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Occult Adventures – Year of the Serpent Characters

August 11, 2015 Comments off

In honor of the Pathfinder Society Organized Play’s new Year of the Serpent season and the Occult Adventures sourcebook (READ OUR REVIEW!), here are some snake-themed characters ready to download and play. Yes, Year of the Serpent refers to the Aspis Consortium, but would it not be interesting to showcase a race that does not get as much publicity as others and in a different way? All of these characters are nagaji and of a class from Occult Adventures with one archetype each. They may not be overly optimized, but they’ll be fun to play! Enjoy!

Here they are:

  • Ganjas Wataris – Hydrokineticist (Overwhelming Soul): Claiming the direct lineage of a water naga, she commands water as easily as other creatures breathe.
  • Kasile Ecdyss – Medium (Reanimated Medium): As a murdered ex-gladiator, he struggles to keep his (almost) lost spirit in check.
  • Cawbra – Mesmerist (Vexing Daredevil): Whether or not in battle, the sly and hypnotic Cawbra uses his snake-charming abilities less worthy creatures.
  • Spragor Greysnake – Occultist (Battle Host): Bonded with the ancient samurai armor of a great warrior, he feels compelled to continue in the footsteps of its previous owner.
  • Maraguar the Mutate – Psychic (Mutation Mind): After experimenting with chemicals infused with naga scales, he finds his mind and body reacting unpredictably to the aberrant psychic energies coursing through his blood.
  • Sakara – Spiritualist (Fractured Mind): Dedicated to his people, Sakora’s psyche seems to have split into two, constantly competing with itself to reach new heights and do the right thing.
Categories: Uncategorized

Occult Adventures Review

August 10, 2015 1 comment

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…

2015 ENnies – Year of the Dragon

August 5, 2015 Comments off

2015’s Gen Con En World RPG Awards, or “ENnies”, should really be called the “Year of the Dragon”. Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition product line won 13 Gold and 2 Silver ENnies (out of 23 available). Of those Gold ENnies, they won the prestigious Fan’s Choice for Best Publisher and Product of the Year for the D&D Player’s Handbook. WizKids also picked up two Gold ENnies for their D&D related miniature products. The Dungeons & Dragons products line dominated the RPG world this past year and the awards show that players really liked what they got. It looks like D&D is back on track to become a force in the RPG world once again.

Last year saw Monte Cook Games versus Paizo, Inc., battling it out for RPG domination. This year Monte Cook Games won a Gold and 3 Silver ENnies while Paizo, Inc. won 3 Silver ENnies, with one being Fan’s Choice for Best Publisher. With Wizards of the Coast releasing their products at a brisk pace this last year, MCG and Paizo were simply overrun by sheer numbers. It will be interesting to see what next year holds between the three. What products will MCG or Paizo deliver that will push them over the top and dethrone Wizards from their 2015 throne? We’ll have to see.

Other notable ENnie awards were Best Software won by roll20 for the third year in a row with Lone Wolf Development’s HeroLab and Realms Works taking Silver for two of those years. Another big winner this year was Lamentations of the Flame Princess’ A Red & Pleasant Land. This hardcover won two Golds (Best Writing, Best Setting) and two Silvers (Best Adventure, Product of the Year) and gets praise for its versatility, setting and the art; definitively a book to check out.

Well, until next year!

Categories: 5e, Cons, DnD, News, WOTC

Exploding Kittens: A Meow-entous Card Game

August 5, 2015 Comments off

exploding_kittensIf you were one of over 219,000 backers from Kickstarter, you should have received your Exploding Kittens deck from Elan Lee and The Oatmeal. If you haven’t, you need to have a serious talk with your postal carrier. But don’t threaten them, that’s like a crime or something… I think.

First off, this game is hilarious. The cards are so funny and if you have the NSFW deck, you may not even be able to play because you laughed so hard you peed in your pants. Yes, this almost happened. And make sure you keep the decks separated. It could cause some awkward moments between you and your kids, you and your neighbors or you and your mother-in-law.

Setting up the deck for a group takes less than two minutes and then you are ready. Play is fast and furious and it can be as quick as five minutes depending on where a kitten shows up. The hardest aspect of the game that we found was that, unlike many other card games, you drew from the deck at the END of your turn. Don’t forget that.

We only played three hands and we were already using strategy to screw with each other. We were using Nope cards to negate the cards of each other (including other Nope cards) and using See The Future cards to dictate what Skip (immediately ends your turn), Attack (next player must take 2 turns in a row), or Shuffle cards we needed to play. When you use a Defuse card to negate the Exploding Kitten card, you are allowed to place that kitten back in the deck wherever you choose. That could even mean the top of the deck! In our last hand of the night with only two cards left in the deck and not knowing what the other player had, it was highly stressful and… I lost that hand… to my wife. She laughed.

I give this game an A+. It’s fun, funny and funky and not something you’ve played before. You can play it with the kids or go ‘adult’ with the NSFW add-on. Everyone will have fun playing. If they don’t, you need to have a serious talk with them. But don’t threaten them, that’s like a crime or something…

Have you been able to play yet? And did you have trouble retaining bladder control? Don’t lie!

#ExplodingKittens

Categories: Card, kickstarter, News, Reviews

Pathfinder: The State of Core

July 21, 2015 1 comment

Almost six months ago Paizo released a new ‘mode’ for players in its Organized Play program. This Core Campaign, as it was called, only allowed the resources of the Core Rulebook of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This new mode of play did a couple of things for Paizo’s Organized Play program.

First, it allowed new players to join and not be overwhelmed and needing all of the options of the Classic Campaign. New players keep Organized Play fresh with new perspectives and, of course, money. As some veteran players leave because they are bored or for greener pastures with other RPG systems, new players inevitably make the switch to the Classic Campaign and buy new source materials (books, PDFs, etc.) to use for their characters.

Secondly, it allows veteran players to replay scenarios and modules that they have already completed for credit once more. With the Core Campaign’s limitations on player options, veteran players seem to also use this opportunity for a challenge. Since many of the more recent scenarios are created to challenge those playing in the Classic Campaign (who have options galore), Core characters are challenged even more.

As a proponent of the Core Campaign, we have been building a consistent player base in town that consists of both veteran and new players. Before the Core Campaign came along, it seemed harder to get players to come but ever since the release of Core, the growth that we have had at our FLGS has been consistent. It has been good to our players as it has allowed organizers to form cohesive story lines from modules and scenarios instead of the popular question asked every week “Have you played this yet?” The smattering of scenarios fractures the multiple story lines into tiny bits and the majority of the time players do not recognize them. The Core Campaign takes care of that.

With Core being new (sort of), we wanted to know what players were thinking and doing. We wanted to know what classes and races players preferred, what attributes, skills and feats were most important to them and what piece of equipment is a must-have. With almost sixty responses and an eighty-percent completion rate, we found out what players were trying to do; survive and adapt.

Before we listed the survey, we thought that players, as in the Classic Campaign, would want to have the highest damage capabilities to finish off any threats as quickly as possible. While that is somewhat true, players have seemed to gravitate towards surviving since the potential for ending encounters quickly is much lower and versatility because you do not know what other characters will be at your table while adventuring. Here is the key data that we culled from our survey:

  • Classes Played: 33% Clerics (25% Wizards)
  • Races Played: 50% Humans (Equal Mixture of Other Races, except Half-Elf)
  • Most Important Attribute: 25% Constitution (Intelligence, Dexterity)
  • Most Important Feat: Toughness (Power Attack)
  • Most Important Skill: Perception (Diplomacy and Spellcraft)
  • Most Important Equipment: Cloak of Resistance (Wand of Cure Light Wounds and Alchemist’s Fire)

Judging from this data, we found that players are definitely trying to survive as long as they can, which makes sense because Organized Play does not operate like home games where you can usually swap out characters due to death. Clerics heal with spells and channeled energy while providing, most times, versatility within the party, depending on their deity’s domains. Wizards were close behind due to the versatility provided by their spell books. Players want more hit points, denoted by their choice of higher constitution scores and the Toughness feat. Perception was, by far, the most important skill, keeping enemies from getting the drop on players. Humans were the most popular choice for race. This is most likely due to their bonus feat and extra skill points, giving something extra over and beyond regular class abilities. The market for cloaks of resistance is strong as they provide the only real boost to a character’s saves, while wands of cure light wounds provide an extra healing element easily available to parties and alchemist’s fire is an effective tool to deal with those dreadful swarms. Survivability and versatility is the name of this game.

So what kind of character are players shying away from? A half-elf monk with a higher wisdom score! All three of those elements of a character like this were at the bottom of their respective categories. Half-elves are versatile with some of the abilities of elves and humans, but their bonus feat is Skill Focus, thus limiting the versatility otherwise enjoyed by humans. Monks need help from feats and archetypes which are not available in the Core Campaign. They lack several key components best left for discussion elsewhere (like here – Pathfinder Unchained: Monk). And players just thought that wisdom was not as important, comparatively, as the other attributes.

We have looked at what the Core Campaign is, what it is accomplishing and what players think is important in the campaign. So, in conclusion, we offer two pre-generated characters on the opposite ends of the spectrum; one made to be the perfect character to play and the other taking the least desirable traits and making something happen. Here they are:

  • Annastias the Beloved – Seemingly loved by everyone she meets, the tough, raven-haired beauty Annastias joined the clergy of Sarenrae and then the Pathfinder Society under the tutelage of her cousin. Driven by her thirst for knowledge and the preservation of ancient history, she routinely travels Golarion in hopes to find some obscure lore that the Sapphire Sage, Amenopheus, hinted at finding.
  • Grilayne Ashenoak – An outsider of sorts, Grilayne tries to rally others to his causes. Whether the cause may be calling for the town to present its taxes to the nearby temple of Abadar or for the local magistrate to end a bloody feud, it seems as though he is never welcomed in any civilized stronghold. Practicing a rigorous and unforgiving set of daily disciplines, he uses the ideals of Abadar as a basis for his beliefs. Now, as a member of the Pathfinder Society, he has decided to bring civilization to the heathens of the world, wherever they may be.
Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Pathfinder Unchained: Summoner

June 15, 2015 Comments off

This week we conclude our examinations of the new classes and from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We are finally examining the new Unchained Summoner, one of the least changed classes. The summoner itself is basically unchanged except for the revamped spell list. Spells that were obviously out of place in the old version have been placed at higher levels, balancing the class out versus others of a comparable power level. The biggest change has been to the eidolon itself. Players now choose a template, such as angel or devil, that dictates its base form and gives a sort of cohesion to the eidolon and tie it to a game world better than some random smattering of evolution points. This template comes with several free evolutions, resistances and even class abilities (ex. agathions gain lay on hands at the summoner’s 8th level) in addition to the evolutions that eidolons already receive. Roleplay-wise, this is one thing that needed to be done.

The downside to this rebuild? Nothing. Or it should be if players did not want the older version. The new version fixes all the kinks and problems, such as the spell list and randomized eidolon parts, of the old version, but with the older version still around may mean the unchained version will stay in lower numbers for a long while.

The Unchained Summoner receives a grade of B+ because even though it sets everything right from the old version, players will still want the broken, over-powered version that appeared in the Advanced Player’s Guide. It receives the great marks from balance and role-play, but low on desirability.

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a somewhat different type of build. We went with a build that uses the eidolon not as a tool of the summoner but more of a main character and the summoner taking the support role. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression to level 8.

*** Loris of Almas ***

One of the most promising young orators and diplomats to come out of Andoran, Loris has long had dreams of becoming a great statesman. He was shocked to find that he had been chosen, some say by Talmandor himself, to become the liason of an avoral by the name of Gramann. Charged with presenting Golarion to Gramann, he has been trying to get his plumed obligation to see and understand the good and the evil of the world.

  • Level 1 – Extra Evolution, Summon Good Monster
  • Level 2 –
  • Level 3 – Combat Advice
  • Level 4 – +1 Charisma
  • Level 5 – Extra Evolution
  • Level 6 –
  • Level 7 – Battle Cry
  • Level 8 – +1 Charisma

Check out the other reviews of Unchained Classes:

Pathfinder Unchained: Rogue

June 12, 2015 5 comments

This week we continue to examine the new classes and options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We will examine the new Unchained Rogue today, probably the best revision to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The new version takes the old version and adds several new features. The Unchained Rogue automatically gets the Weapon Finesse feat, finesse training with allows you to add dexterity modifier to damage with a single weapon, debilitating injuries (penalties or bonuses) to sneak attacks and rogue’s edge. The rogue’s edge is part of Pathfinder Unchained’s skill unlocks system which adds abilities according to how many ranks of a specific skill you have (Five ranks of Stealth reduces the penalty from sniping by 10). In Pathfinder Organized Play, this is special to the Unchained Rogue; no other classes are allowed to have this. By adding these four things the Unchained version of the rogue is so much better.

The only possible downside to the new rogue is the continued lack of armor class boosters. But for those who have played or are playing a rogue, those are not problems for you and you know how to overcome that with flanking and stealth. Honestly, it is not really a problem.

The Unchained Rogue has been made revised and upgraded beyond what many were expecting. With all of the new changes the rogue gets a grade of A+; all of the additions have made this class more attractive to play while keeping the versatility and abilities of the rogue that players are accustomed to.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a different type of build. We went with a build that uses a finessable two-handed weapon and combat maneuvers (trip or disarm). We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on her name) and progression to level 8.

*** Alyssa Denaria ***

Playing the role of the young, naive girl like an expert, Alyssa is able to accomplish many more things that if she was a hulking brute for the Pathfinder Society and the Exchange. Her subtle and lithe movements are calculated and she draws on her Varisian heritage to become an expert in reading the Harrow cards, a master of the beautiful dance and a wielder of a deadly bladed scarf.

  • Level 1 – Combat Expertise, Improved Trip (or Disarm)
  • Level 2 – Combat Trick (Agile Maneuvers)
  • Level 3 – Piranha Strike
  • Level 4 – Trap Spotter, +1 Strength
  • Level 5 – Rogue’s Edge (Escape Artist), Twist Away
  • Level 6 – Surprise Attacks
  • Level 7 – Extra Talent (Pressure Points)
  • Level 8 – Distracting Attack, +1 Intelligence

Are you happy with the new changes to the rogue? Let us know!

And have you seen our reviews of the Unchained Barbarian and the Unchained Monk? Which of the classes (so far) have piqued your interest?