This pdf clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 3 pages of SRD, 3/4 of a page blank, leaving us with 18 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf with the Avatar archetype for the cleric: These guys need to match their deity’s alignment and receive a -2 penalty with any weapon but the respective deity’s favored weapon. Additionally, they may not select spells with a descriptor that is not featured among the respective deity’s alignment. To give you an example, an avatar of a neutral deity would not be able to cast either good, lawful, evil or chaotic spells – which is odd from a balance-standpoint, since there is no neutral descriptor, making the center cross of the alignment axis and all neutral avatars weaker than the respective corners (LG; CG; LE and CE, all of which may cast spells with 2 descriptors) – odd. To offset the penalties of the archetype, the avatar gets +2 to saves versus fear and charm-effects. Instead of spontaneous casting, the avatar receives Deific Obedience as a bonus feat. At 4th level, the archetype receives an extra domain at -3 levels, Wis and Cha – somewhat uncommon…though this does replace channel energy…which is a bit odd – the additional domain comes into play at 4th level, while channel energy is already relevant at 1st level – though admittedly, that’s a nitpick.
The second archetype is the Berserk Barbarian, who does not gain medium armor or shield proficiency and the barbarian remains fatigued for twice as long; at 17th level, they may rage when fatigued or exhausted. When raging and not wearing armor, the barbarian gets CON-mod as an armor bonus to AC. At 2nd level, the berserk receives fast healing 1 while in rage and conscious, +1 at 8th level, +1 every 6 levels thereafter – and yes, this is abuse-safe, kudos! Instead of trap sense, the berserker gets an untyped bonus versus fear and instead of improved uncanny dodge, the berserker may negate precision damage or crits with a 15%-chance – overall, a weak little archetype – nice concept, pretty bland execution.
The Mutagenic Rager Barbarian, obviously gets mutagens instead of rage, may only use rage powers while under the effects of a mutagen and at high levels, these guys may end mutagens swiftly – this archetype is obviously broken and bespeaks a lack of insight regarding the function of mutagens versus rages: Rages allow for short-burst outputs; a quick burst of power, followed by a downtime – mutagens provide a minor penalty, but are significantly more flexible and last MUCH longer – so that’s issue number one. Number two is that some rage powers/feats consume rage rounds, which this blatantly disregards…and they’re supposed to be restricted by rage rounds…not always-on-options. Broken as hell.
The Black Powder Hood Slayer Archetype gets proficiency with martial weapons and one-handed firearms as well as light armor – oddly not providing simple weapon proficiency. Instead of track they get Gunsmith as well Wis-mod grit and the quick clear and gunslinger’s dodge deeds and instead of second level’s talent, the archetype gets Rapid Reload. Instead of sneak attack, these guys deal scaling bonus damage when dealing damage with more than one firearm to the same target in a given round instead of sneak attack They may also holster firearms at 3rd level as a free action and replace 4th level’s slayer talent with gunslinger’s initiative. The lack of sneak attack means that studied target works slightly differently -it is gained at 5th level…which is somewhat odd, since I *assume* it means there’s no 1st level studied target, but I’m ultimately not sure. Instead of stalker, they get the targeting deed, at 11th evasive instead or swift tracker. On the slightly nitpicky side – the archetype can’t decide on its name – it is referred to as hooded slayers, hooded slingers, black powder hood slinger, etc. – odd, how such a basic thing could slip past.
Bomber rogues gain Throw Anything and Bombs instead of sneak attack and they may take alchemist discoveries as rogue talents with alchemist discoveries as rogue talents with alchemist levels as rogue levels. Instead of trapfinding. they get alchemy-bonuses and make silent bombs and is locked into demolition charge at 4th level -an okay archetype, though I’ve seen the bombing done slightly more interesting.
The Covert Mage Arcanist gains light armor proficiency and may cast sans spell failure in light armor and two spells are added to the spellbook per level, with the requirement of one being divination, illusion or enchantment. Alas, the unique touch ability is wonky: Spend one point to penalize Will-saves by Cha-mod…but the very next sentence says that the penalty is equal to 1/2 class level…so, which is it? 7th level provides the utterly broken Spell Trick: Bluff-check to feint as part of spellcasting, on a success, you don’t provoke an AoO AND the target must save twice and take the worse result. You know how easy a skill can be blown through the roof, right? Not getting anywhere near my table…which is kind of a pity, since the 11th level seeing through illusions-trick is interesting.
The Dashing Hero Paladin is basically a kind of swashbuckler/paladin hybrid with Weapon Finesse, less proficiencies and derring-do instead of lay on hands. At 2nd level, it gets the a pretty OP and non-functional 2nd level ability instead of divine grace: The dashing hero can spend 1 point of panache as an immediate action to move up to his speed, pick up an ally (regardless of carrying capacity? What if the ally’s too heavy? Movement rate modified by encumbrance or not??) and move the ally along, negating the attack. The paladin’s movement does provoke AoOs, but not that of the ally, which means a pala can pull off sick readied-action combos here. Usually, two creatures cannot occupy the same square, so how does the pala carry the target along? Squeezing? Is the carried target flat-footed or denied his Dex-bonus versus e.g. readied attacks? Can the pala drop the target or does the target have to accompany the pala the whole movement? I get what this does, but its rules-language is SLOPPY. Other than that, the archetype replaces mercies, channel energy etc. with deeds and nimble – bland. The Rakish Villain antipaladin is the inverse, with an evil version of aforementioned ability – which works slightly better, but only slightly.
The Horned Warden paladin is a more nature-inclined paladin whose smite evil is particularly volatile versus aberrations, constructs and undead and instead of divine grace, aura of courage etc., they get wild empathy, trackless step and replace channel energy with access to the ranger’s spell-list as pala-spells. Overall, a well-crafted, interesting take on the druid-y paladin, including a code of conduct.
The Spirit-Scarred paladin recovers ability damage and even drain and gets an oracle curse at 1st level and spells not usually on his list are instead granted as 3/day SPs…which can, depending on the curse, be VERY powerful. Instead of mercies, he can cherry-pick shaman spells and instead of smite upgrades, he gets an always on ghost touch armor and class level 60 ft. fly-speed that fails to note its maneuverability. Oh, and palas suck at flight since Fly is not a class skill for them – or the archetype. All in all, cool visuals, hampered by flawed execution, though salvageable.
The Divinely-bound ranger replaces hunter’s bond with a familiar and gets enhanced spellcasting and 5th level Evolved Familiar. Okay, I guess, but not something I’d consider interesting.
The Far Hand Adept Magus receives diminished spellcasting and loses heavy armor proficiency, but receives free mage hand and telekinesis at 1st and 13th level, respectively – instead of spell recall, the archetype gets Telekinetic Combat, which mitigates mage hand‘s restriction regarding the wielding of magical weapons and utilizes Int-mod instead of Str when fighting with the weapon thus. The big issue, though, remains that he can use spellstrike and spell combat freely with ranged uses of the melee weapon, thus basically completely mitigating any balancing of either – with one nasty bonus: While he does not require actions to maintain concentration and needs a free hand to direct the weapon, nothing precludes the adept from doing this with his offhand and fighting regularly while wielding the weapon telekinetically. Worse, while movement direction requires move actions, the ability fails to specify whether the attacks directed actually require actions or not – RAW, this would mean free action attacks with the telekinetically-wielded weapon. Obviously, that’s not the intention, but it’s what this boils down to – the archetype gets the complex idea almost right and functioning…almost. As written, this is problematic on both a rules-base and a balance-base.
The Feytouched Hexer Witch is Cha-based and casts spontaneously and replaces her patron spells with some spells and uses hexes based on Cha and gains class level rounds of 60 ft. faerie wings with good maneuverability at 5th level. An okay archetype.
The Gold-Robed Wizard is basically a pala-wizard crossover that receives a spell-based arcane smite, replacing arcane school. They also get all cleric spells with the [good]-descriptor at +1 level instead of arcane bond – so far, so good. 5th level Celestial Summons are odd – summon monster-spells calling celestial animals and outsiders can be cast as move actions…which is problematic: Usually, the spell’s duration means that summoned creatures have a clear action economy, which is not provided here. The archetype also gets better banishment/dismissal. Not bad, but also not awesome.
The Gunmetal Mystic Monk is basically a gun-fu monk…and it has issues. It tries to make flurry with guns work (no AoOs from the target, but from other threatening creatures) but fails to address the holstering/drawing issue of firearms. Further problematic: ki-based bonus damage that bypasses ALL DR. On the plus-side, I like that the archetype makes pistol-whipping work with monk unarmed damage – which is a feat in itself and the pool-synergy ki/grit is also kind of nice. Still, this one does need some more work.
The Hitman Rogue can be considered a slayer/rogue crossover, gaining studied target instead of trapfinding, 4th level chances to ignore uncanny dodge, track instead of evasion, 8th level hide in plain sight and several cool talents for longer range sneak attacks, better disguises and the like – overall a nice little archetype I’d allow in my games!
The Monster Chronicler Investigator gets diminished alchemy and is particularly adept at identifying monsters. The archetype also gets favored enemy (no humanoids) at 6th level and at 9th level, replace that one daily – a humble, solid one. No complaints here!
The Sanctified Sorceror gets better UMD for spell-trigger/completion items instead of bloodline arcana. At 3rd level, he may “convert spells into channeled energy” with cleric level equal to sorc level 1+Cha-mod times…so does he have to convert spells or not? 3rd level and every 2 levels thereafter net a cleric spell one level lower than max spell level known instead of bloodline spells.
The Spellscorn Fighter would be a more complex one – and is actually my favorite archetype in the whole book: Geared wholly towards the hampering of divine casters, the archetype receives bonuses to saves, Disruptive and Step-Up, Spellbreaker and similar tricks of the trade at appropriate levels, making these fighters pretty capable of dealing straightforwardly with casting threats, though imho the archetype could have used a means of offsetting magical mobility and tricks. Still, an actually great little archetype that shows the potential Flaming Crab Games exhibits in later releases!
The Weird Musician bard replaces inspire courage with something rather OP: AoE evolution-gain to allies listening to his music. No, you have NOT misread. Do I need to go on? Oh, and they also get witch hexes, powered by bardic performances…which is interesting. Oh, and bonus witch/shaman spells at 2nd level, 5th and every 3 thereafter. I like the concept here, but the evolution-grant is sickeningly powerful in the hands of even a moderately capable group – this needs some serious nerfing.
The Wild Experimenter Alchemist is cool: Basically, it can be summed up in one sentence: Wild Magic bombs. Nuff said. Again, a simple, yet effective archetype with a unique angle.
The Final beast herein, the Witchknight Inquisitor gets a patron instead of domains and may add hexes to targets of her judgments on a critical hit as immediate actions. The archetype also gets a familiar instead of monster lore and hexes instead of solo tactics and teamwork feats – all in all a well-crafted, cool archetype that blends the two classes – no complaints.
Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good, but on a content-level, the rules could have used another pass – there are quite a few issues in the details of these archetypes. Additionally, the lack of italicization for the spells annoyed me. The pdf adheres to a 2-column full-colro standard with unnecessary brownish borders that render the book none too printer-friendly, particularly since there’s a lot of blank space between archetypes. The wide brown borders and blank spaces are definitely something that was not required by this book and make for the weakest layout I’ve seen in Flaming Crab Games supplements so far.
Alex Abel, Tanner Wahlin and C.J. Withers’ archetypes in this book follow generally the tried and true formula of combining x with y – and there’s nothing wrong with that in general, though personally, I prefer my archetypes to be more distinct. In the details, there are quite a few highly problematic balance-concerns regarding several archetypes herein that show a disregard for balance I cannot condone…which is a pity, for while there are quite a few problematic and yes, broken options in here, there also are quite a few in this book that certainly are interesting.
However, this does not change the fact that there is a lot to complain about in this book – to me, this is a pretty flawed collection of material which does present some gems to the readers…but ultimately, not enough of them in relation to the issues. It is said gems that elevate my final verdict to 2.5 stars, alas, rounded down.