Occult Adventures Review
In October and November of 2014, Paizo conducted a playtest of six new classes all themed of the occult. During the playtest, players were encouraged to test and report all of the things they encountered and ways to help the classes improve. The playtest was then closed and players started the speculation about how the final product would turn out.
Fast forward to the release of Occult Adventures at GenCon 2015. People are estactic. The book is beautiful and fully loaded with everything needed to introduce the psychic and occult into players’ campaigns. Between the new classes, their archetypes, archetypes for existing classes, feats, equipment and psychic magic, this book has it all. All of this is new and it does not feel like a rehash or reskinning of established material. Combined with Pathfinder Unchained released a few months ago, Paizo is hitting on all cylinders and is putting out some quality books.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and look at what is really important – the classes. We will take a look at what we saw in the playtest, what was changed and what we can expect from these classes in players’ hands. This may be a long article this week, but there are some interesting tidbits in there (and, of course, characters at the end).
Kineticist – Playtest Review
Quick Description: “With a connection to the elements, a kineticist can bring forth energy in the form of kinetic blasts. Instead of casting psychic spells, the kineticist uses unique psychic spell-like abilities called wild talents to manipulate elemental energy and matter.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: This class got the most attention out of all the occult classes. The appeal and nuances of this type of genre is popular and will drive this class for quite some time. Being able to understand, use and apply ‘burn’ will be one of the challenges of this class as will the amount of material this class encompasses. There are 20 pages devoted to this class (24 if you count the archetypes) and there is simply a lot to cull through to get what you want. Understanding the different types of blasts and how they are delivered remain the same with an added bonus of full damage to swarms creeping in there. This class looks like a lot of fun and with the right group, you could have campaigns builts around these types of characters.
Archetypes and Feats: The archetypes for the kineticist are interesting with the Elemental Aescetic (monk-like kineticist), Kinetic Chirurgeon (healing kineticist) and Overwhelming Soul (replaces constitution with charisma as the kineticist’s key ability) leading the way. The Overwhelming Soul will definitely see the most play since so many of the races that players enjoy have charisma bonuses.
As for feats, notable ones includes Parting Blast, giving a character a heroic, self-sacrificing death, and Delay Blast, sort of a I’m-over-here-but-I-hit-you-from-over-there trick.
4 out of 5 Rating: The concerns from the playtest (one-trick pony) are still there and even with feats and archetypes available, it just does not bump it up to a five.
Medium – Playtest Review
Quick Description: “By contacting spirits in places of power, the medium allows the personalities of legendary heroes to overcome his own, vastly changing his abilities and spells. He holds seances to benefit himself and his allies.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: This class was almost totally rebuilt. It is less confusing and much more interesting. Like in the playtest, the medium is very versatile and can take on any role with little preparation, but the spirits are much simpler. The medium channels entities not from the alignment axis (good/neutral/evil/chaotic/lawful) but from legendary spirits from the Astral Plane. The bonuses a medium receives from the spirits are thematically on point and the versatility is unparalleled. Even spell progression improves when certain spirits are selectd. The only confusion with this class may come from the influences and taboos that each spirit impart on the medium.
Archetypes and Feats: The archetypes of the medium are some of the best out of the entire book with all of them actually being used by someone. The Kami Medium gives an oriental flare to the class while the Spirit Dancer lends a Varisian (or gypsy) theme to the medium. Only the Spirit Focus is noteworthy; it adds +1 to the spirit bonus for a specific type of spirit.
4 out of 5 Rating: This is a complete turn around from the playtest. This version is so much simpler, yet versatile. This was a huge improvement and a great find in this book!
Mesmerist – Playtest Review
Quick Description: ” A mesmerist’s piercing stare lets him insinuate himself into other people’s minds. A master of enchanement and illusion, the mesmerist controls and influences the behavior of others.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: Still the consummate ‘face’ of the party, the mesmerist excels in this role. Still able to stare down its enemies and implant ‘tricks’ into party members, granting them protections and abilities. The mesmerists stare abilities are impressive, but lacking. There is some versatility where the mesmerist provides temporary hit points as healing, but when dealing with something without a mind, he is useless. At that point he must rely on ‘tricks’ to boost himself or party members and just try to survive. On the plus side, the mesmerist does have the capability to get Improved and Greater Feint without the Combat Expertise and intelligence score of 13 prerequisite. Mesmerists are tricky guys and gals.
Archetypes and Feats: The only two archetypes meaningful to the mesmerist are the Spirit Walker (who can actually affect the minds of the mind-less undead) and the Vexing Daredevil (a combat feinting mesmerist). Feats that work for the mesmerist include those that give more ‘tricks’ per day or add more effects onto their stares.
3 out of 5 Rating: This class is lackluster. Even from the playtest, the mesmerist had problems and they were not addressed fully. Players will have to find alternative ways to deal with ‘mindless’ problems.
Occultist – Playtest Review
Quick Description: “To make use of his powers, an occultist channels psychic energy into a varied collection of antiques and mementos with storied pasts. Every type of implement allows him to use a different school of magic.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: Was a fan of this class already, now even more. The spell lists were fleshed out and implements available for use were expanded. Other changes include being able to use mental focus without being afraid of losing power in an implement. During the playtest, players would not use mental focus because, when empty, it would cease functionality. Now the focus is placed and keeps the charge even if you use the mental focus to power other abilities. The only real problem now will be action economy. Using standard actions to activate abilities (like legendary weapon or aegis) take time from combat and keep them out of the fight a little longer.
Archetypes and Feats: Occultist archetypes and feats are actually the most lackluster element of the class. Honestly, they do not add much to the dynamics of the class. The best is Battle Host because it makes an excellent combatant and only one implement is needed, but the problem is that it is a masterwork weapon/armor/shield. You get this item for free at first level and youcan upgrade it as need be. Masterwork fullplate at level one, anyone? Granted you are stuck with it permanently, but still.
5 out of 5 Rating: The occultist wins. It does pretty much everything from the playtest and more. It has the versatility and the power to effect the outcome of any situation, even with action economy being low.
Psychic – Playtest Review
Quick Description: “With her incredibly potent mind, the psychic can cast spells that are more powerful than those members of any other occult class. She accesses these spells though a specific discipline, and can bend and amplify psychic spells as she casts them.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: The psychic has arrived! Pure psychic power is on the table and it tastes good. The final product is excellent. The spells are there and there are more disciplines. Once you master how psychic magic works (undercasting and such), this is probably the most powerful class in this book. Just make sure you choose the ‘Will of the Dead’ phrenic amplification as soon as possible so that you can affect mindless undead with mind-affecting spells.
Archetypes and Feats: Unfortunately, the archetypes do not do this class justice. Period. With the different spells and disciplines, they are not really needed. The different psychic and chakra feats are very, very interesting, but that is another article entirely.
4 out of 5 Rating: This class came a long way from the bare-bones playtest version. It is so much better, but something there is still lacking. It just just cannot get to five yet.
Spiritualist – Playtest Review
Quick Description: “Attuned to the spirits of the dead, a spiritualist forms a bond with a phantom – a returned spirit that has unfinished business but did not become undead. This spectral ally can alternate between forms, emerging from the safety of the spiritualist’s mind to take on an incorporeal form or an ectoplasmic body.” – Occult Adventures, page 10
Final Changes: There are so many similarities between the playtest and final versions of the spiritualist that it may as well be the same. The class has many of the same capabilities as before and could have been released on its own not as a playtest. More spells and phantom emotional foci have completely rounded out this class and it is now one of the best in the book. Expect to see level dips in this class, especially for the Dedication focus. While in the spiritualist’s consciousness, the phantom grants Skill Focus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive and Iron Will to the master. A single dip right there is a total of 10 skill points, +2 to Fortitude save and +4 to Will saves. And you have a sometimes-incorporeal creature that can run errands for you (scout, etc.). GMs will have their hands full with this class. It can definitely take over a game and utterly break it.
Archetypes and Feats: Sad to say that the archetypes are not super-exciting, but the Onmyoji does stand out for flavor (oriental) and spellcasting (divine instead of psychic). Feats are very close to the same feats that are available to summoners.
4 out of 5 Rating: Care has been given to this class and it is very well done. Power creep is the only problem that I see slowing rearing its ugly head.
Other Class Archetypes
Included in Occult Adventures are archetypes, cavalier orders, bloodlines and patrons for the other established classes. There are several very interesting ones to note: Promethean Alchemist (alchemist that brings a homunculus to life), Ghost Rider (cavalier with a spectral mount), Esoteric (tattooed magus monks), Mindblade (magus that forms weapons from psychic energy) and the Psychic Sorcerer Bloodline. Some of these archetypes and bloodlines convert to psychic magic. Remember that characters use thought and emotion instead of verbal and somantic components and there are inherent advantages to this magic (cast while grappled, etc.).
Stay tuned for tomorrow when a group of Occult Adventures playable characters appear. This time they aren’t dwarves…