This installment of Flying Pincushion Games’ class-centric “Into the Breach”-series clocks in at 29 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of crunch, so let’s take a look!
This book was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.
As always, we begin the book with a selection of archetypes, the first of which would be the Circuit Judge, a mounted inquisitor that exchanges the domain for the full mount progression at first level. 3rd level nest the mounted tactician ability, which nets the mount the teamwork feats of the circuit judge. At 5th level, the archetype gets “Stain of Guilt,” which lets the judge cancel out ally-based bonuses (like flanking etc.) on a failed save and is treated as an enemy for all creatures and their spells/spell-like abilities etc. This curse-based ability is unique and pretty fun, though its details require some clarification: The ability lasts for class level rounds per day and is increased analogue with bane (the ability it replaces), which is a nice way of depicting this. However, the ability, prior to this information, locks duration as one round – so which is it? Additionally, a range of the effect would be appreciated – as written, it does not have one and would allow a character affect creatures at very long ranges. 12th level nets the circuit judge’s mount the benefits of judgments instead of bane. I like stain of guilt – the ability is unique and fits the class well, but it does require a bit of fine-tuning. Other than that, a great mounted inquisitor, particularly fitting, flavor-wise, for e.g. Kingmaker campaigns.
The Duplicating Accessor is obviously inspired by comic book character Multiple Man and similar characters: Instead of spells, first level Accessors get Never Alone, a spell-like ability that can be used 1/2 class level, minimum 1, times per day as a standard action. The ability creates a shadow double either adjacent to the inquisitor or up to 10 feet away (I assume failure if that space is also occupied). The copy, unlike mirror images, does have all stats of the Accessor, though attacks can be disbelieved via a Will-save versus DC 10 + class level. The Accessor can direct all copies as a standard action. All copies? Yes, at 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the Accessor gets +1 copy from the ability.
Now the interesting part is yet to come: The accessor may sacrifice Wisdom (which regenerates upon resting) to further enhance the copies: 1 point damage makes one copy semi-real, possessing half the Accessor’s hit points. For 2 points of Wis-damage, a copy may partake in the Accessor’s bonuses granted by the active judgment and finally, for 3 points, a copy can have all the Accessor’s class abilities, drawing from the same pool of daily limits. Instead of domains, the Accessor may touch an ally and grant said ally a class ability, with the exception of Never Alone or teamwork feat ability. This lasts for one round per class level or until used and the target uses the Accessor’s stats for the ability. At 6th level, the Accessor can affect +1 character with this ability, +1 for every four levels thereafter.
The 3rd level lets the Accessor use duplicates as a kind of mirror image-y effect instead of solo tactics and the capstone doubles the number of copies and may daze anyone surrounded by him and his doubles, also increasing the flanking bonuses versus victims. This archetype is utterly unique – it juggles exceedingly complex concepts and even gets illusion-subtype effects for the SPs right…and it plays in a unique and intriguing manner. While the Wis-damage as a resource is uncommon, it does work out here within the framework of the archetype. Have I mentioned that you can’t heal the Wis-damage thus incurred by regular means, preventing spell-based cheesing of the ability? Aye. Apart from one very minor thing (what happens if all adjacent squares and all within 10 ft. are occupied?) pretty much a textbook definition of a creative archetype with a unique concept and playstyle, executed almost at perfection-level – pretty damn impressive!
The Lineage Master gets a blood call, which acts a point-based resource, totaling 3+Wis mod points. These points power the class abilities and the class can expend a point upon scoring a critical hit to add scaling bleed damage to the attack. Additionally, this resource may be used to get the favored enemy bonus of a ranger of equivalent level versus a foe for class level rounds, with higher levels allowing for the maintenance of multiple creature types at the same time. 2nd level (upgraded at 10th) nets 3+Wis-mod blood biography (at higher levels with additional information gleaned) to the fray. On the nitpicky side, this should be SP, not SU – as presented, it lacks CL.
Instead of bane, the lineage master can generate a ward that sickens allies of the affected creature – again, on the nitpicky side, the ability’s fluff implies the necessity of shedding the blood of the target creature, while the crunch does not support this restriction – clarification would be appreciated here. 8th level nets point-based Bestow Curse, again classified as a SU, when it should be SP. The capstone allows for a save-or-die judgment that may also generate blood golems under your control. This archetype has nice, visceral imagery, but the ability-type issue is somewhat annoying. Finally, one could argue for a disjoint between crunch and fluff here: While the abilities very much emphasize blood as a component of importance, the crunch does not reflect this…which is rather relevant in a fantasy game, where not every foe has blood… Finally, the archetype suffers from having a very restricted base ability that is pretty front-end heavy. By tying the base ability’s scaling to class levels instead, this could have been mitigated. Not a bad archetype per se, but also a long way short of being a truly awesome one.
The Ossuary Chaplain gets proficiency with simple weapons and firearms and diminished spellcasting and gets a gunslinger-like firearm at first level instead of a domain. The interesting part, though, would be the option to generate scrimshaw bullets from bones: 1 at 3rd level, +1 every 3 levels thereafter, which also doubles as the limit of such bullets you can carry at a given time. Now here’s the interesting thing: When you defeat a creature with a CR equal to or greater than 1/2 your own, you can create a scrimshaw bullet from such a foe. Better yet, bullets made from such foes also get a so-called “potent ability” – an extra boom, if you will. From creation of the bullets to their creation, the rules here are solid, with animals, devils, demons, dragons, (monstrous) humanoids, undead and vermin sporting different bonuses. The interesting thing here is that thus, the character can refresh scrimshaw bullets on the fly when defeating foes, rendering the very conservative limit crucial for balancing: E.g. humanoid bullets deal additional force damage! Without such a limiting factor, the ability would be too strong. On the downside, I really abhor the archetype inventing the “potent bonus” nomenclature – just keep it untyped and don’t invent bonus types or phrase the ability differently. Apart from that, an archetype with nice visuals and a cool playing experience.
The Relic Seeker replaces monster lore with better item identification, gains trapfinding instead of stern gaze and locate objects 1/day at 2nd level, +1 every 4 levels thereafter – and it should be SP, not SU – it’s lacking the proper CL for SU, if that’s intended – which it shouldn’t be. This is pretty much a textbook variant SP. The relic seeker may choose rogue talents instead of teamwork feats (advanced rogue talents at 12th level) and may expend judgment uses instead of limited daily use rogue talents – interesting interaction here. 5th level nets arcane sight, which is the proper SP, but did not italicize the spell and 11th level nets SR versus abjuration spells only – the SR can be lowered. Apart from minor hiccups, a nice archetype, probably particularly suitable for e.g. Mummy’s Mask.
The Revelator replaces bane, greater bane, monster lore and domains with a mystery sans spells at 1st level, +1 mystery at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter. Instead of stern gaze, solo tactics, track and teamwork feats, the revelator gets a revelation chosen from any mystery for which he qualifies and has learned, using Wis instead of Cha. 5th level and 10th penalize the character’s Will-save by -1, with the penalty reaching -3 at 15th level – however, in exchange for that, the class can activate two revelations with a standard action as required activation at once – interesting! Mysteries and revelations are strong, but the restricted access and tight balancing reigns here keep the archetype functional – nice and very distinct in playstyle.
Righteous Assassins replace the ability to cast spells with the ability to conjure forth a phantom weapon as a move action (scaling regarding the DRs it bypasses), and get an expanded spell-list. Furthermore, 3rd level nets sneak attack, +1d6 every 3 levels thereafter – for these tricks, though, the righteous assassins pay with spellcasting as well as with solo tactics and bonus teamwork feats. The conjured weapon is enhanced at 5th level and every odd levels thereafter by +1, for a maximum enhancement bonus of +5 (plus/mixed with special weapon abilities up to a total of net +8) and a highly customizable magic weapon, all in exchange for the judgment. This “godblade” archetype can be pretty powerful, but also rather one-dimensional. Personally, I prefer Jason Linker’s ethermagus (see Interjection Games’ Strange Magic) for a similar, but more versatile concept, but per se, the archetype is okay.
The Sacred Commander replaces lore with +1 improved aid and instead of solo tactics, the archetype gets two unique judgments: Assistance allows the commander and allies within 30 ft. to aid another as a swift action, increasing the bonus granted at 6th level and every 6 levels thereafter by +1. The second judgment, Tactician, allows for the 30 ft.-radius share of teamwork feats. This replaces solo tactics. 11th level nets the sacred commander the option to bolster an adjacent ally’s save by his Wis-modifier as an immediate action. An okay commander-style archetype, but I’ve seen the concept done in more detailed ways.
The final archetype would be the Varying Verdicist, who gets diminished spellcasting, but may 3+Wis-mod times per day change her size to large or tiny, scaling up to huge and diminutive at 10th level – the size modifiers are conveniently listed…or at least, parts of them are. Here, it is obvious that a small table listing them and including the modifiers regarding CMD etc. as well as reach etc. would have been appreciated…The capstone allows for the spending of 1/3 of the daily uses to grow to gargantuan size. I really like the size-changing tricks here, but the presentation of this archetype is very user-unfriendly, omitting several crucial changes for the sizes and requiring players to be properly familiar with the size-change rules beyond the numerical benefits granted. I like the idea, but Everyman Gaming’s SUPERB Microsized Adventures should probably be used by any player wanting to play this one – the book provides all and more) than you need to properly use this archetype.
The pdf also depicts an alternate base-class, the Vengeant. The class needs to be within one step of the patron deity’s alignment and gets d10, full BAB-progression, good Ref- and Will-saves, 4+Int skills per level, simple and martial weapon proficiency and proficiency with the deity’s favored weapon. No, I did not forget something – no armor proficiencies. A vengeant may choose a domain or inquisition and 4th level nets Wis-based prepared divine spellcasting from the inquisitor’s spell-list. The base ability of the class would be oath of vengeance, which can be used 1/day, +1/day at 4th level and every three levels thereafter. The character gets +2 to skill and ability checks versus the target thus designated via a swift action and may perform oath strikes against the foe: These attacks provoke AoOs from each target that is not the chosen adversary, but do allow the vegeant to roll each attack roll twice and take the higher result.
As a minor nitpick, the end of oath of vengeance is tied to the dead/dying conditions, thus discouraging nonlethal means of enemy neutralization…but then again, that may be intentional. The class also gets a monk’s Wis-based scaling AC/CMD-bonus and adds Wis to Initiative in addition to Dex. (Yes, in mythic game play with its emphasis on quick, hard assaults, I’d nerf this ability.) 3rd level nets the vengeant a so-called censure, +1 every three levels. When successfully performing an oath strike, the vengeant adds a censure of her choice to the attack’s effect, to be resisted with a DC of 10 +1/2 class level+Wis-mod and save-type depending on the censure. The censures include negative conditions, extra damage, minor retributive damage etc., with 6th and 12th level unlocking new censures, deed-style. These later censures allow for caster-hampering and even free combat maneuvers.
Higher level vengeants get an interesting ability that lets them move towards their oath’s target sans provoking AoOs, extending her rerolls to allies at 11th level. 14th level provides exploit weakness (ignore DR when criting and potentially lock down regeneration temporarily) and 17th level eliminates ALL movement-based AoOs. The capstone lets the vengeant reroll the first attack each round and take the better result. As the developer states, this class is based on the avenger…and it does a pretty good job at what it sets out to do. In practice, the class is a glass cannon and one that requires some planning by the player…but then again, it’s also pretty satisfying to crash as the unarmored fanatic into your foes. A niche class with a nasty damage-output, sure, but a fun one with a significant Achilles heel.
Next up are the PrCs, the first of which is the Infernal Enforcer, who gets d8, 4+Int skills, 1/2 spellcasting progression, 1/2 save-progression for all saves and 3/4 BAB-progression. Every odd-numbered level, the infernal enforcer increases his effective monk-level by +1 regarding an array of monk abilities. The class also gets an infernal essence pool equal to class level + Cha-mod. From second level onwards, each level is associated with a circle of hell – the abilities thus granted can be cast as SPs or SUs for the cost of 1 infernal essence (unless otherwise noted) each and saves are equal to 10 + class level + Cha-mod. From Vanish & Blur to healing and DR, improved mobility and debuffing touch attacks to a potentially highly lethal wave of roiling insta-kill hellish power (balanced by HD akin to Cloudkill). Each circle but the ninth sports multiple abilities and3rd level and every odd level thereafter puts player agenda on the table: Via boons, infernal enforcers can learn to customize the respective circle abilities, increasing their potency, making them less expensive, etc. I pretty much yawned when first reading the premise, but know what? This take on the infernal martial artist is actually pretty damn cool – I made a sample character and really enjoyed it. In fact, this may well be my favorite PrC from Flying Pincushion so far!
The second PrC, the Soul Arbiter, sports 5 levels and gets d8, up to +3 BAB, 1/2 Fort-and Will-save progression and 4+Int skills per level. The class gets 3 levels of manifester level and power point progression and 2 levels divine caster level progression. The first level ability allows for the standard action implantation of phobias in target creatures, though a trigger needs to be available…and, alas, while the ability has a hex-like 1/target/24-hour cap, I do think the ability should specify its range – the fluff implies crunch or close range, but I’m not sure. First level also adds +2 to mind-influencing or “telepathic” power DCs…which deviates from Dreamscarred Press’ established nomenclature. At 2nd level, the soul arbiter adds +1 to the effects of her judgments and stacks prestige class levels for the purpose of judgment effects. 3rd level has a broken ability: No Bluff or Diplomacy when someone is under the effect of a soul arbiter’s telepathy – this makes in-game logic come apart HARD. 4th level allows for CL or ML-checks versus alignment hiding effects and 5th level provides nonlethal damage and Wis-damage when a target tries to lie to her and ignore immunity to mind-influencing effects. While wording-wise not perfect, the PrC still can be considered kind of okay – not my favorite part of the book, though, and as far as rules-language goes, the least precise component herein.
Okay, this is NOT where we stop, though – we also get inquisitions, a LOT of them, though there are central themes, the first of which is the Foe Slayer: Aberration Slayer nets you, for example bonuses against Will-based effects and retributive, potentially stagger-inducing damage for those that try to break your mind, while construct slayers get Disable Device as a class skill as well as the option to hamper them via your skill in minor ways. Balance here is not always perfect, though: Smite Evil at full paladin level for Fiend Slayers, for example, is a bit of overkill. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, as well as DSP’s Elans and Maenads get racial inquisitions. Particularly interesting is the elven ability to make all unattended objects within 60 ft. count as attended – haven’t seen that one before and it allows for some interesting tricks…
At the same time, the Elan’s option to burn ability points for power points needs a note that it can’t thus exceed the power point maximum and the 8th level ability also asks to be broken: As an immediate action, for each 2 power points you spent, you increase the CL or ML by 1. No cap. This rewards nova-style gameplay and while I get the intent (making psion/inquis keep up regarding CL), this is not the right way. The Maenad on the other hand is pretty cool – retributive skin when outbursting and an aura that can end mind-influencing effects fit pretty neatly into the racial concepts. The final page provides 6 new mundane items – from the folding holy symbol for secret agent inquisitors to gauntlets housing scrolls and holy dust, the items are interesting. The traveler’s shrine (collapsible altar) also makes a return. Particularly so the bolt feed – up to two of these can be attached to a crossbow, allowing for swift action reloads that make crossbows suck less: THANK YOU.
Editing and formatting are very good -while I noticed minor formal glitches here and there, there are less than in previous installments of the series. The rules-language is also more polished than in previous iterations of “Into the Breach.” The pdf adheres to a two-column full-color standard with a great cover artwork and thematically fitting, though slightly less awesome interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Dylan Brooks, Kiel Howell, Richard Litzkow, Jeff Harris, Jacob W. Michaels, Jason Linker, Mark Nordheim, Taylor Hubler – congratulations. This is, by far, the most refined Into the Breach-supplement in the whole series. While the last one oscillated between highs and lows, this time around, we’re all about solid and yet far-out options. A significant array of the archetypes and options provided in this book are fun and cover niches that so far did not see much love, many of which resonate with powerful concepts – that’s a very good thing. An even better fact about this book is that the balancing, over all, is much more streamlined than in previous offerings by Flying Pincushion Games. Indeed, to the point where I can recommend this pdf – not simply for the shining stars, but for the majority of the content herein. While there are some pieces in this book that are less refined, over all, this is a quality supplement that adds some nice tools to the inquisitor’s arsenal. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars. If the crew of authors can maintain this pace of improvement, I’ll be able to slap my seal of approval on one of these pretty soon. So, again: Congratulations!