this length.
Chance Phillips and Greg LaRose provide a nice, inexpensive, almost system-agnostic supplement here…which may be slightly to the detriment of the supplement. You see, I very much like Dyson’s. The idea and aesthetics are cool – but I found myself wishing we got a map or at least stats for the barkeep. Similarly, being knocked out cold by a drink, sans save, is not something you get to see in SFRPG or PFRPG, for that matter. While easily remedied, it is small hiccups like this that make this feel a bit less refined than what I hoped to get. Similarly, the tie-ins to Starfinder’s mechanics could have been much stronger. While still an inexpensive and fun offering, Dyson’s thus falls into the realm of being a solid, if not perfect little supplement. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.
The first of Amora Game’s Xeno Files-supplements clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This whole series was requested to be moved up in my reviewing queue by my patreons.
All right, so the Umvee hail from a planet that has slipped dimensions in an event called “kitsune shift”; the race sports pale white to light pink skin and females are typically taller; they are defined by a rigid caste system, knowing 4 castes: Alpha, Beta, Omega and Zeta. Umvee get +2 Con and Int, -2 Cha, are Medium humanoids with the kemonomimi subtype and get 4 HP. They receive limited telepathy and get a +2 racial bonus to Survival skill checks. They reject cybernetics, locking them out of these, but may gain personal upgrades like mystical crystals, nanite enhancements and symbiotes. (Minor plural glitch in the pdf here.)
As a twist, the aforementioned, archaic caste-system is enforced by genetic engineering that is reflected in the base racial stats: Alphas get a +1 racial bonus to damage rolls with melee attacks versus KAC as well as 1 Stamina per level – I assume that these are in addition to those granted by the class; while it is obvious that that’s the intent, an “additional” would have been nice here. Betas may choose Skill Focus for Bluff, Diplomacy or Sense Motive. Omegas get +2 to Mysticism and +2 to CL checks – a racial bonus, mind you, which means this stacks with Spell penetration etc. Zetas gain a +2 racial bonus to saves versus curses, diseases, drugs and poisons. This is stronger than in PFRPG, considering the increased potency of afflictions in SFRPG.
Each of the castes has a different approach to body art, and we get an age/height/Weight table as well as notes on the umvee home world: Basically, from a backdrop of a once kinda-Asian culture, where humans forgot the natural world, an awakened kami named Daji rose and changed the kemonomimi, propelling their relatively primitive culture to the starfaring age, including the gift of limited telepathy. It is this living goddess of the race that is responsible for the matriarchal systems in their society, as well as for helping the race avoid some pitfalls of starfaring races. Sects, including basically Luddites (known as Shufei) can be found and the consequence of having a living goddess guide the race obviously also influences their philosophy. Within the castes, we have subtribes, which can account for a surprisingly non-monolithic diversity within the race. The pdf also provides notes on sample nomenclature and the race employs a variant of the Drift engine – the Shift Drive, which is ostensibly powered by their living deity.
A total of 6 adventure hooks and a brief write-up of the umvee home world Amorian is provided as well, the latter coming with two brief city/city-state write-ups and a proper planetary profile.
Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no glaring formal hiccups and the rules-language provided is tight. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the artworks for umvee and planet are nice, particularly at this low price. The pdf comes without bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Greg LaRose’s umvee are an interesting race: They are presented in a slightly modular, but unpretentious manner. Power-level-wise, they should provide no problems and their origin is interesting: The blend of kemonomimi origin and genetic engineering + living goddess is also intriguing: As the sole force to propel the race to the stars, she could make for all sorts of really strange issues arise as both ally and antagonist. The race can make for great allies and villains: Living goddess + genetic engineering-based society rings as supremely creepy, as far as I’m concerned, at least. Anyways, the umvee are worth checking out for the low and more than fair price point. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
This massive expansion for Amora Game’s critically-acclaimed and criminally-underrated Liber Influxus Communis“-tome clocks in at a massive 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page thank you, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 91 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This was a long time coming and the heartfelt dedication in the front of the book to a friend who has passed, Ryan Warrick Cramer, makes for a touching beginning before we take a look at 2 new classes presented in the first chapter.
The first of which would be the adventurer, who gains d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light & medium armors and shields as well as ¾ BAB-progression. The saves of the class are determined at 1st level – may be chosen as good saves and the class also gets to choose 2 + Int-mod skills to add to the list of class skills. They also choose a so-called apprentice skill from Craft and Profession skills available (the skill references have not been properly capitalized) – At 8th level, the adventurer may always take 10 in that skill. At 12th level, the adventurer may always take 20 when using her apprentice skill. 16th level yields bonuses for chosen Profession apprentice skills or automatic masterworks for adventurers that chose Craft – oh, and actually quick non-magical crafting. Instead of using Diplomacy, they may also use the apprentice skill for bargaining at this level.
3rd level yields uncanny dodge, 9th level improved uncanny dodge and 5th level yields solo tactics. At 13th level, the adventurer may 1/day change a rolled 1 on a d20 into a 20 – I assume that is sans action required/as part of the roll, but it would be nice to have that specified. 17th level eliminates the ability score penalties incurred by old age.
You have probably guessed it: Yes, the adventurer is defined by more than these: The class sports several signature abilities, the first of which would be guild training: The adventurer chooses one of 5 different adventurer guilds, a choice that can later not be reversed. The guild chosen determines what is considered to be a Guild Feat for the class as well as the abilities gained by the class. The first of these would be the adventuring guild, who may, as a swift action, grant herself a luck bonus to a variety of rolls 4 + Charisma modifier times per day, which can be maintained as a free action and increases in potency at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Assassins may choose non-combat feats as Guild feats and receive +1d6 sneak attack, increasing that by +1d6 every three levels thereafter. Explorers are very front-heavy, gaining +10 ft. movement rate as well as swim and climb speeds equal to the movement rate, which is too dippable for my tastes. The Herculean guild gets a very restrictive Guild feat list, but increases HD to 10 (does this include 1st level?) and receives an adrenaline rush – basically a more flexible variant of rage that allows for the increase of +4 to a physical ability score, which can be freely divided in increments of +2, with progression of rounds available being adhering once again to a scaling formula. Finally, the woodsman guild gets the ranger traps and associated feats as well as skirmish, which provides a scaling dodge bonus after moving and at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, a scaling damage-boost during rounds he is moving.
Beyond these, the guilds do influence the available talents for the class, which are called advanced guild trainings. Additional advanced guild trainings are gained every 3 levels after 4th and run a wide variety of options. Not all of them are perfectly, executed, though – the option to get a SP with scaling daily uses does not differentiate between spell-lists, for example, and spell-list strength does diverge a bit. Another training deals with called shots and, while good enough, reduction of penalties as the one granted by the talent is usually phrased slightly differently. That being said, these represent mostly cosmetic hiccups – on the plus-side, we have fast stealth, increased speed while mounted, increased initiative while mounted (ouch in mythic gameplay). Interesting: Using Escape Artist instead of Acrobatics to avoid AoOs and for every 5 ranks, he automatically avoids an attack – while very strong, it is limited enough to make it an interesting offering and tying it to ranks prevents abuse…so yeah, nice one! That being said, there is one general talent that is broke: Scrap it. Without requiring an action, you can interpose your shield between an attack – it absorbs ALL damage from the attack, becoming broken. A second use destroys the shield. While the talent states explicitly that the damage thus caused cannot be repaired, this still needs some serious limitation. Get a bucketload of bucklers, end up basically invincible as long as you can take up new shields. Not cool.
Among the guild-specific options, we have evasion, 1/day immediate action use of a standard action, shield allies from Ref-based effects and the like. Assassins can select bleeding attacks, death attacks, HiPS…you get the idea. Explorers are a bit wonky, introducing in one ability the Piloting skill (not how that works…) and skill boosts. Herculean adventurers get limited daily-use instant knockout hits, upgrades for adrenaline rush and the like. Balancing and formatting here is wonky – levels instead of class levels, a talent that adds “1d8 + STR”[sic!] damage to bull rushes– there are some serious hiccups here, some of which influence the integrity of the rules…which is REALLY weird, for at the same time, e.g. an option to mitigate adrenaline rush’s cooldown is presented precisely. Finally, woodsmen get favorite terrain, camouflage and a skirmish upgrade with a d12-table of conditions you can randomly cause – these range from feeble to save-or-suck…and frankly, I think the ability should have been cut up into a tree or offer some scaling for the ability, with the more potent options unlocking later. The guilds btw. also determine the capstone the class gets.
Finally, it should be noted that 2nd level yields best guess, a means to determine a ton of information via Survival.
The second class presented herein would be the gun adept hybrid class, a blend of Bard/magus and gunslinger, who gains d8 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armor and does not incur spell failure while in light armor. The class gains spontaneous Charisma-based arcane spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawing spells from the bard’s list, ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref-saves. The class receives Gunsmith at 1st level and uses the gun thus gained as a focus, which allows the class to eschew components with a price of 100 gp or less, but as a kind of bonded object, casting without it is problematic. The arcane gun can be used to fire spells, not unlike my own etherslinger’s design – there are limits here in place, making only spells that require an attack roll (oddly listing cone and line spells in the same line as the attack structure, which is a bit weird since these usually are opposed by a saving throw) and adds the gun’s enhancement bonus as a bonus to spell DC. There is a mitigating risk to this power, though: When channeling a spell through the gun thus and you roll a 1 on the attack roll or a target succeeds a save with a natural 20, the gun becomes broken.
2nd level yields nimble, which increases in power every 4 levels thereafter, with 3rd level netting the option to channel spell levels into bullets, increasing the damage output of the gun by +1d6 per level. sigh Because slingers needed damage boosts. Also weird “magic damage” – considering the plethora of damage types available in PFRPG, this make-belief type is weird to see. And no, this was not for the purpose of DR interaction, for the ability precisely notes the interaction with that component. However, rune bullets do cost +1 gp and etching them while adventuring strains the eyes, providing a penalty to ranged atk. Alchemical bullets cannot be made into rune bullets and firing rune bullets via guns other than the arcane gun increases the misfire rate by 3. 4th level provides the option to have multiple arcane guns – if he instead specializes on one gun, the gun adept gains an x3 multiplier for spell critical, which is very, very potent.
Starting at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the gun adept gets an RBE – a rune bullet effect. There are three categories: Bullet effects add e.g. alignment effects, energy damage, etc. As a minor gripe: The deafening effect of thunder bullets – does the aura center on the target of the bullet or the gun adept? Trick shots provide the utility tricks – counterspell shots, for example – some nice tricks here including soft crowd control with creature drawing/pulling! Thirdly, there are so-called “whiskey” tricks, which affect the gun adept. Contained in this section would be bayonet charges that add a second firing attack to the charge…which is a bit weird, in that it does not precisely codify how firing the gun and charging/AoOs etc. interact. From named bullets to pistol-whipping, there are so interesting options here.
Starting at 7th level, fighter feats may be chosen as bonus feats, with 12th level providing another one. 9th level allows for the imbuing of a spell in a rune bullet, causing a “duel[sic!] effect” – there are some more typos here and the ability isn’t, alas, as concise as I’d like it to be. The bonus damage caused by rune bullets in such a case is reduced, at least until 19th level.
15th level provides an AoO for the gun adept whenever a spell within reach (should be RANGE) of the gun is cast; this is executed after the spell’s “complete” – whatever that means. I get what this is supposed to do, but RAW, it does not work. 20th level provides auto-crit for arcane gun, spells and rune bullets (WTF) and an increased critical multiplier. Double WTF. Even for 20th level, that’s overkill. At the same time, the rune bullet crafting process is depicted in surprising detail, so kudos.
All in all, the gun adept makes for a take on the trope that almost gets it right – the ideas, chassis etc. are cool, but the damage-escalation is BRUTAL and it does not help that the class fails to limit the spells that can be channeled through the gun to class spells. A good rules-editor fixing some aspects of this could have made it into one of the best gunslinger-options, but RAW it is, pardon the bad pun, a pretty raw offering. …yeah, will punch myself for this one later.
Anyways, that’s it for the first chapter of the book – hereafter, we dive into archetypes and class options, starting with Michael Sayre’s great Battle Lord. The Dual Specialist would be a meaningful engine-tweak, which loses divine aura, dual command and some combat drills in favor of being able to gain training benefits from a specialty he did not choose. Warchiefs would be a Cha-based chaotic variant of the class – instead of associating bonus feats with combat drills, he employs rage powers to grant to allies – who, alas, may not execute Dex and Int-based skills while the drill is active. Dual command is moved to 16th level and 8th instead yields a +4 morale bonus to Strength and +2 to Will-saves for allies affected by drills – however, no three-fold command. The archetype also gains a variant capstone…and is really cool, potent and mechanically PRECISE. The final archetype for the class would be the zealot, who is Wisdom-based and exchanges 4th and 16th level’s combat drills for channel energy, with 5th level providing Channel Smite and 16th level adding negative effects to channel smite. Meaningful, fun engine-tweak – and once again, precise and well-made.
The Conduit gets a full-blown alternate class version, the siphon, who, instead of absorbing magic, basically acts as an absorbing battery for psionics. As a minor complaint here – last time I checked, there was no psionic damage type. The rays they can fire from absorbed energy increase their ranges, with higher levels providing means to expend siphoned power points to activate unique talents – Pretty cool: These get unique displays, enhancing the flavor component here. I am, as a whole, pretty excited by this variant – and in a really cool twist, 10th level provides an important choice that radically alters how the class plays – either the base engine is retained, or the class changes how it works by gaining access to the option to absorb latent energy of nearby psionics – as a whole, an impressive variant that includes proper rules-language for interaction with psionic items etc. There are some minor hiccups on an editing point, with e.g. “longer” missing from “no ages or requires sleep…”
Metamorphs get a variety of new evolutions that include integrated blasters for construct phenotypes, blood drain, energy drain, jinxs, gliding, powerful leaps, with e.g. jinx building on exceptional luck. An upgrade for sores should imho have a cool-down or cap to prevent the spamming of poisonous spores. Nice, on the other hand – some Technology Guide support here! A new feat lets you expend vitality surges to temporarily gain an evolution worth 1 point per 5 levels (should probably be metamorph levels). The Bionicist archetype would btw. be the dedicated Technology Guide option for the class. The blob is cooler – an ooze metamorph, who gains basically fortification-style abilities and the higher level option to spawn oozelings – basically damaging terrain that can, at higher levels, be used for short-range teleportation. Doopelmorphs would be, in case you were wondering, metamorphs that focus on doppelganger-style human impersonation. Ever-changing metamorphs may change their forms daily, but has less evolution points. Necromorphs replace vitality surge with the option to gain a temporary hit point pool in addition to other temporary hit points, explicitly stacking – this is extremely cheesable, effectively doubling your hit points. While the temporary hit points are not tied to damage, but to positive hit points reduced, this only means you’ll need more kittens to suck dry when recharging your shield…and the temp hit point maximum thus gained is btw. = maximum hit points. Yeah, not gonna happen in my game.
The mnemonic section begins with a bit of errata (which not in the base book?) and comes with two archetypes. The first would be the Dan Tien, who uses Int instead of Str to determine unarmed strike damage output. Instead of the signature memory theft and wipe, the class gains the option to enter into a battle trance that provides a means to increase damage and atk as well as threat range (RAW stacks with other effects, which is something I don’t tend to enjoy) – the ability does not add the benefit to crit confirmations and instead rewards multiple critical hits with stacking untyped bonuses. I’d be complaining much louder here, if the trance had no succinct cap per day. Instead of photographic reflexes, we get an ability intended to mimic other attacks, which becomes problematic with attack-like abilities, natural attacks and the like. The class also gets a thought strike-based parry, defensive roll, etc. Solid, as a whole, though it did not blow me away. The second archetype, the sensei, replaces photographic reflexes with the ability to impart copied moves to allies – the wording that the ability is basically renamed here and that the uses still are used as resource could have been a bit clearer here. When using retraining rules, the sensei can also be really quick and helpful as a kind of omni-teacher.
Mystics gets new talents, both increased ranges and advanced talents that e.g. include flame-based propulsion. The class, alas, hasn’t aged too well, with the release of the kineticist since then…The dual energy tricks available here are okay, though. The extensionist is a basic engine tweak and sports a couple of sentences, where the structure seems to be wonky. “she must decided[sic!]” and the like. The Musha-Chie archetype is a psionic mystic, basically a psychic warrior crossover, who gets to use ki as power points, among other things. Not bad, but also not the most impressive of crossover options.
The pauper class was the weakest in the original LIC, and this book does help a bit, providing three proper guiding means to determine the gain of hope and despair with concise paths. The absolver archetype can gain despair by listening to sorrow or hope when delivering motivational speeches – this is pretty roleplaying-based, but yeah. On a more annoying note: assumption of sins fails to specify whether it is powered by hope or despair. Cool: They can transfer negative conditions and later provide atonements, for example. The conduit of futures is weird, being able to share their hope and despair abilities with nearby allies. While the rules-language is okay, it could be more precise here. Mastermind paupers are despair specialists, rationalists get emotion and logic pools (though not much beyond that is done with the cool concept) and taleweavers have pretty much free control of whether to gain hope or despair…which begs to question why to use the base class in the first place.
The survivor gets new tactics to add in surprise rounds or poach some adventurer tricks. The contender archetype loses the safe passage options to ally aiding. He also gains the option to substitute a scaling damage for unarmed strikes or grapples – though the formatting here is not as it should be, sporting cosmetic deviations. The archetype may use safe passage uses to suspend a scaling array of negative conditions…and unfortunately taps into the somewhat problematic herculean adventurer abilities, while also gaining a few new tricks to choose from.
The synergist begins with an errata (again –should be in the base book) as well as two archetypes: The echo declares a member of her cast as foil and chooses success or failure, basing synergy points on the performance of that foil, with higher levels providing more foils. Instead of complementary skills, nearby ability score modifiers of allies may be used and when multiple members of the cast roll the same number for a skill check or attack roll, the echo gains a bonus – which is pretty creative! All in all, one of the more interesting archetypes herein. Vagarist casts gain bonuses when failing as a whole, penalties when succeeding as a whole, comparing total combat performance. Via schadenfreude, they may base synergy on failures of foes in a surprisingly complex, interesting engine-tweak, which also extends to vagaries and subsequent abilities – once again, a rather interesting option that changes how the class works in a meaningful manner. The umbra’s missing smoke demiplane has been reproduced herein as well.
The warloghe class gains new taboos to provide some spellcasting – I assume for the choice made to enter a binding pact, since the spellcasting option already has spell access (and the binding pact option can use it…) There is a pretty cool option to animate terrain to provide creepy distractions that can be directed and even cause damage…it has a DC sans noting for what and is “damaging (1d6 hit points)” –that is not rules-language. Similar issues extend to poltergeist hurling of objects, which fail to specify if the attack roll required is ranged or melee. 3 twisted spirits are provided: The bhuta, who gets summon nature’s ally SPs and wild shape (boring), the poltergeist, which grants thematic spell options and shadow, which is the most complex of the 3, granting a shadow companion and providing an array of pretty interesting options. The class also comes with the twisted husk archetype, who gains basically a nasty, possessed armor and slightly increased martial prowess – a rather nice archetype, as a whole, though it loses the spirit binding options.
The new warsmith designs have some cool visuals: What about making nails etc. glow red hot? Yeah, cool…but the pdf fails to clarify the action economy of the design – the ability-group does not have a default, using attacks, skill uses, etc. as reference and basis for active abilities in the original…unfortunately, not the only design suffering from this. That being said: While such hiccups annoy the heck out of me, at the same time, this gets killing folks with the shrapnel of sundered weapons (!!!), in conjunction with edifice recognition, right. Highly complex operation and it works. Even has the anti-abuse caveat. Anatomist warsmiths get sneak attack as well as some field healing style abilities and sports solid, non-magical healing. Gunsmiths replace edifice recognition and Improved Sunder with an experimental firearm and learn to modify the firearm to have a larger capacity, operate recoilless, fire rune bullets. The ironclad takes plates and connects them to his body, getting armor-rules right there. No idea what this “bashing damage” the archetype references is supposed to be, though. The new designs complement the archetype with alloyed skin, an enchantable arm that can be used as both shield and weapon at once…Runesmiths have one unbolded ability that should be bolded – it states that the archetype uses Wisdom as governing attribute. The archetype also gains runes which may be learned in lieu of designs. The runes are interesting and well-presented as a whole.
If you haven’t noticed by now – no, we do not get new demiurge options, alas.
The book does contain several options for non-LIC-classes – the armiger magus provides minor boosts via the inscription of his crest and also gets a nice arcane heraldry ability – flavorful, but I wish it did something more interesting with its idea of using the special mark that denotes the weaponry. Battle sapper rangers are pretty damn cool, gaining the ability to place satchels of explosives that have been tightly and concisely defined, representing the trope rather well. Like it! Battle Sorceror…wait. Sound familiar? Yep, the book contains the archetypes from the Prepare for War Basic Training Manual, though not all of them.
I’m not going to go through all of these in detail once more. Ironskin slayers get d4 sneak attacks, but may target creatures benefiting from concealment with sneak and they basically represent heavy armor-wearing slayers that retain some mobility. The qigong ninja is pretty self-explanatory. Sleep peddler witches are locked into dreaming as patron and get a pretty OP ability: At-will standard action sleep – which also provides healing for willing targets if they sleep long enough. Problem – this is clearly supposed to be a hex, but not designated as such – hence activation and range are opaque. Basically a better slumber hex. Yeah, not sold.
The book also provides a massive array of new feats for extra class feature uses, etc. Some are pretty strong – like Follow Through, which nets you an AoO against another foe upon missing with an attack. Meditation feats from Amora Game’s stand-alone releases have also been included here. Alas, their rules language hasn’t been cleaned up.
The last chapter is devoted to prestige classes, collecting several previously released options like the beast hunter, breaker, centurion, meta adept, tavern brawler, toxicologist. There are new 10-level PrCs herein, but considering the epic length this review already sports, I’ll be pretty brief
The forged is basically a construct-apotheosis guy. He is decent, though e.g. “bashing” damage and similar hiccups can be found – and I’ve seen this done before in a variety of more flexible ways. Ki Scions are pretty solid elemental monks. Long Gunners can be utterly OP, treating their sniper shots as an automatic critical threat. It also scales up critical multiplier insanely high – x6 at level 10. OP and ridiculous damage-escalation. Finally, the wild shot is basically a pistol specialist. The section also suffers from more editing glitches and instances of improper declinations and the like.
Editing and formatting are the issues of this book, at least in significant sections. As the work of many authors, the different skill-levels and rules-language precision of the authors become very much evident when reading this book. There are some aspects, where highly complex abilities work precisely and to the point…and then, something simple is botched. This may also be due to inconsistent rules-editing, perhaps focusing only on the complicated parts. I don’t know and I frankly haven’t seen this before. "Inconsistent" is probably the best way to describe this. There is no way past noticing that this is a serious detriment for the book. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid pieces of full-color stock art. Big minus in the comfort department – the pdf has NO BOOKMARKS. For a book of this size, that is a jarring, jarring downside.
Greg LaRose, Adam Boucher, Andrew Boucher, Brian Moran, Christie Hollie, Ismael Alvarez, Justin Ragan, Kevin Bond, Ryan Bond, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer, Sasha Hall and Wojciech Gruchala’s Liber Xpansion is a book I waited for with baited breath. In fact, one reason you haven’t seen this review sooner was that I was hoping for at least the bookmarks to be included. Or for another editing pass.
…damn. I LOVE the Liber Influxus Communis. I so wanted to love this as well. When I saw the “Ultimate Psionics Compatible”-logo on this book, my mind went BOOM! The possibilities! Tactician/battlelord-crossovers! Dread or cryptic mnemonics! Marksman battlelords! Oh, and all the untapped potential of LIC’s classes! Hybrid-y options for standard classes, expansions…there is a whole, vast world of untapped potential in these cool engines.
Some of the options in this book manage to reach these lofty expectations, providing nice, new material in the precision I wanted to see. The bad news is that the pdf doesn’t reach these levels of quality and coolness too often. While the LIC pretty much blew me away all the time, this book mostly felt like “only” a good expansion…when it worked. The inclusion of the previously-released material is nice, but I frankly wished these files had received another editing pass on both a rules- and proofing-level.
The good news here is that, generally, the material works – you won’t have to guess (often) how something is supposed to work and the adventurer class, while not perfect and with its own hiccups, can be considered to be mostly solid…but much like the gun adept and the rest of the book, it feels like…it almost got it right. This, to me, feels like a marathon, where you falter on the final stretch. As a rules-dev, I can literally see what it’d take to make this whole book be a good, perhaps even a very good offering. It is so damn close it breaks my heart. If you’re feeling up to the task, try your hand – it’s not an expensive book for the page-count, after all.
Still, this is a very flawed book…only, it’s not consistently flawed. Some parts of it are. The typos, proofing hiccups, rules-glitches, they are not persistent or constant, but they accumulate. On the other hand, we have some gems, even some innovation herein – though not even close to the extent that the LIC provided these. The whole book, ultimately, falls short of its vast promise.
…that being said, I have a responsibility to my readers and I can’t just close my eyes to the copious amounts of lack that define formal aspects of the book.
The lack of further refinement for the previously-released, compiled material, the lack of bookmarks for a book of this size, the lack of precise and unifying rules-language editing (you can’t tell me that “+ STR” in a text doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb; or that copy-replacing “bashing damage” for “bludgeoning damage” is a big deal) – there, the book falters.
This review breaks my heart. The adventurer on its own would be a 3.5 or 4-star class as is, it has all the makings of a 5-star-class if its few hiccups get cleaned up. Similarly, there are options herein worthy of 4 or 5 stars…but also a lot that simply does not live up to this level.
Do yourself a favor and get Liber Influxus Communis. It is a great, creative book full of cool, advanced classes by some of the most talented 3pp-designers. From Survivor to Demiurge, there is something for everyone, for those that prefer simple classes to those that enjoy super-complex monsters. It is inspired in all the right ways and I really cherish my print copy.
As for this book, I can’t unanimously recommend it – if you really liked the LIC and feel up to the task of doing some tinkering, you may get some cool stuff out of this…but I can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars…and frankly, I should round down. However, there are some pieces of content herein that simply do not deserve this – it is for these gems that I will round up.
This week we’re looking over Art of War: Youxia; a hybrid class of samurai and unchained monk. Right away, I have to say that this is a different set of classes than I expected to see smashed together. With a d10 hit die and decent starting gold, our opening is pretty standard for something like this, giving us a role and letting us know that this is going to be another ki based class. We’re picking up a decent skill list with 4 ranks per level (thank god it’s not 2), and the normal monk weapons along with light and medium armor.
We get a pretty standard suite of bonus feats ala the monk side of thing, as well as picking up samurai’s resolve, so at the moment it feels pretty same-y along with the standard monk unarmed strike material. I will admit I like gaining the ki pool at 2nd level, as the monk felt like a class that needed to be 3rd level to be played fully. As someone who doesn’t like parry being as limited as it is normally, I really do appreciate being able to burn ki on that. Like it’s a straight swashbuckler lift, but hey, I like it.
Sadly we get to just wholesale stealing ki powers, which hey, it works, but at the same time, it removes a lot of unique design space that could have been utilized here. A lot of space could have been saved here by saying “see unchained monk ki powers for more information.” Also slightly odd that we have to get to the bottom of page 5 before we see the class’s table.
After this, we see the same class just pulling advanced weapon training and weapon mastery feats from the fighter class, which makes this feel like more of a monk/fighter hybrid instead of monk/samurai, as only resolve was pillaged from the samurai class.
It appears that we’re also getting a new skill here, meditate, that is going to factor into future products. I can’t really judge it by that though, so I’ll talk about how it plays into this class. It basically boils down to a way to ignore some debuffs for pretty low DCs (turning nausea into staggered effectively for DC 20), basically making it a powerful defensive skill. Out of the next section, the only content that really caught my eye was the signature ki feat, something that lets you reduce the ki cost of a ki power/technique by 1, but it cannot lower it below 1, making more expensive techniques manageable.
Beyond here we see more conversation of things that have been planned for the line along with more reprinted content, this time in the way of style feats. It’s thankfully not all reprints though, actually adding in some new styles to the mix with the interesting ‘sub style’ feats for existing style feats. Vermillion has some things I don’t like (needing to know your opponent’s strength score and saying a single attack at your highest base attack bonus rather than just attack action), but I enjoy the final part of it, as well as just the concept of being able to take different paths down a style tree.
I want to like phoenix style more, but it’s just very resource intensive for too little reward. That’s an issue with cockatrice style too, as while I like where it’s going, it’s going to require fighter tier feat acquisition to use it to its fullest. Desert Scorpion is odd in that it reduces your effective size, which could have been nice if it didn’t affect your damage. The fact that you have to go through the chain to undo these penalties is not consolation enough to use them.
Southern scorpion actually bucks the trend and makes for a much more engaging combat experience with how it plays out, although I really don’t like that it gives a deflection bonus as I’d rather see that as a dodge or shield bonus. Aside from that though, it’s pretty nice, definitely something I could see myself taking. Leopard style is another that I found myself liking due to how it plays with ability damage, although the excessive saving throws needed here can get exhausting. Manticore style is also another that I like, even if it’s a pretty easy way to sicken someone. It’s definitely a cool way of making throwing weapons more interesting.
I want to like mirror style, but it seems like hell to adjudicate at a table, stealing style feats and such. It’s far more meta than I’m comfortable with myself, and while it’s not ‘bad’, it is the kind of thing that could aid in immersion breaking, as you need to ask a lot of questions while using it.
The class is easily the weakest part of this document, but it’s not terrible. It’s a hodge podge of other class’s mechanics, but the way that it’s put together certainly makes it better than the samurai. As a martial character, it will run you well enough, but no one running this class should get angry if they’re just called monk or fighter while doing it, because that’s very much what it is. Some of the style feats are what really drew my interest, which along with an okay class made for a decent experience. I really wish we’d gotten some archetypes, favored class bonuses, or just other small tweaks that would have made this class really stand out, give it a little more personality.
It really did feel as though this book is intended to be run as a part of a setting heavily incorporating style feats, and to me, that’s a cool idea. What drew me out of it though was the reprints which took up at least 1/3 of the book. I do feel like more content in the setting could help out a lot in getting across a much more vibrant picture, but as far as it stands, there was just enough to keep me out of truly embracing the idea that I can’t go higher.
Final Thoughts: 3/5
The youxia is an entirely serviceable class, but it takes no chances whatsoever, making it hard to remember in the grand scheme of pathfinder. Greg LaRose’s class is fine, but that’s as much as I could praise it, as I prefer to see more daring design choices made with hybrids rather than a smashing of two classes together. I feel like more chances could have been taken here, and in the future, I’d like to see something a good bit more unique from this author, as their creativity really showed in the concept of sub schools for style feats as well as a decent number of said said schools.
The D&D 5e-conversion of the Moe Races clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!
"When the kami placed their thumbprint unto the forehead of man, breathing life into the husks of flesh, they wept tears of sorrow. Looking upon their children playing upon the ground, rolling in the fields of grass and running alone through lush tracks of wilderness, the Kami felt the hollowness of the human heartbeat, thumping alone." This is the beginning of the legend that talks of the creation of the kemonomimi, and it is but the beginning of a rather flavorful origin-myth, which continues to provide an interesting look at the respective sub-races of kemonomimi, all of which receive their own entry.
For those among my 5e-favoring readers concerned about conversion and detail, it should be noted that the racial entries mirror those in the PHB - that is, we get ample of flavor text as well as suggestions for which class to choose. The Akaimimi (red panda) increase Wisdom by 2 and Constitution by 1, are Medium, have a normal speed and gain darkvision as well as animal affinity towards red pandas and similar beasts - all kemonomimi-subtypes receive the affinity for their respectively aligned animals, just fyi. Similarly, they all have darkvision 60 ft.
Akaimimi may cast augury as an innate spell, recharging that on a long rest, with 10th level adding 1/week divination. You can spend this augury to ask questions to perform a specific task, granting benefits equal to guidance to yourself or another when performing it. Nice one! The race may also choose Arcana, Hisory, Nature or religion to gain proficiency in.
The araiguma (raccoon) kemonomimi increase Con by 2 and Int by 1, are Medium and beyond the standard kemonomimi abilities, they gain proficiency in either thieves' tools or Slight of Hand and may determine the next source of water as if using locate object. Similarly, they may purify food by washing it in fresh water, as the ritual. Nice.
The Inumimi, the dog kemonomimi, increase Strength by 2 and Wisdom by 1 and gain proficiency in Handle Animal or Survival in addition to the usual animal affinity and darkvision. The inumimi gain advantage on saves versus curses, hexes and similar abilities that bring bad luck and extend this benefit to adjacent allies. The fox-like Kitsunemimi increase their Intelligence by 2 and their Dexterity by 1 and may choose either Insight or Perception proficiency-wise. Their unique ability beyond the basics would be cunning planner: During a short or long rest, the character can plan for a specifc situation defined as either the kitsunemimi taking a declared action to affect a designated subject or such a subject taking an action against the kitsunemimi. Upon the conditions coming into play, you can add +1d4 to a relevant roll. The ability can be changed condition-wise in a short rest if not triggered; if triggered, it requires a long rest to recharge. Pretty cool!
The Nekomimi (based on cats, in case you're Japanese is rusty) increase Dexterity by 1 and Charisma by 2 and skill-proficiency-wise may choose either Athletics or Acrobatics. They may reroll a single dice roll, with a long rest to recharge. Tanukimimi (you guessed it - based on tanuki) increase Con by 2 and Cha by 1 and choose either Stealth or Survival as proficiency. As a bonus action, they can grant themselves character level + Constitution bonus temporary hit points, with a long rest to recharge.
The ahre-based Usagimimi receive an increase of Dexterity by 2 and Wisdom yb 1 and gain proficiency of a tool of their choice and one additional language and take only half as long to learn the use of either. They can perform the Dash, Disengage, Dodge or Search actions as a bonus action. Alternatively, they may use a bonus action to attack with a weapon they made themselves. This ability recharges after a short or long rest.
Editing and formatting are generally very good, though the respective ability-headers are not italicized. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice and cute artworks for the respective Kemonomimi. With the Nekomimi as an exception, the artworks have to my knowledge not been used in pdfs apart from the other editions of this book, which is fair game. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a minor comfort detriment, though they are not required at this length.
Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose deliver a more than solid, well-made conversion of the kemonomimi to 5e here. The balance of the respective races is on par with the races of the PHB and every type of kemonomimi herein does have at least one unique trick that sets the race apart. It's also nice to see that the animal affinities for more combat related critters (dogs and cats) have obviously influenced the balancing of the respective races. As far as I'm concerned, what's in here is pretty internally consistent, with the usagimimi's pretty powerful skittish bonus action tricks making up for the relatively subdued crafting aspect of 5e in comparison to PFRPG.
In short - this is pretty much an excellent example on how to make a good conversion. Much like its PFRPG-brother, the pdf only covers the base races, though. Supplemental material cannot be found herein, we just get the nice fluff and the similarly nice races. As a whole, this is worth getting and can be considered to be a solid addition to 5e-gaming. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
This little expansion for Amora Game's Moe races clocks in at 6 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 3 pages of content, so let's take a look!
Well, for one, we begin with alternate racial traits - three universal ones would be provided; the affinity with the respective animals can be replaced with affinity with creatures of the kami subtype; similarly, another exchange allows for kemonomimi who have an easier time dealing with oni. Thirdly, low-light vision may be replaced with 60 ft. darkvision, but at the cost of being dazzled in bright lights.
Akaimimi with Wisdom scores of 11+ may replace racial skills and insightful question with 1/day SPs, namely detect psychic significance, guidance and mindlink. Replacing knowledge bonuses with +2 to Bluff and Sense Motive can also be found. Finally, insightful question can be replaced with a permanent undetectable alignment that reads them as neutral - which is strong, but pretty cool.
Araiguma can replace dowsing with better resistance versus ingested nastiness and the option to smell processed food at range as well as being able to function longer sans food. If an araiguma also replaces the racial skills, he can gain 1/day ghost sound, prestidigitation, vanish as SPs and thirdly, Escape Artist and Swim may be substituted for the usual skill bonuses.
Inumimi can similarly replace their skill bonuses with Heal and Spellcraft. Their SP-exchange-trait can net them alarm, protection from evil, resistance and thirdly, better atk, damage and SR-penetration versus oni as well as crit SR-negation complement the options presented here, but the more powerful options swallow repel misfortune.
Kitsunemimi may replace patient planner with the option to announce two actions when they ready; either may trigger the action, which is pretty cool. Their skill-exchange trait nets Diplomacy and Linguistics, the SP-trait covers 1/day mending, message and pass without trace. The nekomimi's SP-trait nets deathwatch, disrupt undead and touch of fatigue. Instead of fortune's favored, they gain concealment below 0 hit points, total concealment when dying and may 17day become incorporeal as a result to suffering a death effect. Pretty powerful - the second trait replaced forzune's favored would allow 3/day reroll of all damage dice with a spell, attack, etc. - imho, this may be a bit too strong for what it replaces.
The tanukimimi 's skill-change trait nets Appraise and UMD, with charm animal, daze and lullaby being the respective SPs for the SP-granting trait. The third alternate racial trait nets Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple in exchange for the skills, which is hefty per se...but all classes for which this would usually be powerful have at least one built-in already, so I'm still okay with this.
The Usagimimi's SP-trait nets create water, prestidigitation and unseen servant, with the skill replacement trait providing +2 to Acrobatics and Ride instead of the usual benefits. The third alternate racial trait provides Improved Sunder as a bonus feat and lets spells and abilities ignore two points of hardness - overall, a pretty powerful exchange.
The pdf's final page contains 6 new feats:
-Convoluted Plan: This allows you to draw up 3/day a complex plan with up to Int-mod triggering conditions, in complexity comparable to a readied action or contingency (not italicized in the text); when said conditions trigger, you gain + Int-mod to a selection of checks potentially associated with that action and yes, the wording gets active and reactive conditions tightly and correctly codified. Nice one.
-Heritage of a Celestial Beast: Nets at-will detect kami. When cloaked in an illusion of an animal associated with your yokai ancestor, or polymorphed into such, you are harder to disbelief and wild shapes into the corresponding form can be activated as a swift action. However, this and the next feat are mutually exclusive.
-Heritage of a Mortal Man: No longer take a penalty to Disguise to pass as human and you gain the human subtype. Not even divinations detect you as anything but human. Similarly, illusions, alter self and similar effects that transform you into a humanoid form are harder to disbelief.
-Inspiring Tenacity: When using surprising tenacity, allies that can see or hear you within 30 ft. "temporarily gain hit points" equal to half character level + Cha-mod. Per se cool, though an explicit duration would have made sense here, considering the feat's temp hit points are their own effect. Also adds +1 daily use of surprising tenacity.
-Shout at the Oni!: As a swift action, you may suppress a fear effect that would otherwise prevent you from acting properly, for a total number of daily rounds equal to Con-mod. If you have access to ki, you can spend 1 ki per round to keep activating it. Nice one.
-Eye for the Fortune's Smile: Automatically notice luck bonuses on people as well as the ability to influence luck. You recognize when a random event was hampered with by luck and may use the corresponding racial ability +1/day. Really cool and has serious narrative potential.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no truly grievous glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with nice full-color artworks from the original pdf strewn in. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.
Wojciech Gruchala delivers a fun and inexpensive expansion for the kemonomimi-races here, one that allows for the customization I wanted to see. While many of the alternate racial traits provide basically one skill and one SP-exchange trait, the SPs themselves are well-chosen and unique. Similarly, the third option usually does something fun and uncommon. The feats also are thankfully bereft of filler-material. Now, granted, I can complain about e.g. the SPs not being of the precise same strength, but I'd ultimately be stretching for something to nitpick. This is a nice, well-made and unpretentious little pdf, ultimately well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up due to the low and very fair price point. If you like the kemonomimi, then this is pretty much a no-brainer.
Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Dungeons & Dragons 5e opens some interesting options for character race by opening seven races of animal spirit touched beings for use as characters. While they certainly will not be to the taste of every player, or fit in every campaign, there are some good and useful ideas here that are worth taking a look at if animal-themed races have a place in your game world.
Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Dungeons & Dragons 5e by Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose and published by Amora Game presents the seven new subraces of the Kemononmimi, animal spirits given human form to aid humanity. The layout is clear with color artwork illustration for each of the different type of Kemononmimi.
Simply put the Kemononmimi are animal spirits that were given human form to aid, guide and protect humanity. For example, the Inumimi (dog spirits) were tasked as guardians and the Akaimimi (red panda spirits) are to help humankind in its spiritual and meditative journey. They all share darkvision, an affinity for the animals their spirits reflect but otherwise have statistic and skill bonuses to reflect their personalities and assigned role. It seems to me that the universal traits could have been placed at the beginning of the descriptions rather than fully repeated for each but that is a minor layout issue.
For the right campaign niche, they could be quite interesting to encounter in game and the animal-person vibe will appeal to some players. Though some DM guideline on divination might not have been a bad call as the Akaimimi gain supernatural insight in the form of the Augury spell once a day, and if you give a player character a free use of Augury each day, they are going to use it. The other spirits all have their own themes as well with the effect that there is a subrace of the Kemononmimi here for most player styles.
If this product has a weakness is that it is only the Kemononmimi, no backgrounds or other support material is provided to allow for quick, thematic character generation.
Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages, so let's take a look!
"When the kami placed their thumbprint unto the forehead of man, bretahing life into the husks of flesh, they wept tears of sorrow. Looking upon their children playing upon the ground, rolling in the fields of grass and running alone through lush tracks of wilderness, the Kami felt the hollowness of the human heartbeat, thumping alone." This is the beginning of the legend that talks of the creation of the kemonomimi, and it is but the beginning of a rather flavorful origin-myth, which is subsequently enhanced via age, height and weight tables before diving into the respective races.
Each of the racial write-ups comes with information on physical descriptions of the races, their society, relations, alignment and religion and adventurers as well as with, obviously, racial traits. However, beyond these, neither favored class options nor racial feats or traits are provided, making the depiction in each case rather minimalistic. On an aesthetically positive note, each of the races does come with one or two original piece of full-color artwork (exceptions: Fox and Tanuki-based races...but then again, for the former, Everyman Gaming's numerous Kitsune-artworks should do the trick). All of the races share the kemonomimi subtype and are humanoids, in case you were wondering.
The red panda-based Akaimimi get +2 Con and Wis, low-light vision, +2 racial bonus to Knowledge checks, +4 to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy-checks made to influence red pandas and similar creatures and 1/day augury as a SP (on a nitpicky aside: Not properly italicized). Interesting: The SP can be cast by akaimimi with ki pool (also not italicized, but then, italicizing ki never made sense to me) additional times by expending ki. At 10th level, they also unlock 1/week divination.
The raccoon-based Araiguma get +2 Con and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Sleight of Hand, the same Handle Animal/wild empathy-bonus to influence raccoon-ish creatures and they can use dowsing to lead them to fresh water; By washing food (but not water), they can purify it...which is pretty clever and cool as an idea!
Inumimi, based on dogs, gain +2 Str and Wis, low-light vision, Handle Animal/wild empathy affinity with canine creatures, +2 to Handle Animals and Survival and they are resilient against curses, gaining a +2 bonus to saves against them. This bonus extends to adjacent allies, though multiple such bonuses do not stack. Nice one!
Kitsunemimi, obviously based on foxes, get +2 Dex and Int, low-light vision, +2 to Perception and Sense Motive, fox affinity and a +1 bonus whenever they take 10, +2 when they take 20. Again, a unique racial ability. Basically, think of these guys as more down-to-earth fox folk that work well in campaigns where kitsune are a bit too much.
Nekomimi, based on cats, gain +2 Dex and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Climb and Perception, cat affinity and may reroll a single die roll 1/day, thanks to their luck. Nice variant of the catfolk trope!
The tanukimimi, based on the tanuki, gain +2 Con and Cha, low-light vision, +2 to Survival and Stealth, tanuki affinity and can gain, 1/day as a swift action, temporary hit points equal to their character level + Constitution bonus (EDIT: The author has contacted me and told me that the pdf's "bonus" is indeed intended here instead of the more common "modifier" - which is pretty rare, but not unknown. So, negative Con-mod is not applied here. Just fyi!) - these last for 1 hour. Neat one!
Finally, the Usagimimi, the harefolk, gain +2 Dex and Wis, low-light vision, +2 to Craft and Profession checks, hare affinity and they gain +1 to atk and skill checks (not rolls) with weapons, tools and vehicles they crafted as well as +1 CL when using scrolls and potions they made. They also reduce the armor check penalty of armors they crafted by 1 and increase the earnings of Perform and Profession by 10%.
Editing and formatting are very good. On a formal level, there is nothing grievous to complain, and while on the rules-level there are very minor deviations from the standard rules-language, these do, in no way compromise the integrity of the rules. Layout adheres to a full-color two-column standard with colored petal-like elements at the corners and, as mentioned before, a surprising amount of nice, full-color artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks, but does not need them at this length.
Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose's kemonomimi races were a surprise for me. You know, I'm not the biggest fan of anthro races and I've seen quite a lot of them. Most of the time, or at least often enough, they either are lopsided, studded with "OMG, look how KEWL my athro is11!!"-arrays of abilities or the like.
This book is not like that. There is the old design adage of KISS - and this pdf very much is the application of it. The fluff is neat; the races, however, manage an interesting feat: They aren't boring. They are not jam-packed with skill-bonuses to x or z, instead, much like the fluff around them, exhibiting a Zen-like design-aesthetic. It simply does not take much to many abilities to make a unique race, just one good and unique one - and (almost) each of these has just that. Where many races I see are cobbled together from the pieces of the ARG, these guys all have their own, distinct trick that sets them apart and makes sense within the context of their respective fluff.
Suffice to say, I'd allow each of these races in any of my games; even in CORE-only games, these guys will not unhinge the game's balance...and they still feel distinct as races. I really like this racial design philosophy. To make this abundantly clear - in spite of not being too into the subject matter, I found myself intrigued and wanted to know more about these folks. Which brings me to the one detriment of this book - its brevity. The lack of favored class options, race traits, alternate racial traits and the like is the one downside of this very economically-priced supplement. It should also be considered to be the only reason this does not score higher than it does. The races per se are neat indeed and warrant a final verdict of 4 stars.
This pdf clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let's take a look!
After a page of introduction to the subject matter, we are introduced to the first of the base classes in this book, the aether blade, who gets d10 HD, 2+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, aether blade, light armor and bucklers. The class has good Fort- and Will-saves and full BAB-progression. At 1st level, the class gets its defining aether weapon and chooses the shape, which is retained forever after - either light (1d6 base damage), one-handed (1d8 base damage) or two-handed (2d6 base damage) - the blade can be formed as a move action. Aether blades may choose damage type (piercing, slashing, bludgeoning) when they call forth the blade. There is something odd in the rules-language for changing damage-types: "The aether blade can change the damage type of an existing blade, or may summon a new blade with a different damage type, as a full-round action."
The problem here is twofold: One, the ability fails to its own nomenclature: aether blade = class; aether weapon = class feature. The text should refer to the weapon. Secondly, after relinquishing the grip or throwing the blade, it dissipates. Letting go of an item is...bingo, free action. So, drop weapon, call new one = move action. Why would I EVER spend a full-round action? It would make sense if the choice of damage type upon calling wasn't free every time around, but this way, action economy makes no sense. The aether weapon can be sustained within antimagic fields by succeeding Will-saves, which is a nice catch. 1st level also nets Arcane Strike, which treats aether blade levels as caster levels. The aether blade also receives Cha-mod to AC and applies said bonus to neither touch, not flat-footed AC. The aether blade loses the bonus when wearing armor heavier than light, medium or heavier load and when cowering/helpless, etc. At 6th level, the bonus does apply to touch AC, with 14th level applying it to CMD and flat-footed AC as well..
Starting at 2nd level, the aether blade gets the aetheric aura class feature, which allows the aether blade to use a standard action to disperse parts of her blade in a 20 ft- radius, granting a +1 morale bonus to all allies within the area, depending on the aura used. The bonus increases by +1 at 7th level, 13th level and 18th level. Auras can be maintained for 4 + Cha-mod rounds per day, +2 round per additional class level. One aura can be maintained at 2nd level, with 11th and 19th level allowing for +1 aura in effect at any given time. 6th level modifies the action economy to activate down to a move action, 11th down to a swift action. New auras are gained every 4 levels after the 2nd. The auras allow for the application of the bonus to initiative, concentration, melee damage rolls, CMD, Cl-checks, 5 times bonus energy resistance to an element chosen upon activation, saves vs fear effects, atk or CMB. As you can glean, the bonuses range from very universal to very specific - bonus versus fear don't seem to be on par with the others, for example.
The aether blade also uses Cha instead of Int-mod for Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft - oddly, this one is gained at 2nd level, which is rather odd, considering that it can mean, theoretically, that the class has higher capability in the skills at 1st level than 2nd - usually, such abilities make more sense at 1st level. Additionally, the ability does not specify the level it's gained at - you have to consult the table. Cosmetic, yes, but still a tad bit annoying. 3rd level unlocks aura vision - class level rounds of detect magic that immediately provide full 3-round infos. I'm not a fan of this one, but, beyond personal preference, it is SU (when it should probably be SP) and lacks the activation action. 3rd level also nets eldritch symbiosis, which can be likened to a kind of linear order or bloodline-ish ability, three of which are provided: Wand, staff and rod. New abilities are unlocked at 3rd (apprentice), 9th (journeyman) and 17th level (master). In order to activate the abilities granted by this class feature, the aether blade has to be formed around the respective item. The respective item can then be used by the aether blade as though she was a wizard equal to her class level. However, while this symbiosis is in effect, the aether weapon cannot be used as such - it has basically been transformed in the respective item. Each of the paths provide a bonus feat at apprentice level and more complex abilities at higher levels, with journeyman generally providing passive abilities. The master abilities diverge wildly - from expending charges to temporarily enhance aether weapon damage output, adding defending to Cha-mod short-range teleports, the abilities are diverse, though the latter fails to specify CL or whether it's SP or not...which it probably should be.
4th level provides the option to absorb and freely distribute bonuses of magic items, which is pretty OP - even similar godblade classes like the soulknife or ethermagus directly specify the enhancements available. 4th level and every 4 levels thereafter provide exactly one spell of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th level respectively that can be cast 1/day, with each step of the ability increasing the daily uses of the previously chosen SPs by +1/day, with Cha acting as governing attribute, just fyi. 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter net +1 to saves versus SPs and arcane spells and, as a capstone, the aether blade gets SR equal to 20 + Cha-mod, with the option to spell turn spells that fail to penetrate the SR as an immediate action. Additionally, the class can now cast an SP as a free action after confirming a crit.
The archetype provided for the class, the aether knight, is proficient with medium and heavy armor and shields, replacing aetheric armor and its follow-ups....and the regular list of proficiencies. Which is problematic, as RAW, it eliminates light armor and all weapon proficiencies of the class. Instead of an aether weapon, they can call forth an aetheric shield, with eldritch symbiosis being replaced with an appropriate, defensive version that applies to magical armor. Once again, a SP is not properly declared as such, but that's mostly a nitpick. Instead of spells, these guys can grant themselves scaling bonuses to physical attributes or natural AC.
The second class would be the Shadow Blade, who gets d10, 4+Int skills, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors as well as full BAB-progression and good Fort- and Ref-saves. They begin play with Improved Feint and unexpected strike, which is basically sneak attack that only applies when a foe is denied his Dex-mod, not when flanking, with die-increases only at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Starting at 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the class may decrease armor check penalties by increasing amounts. 2nd level also provides Steel Shadows, a shield bonus to AC that increases over the levels - but the ability does not mention the scaling here; you have to take a look at the table, which is slightly inconvenient. This may also be due to the irregular scaling of the bonus: The bonus increases to +2 at 7th level, +3 at 11th level and then to +4 at 17th level.
3rd levels beshadowed blade nets +1/2 class level to feint, but only for one weapon...and the ability lacks an activation action. The same level also nets darkvision, which increases in range and may later penetrate magical darkness...and the ability has no interaction-clause for races that already have it. 4th level can be unintentionally OP: The intent for the ability is to eliminate movement rate reductions caused by armor, which is okay. The ability says, though: "While wearing shrouded armor, the shadow blade does not suffer from a reduction in speed." This can be read as eliminating reductions of the movement rate due to encumbrance, caltrops, difficult terrain, etc. due to not directly referring to the armor. While its twin ability makes the intent clear, this still needs polishing. Twin ability? Yup, twilight tread allows for a limited number of rounds of difficult terrain traversal per day, thankfully sans abuse options re damaging terrain. 5th level provides an SU dimension door-like low-range standard action-based (move at 10th, swift at 15th level) shadow jump that does not specify that it's a conjuration [teleportation]-effect or a caster level for purpose of block-interactions.
At 7th level and every 4 levels thereafter, the shadow blade may choose a dark revelation, which basically constitute the unique maneuvers/tricks of the class. And generally, I like them...using shadow jumping distance as resources to flank with oneself (though the nerfed pseudo-sneak takes away some appeal here) is nice - though the very conservative distances available do mean that you won't pull off this trick often anyways. On the plus-side, SPs are properly designated here. At 8th level and every 4 thereafter, the shadow blade also gets a shrouded secret, which basically would be the defensive/stealth-themed tricks. The capstone allows the class to choose one of three effects - form large-area darkness through which allies can see, DR 10, low-light vision (srsly, at 20th level?) and immunity to cold or heavy fortification in the shrouded armor.
The umbral prowler archetype would be basically a rogue/shadow blade blend, with trapfinding, increasing movement rate, scaling dodge-bonus to AC as well as access to thievery-enhancing dark revelations and 6+Int skills.
The third class, the verdant blade gets d10 HD, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields, full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Ref-saves as well as Wisdom-based spellcasting up to 4th spell level, drawn from the druid spell-list, with the usual -3 level caveat, since spellcasting is learned at 4th level. Oddly, the class must be non-evil. The class gains a woad weapon of his choice, with composite bows adjusting to the Strength score of the character...which is problematic at low levels, considering how expensive these can get. The weapon usually is a kinda-symbiotic seed and can be drawn as though it was a normal weapon. At 5th level, Str-scores of composite bow forms can be upgraded and the verdant blade is considered to have Craft Magic Arms and Armor for purposes of woad weapon enhancement. Unfortunately, this provides no means to offset spell-requirements for crafting. The weapon naturally regenerates hit points. The verdant blade can implant seeds in foes; the effects last for 3 + Wis-mod rounds, can be used 1/2 class level + Wis-mod times per day and has a scaling save, with the precise save-type being determined by the seed discovery chosen. Continuous damage, entangling foes and debuffs can be found here, with the first such seed being available from level 1 onward and subsequently, gaining +1 such seed discovery every 4 levels thereafter. They vary greatly in power with low-level summon swarm being pretty OP in comparison to -2 to Will saves. +1/2 class level to Knowledge (nature) and Survival is also part of the starting ability array. AT 10th level, two seeds can be implanted at a given time and the maximum limit of seeds per target increases to 2.
At 2nd level, the class can scavenge together tools (nice!) a, with 4th level making wooden items like this tougher and treated as magic. He also gains woodland stride. 3rd level nets +1 natural armor; +1 every 4 levels thereafter as well as trackless step. 4th level provides the option to 3+ Wis-mod times create patches of caltrop-y terrain as a move action. 6th level provides a mantle that first grants concealment vs. ranged attacks, 12th extends this to melee and 18th grants fly speed 30 ft. + good maneuverability, all activated as a swift action and usable for class level + Wis-mod rounds. 8th level makes the blade count as cold iron and 14th level provides breath of life as a 1/day SP with damn cool visuals, as the verdant blade jump-starts fallen comrades by plunging his sword in their breast. 16th level allows for making treant allies and 50% provides basically a 50% fortification apotheosis complete with only 1 hour of sleep required and the option to gain sustenance from air and sun, etc.
The class can pursue the verdant florist archetype, who may grow and apply aromatic flowers on the woad weapon as a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity to adjacent, willing allies. These provide morale bonuses to skill or ability checks or saves, with the bonus increasing by +1 at 9th and 17th level and the effect remaining for class level rounds. A total of 16 blossoms are provided. Starting at 5th level, two flowers can be combined into one bouquet and at 13th level, 3 effects can be chosen at once, though each blossom still consumes a use of the ability, with a total of 1/2 class level + Wis-mod daily uses. A flower is chosen instead of seeds and generally, this is the buff equivalent of the debuff-heavy class. On a nitpicky side, the mention of the flower sticking to the character as a kind of corsage implies it occupying a slot, which I assume it does not.
The final class herein would be the Vital Blade, who gains d10 HD, 2+ Int skills per level, is proficient with simple and martial weapons as well as all armors and shields except tower shields as well as full BAB-progression, good Fort- and Will-saves. Vital blades have a sangineous sword and begin play with Weapon Focus for it. This sword can, as a move action (swift at 8th, 16th level as a free action), be formed from a wound-like rune. Oddly, the ability can form any melee weapon the character is proficient with, making the name of the ability somewhat unfortunate. The vital blade begins play with a blood pool of 1 + Con mod points and is considered to have the Diehard feat while the pool sports at least 1 point. The pool refreshes via critical hits and killing blows - and BOTH have an anti-kitten-abuse caveat! NICE! 2nd level nets Endurance as a bonus feat as well as weeping weapon - as a swift action before making an attack, the vital blade can add scaling acid damage 3+ Con-mod times per day to his blade, with damage beginning at +1d4 and increasing by +1d4 every 4 levels thereafter.
3rd level decreases any bleed damage incurred by 1/2 class level. as well as granting the first blood talent, which is btw. the ability that will generally be used to consume those blood points. Additional blood talents are gained every 2 levels thereafter. Tracking by scent after tasting a foe's blood, gaining Con-mod to initiative, firing shrapnel of blood (consuming weeping wounds instead of blood points) - the ideas are solid. Problematic, considering the clusterf*** that weapon-size-rules are: Increasing the size of the vital blade...can the vital blade still wield the weapon as its original size or as the modified size? Passive abilities like natural armor and DR can also be chosen and AoO-less SP grease via blood as well as weeping wound enhancers are included in the deal. Creatures slain temporarily increase the enhancement bonus of the vital blade, with the daily maximum being determined by the class levels of the vital blade.
At higher levels, the sanguineous sword is treated as magic and can be used to attack as a touch attack a limited amount of times per day. The class has two capstones, one of which allows for self-healing and Con-damage inflicting, with the other providing immunities and a slowly replenishing blood pool. The archetype for the class is the crimson inheritor, who loses heavy armor proficiency and gains a sorceror (not bloodrager?) bloodline to replace his blood talents with - though only the arcanas are gained. Bonus feats from the bloodline can be taken instead of blood talents. At 6th level, 1/2 crimson inheritor level is treated as sorceror level for purpose of bloodline spell availability, with the spells costing their spell level in blood points to cast. As a capstone, the archetype provides the final bloodline power.
The pdf provides favored class options for the classes, but only for the core races. Finally, the pdf provides 5 new feats: One for +1 morale bonus for verdant florist flowers, +1 blood talents. The others are problematic: Applying lesser metamagic rods to SPs...ouch. That's just begging to be combo'd some way. Arcane Celerity and Bulwark are very strong: Both can be activated as a swift action. The first nets you 1/2 caster level + casting ability modifier temporary hit points, providing a constant shield. The second nets you 1/2 class level as bonus to you base land speed, and a bonus to AC vs AoOs equal to your highest mental attribute modifier. Both effects only last one round, sure, but the lack of cap makes them pretty strong. That being said, my main gripe with them is that both only require you to be able to cast arcane spells - that's it. As 1st level-available feats, they are underpriced.
Editing and formatting are very good - it noticed no formal glitches and the rules-languages was also, with some minor hiccups, very consistent and adhered to the standards. Well done! Layout adheres to a two-column full-color used-parchment-style look that is solid, though personally, I think the respective class names would have made good headers - as provided, these are jammed in the upper left corner. Speaking of which: This is a very dense pdf with a LOT of crunch within its pages. The pdf comes fully bookmarked. Artist-wise, the pdf sports nice full-color artworks, though ardent readers of 3pp material will be familiar with the pieces used.
Brian Moran's Bevy of Blades is an interesting pdf in that it shows a capacity to handle pretty complex concepts. While there are a couple of freshman hiccups in the book, the classes themselves should not unhinge any game they're introduced into, so balance-wise, at least as a whole, I have no complaints apart from the two feats. Internally, the options of the classes diverge in power rather significantly, with clearly superior options and less optimal choices. Some internal streamlining may have helped here. The book, when it does have issues, mostly has them in the tiniest of rules-minutiae or on a meta-design level. Take the vital blade, which, with the verdant blade, would be my favorite herein: It gets this cool, somewhat grit-like blood pool...and must wait until 3rd level to actually do ANYTHING with it. That's not a particularly fulfilling two levels there. Player agenda, in short, could be slightly more pronounced in all of the classes. Internal nomenclature of the classes could also have been a bit tighter.
As for my personal assessment: The aether blade didn't particularly excite me with its pseudo-casting - you can have that concept in several, more compelling ways. The shadow blade...just isn't on par with superior takes on the concepts - of which there are many. The verdant blade and vital blade generally have cool engines set up in their class progression and as such, I enjoyed both - however, I really wished the classes did a bit more with their unique set-ups, focused a bit more on these aspects. In the end, whether you will like this book very much depends on how much 3pp-material you have and how much money you're willing to invest. Compared to e.g. the soulknife or the ethermagus, the aether blade just feels bland in options and playstyle. Similarly, there are more compelling shadow-themed classes. At the same time, you will be very hard-pressed to get said classes for the low asking price of this pdf and both verdant and vital blade, while not perfect, do have some pretty cool options. I look forward to seeing the designer tackle more complex and variable concepts. In the end, I consider this a solid buy for its low and fair asking price. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.
Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Pathfinder opens some interesting thematic options for character race. While they certainly will not be to the taste of every player, or fit in every campaign, there are some fun and interesting ideas here that are worth taking a look at if animal-themed races have a place in your game world.
Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Pathfinder by Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose and published by Amora Game presents the seven new subraces of the Kemononmimi, animal spirits given human form to aid humanity. The layout is clear with color artwork illustration for each of the different type of Kemononmimi.
Simply put the Kemononmimi are animal spirits that were given human form to aid, guide and protect humanity. For example, the Inumimi (dog spirits) were tasked as guardians and the Akaimimi (red panda spirits) are to help humankind in its spiritual and meditative journey. They all share low-light vision and an affinity for the animals their spirits reflect but otherwise have statistic and skill bonuses to reflect their personalities and assigned role.
For the right campaign niche, they could be quite interesting to encounter in game and the animal-person vibe will appeal to some players. Some of the particular abilities are quite interesting the Akaimimi gain supernatural insight, the Araiguma (raccoon spirits) can dowse for water and purify food by washing it in clean water while the Usagimimi (hare spirits) have a creative craftsman ability reflecting their roles as builders that encourage in game crafting. So, there is a subrace of the Kemononmimi here for most player styles.
The products only weakness is that it is just the subraces, no traits, feats, or other support material is provided to really flesh them out and give them focused, thematic options.
Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Anyone Remember the Pathfinder Player Companion? Inside was a new feat type for Monks. I don't know about anyone else but for me those were terrible. Meditation feats, the feats in question, could be taken in place of monk bonus feats and represented getting bonuses for meditating. The entry feat gave you a one time +1 bonus to a roll if you meditate for one hour after 8 hours of rest. From there you can take more feats that give you different effects for the day that can be quite good or just offer another minor bonus. Then there's Combat Meditation which lets you meditate for a full round to gain instant benefits from other feats often with their own limits. I thought this was a neat mechanic but not much about it appealed to me because there weren't that many of them and there wasn't a real way to build around them. Plus I saw Combat Meditation and Meditation Master as pretty steep feat taxes for the kind of bonuses along the line.
Luckily Amora Games has release more meditation feats to let this new little subsystem play out, which is a great thing. The list of feats for monk bonus feats has always been awkward to me and meditation feats feel like a flavorful substitute that should have been a mainstay in the class rather than a small blip in a Player Companion. Potentially as big as style feats.
In Meditations of the Jade the feats are honestly not that exciting, at least in terms of combat effectiveness. There are a few that get cool and interesting, like the ability to spit poison, making a shadow double once a day, using dimension door, or detecting magic and invisibility, but others feel like they're more in there for flavor, like being able to switch styles in mid combat by using a swift action. I would say that half of them are nice to have or do something mildly exciting while the other half I wouldn't ever take considering that Meditation Master is already kind of a feat tax. This being a small book its hard to really judge because a few good ones can make the product good enough for most purposes and the low price tag doesn't hurt. I would warn customers not to get TOO excited but if you like the idea of monks getting a bit of divination and a bit of teleportation then this is a solid 4 out of 5 stars once you ignore the stinkers.