Review: Construct Handbook

Today on d20 Diaries we’re taking a peek between the covers of one of the wonderful new products that came out at the end of last year: Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. If you’re a follower of this blog you’ll know this was a book I was thrilled to get my hands on this past holiday season, and I was not disappointed.

Pathfinder Campaign Setting Construct Handbook
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook is a thick softcover book that is 64 pages long. Although the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line typically contains world lore (for all players) and some extra material for GMs, this book is a bit different. Equally geared at both players and GMs, it contains detailed rules on creating constructs, class archetypes, magic items, and a lot of new golems and golem templates. The cover features some atmospheric artwork by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, which depicts the iconic arcanist Enora giving commands to her adamantine golem, as it battles a quantium golem. (Talk about epic career goals! Haha).

The front inside cover shines a light on some famous construct innovators, providing an image and a paragraph of information on each. The crafters showcased are Sidrah Imeruss, founder of the Technic League and an expert in the robots of Numeria; Toth Bhreacher, founder of the prestigious Golemworks in Magnimar; and Hadia Al-Dannah, a world renowned Qadiran mathematician, former scholar of the Clockwork Cathedral in Absalom, and expert on clockwork construction. The information is brief but lends a face to the construct trade, which is really nice. It also serves to give any characters interested in crafting golems a famous mentor or role model to live up to. A nice bit of fluff and backstory for any characters interested in seizing it.

construct handbook - icons of construct history
Icons of Construct History: Sidrah Imeruss, Toth Bhreacher, and Hadia Al-Dannah.

After that we have the table of contents, and then we hop right into the introduction. In addition to touching on what’s going to be in this lovely little tome, the introduction also discusses how the general populace of Golarion views golems and their crafters (both positives and negatives), and the difficulty in obtaining appropriate raw materials to craft a golem (which can often become an adventure in and of itself!). The Construct Handbook primarily focuses on clockworks, golems, and robots, but explains that there are may other kinds of constructs. For each of these major kinds of contracts it doesn’t touch upon, it contains a paragraph of information that lets you know where those constructs were first introduced, how compatible they are with the templates in this book, and where you can look for further information on them (if applicable). Constructs mentioned in this way are animated objects, colossi, and homunculi.

Leaving behind the introduction we hop right into the first chapter: ‘Crafting Constructs.’ This section of the book is six pages long and is really, really useful for anyone who wants to make a construct. Not sure I can stress that enough! Haha. It starts by taking a look at every step in the construct crafting process and explaining it fully and clearly. That includes everything from the requirements, cost, and finding materials, to time, and skill checks. It then details other methods that you could use to craft a construct, such as the use of the infamous golem manuals, purchase, and theft. After that it talks about construct modifications, which were first introduced in Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Magic. It offers four new basic modifications (I particularly liked the movement and resistances modifications) and six really cool new complex modifications (be sure to check out construct shelter, mind link, and self-repair).

construct handbook - making a construct

The next chapter is six pages in length and contains eleven new archetypes. Some of these archetypes fell into expected themes: those that create or destroy constructs, but others I found quite surprising. My favourite archetype was definitely the clocksmith, a wizard archetype that falls solidly in the ‘create construct’ category. This delightful archetype lets you create a magical clockwork familiar in place of your regular familiar, and gives you craft construct as a bonus feat at level one instead of scribe scroll. In place their arcane school powers, clocksmiths gain a bonus on saving throws against effects created by constructs, and increase their effective spell level when casting spells that target constructs. At later levels they can tinker with their clockwork familiars, granting them eidolon evolutions. Super cool and thematic! I love it!

Other archetypes that fall solidly in the ‘create construct’ category include the construct caller, an unchained summoner archetype that allows your eidolon to be a construct; the cruorchymist, an alchemist archetype that gives up its poison abilities and mutagen to have a homunculus familiar which he can heal or alter on the fly with his own blood. Although I enjoy the construct caller, I find the cruorchymist is really rough on your CON score, with one ability dealing CON drain and another dealing CON damage to your character. Ouch!

arcanotheurge - construct handbook - alyssa mccarthy
A construct caller. Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Of the archetypes that focus on destroying constructs, I found that I liked the construct saboteur best. This rogue archetype swaps out knowledge (dungeoneering) and knowledge (local) as class skills in exchange for knowledge (arcana) and knowledge (engineering). They gain arcane strike at first level instead of trap finding, and gain a special kind of ability called an arcane sabotage, which is essentially construct hindering rogue talents accessible only though this archetype. My favourite of the arcane sabotage options are diminish senses (which can blind a construct for a turn) and magic vulnerability (which replaces a construct’s magic immunity with spell resistance instead). Most of the arcane sabotage options also allow you to extend of bolster their effects by giving up any sneak attack damage that you would deal. Super cool!

I was pleasantly surprised by the Forgefather’s seeker paladin archetype that enables pious worshippers of Torag to destroy dangerous artificial creations. They can smite constructs, cut through their DR with ease, and, at level 20, they even have a chance to automatically destroy a construct with a single blow. Not only was this archetype really solid and thematic, it was not something I expected to see. Construct killing paladins? I like it! The final ‘construct killing’ themed archetype was an arcanist archetype called the arcane tinkerer.

After reading the archetypes in this chapter, another theme became apparent: archetypes that can hijack or otherwise assume control of enemy constructs. Here you’ll find the construct collector occultist archetype, and the voice of Brigh bard archetype. The voice of Brigh was an interesting archetype. They have the ability to effect constructs with their bardic performances, which is very cool. But, most of it’s offensive performances have changed so that they only effect constructs. Essentially this means that you can use your bolstering music on allies of all kinds, including constructs, but that your hindering ones, like dirge of doom, fascinate, and frightening tune can only affect constructs. It’s a balanced trade if you’re going to be facing off against or allying with constructs on a regular basis, but otherwise is a rather large negative. However, their new bardic performance, Brigh’s Spark, allows them to reanimate a destroyed construct and force it to fight on your behalf. Each round they use this performance the construct regains more hp, and if it ever reaches full hp before they stop performing, it remains animated and under their control for 24 hours. So worth it!

I rather enjoyed the construct collector, as well, particularly because it gives up my least used of the occultist abilities for some cool new powers. They sacrifice magic circles, outside contact, binding circles, and fast circles, for the ability to temporarily halt a constructs destruction and control it for a turn (at the cost of some mental focus). At higher levels this ability’s duration is extended to a few rounds, and then a few minutes. They also gain the ability to harvest parts from broken constructs, which hold a point of generic focus. They can use the generic mental focus stored in these parts to fuel their focus powers on a one-for-one basis, which renders the parts useless. A nice touch!

The last few archetypes are much less focused and more easily used in a wide variety of games. The engineer is an investigator archetype that creates mechanisms that can aid them in a specific task for a few minutes. These mechanisms cost an inspiration point to create, grant the inspiration dice to the check it was made for throughout its duration, and can be shared with allies. They also gain a bonus on identifying constructs and on engineering checks. The scrapper is a fighter archetype that scavenges the parts from armour or broken constructs and uses them to augment their own armour. How much the makeshift modifications help and last depend on how powerful their source was. I found that archetype one of the most surprising I read! Really wasn’t expecting it, but I like it! Finally, there’s the wild effigy, a shifter archetype whose aspects and wild shape take on the appearance and consistency of stone instead of flesh and blood.

Chapter three is four pages of magic items, all with a very strong construct theme. It’s mostly golem manuals, but eight other magic items exist as well. I particularly like the chirurgeon cube and the oculus of magnetic fury.

Construct Handbook - Dragonhide Golem.JPG

Which brings us to our last and largest chapter: the bestiary. This thing is a forty three pages long, making it well over half the length of the book. In this chapter you’ll find fifteen new constructs and nine construct templates (each of which includes one sample stat block). Five of these constructs are a new intelligent kind of construct with ties to the Jistka Imperium, called an automaton. There’s also four new clockworks, three new robots, and three new golems. My favourite new constructs were the champion automatons (who can grab an enemy in their pincers and then whack another enemy with them! Hahaha! I love it!), clockwork songbird, dragonhide golem, and sand golem. My favourite construct templates include the energized golem, haunted construct, and recycled construct.

steam powered -clockwork dragon - construct handbook - graey erb
A steam powered clockwork dragon created using the new steam powered template with a clockwork dragon as the base creature. Illustrated by Graey Erb. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Which brings us to the end of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. Overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s got some cool archetypes and a lot of awesome new enemies. New beasties for your players to battle against is always a great investment as a GM, so it was worth my money based on creatures alone. It’s an invaluable book for anyone who want to get into construct crafting. That said, it is very tight on its theme. Chances are if you’re a player who isn’t planning on crafting constructs or playing in a construct heavy campaign, you won’t find much of use in this book. It should be noted that although I’ll get the most use out of this book (as a GM), all of my family — my husband and my two young children — read this book and got inspired by the class archetypes. The three of them are now begging me to make them a construct themed campaign. (Do we not have enough campaigns?! Pretty sure we do!). I suppose it’s more use for players than I thought! Haha.

All in all, we’re happy to have this lovely little book on our shelf!

Do you own the Construct Handbook? Got some favourite creatures from it or stories about construct crafting you want to share? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

Jessica

 

Legacy of the First World

Hello, hello! Welcome! Today we’re going to take a look at one of my favourite soft cover releases of the past year: Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of the First World! If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know that my daughter is already using some of the awesome character options found inside this little gem, with her Pathfinder Society character, Lady Naysha. Admittedly, I’m super jealous.

Legacy of the First World is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find any great secrets of the First World hidden inside, or details on the plane itself. For that kind of information you’ll have to pick up Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The First World, Realm of the Fey, or the soon to be released Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Planar Adventures. Legacy of the First World features amazing cover art by Kiki Moch Rizky, which showcases the iconic druid, Lini, and the iconic hunter Adowyn, engaged in battle against a grodair!

The front inside cover features brief information on all nine of the Eldest: gods of the First World who are often worshipped by fey and fey-blooded or fey-touched humanoids. Each entry includes their name, title, holy symbol, alignment, domains, favoured weapons, and the pages where related information and character options can be found. Curious who the Eldest are? Fear not! We’ll get into that later!

PZO9480After this we’ve got the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction. Here we find five new regional traits, each themed around places on the material plane where fey  are common. Curious which locations? The Darkmoon Wood, Grungir Forest, Irrisen, Uringen, and a caravan known as the Witchmarket. ‘Fey Mediator (Grungir Forest)’ is a solid trait, but I think that ‘Voices of Solid Things (Witchmarket)’ turned out to be my favourite! This allows you to select either Appraise, Craft, Disable Device, or Spellcraft. In addition to making that a class skill, you can apply your Charisma modifier on those checks instead of Intelligence/Dexterity. Neat!

Moving on from the introduction we come to a pair of pages entitled ‘Fey Origins’ that deal with characters who have a touch of the fey in their bloodlines. Each of the core races has ideas for how fey-touched members of that race might look or act, and an alternate racial trait. After this there are three story feats which can be taken by any race. Although the human, half-orc, and half-elf alternate racial traits are very cool, its the one for elves that turned out to be my favourite. ‘Fey-sighted’ grants your elf detect magic as a constant ability, and replaces ‘elven magic.’ So cool! As for story feats? Check out ‘Fascinated by the Mundane’ for a really fun character concept!

Wait! That can’t be all that gnomes get in this book? Is it? Just a trait? Nope! It’s not. The next few pages focus on two races intrinsically tied to the First World: gnomes and gathlain. Up first? Gnomes! First up, rules for playing a bleaching, followed by two feats that can be taken by bleachlings. Finally! Past that we come to a quirky alchemist archetype called the ‘First World Innovator’ which lets you mix a bit of primal reagents into your alchemical creations (bombs, extracts, potions or mutagens) which will alter them in a random way. I highly recommend giving this one a read, because I loved it. Following the archetype itself are a trio of discoveries that let you create a fey-themed mutagen, which are pretty nifty. After that we come to two new alchemical creations: the chroma grenade, which dazzles enemies and makes them susceptible to illusions, and the vine tube, which spouts fast growing vines. These vinescan either grow along the ground to make difficult terrain, or can be molding by a skilled craftsman into basic tools and furniture which last for ten minutes. An interesting alternative to carrying around a bunch of heavy tools! The final little treat on the section on gnomes? It contains my favourite artwork in the book! A blue and orange haired little alchemist surrounded by very natural-looking components, crafting up some kind of glowing brew. I’m feeling it.

Leaving the gnomes behind we get into a pair of pages about gathlain. This section doesn’t contain any race-specific archetypes (for those you’ll need to check out Pathfinder RPG: Ultimate Wilderness), instead it features five alternate race traits, eight new favoured class options, and four new feats. For race traits be sure to check out ‘bower born’ and ‘sticky tendrils,’ and for feats take a peek at the very quirky ‘strange yield,’ which lets you pull a single fruit off of your wings a day that acts as a random potion.

After the various racial options in this book, we move on to the ways in which the First World has affected the material plane. The first two pages include the fey-touched template, a new oracle curse and mystery, and a bard archetype called the First World Minstrel. Although the First World Minstrel’s ability to pass on the ill luck of a pugwampi to your enemies is absolutely delightful, if I recommend only one thing from this book it would be the new oracle mystery: whimsy. It’s just… awesome. Flavourful, fun, and useful. I’d use it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for me, (and very fortunate for my daughter), right before I could make a character with it, my daughter did. She beat me to it! And she did it so… perfectly. I just can’t compete. And so, for the forseeable future, I’ll refrain from making one of my own… At least until I can think of a concept completely different than my six-year old daughter’s…. For those of you who don’t have that issue, be sure to check out our favourite revelation: ‘whimsical prank!’ Other gems include ‘assumed form,’ ‘flicker,’ ‘whimsical step,’ and ‘woodland caprice.’

So good.

Seriously. Check it out.

But with a flip of the page we leave the whimsy behind to delve into two pages of character options which revolve around the harm fey can cause. First up are four alternate racial traits which focus around locations tainted by evil fey: Darkblight, Tanglebriar, and the Upper Korir River. I’d recommend giving the human trait, ‘imposter-wary‘ a read. Although it forces you to put your bonus skill point into sense motive at every level, it also grants you a bonus on saves against illusions. A great trade if you want to make a suspicious character. After this we get to a new hunter archetype that focuses on killing fey, the cleverly named ‘Feykiller.’ This archetype swaps out a few of the animal focus options for different ones, allows your animal companions attacks to bypass DR/cold iron, grants you a bonus against illusions and enchantments or, if they were cast by fey, makes you immune to such effects. Very cool! Lastly, this section gives us three new spells, my favourite of which is ‘iron spine.’ And yes, it does exactly what it sounds like it does. Ouch…

Every page after this point in Legacy of the First World is dedicated to one of the Eldest. First, it gives us a paragraph or two on the Eldest themselves, followed by new archetypes, class options, spells and gear which are related to that god or their teachings. Interesting, right?

First up: Count Ranalc, the Traitor. Eldest of betrayal, exile and shadows. This shifty fellow provides us with my husband’s very favourite part of the book: an archetype for slayers called ‘Ankou’s Shadow.‘ This awesome archetype gives you the ability to make shadow duplicates of yourself which function as mirror image and last until destroyed. As you level up you can command your duplicates to perform other actions, and you gain access to more duplicates. Oh, and you can see invisibility as a swift action for a minute per level per day. Sweet! He’d better get around to making one soon, or I will.  Haha! After this is another interesting archetype, the ‘Shadow Scion‘ for rogues.

PZO9298
For more information on the First World, check out Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The First World, Realm of the Fey

The Green Mother, also called the Feasting Flower, is the Eldest of carnivorous plants, intrigue, and seduction. Yikes! The pages focusing on her give us the ‘Grasping Vine‘ archetype for shamans, which shuffles up some spell options, allows you to speak with plants, gives you the ability to use plant shape, and even turns your familiar into a creature made of leaves and thorny vines. I think you could make a really cool shaman with this archetype. It’s very thematic, but also very… accessible. By that I mean: lots of different character concepts ranging throughout Golarion can make use of this archetype. Not just followers of the Green Mother, or characters from the First World. It’s easy to use. The second archetype up for offer here is much more of a niche, and focuses on The Green Mother’s seduction aspect. It’s the ‘Seducer’ archetype for witch! Their last ability, ‘Garden of Delight,’ just… Wow. I’m… a little surprised that saw print. I’m not sure why it surprised me so much. It shouldn’t. But, I’m certainly not letting my kids play this archetype! No way! That complaint aside, the archetype’s still not really my cup tea. Still, if you want to be a charming enchanter/enchantress style character, this is a really good option. Past the archetypes there are two new witch hexes up for offer and one new shaman hex. My favourite is the shaman hex ‘silkstring snare.’ Lastly, there’s three new spells. My favourite is ‘thirsting entanglement,‘ which is like a soul draining entangle spell, but the others are solid debuffs which should see use in play.

Up next is Imbrex, the Twins, Eldest of endings, statues and — you guessed it — twins. His two pages are almost entirely dedicated to summoners. It features an archetype, a new eidolon subtype, and three evolutions. After that there’s four teamwork feats. Usually, this would be a bit of bummer for me. I don’t often play summoners, even though I enjoy them, and dedicating so much space to only one class is a little unfortunate. But… it’s such an awesome archetype! SO COOL! The ‘Twinned Summoner’ has an eidolon that looks just like him (excluding any nifty evolutions). They also learn teamwork feats, which their eidolon can also automatically use. Think of the possibilities! It’s just… awesome! The moment my husband read it he looked at me and said. “Oh, this is interesting. You would be good with this archetype.” “But not you?” I asked. “No. Too much work. I’d get confused.” We laughed. Later I read through it, and you know what? I agreed. I could rock this archetype! Hahaha. The evolutions are brief, but useful — particularly ‘shared evolution‘ and ‘extra feat.‘ For teamwork feat be sure to check out ‘improved precise strike‘ and ‘spell synergy.’

Taking centre stage next is the Lantern King, also known as the Laughing Lie. He’s the Eldest of laughter, mischief, and transformation. Chances are when you think ‘fey’ you think of the attributes this guy has. He’s a prankster, and a shapeshifter. An agent of chaos with infinite forms. The character options include one archetype, the ‘Fey Prankster’ for bards, and two bloodlines that are both entitled ‘shapechanger.’ One is for bloodragers and the other for sorcerers. Both were really cool, but my favourite turned out to the the bloodrager bloodline. I’m not sure why I liked it so much, as the sorcerer bloodline was really solid, but hey! That’s how it goes sometimes.

Up next is an Eldest who is about as far from a jolly prankster as you can get: The Lost Prince. Also known as the Melancholy Lord, he’s the Eldest of forgotten things, sadness and solitude. This dour, brooding fellow has provided us with the ‘hermit‘ archetype for oracles, which is closely tied to the ‘reclusive‘ oracle curse. There’s also a ‘sorrow‘ themed psychic discipline, and a new type of feats which give you an advantage when no allies are nearby. I highly suggest giving the ‘hermit’ a thorough read, because their abilities are very, very cool. Particularly their base revelation, ‘Recluse’s Stride.’ For feats, be sure to check out ‘Centered Spell,’ which is a new metamagic feat which allows you to exclude yourself and your familiar from your instantaneous spells without increasing the spell level. Who doesn’t want to put themselves in the middle of a fireball once in a while? Right?

The next featured Eldest is Magdh, The Three, Eldest of complexity, fate, and triplets. Let me admit, up front, that I am a huge fan of this goddess. She’s my favourite in the book, by far! Unfortunately, none of the character options in her section wowed me. Now, maybe it’s just me. The three spells are interesting and useful. The monk archetype, ‘Nornkith‘, allows your monk to run off of Charisma instead of Wisdom, which is awesome, but… I wasn’t thrilled by anything. There are also three new items up for offer, my favourite of which was ‘charm of the thriceborn.’ I’d be very interested to hear what others thought about the options in Magdh’s section, so if you’ve given the book a read be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Next up is Ng, the Hooded, Eldest of the seasons, secrets, and wanderers. Under his section you’ll find a new cavalier archetype, the ‘Hooded Knight,’ who has a fey-touched mount, gains benefits when traveling on roads, and at higher levels can use dimension door or teleport. There’s also a new cavalier order, the ‘Order of the Blossom,’ which sounds… interesting. Although it’s got some cool abilities, including gaining sneak attack and some minor enchantments, one of the edicts forces you to always accept a fey’s request for aid — which could be very troublesome for obvious reasons. Thankfully, blighted or corrupted fey are excluded from this, and he must instead destroy them. Still… It could be rough! Best ensure you have an understanding GM before selecting it! The final options in Ng’s section are three new items which involve secrecy. Be sure to check out the ‘whispering gloves,’ and the ‘clandestine horseshoes’! The ‘hood of privacy‘ is awesome, but very expensive. Definitely an investment.

Following Ng’s secrecy is an interesting Eldest who cares nothing for subtlety: Ragadahn, The Water Lord, Eldest of linnorms, oceans, and spirals. He’s a brutish creature who counts all the oceans of the First World as his territory. He expects fealty, and respect, but little else. There’s two new archetypes in his section, The ‘Deepwater Rager‘ for barbarians, and the ‘Serpent Herald’ for skalds. Despite the name, the ‘Deepwater Rager’ isn’t actually an underwater combatant. I highly recommend giving it a read, because their abilities ‘Spiraling Charge’ and ‘Disorienting Grapple‘ and both very cool! There’s also three new rage powers in this section of the book (check out ‘Master of the Deep,’ which lets you command aquatic creatures), and two bardic masterpieces, both of which are cool. ‘Ragadahn’s raqs beledi’ is a dance that allows you and your companions to squeeze into tight spaces without trouble, while ‘Ragadahn’s spiral ascent’ allows you to make a whirlwind which can whisk your companions to higher ground. Intriguing!

Finally, we come to the last Eldest in the book — which is also the last page of the book —Shyka, The Many, Eldest of entropy, reincarnation, and time. Now, time related concepts are both very cool, and very difficult to work with in a d20 system. So, although I went into these pages with high hopes — hopes made higher by the awesome wizard artwork in this section — I was wary I might be let down. This section contains a single archetype, and four new spells. The archetype is called the ‘Chronomancer,’ and is for wizards. They gives up the arcane bond class feature, as well as most of their bonus feats, to gain a reservoir of energy they can use to alter time. At low levels they can use it to improve an ally’s initiative, or saving throws, and to immediately re-prepare failed spells (either due to a failed concentration check, a passed save on behalf of your enemies, spell resistance or other immunities, and so on) as if they had not been cast. Cool, right? At higher levels they can use it to cast haste on their allies or trigger contingencies. At level twenty they can even summon a version of himself from an parallel timeline at the moment of his death. The alternate you only lasts for a minute, but it’s one heck of a final gambit! He even comes with your gear! I was SO pleasantly surprised with this archetype! If you’re even remotely interested you should give it a gander. As for the spells? Very cool! Particularly ‘temporal divergence!’ Definitely read it!

And that’s it! We’ve reached the back cover, and Legacy of the First World has come to an end. I hope seeing a bit of what’s inside has helped you decide whether this is a book you want to invest in. And if you’ve read through it already, be sure to let us know what your favourite options were in the comments! Still want more fey-inspired goodness? Be sure to pick up the newest Wayfinder fanzine, Wayfinder 18: Fey and the First World, which is a free download on Paizo’s website.

Enjoy!

Jessica