Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Augury - Divine Favor: The Oracle (Pathfinder)



After a short hiatus, we’re back with more PDF goodness from Open Design. I’m great fan of the Advanced Feats line, so it’s only natural that I was eager to see Divine Favor, their most recent series of small PDFs for Pathfinder. Each Divine Favor is a color PDF, with approximately 20 pages, costing 3.99 bucks, and dedicated to give new mechanical options to a divine spellcasting class of Pathfinder. This particular augury is about the Oracle supplement.

Divine Favor: The Oracle doesn’t waste space, giving us new Oracle's Curses... and that's precisely my only problem with this PDF, so let’s take a closer look at them.

The first one is Coward. In my opinion this is a weird option for a Curse. It has heavy penalties, but also strong benefits (Uncanny Dodge being just one of them). However, I admit that fear effects are one of my least favorite effects in Pathfinder (or in any other RPG). They’re rarely fun for the players; so I’m usually against things that make your character craven (especially in games like D&D or Pathfinder). On the other hand, I must also accept that there’re players that like to roleplay these type of character (usually thieves).

Next one is Drunken – again an odd choice. Here, however, we have definitely a stronger “fun element” to roleplay (Drunken Master-types are famous concepts). The problem is that I believe that the Curse’s drawbacks are too strong – one drink per hour or become shaken?

Actually, reading again these two Curses I noted why I find them so “off”. They look more like Flaws or Disadvantages than mystic curses or marks inflicted by deities.

Our third Curse – Echo, is quite better in this regard. It’s bizarre and seems like something that a god would inflict on a mortal. The fourth Curse – Grotesque – is also a very good concept. Unfortunately, like Drunken, on both cases the drawbacks are still very demading. In fact, this pattern repeats itself with another Curse: Illiterate; and while the Mute Curse doesn’t offer such disproportionate disadvantages, some of its drawbacks don’t make much sense (penalties for social skill sounds weird, at least for me – the character already can’t talk, this is over-penalizing).

After these trials we finally get to the good stuff: Soulless is in opinion the template for a perfect Curse. It’s a good mix of mechanical benefits and drawbacks which fit nicely together.

The next one – Unstable Form – is made of pure awesomeness! An amazingly bizarre and fun Curse – the best I have see so for the class.

The last Curse – Wanderer – has a good theme, albeit one that creates characters incompatible with any campaign that doesn’t involve lots of (long) travels. Unfortunately, the drawback is (again) out of proportion with the Curse’s benefits.

Moving on to the new Revelations, Divine Favor quickly hits the mark with what I believe to be one of the coolest suit of powers for Pathfinder – the Construct Revelation. It’s a famous concept, done in an excellent and intelligent way (and perfect for settings like, Zobeck, Iron Kingdoms or even Bas-Lag).

The Moon Revelation is a classical mythology archetype, well fitted for the Oracle class, while Old Gods let you play a Cthulhu cultist. The Plague and Snakes Revelations are also good themes that add a lot to the class. The Wine Revelation is my second favorite one (after Construct) and let me already pondering about Dionysian Oracle a want to play.

Moving ahead we get new feat. Some quick commentaries on those that caught my attention.
- Divine Intervention is simple, useful and lot better than Guidance (the orison).
- Summon Avatar is a very clever and fun idea to personalize an Oracle’s summons and I believe that Forbidden Knowledge (which let an Oracle cast 1/day a cure or inflict spell he doesn't know) could have been expanded in a similar way (using the Revelations).

The other new feats help to empower the Oracle’s spell-like abilities.

Divine Favor: The Oracle is a difficult product for me to qualify. I’m a total Oracle fan and I was really eager to read this PDF. Maybe that’s why I’m being so harsh with this review.

In the end this is a product of highs and lows. It has superbly ideas for Curses (Soulless and Unstable Form) and one of the most original and fun Revelations I’ve seen so far (Clockwork and Wine), but it also probably requires a few adjustments by the Gamemaster (in my case, I’m going to change practically all the remaining Curses, and remove those that I believe to resemble general Flaws instead of divine interventions).

For its price I can say that Divine Favors: The Oracle is a excellent acquisition. In fact, I’d pay this PDF price only for two Curses and two Revelation quote above… yup, they’re that good!