Villainous Archetypes: Vol. II is the latest entry in Necromancers of the Northwest’s Weekly Wonders series. As you may guess from the title, it’s about archetypes usable for evil characters, but is equally usable for GMs to create evil NPCs. It’s an 8-page PDF with 4 pages of actual content (the rest is front and back cover, credits and license stuff) which contains 5 archetypes.
The first one being the Brutal Oppressor, a barbarian archetype. With this one, you get to Swap Trap sense against Bully, which gives you a real nice use out of your Intimidate class skill. Which you can further improve with the Gory Display rage power which gives you an additional bonus on Intimidate with each successful critical hit. The other rage powers presented are Grab by the throat, which is more useful for the grappling barbarian, and Stay Down, which gives you an increasing damage bonus against prone opponents. And then there’s Bloodlust, a class ability replacing Tireless Rage, which potentially increases the number of rounds the barbarian can rage per day.
The second is the Elemental Defiler, a nice nod to the Dark Sun defiler of old and an archetype for the Kineticist. This archetype replaces Internal Buffer by Drain Energy, ability that basically does the same but is a bit more versatile, because you can use it, when you need it, and that you don’t need to accept burn to fill your buffer. On the other hand, you must use the won energy directly in the same round and the action provokes AoOs. And at Level 19, Drain Creature replaces Metakinetic Master and allows you to ignore burn according to the points of Constitution damage your opponent suffers.
The Extortioner is an Investigator archetype prone to blackmail his victims with the secrets he finds out. The Extortioner gets the Secret Finder class ability which improves and expands his trapfinding skill while losing his 3rd level investigator talent. Guilt Sense us a quite intriguing class ability which replaces boring trap sense. At the start, the extortioner gets a bonus on Sense Motive checks. At higher levels he also can cast detect thoughts as a spell-like ability, and even later on, he can force his victims to spill out secrets they are ashamed about. At fourth level, the extortioner replaces his swift alchemy class ability with Lingering Threat which improves upon the use of his Intimitade skill.
It seems as if the designers of this archetype felt it being a bit too strong, though, so they added Stunted Inspiration, which subtracts 1 point of Inspiration from the Extortioners inspiration pool. Seems more of a cosmetic change because in standard games, he might not really need all those inspiration points anyway.
The next one is the Villainous Bloodline for the sorcerer. Without going too much in detail, I generally like the conceptual idea, though the mechanics make it too easy to use it with actually good aligned characters. Ok, to inflict damage while simultaneously healing yourself (as the first level bloodline power Draining Touch allows) may not sound very goodish. And to paralyze your opponents and use them for protection (Hostage Taker at level 15) may also not be a sign for a true hero (though the problem is with the protection part and you don’t need to do this). On the other hand, neither Getaway (which allows you to escape via dimension door from narrow situations) nor the capstone ability Master of Deception are particularly evil in design and might come in handy for good-aligned characters as well.
And then there’s Villaneous Defenses, which might be much more powerful when used by good-aligned characters than by true villains. Reason being that you get DR/good, which might not be as efficient for a villain against a heroic group of adventurers, but can really help the Hero when fighting evil opponents.
This all said: you surely can use this with evil characters (especially when used in adventures where the opponents might even more evil), so it doesn’t actually goes against the designers‘ promise.
Last but not least, we have the Eldritch Slavemaster. This Summoner archetype forces his Eidolon(s) into his service rather than building a link to them. Which may have consequences in case he loses control over the summoned eidolon according to Conjurer’s Leash the replacement of 1st level’s Life Link. As this ability also comes with some restrictions regarding the distance allowed between summoner and eidolon, the designers added Slavedriver, an ability that let’s the eidolon cause more damage with successful hits, but also causes damage to the eidolon itself. At 4th level Shield Ally is replaced by Slave Shield. This ability lets the summoner decrease any hit point damage he suffers, but causes the eidolon to suffer twice the damage that its‘ slavemaster avoids. At 12th Level, Greater Slave Shield decreases the damage the Eidolon suffers this way. At 14th level, Drain Summoned Monster (self-explaining) replaces Life Bond and at 16th level, Explosive Summons replaces Merge Forms and allows the Summoner to use his summoned monsters as living bombs. And at level 20, Slave Army replaces Twin Eidolon and allows the slavemaster tohave summoned monsters and eidolon simultaneously, He can even have more than one summon monster or Gate spell active.
Summary: From 4 out of 5, the only archetype I would consider to be outright evil is the Eldritch Slavemaster. The other 4 can be surely used by evil, but also by non-evil characters. I mention this because I’m on of those GMs who normally not allows evil characters at his table but would probably allow those archetypes when set into the fitting context. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that you can create great evil PCs with them, and you can also use them to create interesting NPCs for your PCs to oppose. So the product does what it says, and it is doing it (in my opinion) without arising balance issues. I also didn’t stumble about glaring editorial issues. Meaning that I didn’t find anything which lets me substract points from the end note (maybe a half star for my issues with the Villainous bloodline sorcerer, but that I’d be inclined to round up).
So, 5 stars out of 5 it is.