[Pathfinder] Liber Influxus Communis

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I need to open this disclaimer with the fact that I was both a Kickstarter backer, and a contributor. I wrote the Battle Lord and his archetypes, so I'll try to avoid any claims as to his quality or strength. The rest of this book though, I saw at the same time as everyone else when they got to open their .pdf or hardcopy for the first time.

This book contains 14 new classes, roughly 10 pages of new feats, archetypes for almost all the new classes (and the one that doesn't get archetypes is with good reason, which I'll explain later), and a chapter full of haunts and environmental hazards to expand the breadth of your game. I'll start by digging into the classes.

The first class is the Battle Lord. Since I won't be discussing the quality of my own work to maintain the integrity of this review, I'll just tell you how this class came to be. I love characters with a "martial" bent, guys who swing swords and lead armies, holding their own in a world full of guys who can command dragons and create their own dimensions. I never felt like the Fighter really did that. I wanted to be able to play characters like Dujek Onearm or Sergeant Whiskeyjack from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, Admiral Akbar from Star Wars who pitted his military cunning against an army led by a powerful force user, or Captain America, a relatively normal guy whose leadership and tactical acumen not just had him standing side by side with beings far more powerful than him, but leading them. 

Enter the Battle Lord, a full BAB class with 4+Int skills and Good Reflex and Will who uses "Drills" to coordinate and share feats with his allies, and "Auras" to influence people off the battlefield. I also really wanted to incorporate some of my own military background into the class, which is where "Specialties" come in; each Battle Lord chooses a Specialty like Artillerist, Medic, Scout, or Soldier, further defining the way they interact with combat and what role they support on a team.

The next class is the Conduit, a 3/4 BAB, 4+Int skill, Good Will save magic-eater. It's obvious that the designer has had some experience with flawed magic-eater classes before; the 3.5 Spellthief was notorious for being exactly as powerful as the campaign allowed him to be. The conduit has several tools for regulating his "Mystical Conduction" ability, his focus for eating/absorbing magic:

1) Starting out, he can only absorb targeted effects directed specifically at him, and they must have a minimu level of power as defined in the ability (he can't have the party wizard fill him up on cantrips, for example).

2) He has a "Maximum Conduct Pool" laid out in his class table dictating exactly how much energy his body can store; not enough room left means he can't absorb an incoming spell.

3) "Desperate Measures" is the ability that separates the Conduit from failed predecessors like the Spellthief. He can convert his own life force into mystical energy, taking damage in exchange for filling his pool with mystical energy. This means that even if you don't run into a single spellcasting or SLA using enemy, you're not relegated to being a non-magical peasant for the day.

The Conduit also gains "Powers," fairly similar to Oracle Revelations or Alchemist Discoveries, so as his level progresses he gains more and more ways to utilize absorbed mystical energy.At the end of the day, the class really does function better in a high magic setting; I had a couple low level adventure arcs where I was burning hit points so I could fling a Mystical Bolt, and that was about the only time I got to feel particularly magical. The higher magic the setting, the more awesome the class feels. While I wouldn't recommend it for low point buy (it needs at least decent CHA, DEX, and CON, in that order, and STR doesn't hurt either) or gritty Conan-esque campaigns, it definitely has a place in the games I play, and I really love it.

The Demiurge comes next, and this class has a well-deserved complexity warning right on the first page. This 3/4 BAB, 6+INT, Good Will save pseudo-caster was inspired by ancient Greek Philosophers, and it's obvious in the naming conventions of abilities like "Enlightenment" "Sophistry" and "Rhetoric". The class' main schtick is whipping up animated magical constructs called "Facsimiles" that it can use for various purposes. There is a lot of floating math involved in creating and adjudicating these things, so thankfully there's several pages of pre-built Facsimiles to draw from until you get the hang of things. 

Remember how I mentioned one class didn't get archetypes? That's this guy; instead he just got more example facsimiles. Played right, this class can give you an awesome and balanced version of the Master Summoner, but it also shares some of that archetype's weaknesses, like having far too many moving parts on the battlefield. At the end of the day, at my tables this class is restricted to veteran players who have proven they have both the math and time management skills to successfully run it at the table. Probably not for every group or every game, but definitely a unique and interesting addition to the table.

After the Demiurge, we have the Medium, a 3/4 BAB, 2+INT, Good Will save diviner that at first glance isn't a complete class. Diving into the class description though, we quickly see that it's not a complete class because it's potentially any class. The Medium allows herself to be possessed by a Spirit Companion who has their own class levels on par with the Medium. While possessed by her Spirit Companion, the Medium's personality is subsumed by the spirit's and she uses those class features and abilities in place of her own. This is an awesome class for that guy who's always getting bored and wanting to try something new every month. If you're a GM who's getting tired of having to constantly weave new characters in and out of the story while trying to maintain a reason for the group to care about and be invested in the adventure, steer your fickle player towards this class. When he has a new class he wants to play with, he can swap in a new spirit, and everyone else gets the benefit of a consistent cast of characters.

Following the Medium comes the Metamorph. I seriously love this 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, Good Fortitude and Reflex chassis. This is basically your playable eidolon, with a pool of evolutions influenced by your "Genesis" and "Phenotype". Genesis and Phenotypes work similarly to Sorcerer bloodlines, with Genesis determining your primary mental stat for determining DCs and some abilities, and Phenotype determing your basic nature (Aberrant, Bestial, Draconic, etc.). This class is great for creating mutant characters adapted to particular environments; in our game one of the players just finished playing a gnome with the Plant phenotype who had a climb speed, 10 foot acid-dripping vines he could attack with, and invasive spores that could lower his enemies' Constitution.

Next up is the Mnemonic. This 3/4 BAB, 6+INT, Good Reflex and Will class is basically Taskmaster from Marvel comics. You gain the ability to learn your opponent's feats and eventually their Extraordinary abilities while combating them. You also gain a variety of mental techniques as your level increases, things like telepathy and the ability to sift information from the minds around you to enhance your Knowledge skills. The Mnemonic is part Monk, part Psion, and entirely cool.

Now to talk about the 1/2 BAB, 6+Int, Good Will save Momenta. This is the class you really don't see coming. It comes right out and tells you it's a henchman class, the guy who supports the "real" heroes with abilities like "Pack Mule" which increases the character's carrying capacity. Turns out, this class is unexpectedly amazing! Their main schtick in combat is "Motivation". A Momenta starts each combat with a pool of Motivation equal to his Charisma modifier, and gains an additional point for each ally who gets to take their turn before any enemy acts. He can spend these points to add a 1d6 to an ally's skill check, attack roll, or saving throw, or to activate a "Stimulus", a more complex ability that may involve changing where an ally's turn falls in the initiative order, adding a bit of sneak attack damage on a flank, or a variety of other options. 

The Momenta also gains Utility spells, spells that are useful for securing a campsite or smoothing over a misunderstanding at the inn, but which cannot be used in combat, and some healing capabilities that can be used in or out of a fight. This is that guy you've seen so many variations of in cinema and comic books: Subotai or Akiro from Schwarzenegger's Conan, Nodwick from the comics of the same name, or Durnik from the Belgariad. And just like that eclectic spread of characters, the Momenta somehow feels right at home in any adventure, whether the party consists of psionic superheroes from a high point buy Dreamscarred Press dream team, or low point buy Fighter and Rogue scrappers trying to scrape a living in a gritty Conan-esque world. This class is not only welcome, but actively sought after in my games.

The Mystic is a 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, all Good saves class that is unabashedly your chance to play an Avatar-style bender. Where Paizo's Kineticist could be fluffed to be a bender or a super-hero, or what-have-you, the Mystic directly incorporates martial arts and elemental abilities into its chassis, and even the iconic art is highly reminiscent of an airbender as portrayed in the Nickelodeon series. It does pretty much exactly what you'd expect, and it does it well, covering the four elements and a fifth "Force" element that basically gives you what you need to play a Jedi. This is a slick and well made class.

The Pauper, a 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, Good Will class... It's got a cool premise. You have pools of Hope and Despair that can be used to activate different thematic abilities. The class feels a bit weak to me, and seems like it is going to click better with low point buy campaigns where its somewhat unfocused spread of abilities will feel like more of a handy tool box than a random smattering of non-synergistic abilities. I can't say much more without additional playtesting.

The d12 hit die, full BAB, 6+INT, Good Fortitude save Survivor is exactly what the name implies. The Survivor is stacked with abilities that are all focused on keeping him alive and/or helping him avoid or get out of trouble. While the class' fluff and mechanics don't make him the best team player, he's definitely going to appeal to a lot of players, and he can play a similar role in the party to the Ranger, without the magical guardian of nature baggage that some people may not want.

Where the Battle Lord leads, the 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, Good Fort and Will Synergist coordinates. The Synergist has hints of classes like Dreamscarred Press' Tactician in its design, designating allies as members of its "Cast" and applying various benefits to them. If you want to see something funny, throw a Battle Lord, a Momenta, and a Synergist into the same group...

The Umbra is your custom "plane-touched in a 20 level class progression". This 3/4 BAB, 2+INT, Good Will save class picks an energy type (or energy types) to be associated with, and this isn't just limited to the classic 4. There's also negative and positive energy, and a host of demiplanar affiliations that are a combination of two of the elements. The element/plane you associate with really determines your role in the party and the nature of your abilities. This is a seriously fun class, not just for the cool theme, but for the huge amount of replay value the chassis offers.

The Warloghe, 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, Good Fort and Will, is a dark spellcaster who gains their powers by forging bonds with dark powers. This cool little class has a whole slew of special abilities that are customized even further by the spirit you form your your bond with, and it definitely has a kind of dark anti-hero thing going on. My biggest issue with the class is that it's so squishy; it specifically can't use armor or shields, and yet its spell list and abilities are almost exclusively offensive in nature. The Spirit Shield taboo is so essential to staying alive that I really feel like it shouldn't have been a Taboo (think Revelation/Discovery) at all, but rather just a standard class feature. Still, it's a lot of fun and brings some cool stuff to the table.

The Warsmith is the last of the new classes. This 3/4 BAB, 4+INT, Good Fortitude chassis is basically a combat engineer, able to Craft magic items without being a spellcaster, excelling in sundering, and with a variety of abilities called "Designs" to choose from to further customize his role in the group. My biggest issue with this class is that for some reason it uses Charisma to determine the effects of its various abilities rather than Intelligence. Everything about this class screams to me that it should have been Int-based, so much so that I'll be houseruling it that way at my tables. Other than that, it's pretty cool, though it is tip-toeing the line between PC class and NPC class.

Now, to feats...There's all of the requisite "Extra XYZ" feats for the new classes, as well as a slew of new Teamwork and style feats. There's a bit of variation in quality between some of the Teamwork and Style feats, but RAI is pretty clear in all cases. Overall, I like the bulk of the feats presented here, and many of them give you cool ways to fill in abilities that you might otherwise need to multiclass for, like effective unarmed strikes.

After feats we get archetypes. The Battle Lord gets expanded a bit, with roles that couldn't be adequately represented in Specialties, like the Marine and Cavalryman, getting put into play. The Conduit gains some rhythm and pattern based archetypes that are interesting, though I'm still testing how they actually play out. The Medium gains some cool options, like a psionic variant and an archetype that allows her to maintain a relationship with two spirit companions simultaneously, sacrificing power for versatility. Let me just wrap this section by saying that the archetypes are solid, and either explore interesting new territory or fill in any gaps I may have wondered about in the core classes.

The last section of the book contains a variety of new Haunts, awesome for creepy campaigns, unusual environmental hazards like rat infestations that eat black powder to dangerous effect, and some new templates and feats that tie into various environmental effects. There's also some facsimile character sheets, a final aid in making that complicated class as accessible as possible.Overall, this is an amazing book, with relatively few typos (I spotted a couple "there"s that should have been "their"s and some gender reference inconsistencies ("he"s where there were "she"s in the prior sentence) but overall very acceptable. The page stock is a wonderful glossy print, and the art is of a consistent quality throughout, largely on the same level as that seen on the cover. While it may not be Wayne Reynolds, it sets the tone for the book excellently.