Liber Xpansion

Liber Xpansion

This massive expansion for Amora Game’s critically-acclaimed and criminally-underrated Liber Influxus Communis“-tome clocks in at a massive 98 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page thank you, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 91 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

This was a long time coming and the heartfelt dedication in the front of the book to a friend who has passed, Ryan Warrick Cramer, makes for a touching beginning before we take a look at 2 new classes presented in the first chapter.

 

The first of which would be the adventurer, who gains d8 HD, 6 + Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light & medium armors and shields as well as ¾ BAB-progression. The saves of the class are determined at 1st level – may be chosen as good saves and the class also gets to choose 2 + Int-mod skills to add to the list of class skills. They also choose a so-called apprentice skill from Craft and Profession skills available (the skill references have not been properly capitalized) – At 8th level, the adventurer may always take 10 in that skill. At 12th level, the adventurer may always take 20 when using her apprentice skill. 16th level yields bonuses for chosen Profession apprentice skills or automatic masterworks for adventurers that chose Craft – oh, and actually quick non-magical crafting. Instead of using Diplomacy, they may also use the apprentice skill for bargaining at this level.

 

3rd level yields uncanny dodge, 9th level improved uncanny dodge and 5th level yields solo tactics. At 13th level, the adventurer may 1/day change a rolled 1 on a d20 into a 20 – I assume that is sans action required/as part of the roll, but it would be nice to have that specified. 17th level eliminates the ability score penalties incurred by old age.

 

You have probably guessed it: Yes, the adventurer is defined by more than these: The class sports several signature abilities, the first of which would be guild training: The adventurer chooses one of 5 different adventurer guilds, a choice that can later not be reversed. The guild chosen determines what is considered to be a Guild Feat for the class as well as the abilities gained by the class. The first of these would be the adventuring guild, who may, as a swift action, grant herself a luck bonus to a variety of rolls 4 + Charisma modifier times per day, which can be maintained as a free action and increases in potency at 5th level and every 6 levels thereafter. Assassins may choose non-combat feats as Guild feats and receive +1d6 sneak attack, increasing that by +1d6 every three levels thereafter. Explorers are very front-heavy, gaining +10 ft. movement rate as well as swim and climb speeds equal to the movement rate, which is too dippable for my tastes. The Herculean guild gets a very restrictive Guild feat list, but increases HD to 10 (does this include 1st level?) and receives an adrenaline rush – basically a more flexible variant of rage that allows for the increase of +4 to a physical ability score, which can be freely divided in increments of +2, with progression of rounds available being adhering once again to a scaling formula. Finally, the woodsman guild gets the ranger traps and associated feats as well as skirmish, which provides a scaling dodge bonus after moving  and at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, a scaling damage-boost during rounds he is moving.

 

Beyond these, the guilds do influence the available talents for the class, which are called advanced guild trainings. Additional advanced guild trainings are gained every 3 levels after 4th and run a wide variety of options. Not all of them are perfectly, executed, though – the option to get a SP with scaling daily uses does not differentiate between spell-lists, for example, and spell-list strength does diverge a bit. Another training deals with called shots and, while good enough, reduction of penalties as the one granted by the talent is usually phrased slightly differently. That being said, these represent mostly cosmetic hiccups – on the plus-side, we have fast stealth, increased speed while mounted, increased initiative while mounted (ouch in mythic gameplay). Interesting: Using Escape Artist instead of Acrobatics to avoid AoOs and for every 5 ranks, he automatically avoids an attack – while very strong, it is limited enough to make it an interesting offering and tying it to ranks prevents abuse…so yeah, nice one! That being said, there is one general talent that is broke: Scrap it. Without requiring an action, you can interpose your shield between an attack – it absorbs ALL damage from the attack, becoming broken. A second use destroys the shield. While the talent states explicitly that the damage thus caused cannot be repaired, this still needs some serious limitation. Get a bucketload of bucklers, end up basically invincible as long as you can take up new shields. Not cool.

 

Among the guild-specific options, we have evasion, 1/day immediate action use of a standard action, shield allies from Ref-based effects and the like. Assassins can select bleeding attacks, death attacks, HiPS…you get the idea.  Explorers are a bit wonky, introducing in one ability the Piloting skill (not how that works…) and skill boosts. Herculean adventurers get limited daily-use instant knockout hits, upgrades for adrenaline rush and the like. Balancing and formatting here is wonky – levels instead of class levels, a talent that adds “1d8 + STR”[sic!] damage to bull rushes– there are some serious hiccups here, some of which influence the integrity of the rules…which is REALLY weird, for at the same time, e.g. an option to mitigate adrenaline rush’s cooldown is presented precisely. Finally, woodsmen get favorite terrain, camouflage and a skirmish upgrade with a d12-table of conditions you can randomly cause – these range from feeble to save-or-suck…and frankly, I think the ability should have been cut up into a tree or offer some scaling for the ability, with the more potent options unlocking later. The guilds btw. also determine the capstone the class gets.

 

Finally, it should be noted that 2nd level yields best guess, a means to determine a ton of information via Survival.

 

The second class presented herein would be the gun adept hybrid class, a blend of Bard/magus and gunslinger, who gains d8 HD, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and firearms as well as light armor and does not incur spell failure while in light armor. The class gains spontaneous Charisma-based arcane spellcasting of up to 6th level, drawing spells from the bard’s list, ¾ BAB-progression and good Ref-saves. The class receives Gunsmith at 1st level and uses the gun thus gained as a focus, which allows the class to eschew components with a price of 100 gp or less, but as a kind of bonded object, casting without it is problematic. The arcane gun can be used to fire spells, not unlike my own etherslinger’s design – there are limits here in place, making only spells that require an attack roll (oddly listing cone and line spells in the same line as the attack structure, which is a bit weird since these usually are opposed by a saving throw) and adds the gun’s enhancement bonus as a bonus to spell DC. There is a mitigating risk to this power, though: When channeling a spell through the gun thus and you roll a 1 on the attack roll or a target succeeds a save with a natural 20, the gun becomes broken.

 

2nd level yields nimble, which increases in power every 4 levels thereafter, with 3rd level netting the option to channel spell levels into bullets, increasing the damage output of the gun by +1d6 per level. *sigh* Because slingers needed damage boosts. Also weird “magic damage” – considering the plethora of damage types available in PFRPG, this make-belief type is weird to see. And no, this was not for the purpose of DR interaction, for the ability precisely notes the interaction with that component. However, rune bullets do cost +1 gp and etching them while adventuring strains the eyes, providing a penalty to ranged atk. Alchemical bullets cannot be made into rune bullets and firing rune bullets via guns other than the arcane gun increases the misfire rate by 3. 4th level provides the option to have multiple arcane guns – if he instead specializes on one gun, the gun adept gains an x3 multiplier for spell critical, which is very, very potent.

 

Starting at 5th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the gun adept gets an RBE – a rune bullet effect. There are three categories: Bullet effects add e.g. alignment effects, energy damage, etc. As a minor gripe: The deafening effect of thunder bullets – does the aura center on the target of the bullet or the gun adept? Trick shots provide the utility tricks – counterspell shots, for example – some nice tricks here including soft crowd control with creature drawing/pulling! Thirdly, there are so-called “whiskey” tricks, which affect the gun adept. Contained in this section would be bayonet charges that add a second firing attack to the charge…which is a bit weird, in that it does not precisely codify how firing the gun and charging/AoOs etc. interact. From named bullets to pistol-whipping, there are so interesting options here.

 

Starting at 7th level, fighter feats may be chosen as bonus feats, with 12th level providing another one.  9th level allows for the imbuing of a spell in a rune bullet, causing a “duel[sic!] effect” – there are some more typos here and the ability isn’t, alas, as concise as I’d like it to be. The bonus damage caused by rune bullets in such a case is reduced, at least until 19th level.

15th level provides an AoO for the gun adept whenever a spell within reach (should be RANGE) of the gun is cast; this is executed after the spell’s “complete” – whatever that means. I get what this is supposed to do, but RAW, it does not work. 20th level provides auto-crit for arcane gun, spells and rune bullets (WTF) and an increased critical multiplier. Double WTF. Even for 20th level, that’s overkill. At the same time, the rune bullet crafting process is depicted in surprising detail, so kudos.

 

All in all, the gun adept makes for a take on the trope that almost gets it right – the ideas, chassis etc. are cool, but the damage-escalation is BRUTAL and it does not help that the class fails to limit the spells that can be channeled through the gun to class spells. A good rules-editor fixing some aspects of this could have made it into one of the best gunslinger-options, but RAW it is, pardon the bad pun, a pretty raw offering. …yeah, will punch myself for this one later.

 

Anyways, that’s it for the first chapter of the book – hereafter, we dive into archetypes and class options, starting with Michael Sayre’s great Battle Lord. The Dual Specialist would be a meaningful engine-tweak, which loses divine aura, dual command and some combat drills in favor of being able to gain training benefits from a specialty he did not choose. Warchiefs would be a Cha-based chaotic variant of the class – instead of associating bonus feats with combat drills, he employs rage powers to grant to allies – who, alas, may not execute Dex and Int-based skills while the drill is active. Dual command is moved to 16th level and 8th instead yields a +4 morale bonus to Strength and +2 to Will-saves for allies affected by drills – however, no three-fold command. The archetype also gains a variant capstone…and is really cool, potent and mechanically PRECISE. The final archetype for the class would be the zealot, who is Wisdom-based and exchanges 4th and 16th level’s combat drills for channel energy, with 5th level providing Channel Smite and 16th level adding negative effects to channel smite. Meaningful, fun engine-tweak – and once again, precise and well-made.

 

The Conduit gets a full-blown alternate class version, the siphon, who, instead of absorbing magic, basically acts as an absorbing battery for psionics. As a minor complaint here – last time I checked, there was no psionic damage type. The rays they can fire from absorbed energy increase their ranges, with higher levels providing means to expend siphoned power points to activate unique talents – Pretty cool: These get unique displays, enhancing the flavor component here. I am, as a whole, pretty excited by this variant – and in a really cool twist, 10th level provides an important choice that radically alters how the class plays – either the base engine is retained, or the class changes how it works by gaining access to the option to absorb latent energy of nearby psionics – as a whole, an impressive variant that includes proper rules-language for interaction with psionic items etc. There are some minor hiccups on an editing point, with e.g. “longer” missing from “no ages or requires sleep…”

 

Metamorphs get a variety of new evolutions that include integrated blasters for construct phenotypes, blood drain, energy drain, jinxs, gliding, powerful leaps, with e.g. jinx building on exceptional luck. An upgrade for sores should imho have a cool-down or cap to prevent the spamming of poisonous spores. Nice, on the other hand – some Technology Guide support here!  A new feat lets you expend vitality surges to temporarily gain an evolution worth 1 point per 5 levels (should probably be metamorph levels). The Bionicist archetype would btw. be the dedicated Technology Guide option for the class. The blob is cooler – an ooze metamorph, who gains basically fortification-style abilities and the higher level option to spawn oozelings – basically damaging terrain that can, at higher levels, be used for short-range teleportation. Doopelmorphs would be, in case you were wondering, metamorphs that focus on doppelganger-style human impersonation. Ever-changing metamorphs may change their forms daily, but has less evolution points. Necromorphs replace vitality surge with the option to gain a temporary hit point pool in addition to other temporary hit points, explicitly stacking – this is extremely cheesable, effectively doubling your hit points. While the temporary hit points are not tied to damage, but to positive hit points reduced, this only means you’ll need more kittens to suck dry when recharging your shield…and the temp hit point maximum thus gained is btw. = maximum hit points. Yeah, not gonna happen in my game.

 

The mnemonic section begins with a  bit of errata (which not in the base book?)  and comes with two archetypes. The first would be the Dan Tien, who uses Int instead of Str to determine unarmed strike damage output. Instead of the signature memory theft and wipe, the class gains the option to enter into a battle trance that provides a means to increase damage and atk as well as threat range (RAW stacks with other effects, which is something I don’t tend to enjoy) – the ability does not add the benefit to crit confirmations and instead rewards multiple critical hits with stacking untyped bonuses. I’d be complaining much louder here, if the trance had no succinct cap per day. Instead of photographic reflexes, we get an ability intended to mimic other attacks, which becomes problematic with attack-like abilities, natural attacks and the like. The class also gets a thought strike-based parry, defensive roll, etc. Solid, as a whole, though it did not blow me away. The second archetype, the sensei, replaces photographic reflexes with the ability to impart copied moves to allies – the wording that the ability is basically renamed here and that the uses still are used as resource could have been a bit clearer here.  When using retraining rules, the sensei can also be really quick and helpful as a kind of omni-teacher.

 

Mystics gets new talents, both increased ranges and advanced talents that e.g. include flame-based propulsion. The class, alas, hasn’t aged too well, with the release of the kineticist since then…The dual energy tricks available here are okay, though. The extensionist is a basic engine tweak and sports a couple of sentences, where the structure seems to be wonky. “she must decided[sic!]” and the like. The Musha-Chie archetype is a psionic mystic, basically a psychic warrior crossover, who gets to use ki as power points, among other things. Not bad, but also not the most impressive of crossover options.

 

The pauper class was the weakest in the original LIC, and this book does help a bit, providing three proper guiding means to determine the gain of hope and despair with concise paths. The absolver archetype can gain despair by listening to sorrow or hope when delivering motivational speeches – this is pretty roleplaying-based, but yeah. On a more annoying note: assumption of sins fails to specify whether it is powered by hope or despair. Cool: They can transfer negative conditions and later provide atonements, for example. The conduit of futures is weird, being able to share their hope and despair abilities with nearby allies. While the rules-language is okay, it could be more precise here. Mastermind paupers are despair specialists, rationalists get emotion and logic pools (though not much beyond that is done with the cool concept) and taleweavers have pretty much free control of whether to gain hope or despair…which begs to question why to use the base class in the first place.

 

The survivor gets new tactics to add in surprise rounds or poach some adventurer tricks. The contender archetype loses the safe passage options to ally aiding. He also gains the option to substitute a scaling damage for unarmed strikes or grapples – though the formatting here is not as it should be, sporting cosmetic deviations. The archetype may use safe passage uses to suspend a scaling array of negative conditions…and unfortunately taps into the somewhat problematic herculean adventurer abilities, while also gaining a few new tricks to choose from.

 

The synergist begins with an errata (again –should be in the base book) as well as two archetypes: The echo declares a member of her cast as foil and chooses success or failure, basing synergy points on the performance of that foil, with higher levels providing more foils. Instead of complementary skills, nearby ability score modifiers of allies may be used and when multiple members of the cast roll the same number for a skill check or attack roll, the echo gains a bonus – which is pretty creative! All in all, one of the more interesting archetypes herein. Vagarist casts gain bonuses when failing as a whole, penalties when succeeding as a whole, comparing total combat performance. Via schadenfreude, they may base synergy on failures of foes in a surprisingly complex, interesting engine-tweak, which also extends to vagaries and subsequent abilities – once again, a rather interesting option that changes how the class works in a meaningful manner. The umbra’s missing smoke demiplane has been reproduced herein as well.

 

The warloghe class gains new taboos to provide some spellcasting – I *assume* for the choice made to enter a binding pact, since the spellcasting option already has spell access (and the binding pact option can use it…) There is a pretty cool option to animate terrain to provide creepy distractions that can be directed and even cause damage…it has a DC sans noting for what and is “damaging (1d6 hit points)” –that is not rules-language. Similar issues extend to poltergeist hurling of objects, which fail to specify if the attack roll required is ranged or melee. 3 twisted spirits are provided: The bhuta, who gets summon nature’s ally SPs and wild shape (boring), the poltergeist, which grants thematic spell options and shadow, which is the most complex of the 3, granting a shadow companion and providing an array of pretty interesting options. The class also comes with the twisted husk archetype, who gains basically a nasty, possessed armor and slightly increased martial prowess – a rather nice archetype, as a whole, though it loses the spirit binding options.

 

The new warsmith designs have some cool visuals: What about making nails etc. glow red hot?  Yeah, cool…but the pdf fails to clarify the action economy of the design – the ability-group does not have a default, using attacks, skill uses, etc. as reference and basis for active abilities in the original…unfortunately, not the only design suffering from this. That being said: While such hiccups annoy the heck out of me, at the same time, this gets killing folks with the shrapnel of sundered weapons (!!!), in conjunction with edifice recognition, right. Highly complex operation and it works. Even has the anti-abuse caveat. Anatomist warsmiths get sneak attack as well as some field healing style abilities and sports solid, non-magical healing. Gunsmiths replace edifice recognition and Improved Sunder with an experimental firearm and learn to modify the firearm to have a larger capacity, operate recoilless, fire rune bullets. The ironclad takes plates and connects them to his body, getting armor-rules right there. No idea what this “bashing damage” the archetype references is supposed to be, though. The new designs complement the archetype with alloyed skin, an enchantable arm that can be used as both shield and weapon at once…Runesmiths have one unbolded ability that should be bolded – it states that the archetype uses Wisdom as governing attribute. The archetype also gains runes which may be learned in lieu of designs. The runes are interesting and well-presented as a whole.

 

If you haven’t noticed by now – no, we do not get new demiurge options, alas.

 

The book does contain several options for non-LIC-classes – the armiger magus provides minor boosts via the inscription of his crest and also gets a nice arcane heraldry ability – flavorful, but I wish it did something more interesting with its idea of using the special mark that denotes the weaponry. Battle sapper rangers are pretty damn cool, gaining the ability to place satchels of explosives that have been tightly and concisely defined, representing the trope rather well. Like it! Battle Sorceror…wait. Sound familiar? Yep, the book contains the archetypes from the Prepare for War Basic Training Manual, though not all of them.

I’m not going to go through all of these in detail once more. Ironskin slayers get d4 sneak attacks, but may target creatures benefiting from concealment with sneak and they basically represent heavy armor-wearing slayers that retain some mobility. The qigong ninja is pretty self-explanatory. Sleep peddler witches are locked into dreaming as patron and get a pretty OP ability: At-will standard action sleep – which also provides healing for willing targets if they sleep long enough. Problem – this is clearly supposed to be a hex, but not designated as such – hence activation and range are opaque. Basically a better slumber hex. Yeah, not sold.

 

The book also provides a massive array of new feats for extra class feature uses, etc. Some are pretty strong – like Follow Through, which nets you an AoO against another foe upon missing with an attack. Meditation feats from Amora Game’s stand-alone releases have also been included here. Alas, their rules language hasn’t been cleaned up.

 

The last chapter is devoted to prestige classes, collecting several previously released options like the beast hunter, breaker, centurion, meta adept, tavern brawler, toxicologist. There are new 10-level PrCs herein, but considering the epic length this review already sports, I’ll be pretty brief

 

The forged is basically a construct-apotheosis guy. He is decent, though e.g. “bashing” damage and similar hiccups can be found – and I’ve seen this done before in a variety of more flexible ways. Ki Scions are pretty solid elemental monks. Long Gunners can be utterly OP, treating their sniper shots as an automatic critical threat. It also scales up critical multiplier insanely high – x6 at level 10. OP and ridiculous damage-escalation. Finally, the wild shot is basically a pistol specialist. The section also suffers from more editing glitches and instances of improper declinations and the like.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are the issues of this book, at least in significant sections. As the work of many authors, the different skill-levels and rules-language precision of the authors become very much evident when reading this book. There are some aspects, where highly complex abilities work precisely and to the point…and then, something simple is botched. This may also be due to inconsistent rules-editing, perhaps focusing only on the complicated parts. I don’t know and I frankly haven’t seen this before. “Inconsistent” is probably the best way to describe this. There is no way past noticing that this is a serious detriment for the book. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column full-color standard and the pdf sports solid pieces of full-color stock art. Big minus in the comfort department – the pdf has NO BOOKMARKS. For a book of this size, that is a jarring, jarring downside.

 

Greg LaRose, Adam Boucher, Andrew Boucher, Brian Moran, Christie Hollie, Ismael Alvarez, Justin Ragan, Kevin bond, Ryan Bond, Michael Sayre, Morgan Boehringer, Sasha Hall and Wojciech Gruchala’s Liber Xpansion is a book I waited for with baited breath. In fact, one reason you haven’t seen this review sooner was that I was hoping for at least the bookmarks to be included. Or for another editing pass.

 

…damn. I LOVE the Liber Influxus Communis. I so wanted to love this as well. When I saw the “Ultimate Psionics Compatible”-logo on this book, my mind went BOOM! The possibilities! Tactician/battlelord-crossovers! Dread or cryptic mnemonics! Marksman battlelords! Oh, and all the untapped potential of LIC’s classes! Hybrid-y options for standard classes, expansions…there is a whole, vast world of untapped potential in these cool engines.

 

Some of the options in this book manage to reach these lofty expectations, providing nice, new material in the precision I wanted to see. The bad news is that the pdf doesn’t reach these levels of quality and coolness too often. While the LIC pretty much blew me away all the time, this book mostly felt like “only” a good expansion…when it worked. The inclusion of the previously-released material is nice, but I frankly wished these files had received another editing pass on both a rules- and proofing-level.

 

The good news here is that, generally, the material works – you won’t have to guess (often) how something is supposed to work and the adventurer class, while not perfect and with its own hiccups, can be considered to be mostly solid…but much like the gun adept and the rest of the book, it feels like…it almost got it right. This, to me, feels like a marathon, where you falter on the final stretch. As a rules-dev, I can literally see what it’d take to make this whole book be a good, perhaps even a very good offering. It is so damn close it breaks my heart. If you’re feeling up to the task, try your hand – it’s not an expensive book for the page-count, after all.

 

Still, this is a very flawed book…only, it’s not consistently flawed. Some parts of it are. The typos, proofing hiccups, rules-glitches, they are not persistent or constant, but they accumulate. On the other hand, we have some gems, even some innovation herein – though not even close to the extent that the LIC provided these. The whole book, ultimately, falls short of its vast promise.

 

…that being said, I have a responsibility to my readers and I can’t just close my eyes to the copious amounts of lack that define formal aspects of the book.

 

The lack of further refinement for the previously-released, compiled material, the lack of bookmarks for a book of this size, the lack of precise and unifying rules-language editing (you can’t tell me that “+ STR” in a text doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb; or that copy-replacing “bashing damage” for “bludgeoning damage” is a big deal) – there, the book falters.

 

This review breaks my heart. The adventurer on its own would be a 3.5 or 4-star class as is, it has all the makings of a 5-star-class if its few hiccups get cleaned up. Similarly, there are options herein worthy of 4 or 5 stars…but also a lot that simply does not live up to this level.

Do yourself a favor and get Liber Influxus Communis. It is a great, creative book full of cool, advanced classes by some of the most talented 3pp-designers. From Survivor to Demiurge, there is something for everyone, for those that prefer simple classes to those that enjoy super-complex monsters. It is inspired in all the right ways and I really cherish my print copy.

 

As for this book, I can’t unanimously recommend it – if you really liked the LIC and feel up to the task of doing some tinkering, you may get some cool stuff out of this…but I can’t rate this higher than 2.5 stars…and frankly, I should round down. However, there are some pieces of content herein that simply do not deserve this – it is for these gems that I will round up.

 

You can get this tome here on OBS.

 

You can get the vastly superior LIC-core book here on OBS!

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

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Reviewer without a cause