Age of Electrotech

Age of Electrotech

This book clocks in at 100 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 94 (!!!) pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

So what is this book? Well, it can be thought of as a huge campaign-template akin to LPJr Design's Obsidian Apocalypse - the age of electrotech has dawned and now, super-science and magic exist side by side, with electricity-based gadgets and the like influencing how everything is run. A fitting analogy would be a kind of Tesla-Punk - how to integrate this (e.g. just one country - à la Golarion's Numeria or Ravenloft's Lamordia) to the full world - all depending on the DM's whim.

The book kicks off with the Technician base class, which receives d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light armor, simple weapons and shields, 3/4 BAB-progression, good ref-and will-saves and a so-called maximum tinker-level scaling from 1st up to 6th. The class also receives 1 battery point, scaling up to 105 at 20th level...but what does all of that mean?

Well, first of all, obviously, technicians receive Electrotech Proficiency as a bonus feat as first level and they also receive + class level to Craft (electrotech)-checks analogue to alchemist et al. High intelligence increases the battery points the class has and battery points recharge after 8 hours. They are essentially the technician's resource, which powers his gadgets, tinkers and similar devices. hooking up a device to the battery pack requires 1 minute. Technicians may construct so-called gadgets - these can be used by paying their base cost, upgraded by allocating additional battery points. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the technician can craft progressively better upgrades from +1 battery point cost to +5 at 13th level. Gadgets take up one of the item-slots - chest, hands, head or feet and equipping/removing them requires 10 rounds, with the option to hasten it at the chance of rendering the gadget broken. Effect generated by gadgets are extraordinary effects, but unlike most such abilities, they are subject to SR and can potentially be counterspelled/dispelled - we have full system-transparency here.

Tinkers on the other hand are devices that can be wielded like wands to duplicate effects, functioning pretty much like spellcasting. Unlike spells, though, a tinker may be charged with battery points to increase the daily amount the tinker can be used. The formula for their creation are marked in a tinker manual, somewhat akin to a spellbook. Now beyond this exceedingly flexible base system, the class ALSO sports so-called innovations - gained at 2nd level, +1 every 2 levels thereafter, these constitute the talents of the class and allow for even more options - for example combining multiple gadgets into one, on-the-fly reassignment of battery points etc. Better driving-skills (more on that later), weaponized tinkers, better weakness analysis of foes - this is very much a scientist-class - but the technician does NOT stop there - at 1st level, the class also decides on a trade (though, again, this can be modified by innovations!) - trades work somewhat akin to oracle mysteries or bloodlines in that they provide a trade skill as class skill, a bonus-feat selection and a linear progression of special abilities gained at 1st, 3rd, 9th and 15th level. Sounds like a bloodline, not a mystery? Yeah, but I also evoked mysteries due to one fact - each trade add certain, exclusive innovations to the array the technician can choose from. The trade provide for a focus on crafting, firearms (including grit), junker's jury-rigging, vehicle/driver-specialization, soldier, tinker, trap and symbiont specialization - more on that later. And yes, were I to go into details regarding these options, this review would bloat beyond belief. More than one page of favored class options can be found herein. It admittedly took some time to properly analyze this complex class...and know what? It WORKS. Superbly so. One note - if you're using Interjection Games' Tinker or Gadgeteer-classes, I'd suggest renaming the technician's tinkers and gadgets. ;)

The technician's flexibility does NOT end here, though - beyond the absolutely astounding flexibility provided by the base class, we also receive archetypes for the class - beyond providing more than superb crunch, these guys cover quite literally everything cool I would have wanted from technician archetypes - Cyborg? Check. Electromedics (who needs clerics?) - check. Pact Magic-crossover occult esotechnicians? Check. Grenadiers? Check. Holotechnicians? Check. Necrotechnicians creating techno-undead? Friggin' yeah and check! Transmogriphiers that specialize in transmuting and mutagens? Check! At this point, picture me drooling wide-eyed and grinning at the screen.

Now a complete subsystem of items and a class should render it no surprise that the pdf also sports quite a significant array of different feats. These include metatech feats (guess what these do...) and the usual improvements for additional uses of limited daily use-abilities etc.

At this point, the 32-page mark, we enter the electrotech gear chapter -  yes. I'm not kidding. So, the weapons. The table covers a whole page. And yes, modifications like double barrels can be added to e.g. nucleonic rifles, while sawridge shields and splinterhail grenades as well as stock prods breathe the spirit of scifi, super-tech, tesla-punk...however you want to call it, the chapter is glorious. Beyond these implements of death, several defensive items and household items can be found herein as well - chamber lamps, air stabilizers, heaters, iconographs, phonographs - it may seem like nothing special, but without these, the book would be missing vital pieces that really help get into the mood of the material Specialized tool and skill kits also help portraying a society that has moved beyond the traditional confines of medieval society.

And then, there would be madnesses. These truly go off the deep-end and constitute technical wonders beyond what is readily available in a default society - what about e.g. a pod that can modify your age, pigmentation and even gender or race? Stasis pods? Helms that can be used to stimulate or hamper a character's performance? Hypnotist's helmets? Color-coded mind-influence? The equivalent of an atomic bomb? A machine to purge foreign subjects from a target? Pleasure-hazes creating orbs, with truly nefarious extensions? A chair that allows you to extend the reach of your magic to miles? Röntgen booths? Machines for forced alignment changes? Yes, these essentially artifact-level wonders run the gamut of traditional scifi and weird fiction, making me constantly envisioning my favorites of the classics - I am not engaging in hyperbole when I'm saying that EACH of these items can change a campaign, nay can even power a whole campaign. They're this iconic, this interesting.

Of course, classic science-fiction is, more often than not, also defined by the fantastic vehicles sported within - especially Jules Verne has become pretty much the default association just about anyone would have in that regard. And yes - from flying saucers to hover-vehicles to jetcrafts and tanks - vehicles upon vehicles, all ready for your perusal...oh so AWESOME!

Now I mentioned gadgets - these do not simply pop up, as one could have expected - instead, concise and easy to grasp rules for research and crafting them can be found within these pages alongside comprehensive tables of gadgets - from ant-inspired better carrying/less armor issues (and even wielding oversized weapons) to blasters, jetpack-like vastly improved jumps, the gadgets are surprisingly versatile - and, more often than not, do something utterly, completely UNIQUE. The gadgets alone would be cool - but combine their neat basic premises with aforementioned, rather interesting special tricks AND the 5-step upgrade system for maximum customizability and we have a system that ends up as not only flexible, but downright brilliant. And yes, we get grappling hooks, bionic commando style, scanners, magnifiers...even personal translators! Beyond these, there are symbionts - and, as an old Venom fanboy, I was pretty much looking forward to them, their concise rules and implementation. And yes, these symbionts are rather interesting - though surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly mundane though they turned out to be. What do I mean by this? Well, first of all, there is nothing wrong with the symbionts - there rules are concise, their benefits unique and they make for a very cool way to reward players even in campaigns that sport no electrotech - just explain it via aberrant stuff etc. and you're good to go. That being said, they are pretty much one note-augmentations - no detrimental effects, no symbiont-highjacks - nothing. Again, this does not make them bad and their acquisition, recovery and death-rules are concise, but especially when compared to the rest of the book, they feel very static and ironically, inorganic when compared to the vast panorama of options provided by gadgets et al. One deserves special mention, though - the animan symbiont can transform normal humans into an animal-like race called mutamorphs, one of two new races.

The base mutamorph race receives +2 Con, -2 Cha, count as both mutamorphs and humans, receive -4 to all cha-based check and get low-light-vision. Additionally, they may select one of 8 basic sets, which align them with e.g. bears, wolves etc. and influence thus their movement rate, a further +2 bonus to an attribute etc. Here, the rules-language could be a) slightly more precise and b) balancing is off. Natural weapons fails to specify whether they're primary or secondary and bite attacks, for example do not adhere to the standard damage for medium creatures. Additionally, we have unassisted personal flight at 1st level for e.g. Bat mutamorphs, which can be a problem in quite a few campaigns. The second new race, the raccoon-folk Nashi receive +2 Con, -2 Int, are small, slow, receive +1 to diplomacy and Knowledge, low-light vision, +2 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), Appraise, Perception and Spellcraft as well as early firearm proficiency. Okay race. Both races receive full arrays of favored class options. Nashi can also select a bunch of alternate racial traits, some of which are pretty strong and replace bland +2 bonuses to skills - which renders them pretty much a no-brainer. Not a particular fan of this decision.

Character traits, new skill uses for old (and new skills) etc. also make an appearance
After the rather sobering racial write-ups, we're back to form - with technician background generators akin to those found in Ultimate Campaign as well as  *drum-roll* KIMGDOM-BUILDING SUPPOORT! Electroplants, hydroworks, MONORAIL TRACKS (!!!), radiation sickness, airfields, broadcasting towers - even in completely unrelated settings, the content provided here is gold. Better yet, new rooms and buildings for my beloved downtime system are also provided for - including airfields, factories etc. - and there it is again, the manic, stupid grin that was on my face for most of the time while I was reading this book.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no glitches - quite a feat for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf has copious amounts of awesome, original pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.

Radiance House does not publish books often, but when they do, they tend to rank in the upper echelon - indeed, so far, I have yet to be truly disappointed by a given book. Dario Nardi and Alexander Augunas did not break this trend. Instead, they deliver something special: I expected this to be a PFRPG-book of the Electrotech-world detailed in other supplements - instead, I received a thoroughly concise campaign-overlay. With the content herein, you can easily introduce electrotech in any doses you deem appropriate into your campaign - from full-blown all-out scifi to fantasy with fallen spacecrafts to anything in-between. Whether you're playing Rhûne or Pure Steam, Iron Gods or any other even remotely steampunky/science-fiction-style setting, this delivers. In fact, if you're aiming for a magic-less system sans deities etc., this answers the healing question. From hardcore scifi to teslapunk, in small doses or in buckets - the Age of Electrotech is an absolute must-own publication. The technician is one of the coolest classes currently available and its massive customization options are downright beautiful to behold. After some tinkering, I am proud to say that I could not flaws with this exceedingly versatile class - which is quite a feat. Indeed, this is quite probably the best gadgeteering class currently out there - and one for which I really hope I'll see more material. Making a technician is simply an immensely rewarding experience and the playtesting does show - even more impressive then, that a class of this complexity is so utterly easy to grasp. Kudos indeed!

My criticism towards the symbionts should be considered nagging at a high level, and thus, we only remain with the racial write-ups not being on par with the otherwise exceedingly high quality of this book. But that also pales before the VAST array of utterly inspiring options contained within these pages - from the Ultimate Campaign-support to the vehicles, this book is a joy and one I definitely will get in print as soon as my finances permit it.

Before I gush even more and start to sound like a complete fanboy - the Age of Electrotech should be considered a must-have addition to any game that likes to introduce a bit of the uncommon into their fantasy - the content's rules alone, heck, the class alone maybe worth the asking price. Add to that the fact that you can easily reskin the fluff to treat this as magic, steam or whatever, and we have a massive book of glorious crunch, with inspiring fluff sprinkled in that can easily be summed up with the words "must have". My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and I nominate this as a candidate for my top ten of 2014 - this book deserves your attention and delivers excellence for its price.

You can get this super tome here on OBS!

Or, you can get it for a discounted price as an add-on for the Pact Magic Kickstarter currently running!

Endzeitgeist out.


Ultimate Composition

Ultimate Composition

The second massive sourcebook in Interjection games' Strange Magic-series of massive books clocks in at 95 pages of content, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 92 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

FULL DISCLOSURE: As the credits tell you, I acted as editor for this book. I worked on other parts of Strange Magic and was compensated for my work. That being said, I reviewed the Maestro and its expansions and thus the system this is based on long before I was involved in any way with this project. I did not contribute material to this book. I do not consider my judgment compromised and have rated projects I was involved with less than stellar before. I consider my integrity top priority and hence wanted to let you know about my involvement.

So the first class herein is already an interesting one that could be considered rather gonzo - the breakdancer. Sponsored by backer Sasha Hall, the breakdancer receives 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 composer-level progression, good fort- and ref-saves and proficiency with simple weapons, light martial weapons, whip, meteor hammer and light armor. He also begins the game with 2 scores and learns up to 5. Each score can have a1 melody at first level, scaling up to 4. At 5th level, the class receives the first so-called drop and these scale up to 5, but more on them later.

If the terminology hasn't been ample clue so far, composition magic is a special kind of magic (including a caster-like level) that has its own terminology. First would be so-called scores - these consist of an intro, an outro and a number of melodies. Each score must contain a single intro, outro and melody. Scores are prepared and require a caster-attribute (usually Intelligence) of 12 + number of melodies in a score. The DC, if applicable, is 10 + 1/2 class level + governing attribute. Since compositions are prepared, changing them requires access to a composition book, which is, however, only required to change the composition. A breakdancer, for example, begins play with 1 intro, 1 outro and 1+Int-mod (min 1) melodies known. Gaining more intros/outros/melodies requires the gaining of levels or the access to composition book, mirroring the way in which wizards can learn spells from other sources. The collective term for intros, outros and melodies would be composition.

Each score can be conducted for rounds equal to the character's Perform (conducting)-skill + the character's Intelligence modifier. Starting to conduct a score is a standard action that provokes AoOs, but can be maintained as a free action. The intro-effect triggers immediately, as do all melody effects - the latter persist for as long as the score remains in effect. A score can be ended in two ways - first, the character may simply stop conducting as a free action. He can, however, also execute a standard action that provokes AoOs to end a composition with a flourish - this triggers an outro. After ending a score as a free action, the character may not reactivate it in the same round. Conducting a score per se cannot be disrupted, but paralysis, killing/knocking the character unconscious etc. all end a given composition - whenever the character can't spend the required free action, the magic collapses. Unless otherwise noted, composition magic relies on audible components. Faithful readers of mine may now have a slight déjà-vu - and indeed, this book essentially takes the unique way of casting the Maestro-class introduced and amps it up, generating a whole array of material for it. And yes, I'll return to that class as well.

For now, let me explain the breakdancer's two signature tricks - number one would be Rhythm. A breakdancer can accumulate up to Dex-mod points of rhythm, minimum 1. These can be considered thesholds/points. 1 point of Rhythm is gained when the breakdancer is conducting a score. If within the effect of a score or a bardic performance and not conducting a score, the breakdancer does not modify the points of Rhythm he has. When not conducting a score and not within the effect of a score or bardic performance, the breakdancer loses one point of Rhythm. What do these points power? Well, remember the Dance moves I mentioned? Yup. These have either a Rhythm cost or a minimum Rhythm and, if applicable, a save of 10 + 1/2 class level + Dex-mod. Finally, there would be drops - gained at 5th level, these are special kinds of scores that have an intro, but neither melody nor outro. Drops do not require the conducting class feature and instead can be executed while conducting a score as a standard action, superseding the effects of the score for 1 round. Utilizing a drop eats 2 rounds of the duration of the composition currently conducted, but also generates 1 rhythm - this means it can't be used if a given composition does not have at least 2 rounds left. At 7th level, drops can be executed as a move action, at 13th level even as a swift action (or a move action, depending on the breakdancer's whims) - note, however, that only one drop can be executed per round.

Okay, so what do the rhythm-powered dance-moves? Well, a lot. The moves, beyond aforementioned restrictions based on rhythm and minimum rhythm also tend to have minimum levels assigned and most are supernatural abilities. If the above explanation of rhythm wasn't enough to cue you in - these can be used during a given composition or after it, for as long as the necessary rhythm is there. The effects, thus, tend to be good in a rather subtle way. Short-range fire damage versus targets on failed save, healing equal to one's own rhythm, or generating a non-illusionary mirror image based on quick movement may take a bit of thought, but as supplemental tricks, these actually help the class remain pretty much fluid. The dance moves also include so-called stances - a breakdancer can only be in one stance at a given time and entering a new stance immediately end the previous stance. It should also be noted that the level-restriction means that capstone breakdancers can select some utterly awesome, powerful spell-like effects - like nigh-infinite automatic haste whenever the breakdancer receives rhythm. What about moonwalking through threatened areas? What about expending rhythm to kill foes with pelvic thrusts? At range? Yeah. This is epic.

And yes, there are dance moves for temporary rhythm as well as a capstone for the maintenance of two stances at the same time. The dance moves also provide, unsurprisingly, deadly headspins of death and some nasty combat maneuver-combos, based mostly on dex and granting the benefits of Improved Unarmed Strikes, allowing for breakdancing martial arts. Neato! The favored class options herein deserve special mention, often providing thoroughly unique benefits and interesting scaling mechanisms -  take the one for Drow: First, you penalize creatures affected by a drop with a -1 penalty to Fort-saves. After taking it 5 times, the drow may select whom to penalize. After 10 times, creatures are also fatigued temporarily. A Fort-save negates, with the DC scaling with the FCO. Cool indeed!

Now as for the compositions, we'll check that later - first, let's take a look at the second class, which would be Jason Linker's Cantor. The cantor receives d6, 1/2 BAB-progression, good will-saves, begins with 2 scores (scaling up to 5), one melody per score (scaling up to 5 as well) and maximum spell levels scaling up to 6th. The class receives 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and light armors and shields. Cantors follow the same rules for compositions, but use Wis as a governing attribute. Unlike other composing classes, cantors also receive access to a limited number of spells, which they need not prepare ahead of time. This divine spellcasting is governed by Charisma...and unlike most classes, each spell can be cast exactly ONCE per day. Instead of bonus spells per day, cantors learn additional spells. Cantors learn the cure/inflict spells automatically at certain levels and has to determine which to use for spontaneous casting etc. (with the usual alignment restrictions)  -so in fact, their spellcasting is extremely limited, even more so than most spontaneous casters. At 2nd level the cantor receives channel energy as per alignment/energy type chosen and every even level thereafter, this ability increases, essentially granting the class full healing capabilities. Beyond these, MAD-alleviating abilities and social skill bonuses increase the potency of cantors when dealing with members of the same faith. They also receive their choice from alignment-related domains.

Now so far, this sounds pretty divine, but Musicae Sacrae enter the fray - these follow standard score rules with a couple of notable exceptions. These, unlike regular scores, can only be used once per day and one is gained at 5th level and every 4 class levels thereafter. They can be selected multiple times, each time increasing their daily uses by +1. Thus, you should not be surprised to note that these special scores (akin to the opus of the maestro) are very powerful and come with sample real life pieces to provide the proper mood, should you be so inclined. Veterans of the system will recall this system - and indeed, there is overlap between musica sacra and the maestro's opus class features and they utilize the same system.

These powerful pieces allow you to declare cubes of pure fire, forcing foes to run, immediately resurrect allies fallen even to death magic or grow your allies to juggernaut-size, including significant boosts to their capabilities. Or what about Gustav Holst's Op.32's representation's superb power, which even replenishes e.g. rounds of rage, bardic performances and the like? Yeah, damn awesome and epic, especially since the pdf manages to get the complex crunch-wording required right! The class may also select a capstone, a so-called Deus Ex Musica at 20th level, which include treating the first failed save each day that would result in the cantor's death as a natural 20, point-based domain-spellcasting and special "super"-melodies to add to their arsenal. Once again, we receive extensive favored class options for the class and concise spell-lists (including sources) and score-lists.

Paul Fijma has sponsored the 3rd base class herein, Bradley Crouch's Harmonicist- The Harmonicist receives d6, proficiency with simple weapons, 1/2 BAB-progression, good will- and fort-saves, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons and shields, but not any armor. Harmonicists treat their composer level as their class level and their compositions are governed by Intelligence. Harmonicists may conduct a score for Perform (conducting) ranks + Int-mod rounds, min 1. Unlike other composers, though, the music is not ethereal, instead resonating within a target within 25 ft + 5 ft./2 composer levels range. Intro and outro-effects are centered on said target rather than the composer, whereas melodies only effect the one subject targeted, also e.g. granting limited-use abilities to the subject, if applicable. All compositions a harmonicist can know thus have a slightly altered alternate rules-language, but more on that later. Additionally, it should be noted that harmonicists increase the number of scores they can have in effect at a given time by +1 at 6th level and an additional +1 every 6 levels beyond that. It should also be noted that harmonicists may expend swift actions to move their compositions from eligible target to eligible target. They learn up to 8 scores and can apply ups to 5 melodies per score.

At 2nd level, a harmonicist learns a so-called counterpoint, a non-conducting-requiring single melody sans intro or outro that can be executed as a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. This can be woven into an ongoing score, stacking with it. Only one counterpoint can be maintained at a given time and they can prepare one at 2nd level, +1 every 3 levels thereafter. This is called "weaving" a counterpoint. Starting at 4th level, however, harmonicists may also conduct counterspoints, adding woven regular counterpoints to those they conduct - sounds a bit complicated, but really isn't once you've understood the principle: The harmonicist may treat counterpoints as scores and thus modify them. The number of counterpoint scores a harmonicist may conduct at a given time increases to 2 at 10th level and to 3 at 16th level. Now here's the interesting tidbit  -counterpoint scores can be initiated as a swift action and do not provoke AoOs. Yes, this class is complex, but the combo-tinkering one may engage in...

The capstone btw. provides further options to modify the scores and counterpoints in various ways, adding yet another vast array of potential...and truly NASTY combos. The class also sports an array of favored class options.

The final class herein is an old acquaintance - the maestro. Since I've reviewed that class in detail back in the day when it was a single pdf, I'll be brief - you can always check out my review of the original maestro-pdf for a more in-depth breakdown of the class. The maestro is a full composer, with Int governing compositions, while his spellcasting (which adheres to similar restrictions as that of the cantor) is based on Charisma. As mentioned before, the maestro also receives an array of special scores that are not modified by melodies etc. - these would be the opuses. Additionally, the maestro may insert melody-based refrains into his compositions for an increased flexibility and the diverse, awesome capstones deserve special mention as well. Advice for granted bonus compositions and diverse favored class options round out this class -  and the maestro and his base-system were superbly glorious even before the streamlining of the composition-system seen in this book.

This is not where the pdf ends, though - we also are introduced to composition-class-based archetypes, with each archetype coming with a list of compatible classes. The first would be the arranger for the maestro and cantor. This archetype replaces worshipful/insightful performance and modifies musica sacra/opus - the arranger receives a masterpiece pool equal to the amount of musicae sacrae/opuses the character knows - this pool can be used to start any opus/musica sacra, allowing for increased flexibility regarding these nasty pieces of musical destruction. Instead of channel energy/refrain, the arranger may conduct so-called arrangements during the conducting of opuses or musicae sacrae.

Backer Sasha Hall sponsored the songweaver, who is compatible with all composition classes. Songweavers receive no intros or outros, but they learn to conduct bridges containing outro-effects after a certain minimum number of score, fluently gliding over to another score. On a design perspective, the exceedingly complex wording here is damn impressive. Additionally, the songweaver may weave so-called verses into their ongoing compositions - complex and interesting. Brandon F. has sponsored the Starlet, compatible with cantor and maestro - starlets never learn outros, but make up for that by learning to forego learning compositions in order to learn spells and add them to their metronom list - instead of triggering an outro, spells on that list may be executed as a kind of outro-substitution. Breakdancers and Harmonicists may opt to become street musicians - these guys come not only with one of the most badass artworks in the book, they can also generate so-called songbombs - these can be activated via commands, proximity or triggers and they can essentially be used to generate a musical minefield. The street musician receives one point for the pool, +1 for every 2 class levels.

Cantors and Maestros may also opt for the vituoso archetype, who may start bardic performances  -and the interesting component here being that the class replaces spells with exactly that, rendering the virtuoso a truly unique combo of the composition system and the potential of the bardic performance-modifications introduced in ample 3pp-supplements. A total of 2 pages of feats can used to modify the tricks at the disposal of the classes further - for example, you can cast cantrips faster, add the effects of a melody to those affected by your channel energy, conducting both melodies and refrains at once - these feats add yet another layer of flexibility and trickery to the classes provided herein, including e.g. means for the breakdancer to bypass spell focus-requirements for compositions. Of course, more rhythm, longer composition and all the variable extensions you'd expect can also be enhanced with feats.

Now after massive lists of compositions, it's time to check them out - and there are *a lot* in here. As mentioned above, harmonicists often receive their own effects and handy compatible classes-lines help you navigate the respective compositions. The compositions...well, they are overall exceedingly awesome - from mass mirror image-like duplicates that sport a more concise wording than the spell (and have specific, distinct rules) to destructive dissonances that break foes apart to dodge bonuses called "Can't Touch this!", there are  a LOT of cool tools that demand experimentation/stacking/recombination. What about melodies that can actually stave off starvation? Or the option to potentially modify the range of a composition by means of a chorale? Especially the latter, if used wisely, can be utilized to pull off some damn impressive stunts. Providing flanking immunity for all allies within a short-range unless all are flanked also makes for a neat option for higher level composers. Now the very interesting component that renders the compositions interesting would be that the crunch very much duplicates the notion of composing music - the system requires the players to take the compositions and combine them, re-align them, change them up - and thus create deadly combos. When a certain effect deals sonic damage depending on how long a composition has run and similar interesting efficiency-optimization-tricks allow and reward the experimentation and planning of one's musical magic, immersion increases and one truly feels like a magical composer. So yes, this is one of the few installments wherein the crunch actually helps the immersion, one of the rare, truly artfully crafted books.

Want to know what I mean by unique benefits? What about an ode that turns all alcoholic beverages of a certain power healing potions, but only while within a bar frequented by locals? Yes, this composition actually comes with a built-in reason why your players should open an extradimensional planar bar! I love it! What about hijacking mind-influencing effects? Have I mentioned the spectral literally fat lady? Yeah. Awesome. And I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what can be done with these...

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Interjection Games' 2-column b/w-standard with melody/music-themed, thematic fonts. The pdf remains printer-friendly and it sports a mix of neat original b/w-artworks and some stock art/graphics. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience - with nested bookmarks etc.

Composition magic is one complex system that is easy to grasp and, much like the music it mirror, hard to master. Unlike many classes out there, the magic herein may not look too impressive at first glance - the components, like single notes, look fun, but remain that - single notes. Until you tie them together - then, suddenly, a player can fist-pump and intone the symphony of destruction, so to speak. The massive array of modification options of the simple 3-part base system should constitute the very dream of a player seeking to compose his/her own magic -the way in which the single elements come together can be extremely gratifying. Yes, composition magic is different. It is weird. It is also the music-system the bard should have had in the first place - it's simply more interesting, less linear and puts player-agenda very high on the table. If there is one thing one could complain about here, then that would be that even more combo-elements would have been awesome to see. Some players of the old Maestro-class may also feel slightly vexed by certain compositions now being class-exclusive for other classes: If you liked killing foes with "End with a Whimper" - well, that's now cantor-exclusive, much to the chagrin of one of my players.

It should be noted, though, that Bradley Crouch and Jason Linker have simply crafted the superb incarnation of the system, with the cantor in particular being a true masterpiece - a full healer on par with the cleric, but with a completely different tone and ability set. While the breakdancer may strike some as a weird anachronism, I encourage all groups to check out how it plays, for in that regard, it is an absolutely unique experience as well. This is, let me emphasize that, NOT a joke-class. And if you don't like the fluff, do yourself a favor and reskin it. Seriously, the experience is interesting enough to warrant it.

Ultimate Composition is a superb book, a glorious magic-system and has become a permanent fixture in my games - one that I hope will one day receive even more fodder. Its crowning achievement, to me, remains in its ability to make the mastery of the system mimic the process it seeks to emulate - a feat rarely seen in any supplement and one that must be considered superbly rewarding. Hence, Ultimate Composition receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and becomes a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.

You can get this awesome tome and compose your own magic here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop!

Want the whole Strange Magic-subscription? You can get it here on OBS!

It should also be noted that lead designer Bradley Crouch currently has a kickstarter running that seeks to redefine bloodlines and what they can do - you can get the Strange Magic-subscription at a lower, discounted price as an add-on for this interesting KS! Check it out here!

Endzeitgeist out.


Leadership Handbook

Leadership Handbook

This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let's take a look!

Okay, so what is this? Well, in one short sentence, this is leadership for everyone. Yeah. You take arguably the most powerful feat in the game and give it to everyone, free of charge. Can this work? After an aptly-written piece of prose, we are introduced to the mechanics - first each character has an LS, a leadership score, which is equal to character level + cha-mod. If a check is called for, roll 1d20 and add your LS plus miscellaneous modifiers as per the table. Mythic characters also add their mythic tier to the LS. Now if you're like me, you always considered the leadership modifiers provided by the feat to be NOT enough - well, from frequent communication to taking decisive actions, the new misc modification table provides much more diversity.

LS determines cohorts, followers and here's the awesome thing - use LS to qualify for mass combat boons, special leadership perks and the reputation of the characters. In a cool alternate option, closely entwined parties may sport a kind of party leadership. Now the way in which cohorts are obtained, their maximum level, promotion options and recruitment - all of that is covered in ample detail. Better yet, synergy with mass combat and downtime rules are provided, filling a gaping hole in the regular leadership-rules. And yes, interaction with the kingdom building rules and leadership therein can also be found within these pages. Beyond rules, some great guidelines for building cohorts that are FUN in game are also provided and advancing them (including the advancement of monstrous cohorts) would be another point covered. Advice for DMs handling cohorts and a massive list of sample monstrous cohorts along their bestiary origin can be found within these pages.

Now in a stroke of absolute brilliance, downtime follower recruitment is provided in the book - and the book does not stop there. Training followers as army commanders, as contacts etc. -all covered. Better yet, a concise table provides max ranks for skills of followers, acting as a convenient and elegant balancing mechanism. And yes, training followers as teams would be covered as well. 5 sample followers would be provided herein, so let's move on to reputation, shall we?

The reputation is tied to a sphere of influence within e.g. a kingdom - only within this sphere, the effects are felt. Increasing the LS also increases the array of hexes you can influence. This can go in both ways, however - you can also gain infamy in certain hexes. Reputation effects utilizing fame/infamy, from discounts to lynch-mobs, provide tangible, concise benefits to the characters and both positive and negative effects are covered in a huge table. But that's not where this pdf stops - party reputation, secret identities and alter egos with completely different reputations - all covered.

Now if the mentioning of fame wasn't ample indicator - the system thus also ties in perfectly with the organization-rules, allowing you to spend prestige points granted by your fame for different benefits.

As you advance your level, you also receive so-called leadership perks -one at 2nd level and one at every two levels thereafter. These perks can be used to strengthen armies, cohorts, contacts, downtime, kingdoms, relationships, reputations and titles. There also are loner-perks which provide a stronger benefit, but these exclude you from attracting followers and cohorts. The last 8 pages of this pdf are completely devoted to a vast array of different perks that allow you to make a kingdom into an economical power-house, modify downtime effects...If you for example, would be the beloved heir of the throne, there's no a perk for that. Same goes for being on personal quests, for being essentially the martial law, for being just devoted and loyal...what about filling two roles in the kingdom? What about being a one-man-army? Yeah, you *can* see that, can't you? The one wizard/fighter before a whole army, brandishing the weaponry and telling them to come get him?  Oh yes. What about creating a group reputation with your spouse? This is absolutely awesome...BUT.
Yeah, there's a "but" - prepare for my dreaded nitpick-powers!
The "o"s in the perk-header font seem to be a bigger size than the other letters.
Yeah. I know. Not really a weighty point of criticism.


Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. layout adheres to a gorgeous, yet relatively printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. it should also be noted that the pdf sports numerous gorgeous original pieces of full-color artwork.

Ben McFarland once wrote on the Paizo-boards that Leadership would be the greatest gift a player can make the DM - it shows an investment into the campaign, a willingness to engage in mutual worldbuilding beyond the norm. I tend to concur.

With the release of Ultimate Campaign, a certain discrepancy has crept into the most beloved feat at my table (seriously, in my last campaign all but 2 players had it!) - and now, it's gone. In order to playtest this book, I had to actually integrate it into my main campaign. Just running a module or the like wouldn't have worked and I have two characters with the feat there anyways, so yeah. We made a bunch of modifications and ran with the system. Synergy with mass combat, downtime, fame and reputation - this system is a perfect example of ridiculously elegant design. Alexander Augunas takes all the distinct systems and ties them together in elegant, awesome ways and offers options upon options.
Okay, I can't emphasize this enough - this book is a huge blessing, a godsend. It is elegant and smart. It works exceedingly well in actual gameplay. It takes a vast array of disparate systems and forges them into a significantly more cohesive, functional entity. And it fixes the issues created by the relative strength of cohorts that make other characters feel left out. It also sports neat prose and provides advice for using these rules sans bogging down the game/stealing the spotlight. The Leadership Handbook will never, ever be left in any of my campaigns from this day on.

I cannot fail to emphasize this enough: EVERY kingmaker-campaign should get this. Every campaign using Ultimate Campaign as a book, any of its component-subsystems, MUST get this. The systems benefit greatly from the inclusions of this book and the system also perfectly works with Legendary Games' expansions.

Let me once again make this very, very clear -  the Leadership Handbook is a humble, inexpensive, utterly awesome book that renders leadership infinitely more streamlined - less like a half-baked feat-remnant, but like a full-blown tie-in with all systems. This is pretty much what I wished Paizo would do - tie disparate systems together with a concise frame, an awareness for the functionality of them. This is utterly superb. My only regret is that I wanted this to be SO MUCH LONGER.

It is hereby awarded EZG Essential status, becomes a candidate for my Top Ten of 2014 and receives a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get this glorious pdf here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop!

If you like Alexander Augunas' designs, you may want to check out the Pact Magic Unbound: Grimoire of Lost Souls-Kickatsrter here - why? Because you can get a subscription for 2015 for a very low add-on-price!

Endzeitgeist out.