Path of Shadows by Libertad!
The NightbladeOriginal SA post
With little fanfare in February 17th, 2015, a new 3rd Party Pathfinder product landed on the market. In spite of a similar-sounding name to Path of War, this publisher was Ascension Games, a new company with no previous works to its name. It's hard to believe that it's their first work, for it has high production values and came about as the result of a year's worth of hard work. As of this posting there's not a lot of reviews about it, but the concept is nifty enough that I picked it up myself.
So what is Path of Shadows? It is an 81-page crunch-focused book of new shadow-themed magic material, from the new Nightblade class (no, not that "nightblade") to new class archetypes, feats, spells, and magic items. Instead of focusing on a narrow purview (such as illusion spells or arcane/divine stuff), Path of Shadows explores how the powers of darkness can be utilized in many interesting and different ways.
We begin with a short introduction on how magic drawn from the Plane of Shadow often defies easy categorization. The realms' mutability allows many spellcasters the ability to replicate all kinds of effects, from convincing illusions to life-sapping negative energy. Certain individual spells, such as the famed Shadow Conjuration/Evocation line, could prepare a mage for any number of situations.
You might have noticed that the book doesn't really present shadow magic as sinister or evil, instead focusing on its variable nature. This is deliberate, for much of the material can be used by characters of any alignment. I like this alternate take, on how Shadow is more a force of nature than a creeping danger which hates all that is right and just.
Chapter 1: The Nightblade
Nightblades in short are experts of combat, stealth, and spell, utilizing the power of shadows to confuse, demoralize, and weaken their opponents. The many ways a nightblade can be taught are numerous, and they specialize in various "Paths" which grant them specialty in certain areas. For example, Path of the Bloodied Chain makes one a master of fear, utilizing the haunting rattling of spectral chains and literally feeding off of opponents' fear, Path of the Darkened Fortress allows you to create and mold raw shadowstuff into tangible material, and so on and so forth. As the game mechanics are OGL, the nightblade's write-up can be seen on D20 Pathfinder SRD.
Nightblades have spontaneous bardic-progression arcane spellcasting, and they have a versatile skill list with a decent amount of points (6 + Int modifier) per level. They are lightly-armored combatants, proficient in light armor, simple weapons plus longsword/rapier/spiked chain/scythe/short sword/shortbow, and a d8 hit die and Medium BAB progression with good Reflex and Will saves. In other words, a more offensive-minded bard.
Nightblade spells are quite versatile, ranging from common illusions such as hypnotic pattern and invisibility to area of effect attacks such as stinking cloud. They also get a few energy and evocation-focused spells, including some of the new damaging spells in this book to old standbys such as cone of cold and lightning bolt. Rounding this out are some divination techniques like clairaudience/clairvoyance, see invisibility, share memory, and the like. In spite of being spontaneous casters nightblades have a lot of magic to choose from, and certain Paths (such as Ravaging Void or Twilight Veil) can further enhance the spells which fall under their purview.
Nightblades gain some sneak-focused class features such as Evasion, the ability to gain or extend natural darkvision, hide in plain sight, and even personal-range dimension door through shadows at 11th level, but the meat of their progression lies in the Shadow Surge, Nightblade Arts, and Paths, the latter two of which provide a list of sample choices for the player to pick rather than a linear path. We'll look at Arts first.
A Shadow Surge is more akin to an activated buff spell, or a Tome of Battle/Path of War stance in that they call up inner reserves as part of an activated ability which can be used and created an unlimited number of times per day. However, summoning the energy for a surge requires a standard action, and the nightblade can only gain the benefits of one type of surge at a time (but at 8th and 17th levels the nightblade can have two or three kinds of surges active at once). The default shadow surge can be used (as in dropped that round) to make the nightblade roll twice on all Stealth checks, taking the better result. Other types of surges can be learned via nightblade arts or paths.
Nightblade Arts are techniques meant to combine the class' natural talents with their affinity for shadow. They're sort of akin to rogue talents in that they're learned at 3rd and every 3 levels thereafter, and can't be selected more than once. Some are limited-use or require a shadow surge, while some are always-active (such as a feat or negating a Stealth movement penalty). There are 20 Arts in total, so I'm not going to go over them all, but instead show off a few of the more interesting ones.
Beckoning Shadows can forcibly teleport another creature within 50 feet by using the nightblade's own Shadow Shift class feature (the dimension door one) but it has to end on solid footing and can't to into solid objects. Pretty nifty battlefield control, but it seems a little high-level (15th) to get.
Dusk Strike allows the nightblade to expend a shadow surge as a swift action to resolve a melee/ranged/natural weapon as a touch attack as the weapon phases partially into the Plane of Shadows. It's a lot like Tome of Battle's Emerald Razor or Path of War's Scarlet Eye's Perception maneuver, only this one's higher level to get (9th) and can be used more often (shadow surges are effectively infinite, even during encounters).
Fall of Night is similar in that it can blind, stagger, or exhaust an opponent, but only upon a confirmation of a critical hit and expending a shadow surge and the opponent has to fail a Fortitude save. Rather high prerequisites (15th level), and there are lower-level spells which can do similar debuffs more reliably.
Focused Cast is great because it allows the nightblade to take 10 on any concentration check for spells with the expenditure of a shadow surge.
Hidden Strike is cool because you can move at full speed without taking a Stealth penalty, and partial concealment benefits in dim light increase from 20% to 50%. Must-use for sniper builds.
Penumbral Aegis allows the nightblade to add her Charisma modifier as an untyped bonus to her touch AC (can't exceed normal AC), as latent shadowstuff redirects potentially hostile attacks. It's high-level to get (12th), but as nightblades are Charisma-focused casters this is a potentially good option if enemy mages are going to show up a lot in the campaign.
Shadow Cache allows the nightblade to store various personal belongings in a hidden space in the Plane of Shadow. It functions like the Secret Chest spell, except that its duration is indefinite until the nightblade dismisses it or is killed, needs no focus, and cannot hold creatures.
Shadow Transference allows the nightblade to manipulate the effects of other people's shadow magic, even if the spell is already in effect. Effectively the nightblade spends a shadow surge as a standard action to take the ongoing effects of a spell with the darkness descriptor and shift it onto another creature within 10 feet (Will save if applicable). In typical Pathfinder [darkness] spells which do this are rather rare, and it can't be used on spells with a range of "personal" or one which does not target one or more creatures or objects. There's quite a few new buff spells in this book which can fit this description, but the Art is situational.
Void Sight is an awesome buff, for it can grant multiple willing targets within 30 feet the ability to gain darkvision and see invisibility effects with a caster level equal to class level. Unfortunately the level-based prerequisite is steep (15th). I'd personally lower it to 7th level, and the amount of targets which can benefit are one per 3 nightblade levels anyway.
Warp Strike calls upon the Plane of Shadows to distort space itself around the nightblade, granting all melee attacks a 5 foot reach bonus with a shadow surge as a swift action. At 12th level the bonus increases by 10 feet! Alternatively, this Art can be used to reduce the penalty on ranged attack rolls by 2 or 4 (at 12th level). This is very, very good for melee-focused builds; get the Lunge feat and a reach weapon with Enlarge Person and the nightblade can be hitting foes up to 30 feet away!
Casting Art and Combat Art grant a bonus metamagic or combat feat, whereas Flexible Art grants a bonus feat of any kind but the nightblade must be at least 12th level in order to take. You know, in case you feel like taking the boring option.
As mentioned earlier, Nightblades gain access to mystic styles known as Paths, each drawing upon shadow magic in its own unique way. Each nightblade focuses on a specific tradition, and must choose one at 1st level. Once chosen, it cannot be changed. Paths grant all sorts of stuff, from new uses for shadow surges, a limited-use per-day power, techniques which are gained at 1st/5th/10th/etc levels, unique nightblade arts, additional class features and the like.
Nightblades who follow the Path of the Bloodied Chain prefer to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies, believed to originate among the kyton devils for its chain-themed powers. Its limited-use power is an AoE attack as entangling chains of darkness frighten foes upon a failed save and lower the light level in the affected area. The shadow surge can create a phantom rattling chain sound to increase the duration of fear effects, and techniques involve fear effects which can debuff the enemy while granting buffs to the nightblade for enemies they frighten. The nightblade arts are similar, although bloodied chains allows the AoE attack to inflict bleed damage.
Normally this would have a lot of the problems of fear and enchantment spells, but at 5th level it can remove such an immunity on enemies within 10 feet. I assume that this means that it can work on undead, mindless creatures, and the like, although fear effects are mind-affecting abilities; so what happens if a creature's immunity is to mind-affecting effects, but not to fear effects? That's one of the hard parts about Pathfinder's rules-heavy nature, although in such a case I'd personally rule that Bloodied Chain would work on all these creatures; being like Batman's Scarecrow is kind of the Path's theme, after all.
Nightblades who follow the Path of the Darkened Fortress focus on using shadow energy for creation, forming solid objects and even structures out of the dark mass. Its limited-use power is a customized weapon made of shadow-stuff which can gain enhancements over time, although its limited to 1 min/level. The shadow surge ability turns the user's shadow into a solid barrier as an immediate action, granting bonuses on AC and Reflex saving throws vs. incoming attacks. Techniques include gaining an arcane bond, an item creation bonus feat and even ignore some spell-specific prerequisites, the ability to ignore sneak attacks and critical hits some of the time, your own personal demiplane, and DR/Silver and immunity to critical hits and sneak attacks as the capstone 20th level ability! Nightblade arts unique to this Path include new enchantments and abilities for one's shadow-weapons, bonded object, and the ability to create lightweight (1 lb/level) objects made of quasi-real shadowstuff.
Path of the Darkened Fortress is a very powerful Path, depending on how liberal your GM is for magic item crafting in your campaign. The ability to ignore up to 5 spell prerequisites is a boon for the otherwise-limited spontaneous caster, and the Shadow Armament's effectively a free magic weapon whose properties can switch around with every summoning of it.
Nightblades who follow the Path of Eternal Night focus on the macabre discipline of death and entropy to wear down their opponents, drawing upon the barrier between the Plane of Shadow and the Negative Energy Plane. Its limited-use power can create a corruption aura of negative energy within a 5 foot radius which does not heal undead (who actually flee in panic from you on a failed Will save!) but deals damage to those within its space (including moving past them). The shadow surge is awesome, for it forces a touched enemy to roll their next d20 roll twice and take the lower result. Techniques include the ability to feed off the life energy of nearby dead/dying creatures in exchange for buffs, granting Diehard to yourself and allies within 10 feet, animating opponents' shadows to attack them as a greater shadow monster, and a bunch of undead immunities as a 20th-level capstone. Nightblade arts include similarly creepy things, like being able to teleport between corpses, corruption aura buffs, and the like.
This is a pretty cool Path, although it brings up the question of a potential negative energy aura/dead creature buff. Do blades of grass and tiny insects which die from your entropy? The corruption aura is still limited-use per day, but does not have a duration. Depending on the GM's ruling traveling through fertile lands might near-constant buff abilities.
Nightblades who follow the Path of the Ravaging Void are basically the elementalists of their class. They create powerful evocations out of raw shadowstuff, from searing flames to numbing cold. Fortunately there's quite a bit of shadow-themed evocation spells in this book, making for a worthwhile Path! Its limited-use power includes the ability to designate an area as "elemental shade," converting energy spells and magical effects cast within the area to a certain type other than sonic (so you can get a cold damage fireball, an acidic lightning bolt, etc with this). The shadow surge is a chilling ray of darkness which deals damage on a ranged touch attack (and damage increases with level); naturally it can be combined with Elemental Shade and surges , so you've got a diverse arsenal. Techniques include the ability to create a protective ward of energy resistance, granting debuffs to damage-dealing energy attacks based on their type (cold slows, for example), spending additional spell slots to cast sorc/wiz and nightblade evocation energy spells, becoming a being of pure shadow energy, and the ability to roll twice vs. spell resistance and take the better result with evocation spells as a 20th level capstone ability.
Arts are rather blase, affecting energy spells in some way, although one of them turns the elemental shade into a gravity magnet which can draw enemies towards it! It's really good because it not only can grant a huge selection of energy spells to a nightblade, the ability to switch around energy types allows the caster to customize their spells against the right kind of opponent.
The final entry, Path of the Twilight Veil, relies upon the deceptions of illusion. Its probably the thing a lot of you thought when you saw this class, but it really goes to show the imaginative use of the paths by branching beyond this archetype of shadow magic. Its limited-use power creates an area of distorted shadows which bestow random afflictions on an enemy, sort of like prismatic spray but less power. Its shadow surge allows the nightblade to turn invisible as a move action for one round per level, and cannot regain surges until the invisibility ends (its normal invisibility, so it falls when hostile action's taken). Its techniques include duration extension on illusion spells and additional spells known of that school from sorc/wizard or nightblade spell list, a wall of darkness which can entrance onlookers, a memory-modifying greater invisibility which blocks most forms of divination and can make opponents forget the nightblade was there, and can turn one concentration-duration illusion cast permanent (only one can be maintained this way at a time) as a 20th-level capstone ability.
Most of the Arts involve strengthening the limited-use power in some way, including making it so entrancing it can be used on blind and mindless creatures, but one Art allows the nightblade to roll a Bluff/Sleight of Hand opposed by Perception to disguise the fact that they are casting a spell (although spells with an obvious effect and origin, such as burning hands, cannot be concealed this way).
Illusion spells are very good and can enhance the nightblade's already-good stealth capabilities, but the large amount of mind-immune enemies at higher levels can blunt its effectiveness depending on the campaign.
Overall, the paths are rather good at what they do, although the Eternal Night one might cause some problems.
And so ends Chapter I. New chapter, we'll focus on new class archetypes with a darker twist in more ways than one!
Thoughts so far: The nightblade is a very versatile mage-thief. Its list of various powers might be overwhelming to new players, from the spell lists to the Arts to the Paths on display, and some of the Arts' prerequisites I feel can be lowered a bit. They can function as effective battlefield controllers, scouts, blaster casters, and even potential gishes with the right Arts and spells. Overall, its a class with some good promise and interesting fluff.
Archetypes and OptionsOriginal SA post
Chapter 2: Archetypes and Options
The Stygian Striker Magus Archetype
Note: So due to the limited amount of pictures to draw from and my rather detailed explanations, this post ended up becoming a wall of text. I don't know if the readers in this thread mind or not, but I can make future posts shorter and more concise if there's demand for it.
For those of you are unfamiliar with Pathfinder, the game introduced an aspect to 3.X/D20 known as an archetype. Basically its a kit for an existing class meant to be in line with a certain theme, trading out existing features in exchange for new ones. Many borrow from existing classes, such as an Arcane Healer bard archetype being able to channel positive energy and spend bardic music for healing, but some are new features entirely.
Archetypes, both official and third party, are becoming a more popular option than prestige classes. As most can be taken at early levels without having to worry about restrictive prerequisites, they are more accepting to newcomers and low-level games and require less book-keeping. As for Path of Shadow, the archetypes cover not just the nightblade, but existing Pathfinder classes from the core books and expansions. Along with that, this chapter also contains new options for classes, such as alchemist discoveries.
The ten new Alchemist Discoveries include stuff like the ability to create powder to snuff out nonmagical light sources at will, a shadowy darkness bomb which fatigues the target and saps away the surrounding light source, darkvision enhancement and blindness immunity, and even a bottled assistant who can be poured out to do various tasks!
Thoughts: They're all neat and flavorful, and none of them really strike me as useless or underpowered.
The anti-paladin's Warrior of Unholy Darkness archetype focuses on the corrupting powers in darkness. In exchange for trading away their spellcasting abilities in exchange for the Power of Corruption, which emanates a 30 foot radius of unholy darkness which imposes penalties on enemies' AC, halves the effectiveness of healing spells, lowers the light level, and at higher levels can deal ability damage and lowering energy resistance to those caught within.
At 14th level they replace aura of sin (treat weapons as evil for Damage Reduction purposes) with Darkest Shadows, an area of effect attack which harms good-aligned creatures and blinds them but heals evil creatures and grants them bonuses on d20 rolls.
Thoughts: A very nice archetype overall.
Barbarians get new Rage Powers, including the Lunar Totem tree of powers (can bite and gain DR/Silver like a lycanthrope, bonuses vs. shapechanging and curses), the Shadow Blood tree of powers (bonus cold damage, weapon's treated as magic, silver, and eventually cold iron, and bonuses vs. illusion and fear), and the Shadow Totem tree (weapon deals Strength damage, gain darkvision, and can turn incorporeal and have ghost touch weapon property for duration).
Thoughts: Lunar Totem's good if you're a multi-weapon barbarian due to the bite attack, but Shadow Blood and Shadow Totem are quite versatile. Being able to get through a lot of common DR types is a boon, and turning incorporeal while still being able to hit one's enemies is a great deal.
Bloodragers are a class introduced in Paizo's Advanced Class Guide. Basically they're barbarian/sorcerer hybrids, with spontaneous paladin-level (4th level max) casting progression. Like sorcerers they gain access to bloodlines, which grant them bonus abilities as they level. Path of Shadows introduces the Shadow Bloodline, and in comparison to the existing ones (especially Aberrant, Celestial, and Arcane), its properties feel a bit limiting. For comparison, the Aberrant bloodline grants increased reach, Celestial a fly speed, Arcane free spell buffs (such as haste and blur) while raging without expending existing spell slots.
Thoughts: Shadow replicates a lot of the earlier barbarian rage powers listed, minus the cool incorporealness. At higher levels you get some nice stuff such as blindness immunity or the entangled condition to people within 5 feet due to your aura of deeper darkness, but it doesn't really stack well to the official ones I just mentioned.
The Cleric gets the Shadow Priest archetype, where in lieu of gaining a 2nd domain they must select the Darkness domain, or Loss or Night subdomain. In exchange, they add darkness-themed spells to their cleric spell list (including existing ones and new Path of Shadow magic), and instead of channeling positive or negative energy (Pathfinder's equivalent to Turn Undead) they can create a burst of darkness which damages living creatures and staggers undead ones (no save) for 1 round. It can also cancel out mundane and magical light sources, the latter depending on how high the Cleric level is to affect said spell.
Additionally, Shadow Priests cast all spells at +1 Caster Level when casting in an area of dim or nonexistent light, and reduces the spell level adjustment on metamagic feats by 1 when applied to spells with the [darkness] and [shadow] descriptors.
Thoughts: This is a pretty powerful archetype, especially in light of the many ways this book offers to lower the level of light in an area.
Druids get Lunar Guardian, devotees of the moon who go out to defend their homes under the cover of night. In exchange for removing all light-themed spells from their spell list, they gain access to new darkness and cold-themed spells. They must choose a nocturnal animal as an animal companion or the Darkness domain in place of nature bond. In exchange for woodland stride they gain low-light vision, darkvision if they already have that, or enhanced darkvision by 30 feet if they have that. Instead of Resist Nature's Lure (saving throw bonus vs. fey and plant-targeting spells) they instead apply their bonus to spells of the light, darkness, or shadow descriptors. Instead of poison immunity they gain disease immunity, and instead of A Thousand Faces (alter self at will) they can see perfectly in any mundane or magical darkness.
Thoughts: Discounting 3rd party books, druids do not have many light-themed spells , and darkness-themed magic in my experience is more common than fey spells. Being able to see in darkness is very useful, so this is a pretty good archetype if you don't mind less versatility in potential domain or animal companion options.
The Magus gains access to the Stygian Striker archetype, arcane warriors who use shadow magic to gain the upper hand on foes. They gain Stealth as a class skill and lose Knowledge (Dungeoneering), use the saving throw progression of a bard instead of the base cleric-like one they have (good fort and will), and in lieu of spell recall (swift action to regain one spell already cast) they can spend a swift action to become invisible for 1 round/level instead with an expenditure from their Arcane Pool. The Stealth trade-off is great, but losing spell recall in exchange for one spell effect isn't very good.
Instead of medium and heavy armor proficiency Stygian Strikers gain Evasion and Improved Evasion. They can also learn nightblade Arts as though they were Magus Arcana, using their magus level as effective nightblade levels, but may only learn Arts which require a shadow surge to use. They can spend points from their arcane pool as though they were shadow surges. They can also Hide in Plain Sight instead of gaining Fighter Training (which treats 1/2th the magus levels as Fighter levels for feat prerequisites).
Thoughts: Overall, I feel that this is not a good trade. The magus is first and foremost a melee warrior, so losing access to medium and heavy armor casting at higher levels is a big loss for them. Gaining access to nightblade arts is nifty, although this archetype feels kind of superfluous when a properly-built nightblade can fill much the same role as a sneaky gish.
Monks of the Eclipsing Moon prefer to train and meditate under the night sky to obtain physical and spiritual perfection, and cannot be Lawful Good. They use a modified list of bonus feats which includes things such as Nightmare Fist and Moonlight Stalker lines of feat trees. Instead of still mind they gain saving throw bonuses vs. spells with the emotion, pain, or fear descriptors (an overall downgrade from enchantment spells), darkvision (and enhanced potentially) instead of slow fall, and instead of gaining improved speed or dodge bonuses when spending a ki point can double their darkvision or cast faerie fire.
As you can tell, these monks aren't really movement-based, and instead of high jump (can jump better on Acrobatics checks) they can instead cast darkness or deeper darkness by spending points from their ki pool. Their Abundant Step teleportation must begin and end in an area of dim light or darkness, and instead of gaining universal language speech with Tongue of the Sun and Moon they can see perfectly in any form of darkness.
Thoughts: The Pathfinder Monk was already a weak class, but I feel that this archetype is slightly more restrictive than a standard monk. The Qinggong Monk can grant a more diverse set of spell-like effects. Additionally, given the large list of monk bonus feats in Pathfinder rulebooks, limiting their selection to a small list isn't a good idea. Darkness effects might make for good battlefield control, but it doesn't really give much in comparison to classes which can already do this.
The Nightblade, naturally, has five archetypes.
The Dark Conjurer specializes in summoning forth semi-real hordes of ravening monsters made out of shadowstuff. In exchange for their limited-use path power they gain the Summoner class progression of Summon Monster, except they cast Summon Horror (a new spell in this book) instead. They gain a shadow familiar (as in the Dark Fortress Path) instead of their 1st level technique, can add all summon monster or summon horror spells to her list of spells known, in exchange for her 3rd level nightblade art. Finally, they can see through their familiar's senses a limited amount of time per day instead of a 9th level nightblade art.
Thoughts: Summoning monsters is a very good use of the action economy, in that the more actions one side can perform in battle the likelier their chances are of winning. As the limited-use Path Powers aren't the end-all be all of the Paths, this is a worthy trade.
The Shadowstriker prefers to focus more on martial pursuits in exchange for more limited magical capabilities. They gain one fewer spell per day at each spell level, must take Path of the Darkened Fortress and a bonded weapon as their arcane bond, and replace their Evasion/Improved Evasion and 6th level nightblade arts with Weapon Focus/Specialization/Greater Weapon Focus; this last alternative a rather shitty trade-off.
They replace most of their path techniques, hide in plain sight, and triple surge for the ability to cast spells in medium and heavy armor, can apply their Dark Fortress weapon enhancements at an earlier level and eventually to any held weapon at 9th level, treat their Nightblade level as effective Fighter levels -3, and can shapeshift their shadow armament into any kind of weapon (gaining its new properties and restrictions).
Thoughts: The versatility of applying a wide variety of magical weapon properties to any wielded weapon is pretty good, but the rest of the alternate class features are rather meh. The reduced movement penalties and armor check penalties of heavy armor aren't well-suited for the stealthy nightblade, and a lot of Fighter-exclusive feats aren't very swell even in Pathfinder.
The Shadow Agent is a more assassin-like nightblade, who prefer to hone their killing arts. They trade in their limited-use path power and 1st level path technique for very limited sneak attack progression (1d6 plus 1d6 every 6 levels), inability to accidentally poison themselves and an incremental level-based bonus on Craft (alchemy) bonuses. In exchange for their 3rd level nightblade art they can apply poison to a weapon as a move action (or swift action at 6th level). They gain uncanny dodge for free at 4th level, and at 10th level they gain a change of applying a Save or Die as an assassination technique versus flat-footed, unaware opponents they studied for 1 round in exchange for their 10th level technique. At 16th level they can assassinate targets without the 1 round limit.
Thoughts: Shadow Agents are pretty much assassinations but can be of any alignment. It's superior to the Prestige Class IMO due to the Nightblade's features. That said, it eliminates some of the early-level Path techniques and powers which can be really nice, so it's really useful for poison-focused debuffer builds.
The Traveller of Two Paths are nightblades who prefer a more diverse skillset. In exchange for fewer per-day path powers, fewer spells known, and can only ever have up to two shadow surges active at once, they can gain access to the limited-use powers, shadow surges, and path techniques of two Paths instead of one.
Thoughts: This is a pretty swell archetype in spite of the restrictions, because a few of the Paths have some nice abilities which can be useful to many nightblade types.
Finally the Veiled Infiltrator prefers to learn more mundane forms of stealth and trickery to fall back on just in case. They pretty much gain rogue abilities such as Trapfinding, Trapsense, and access to Rogue Talents in place of a 1st level Path technique. They gain an ability called Infiltrator's Veil, which on the surface looks really nice: it's a level-scaling ability which grants new stuff at increments, from the Disgusing Veil (as disguise self) nightblade art plus the ability to remain undetected by extraordinary senses such as tremorsense/scent/etc, and some constant anti-divination stuff like nondetection and the ability to even fool true seeing with a caster level check.
So, what do they have to give up in exchange for this swank alternate class feature? Shadow surges, all of them. They can never gain shadow surges, nor utilize tricks or abilities which have them.
Thoughts: Since so many nightblade arts rely upon this, you really need to plan out your character build in advance if you choose this, plus the really neat stuff only comes into play at the later levels.
Oracles gain access to the Darkness Mystery and Forgotten Curse. In short, the Darkness Mystery grants Bluff/Intimidate/Perception/Stealth as class skills, various darkness-themed spells to spells known (go figure), and gain a host of new Revelations. Such revelations include the ability to conjure multiple 10 foot cubes of freezing darkness (cold damage and Strength damage), a cloak of dark armor (armor and Stealth bonus), the Blind-Fight feat tree, a cold fatiguing touch attack, and the ability to sprout Wings of Darkness which can grant the effects of a 1 minute/level fly speed and overland flight at 11th level. The Final Revelation grants a host of immunities, the ability to cast shades as a spell-like ability, and 20% more real shadow illusions.
Thoughts: Overall a fine list. Flight's always nice, and strength-draining darkness cubes double as good battlefield control.
The Forgotten Curse makes it so that people have trouble acknowledging or remembering the Orcale, imposing a -4 penalty on Charisma-based skill checks except for Disguise. In exchange they get access to spells such as disguise self, modify memory, misdirection, and the like and constant nondetection at 15th level.
Thoughts: Forgotten's pretty good trade-off in comparison to other curses as the Oracle's a Charisma-based caster, so a sufficient score and skill ranks can offset this penalty.
The Paladin gains access to Shadow Banisher, a scion of light dedicated to taking the fight to evil in the dark corners of the earth. They get a modified smite evil which doesn't deal double damage vs. dragons and outsiders, but instead to undead. It also applies faerie fire to the target and the wielded weapon gains ghost touch property for smite attempts. Instead of channeling positive energy, they may channel light instead to deal damage to undead and dispel darkness and shadow spells. In exchange for Aura of Resolve (allies within 10 ft. gain +4 saves vs. charm), the paladin becomes immune to aging and adds her Charisma bonus to her touch AC and to the touch AC of allies within 10 feet.
Thoughts: Shadow Banisher's a good archetype. Undead are more common enemies than dragons, and AC bonuses are always welcome. The inability to use channeling to heal might be a downside, but they can still lay on hands and cast spells.
A Scourge of Shadows is a rogue who delves into research of shadow magic, able to replicate some nightblade abilities. In exchange for trap sense and the sneak attack increase gained at 3rd level, they can shadow surge. They can also select nightblade Arts which utilize shadow surge in place of a rogue talent, but can only select one Art at 4th level and every 6 levels thereafter. In exchange for their sneak attack increase at 7th level they can gain Shadow Strike (surprisingly not a new feat in this book) as a bonus feat, which allows them to Sneak Attack opponents with concealment.
Thoughts: The loss of trap sense and 2d6 sneak attack is more than worth gaining access to nightblade arts and the ability to do so vs. enemies who benefit from concealment.
Our final class, the Shaman, can call upon the entities of night and shadow as a new Spirit. Honestly I haven't looked at this class closely, so I can't really compare its features as well as I did the previous ones. I'll still try my best, and anyone with a better working knowledge can inform me of any mistakes (this applies to other aspects of my review, too).
The Darkness Spirit grants a series of related spells such as dust of twilight, shadow conjuration, etc, most of which are surprisingly not new spells found within this book. The hexes they can learn are not exactly eye-catching, such as the Blind-Fight feat tree as bonus feats, the ability to scry through areas of darkness into other shadowy places ( clairaudience/clairvoyance ), the ability to replicate a memory lapse spell as darkness clouds the target's mind, and the dark armor cloak basically repeated from the Oracle ability.
Shamans who choose Darkness as their spirit or wandering spirit gain improved darkness, improved miss chance with concealment, a fatiguing cold-damage touch, the ability to take the form of a shadow as per shadow form (spell found later in this book), and a 20th-level capstone ability which is the same as the Oracle's.
Thoughts: The Shaman feels like a cut-and-paste job of previous features as opposed to more unique things.
Thoughts so far: This chapter's been a mixed bag for me. Archetypes tend to vary widely in usefulness and power level. In spite of the underpowered ones, the options which are good add neat things to class repertoires, both primary and non-primary spellcasters.
Next post we'll be covering the new feats in Chapter 3.
FeatsOriginal SA post
Artwork: So before I start this chapter, I think I should say a few things. Recently I've noticed that various pieces of sourcebooks (artwork most noticeably) are product identity and as such need written permission in order to replicate. For that reason I got into contact with the author of this book before the review started. The artwork on display in this review is not necessarily the entirety in the book (different pieces have different rights/restrictions on how they can be disseminated), so that's probably the reason why it seems sparse in places.
Corrections: Also, Christopher Moore pointed out a few things in the previous chapters which I missed or looked over. For one, the bloodrager's shadow bloodline's ability to see in its own deeper darkness is quite good debuffer option for many creatures as well as shadow step and invisibility, which puts it above my initial view on it. The Path of Eternal Night's Corruption Aura actually has a duration (1/2 nightblade level + Cha modifier in rounds), so it's not necessary a potentially "forever-on" thing for a bunch of free buffs.
I was wrong about the Veiled Infiltrator's alternate class feature (all nightblade Arts are replaced with Rogue talent options); I still think that giving up nightblade arts is a loss, although not having access to them in the first place means that they won't require detailed look-overs for prospective players seeing which powers they can and can't use.
Additionally, the shadow transference nightblade Art also works against spells with the [shadow] descriptor as well as the [darkness] descriptor; I did not realize that these were two separate types, meaning that it's more flexible than normal (shadow conjuration/evocation/etc it works on).
Anyway, on with the review!
Chapter 3: Feats
Feats is the shortest chapter in the book, clocking in at 4 pages, 10 racial feats and 15 other kinds of feats. Like with nightblade arts I'm not going to cover them all, just the ones which are of note for good or bad reasons.
Arcane Veil allows you to convert a prepared or unused 1st or 2nd level arcane spell slot to spontaneously cast invisibility but only lasts for 2 rounds per level of the spell slot. The feat can't be used again for one minute once the invisibility ends.
Concealing Trick is a high-level entry feat (13th) which allows you to grant the benefit of hide in plain sight/camouflage/slayer's camouflage class features to an adjacent ally. Also, said ally can benefit from your favored terrain (bonuses while in certain wilderness/urban settings). It's a pretty nice boost, but for personal reasons I always felt that the default class features were too high-level at the level they're gained, but that's more the fault of Paizo than Path of Shadows.
Dissolution's Embrace is a racial feat for Wayang (small fey who come from the Plane of Shadow), which allows the character to take 10 on Stealth checks while in dim light or darkness. This goes quite nicely with Stealth Synergy from Ultimate Combat if you're the only person in your party who can sneak worth a damn.
Extra Nightblade Art can be taken multiple times and grants an additional Art. A pretty nice feat for most nightblade builds.
Eyes of Night might have steep requirements (10 ranks Perception, 120 foot darkvision) but it's worth it for the ability to see up to 20 feet in supernatural darkness such as deeper darkness.
Wayangs also get access to the twin sets of Greater and Improved Shadow Magic. Basically Improved grants the shape shadows cantrip (new spell in this book) at will, and they can cast silent image and darkness as 1/day spell-like abilities. Greater allows them to use ghost sound, ventriloquism, and pass without trace all at will, can use darkness and silent image one more day each, and can use invisibility 1/day as a spell-like ability. Ventriloquism and Pass Without Trace at will are very good for distracting enemies and covering one's tracks, so the feats are worth it for rogue-like builds if you can afford them.
Lingering Shadows is good because it prevents light-based spells of equal or lower level from countering, dispelling, or raising the light level in the radius of spells with the [darkness] descriptor. Nice for preventing pesky cantrips from dispelling all those "dim light" buffs you're getting from this book!
Realistic Illusions only requires Spell Focus (Illusion) and is a great feat. Even when presented with proof that your spell is not real, the target must still make a saving throw (at a +4 bonus). Additionally, those who save yet communicate its fakery to others don't grant the normal saving throw bonus for others to disbelieve. This is a very good choice for any illusion-based character.
Recover Senses is a lot like the Rogue's Slippery Mind ability, although it allows the character to reroll a saving throw one round later against conditions which blind/deafen/dazzle or impairs the character's sense of hearing or vision. For abilities which do not allow a saving throw, the duration's halved instead. This is a useful feat to take not just because blindness/deafness is an otherwise permanent spell, but because blindness is a huge impairment to most forms of combat and line of sight spells. Only requiring Great Fortitude, it's a useful feat to take for many situations.
Shadowy Disguise is a feat for fetchlings, granting them an additional use of disguise self as well as the ability to alter the audible and tactile senses of the character and equipment in addition to visual features with the spell-like ability. It doesn't really wow me in comparison to the other feats, in that I don't think most disguised PCs are going to let folk get close enough to touch them (I think that touching tactile illusions would count as interaction, but it won't break the illusion immediately when you feel something else).
Shadow Gift allows the nightblade to grant the use of a shadow surge to a willing ally. If they can use shadow surges, they can use your gifted one to power their own class features. If not, they can use the base ability to roll twice and take the better result on Stealth checks. The feat can also grant the target other ways of expending a shadow surge if the giving nightblade possesses that ability as well (although it's effective level of power is halved). This feat's pretty cool, especially in a multi-nightblade party, but it's limited by having a minimum class level of 7, the fact that the gifted surge must be spent within 1 hour before it's lost, and can only give 1 shadow surge out at a time this way. Still a good option, though.
Shadow Summoner allows creatures with the celestial or fiendish template summoned via the Summon Monster line of spells to have the shadow creature template instead. This is good because shadow creatures can have any alignment, and they can gain concealment in areas of dim light! All it requires is Spell Focus (Conjuration) to take!
Another good illusion spell, Tenacious Illusions not only makes it harder to dispel your illusions (DC increases by 2), but they persist for one round even if they're successfully dispelled.
Terrifying Ambush is a cool combat feat which requires Weapon Focus and Dazzling Display. Basically if you hit an opponent with your favored weapon during a surprise round, you can roll a free Intimidate check to potentially demoralize all foes within 30 feet (and the struck creature) who witnessed the attack. Good option for Intimidate/demoralize-focused builds.
Umbral Striker modifies the Arcane Strike feat in several ways. First, weapons empowered as such also count as cold iron and silver in addition to magical for damage reduction purposes, and the base weapon damage (1d4 for dagger, etc) can be altered to deal cold damage instead of physical damage. A very good way of getting around damage reduction and incorporeal miss chance.
Unseen Terror is really cool and reminds me of those times in Batman Arkham series of video games where you'd pick off bad guys one by one, gradually freaking them out in the process. Basically you can use Intimidate checks to demoralize a creature even if they cannot see you. You must still be able to influence it, such as using frightening illusion spells, taunting, making noise and the like. Plus you get a +2 on Intimidate checks while in dim light or darkness. You only need 5 ranks in Intimidate and Stealth to get this, and while it may not be for for all builds this feat gets points for being cool!
Thoughts so far: Most of the feats are good and grant something useful beyond static number increases, which I really like. The racial feats are all suited to Fetchlings and Wayang, and I would have liked to see some options for gnomes and halflings on account of their illusionist and stealthy natures. Still, this is a pretty strong chapter overall.
Next post I'm going to cover spells, which is by far the longest chapter and the one with the most content. I look forward to showing them off.
SpellsOriginal SA post
Chapter 4: Spells
By far the longest chapter, Path of Shadows contains 71 new spells and they draw from a diverse assortment of schools. I counted around 2 abjuration, 12 conjuration, 1 divination, 1 enchantment, 13-14 evocation, 6 necromancy, and 7 transmutation spells, the rest being illusion (29-30, so little less than half). I was surprised to note the large amount of evocation spells, in part because most such spells in other products mostly focus on the five energy types and blasty stuff, so I didn't except to see so many in Path of Shadows. Granted, a lot of them revolve around using shadow energy to do stuff, but I'm happy to see this magic school getting some love.
Naturally I won't be covering every spell, but I will highlight many of the more interesting ones. The numbers indicated in parenthesis indicate the spell levels for listed classes.
Banish Light and Banish Shadows (6th to 7th) are the two abjuration spells, and they do exactly as you imagine: dispel natural and magical sources of illumination (or lack thereof) in a 30 foot burst radius.
Curse of the Lightless (5th to 6th) permanently destroys a touched creature's shadow, making it impossible to use shadow surge or any spells/special abilities/etc which require the use of one's shadow. They also get staggered by bright light and are treated as undead for the purpose of damaging spells. After 24 hours exposure to direct sunlight is capable of killing the target, much like a vampire.
Dark Confinement (2nd) is a pretty good battlefield control spell available to a wide variety of spellcasting classes. It can target one creature per level and force them to stay out of well-lit areas for 1 round per level.
Dark Recovery (2nd) is a nightblade spell which grants a shadow surge, provided that said nightblade is below their maximum number of surges at the time of casting.
Deathwings (5th to 6th) causes a touched creature to sprout wings of shadows and fly! The wings are also natural attacks which deal bonus negative energy damage, and can release the spell energy in a burst akin to a cleric channeling negative energy which ends the spell. It's much shorter in duration than Overland Flight, 10 minutes per level, but it grants some cool abilities and can be used to heal undead minions long-term between fights.
Entropic Storm (9th) creates a gateway to the boundaries between the Negative Energy Plane and Plane of Shadow. Creatures within are subject to entropic energies, rapidly aging living beings and eroding non-living ones, and those killed or destroyed by it are reduced to dust and cannot be restored save by the most powerful magic. The spell cannot destroy artifacts, but they can be damaged by said spell, opening up a host of interesting possibilities.
Eyes of Eventide (1st) and its 2nd level Communal version grant low-light vision to the beneficiaries, and bonuses on saving throws vs. blinding and dazzling effects. Given the huge amount of creatures out there who have some means of super-vision in Pathfinder (only humans, halflings, and lizardfolk are humanoids lacking low-light or dark) and the darkvision spell's much higher level, I'm happy to see that there's a spell now which grants a light-source-free method of dungeon exploration for 1st-level adventurers.
Grasp of Darkness (1st) is a touch attack spell akin to shocking grasp, only it manifests shadowy energy which deals cold damage. It also forces the opponent to roll a Fortitude save or suffer 20% miss chance as their vision is cloudy and all others gain concealment. It can make for a nice debuffer for magus players.
Illusory Strike (4th) is meant to be cast on an active illusion spell, briefly turning its effects real. For the purposes of the spell, this only pertains to damaging effects, which can manifest as melee, ranged, energy, area attack, or energy area attack. For example, a dragon's bite would count as melee, whereas a shower of arrows would be an area attack. The radius is limited, however, to a pre-select amount (30 foot cone, 60 foot line, 15 foot burst radius). It's pretty cool, but since it's one attack per casting it takes some time to set up, limiting its potential.
Lunar Prophecy (5th) is the sole divination spell, a 10 minute ritual calling upon the power of the moonlight reflected in a pool of water outdoors. For 24 hours one creature per 2 caster levels gains a 24 hour benefit depending on the phase of the eight phases of the moon, which when activated lasts for 1 minute. For example, first quarter can grant freedom of movement, full moon 30 foot blindsense, last quarter the benefit of a single feat the target qualifies for, etc. This is a very thematic and cool spell.
Maw of the Nightwave (8th) is an awesome area of effect damaging spell. It summons the front half of the nightwave, the strongest known specimen of nightshade, into the caster's plane! Instead of being treated as a monster, the spell is duration-based and anyone within the area is subject to a dark void of biting teeth which deal damage and a potential negative level. The maw can also grapple and swallow whole gargantuan-sized and smaller creatures! I really like how this conjuration spell is unorthodox in summoning a creature, but instead of making game statistics and the like it turns it into a damaging spell, the massive body part of an even larger entity on another plane.
Night Terror (3rd) targets one creature per level within short range, invoking a primal fear of the unseen and unknown in them. The spell is interesting because the caster does not need line of sight to target opponents, and those who fail become shaken/frightened within dim or total darkness.
Phantasmal Foe (2nd to 3rd) is an illusion which takes the form of an enemy which always remains adjacent to the target. As such, the creature is always treated as flanked for the purposes of attacks made against it. A very good way for setting up sneak attacks and the like.
Phantasmal Polymorph (6th), on the other hand, fools a target into believing it has changed into a creature the caster designates, and acts as such. Being "turned" into an object makes the creature lie still, helpless. Naturally, stimuli which directly contradict their nature (a large creature which thinks it's a mole trying to fit through a small hole) provokes a new saving throw, although a maximum of one save per round. This is a fun spell with some dire possibilities depending on how the caster uses it.
Sensory Deprivation (3rd to 4th) and its Greater counterpart (6th to 7th) can cause a creature to lose extraordinary or magical supersenses, respectively. Blindsight, scent, tremorsense, active divination spells, and other such potential abilities are nullified. This can be a great debuffer against certain monsters.
Shadow Binding (2nd) and its Greater counterpart (6th) cause a target's own shadow to twist around its body, entangling it. Its movement is hindered so much that every time the creature attempts to attack it must make a Will save or automatically fail or miss in its efforts. The 2nd-level version only restricts one attack per round, but the 6th level version can halt any numbers of attacks. This is a very good spell because it can help save a PC's bacon when a powerful monster finds its movements halted.
Shadow Blast (6th) creates a replica of a thunderstorm from the caster's hand in a 60 foot cone, dealing cold and electricity damage to those within the area. Shadow Vortex (detailed below) is a lower-level evocation spell which also deals the same type of damage. As I don't often, if ever, see these too energy types combined into one spell, this is a surprisingly interesting magical effect for a straight damage evocation effect.
Shadow Conjuration, Lesser (2nd) works as its normal counterpart in the Core rules, only it duplicates sorcerer/wizard conjuration spells of 1st level or lower. Same for Shadow Evocation, Lesser (3rd) which duplicates 2nd level or lower sorcerer/wizard evocation spells. Shadow Necromancy (4th) duplicates 3rd level or lower spells of the mentioned school, but it can't be used to create undead, and permanent effects only last for 1 hour per level instead. Shadow Necromancy also has Lesser (2nd) and Greater (7th) counterparts, too. Now bards, illusionists, and nightblades are even more versatile at low levels!
Shadow Courier (3rd to 4th) is a cool spell. Originally developed by smugglers, it causes touched objects or one willing creature to turn into shadowstuff and meld with the caster's shadow for one day per level. As they're in a pocket dimension within the Plane of Shadow, the caster's shadow does not radiate any magical auras, although detect magic can detect the presence of an active spell on one's person. The spell can be dismissed at any time by either the caster or the willing recipient. As most PCs past 4th level have some kind of magic item as part of their equipment (and thus generating an active aura), this is a handy spell for smuggling treasure and prisoners.
Shadow Stream (1st) is a pretty good AoE spell for its level. It creates a 30 foot line as a stream of darkness erupts from the caster's hands, dealing 1d4 cold damage (max 5d4) per level.
Shadow Structure (3rd) creates quasi-real structures made of shadowstuff lasting for 1 minute per level. Walls, bridges, and stairs can be made, in some cases very long (5 feet long per caster level for walls, 20 feet long per caster level for bridges), which can make for some very good battlefield control and movement.
Shadow Vortex (3rd), another evocation-based area of effect goodness, creates a dark storm of crackling ice and thunder, dealing half cold and half electricity damage and dazzling foes who fail their save.
Shape Shadows and Snuff are both 0 level spells, meaning that they can be cast at will in Pathfinder. Shape Shadows can alter the size and dimension of shadows to a limited extent, while Snuff can extinguish a single non-magical light source no larger than a campfire, making it a very good spell to give to dark-vision using enemies in a dungeon.
Summon Horror I to IX is a series of evil-aligned spells which summon terrifying and macabre creatures into the world. It functions a lot like Summon Monster, and the author even notes that a GM may allow classes with the latter to trade in those spells to cast the new horror-themed ones instead. Although it's going to be more limited thanks to the amount of 3rd party material allowing for their newly created beings to be summoned via Core spells, Summon Horror contains non-outsiders and at least one undead creature per level (making it useful for necromancers who don't want to lose costly onyx gems or need to raise that zombie horde right friggin now).
The nightblade class exclusive access to a series of six themed spells: Umbral Assistant (1st), Umbral Berserker (2nd), Umbral Defender (3rd), Umbral Informant (4th), Umbral Magician (5th), and Umbral Nightblade (6th).
Basically by using a series of invisible ink of increasing cost and quality as a material component, the nightblade can create a visible aura of darkness to coalesce around the spilled ink, forming into a humanoid-shaped servitor for the remainder of the spells' duration. Umbral Assitant and Informant are longer-duration utility-based spells, the former being able to manipulate and move objects and sacrifice itself on a target to blind them with inky blackness, the latter being able to scout far away from the nightblade and telepathically communicate with them and act as a scrying sensor. The other four spells are shorter-duration and have combat applications and tend to be able to replicate limited abilities of their illusory counterpart: berserkers can attack, defenders can intercept damage intended for the nightblade, magicians can grant the benefits of a limited selection of metamagic feats and cast one of four damaging spells, and the nightblade has very limited access to nightblade arts. Each Umbral spell has an ability which can be used once on the created being's part upon which the spell immediately ends, and generally are the most useful abilities (magician's spells, defender's damage interception).
All in all, the Umbral X series of spells are quite nice for the nightblade; the beings are not very tough in combat, and they cost material components, but they can be cast as a standard action and can make for some nice synergy abilities in the case of the magician and nightblade servants.
Void Field (4th to 5th) no only creates an area of supernatural darkness, no sound can travel through it either! It also nullifies the other remaining three senses, nullifying scent-based senses and attacks, vibration-based senses and pain-based attacks. Creatures within the field take -10 penalty on all Strength and Dexterity-based checks in addition to the penalties for being blind and deaf, and all Perception checks fail.
Wall of Darkness (3rd) and its Greater counterpart (5th) creates a wall of shadows which cannot be seen through and grant concealment (20% or 50%) to folks taking cover behind it. Those who end up in the wall's area can end up fatigued or exhausted depending on which spell was used. It also lowers the light level of the nearby surrounding area.
Thoughts so far: Damage, debuffs, utility, summoning, and creepy stuff, this is a very versatile chapter both in game mechanics and themes. You'd think that with so many shadow-based forms of magic that the entries would get repetitive or have almost all Illusion, but this chapter proves otherwise. I like enough of these spells that I'm strongly considering using them in my own self-published products (all game mechanics are OGL in Path of Shadows), many of them are that good.
Next time, we tackle the final chapter of Path of Shadows: Magic Items!
Magic ItemsOriginal SA post
Chapter 5: Magic Items
The last and final chapter of the book, the contents are all arranged by type. I should note that this chapter is rather image-heavy; in the book the magic item art is all grouped on one page for an arsenal-style feel, but the images I received came individually. I figured this can be neat way to place the illustrations alongside their descriptions.
Armor Special Properties.
Blending armor property increases the 20% miss chance of concealment up to 50%. In most campaigns this would be sort of situational, but is quite good in conjunction with the many features Path of Shadows offers.
Gloom armor property halves the radius of light sources within 30 feet of the wearer, and this function can be shut off and resumed. Once per day the wearer can emit a cloud of black dust which replicates the dust of twilight spell. Naturally armor with this cannot have the radiant property, that would be silly.
Specific Armors and Shields
Entropic Raiment is a very powerful, very expensive +4 deathless undead controlling breastplate which grants the powers of the nightshades to the wearer. Said wearer cannot be magically aged by any means and radiates a constant desecrate spell. In terms of unique abilities the mobile desecrate is sort of nice, and the undead controlling quality's good for potential necromancers, although being medium armor is going to keep it out of the hands of many arcane spellcasters due to spell failure chance.
Infiltrator's Armor is specially made for spies and assassins. It's a +2 blending glamered shadow studded leather , meaning it looks like normal clothing, grants +5 to Stealth, and increases miss chance. It has the unique ability to allow the caster to cast the snuff spell at-will, and once per day use disguise self with a 1 hour duration. The armor is sort of expensive (17,025 gp), but it might be more reasonable to get by crafting it for half price.
Penumbral Ward was created by entities of night who needed to operate under sunlight. This +2 ghost touch gloom light steel shield is considered to be under the constant effects of a protective penumbra spell. This not only eliminates light blindness from creatures such as drow, it can allow for vampires and other creatures immune to the effects of daylight. A very good equipment to give a vampiric villain.
Weapon Special Properties
We have double the amount of armor ones, six total and two of which are improved versions of a base property.
Blindstrike can make an opponent blind on the confirmation of a critical hit in lieu of bonus damage. The target is blinded from 1-3 rounds depending on the critical multiplier damage. For a +2 bonus it's sort of underwhelming in part because of the rarity of critical hits and the existence of spells which only need to roll a failed save once to inflict this condition for a much longer duration.
Concealed weapons are hard to detect with both mundane and magical means. Its aura can be altered upon command as per the magic aura spell, and persists even after the weapon leaves the hands of its wielder and until another command is unleashed. It grants a bonus on Sleight of Hand checks made to conceal it equal to its enhancement bonus, and its true properties cannot be found except with a DC 11 Will Save after casting an identify spell on it. This property is really useful verses diviners and magical security types and folks using detect magic, because such a weapon can be made to appear non-magical.
Necrotic and Necrotic Burst are like the flaming/shocking/etc energy damage family, except these ones deal negative energy damage on a successful hit. The negative energy cannot heal or harm undead, though, so it can't be used for infinite healing exploits, and it does not harm the wielder in case some effect or spell makes him start attacking himself.
Umbral and Greater Umbral weapons are capable of storing shadow surges, typically in hanging charms or engravings upon the weapon's frame. Such a weapon can hold 1 or 3 surges which refresh each day, cannot be placed on ammunition, and non-nightblade users can at least use the surges to do the 'roll twice, take better result on Stealth' technique.
The Arrow of Forgotten Greaves is a +2 phantom ammunition arrow which places a curse on any living creature it slays. Anyone who views the corpse must succeed on a DC 19 Will Save or forget ever seeing it, and does not register it on any senses for the next 3 days after which a new Will Save can be made. People who witness the murder gain a +4 bonus, though. Said curse is permanent but can be dispelled, making it great in case you need to make someone "disappear."
The Edge of Oblivion is hideously expensive (213,015 gp), and is a +3 adamantine necrotic vorpal longsword capable of obliterating anything it critically strikes. Instead of decapitating a victim, it rapidly ages the target so fast that they dissolve into a fine dust. The text points out that this can effect a wider variety of creatures than a base vorpal blade, pretty much working on all but ones immune to magical aging.
The Hidden Blade can be used three times per day as a swift action upon the completion of a successful sneak attack against a foe. A silence spell is centered on the wielder. I'm beginning to see a pattern of weapons intended for non-commotion kills.
The Phantom Pain is a +1 adaptive endless ammunition necrotic composite shortbow, meaning it deals damage equal to the wielder's Strength bonus and spontaneously creates an arrow each time it's nocked. The arrows are equivalent to phantom ammunition, meaning that the arrows dissolve and the wound seals itself up to guard against any perception of foul play. A rather nifty weapon and a good way to get around the ammunition-only requirement for the phantom ammunition ability.
Tormentor's Shackle is a versatile weapon made by sadists who wanted something which can adapt to all manner of torture. Ordinarily it's a +3 cruel ominous spiked chain, meaning that it can potentially sicken targets afflicted with fear-based status conditions, grant temporary hit points to the wielder when fulfilling said criteria, and can inflict the shaken condition on a successful critical hit. Shaken being fear-based, this combos with the sicken quality. Additionally the wielder can trade out two of the properties for either blindstrike or wounding, and wrap it around their arm to gain +10 CMD against disarm attempts. All in all, I really like this weapon.
Our last specific weapon (and last picture in the chapter), the Twilight Reaver is a +2 cold iron greater umbral keen scythe, meaning it has an increased critical threat range (19-20/x4) and can pierce the damage reduction of fairies and demons among other creatures. It glows with shades of black and blue, and whenever a successful critical hit is confirmed the wielder can absorb a bit of the target's soul to turn into a shadow surge as a swift action. In comparison to the previous weapons the twilight reaver's unique quality feels a bit lackluster, but it's by no means bad.
The Ring of Shadow Mastery can store up to 2 shadow surges inside of itself, and in addition to normal uses the surges can be spent for bonuses on Bluff/Sleight of Hand/Stealth checks, and to grant the wielder the ability to turn their next attack into a touch attack as the dusk strike nightblade art. Or all 2 surges can be spent to cast shadow conjuration. Unlike the umbral weapons, these surges do not regenerate each day, meaning that the party needs to have a nightblade to maximize its potential. Still, as such surges can be spent by non-nightblades it's a cool way to grant touch AC attacks to other party members.
The Shadow Walker's Ring grants teleportation-based spells illusion spells with the shadow descriptor (shadow walk, shadow gate, shadow step, etc) a whopping +4 caster level increase! Not just that, if the wearer has the ability to teleport through the Plane of Shadow with a daily distance measured in feet (such as the shadowdancer, nightblade, or wizard's shadow subschool), the distance is increased by 50 feet per day for that ability and can be divided up for individual "jumps" if the class feature allows such. This ring's usefulness is limited to only a few types of characters, but the benefits it grants can be quite good within this purview.
Bracers of Dusk and Dawn pair a set of matching runes, one white and the other black. The wearer can create a 30 foot radius of illumination or darkness, with a light level ranging from darkness, dim light, or normal light. The lighting condition lasts until another command is given or changed to a different lighting level. Most interesting of all is that the effects generated by this wondrous item are treated as non-magical and interacts with other spells and effects accordingly.
It's a very cheap magic item (3,000 gp) which cannot be dispelled or blocked by an anti-magic field, and is pretty much a must-buy if you're utilizing any of the contents of this book which depend on the light level.
Hidden Step Shoes can move at full speed without suffering a Stealth penalty. Once per day as an immediate action the wearer can negate any armor check penalties for 1 minute. The latter ability is sort of average (most stealthy types wear light armor), but the full movement without a Stealth penalty is great mobility for rogues and the like. At 1,500 gp, it's cheap and accessible!
The Informant's Script is used to covertly pass secret messages. Once text is written on the page, a command word can alter the apparent text to look like another message, its specifics decided upon by the one invoking the command word. It can also replicate the effects of the Secret Page spell but once used this way it always transforms to that specific page on future uses. For 600 gp it's kind of pricey but good for espionage campaigns or trying to trick someone into signing a contract whose text can alter.
The Lunar Amulet has a glowing glass orb at its center, surrounded by eight gemstones representing the phases of the moon. Each day the central orb changes to a random phase depicted, granting the wearer the benefits of the lunar prophecy spell mentioned in Chapter 4: Magic. The wielder can try forcing it to a desired phase with a DC 17 Will Save, but a failed save risks losing any benefit for today as the orb clouds over.
A Night Candle is made of black wax and its wick produces no flame when lit. For 30 minutes anything within a 30 foot radius of said candle gains the benefits of hidden illumination as described in Chapter 4: Magic. As said spell is 1st-level for most classes and a night candle costs 120 gp, it is far cheaper to have a spellcaster in the party learn the spell and save any money which would otherwise be used to buy it. It's the kind of item better used when found instead of gained with money.
Shadowcraft Gloves allow the wielder to make a quasi-real object weighing no more than 10 pounds as a full-round action. Said object is treated as non-magical and cannot have moving parts, and persists for 1 minute before fading away. The text says that it can replicate simple materials such as wood, glass, and metal, but can't make things such as acid. I might be unimaginative, but this magic items seems very restrictive for what it can make at a price of 7,800 gp.
Shadowstruct Flask contains a dark cloudy fluid constantly swirling within. It's actually a compound of arcane energy and shadowstuff, and when poured out in an adjacent square as a standard action. The liquid replicates the effects of a shadow structure spell as described in Chapter 4: Magic, with the pourer determining the specifics of the created object. Although it's a wondrous item, I'm unsure if this is meant to be one-use item or not. Most Wondrous Items are reusable and don't have charges. If it's reusable then it's a very good item for its price; one-use, and it's like most potions in that they're not cost-effective for the replicated spell.
A Shroud of Shadows is a multi-purpose cloak with a pair of clasps, and by taking off the clasps can use one of its special abilities, all but one of which are based on spells from Chapter 4: Magic. Three times per day the wearer can throw it at an opponent ant replicate the effects of a shadow binding spell. Twice per day the wearer can cover himself with the shroud and become like a shadow, gaining the effects of a shadow form spell. This is a spell I didn't detail last post, but basically it allows one to travel along surfaces as though they were a shadow. Once per day the wearer can cover the shroud on an object, replicating the effects of a shadow courier spell which can only carry one object.
Finally, it can replicate the effects of a shadowy haven spell by placing the shroud on a surface to open a gateway to the Plane of Shadows.
The shroud's fabric appears to fade away after any of these abilities are used, requiring the wearer to wait 1d4 rounds at which point the shroud flows from the clasps like running ink to reform. Versatile? Check. Cool-sounding? Check. Reasonable for its price? At 34,000 gp, I'd say so.
The Vest of Steady Aging grants immunity to the effects of magical aging, such as a ghost's corrupting touch attack or this book's entropic storm. This does not negate the penalties for natural aging, and the wearer still continues to age normally. At 21,000 gp this is a tad expensive for a limited amount of such attacks existing.
Voidsight Goggles are our final magic item, and thus our final entry in the book before we hit the OGL, index, and credits! It's 30,000 but the effects it gives are a boon to any dungeon-delver. Those who wear it gain the see in darkness special ability, allowing them to see in full color in magical and non-magical darkness up to their normal vision limits. Meaning that not only can the average human see up to 2 miles in complete darkness, they can also discern color and fine details at close range! Very nice ability which I don't see many spells or class features replicate, first or third party.
Final Thoughts: This chapter's specific weapons and armor tend towards a tad on the expensive side, but the entries overall are pretty strong and full of ones which can see use in many types of campaigns.
As for the book overall, Path of Shadows is very good, especially for a publisher's first product. The nightblade class is an awesome and versatile mage-thief type, the spells are thematic and useful, and the book has options for most character concepts. The author does well to look out for loopholes and cheesy infinite exploits, and the various magic items, spells, and class features have good synergy with each other and I like how many of them rely upon the environment's lighting conditions.
And finally, the artwork is downright lovely. Christopher Moor does something unusual for Pathfinder products, in that in the credits he specifies who did which kinds of artwork and what page they can be found. Most of the ones I used were created by Danielle Sands, and all the magic items were drawn by Bryon Osihiro.
Listed below are the page numbers of each artwork found within Path of Shadows, in order of appearance, along with the name of their respective artist:
Path of Shadows (cover), Danielle Sands
Shadow Space (p. 4), Trevor Verges
The Nightblade (p. 10), Danielle Sands
Alchemist (p. 23), Al Savell
Fetchling Magus (p. 28), Danielle Sands
Darkness Shaman (p. 34), Jasmine Mackey
Deathwings (p. 48), Al Savell
Wayang (p. 53), Al Savell
Shadow Blast (p. 56), Nicoleta Stavarache
Umbral Defender (p. 65), Danielle Sands
Twilight Reaver (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Phantom Pain (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Edge of Oblivion (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Hidden Blade (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Infiltrator’s Armor (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Entropic Raiment (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Tormentor’s Shackle (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
Penumbral Ward (p. 71), Bryon Osihiro
This is a really nice gesture for Christopher Moore, in that it shows interested folk who might be interested in said artist's style to further research their work.
In conclusion, I highly recommend Path of Shadows for Pathfinder fans. It adds some diversity and interesting choices for a cool magic theme, and its core class' path system allows for a versatile assortment of character concepts. The book can be bought at all the usual stores (Drive-Thru RPG, Paizo, D20 Pathfinder SRD, RPGNow).
I do not know what I'll review next, but if anything I'll probably go back to finishing Path of War, and after that perhaps continue my abandoned Let's Read of Ptolus. Until then, stay tuned for the revival of old reviews!