While writing some other reviews, I found myself diverting from what I planned and thus, you'll get this intermission: I've been thinking about it for quite some time and finally managed to decide that, yes, I will do at least some, probably all files of 101 spell-series by RiP.
In today's post, I'll take a look at the Taskshaper, Minotaurs and, of course 101 1st level spells. I'll try catching up with some of my other reviews soon, so expect to see more these days.
Secrets of the Taskshaper
This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 5 pages for the new base class of the taskshaper, so let's dive in.
The pdf starts with the trademark quality prose I've come to expect of Rite Publishing books, an IC-told story about how Auberyon, Soltice king of the fey, abducted people and changed them, altered their memories even, to become taskshapers and how they escaped from their bonds.
The Taskshaper-class gets d8, 6+Int skills per level, can select 10 skills at character generation to be class skills, can use any weapons, armors and shields and can use any spell-trigger or spell completion item as if the spells were on her list. The Taskshaper also gets medium BAB, a good Fort and Ref save.
We're in for a jack-of-all-trades-like class, which becomes apparent when reading e.g. the Moment of Change ability: Starting at first level and improving each level, they get the ability to use change-points from their pool to change one of their feats for one round into a feat whose usage he has witnessed in-game. Mechanics to properly understand a feat for purpose of this ability are given. They can also use these pool points to gain minor plus 1 bonuses or temporarily change skills.
Furthermore, they can choose from a list of 9 shaped capacities that range from being better at emulating others over improved skill- and feat-changes to mimicing class abilities.
Later, they also get consecutively better at shapechanging, starting with alter self and culminating in the ability to use form of the dragon III and giant form III.
If that were not enough, his modularity is expanded upon by the option to select from 8 different so-called Ability Shifts that range from the possibility to negate one incoming attack via an opposed attack roll, over being very agile and fast to transformation attacks to be delivered via touch.
The taskshaper does not stop there, though: At 10th level, the taskshaper can choose from another set of 8 abilities that range from a chance to negate crits, doubling her range as well as the ability to change her mind as well into the person/creature she impersonates. Especially this ability, Become the Mask, has the potential to be roleplaying/storytelling gold.
Finally, the capstone ability is a devastating touch that may dissolve almost everything, befitting of level 20.
The pdf closes with a sidebox telling the DM to insist on PC-taskshaper bookkeeping.
Oh boy. Doing the math to look for balance concerns for this class really made my brain hurt and I can only imagine how designing/balancing it must have been. Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any typos and formatting adheres to RiP's two-columns standard. Layout is ok, as is interior art. The cover is not one of my favorites, especially when compared to other RiP-covers. What to make of the class, then? Well, this is probably the most versatile class I've seen so far for PFRPG and an extremely ambitious design goal. While, as far as my math-skills go, I didn't notice any way to abuse the hell out of the taskshapers abilities, it should be noted that a DM willing to let a player play one HAS to enforce the perception-rules to use class abilities/feats and shapechanges and NOT handwave them. If a player who is known for shoddy book-keeping on his/her character sheet plans to play one of these guys, strongly discourage him/her. Bookkeeping is necessary to balance this class and due to the shapechanging abilities, some work is required on part of the player. The pay-off, though, should be worth it - this class features some very nice ideas and its other-worldly flair can lend a cool new experience to your game. On the downside, though, I think that the book might have profited from either even more abilities, racial feats or the like - alternative capstone abilities would also have rocked. Alternatively, I would have loved to see a section on their psychology and customs expanded, as they surely have some interesting RPG-potential. Or a critter who hunts the escaped taskshapers for Auberyon...something along those lines. Thus, while the taskshaper succeeds at its design goal, it left me wanting a bit more out of the pdf - not much, but I missed something. It just didn't feel as well-rounded as some ther race/class-books by RiP and thus, my final verdict will be a solid 4 Rudii.
In the Company of Minotaurs
In this installment of the "In the Company of ..."-series, we'll meet the minotaurs. The pdf clocks in at a meaty 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages of ads, leaving 17 pages of content.
Layout follows the RiP-two column-standard, the book is b/w so that out of the way, let's dive in!
The book begins with an aptly-written, very cool IC-introduction to the race that sets the tone for the book in accordance to the old-school-style cover : We get an ancient Greek mythology style origin myth to lead in to the very unique society of the minotaurs: The most interesting part is actually how a clearly lawful evil society has justified its discrimination and systematic murder of their females and a people that delusionally proclaims themselves not raiders and/or rapists of the female slaves they use to mate with. While it is possible for their claim to be true, it is very unlikely and that is what makes the fluff herein so compelling - the moral uncertainty. The society is vividly fleshed out with even a sample insult, customs, nomenclature and the like. (8 pages! - I just loved it!)
We get two racial trait-sets for the minotaurs:
Pure Taurians get +2 to Str, Con and Wis and -2 Dex and Cha, Darkvision 60 ft., always know where North is, +2 to perception and intimidate, immunity to magical confusions, a gnatural 1d4 gore attack and familiarity with Taurian weapons.
Mereitaurs (the impure ones) get +2 Con and Wis and -2 Cha, Darkvision 60 ft., always know where North is, +2 to Craft and Profession checks as well as any research-based Knowledge-checks, are immune to magical confusion effects, familiar with Taurian weapons and finally can choose two of these three: To gain +5 ft. movement, the 1d4-gore attack or +2 to pereption.
We also get 7 alternate racial traits:
-At home in the Wild: +2 to Survival in exchange for the +2 to Perception
-Bestial: Additional +2 to Str for another -2 to Int, this is supposed to bridge the gap towards bestiary minotaurs and not necessarily available for players
-Divine Life: Exchange immunities against confusion effects for a +2 to saves against necromantic effects
-Dwarven Heritage: Proficient in Dwarven weapons instead of Taurian ones.
-Orcish Heritage: Proficient in Orcish weapons instead of Taurian ones.
-Quickfooted (only Mereitaurs): Base speed 40 ft. and +4 to acrobatics when jumping/leaping. Replaces Taurian Heritage.
-Surefooted (only Taurians): +2 to CMD against trip and bull rush, but base speed becomes 25 ft.
We also get Age, height and Weight tables, something unfortunately absent from some other 3pp's race books. I was really excited and loved that the section on Taurian adventurers also talks about the Advanced Players Guide classes in detail. Support goes further, though:
We get a list of favored class options, 2 for the Barbarian, 2 for the Bard, 1 for the Druid, 1 for the Fighter, 2 for the Inquisitor, 1 for the Paladin, 1 for the Ranger, 1 for the Rogue, 2 for the Sorceror.
We also get two Taurian Archetypes: The first one is a rather obvious choice, a barbarian archetype, that focuses on horns. The second one, though, is rather cool and not what you'd necessarily expect: The Disciple of the Red Horn is a Minotaur-monk archetype and rocks. Sorcerors also get a Taurian bloodline that focuses on making you tougher and stronger. Uncommon choices, but I liked them nevertheless.
The crunchy heart of the book, though, is the new racial paragon class, the so-called Rog-Kalem (Scion of the Horn). The class gets d10, 2+ Int skills,proficiency with simple and martial weapons and his gore attack, good Ref and Will saves and a fighter BAB. No good Fort save for a rather melee-centric racial class? Yep, and it makes sense, as the class gets Evasion, grows to size large and gains bonuses to charges, a more powerful gore attack (from 1d4 at 1st level to 3d6 at 20th level) and finally culminates at an outsider-transformation at 20th level. The Rog-Kalem also gets some bonuses to Str and Con, somewhat offsetting the fort-save defficiency. All in all, the Taurians, whether Rog-Kalem or not, make for a surprisingly good and interesting choice for e.g. the monk-class.
We also get 7 new feats:
-Axe Thrower: +10 ft. range with throwing axes and +2 to rolls to confirm criticals
-Bloodlust: Bonuses to make your charge attack more lethal
-Horned Charge: Combines charge with gore attack with bull rush benefits
-Horned Trip: Lets you trip with horn-attacks
-Improved Natural Armor: +1 Natural Armor
-Taurian Follow-through: If you miss in melee, you can incur a -2 penalty to AC to attack a foe adjacent to the one you missed
-Trapworker: +3 to checks to notice taps and +1 to checks to craft or disable them.
We also get 5 new Taurian weapons, all of which are cool weapon choices and don't feel overpoweredm but have their own distinctive appeal. Finally, we get 3 new items, Dark Chalk (Chalk that can only be seen in Darkvision) as well as two Taurian gas bombs, one potentially lethal and explosive, the other rather a smoke bomb. The new items come with associated costs and craft DCs.
Of all the excellent racial books RiP has published so far, this one actually stands out due some cutting edge additions I hope will be continued in future installments, namely that several of the cool innovations of the APG have been added to this fie: We get favored class options, the cool new classes are taken into account, alternate racial traits are provided etc. I LOVE that and hope it will be continued. Furthermore, even more than in previous installments, we get a very compelling IC-narrative that introduces us to the race, managing to walk the line between being a cool introduction to a rather LE-society and still managing to make this society seem coherent and understandable in its questionable social conventions. The fluff is plain awesome and succeeds in capturing the spirit and narrative of ancient Greek legends in the creation myth, while also providing a ego-driven, arrogant narrative of the Taurian character. On page 7 is unfortunately one of the few blemishes of the book, when in the section on Alignment and Religion, the IC narrative gets a bit jumbled with 3rd person information. I really love how the very extensive information is given IC and can't stress enough how much this adds to my enjoyment of the pdf. The fact that the crunch of the race does not gravitate to the "savage brute"-archetype and is rather versatile helps even more and while there are some classes Taurians might be more suited for, I felt the race to be sufficiently versatile to be a valid choice for any class. IM going to especially enjoy building Taurian Monks and Rog-Kalems or respective multi-classed combinations of both to make PCs suffer. the b/w-artwork, while simple, manages to underline the classic feeling of the race. So, what's my final verdict? I'd be inclined to detract a star due to the fact that the racial class is a bit more on the conservative side than e.g. in the "Gargoyles"-file and the narration-jumbling in one of the otherwise beautifully-written passage. However, due to the wealth of material provided as well as the APG-support and the wealth of options for the Taurians, I'll settle for 4.5 Rudii - an awesome buy and probably one of the best racial book out there.
Finally, there it is, the first of 909.
This pdf is 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1page SRD and 2 pages of ads, leaving 23 pages for 101 spells.
The pdf kicks off with a one-page introduction to the series.
The spell-lists take up 3 pages.
The spells are:
-Adjust: Resize clothes, armor etc.
-Alter Liquid: Turn Water to Ale
-Alter Poison Damage Type: Change e.g. Str-damage to Dex-damage in a poison.
-Animate Element: Animate an element as a small elemental
-Animate Skeleton: Self-explanatory
-Animate Tattoo: Lets your tattoo attack at your normal range
-Animate Wood: Animate wooden object as an animate object
-Astute Fighting: Grants competence-bonus to BAB depending on the level of the caster
-Awesome Strike: Imbue your blows with the power to knock an enemy back and knock him prone
-Bee Sting: minor damage and possibly minor con-damage
-Bleeding Wounds: lets the enemy bleed from wounds he receives
-Blossoming Footsteps: Creates plants for usage with other spells and just plain looks cool
-Borrow Skill: Borrow Skill from another character for 1 round
-Breathtwist: Change the energy of a breath weapon
-Briefly Visible: Cancel Invisibility for a short period
-Brimstone: Throw a glowing stone with acrid smoke to damage your foes
-Brilliant Arc: Electric Arc damages enemies and has minor secondary bolts
-Clarity of Faith: Bonus to Knowledge (Religion)
-Clarity of Thought: +4 to Concentration
-Clear Conscience: Lose 1 min/level of memories prior to casting this spell. Awesome idea!
-Cock's Crow: Awaken sleepers
-Contingent Minor Healing: Contingency 1-point healing, minor damage to undead
-Color: Permanently alter the color of a creature or object
-Contrariness: -10 to Diplomacy
-Crop Circle: Use incorporeal scythes to cut crops and enemies
-Curse of Ineptitude: 50% failure to do stuff for one round (OP imho)
-Cutting Flame: Basically a way to cut through inanimate objects, this spell could be the safecracker's best friend
-Deep Shadows: Increase concealing properties of shadows
-Discerning Eye: Determines exact monetary value of one item
-Dispel Magic, lesser: As Dispel Magic, but the max bonus is +5. (I've been using this spell in my home campaign for years and designed it just like the people at RiP did!)
-Distract: Flat-foot an opponent
-Divine Beacon: When the target is within range, the caster knows any negative conditions on it
-Down and Out: +10 to the next CMB to disarm or trip
-Draw on Faith: Scaling Bonus up to +5 to either one attack roll, a save or check in the next minute.
-Earth Charger: Grant mount +4 and trample-damage
-Energy Missile: Shoot missiles of an energy type
-Energy Weapon: Sheathes weapon in energy type, dealing more damage
-Escape Grapple: +5 to check to escape a grapple
-Flashy Defense: Gain DR 1/ or Resistance 5, depending on the attack
-Foul Flesh: Makes own flesh nauseating for enemy bite attacks
-Foe's Measure:: Learn class or creature type along with level and HD. Disguised creatures are exempt. While the disguise-clause is nice, I don't like metagamey spells.
-Flank Shield: Prevents being flanked, unless flanked by a rogue with 4 lvls more than caster
-Glamour: +5 to Diplomacy and Bluff
-Gloomlight: Lets creatures with darkvision see in color
Guilt: Force enemy to think about past misdeed
-Harden: Increase objects hardness by half or +1.
-Heat Lightning: Lightning that may dazzle and set on fire
-Hesitation: Reduce initiative count of enemy by caster level
-Hey of the Bull's Eye: This spell makes it 20% possible for a missed attack to hit. Quite powerful for a 1st level spell.
-Hex Weapon: Succeed a Will-save or drop weapon
-Hidden Shelter: Magically create shelter that is hidden by your Stealth-check
-Ice Arm: Gain touch attack and minor ability to resist Fire
-Id Seizure: Affected creature can take only move actions
-Ignore: Make creature suffer -5 penalty to perception
-Illuminated Weapon: Disrupt undead enemies hit by the weapon and give them a penalty
-Inflict Pain: Deal non-lethal damage
-Invisible Familiar: Self-explanatory
-Inspired Initiative: +2 on next Ini-check
-Keen Senses: Gain/expand low-light vision
-Lash Fey: Damage Fey with Iron
-Malicious Intent: Penalize saving throws and a school of magic
-Mental Sentinel: Enhanced perception and Initiative
-Minor Lasting Image: Very small immobile illusion
-Missteps: -10 ft. movement and -2 to Dex
-Mistsight: See through fog
-Overcompensation: Lets weapon grow to the size that barely makes it wieldable
-Pearl of Brilliance: damage and dazzle foe, especially powerful against undead
-Peephole: Create a peephole
-Pins and Needles: Distract enemy, minor penalty, hampers spellcasting
-Poison Weapon: Adds weak poison to weapon
-Potent Weapon: grants weapon bane quality
-Precipitate: Conjure rain, sleet or snow, depending on the temperature
-Pressure Spray: use a blast of water to knock enemies back and quench fires
-Quill Skin: Damages constricting or swallowing creatures
-Reactive Armor: +2 to AC, can be cast as immediate action
-Righteous Strike: +1 to attack and damage and bypass all DR for one strike. (Paladinspell and as such limited and not op)
-Sacred Watch: Mental image of subject and whether it is in danger but not where it is
-Scentless: Suppress scent-trail
-Second Change: Retry a saving throw
-Self-loading bolts: Bolts targeted load themselves
-Shadow Hands: More subtle variation of burning hands
-Shadow Weapon: Conjure quasi-real weapon
-Share Sacrifice: Target heals half current HP damage, you gain the same amount of damage
-Skill Lore: Scaling insight bonus to skill
-Songstrike: Sonic damage
-Sonic Dart: Ranged touch attack sonic damage
-Soul Beacon: Bolster against Undead, but can easily be seen
-Spikes of the Locust Tree: Bolster unarmed strikes and makes unarmed attacks against target painful
-Stunning Note: Stun enemy
-Supernatural Ward: +4 on saving throws against supernatural effects
-Summon Weapon: Self-explanatory
-Sword Shock: Lets electricity damage target from held items, possibly causing him to drop them
-Torchbearer: Similar to an Unseen Servant, this spell conjures a creature to shed light
-True Shield: +20 Ac against the next attack With 1hour/level, the duration of this spell is MUCH too long.
-Tunnel: Gain burrow speed
-Undetectable Poison: Mask the presence of poisons
-Unspeakable Tongue: Subject speaks gibberish, but still can cast spells
-Valiant Resolve: Subject gains DR 10/non-lethal
-Ward, lesser: Create either a blast ward or a spell ward of up to 1st level
-White Noise: Target object hinders both sight and sound
-Wind Churn: Inflict Air (never knew this damage type existed...does it?) damage on enemies, force flying creatures that fail the save to land or fall.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any typos. This b/w book follows the standard-two-column-layout and the artwork is ok - it's a combination of stock art and Joe Calkin's work. Before I go on any further, let me say that the 3.5.-glut has made me very, very wary on which spells I'll introduce to my game. Combine that with a rather skeptical approach to even more spells and you'll get this review. Most of the spells actually, as I'm happy to report, are not per se stronger than similar spells from the Core rules. Where the book truly shines, though, is with spells like "Torchbearer" and "Undetectable Poison", spells that make me think "Why hasn't anyone made them before?". Unfortunately there are also some spells like "True Shield" that are in my opinion not perfectly balanced. The above example has a duration that simply is too long. Some of the skill-bonus/penalty spells felt a bit like filler to me, but these are few and far between. On the other hand, though, many spells scale with levels and thus stay useful beyond the first level. What's my final verdict, then?
That's it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,