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The Nyctomancer's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/25/2018 02:06:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

Okay, as always, we begin with a nice piece of prose before we get a summary of how to use this expansion for the Dark sphere – perhaps one of the “less sexy” spheres and one of the more difficult to write and expand upon, so how this fares is rather interesting to me.

The first chapter starts off with the new archetypes, the first of which would be the darkshaper, who gets a modified skill list, 4 + Int skills per level and proficiency in both simple weapons and light armor. The archetype uses Charisma as governing casting ability modifier. The archetype is primarily defined by the shadow limb ability, which replaces bound equipment, summon armor and bind staff. What does it do? As a move action, the darkshaper may animate his shadow as an extra limb. This limb has a 5 ft.-reach and a primary natural attack that inflicts 1d4 piercing and slashing damage (1d3 for Small darkshapers – minor complaints: “Small” not capitalized; dual damage types can be a bit wonky in interaction – that aspect would have been more elegant with options to switch. The darkshaper employs Charisma instead of Strength for atk and damage with the limb as well as on CMB checks. At 15th level, activation can be alternatively done as a swift action, and at 20th level, the darkshaper may do so as a free action.

The limb may be used for delicate manipulations and can wield weaponry, activate spell completion/trigger items etc., but not wear armor. At 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter, the shadow’s reach increases by +5 ft. Dismissing the shadow limb is a free action and it gains a +1 enhancement bonus at every odd armorist level beyond 1st. Kudos: +5 limit remains intact and the wording covers special weapon ability gains properly, noting which ones wouldn’t work. The darkshaper may manifest an additional shadow limb at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter and multiple shadow limbs may be manifested with the same action. The limbs all share their enhancement bonuses and qualities, thankfully, for the qualities may be changed each time the limbs are manifested. Additionally, this counts as Animated Shadow for the purposes of prerequisites and simultaneous use is not possible. Additionally, a darkshaper that hits a target with a shadow limb attack may use a swift action to cast a (shadow) talent at the usual spell point cost on the target.

All in all, an interesting archetype with cool visuals – enjoyed it! Next up would be the invidian symbiat, who gains both the Mind and Dark sphere as bonus talents at first level, replacing mental powers. The archetype also begins play with Step Through Darkness as a bonus talent, being constantly under its effects sans requiring spell points to activate it. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter increase the range of the talent by +10 ft..

Unlike regular symbiats, these folks draw from their inner demons to generate effects, replacing the symbiat’s psionics, but counting as such. This ability would be the blackened psyche, and its save DCs are governed by Intelligence. The abilities include 60 ft.-range concealment for one round as an immediate action, with the miss chance scaling. 6th level nets the ability to render targets within 60 ft. flat-footed, as they jump at shadows, with 9th level and every 3 levels thereafter yielding an additional target; instead of an additional target, this effect may instead be applied to additional attacks versus the target…your rogue buddy will love you for it. This one replaces telekinetic edge. At 11th level, targets within 60 ft. become shaken on a failed save, replacing psionic fortress. 16th level provides a brutal debuff, allowing the invidian to render targets briefly staggered as well as getting -6 to Str and Dex.

The shifter class is next, with the Nocturnal Predator, who begins play with both the Alteration and Dark spheres as bonus talents, but at the cost of the Photophobic Casting and Lycanthropic drawbacks. As usual, if you have a sphere already, you do not gain the drawbacks. The drawbacks are each linked to one of the spheres. Within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may employ the Alteration sphere’s shapeshift to herself as a move action, and maintaining it only requires a move action to maintain concentration while in areas of dim light or less. This replaces and counts as quick transformation. The archetype also receives +1/2 class level to Stealth as well as Nightvision and a bonus Bestial trait. 10th level unlocks using Stealth while observed. Also at this level, while near/within an area of dim light or less, the archetype may hide sans cover or concealment. Kudos: Own shadow does not qualify. Nice catch! This replaces wild empathy, steal language, boundless communication and endless communication. 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter provide sneak attack, but only with natural attacks, replacing enhance and enhanced physicality.

Next up would be an archetype for the unchained monk, namely the shadow boxer, who gains a slightly modified class skill list and uses Charisma as governing attribute for monk abilities instead of Wisdom. The shadow boxer’s shadow has a reach of 5 ft. an may be assumed and dismissed as a free action, functioning as a means to deliver attacks and touch attacks and modify, analogue to the darkshaper, complex tasks. They do lose stunning fist and fast movement for this. It should be mentioned that the shadow’s attacks count as unarmed strikes for the purpose of monk damage scaling and use in conjunction with flurry. The shadow does not grant extra attacks or additional magic item slots. Instead of the 1st and 2nd level bonus feats, the archetype gains Basic Magical Training, but is locked into the Dark sphere. Extra Magical Talent is treated as an eligible monk bonus feat for the archetype. Instead of using spell points, the modified dark ki points are used to pay for point costs and talents from the Dark sphere may be used instead of ki powers. The pool is btw. also governed by Charisma. Nice one.

The skulk fey adept replaces fey magic with the Dark sphere as a bonus magic talent. A Dark sphere talent not maintained through concentration (or one that no longer is maintained) retains in effect for ½ class level rounds before disappearing. This replaces master illusionist. Instead of create reality, 6th level yields siphon shadow. The skulk may use the fey adept’s shadow point reserve to attempt to siphon away a creature’s shadow as a melee touch attach. On a success, the target must succeed a Will-save to avoid having the shadow stolen. The skulk gains 1 temporary spell point for every 2 dice (should be plural in the book) of shadowmark damage when successfully stealing a shadow. These do not stack with others or other points gained by this ability and only last for 1 round per caster level. Oh, and the skulk may NOT gain more spell points than the target has HD! Elegant caveat that prevents exploits by tormenting bags full of kittens. Kudos! A target whose shadow is stolen is immune against effects that manipulate the shadow. Items hidden in e.g. shadow stash remain inaccessible while a shadow is stolen. A single target can only be subjected to the ability once in 24 hours. But wait, you can still abuse this via summons etc., right? WRONG! Thankfully, the ability has another caveat that prevents abuse versus 0-Int or summoned creatures. Impressive!!

When a skulk has stolen shadow, she gains insight into the target’s available spells, SPs and talents and may spend a shadow point to temporarily duplicate a sphere and a number of talents possessed by the target. The number is governed by level: 1 talent at 6th, +1 every 4 levels thereafter. These arcane forgeries remain for caster level rounds and must be paid for with the skulk’s spell points. Alternatively, instead of a talent, a single-use SP or spell may be chosen; once more, the complex rules-language holds fast. Kudos: No material component or focus cheesing. 20th level lets the skulk ignore advanced talent prerequisites of arcane forgery’d talents and copy a second sphere. This archetype is AMAZING. It entwines the base class options in a complex, well-constructed manner with the archetype AND manages to get a truly complex, massive rules-operation done right. Well done!!

The talent thief would be an archetype for the unchained rogue. The archetype nets a modified skill-list. Instead of rogues’ edge, talent thieves are Low Casters using Intelligence as casting modifiers, with a spell pool equal to class level + casting ability modifier, min 1. They may select magic talents from the Dark sphere instead of a rogue talent. Minor complaint: While evident from the context, the archetype should probably be locked into the Dark sphere. At 4th level, debilitating injury is replaced with shadow theft. Critical hit confirmations with melee attacks that qualify for sneak attack damage get the option to forego all sneak attack damage to gain temporary spell points for each sneak attack die foregone. The limitations of shadow theft noted above apply here as well, though willing targets may have their shadow stolen sans damage. Weird: The ability mentions that such targets don’t get an AoO…but RAW, the ability does not trigger an AoO…looks like some sort of hiccup. 10th level provides basically another variant of the aforementioned temporary talent stealing, though this time around, number is tied to sneak attack damage dice forgone. Beyond that modification, the archetype may also steal feats, though prerequisites still have to be met.

The void gazer thaumaturge begins play with Dark sphere and the clouded vision oracle curse, with class levels as oracle levels for the purpose of determining effects, with other classes counting as 172 level. Maximum vision increase beyond the curse is expressly prohibited. As part of the action of activating a spell or sphere, the CL can be increased by 2, +1 at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter; however, there is a chance of 15% to suffer occult backlash. When this occurs, vision, including e.g. blindsense/sight is reduced to 5 ft until the character rests to regain spell points. Occulted vision in conjunction with the Dark sphere and its talents only has a 5% chance of backlash. Honestly…I consider the CL-increase, in spite of the potentially brutal penalty, to be overkill. That’s up to +6 at 17th level! Halving these would still make for a powerful option, The void gazer only gains ½ casting ability modifier uses of invocations per day, but may choose to suffer occulted vision’s backlash for an additional use of eldritch invocations. The new invocations available to the class allow for the addition of confusion for a round, adding the Stygian Immersion meld to one target (3rd level), all targets in range at 11th level; at 7th level, when suffering backlash, he can blind a nearby target temporarily; 15th level adds confusion to those within a blot or darkness as a result of Stygian Immersion. It should be noted that these invocations and their mechanics are interesting in that they are tied to the activation of occulted vision and Dark sphere.

There also are 3 new arsenal tricks: Add shadow-themed qualities to summoned weapons/armor, or gaining Shadow Stash, even if you don’t have the Dark sphere – interesting, though the shadow-themed tricks are not uniform in their formatting. While we’re at that subject: 3 special weapon qualities and 2 for armors can be found; shade-hexed weapons get better in shadow, worse in light; tenebrous weapons may be stashed in your shadow. Umbral edge weapons can be used to trigger shadow theft on critical threats, as opposed to confirming them. The shaded armor quality nets Shadowed Mien, sans temporary hit points. Shadow warded armor grants full AC to touch AC versus attacks by a shadow.

Okay, you probably had some question marks when I referenced blot talents, right? These are darkness-effects on two-dimensional surfaces, basically splotches of dark that do not influence the level of lighting. Dark talents with the (blot) tag can be added to an area of darkness to cause additional effects, but only one such effect may be added, though different instances modified may overlap. They do not stack with themselves or other blot or darkness effects. In order to be affected by a blot, a creature must be in contact with it. They are treated as darkness for meld-purposes as well as interaction with the Light sphere.

These are interesting, allowing the nyctomancer to conceal terrain, stagger targets in a darkness or blot (thankfully with follow-up saves and immunity against that specific casting upon making the save to balance the AoE), causing Wisdom or Dexterity damage…and there is basically a blot-based portable hole! Really cool! Speaking of which: A status/direction-knowing trick based on darkness, blot or shadow is really cool for investigations. What about manipulating darkness or blots for thievery or creating a slick darkness? Some really neat options here.

(Shadow) talents manipulate the target’s shadow sans requiring a manifestation of darkness, unless otherwise noted, at Medium range with a standard action to activate. Once again, one per target, with Will-save to negate. They are not suppressed by glows and Light caster need to surpass the MSD of the shadow-effect’s caster to apply the Light effect; otherwise, the Light effect is suppressed. These include rendering a target blind via their shadow, splitting a shadow off as a shadow lurk that acts as a kind of modified unseen servant and aforementioned Shadowed Mien, which grants a social skills-enhancing shadowy aura, optionally with added temporary hit points. Shadow Stash, which I mentioned before, is a pretty self-explanatory option to stash stuff in your shadow – gold for infiltrations.

New basic talents sans these tags include the sickening Black Lungs, particularly nasty for Verbal Casting folks (and you can take it twice to add poison as insult to injury). Centering darkness or blots on targets and items rather than areas is a HUGE gain of flexibility that the sphere really needed; making darkness only block light from one vantage point is glorious regarding the tactical applications. Extinguishing nonmagical light rather than suppress is will probably be a boon to dark/ice-themed characters and you may use the darkness to dispel magical flame sources. Making darkness flow like liquid is also really cool. A counter versus divine, gaze into the abyss, also had me smile – I know what the criminals and less savory sphere users will consider to be mandatory… There is btw. also nice interaction of Obfuscation with the potent tricks introduced in the Diviner’s Handbook. Applying melds to more targets via additional spell point expenditure is another trick the sphere needed. Applying more shadow talents based on CL, making darkness or blot traps…really cool. The Stygian Immersion I mentioned before would btw. be a meld that makes a blot behave as a pool of water. Really cool! Clearsight, Disorienting Darkness and Step Through Darkness also gain augmented options for investing an additional talent in them, with the new tricks interacting well with the engine-extensions herein.

In the category of advanced talents, we can find the self-explanatory Animated Shadow, darkness, shadows or blots that render alignments NULL (cool!), upgrading Shadowed Mien to protect from daylight etc. – neat! As a formatting complaint that should definitely have been caught; Melt into Shadows’ title has not properly been depicted as a sub-header. The talent is damn cool, though: It makes you a blot , with climb speed and modifications and all. One with the Void does the same for darkness. Shadow Double, finally, is just what you’d think it is – basically the spherecasting version of the shadow clone trope. Really neat: We also get a new incantation assigned to Death and Dark spheres, the Rite of the Revenant Shade, which calls forth just that: A creature that was slain has its shadow seek out the killer to exact horrid vengeance.

The feat-chapter spans a total of 15 feats, which interact well with the material herein: Aura of Mystery makes your Obfuscation a constant effect; we have several shadow lurk upgrades; follow-ups for Step Through Darkness…and there are sphere-spanning feats for e.g. Dark/Warp-synergy, making targets more susceptible to Mind effects, etc. The new types of talents are also gainfully used, with Imbue Shadow allowing you to choose (darkness) or (blot) talents to make them behave as (shadow) talents. 3 solid traits are included (e.g. darkvision for your own darkness – cool!) and a new general drawback represents performance anxiety when observed. 4 Dark and one Light-sphere-specific drawbacks complement this section. Fetchlings, Tieflings and Wayang also receive alternate racial traits and there is even a familiar archetype here. Wanted a shadow familiar? Well, now you can have one.

In the equipment section, we have contrast spectacles that help identify Dark sphere effects by clearly outlining boundaries – now I really want a truly DARK dungeon (think Dark Souls’ 4 Kings-boss area, just with traps and corridors…) – this one is interesting! The soot-stained bell known as obdurate douter can snuff fire and light; obsidian keys allow those donning them to benefit from Clearsight and Darkvision with regards to the attuned Dark user. Shadow-dipping gloves allow enterprising thieves to pick items from Shadow Stashes. There even is a minor artifact, the Spike of Affixion that represents the classic trope of nailing a creature’s shadow to the floor, thus restricting it. Nice!

The bestiary section sports the CR +2 (less than 9 HD)/+3 (9 or more HD) darkened creature template for full-blown stealth action; The CR 8 devouring hole (nice picture included!) is basically a sentient , really dark portable hole construct…cool idea! And yes, construction notes included.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, for the most part, very good; rules-language, with very few exceptions, is precise and concise, and becomes problematic in none of the cases where it’s slightly glitchy. Most boil down to aesthetics or formatting-consistency. Layout adheres to Drop Dead Studios’ two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a blend of stock art I’ve seen before and some new interior art; particular the new pieces are interesting. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Steven Loftus did not have an easy task here – the Dark sphere is, arguably, one of the less sexy and more specialized spheres. Unless I am sorely mistaken, I have never encountered a book penned by him before, so this does get the freshman bonus – and it is one promising start!!

That being said, what he has done with the material herein must be commended. The added flexibility the new talents provide is a boon indeed; the new options are balanced, interesting, employ cool visuals and, as a whole, make this an amazing addition to the series. Some folks may complain that eh complex engines in the archetypes have some overlap, but that only proves true on a cursory glance: The individual modifications are well-made and math-wise sound.

In spite of my expectations for this book, or rather, lack thereof, this managed to put, time and again, a smile on my face, courtesy of the highly complex and rewarding operations performed herein…and due to the fact that it makes the Dark sphere as cool as it should be – all without just copying and palette-swapping the Light sphere…and all that, while maintaining compatibility with the other books in the series.

Well done, sir!

There are precious few complaints I can field against this; as mentioned before, I consider the thaumaturge CL-escalation a bit too much; the editing could have been tighter. But those drawbacks are mitigated by the cool concepts herein. It is only due to these minor gripes that this misses my seal of approval; my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Nyctomancer's Handbook
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The Battlemage's Handbook
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/24/2018 02:39:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This expansion-book for the Spheres of Power-system clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

After a nice bit of introductory prose and some notes on how to use this book, we begin with the new class options presented, the first of which would be the combat engineer alchemist, who replaces alchemy with being an Int-based Mid-Caster and a spell pool of his level + int-mod, with each level granting a magic talent and War sphere as a bonus sphere at first level. The archetype gains alchemical engineering, which focuses on creating so-called devices, which are single-use alchemical items used to enhance sphere talents, working per default only with totems, though that may be rectified. Using a device expends a use of the bombs class feature, but unlike bombs, devices do not need to be created beforehand and are used as part of the action activating the talent. Devices that enhance sphere abilities that are attaches to targets necessitate a touch attack with the device to do so. When the engineer uses a device, he can add 1 modification, + another one for every 4 class levels thereafter, culminating at 5. (It should be noted that some modifications count as multiple modifications.) At total of 12 such modifications are provided and include having to save twice, making the sphere ability conveyed as though a bomb. For 4 modifications, the device may even create sphere abilities the engineer doesn’t know – he still has to meet the prerequisites. Better MSD and fuses complement an interesting array, and we also get very shorthand-style discoveries that list, somewhat oddly, their prerequisites in the discovery-names, which also are bolded. Needless deviation here, but ultimately cosmetic. The discoveries are cool and tie in with other spheres as well as including a reduction of multiple-modification-costing device costs.

Next up would be the Dark Presence eliciter, who gains the War sphere and treats his CL as class level and increases the save DC of the sphere by +2 (same bonus applies to the three social skills), which also increase at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter by +1. This replaces persuasive. 3rd level nets Soul-Piercing Gaze. The archetype gains custom hypnotisms, the first of which makes the target lose Dex-mod to AC for one round on a failed save. 4th, 10th, 16th and 19th level provide confusion, non-lethal damage, nauseating (sickened on a successful save!) and hopelessness, replacing the inspire greatness/heroism, liberate and reverence abilities. The capstone allows for the expenditure of multiple hypnotism uses to affect multiple enemies within a totem’s area – cool one, though I wished that sort of interaction came sooner. The divine heretic warpriest is a Cha-governed Mid-Caster, with class level + Cha-mod spell pool and a magic talent each level. He gains Steadfast Personality at 1st level, using Cha as the feat’s governing attribute and two spheres as domain spheres, one of which must be War. He also gains Totemic Aura as a bonus talent and the Personal Conflict drawback, no drawback if he already has the War sphere; if both are already possessed, he instead may choose a War bonus talent. The second sphere is freely chosen and domain spheres employ class level as CL. Fervor is modified to allow, as a swift action, expend a use of a sphere ability with a casting time of 1 round or shorter, and the ability thus enhanced may only affect the divine heretic and his equipment and effects that move with the character work as well. Ongoing effects are extended by Charisma modifier rounds. This replaces fervor and, in essence, makes abilities that target others or multiple targets personal instead – system-immanently, this is an ability I’d keep a very close eye on, as it is pretty wide open; not broken per se, but definitely an ability that should receive some GM oversight.

Instead of channel energy, 10th level yields domain mastery: Expend 2 fervor to add a magic talent for a single sphere use, with the talent chosen from domain spheres. When used in conjunction with fervent casting, this costs no additional fervor. The capstone nets a 1/day swift action ability to use an unlimited number of self-targeting sphere abilities to target himself or equipment, but spell-costs are retained.

Next up would be the ghost sovereign soul weaver archetype, who replaces Heal with Knowledge (nobility). 2nd level nets a linear ability progression of royal commands that can influence ensouled creatures. The basic buff sports a layout relic, a blank box, as an aesthetic aside.. Higher levels let you cause critters to attacks others; causing others to move, buff bonus upgrade…nice. The 18th level ability to use a standard action to execute a “full-round attack” –this may be further expanded by also allowing for movement by also expending a move action – per se interesting, but also very strong…and potentially bring for the player. This replaces blessings and blights., 4th level nets the option to call forth twilight courtiers, undead designed per Conjuration + undead Creature. 8th level provides totem/mandate-less rally and requires, like calling courtiers, soul expenditure. The capstone allows the character to be whisked away temporarily to the afterlife and to auto-resurrect with negative levels. These sovereigns also have their own twilight kingdom, made with Create Demiplane – interesting!

The Iron mage hedgewitch adds Intimidate, Knowledge (history) and knowledge (nobility) and 4 + Int skills per level. The archetype has good Fort- and Will-saves, poor Ref-saves and loses one tradition. He does gain the War sphere, at class level equal CL with it and a bonus feat with a limited choice-array. The archetype gains casting ability modifier authority points per day, which also represents the maximum cap for them – they behave somewhat like grit, but also take allies into account. Thankfully, they cannot be kitten-cheesed. Iron mages may use a command 1/round; use of a command when it’s not the iron mage’s turn instead consume next round’s command. It would not do the archetype justice to just make it out to be grit-like, though: You see, the ally caveat allows for more reliable regaining of points, and the commands, which are gained in a linear manner, interact in interesting ways with both totem and mandate. Minor complaint: E.g. answer the call lacks the italicization of rally. Plus-side: Moving totems, moving allies, temporary momentum points…damn cool (and more on that later. The archetype also provides an array of tradition secrets, which interact in similarly interesting ways with the base engine of the class – my favorite archetype herein so far: Interesting, unique and meaningfully different playing experience.

The war hero fighter also gets a kind of fleeting resource – greatness, which may, interestingly, be also replenished with breaking shields, succeeding saves, etc. Cool here: Anti-kitten-abuse caveat included! Here’s the interesting component: While not becoming a spellcaster per se, the war hero can, whenever he achieves greatness, trigger an aura, which may duplicate spell point cost-less talents or Totem of War, with higher levels granting totems, multi-aura activations, etc. – nice representation of the gloryseeker and certainly more interesting than the base. The wardmage mage knight is basically a bodyguard-style archetype that may intercept attacks on warded creatures, replacing 1st level’s talent. Resist magic is replaced with a variety of virtues – these are interesting, but sometimes a bit weird: Dedication costs a standard action, for example, and allows the character to make an unlimited amount of such intercepting attacks, which can become ridiculous pretty fast; just picture how war would look between these fellows. It would have been more feasible to us a hard, scaling cap of additional intercepting attacks here. Still, there are some cool tricks here, including ones that reward having specific spheres. 7th level provides another interesting angle here, allowing the target of an attack to be marked, treating any creature the target attacks as warded. This replaces marked and mystic defense is replaced with scaling DR versus enemies intercepted.

The final archetype would be the warmonger symbiat, who replaces Fly with Bluff as class skill and gains a variant proficiency list. He gains War Sphere and Totemic Presence and the Personal Conflict drawback; as usual, already having access to the sphere cancels out the drawback and alternate choices for those that already have the gained options are included. CL is equal to class level; totems have a 60 ft.-radius and allies within the radius may expend momentum from the archetype’s pool. Instead of trap sense, we get a scaling initiative boost, and he gets the option to change weapon damage of allies…which is interesting. Highly problematic: Doubling a successful attack of an ally as an immediate action. So, god-strike, crit-fisher ally and you = double ridiculous damage. Not getting anywhere near my game, particularly considering that the already very potent second attack doesn’t even require line of sight or a roll, which is a bit puzzling, considering that the higher level abilities are potent, but weaker.

The pdf then sports an array of new class features: We get 3 new armorist arsenal tricks, which include substituting casting ability modifier for Strength or Dexterity when wielding a bound/summoned weapon, for example, as well as new special weapon qualities – which are not properly formatted. Eliciters can now choose two new emotions loyalty and resolve; the former is cooperation-focused, while the latter focuses on buffing allies. 10 new mageknight mystic combats include spell point based enhancement of attacks as though using sacred weapons, sharing a mandate versus marked targets or potent swift action assaults can be found: Full BAB-attack with class level as bonus versus marked targets are pretty strong.

Anyways, we also get 3 new rogue talents (once again, oddly formatted), which may sound not like much, but they’re all killer: Not only do they sport interesting interactions with mandate and (rally) talents, they also have an option to be treated as ally for the purpose of a spell, SP or sphere ability – which is pretty amazing. However, this does not cancel being treated as an enemy, which can result in some really wonky interactions. Similarly, limited amount of target abilities and the talent, how do they interact? Can the rogue hijack another’s place? No clue. I really like where this is going, but RAW, it could have used some further gestating.

Then, we begin with the heart and soul of this pdf, namely the magic-section: The War sphere’s talents are codified in various categories that are defined properly; totems (distinguishing between totemic aura and fixed totems), rallies (immediate action ally buffs for targets in totem-range or affected by a mandate), mandates that exist between two characters and there are (momentum) talents, which may be used as a standard action by spending a spell point, granting a momentum pool for 1 hour per CL, holding caster level + key ability modifier points that may be employed by allies within 30 ft. – easily my favorite component of the sphere’s mechanics, btw. – neither activating the pool, nor using it generally provokes an AoO, btw., making this party-driven resource really cool. Momentum, per se, is amazing, let me state that loud and clearly – and the talents offer e.g. the option to use swift actions and 3 momentum to grant yourself another attack at the highest BAB – which brings me to a peculiarity of the book: The bonus-attack-granters, exceedingly potent, universally stack with haste, an interaction that should not work according to PFs regular paradigm. It doesn’t have to break your game, but in the hands of a skilled powergamer, these options become pretty shredder-prone. Particularly since aforementioned momentum talent does not have a minimum level or similar limiter.

Don’t take that the wrong way, though: While I do consider these components to be problematic, there are also a lot of really cool tricks that made me smile: Fast healing/regeneration-suppression via totems, using momentum to demoralize, counterattacks after misses – there is a lot here to love, even before adding benefits to rallies. Minor complaint: I did notice, for example, a reference to the Escape Artist skill not capitalized properly. Also weird: Half of page 23 is blank, making it look like there’s an artwork missing and some text cut off – it’s not, but it generates a somewhat unpolished look there. On the massive plus-side, subverting charms and compulsions, quicker totem movement, buffing negative energy…there are MANY really cool tricks here that made me think of quite a few fun character concepts, like sharing movement, etc. The advanced magic section is rather brief and focuses on attaching totems to vessels or buildings; here, just fyi, the italicization is also not consistent.

The pdf also contains more than 50 (!!!) feats/drawbacks. These include bonuses to Intimidate (not properly capitalized in the pdf) after using a War sphere ability, forbidden lore/totem.crossover, several Dual Sphere talents (like rally allies in wards or dismissing an aegis to reduce the spell point cost of a rally), using Combat Stamina as a spell-point substitute for basic (rally) talents, to be precise, for rallying yourself – which is the only thing that saves this from being OP –Stamina as a replenishing resource acts as a delimiter, so care should be taken if/when building on this. Using spell points as part of a full-attack to replace the first attack with a sphere or supernatural attack is an impressive feat, and one that manages to get its high-complexity verbiage done properly. Synergy between banner and totems, regaining points spent on a self-rally, and a whole array of feats that build on Squadron Commander, which basically establish a collective (the squadron), allows the PCs to gain increased benefits from totems and do so cool stunts…what about e.g. a high-level totem-upgrade that makes foes fade and become less real, treating others as incorporeal? Yeah, that is pretty damn cool.

Beyond the huge feat-array, we also get 6 nice, meaningful traits, 3 generic drawbacks and 4 sphere-specific ones. The pdf also sports new magic equipment – one of these would be the selfless armor quality, which can be used to inflict nonlethal damage to the wearer to grant buffs, which is really cool, since only a full night’s rest helps recover it, making for a per se glorious set-up – unfortunately, the item lacks the caveat that it should not work for creatures immune to nonlethal damage. A shield for amateur interception and 4 different war staff properties can be found. We get banners imbued with totems and there are rally-items – to avoid cheesing, you can only use one of them per 24 hours: Kudos!! And yes, there are stone spheres, which, bingo, serve as mandate items.

The bestiary section sports the blood brothers template (CR +2), which sports a couple of tricks – weird: There are no blank spaces between words in any of the trick-names, which makes sense for some, of them, but not all. Still, throwing your ally, making a miss into a feint for the ally…cool. As a balancing mechanism, these may btw. only be used once per combat – people don’t fall for them twice…usually. (Insert my rant against “per-combat” making no sense in-game here…)

The pdf closes with a page of Player’s advice – which, oddly seems, to reference material that has since been renamed (or not yet released), making the page a bit weird.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on both a formal level and rules-language level, are not as tight as usual for Drop Dead Studios. There are more formatting issues and minor hiccups than usual, but at the same time, rules-integrity manages to juggle highly complex concepts. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the pdf employs solid stock art, as well as quite a few artworks that are probably original, since I haven’t seen them before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Andrew J Gibson’s battlemage’s handbook has me more torn than any previous Spheres of power-expansion. On one hand, this book does a phenomenal job of providing amazing engines for the War sphere, an upgrade it certainly required. On the other hand, the pdf, more so than usual, feels like it could have used some additional editing and development. The options here, while cool, often feel a bit weird in internal and external balancing. Spheres of Power is already a wide-open system and the couple of unlimited use-tricks and the synergy tricks need careful monitoring. The explicit stacking of swift action full BAB-attacks with other options and haste also represents an escalation that I don’t consider to be necessary…and potentially unpleasant. Considering that Spheres has a built-in options to differentiate between lower-key and more high-powered gameplay, this component in particularly feels like it could have been handled more elegantly.

In short: While the War sphere needed a power upgrade, this handbook imho overshoots the target-line and comparing power-levels of some options, it looks a bit like some minimum-level-requirements etc. were lost or not implemented. The book, in short, ends up closest to the shapeshifter’s handbook in power-level, a development I consider somewhat troubling for the series, considering that Spheres of Power’s original selling point was to feature more toned down, non-vancian casting.

That criticism out of the way, from a mechanical perspective, I absolutely ADORE the engines employed herein, even if I disagree with some details of the respective implementations. While I wholeheartedly disagree with several balancing-decisions herein, there are plenty of solutions that I like. Similarly, evocative combos, cool tricks, flavorful, high-difficulty crunch – you can find all of that in here. In short: If this had been a bit more streamlined in the dev-department, it would have been my favorite Spheres-expansion so far, bar none, perhaps even Top Ten candidate-level. However, the rough patches and editing/formatting hiccups that make this feel a bit less polished, do drag it down from the level of excellence that this would otherwise represent. In short: This is a very good file, but one with rough patches that a GM should be aware of; my final verdict is 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Battlemage's Handbook
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The Shapeshifter's Handbook
by Christopher F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/02/2017 13:18:13

The Shapeshifter's Handbook is not just a must have for anyone who wants to create an Alteration focused character using Spheres of Power, it is also incredibly useful for giving players and GMs a way to turn any character or creature into a unique shapeshifter.

Most of this book is centered around adding new Alteration talents, feats, and drawbacks for Sphere Casters. It adds a lot of new forms and traits that can allow a character to turn anyone into anything he wants. There are traits that cover constructs, oozes, various outsiders, lycanthropes, and many others. There are also feats that can help customize your playstyle, like one that turns your hostile alteration powers into curses and another that makes it possible to cast spells with verbal and somatic components in any form.

One of my favorate parts of the book is the Transformation line of feats. If a character picks up this feat, he selects a base form from the Alteration Sphere and gains and unlimited use superatural ability that lets him assume that form, simmilar to a Kitsune's human form in Pathfinder. There are additional feats for customizing this form, allowing you to take a hybrid form or add additional traits to it. The best part is that a character doesn't even have to be a caster to take this feat chain. A GM could use this to give any monster a human form that doesn't detect as magical, so it can infiltrate a city. A player could give his figher a Dragon alternate form, so he can fight as a dragon instead of using weapons. The options are endless.

There are a few new drawbacks for the Alteration sphere, and this is the one section where the book stumbles. Flesh Warper is useful for characters who only want to shapeshift other people. However, Rebound causes characters who make saves against your hostile Alterations bounce the alteration back at you, and this is basically better than the original Lycanthropic drawback in all ways. With Lycantheropic you can only target yourself, but with Rebound you can target yourself and your allies with no penalty while they both grant the same benefit. Unnatural Transformation has incredible flavor: your shapeshifts always leave behind telltail signs of who you are, making them useless for disguise. However, they also make you weak to silver... you have to save VS silver damage that you take or lose your transformation. That save DC will be near impossible to make at mid to high level play, making it possible for this drawback to totally disable your character's alteration powers if enemies use silver.

There is also a section with alternate racial traits for almost every race that allows them to gain Basic Magical Training in the Alteration sphere (with themed limits and drawbacks), and it also grants shapeshifters such as kitsune the option to standardize their shapeshifting with spheres by getting the transformation feat. There are also sections discussing how to create custom forms for unusual creatures, having alteration work better with natural shapeshifters, and what forms can use somatic and verbal components.

Overall, this is a great book despite the issues with the drawbacks section. It futher supports Spheres of Power's tendancy to allow incredible amounts of character customization and theme based builds. I would recommand this for anyone who wants to make a shapeshifting character, and this would be of use even for people who don't want to actually use Spheres Casters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Shapeshifter's Handbook
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Spheres of Power: Hero Lab Files
by Carl A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2017 10:28:45

These are really helpful if you use Hero Lab. Selecting the various Spheres of Power, making sure any bonuses are respected, etc is really useful.

For example, a 20th level Elementalist counts as a 15ht level caster for most Spheres. But for the Destruction Sphere they'd count as 20th level, which affects the damage they do, their Save DC, their range, etc. After the last update (make sure you read the README included so you set the Source correctly to get these updates) that difference in casting levels is correct, with the exception of range. Since that is only listed on the general Spheres tab, it won't list the proper close, medium, and long ranges for Spheres where the caster has a higher level. If they were included on each tab, as save DC is, this wouldn't be a problem anymore, but is a very minor issue.

If you use HL and SoP, this is a must-have.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Power: Hero Lab Files
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Spheres Apocrypha: Destruction Talents
by Kevin T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2017 05:33:25

I love seeing more talents for Spheres of Power! What's next?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres Apocrypha: Destruction Talents
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The Vivomancer's Handbook
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 20:36:51

Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon campaign creating these supplements, and paid the full price for this product.

All right! We're more than halfway through the Sphere expansions, and here we get to an interesting one - Life. Healing is tricky, since you don't want it to be so good that enemies aren't a threat, but you also don't want it to be so weak that it's not worth taking at all.

The book opens with new class options, including a healing-based Alchemist, a healing-based Ranger, a hea- look, you get the idea. There are also options for the Barbarian/UC Barbarian, Druid, and Soul Weaver as archetypes, plus class options for the Armorist, Incanter, Mageknight, Monk, Rogue, UC Rogue, Slayer, and Witch.

From there, we get to the new talents for the book. Aside from the usual selection of new generic talents (for example, you can add a Life Sphere ability to attacks - hi, undead slayers), the Vivomancer's Handbook adds Vitality talents, which can be used to add effects when Life talents are used. For an example, the first Vitality option presented gives a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls. Vitality benefits have a hard limit - either one minute or until they fail a saving throw or get hit by an attack, whichever comes first. Still, the ability to buff someone while healing them is pretty nice, and any Full Caster healers are likely to take at least one talent.

True to form for the Handbooks, we also get a few new Advanced Talents. These include a massive boost to life force, a guarantee of bringing creatures above 0 HP, and the ability to temporarily have a creature ascend to a better version of itself.

Heading through, we have a few more minor options, and then we get to the Feats. A new type of feat is introduced here - Anathema feats, which are based around a feat of the same name and require Channel Energy, Fervor, or Lay on Hands. Anathema is an aggressive ability that essentially turns the healing power into a damaging ray - and while this isn't so different from the Destruction Sphere, it doesn't actually run off of Spherecasting at all. This makes it easy to integrate into a non-Spheres game - or, for classes with weaker casting (hi, Paladins), to essentially give them 'full' damage progression.

The book finishes off with new traits, new drawbacks, new equipment, and various other minor options. The actual close is a guide for playing a Life-oriented character, much like we've seen in a few previous Handbooks.

All-in-all, this is a solid release. Healing may not be quite as flashy or fun as things like Destruction, but author Andrew Gibson (and contributors Amber Underwood, Derfael Oliveira, and Trevor Stevens) did an excellent job making Healers more fun and flexible. I wouldn't go as far as saying this book is needed for a Spheres game, but if someone wants to play a healer, it's definitely worth getting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Vivomancer's Handbook
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Spheres of Might
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 13:08:12

Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign for this product and paid for a digital copy, a hard copy, and Hero Lab files. At the time of this review, only the digital copy was released, so that is the only thing this review will consider.

After less time than I expected, it's here - the martial companion to the much-loved Spheres of Power book, whose main tome and later expansions I've been reviewing.

Much like its predecessor, the main goal of Spheres of Might is to replace a system in the game (in this case, martial combat) with something more flexible and fun than trading full attacks with foes. Despite that, it's not necessary for everyone at the table to be using it - there are few truly new mechanics introduced, so it's easy to incorporate both into any given game.

The martial talents presented in this book fall into two categories. Basic talents have no prerequisites and are pretty much all extraordinary abilities, making them suitable for just about any game. Legendary abilities are more supernatural and fantastic in nature, and are only available with GM permission. (This is NOT the same setup as Spheres of Power's Advanced Talents system. Advanced Talents can be game-changing. Legendary Talents, on the martial side, are still broadly within the range of what a character could normally do in Pathfinder. Admittedly, some effects were largely caster-only before, but that's really not a problem here.)

After an introduction that provides some flavor and discusses the goal of the book, the tome moves on to introducing the combat spheres. Like the magical spheres, characters are divided into three progressions: Expert (Full), Adept (Medium), and Proficient (Low). Immediately following this is a conversion table for non-SoM classes, allowing them to exchange certain feats for combat talent progression. In addition, 4th-level/Low Casters can trade their casting for Proficient progression, while 6th-level/Mid Casters can exchange their spells for Adept progression. Full casters cannot exchange their spells (and honestly, that's probably for the best, because they usually have low BAB and wouldn't get much value from this system anyway.)

What this book doesn't have is gish/hybrid classes or options. Those are set to appear in a different book, and aren't part of the core rules here.

Following this, we get to the new terminology. Among the new things introduced is Martial Focus, which will be familiar to people who've used Psionics. Essentially, martial focus is something you can expend to activate certain abilities, or to Take 13 (not 10) on a Fortitude or Reflex saving throw. Some abilities also require you to have it 'on', so it serves as something of a limiter to stop characters from doing too many things at once.

The last bit of the introduction covers some clarifications on rules (including double-barreled weapons, improvised weapons, unarmed attacks, and so forth).

After all of that, we finally get to character creation. The most important part of this is the Martial Tradition, an explanation of how and where a character learned to fight. The book encourages limiting traditions to particular groups as a way of emphasizing their flavor and differences, but that's not actually required.

Martial traditions aren't nearly as optional as casting traditions in Spheres of Power - the new classes expect you to take them, and guidelines for converting non-SoM classes are included. Broadly speaking, though, each tradition offers four talents worth of benefits: Two from the Equipment sphere, a base sphere (or choice between two base spheres), and one additional thematic talent. Simple rules for creating new traditions are included, but mostly come down to "don't focus too much in anything besides Equipment, and don't do solely offense or defense".

Following this is a long list of new traditions, from Animal Trainers to Courtesans to Gladiators. It's a thorough list, and looks like it covers most base concepts.

Next up, we have the classes. These include the Armiger (Full BAB/Low Progression, but gets bonus talents on customized weapons they can rapidly swap between), the Blacksmith (Full BAB/High Progression, improves the party's gear while hitting foes pretty hard), the Commander (Mid BAB/Mid Progression, best for directing and buffing allies), the Conscript (Full BAB/High Progression, effectively Spheres of Might's Incanter in that it's less a class and more a build-your-own-warrior thanks to tons of extra feats and talents), the Scholar (Low BAB/Low Progression, focused around making and using a variety of substances and traps), the Sentinel (Full BAB/High Progression, very much a walking tank who can endure things), the Striker (Full BAB/High Progression, a mobile, risk-taking combatant), and the Technician (Mid BAB/Mid Progression, creates gadgets and inventions, including independent minions).

After this, we get a nice set of archetypes, both for the new classes and many of Paizo's releases. Note that the Archetypes for Paizo's classes are all quite distinct, rather than being pre-made versions of the conversions listed above.

Finally, we get to the Spheres themselves. Much like Spheres of Power, each of the spheres here is focused around a particular concept, such as Alchemy, rapid-fire Barrages, Boxing, or the use of Traps. There are 23 spheres provided - although the Equipment sphere is a little different in that it's mainly a collection of proficiencies. That's not to suggest there's no other value in it, though, because its non-Discipline options can be beneficial for many different character concepts.

One key point to note here: Some Spheres are extremely similar to feats. These are specifically called out, and compatibility is built into the system. You can always take an associated talent instead of the feat (if, say, you got the feat as a bonus from your class), and having the talent counts as having the feat. That's a nice - and important! - touch.

The Legendary (supernatural/magical) talents follow the normal ones, split into their own section to make it easy for a GM to add or remove them from a game. Since many of these have prerequisites - some as high as 20th level - they're not likely to see much use early on.

The rest of the book focuses on the standard extra options for a new system - feats, traits, favored class bonuses, drawbacks, and new pieces of equipment are all included. There's also a GM toolbox (with suggestions for cinematic combat, monster-exclusive talents, example monsters from CR 1 to CR 21, and sample characters if you want to dive right into playing with them.

Starfinder fans get a special treat at the end of the book, with a conversion section meant to work in tandem with the SFCRB's Legacy Conversion chapter.

All in all, I'm extremely happy with this book, and I'm looking forward to a full playtest run. Martial characters just got significantly more interesting - so if your old Fighter is starting to feel a little stale, it might just be time to dive in and try something new. This gets a full 5 stars from me, and I'm eagerly awaiting my physical copy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
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Spheres of Might
by Derfael O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2017 11:41:06

Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter for this project and followed it since the beginning and participated in the playtesting of this material.

One thing that I would like to say upfront is that if you are ONLY planning to purchase this product in hopes that it will make martials on-par with Tier 1 classes (such as the Wizard, Cleric, and Druid), DON'T. Even if your game has replaced core vancian spellcasting with spherecasting, Spheres of Power is still without a doubt superior to martials using Spheres of Might. It has been discussed at length that it wasn't the mission of Spheres of Might to fix martials in that regard.

What I will say this product does do, is allow you to build martials who are defined not so much by their class, but how you build them, and it all starts with Martial Traditions.

In Core pathfinder, all too often you will find GM's and Players who are under the false impression that in-order to play a specific character concept, you must have levels in a base class or prestige class which matches the name. For example, if you want to play a ninja, you must have levels in the ninja class; if you want to play a samurai, you must have levels in the samurai class; if you want to play a druid, you must have levels in the druid class, etc.

Spheres of Power (the older companion product), throws this notion out the window with the use of Casting Traditions. With casting traditions you can play any spherecasting class and just choose the relevant casting tradition. For example, you could be an Armorist with the druidic casting tradition, a Hedgewitch with the druidic casting tradition, or an Incanter with the druidic casting tradition; it makes no difference.

Spheres of Might, does the same thing for martial characters with the use of Martial Traditions. Which allows you to define your character even further by defining just how your character was trained. Where you a knight? A thief? A gladiator? There are martial traditions for these and 30+ more, while also including guidelines to creating your own. And that is just the beginning.

After picking your martial tradition (which determines bonus starting proficiencies and starting combat spheres), you can further build, define, and expand your character even further by picking up spheres and talents from a list of 20+ combat spheres which cover aspects such as Alchemy, Beastmastery, Dual Wielding, Sniping, and Scouting (just to name a few).

Spheres of Might also includes Legendary Talents (which like Advanced Talents from Spheres of Power) must be approved individually by a GM. Personally, for a number of legendary talents, I feel they were locked behind a specific level unnecessarily. Most notably legendary talents such as Sever, which allows for the amputation of limbs (but is locked behind a BAB prerequisite of +11). The problem I see with this is that it infers that soldiers in war do not experience limb loss unless fighting something with 11 or more HD. It also infers that a medieval surgeons cannot amputate limbs before 11th level. Ofcourse the authors have repeatively given their explanation for such saying that it is because they don't want players to lose limbs before magic is available which can restore the condition (which I feel is a weak argument, seeing that death is a condition that players face at 1st level without affordable means or restoring that condition). However, these small gripes are not ones that I consider strong enough to reduce my rating of this product significantly.

Spheres of Might also offers a wide range of new base classes (and archetypes) which utilize Spheres of Might to its fullest potential, all of which I feel are fun alternatives to a number of Paizo Classes. For example, the Scholar class could easily fill the role of a number of classes (alchemist, bard, cleric, or wizard); whereas the rogue class could easily be replaced by the new Conscript, Striker, or Technician class (depending upon the type of rogue built).

For GM's Spheres of Might includes an array of pre-statted monsters ranging from CR 1-20, aswell as fast and easy guidelines for giving Martial Traditions to monsters.

Personally, I feel that Spheres of Might shines the most when combined with Spheres of Power, as they compliment each other nicely by lowering the power of casters, while raising the utility of martials; and while Spherecasters are without a doubt still superior to Spheremartials, this product does allow a martial to more fully enjoy his contribution to the game table.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
by Talore V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/13/2017 20:09:45

Do you want to make a martial character that does something other than full attacking? Do you want easy access to unique and memorable abilities for both allies and enemies? Do you like fun? If you answered yes to any of these, Spheres of Might is worth your time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spheres of Might
by Trent H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2017 10:48:08

So I've been following this since the playtest, and I gotta say, it's every bit as good as I expected. I was hoping for combat to get fixed, but with spheres of might, we've got so many options and ways to do that with tons of utility that you won't see in core. The math on it is also solid, making it play well at just about any table, as well as being super newbie friendly. This is my new combat system along with spheres of power, and I could honestly just see using these two books for any game I run.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizard's Academy
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2017 05:48:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

...

..

.

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



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

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

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



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

An Endzeitgeist.com review of the revised edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Illuminator's Handbook
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