Spheres of Akasha review
So, Hall Kennette is a prolific author that has been kind of focusing on Akashic magic supplements. Here, he teams with Christen N. Sowards under Lost Spheres Publishing for this book, which is like a crossover between Akashic magic and the Spheres system. Can they pull it off? Let’s see!
What’s inside?: not counting covers, index and legal section, 48 pages for almost 9 bucks, which include:
-The Sphereshaper base class (SS from now on):
This class inherits a lot from the vizier. It has the same proficiencies and class skills, along with the same BAB/HD, saves, essence progression, chakra binds, improved essence capacity, veilshifting and even part of the capstone ability, but gets less veils (6 at top level compared to 11).
They get an ability at first level called Akashic Affinity, which lets the SS choose one Mystic Attunement from those available to the vizier, or get a access to some veils outside its veil list, or a Mana bond ability which increases his MSB and MSD and gets some synergy with other casting classes and serves as an essence receptacle. Any of the abilities chosen progresses at the same levels as the Mystic Attunement of the vizier. Also at first level, they get another choosable ability called Mnemonic Insight, from 3 options: Arcane (which functions just like the Eldritch Insight vizier ability), Martial (counting as fighters for feats and getting a changeable Weapon Focus feat and some extras), or Spiritual (a domain, no spells but also works as an essence receptacle). It seems that you can change the choice every day, since in the cap ability it mentions that you can also change your Insight, but the description of the ability is cut. Finally at first level, they can use their veilweaver modifier and level for attacks, just like with weapon-like veils, but for also for any sphere talent.
The class also gets Sphereshaper’s Talent as a bonus feat at each even levels. What is that? I will mention it below. The class ends with half a page of favored class bonus for 31 races!
-24 Sphereshaper Veils: These are so different from standard veils that their special rules take a page. Basically, each veil grants you access to a specific Sphere and a talent, but not a package. If you want to progress in those spheres, there’s where the Sphereshaper’s Talent comes into play. When shaping veils for the day, you get to choose a talent from any of those granted by veils for every time you chose the feat. Wait, what? Yes, while I’m not an expert at the Spheres system, you get an unbelievable amount of customization, changeable each day. Since you don’t gain spellpoints or Martial Focus natively, you can BIND, not invest, a point of essence invested in this veil (which prevents reallocation for the day). With that chassis and the limitations of the veils, I think it is not unbalanced. However, I wouldn’t allow them as options for the Shape Veil feat.
The veils themselves have cool names and abilities. Choosing at random, Cernavog’s Blood Hunger grants you the Berserker sphere and lets you shape a powerful great axe that deal 3d6 for medium and gives you temporary hit points each time you hit a creature for the first time each round, stacking with themselves and those granted by the berserking ability, and when bound lets you track those damaged by the axe and add some bleed damage to the axe’s blows against them. Lich’s Grasp grants you access to the Death sphere, but the ghost strikes made are melee touch attacks, damage with negative energy and instead of healing, shaken undead creatures ignoring immunities; when bound, the ghost strike are treated as weapon attacks, allowing for multiple uses in a round.
-5 Archetypes: Aeshmic Daevic exchange their non-passion veilweaving, all chakra binds but body (ouch!) and almost half their essence to become a blended trained low-caster, gaining a sphere talent each level; intriguing! I would have tied the passions with specific spheres, but that is something I can do on my own. Sipahi Gurus lose a lot of non-philosophy abilities to become adept combatants, and they can invest their Martial Focus as if it was a special point of essence (or two or three at higher levels) that augments even the Sipahi’s essence capacity, really cool! These two archetypes are interesting, changing the Daevic into a more pally-like class, and grounding the Guru into a more physical combatant.
The next three archetypes are Veilweaver Sphere takes on each of the three original akashic classes. All classes lose their normal veilweaving and essence pool, and all but the Daevic also lose improved essence capacity (must be an oversight in the Daevic’s case), in exchange of becoming low, mid and high casters, although they use their class level as their caster level when determining effects from the veilweaver sphere, but not for prerequisites. As Sphere Casters, they start with two bonus talents and a casting tradition, and also gain the Veilweaving sphere (which normally gives you access to one veil, but not in this case) and their class’ Tradition advanced talent (which basically add all the class’ veil list to their known veils). So, how do they empower their veils without a class essence pool? They can condense and draw essence, by spending two spell points, they get a point of temporary essence that last until you recover your spell points, and you can burn this temporary essence to get a the same number of temporary spell points that last for 1 minute. They can also get bonus essence to their pools by taking essence talents (each giving a point of essence). Viziers also get a variant of their Eldritch Insight class feature and two special abilities: extra veils shaped during their careers (up to three) and being able to use their caster level as their BAB when using weapon-like veils and veils with the [enhanced] descriptor.
-New Class Options: Here we find a Sphere’s version of the Wrath passion (which changes the passion skills gained and adds some caveats to the other features), two 3-point specialization abilities for the Incanter (Might of the Speheres and Veilweaving), and two prodigy Imbue Sequences (Essence Burst and Essence Crash). In this section we also find two favored class options for all races and the three Veilweaving sphere classes: 1/6 of an akashic feat or 1/5 of a Veilweaving sphere talent.
-Two Prestige Classes variants: The two prestige classes from Akashic Mysteries get the sphere treatment. The Sphere Amplifier doesn’t require multiclassing, is a high caster and gains a talent every level, and DOES gain an essence pool. They can use a spell point to directly increase the power of matching veils (3 options possible). The Sphere Black Templar is a rework of the original to function under the Spheres system.
-Veilweaving Sphere: This sphere is ambitious. It tries to open all the possibilities of veilweaving to Sphere casters. It starts with an alternate Divination talent called Divine Akasha, but after that, there are pages after pages on how to integrate veilweaving to other sphere casters. Just by gaining the Veilweaving sphere, you get access to a single standard veil. After this, you get access to essence talents (which all give you a point of essence, like most akashic feats), bind talents (just the ability to bind veils, not the extra gained from the feats), and like in Spheres of Might, a lot of feat and class features were transformed into talents. Basically, you can build a mostly standard version of the akashic classes, or can go wild and either give them a lot of standard sphere magic, or give veilweaving to standard sphere casters.
-Akashic Magic and Veilweaving: This is the section where you find the all the basic information for veilweving and its interactions with magic. I would normally complain about yet another repetition of this section, but with the inclusion of the Sphereshaper, you could potentially play without any other book (although all of the archetypes). There are also some unusual interactions between veils and sphere talents, and that is a plus.
-5 Feats: Akasha-infused Sphere lets you infuse a talent with essence, working at a higher level. Destructive Essence increases the damage of the destruction sphere’s blast with “akashic” damage; it is not called as such but it has been appearing in the author’s works, so I will call it that. Essencebound Metamagic lets you give a specific effect a metamagic you know by binding essence, and while not said, it doesn’t follow the maximum essence capacity. Sphereshaper’s Talent is the Sphereshaper’s best friend, since it lets you wildcard tons of Sphere talents both of Power and/or Might. Wildform Chakra is the last one, improving your natural weapons when in another form gained from the Alteration sphere or the Transformation feat.
-Akashic Magic casting tradition: In the vein of other traditions, it includes magic type (akashic), casting ability modifier (any mental), 3 general drawbacks (akashic spells make each spell a veil, being able to sunder it, imbued power can be chosen twice and severely limits the targets of your magic, and magical signs) and 2 boons (essence empowerment lets you invest essence in it to gain a caster level bonus by burning that essence, which doesn’t start to recover until the effects ends; essence pool lets you chose up to 5 general drawback to get an essence pool). Not mentioned under the traditions, there are two Veilshaper sphere-specific drawbacks, one that impedes you to learn veils but grants you an essence talent (good if you want to empower spheres and the like with essence), and another that doesn’t let you convert spellpoints into essence.
The book ends with a conversion of Akashic Catalysts, and some other additional rules like the controversial Enhanced veils (although I really dig that you can use a veil as an implement), conversion of 7 veils from Akashic Mysteries into Enhanced veils, a section on descriptors (important for both veils and sphere magic), and the inclusion of the Eldritch Insight vizier ability… and a w hopping, 12-pages-long legal section.
Of Note: The short fiction at the start of the book is really nice. The variety of characters you can makes by just the base class and the two first archetypes alone increases exponentially. I am a fan of the Sipahi and will make one ASAP! The sphere veils are really intriguing and worth exploring!
Anything wrong?: To be frank, the book has little content that can be considered new. I noticed a couple of glaring editing mistakes, and the legal section should be put in a Tag of Holding (TM).
What I want: I would have loved the Aeshmic to include passion traditions, and maybe change the class a bit more since the original passions, while cool, kind of shoehorn you character builds a little.
What cool things did this inspire?: A campaign centered around the Akashic Records and rebuilding the world and its magic after a cataclysm would rock!
Do I recommend it?: If you are a fan of the Spheres system to the point where it is the only magic system you use, then by all means. But if you wanted a synergy of akashic magic and spheres while maintaining them separate, then I would think about it. All in all, the authors took the monumental task of joining two of the most flexible alternate magic systems for PF1ed, and I dare to say, they succeeded. I will grade this 4 stars because of the editing mistakes.