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Ascension Review | judgement
Immortals Handbook: Ascension Review by J. Michael Neal
Okay, bit of a weird one here. I am reviewing a review of my book. I was doing a google search of the book a few days ago and just happened to come across this review.
You can read Mr Neal's review here.
Firstly let me say a big thanks to Mr Neal for his review. I always welcome constructive criticism. I should point out that I don't know Mr Neal (at least I don't think I do, maybe he visits the forums and I know him under a different 'nom de plume', but as far as I am aware I don't know him).
I give the author an A- for the ideas, and a D for the execution.
Well at least he liked the ideas...
There is a core here that might make epic play reasonable. By introducing quintessence, it draws a line between gaining XPs for killing mortal things and something else for killing gods. And, yes, you can kill gods, but it's mostly only possible if you're one, too.
Technically its possible to kill any of the gods even if you are not a god, but with divinity adding a second layer of power (by way of the divinity templates) a character will likely be more powerful when he is a god. But all power is relative.
The various ranks of deities is comprehensive, and the ways in which they connect to the universe as they become more powerful are effective. Other games tell you that your character has become a god and no longer cares about the material world. This book explains why they no longer care about the material world, and what they care about instead.
Part of the problem with the book was probably my being too comprehensive and stretching myself too far...
It introduces portfolios, which are essentially the next step for cleric's domains. Here I think there could have been more creativity in the various powers associated with each portfolio. They really run together and seem kind of the same. At the Lesser Deity level, every portfolio gets a high level Effect ability. At the Hero-Deity level, they all get a big competence bonus to to some set of skills or abilities under some set of circumstances. The portfolios provided really lack flavor, though it wouldn't take a lot of work to toss some powers out and install ones that do have flavor.
Pretty much agree with the reviewer on this point. Instead of trying to do EVERY portfolio I should have focused on a smaller number and made them more unique. Having over 40 portfolios in the book, each with ten powers AND keeping them balanced AND making them all feel unique was too much to ask. But I have learnt my lesson from that and a 4E Immortals Handbook will only contain 8 portfolios.
The last chapter starts by providing more than 200 new (or kind of new) epic feats. I don't really like all of them,
I thought I had some great epic feats in there like giving rogues the ability to steal two-dimensional objects, or the monks ability to walk on water, the archers ability to use random objects as arrows, wizards automatically gaining spells they witness into their spellbook. The epic feats section had tons of cool stuff.
and I'm not sure that the system the author has come up with to replace Increased Spell Capacity and other epic metamagic feats works nearly as well as he thinks it does, but it's worth trying out.
Give it a try, I am convinced its a superior system to the official rules.
Still, there has been a desperate need for more, and better, epic feats. This is followed by the abilities that deities get at various levels. They work like Super Epic Feats (and Ultra Epic Feats, Ultimate Epic Feats and Ridiculously Epic Feats). On the whole, I like them quite a bit.
Now for the problems. This book is horribly confusing to read and try to figure out. The rules for gaining quintessence, particularly through Glory and Worshipers, are complex and confusing. I still haven't managed to sort them out.
I thought they were pretty simple, but maybe I was too familiar with the rules to make that call. I should have provided far more examples. I'll make sure I do when it comes to the 4E Immortals Handbook.
The chapter on deific ranks is notably lacking in anything describing the process for moving up the ranks. If you gain enough quintessence, do you automatically go up to the next rank, or are there Greater Deities with more than 120 Hit Dice? If it's the former, what happens if there isn't any place in the cosmos for a new Sidereal, who are the personifications of planar layers, entire planes, or even dimensions. If a Greater God goes to 121 Hit Dice, does that mean that a new planar layer is created? Don't look for the answer in the book, because you won't find it. At least, I haven't yet.
1. You automatically go up the next rank (after the initial tests and trials to become a deity and gain your portfolios).
2. You can have greater deities with more than 120 Hit Dice because you can have Levels gained from XP. But for the most part I suggest staying within the guidelines I mentioned (81-120 HD for Greater Gods for instance) because of game balance.
3. You would create a new layer for the plane you became (on becoming a cosmic god). Slaying a cosmic deity would destroy that layer/plane/dimension/universe. The birth of a new new cosmic deity would create a new layer/plane/dimension/universe.
4. A greater god cannot go to 121 HD from quintessence without becoming an Elder One. However they could go to Level 121 via levels gained with XP and still be a Greater God. Divinity is based on quintessence - not levels. The Hit Dice ranges given are suggestions primarily based around game balance.
Hope that helps.
There are two problems with the chapter on feats and abilities. The first is that there are places that are just poorly written. On page 147 there is a Siphoning [Effect] ability. When you use it, do you simply cause damage that subtracts from the amount of quintessence your opponent has, as is implied by the way that the ability is written up, or do you steal that quintessence and add it to your own, as is implied by the example given for the ability? There are a number of these sorts of glitches.
The reality here is that I have about 8 times the number of feats/abilities as the 3.5 Edition Player's Handbook. That book has something like 11 designers and 6 editors, my book had basically me on design and a few friends helping with the editing. Given how much errata Wizards of the Coast still get through there were always going to be a few anomalies in an (overly) extensive body of work like Ascension.
Potentially a bigger problem is that there are a large number of abilities that refer to non-existent products. Some of the abilities provide a new template for your character that it says will be "detailed within a later Immortals Handbook supplement."
I don't think thats fair or accurate. Firstly, when someone asks you to think of a large number you probably won't reply 'five'. About 5 powers in the book refer to a later body of work. Thats 5 powers from a total of nearly 500. Its still a mistake on my part, but I don't think its as massive a gaff as you make out.
Given the extent to which this company specializes in vaporware (Hey, when is Godsend coming out?) that is absolutely inexcusable.
Okay, this bit is fair...and has all the hallmarks of an ENWorld Eternity Publishing Forums regular (or semi-regular at the moment I suppose).
On the whole, I really feel like the author treated me with contempt by doing such a poor job of basic editing and selling me a product that is incomplete.
For that I apologise. I simply over-reached myself and the whole project just got totally stretched. I should have focused less on quantity and more on quality.
So, while I can recommend picking it up if you want to strip mine it for ideas for really high level gaming, I dislike the idea of putting money in the author's pocket.
Sorry you didn't feel like it was worth the money. I promise to do better in future. Not as an excuse, though more of an explanation; at the time of writing Ascension I was having considerable financial difficulties and stupidly went along with a pre-order scheme which only compounded the problem and really put me under intense pressure. Fortunately all those worries are far behind me and I am now in the comfortable position to create products for fun (and hopefully a little profit too) rather than the burden of it as a means of living.
Overall 3 out of 5 stars
A very fair review, personally I would have
rated it lower. I don't think Ascension is a patch on the Immortals Handbook:
Epic Bestiary. Thanks for taking the time to review the book. Trust me
when I say I have learnt many lessons since creating the Immortals Handbook:
Ascension and the Vampire
Bestiary will be vastly superior to any product I
have done before.
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